Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get stuff done?

Aura

Aura

Visual novel writer, game developer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Aura, a visual novel writer and independent game developer. I'm best known for my work on the visual novel Katawa Shoujo with the Four Leaf Studios. I also have an uncohesive tumblr I update less than I'd like to, and a literature podcast called The Epiloguists.

What hardware do you use?

A writer has little need for specialized hardware, and barely any of the gear I have was acquired with writing specifically in mind. Nevertheless, being at my own setup has become a comfort zone for me, but I've found that I can, and will, carve words with a toothpick on a piece of orange peel if it comes down to that.

I have a soon four year old custom-built desktop PC, and as long as it won't catch fire or start throwing unreasonable tantrums like things at that age are wont to do, I'll keep it. On my desk are dual BenQ monitors, a 24" and a 19" one that have ruined me for single monitor setups forever, and a tea-stained generic Logitech keyboard that looks like it's been manhandled by the Spanish inquisition. From my computer runs a line either to Sennheiser HD 429 headphones, or through a Denon DRA-F101 amplifier to a pair of B&W DM601 S3 speakers, to provide the necessary aural ambience for the magic to happen. Fuel for writing is always available and required, in either a Villeroy & Boch NewWave tea cup, or an Iittala Essence wine glass.

For mobile writing I have a bunch of pocket notebooks such as Moleskines that I strategically place in things I carry or wear so the only place where I'm without one is the shower, and my Samsung Galaxy Gio smartphone that I once took with me to the shower.

And what software?

My PC still runs Windows Vista because the thought of upgrading my OS gives me anxiety, and Vista works sort of ok. My tastes in writing software are simple. OpenOffice 3.3 is the trusty workhorse of my stable. It doesn't get in the way of writing, which is the most desirable quality in a text editor. Notepad is mostly used to digitally scribble down all my incoherent ideas, throwaway concepts and unused fragments, spread across hundreds of text files that probably form fractal patterns I hope to one day decipher into stories. When I start working on something that's too big to fit in my head all at once, I fire up yWriter 5 and meticulously note down everything I can, lest I forget and lose them forever.

Writing is not just writing however, and managing projects takes quite a few more pieces of software to manage. I work with people who are spread across the globe and timezones, so we need mechanisms to hold our virtual game studio together. To keep track of our project assets we use Subversion version control system and the TortoiseSVN client for it. Trac project management tool would be a great asset for our work if we weren't so lazy about documentation and FileZilla connects me to our digital storage cabinet. As my "office" is as much virtual as it is physical, communication across the time and space that separates me from my coworkers is done through Gmail, phpBB, Skype and Chatzilla IRC extension for Firefox.

For swimming in the stream of social media, I use Tweetdeck and the Twitter app for Android. All of this stuff was mostly chosen, or maybe settled for for the convenience factor, because I don't want to fight my tools in addition to struggling with the stuff I actually want to do. If a thing doesn't make me want to punch it, it's good enough for me.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm either in a good place already with my equipment, or too numb to feel a need for significant upgrades, so maybe my environment would be the thing to dream about. Some writers work the best in seclusion, and even I can't help feeling sometimes that the best thing for me too would be a hardened concrete bunker dug 30 feet under desert sand in the Gobi. However, the real dream setup, if I think about keeping doing what I do, would be a physical office for the studio (and since it's a dream, it should probably be on the Moon).

As convenient as communication over the Internet is these days, it's never the same thing as working in the same space.

I've been thinking about buying a MacBook Air and a pony, for writing on the move.

Previously: / Next up: