11th July 2017 by Tim Cole
We've been busy the last few months readying up the new things that are now in Wotja 4.9. This blog post is for those who want to know a bit more of the thinking behind the many changes. We start with a little background...
Wotja: Overview (30s)
Wotja: Quick Start (4m)
Wotja: Playlists (8m)
We try not to talk too much (we are not big talkers) but we have a long term vision and a long, continuous, history. To those customers who have only just joined us we say "welcome!" and to those are still with us after 25 years we say "Yo!" (see SSEYO :)).
We work hard, without compromising on innovation, to provide an easy path for the forward migration of content created in our generative system(s). We try only to implement things that we genuinely believe over the long term to be to our customer's benefit; as you might expect, there are always a lot factors to consider! We are no flash in a pan developer and it has been, and continues to be, a fascinating journey to be on with you.
Our overall approach is to regularly stand back, "kick the tyres" and then see what happens (and others often help us with this!). We then agonise over any changes / improvements we feel we need to make, implement them the best we can and see now they work out. We have found this approach is the best and fastest way to figure out how we can do things better for our customers, whether that be in terms of features, capabilities, business models, usability, content or whatever. We try not to shirk from taking brave decisions, but we listen to and respond to feedback.
A case in point relates to In-App Subscriptions. For a host of reasons we knew we had to do it for Wotja 4; one of those being about finding - for both our customer base and us - a route forward in an increasingly complex environment. We knew this was going to be one of those tough decisions, so for several years we thought long and hard about it before finally figuring out the best approach to it. Once we had implemented it and released the new Wotja app we had a number of customers tell us that they would instead like a "paid for" option. We had not considered it at the time as it was outside the scope of our revised model, but we went back to the drawing board, scratched our heads, found a solution and then did it.
Over the years we have been asked a number of times if our apps/engines can be used (and licenced) to generate long play background music for installations, personal radio, interactive music for hotels etc. Last year we worked on some changes to both the NME the Noatikl Plug-in that facilitated this, but it required special licence keys to be generated and you had to contact us for them.
We never stopped thinking about this and how to do it, but especially about how to make it easy and quick for a user to enable. Some times the solution is staring one in the face and a few months ago we finally cracked it. We realised that most users simply do not need a very long period of live continuous music play ("Music Play Time") for "authoring" or "continuous music generation". Provided the Music Play Time is long enough, all that is required is a simple restart of a mix...
When it comes to the Music Play Time, the 2 big questions for us were A) for most people "what is long enough to allow authoring and generation of melodies, background music etc. for personal use / recording etc. ?" and B) for specialist use cases "how can the Music Play Time be easily extended?".
Another issue we had swirling around was that we wanted to find a way to provide the lowest possible price for full authoring - not the semi-restricted "half way house" we had trialled with an "Essentials" In-App Subcription.
Yet another was that we wanted to find a route to allow some kind of Free Trial period for Wotja (more below).
And another was that we wanted to have a Music Play Time option of 8 hours, instead of 8 hours 53 minutes (a bit unwieldy, frankly :)).
Finally, we wanted to simplify our naming and lose the confusing "Essentials" and "Pro" monikers. We wanted just "Wotja" (subscription version) with a "Free Use" mode of operation when there was no active In-App Subscription, and "Wotja 2017" (i.e. this year's "unlocked" version of Wotja with no In-App Store or In-App Subscriptions).
All in all, plenty to think about.
In deliberating all of the above we saw a common thread. We realised that if we gave Wotja a 1 hour Music Play Time (we decided this was "long enough") and allowed that to be easily extended for those who really needed more, then we had a solution to all of the above.
As it turns out, had we not enabled In-App Subcriptions then a solution to the above issues would not have been possible - so it was fortuitous after all! See our Subscriptions FAQ.
Without further ado, we are pleased to say this is what we have now implemented in Wotja 4.9.0:
We believe in free trial and because of that we gave Wotja a "Free Use" mode of operation. It lets you use Wotja for free, albeit with just a few limitations. This mode of operation is always available to you, so if you have an In-App Subscription and it expires then you STILL have access to the mixes/playlists you made before and can also play and hear them (albeit for just a minute). You can even still edit them, but don't then save them or you would lose information! We felt that was pretty good going all things being considered...
For some, however, this was still not enough. As this was the "market talking" we listened hard, respected the views stated and then set about thinking hard about what we could do to help such potential customers, whilst not actually giving away everything for free...
Although we knew that Apple allow a Free Trial period for In-App Subscriptions the time was not right before, for a number of reasons, for us to take advantage of them. However, with adding the new range of "Wotja XT" In-App Subscription extensions we realised that we were now finally set up and able to allow a 3 Day Free Trial - so we have now enabled that for the base level "Wotja Unlocked" In-App Subscription! (NB: It was originally in the "Wotja XT1" tier but that proved too confusing). We hope you are happy that we listened, and the solution we have provided. See: How do I get the Free Trial?.
Last, and by no means least, are changes to our templates. In fact, for existing customers, these are probably the most important changes of all!
First of all we worked very hard on some new templates for you. 10 such templates are in a new "WJ4 BP2 Backings" template Pak that you will see in the Pak list. These are really, really nice and we hope you like them. To make some of them we also had to add a few new samples to our IM Synths SF2 Wavetable. The old Backings Pak is still there, but it now displays as "WJ4 BP1 Backings".
Next, we spent a long time reviewing the default Text to Music (TTM) templates that we include in Wotja. We felt we could improve them, and improve them we have (many of them, anyhow). The "refreshed" templates, as a Pak, now sound smoother, softer and are better suited to ambient melodies - they are simply better. Newly created automatic mixes featuring TTM will use and reference these new templates by default unless you specifically toggle off this Pak and toggle on the old one.
NB: The old TTM Pak is not gone, so mixes you have already made using those templates will still sound the same: this Pak is now called "WJ4 TTM Players 4.0-8" and is only visible in the Pak list if you have the "Show Older?" toggle set to on. If you wanted, you could turn this pak on and turn revised Pak off.
We have now finally started work on Wotja for macOS! Yes, we know there is already Wotja for macOS :), but by and large that is right now a cut-up editor. What we mean is we have now started work on the authoring tool that will eventually replace Noatikl for macOS. Yay!
We do have plans for Wotja for Windows, and we hope one day to get to Wotja Android, but for now we appreciate your patience as those we come later...
What this all means is that for the rest of the year the fast pace of change for Wotja V4 will now slow. To counterbalance that, every now and then we will be issuing updates that will include some more new templates for you to enjoy.
Tim and Pete