Product Development: Battle of Midway CD-Rom (Flip side of my biggest failure)

Cover of the Clickabattles: The Battle of Midway CD-Rom cover
This is the story of the actual product development without the financial disaster that is “my biggest failure.” Read about it in “Marketing: My Biggest Failure – Battle of Midway CD-Rom.”

Backstory

At the turn of 2002, I took a concept for an interactive project for The Battle of Midway to the executives at The U.S. Naval Institute where I worked. As it was not something they really did—they passed. While that was disappointing, they were kind enough to waive all rights to the idea and let me develop it myself.

Research & Writing

An example of public domain artwork included in the project.

So how to you make a CD-Rom? I never had before. I knew I needed content. So I knew I had to write it. Well, that means I had to research it too. This involved getting my hands on as many first-person accounts as possible. And getting as much public domain photography and film as possible. I spent a few PTO days at The National Archives with my laptop and scanner. I hit my public library hard. And ordered a few rare used books too. The audience I was writing for would expect this to be a fully cited document.

Legitimacy

Whenever you talk about writing something this large in format, you had better also talk about editing. I had to hire a legit editor to make sure my prose was readable and my citations appropriate. And since I am not a historian by education or training, I arranged for the material to be vetted by a content expert. Finally, I bought I group of ISBNs so that it would be a real thing. (Did you know you have to buy them 10 at a time?)

Art & Animation

One of the sets of vector line drawings of the ships at the battle

Long story short: I drew it. I wanted for part of the ‘forces’ section to be ship drawings of every single ship class involved in The Battle of Midway. That was maybe 50 classes amounting to over a hundred and seventy ships. Next came taking all those vector drawings and animating them into the battle sequences that went along with the story.

Development: The Coding–Such As It Was

This was very early into my experience with ActionScript. And it was AS 1.0, so I am not even going to play up that I did awesome coding. It was rudimentary and uninspired. But it did the job to navigate the piece, start, stop, and replay the animations. That’s about all it needed.

Production

I didn’t have the programming knowledge to make an installer program that would be locked and require a serial number. So I had to find a company that could, arrange drop off of files, articulate my requirements, and receive back all before I could burn CDs. Which brings me to having to find a vendor to burn the CD-ROMs themselves–in bulk.

Distribution

For online distribution I set up an account with an established re-seller. That process was pretty straightforward. I set the prices and loaded in a few hundred serial numbers. They got a piece of every download and I got the sale.

For physical fulfillment, I bought padded envelopes and slim jewel cases–in bulk. Every couple days I would hand-pack orders and run them down to the post office for shipping.

Results

If you read the other post about this project, you’d know that I would have been ok without buying so much in bulk. I overpriced at initial launch and was never able to recover from the lost opportunity.

My credit cards were not paid off until several years later.

But on the upside, I was able to pull off every aspect of production and manage all the external resources I needed. While working a full-time day job. I will always be pretty proud of that.

I still own www.battleofmidway.org and have always hoped to have time to export the Flash files to HTML5 & JavaScript and post them there for free. That would probably be the ultimate upside: to contribute to the greater good.

And have a whole new generation of history nerd enjoy my sweet animations …

The opening sequence. Keep in mind this was 2002 …

Animation of one of the air raids on Midway Atoll …