Monthly Issue - January
Conducted by Aurianna
“New Year, New ‘Art’ Style, Classic - Obsolete?”
Greetings everyone! I hope that you’ve all had a wonderful start to the new year. I’m sure that many of you have caught up with Episode’s latest secret project that was unveiled near the end of last year. Indeed, I am talking about Pretty Little Liars, or PLL for short.The release of the Episode version of the TV show (loosely based on the book by Sara Shepard) received a lot of hype and an overall positive response from the Episode community. It is the first Episode feature story written completely in the new style, which in actuality is not quite new at all.
Why do I say that?
Well, for starters, we have seen this “new” style in the story Mean Girls. The main protagonists from the movie were Episodified in this style while other characters, which are new to the story were created using the Ink Style, including our own customizable character. So you see, the release of this ‘Art’ style is not technically new. It has existed for quite a while and has most likely been in the infantile developmental stage while the Episode team works on developing the Ink style - the core style of the Demi Lovato stories, for which they received massive support and good feedbacks from the community. Thus, it makes sense for them to focus more on developing this style - clothes & animations - than on advancing the ‘Art’ or Classic style.
Indeed, the ‘Art’ style is far from novel. The story PLL, however, brings several notable new elements to Episode feature stories, aside from the fact that it is not a fusion of existing styles. Readers can now customize their own character in the ‘Art’ style; gone is the contrast between the animations of their character (and additional new characters) with that of the characters from the show, and thus there is more fluidity in the story due to the absence of this incongruence. However, I noticed that the animations, though quite natural and human-like, seem to be languid in nature in comparison to its peers: the exuberant Ink and highly-diverse Classic.
Additionally, I love the fact that the style confers the most humanlike avatar out of all the three styles that the Episode team has created. But, I was very disappointed when they excluded several distinct skin colors when there are three similar shades that were included for the customization. I was appalled to find that Asians (who live in the biggest continent in the world) have to forsake their true colour in order to play/read the story. It felt like a big slap in the face for those people who were left out, and it considerably reduced my enjoyment of and engagement with the story, of which the genre/theme is a welcome change from the norms.
It was refreshing and gratifying to have a new story that is not fixated on the bad boy theme or the romance/drama genre, like many current well-written Episode feature stories. Despite it being a teen drama, the story boasts a plot that is driven by mysterious riddles and elevated by new thrilling sounds and visual effects. This PLL story has renewed my hope of Episode venturing beyond their comfort zone with regard to storylines, simultaneously creating stories with improved quality of writing. Nevertheless, with the release and relatively positive response to the story and the ‘Art’ style, this sense of hope is overshadowed by another dire premonitory feeling - the slow but imminent death of the Classic style.
Many of you might not be bothered by this but it is a matter of concern for me and other Episodians who enjoy writing and reading in Classic. Personally, I love the comprehensive list of Classic animations and their execution, which I find exhibits the best balance between the “new” style and Ink. The characters do not appear to be caffeine-deprived (as is the case with ‘Art’ style) or high on caffeine (exemplified by Ink animations). Furthermore, there are a multitude of stories written in Classic with unique storylines and good writing, which I feel that Episode is trying to emulate with the release of PLL. These are stories with depth, well thought-out plots, and are not particularly mainstream, which seem to fall into the category of ‘Hidden Gems’ when it should shine like a true gem and be promoted more often on the app.
Episode had stopped updating the Classic style for years now. Their promotion of stories in Ink style has moved readers (subconsciously or not) to abandon it in favour of Ink, rendering many beautifully-written and engaging Classic stories in neglect. Consequently, many writers become demotivated to continue their Classic stories due to the lack of support or appreciation for their work. Now, with the announcement of the impending cessation on the updates for Ink, will it suffer the same fate as Classic? Will the new year bring stress on writers to quickly complete their Ink stories before the ‘Art’ style become available on the Writer Portal, in fear of their stories becoming “irrelevant”? And will that have any effect on their quality of writing?
On that note, I shall end with this gentle reminder that I feel Episode readers and (occasionally) writers forget: the importance of content and quality writing. Indeed, Episode offers us with the opportunity to create visual stories using three unique styles - Classic, Ink, ‘Art’ (future). They are the tools with which we can bring our characters and our story alive in 2-Dimension. In essence, they are the exterior component and should not be used as a deciding factor on whether a story is worth the read. Everyone has his/her own preferences and the Epy Awards Team respects that. But it is such a shame when such emphasis on new/hip/trendy wrappers (ie. styles) leads one to forget what really matters - the interior: the story, particularly if it is used as a concession to produce subpar stories. Allowing this preference to dictate one’s reading material also leads readers to miss many great stories written in other styles.
Embrace the new, but never at the expense of self-regression in terms of one’s growth in writing/reading. After all, a new year gives us another chance for personal growth - to be a better version of ourselves. Let’s halt this inherent penchant for certain styles from evolving into something that limits our reading material and us, as readers and/or writers.
Epy Wired is a monthly publication, initiated by the Epy Awards Management Team and Magazine Team of 2017.