Awesome Moments has ground almost to a halt. Almost. I can get out an illustration a day most days of the week. I’m only 5 illustrations away from completion, so I’m going to keep pushing forward, but while I’ve debated making a final super push of two or three illustrations a day (these only take me a couple hours to do), I’ve decided no. I’m going to give every picture my full attention, and if I try to force it I’ll be tempted to get sloppy.
The thing that has absorbed my attention this week has been trading cards. I’ve liked cards my whole life. I thought they were fun in the Amber Chronicles. I loved them in Digimon Season 3 (known as Tamers to us Digimon snobs). I didn’t really get into Yugioh or Magic the Gathering, but I wanted to.
Like in October of 2021, I have heaped projects on my plate. And like October of 2021, it is not working well. I don’t really know how I’m going to handle it just yet, however.
I am making John Michael Jones Gets a Life at a rate of one comic a week, which is a nice, slow, easy pace. Nevertheless, I have been a scant 2 weeks ahead this whole time, and this week, I’ve slipped to 1 week ahead. They are color comics, so they take a little more producing, and eventually, our heroes will be in a digital world, which will allow some shortcuts, but there it is.
Concerning to me, I’ve launched this before I’ve finished the draft. Which means I don’t know if I can land this ship. But I felt if I sat on it any longer, it would never get done, so…
Awesome Moments is my Bible Story book series. Awesome Moments 1 goes from Eden to Christ to the Parousia as briskly as possible to serve as the anchor for the rest of the series. I’ve ranged from doing two illustrations (each of these being two pages) per day, to one, to none.. I want to have it all done by the middle of the month so it can be thoroughly exorcised from my system, because I feel kids’ books are my best medium, but I haven’t been able to finish a draft. I think my gears are clogged, and won’t start turning again until I finish this book.
Also, while the publisher intends to Kickstart it in December, they’d like it a good deal sooner.
Jump the Shark is a platformer that’s a big dose of Sonic, a moderate dose of Megaman X, and whatever else I feel like mixing in to taste.
Strangely enough, the adoption of all these projects can be traced to one program: Clip Studio Paint.
In July, my priority is Awesome Moments 1, the Bible Story book that rushes from Genesis to Revelation, makes the angels awesome, and draws on typology (e.g. Adam looks like Jesus).
At my present rate of two illustrations a day, if I get an additional illustration in every other weekend, I should be finished by August. However, I’m not sweating it. If it takes a little longer, it takes a little longer.
This means any development on a Jump the Shark game will happen on weekends and weekends only, at least until the book is done or I drop it. I’m going to hang onto it with all I have for the duration of July, but if it’s not done in August, I may well stop, leave it for a month or two, then pick it up again and finish it.
Basically, I have ADHD, and it is more productive for me to work with it than fight it. Even on a project I love, my endurance maxes out at about a month and a half before I have to switch to something else.
So… I’m probably going to tinker with this game on weekends in July. Supposing in August I either finish Awesome Moments or drop it, and decide to mainline this project. What happens then?
Here’s my plan for this project for the foreseeable future:
Keep adding controls until I have a fun little character that can freerun around in ways I enjoy.
Once I feel the character control is more or less complete, along with level gimmicks to play off of (springs, enemies that provide specific challenges, etc), graybox some levels until I have a set that I think are pretty good.
Build a game and bring it to market.
That is to say, I don’t have a specific game design I am working towards. I’m feeling my way forward, and I intend to continue doing so for the forseeable future.
My preference in game genre is Action Adventure, so this is likely to turn into a Metroidvania, because that’s what they call Action Adventure Platformers in these benighted days (no shade meant for Metroid or Castlevania, though). But I’m also toying with the idea of just straight up implementing Alexander Hellene’s platformer design because then at least he’ll buy the game.
A Sonic Metroidvania is not very much in the spirit of Sonic, but this isn’t Sonic. This is Jump the Shark.
Anyway, at this point, this project is still in the tinkering stage. I’m 100% playing by ear. If and when a design is finalized and put into production, of course I’ll let you know.
I don’t describe myself as a fan of anything these days. “Fan” is short for fanatic, and nothing but God Himself is worthy of fanaticism.
But the fact that I once would have described myself as a Sonic Fan is not a secret.
The obvious clue is my first children’s book:
What happened here is I sat down to read my kid a kids’ book, and I didn’t like the book. It occurred to me then and there that I certainly possessed all the component skills to make my own kids’ books, and so I set out to see how that would turn out.
I decided I had better pander to my kid, so that if the book was bad, at least the intended audience would like it. My kid loves sea animals, so I set it underwater.
I decided I had better pander to myself, so that if the kid loved the book and requested it every single night, I wouldn’t get sick of it. Also so I would feel motivated to finish the book. So I plucked Jump the Shark, a character created to parody Sonic the Hedgehog, out of my box of characters. That way the book could be 30ish pages of thinly disguised Sonic fanart.
Now, Jump the Shark isn’t the first bit of evidence I enjoy the occasional Sonic game, nor the best. He’s just a side-effect of my enthusiasm that happened to spin off (all puns always intended) and become my best property.
But we’re not here to talk about Jump the Shark. We’re here to talk about Sonic Games.
I’ve officially begun work on the final illustrations for Awesome Moments 1. If I can maintain a pace of about two illustrations a day, and one on Saturday, I should be done with them by August. Gonna get this book off my chest and move on with my life.
In this scheme, I spend Sunday-Monday resting, and Monday-Tuesday keeping up on the John Michael Jones comic, adding both a draft and a finished page to my set, so that they keep coming out for Mad Mondays.
As things stand, I’m a couple weeks ahead. I’d rather be a month or two ahead, but I’m not going to accomplish that while working on Awesome Moments.
Maybe I’ll build up some additional breathing space in August. Or maybe I’ll use August to create the next chapter of Hat Trick and finally tie up my loose ends.
I say one image on Saturday and not two. That’s because I’ve had some trouble figuring out (since I work the night shift, and each of my shifts covers two days) how to take my day of rest. Should I start it at midnight Sunday?
Well, right now, my plan is midnight Sunday, do a little tinkering with something else. And that something else deserves its own blog post. So I shall go ahead and post.
I’ve spent the last week making hand-animated games for a game jam. Why not make an animated movie? Why not present my material as cartoons? Meaning what a child means by cartoons: animated shorts; as opposed to what an artist means: sequential art.
You gotta admit, this looks better than Peppa Pig:
My answer is complicated, which is why I’m putting it up here.
Went into the GoGodot Jam intending to expand my pixel art engine, make a new game with it:
But something has been eating at me the last couple of weeks. I’ve decided hand-animated games, while gorgeous, are too much work. But I had also written off Clip Studio Paint. But now I’m using it to make comics and it’s great. What if I tried animating using it?
On the threshold of the jam, I choked. I made a plan to make a game using my pixel art work but starring some piqha. Then I followed an urge to animate a piqha in Clip Studio.
Then I decided I just had to animate Jump the Shark:
And before I new it, I was committed to half-assing a JRPG battle system:
The Jam has two categories, each with its own theme. I am entered in both. The first category, ULTRA, had the theme “Too Much Power”, and here is my entry:
The second category, CLASSIC, concludes next weekend, and has the theme “Evolution.” After I spend a couple hours today on some overdue administrative work, I intend to dive back in and turn this game into something for that theme as well. And ponder.
This artwork, this style of animation and development, keeps calling to me. I love it. It is wisest to let it go. I keep coming back.
Well anyway, today I made an appointment to get back on the ADHD meds. It’ll be a couple of months. We’ll see what happens.
So I’m working on making sure I crank out at least one finished comic per week, to build and maintain my lead. But just the one. Because eventually, John Michael Jones is going to be inside the game world, and I need to have the game world working by then.
To that end, I’ve been rebuilding Hat Trick, Prelude to Nightmare. And I’m not doing bad. By the end of today or tomorrow, I should have the original minigame completely rebuilt, plus dashing, enemies that fight back, and life, which makes it 5x better.
So that’s my immediate goal. But there’s another goal as well. I’ve entered the GoGodotJam in both Classic and Ultra modes. My hope is to take this engine, but make a completely new game with it that fits whatever themes come up when the jam starts on Thursday.
And by the time I need to produce comics of John Michael and his friends in the game world, I should hopefully have enough built up that I can just steal back and forth between this game engine and the comic.
Took my month off. Tried to storyboard a kids’ book. Didn’t work. Did a game jam. Did okay.
Here’s kind of where I’m at.
I decided to roll my game dev back to the gameboy-esque standards. I’ve been slowly rebuilding Prelude to Nightmare using all the knowledge I’ve gained about Godot since I made it. Here’s where it was…
.. and here’s where it is..
A long bit away from where it was, but with numerous improvements. Things I’m doing “right” that were being done in a hacky way before, but I didn’t know.
Quite the whirlwind tour to come back to the beginning. But to my way of thinking, if it took Yacht Club Games a bazillion years to finish all their Shovel Knight promises, and they have way more skill and experience than me, then… 🤷
Time to start biting off smaller bites or something.
Meanwhile, since zero of this process is making something new, my brain has been freed up to consider what I should make. Refactor the kids’ book ideas. That sort of thing. And I keep circling back to John Michael Jones.
Maybe Wren would be better off motivated as a monster hunter/collector than a bounty hunter. Maybe that would fix her story. But I’m already exploring that angle for Princess Pluot. I don’t want the characters to overlap! Maybe I can do an action story for Jump the Shark. But why not do the action story with John Michael instead? Man, I wish there were more stories that had X, or Y. John Michael has these things!
One of the things I was worried about was trying to take the story of a kid getting sucked into a game, and making a game look like the story. For instance, I gave these trees zigzag bark and square moss and flowers that aren’t physically connected to themselves all as ways of signaling that John Michael is in a digital world..
But good old pixel art does that just fine.
Indeed, I originally planned to have the comic be black and white in the real world, and colored in the game, as a nod to Wizard of Oz. But I want to tell the opposite story from Oz. I want kids to enjoy the fantasy of being sucked into a video game, but then also have it feel natural when the characters in the game say, “Ah, but in real life I have friends and steak and wind in my hair.” So the “real” world should have color, and the game should be black and white.
So yesterday I colored John Michael’s first comic, and then made a proper cover for the first arc of the series.
So that’s where I am. Gearing up to release John Michael Jones Fights a Dragon. Simultaneously developing a Hat Trick game. And trying hard to nail it down to just those two things for now.
Wren Valen draft is stuck. The problem with continuing a story that is over a decade old is that my plans don’t all work anymore. Looks like I may have to redo it from scratch. Sad, because this moment:
..is both the place where the train jumped off the ancient rails, and the thing I am most committed to keeping.
Right. Set it aside. Draft something else. Just keep going until I have one or more actual books to make, right? Sure. Maybe.
Looking back at the last couple months:
I mean, yeah the first one is nicer to look at. It’ll sell better, probably. And it takes no more time to make than something similarly detailed in pixel art.
But a heck of a lot less than something like the second, which also looks nice, will print nice, and can be assembled in a fraction of the time.
More to the point, if I’m making a comic about John Michael and his friends falling into a game world, it works better if the game world look like a game.
Along those lines, while trying to dig myself out of my book plot corner, I’ve been pondering what sort of game I’d like to make if I were making games just for the heck of it, and not as some sort of massive multimedia project.
Go back on the road to 8 Lives Left/Breath of the Gameboy?
Action platformer with Mega Man influences?
Digital Monsters on your phone?
Bring back the RPG/Adventure engine?
Right now I’m sleep depraved. I’m leaning towards a turn based RPG with influences from Link’s Awakening, Mario RPGs, and games nobody’s heard of any more like The Magic Candle. But where this ship goeth, nobody knoweth. Except God. Who may well will that it run aground.
Just wanted to toss my thoughts out there before retiring to ponder.