[scribus] WTactis and Scribus struggle

Lukasz Jastrzebski luke.jastrzebski at gmail.com
Wed Jan 12 16:48:00 CET 2011

Hi all!
I'm graphic artist and coordinator for Wtactics.org.
WTactics is a community-powered, open, free and gratis card game,
competitive to Magic The Gathering (as far as we can compete them in terms
of quality of gameplay and artwork). Good, playable online, and also as a
traditional card game. We want to be compatible with commercial printing
companies and have grained control of PDF files. We want to put Scribus into
good use for that purpose. We all are giving our best for this project, and
since 2009 it progresses steadily forward. Part of used artwork is a
heritage taken from Battle for Wesnoth, but part is our own, paid, quality
artwork (this is also published on a free license, available on
opengameart). Here are the links:

We've been trying to use Inkscape for our purpose. Sadly, its a no-go
because of no good PDF control features. So we wanted to use Scribus. We are
currently unable make it a part of to our workflow, despite me trying to
produce a card template for way over a month. I'm still hoping to make cards
both high quality when printed, and viewed online. And also suitable for
commercial printing services.

Also filling in numerous issues into one post may look like a netiquette
abuse. When atomized I would be unable to describe them better, than when
making it all go together. They are simply related one to another, and
fixing one may ruin something else. So, hopefully, reading it all together
will take less time for us all to understand each other, than describing and
possibly re-answering and explaining same things over and over.

Please also keep in mind some facts. First is I'm typesetting for living
since 6 years, in various software, mostly in old and rough PageMaker, from
.doc input to checking offset plates. I'm quite used to bumpy rides and
hacking approach to typesetting. Second thing is: it took me over a month to
sort out numerous issues, and the humble template is a proof of how hard it
was. Hence some things are made in really bizarre ways. Third thing is the
process of both creating a new card and getting a specific output (both PDF
and bitmap) should be very easy, if not straightforward. We will translate
cards, we will encourage players to take things in their hands, gather, ask
commercial printing shop for a batch of, lets say, 500 cards, release mods
and forks. This all should be really easy for young and impatient folks.

If you're looking for working files and linked assets, please take it from
our repository. Please use event template as a reference file. Most of
things is here:

and serenity.png is available here

We are currently using 1.3.8 version, migration to newer versions will be
considered as soon as we gather together and check if there are any problems
with packages availability (we are using both windoze and various linux
systems, so this is a team decision when to migrate that interested persons
should be able to make) and compatibility.

The problem I'm struggling with is establishing possibly smooth workflow to
make good-looking cards without much struggle. There are some things that
not only make it less smooth now, a bunch of no-go features is what I want
to overcome mostly. If you happened to have a clue on how to improve things
with approach change in some details, we are opened to that. However, there
is no way for us to change the look of any elements that are a part of a
card. We will not sacrifice card quality, and we want to be sure than when
displayed or printed all will go just like we wish it to go. Whole batches
of cards will be released quite often, there is no way for, eg. handcrafting
100 or so bitmaps in Gimp with every release, just to make it look good in
online client.

I would like our project to be once Scribus success story.

This being said, I I'm aware of the fact, how much I ask for. But... could
you help us?

First bunch of problems is related to text styles (I use numbers only to
make further dicussion easier):
1.There seems to be no way to tweak drop cap appearance (size of the
letter). We need it to be 1,5 lines tall. Not 1 or 2. No way to make it with
drop caps. This particular size makes us use character style that fixes it.
But it introduces manual line breaking and tabulation inside text, which is
cumbersome and non-intuitive, apart from how lame it seems to be.
Also, fields acceptible for changing character size when having drop cap
selected are all active, which is confusing of where the error realy sits.
2. There seems to be no way to tweak individual paragraph first line
intendation. Not with modifying styles.
3. Blurred shadow under letters would be nice feature to have. Due to lack
of it we have to use big quantity of bitmap, and some little mess here and
there as well. Any ideas how to fix that?

Second bunch of issues are related to graphics handling and export:
4. SVG support is not compatible with Inkscape. Inkscape is the best SVG
editor out there. I have encountered many problems with importing gradients
and contours. Importing two-noded (elliptical) gradient is borked now. Not
sure with layer effects. There is an article on avoiding part of errors
related to lack of Scribus contur awareness, which was complicated to do
with our card template (designed in Inkscape). After sorting those out I
found there is no way to deal with complex gradients. This results in lack
of ability to import SVG files directly (in lossless manner), we have to use
bitmap graphics as an intermediate, lossy stage instead which leads to yet
another set of errors. Also loss of time to iron out all contour stuff and
spot the gradient bug was enormous. All just to conclude it was a bad way
right from the start and loose few evenings.
5. PNG exports with white background. We need transparency, not white as
expression of nothingness. This results in complete abundance of us using
this very comfortable PNG export to generate our files for online view/play.
6. PNG export does not apply good pixel oversampling before exporting
bitmap, this results in bad appearance of graphics or extra work to make it
looking good.
We chatted about this while ago on Scribus IRC channel. If this is really
frugal "PNG screenshot feature", please don't call it "PDF export", but
rather "bitmap preview" or "debuging feature you should not use". All SVG,
PDF and PNG things are called "exports", which is just misleading.
If you happen to know a free software printer capable of spitting input into
one bitmap per page with transparent background, please drop me a line as
well, as this may be a solution. And no, PDFCreator is not the solution,
7. This is really serious bug for us. Blur bitmap filter is not working in
PDF. Bitmaps remain crispy. This results in a) need of preparing each file
that needs blured shadow once again before typesetting, so around 100 files
to correct individually now plus 200 more before finishing the game, or b)
having cards unprintable, which is no-go for us (and along with PNG export
problems makes Scribus useless).

Interface issues that were very annoying:
8. Using fixed size windows, like properties (pops up with F2 key, I'm not
sure naming as I use Polish version of the software) palette. Its very hard
to operate this way.
9. When stacked, there is no easy way of selecting an object that sits under
the topmost one.
10. When moving object, object snaps to a "grid" that is too loose, like 0,5
mm. Also shifting with cursor keys makes too big steps for our purpose. This
make precise work really hectic. Nowhere to be seen how to make this grid
denser or steps smaller.
11. When playing with bitmap inside frame I'm able only to move it. Scaling
would be cool, doing it from properities palette is cumbersome.

I took my time to gather all this issues. It took me 20x more time to check
if there is a way of avoiding those problems in a way suitable for us or
finding a good way out if not. Please consider downloading our files and
checking things out on your own before throwing out a bunch of ideas that
will fix nothing. We are still open to workflow change, but we won't
sacrifice the quality of assets or finished cards. And we still would be
really pleased when using Sribus for our purpose.

Forgive me if I was rude here and there. I have my heart full of good hope,
not venom.

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