Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get the job done?

Hannah Nicklin

Hannah Nicklin

Writer, narrative designer, producer, cyclist

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Hannah Nicklin, I'm a freelance writer, narrative designer, producer and performer who has work in games, theatre, academia and community arts. I'm currently working as a writer and narrative designer with Die Gute Fabrik, and previous did narrative design/creative production for Twisted Tree Games (Ed Key's studio/label). Other things I do include writing critical articles in response to games and games culture, giving performance talks, producing zines, giving lectures, running workshops, putting on and hosting events, and consultancy on narrative games and the spaces where theatre, games and play cross over.

I also combine this with 10-15 hours of training and racing per week as a competitive cyclist, racing at a National level in the UK (hopefully branching out into Europe in 2018-19!). This year I also ran social media as a volunteer for the London Women's Racing league - a grassroots organisation supporting women getting into racing in the SE and London area.

What hardware do you use?

My staple is a MacBook Pro, and I also have an old iMac with a much larger screen (21" I think?) which I use a Thunderbolt connector from the MBP to use it as a second screen (cmd+f2) which allows me to run whatever I'm writing in next to a bunch of reference material, or the various spreadsheets which I'll be using to plot out plot elements and dialogue. If I need another screen I'll use my iPad mini. I tend to read on a Kindle. I also use plain or dotted A5ish size notebooks to run my day-to-day life (I like the Lamy Safari fountain pens with black ink, always black ink), and post it notes + sharpies to take notes/plan things out, as you can always move them around as your ideas constellate and crystallise.

I do a bit of recording audio (interviews for articles etc) and running small scale performance sometimes, and I rely on my Zoom H2n, plus a Sure SM58 and a QTX QR12PA Portable PA System. I've got a Canon 550D for shots of installations/recording HD trailers/promos etc. I've also got a 1080p 4000 lumen HD projector.

In terms of the bike training hardware: Garmin vĂ­voactive HR, Garmin Edge 810 with HRM, Cadence and speed sensors, Power Tap P1 power meter, Canyon Ultimate carbon Ultegra/Di2 bike! I also have some Bluetooth Garmin body composition scales.

And what software?

I use Gdocs/Drive for collaboration - and so do all of the games projects I've worked on. I swear by using the Chrome 'People' function to separate projects out so I can keep my tabs open when not working on a particular project and keep my social/off hours Internet use separate from work. You can also then be signed into different Google identities, etc. I use TextEdit to do basically all my temporary notes, meeting agendas, thoughts, and clear-thinking. I'll usually draft in full screen TextEdit before moving it to Word to edit, and Gdocs to share. Dropbox Pro is my go-to for file storing and sharing docs I'm not collaborating on. I've used SourceTree mostly for git-based projects and thus far only ever worked on Unity-based games.

I use OmniGraffle to draft branching dialogue in (using arrow labels as potential player choices) at the moment, though I've also used Twine to sketch narrative designs, and also propriety dialogue systems made for specific games. I find it useful to write in something like OmniGraffle into boxes as the size of the canvas you're writing on changes the length of line that 'feels' acceptable on the page. If you write to A4 size line breaks you'll often write the kind of dialogue that would feel right on stage or screen, but in an animated text delivery system - like a speech bubble where text appears - will read far too long.

I edit images in Photoshop, and audio in Logic Pro, but never have to do much complicated in terms of video so will happily use iMovie for that.

More generally I run my freelance career in MailMate - which is a very no-nonsense mail client, though powerful if you want to use all the customisation - to manage my few email accounts, and keep my life in (current count) 6 separate Google Calendars (some shared), which all sync through Calendar. As soon as I have a thought for a blog post, an article, a project, a thing I should do, or remember - I put it somewhere in the calendar or my notebook. If it's more than a week away I find a bit of free time in my calendar and I put it in there. If it's less than a week away it goes in the notebook.

Each Sunday every week I sit down and I do a week plan on one page of my notebook, which takes everything out of the calendar and writes it into a week schedule I draw out -- I won't reference it again but it's a process of putting it into my head. Then each day I draw up a detailed plan of the next day, hour by hour. Starting with a list of everything I will need to do on the right hand side of the page, then putting the time dependent things in, and fitting everything else around it, working back from the last bit of the day, I put in my training in, and then work back another 90 minutes and that's when I'll plan to wake up. The list on the right hand side of the page gets crossed out as I do everything, and left over items get transplanted to a later day until they're done.

My training is set by a coach using TrainingPeaks - a piece of really versatile performance management software. I'll track my sleep, weight/body composition, and general activity, plus cross training using Garmin Connect and my vĂ­voactive HR, training performance data goes in via the Bluetooth sync of the 810, and I keep track of my nutrition using MyFitnessPal. I use FitnessSyncer to link up a couple of accounts/data sources that TrainingPeaks doesn't have native support for, so my coach has a 24/7 picture of my training, sleep, weight etc. I'll usually communicate the human stuff; RPE, etc, via Facebook messages!

Finally; admin! I keep my accounts in Excel, run my site/s through WordPress (self hosted), and promote my work through Twitter, MailChimp (very rarely), and press release.

What would be your dream setup?

I thought the MBP with the line of customisable touch buttons was silly but I've seen one now and actually I think I'd find it super useful! I don't really need anything more in terms of how I work, though. The main thing is it would be good to be able to get Fibre broadband where I am in London - at the moment it's 2-4mbps and the walls in my flat seem to be made of lead or something. My upload/download times are pretty frustrating, and my Steam Link doesn't actually work (I don't have a TV, but play games on the projector which is super nice). I'd also love a Surface Pro so I could use some Windows specific software/play Windows-specific games.

My dream set up on a bike is probably a top of the range S-Works or Canyon frameset with some decent Zipp or Dura Ace mid-section carbon clinchers, Di2, Dura Ace groupset, conti tyres, paired with some custom footbed Sidis! I can dream..