The joy of just making the story

I’ve started work on storyboarding a Wren book.

Which brings up a couple of thoughts. First is why am I making a Wren Valen book? How does that fit into my goals. Second is where I’m currently sitting with regard to kids’ books, comics, and vidya. We’ll start with the apologetic.

Why Wren?

It’s a bit of a strange thing, you know. I devised Wren (it feels like) a million years ago. In another world. In a world where I had no problem writing a fantasy of a short sorceress in an airship fighting pirates with her magic.

Now, a million problems arise. My Right Winger, primary audience is going to wonder why I’m telling stories about magic amazons. The world is full of writers who want to make stories about magic amazons. We need more stories like John Michael, of boys being allowed to be the hero again. And I agree.

But I feel like drawing and writing Wren. So I’m drawing and writing Wren.

My target audience may view Wren through a gimlet eye. But their natural foes, the Social Justice types, won’t like her either. She’s a flawed character, not a perfect Mary Sue. She understands that Force Equals Mass times Acceleration. She doesn’t pick fights with gorillas. No, the Left will call me a sexist for writing a human female, and the awesome Right will roll their eyes at Cartoon Rey.

I might pick up some sales among the Ben Shapiro, “I’m totally Right Wing, you can tell because I defend last year’s Left” crowd. People who think women in the military is a Right Wing triumph. But I have no interest in playing to that crowd at all.

Mind you, I don’t care if left, right, or center buys and enjoys my books. My enemies aren’t the commies or the not sees. My enemies are the devils. Any human I encounter is at worst a peon of forces who want to devour him. I say let him read and enjoy my books! It may be a lifeline for him. Or at worst, I will have supplied him a few bright moments in a dark life. And that is still a worthwhile thing.

But, you know, I’m trying to build a business. It’s a bit silly to build a business around books and stories that my own best customers are likely to dislike.

It doesn’t much matter to me for a few reasons.

  1. I’m taking a bit of a breather. I’ve spent four months on one project that I thought was sensible. Now I’m spending a month or two on a project because I feel like it. Got to recharge the batteries if I want to make the laudable stuff.
  2. I mistrust my motives. It is good to write stories that have good messages, good heroes and villains in them. It is good to write stories that will sell. But my vocation as a story teller is to tell stories that are good not because they are profitable or morally upright, but because they take your mind off your troubles for a few minutes. Working on a story, then, that militates against the profit and moralizing motives feels like something I can and even should do, to be true to my vocation.
  3. My wife will like it. And if I make a book that she likes, then the book was a success even if nobody buys it.
  4. There’s no rule that I have to produce this draft next. I’m currently planning to make several draft books in a row, and then pick one to produce as a final book. This Wren book is the first of those drafts. Maybe, after I draft a Hat Trick book and a John Michael Jones book and a Jump the Shark book, I’ll decide, “yeah, let’s go ahead and produce Wren first.” But maybe I won’t.

So that’s my apologetic for seeing this draft through.

Comics, Games, and Books for Children

This kids’ book format is a very compressed way to tell a story. Get in. Load a thousand words into each picture, and then maybe fifty or a hundred words along the side.

I love it. I’ve done novels, but I’m weak on them. I don’t spend enough time on the descriptions. The sights, the smells. I just dive straight into dialogue and action. Making picture books makes up for my weaknesses by leaning on my strengths.

Of course, comics are even moreso right? Right? Well. I’m not sure. It feels like it takes me forever to get through a story drawing it as a comic. I spend too much time and ink drawing the same picture over and over again.

Why not just make my “comics” as picture books, and let other, more patient men turn them into comics if they like? Seems a good plan to me.

But what will I do with Bunny Trail Junction, then? Shutter it?

Maybe. Or maybe I’ll post my storyboards there. Post them like they are a webcomic. Build an audience for each book before I even make the book.

Vidya, vidya, vidya. Vidya is prime, right? If I make a story in a game engine, I can record it as a video, post it as a comic, even make it as a kids’ book.

No. That’s the wrong approach. And here is why: the heart of my stories is the characters and plots. The heart of a game is the player and his choices. If I try to make my game dev a vehicle for my stories, I will gimp my gameplay and my stories. Better to make the stories as books, maybe post the storyboards in lieu of a webcomic, maybe read them on Youtube. Then, in my copious “spare time”, go ahead and tinker with game development. But as a hobby. If a game starts working out, then, sure, steal liberally from my books so that the books and games cross-promote.

Every now and then I think about Dr. Seuss as some sort of rival. Oh, I’m not trying to compete with his rhymes. And I doubt I’ll ever see hide nor hair of his fame. But there are some things I dislike about the man, and one of them is his pride. It took him forever to embrace making kids’ books. He later saw it as a true and worthy calling, but at first he intended to make serious art for serious people.

Trying to center my work on vidya is the same sort of hubris. I have a hundred fun stories in me. I should walk the shortest road between where I am, and where people can get at them. And I should have always been walking that path.

And are they children’s stories after all?

The Wren stories were not originally aimed at children. But they don’t have anything I wouldn’t give to a kid.

My cartoony style will be off-putting to serious men wanting serious stories. But at the end of the day, at least in the case of this Wren book, I’m making the books I want to make, and I hope some kids may like them and maybe even some adults may like them.

Captain’s Log M4•62: Aftermath

I’ve been on the same project too long.

2 months building a comic and tinkering with an attached game, for production in the Mad Christian Mondays newsletter. My tolerance for a project maxes out at 2 months. I find one month is optimal.

Worse still, I’ve been trying to develop a comic/game for Mad Christian Mondays since December. It’s only the current iteration that has had 2 months of effort put into it. The project as a whole is closer to four.

It isn’t right. With medication, it is possible, but even with medication, I am better served having multiple projects that I switch between. I need to harness my ADHD, and reserve fighting it for critical moments.

I lost a week at the end of March to the burnout. On a whim, I joined Ludum Dare 50 just to try and clear my mind. And my mind has been cleared. John Michael Jones needs to be set aside for a month or two. Which doesn’t mean I can’t launch the comic and run it — I have more than a month’s worth of work built up. Only that it needs to go on the back burner for a while.

In the mean time, I made a game with frogs in it.

Ludum Dare 50. Waterlogged. It’s nothing special. But, for something thrown together by two guys over three days, it is something decidedly okay.

As I push John Michael on to the back burner, I want to note a couple of things for the record:

  1. Right now, the game engine uses HD, hand-drawn vector art. But the comic will put John & friends into a digital world. I half plan to use the HD art game engine for the game world, but a part of me wants to use either pixel art or low-poly 3D art, to really sell that the world is different.

  2. Here are two vector drawings of characters. The first uses a technique where I draw with a tablet and try to imitate my pen and brush inking, then convert this raster image into a rough vector approximation, color, and assemble it. The second, I draw the image in Inkscape directly. The first is slightly closer to how I like my art to look; the second is significantly easier to tweak.
    If I am making vector game art, I need to pick a lane and stick to it. But I like them both.

But, so long as I am working on a different project, I don’t need to make that choice right away. And, after all, I may decide upon mulling it over to stick to pixel art for the game world/game engine. Who knows at this point? All I know is I need to let it simmer for a month or two.

What should I do this month? Well, a few ideas occur to me.

  1. Could spend a month trying to learn a language. I am currently tinkering with Toki Pona, and I have tinkered with Japanese for years. Sure, if I go all in on Japanese for a month, I won’t suddenly know the language. But I will be better at it than I was before.
  2. Always wanted to make a stenotype minigame to teach myself stenotype. It would be a useful product, and would benefit my various life goals.
  3. It’s been a few months since I worked on Hat Trick. Some Hat Trick comics, stopping once a week to ink a John Michael Jones comic, might be a good plan.
  4. The Therian Virtual Pet is wildly different from the John Michael Jones stuff. But therians play into that story, so if I started work on it, I would come back to John Michael Jones in a couple months having worked on something different, but still having made progress.
  5. My wife occasionally reminds me that she would enjoy more adventures of Wren Valen the Flying Privateer.

There is something that I also want to note down. When I did the Ludum Dare challenge, I initially published Waterlogged as a Windows game because I already had experience doing so, and I didn’t want to get stuck in unfamiliar territory right before the competition ended.

But once I had done that, I re-published it as an HTML5 game that can be played in the browser. And it worked so smoothly and so well I was caught off guard. I think I may want to publish more things this way. Make comics that are animations in game engines, and publish them to itch.io.

It’s not any one specific project at the moment. It’s just a thought that needs further thinking.

Captain’s Log M3•I4 – Meet the New Plan: Same as the Old Plan

So, here’s the quick rundown:

February, I do what I want. It’s my sabbatical from trying to be pragmatic about my projects.

Now, the plan in December and January was simultaneously make an adventure game and plan a comic for the Mad Christian Mondays newsletter. That resulted in this demo:

And the realization that it is a bad idea to plan a release for an adventure game when you don’t already have the story nailed down.

Of course, not having the story nailed down meant not only didn’t I have the adventure game, I didn’t have the comic either. I let the crew know where I was, made noises about focusing on the comic for February, but really committed to tinkering with whatever I felt like, as is my tradition, and hoping the comic would bubble out of it.

So I started throwing a bunch of my characters together in a video-game art compilation, to try and kick something loose.

I tried making a space shooter with Spaz McDragon, since that was the most scaled-back game idea I could come up with. Here was the plan: get Spaz McDragon into a space shooter, release that after a couple of months of dev. Then make a Spaz platformer. Release that after a couple of more months. Make the comic about John Michael Jones getting sucked into a video game, and have his initial area of hanging out be one of the Spaz Platformer level. Thus, bring all the projects together.

I got Spaz animated and loaded into the Adventure/RPG codebase, and got some space shooter mechanics running in a day or two.

Started working out the John Michael Jones story alongside it, and built some forest platformer graphics to stick them both into:

I realized that my dislike for shmups was strong enough that it would be worth it to just go straight to the platformer right away, even if it did take a little longer. So I animated John Michael as a platformer character, in case I could come up with a game idea that overlapped with the comic story.

And that’s where the status quo lay until the end of February.

In the last week of February, I had almost everything I needed for the comic nailed down, when I was inspired by a series of videos to try HD videogame art in Godot one more time. So, I spent three days jerry-rigging a demo of John Michael running and jumping in an HD hand-drawn world.

Thing is.. I’m sold now. I absolutely want my games to be hand-drawn. It’s not even significantly harder to do it this way than pixel art. It’s harder to animate. You can’t tweak things as quickly. But throwing together backdrops is even easier. And I can take advantage of code-based squash and stretch without it looking weird. And my game can have a unique look that immediately stands out.

I’ve spent the first two weeks of March hurriedly figuring out the last bits I need to know about the comic to actually produce it. And actually producing it I am. Expect the first episode next Monday or the Monday after that. Bunny Trail Junction is coming back, albeit (for starters) at a slower pace.

But if I’m going to make a game, what should it be? I have some great ideas, but they are all too big. I need to start small. Get something finished and shipped. I’ve been contemplating that for the last week, as I wrap up the work I need to do for the comic launch.

I figured it out. Meet the new plan: same as the old plan.

Yeah. I’ll just make Prelude To Nightmare a platformer. When it’s done, I’ll have a solid start on the graphics necessary to continue Hat Trick as an (HD) sprite comic, if I so desire.

And the plan after Prelude To Nightmare was to make a game for my wife that layered stealth mechanics on top of Prelude To Nightmares’s mechanics. I see no reason why we can’t assume that second step next.

So, let’s make set the tentative schedule as follows:

Last Week of March/First Week of April: Race to make Prelude to Nightmare a complete game.

Remainder of April: Expand Prelude to Nightmare

May: Playtesting/me working on other projects.

June: Fix and polish Prelude to Nightmare.

July: Launch as a $5 game.

As always, this is less a promise and more a chosen direction. But I think it’s time to put the pedal back down to the floor!

Update

I’m being an idiot. Hat Trick: Prelude to Nightmare in engine would be very nice, and I should add it to the list of potential things to make. But as far as “smallest, best first building blocks” go, making the exact same gameplay with John Michael Jones characters is a far better plan.

Captain’s Log LB•33: Moving on to the next game

As of Captain’s Log LB•11: The Primacy of Vidya, I have decided that henceforth instead of making comics, games, videos, or books as the fit takes me, I will be making games and then deriving comics, books, and videos from the games as much as possible.

It’s no good for some things, like Awesome Moments, obviously. In that specific case, I am content. Awesome Moments is a record for my own children, and I feel a little odd about making it a product. But I do need to make a product.

I’m working using a concept/business model I am calling the Game Tower.

Game Towers

Game Tower is a game development technique wherein you make a miniature game that is a Complete Game that implements a core mechanic of some larger game you would like to make. Then you release and sell that game. Then, on top of that miniature game, you build a larger miniature game that has an additional component. In this way, you build a tower that grows towards the dream game you wish to make, while also increasingly funding that game and expanding your track record.

Note LA•S9

I have discussed before how I find dismal projections of how little money indie game developers make to be encouraging. Partly because I’m old poor, so a coder’s “I could never live on this” is easily 50% more than I can hope for as a Lowes Greeter. But partly because of the way Game Towers work. The projections in question assume you are marketing from square one each time, but every brick in a Game Tower helps sell the brick below and the brick above.

I have two Game Towers in the running. A JRPG Tower, which we’ve spoken of and…

The one I’ve chosen, Game Tower Awakening, is building a foundation with my favorite games in mind, especially The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Gameboy, with later influences from Megaman and Megaman X.

The first brick in that tower is familiarize myself with the Godot engine, try out some graphical and gameplay ideas, and see how that goes. And so I have done. Hat Trick: Prelude to Nightmare was made in Godot, tested the ideas, and is technically a Complete Game, even though it is not a good game.

Today’s Choice

Now, this is not the first game in the tower to be ‘financially viable’. Nor can I follow the proper methodology with this game, as making it has taught me several things I want to change on the ground floor. So after concluding I should focus on vidya, I debated two options:

  1. Release the Proof of Concept with no real gameplay to the world and immediately begin working on the second brick.
  2. Spend up to a week polishing the Proof of Concept so that it can be reasonably considered a real minigame.

The advantage of 1 is that it does a better job as a marketing tool. Hat Trick: Prelude to Nightmare was not meant to be a mere proof of concept. It was meant to market the Hat Trick comics on Bunny Trail Junction And it was meant to market the second brick. Right now, it’s not a good game. All it can really do is prove I can make certain things.

To make it a good minigame, I have a week or more of work ahead of me. Animating goblins, developing rudimentary AI, filling out the levels, changing the music at dramatically relevant times, and adding a bunch of satisfying beeps and swooshes to the menuing. This puts me a week or more further away from making the second brick. No big deal?

It would be good to do. I have learned a lot of stuff about Godot making this first game in the engine. There’s a bunch of things I want to do completely different now. And I know from experience that game dev will always be like this. If I start over, build a new foundation, by the time I get a game out of that, I will have a ton of stuff I’ll wish I’d done differently. Pushing forward to make the minigame a proper minigame would mean I begin work on it with even more notions of how I can do better.

But some of the changes I intend to make are fairly drastic.

Some Changes

For instance, I want to build my animation system differently so I can compartmentalize animations and reuse them between multiple characters. Oh, and here’s a big one.

I’m going to ditch 2D for 3D.

Not entirely. I still intend to use the same sprites and tiles. But I will do so in a manner reminiscent of Paper Mario or Octopath Traveler, albeit with an overhead perspective instead of a side-on perspective. So more of a Pokémon Black & White kind of look.

See, one of the things I love about Link’s Awakening is all the jumping. To add top-down platforming in 2D would be complex. I’d have to carefully consider how to emulate the third dimension. How to alter and sort the graphics as they get higher or lower. How to track which parts of the map are at which height.

If I just shift that gameplay into Godot’s 3D engine, I get all that stuff automatically.

And I can take a Link’s Awakening style adventure and make Megaman or Sonic levels by tipping the camera on its side a little.

And I suspect (I do not know, but I suspect) that Godot may succeed for me where Unity failed, allowing me to prototype gaming in pixel art, and then slip HD art with the same proportions in if I decide to make the game more ambitious.

Unity, I had such high hopes for you!

The Choice Revisited

Now, let’s take a quick look at Option 2: cut off my proof of concept where it is and begin building the second brick now.

If I am correct, I should hit a stage in developing the second game where I can take a couple of days, build out the first brick’s world and situation in the game in progress, and simply publish it in place of the proof of concept. That is, a month (hopefully less) into making the second brick, I can paint the second brick to look like the first brick, and get all the advantages of finishing the first brick first, as well as the advantages of cutting directly to the second brick.

So that’s my choice. Today or tomorrow, the Proof of Concept will be available for download on bunnytrail.itch.io/hattrick0 and then, later, when I can recreate it and more in the second brick engine, it will be swapped out.

The Second Brick

The Second Brick is a ninja stealth combat game where you play a snow leopard ninja my wife uses as her online avatar, sneaking around and killing therians. Tenchu Z in the Link’s Awakening engine. Aside from the meager marketing I manage on Twitter by my lonesome, this has the advantage that I can have her run betas on her Twitch streams, and enlist her fanbase in spreading the word.

The Third Brick…

I have many, many friends online who are writing excellent books and comics and drawing attention. Releasing the second brick is all the proof I need that I can turn one of these into a still bigger game. I have lots of ideas for several properties, but we will see who is amenable. With our audiences combined, the Third Brick will have an even greater reach.

And Beyond?

That JRPG Tower I was working on? The one that’s more marketable, has better storytelling potential and so forth than the Tower I’ve chosen to build just because I happen to like it more?

It may have very different gameplay than this Tower. But I might be able to take the work I do on graphics and dialogue and world representation, and use the same foundation for a second Game Tower.

Captain’s Log LB•11: the Primacy of Vidya

After several days of consideration and a day walking ’round in chilly weather with a cyborg eyepatch and a cockatiel, I have settled on some conclusions for Bunny Trail Junction and my various projects going forward. Chief of these is this:

Vidya is Prime

Vidya is my prime medium. Comics, children’s books, internet videos, and so forth are all fine ways to tell stories, and I should use them, especially when vidya is unsuited to a specific story. But most of my alternative media should be vidya first, and then derived from vidya.

LB1•11

Now, there are arguments against vidya being prime.

Vidya is Bad!

I’ve been listening to a podcast called A Brief History of Power, and it has been recommending that we disconnect as much as possible from screens in general. Your life will, it is argued, be more functional without TV, Facebook, and Mario. And I agree. I try to limit my kids’ screen time and advocate the whole family limit theirs.

But I do not believe the technology is intrinsically evil. I believe it is a usable tool that has been made into a glowing idol before which men bow and receive propaganda from their gods. Christians ought to be wary of the tool because that is its primary usage. But we can and should use it to our ends by our means.

In A Brief History of Power, especially BHOP 063, Rev Fisk and Dr. Koontz make a distinction between media intended to be integrated into life and most media, which is design to wholly absorb your attention and suck you into its world. This is regarded by Fisk and Koontz as an unhealthy thing, especially in excess.

I am a proponent of Tolkien’s Escapism.

Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!
– J.R.R. Tolkien

That is, I agree that Escapism to the extent that you run away from the real world when you could be making it better is at some point a vice, and it is a vice that is clearly endorsed especially by the Pop Cult, one of the Secular Cults of my area and era.

The Pop Cult is devoted to movies, video games, and other franchises. It is the religion of Disney, Marvel, and other forms of mass media. Men escape their sad lives into fantasy worlds. The Pop Cult is offered up to the population by the Death Cult as a narcotic, and the media therein is intentionally laced with Death Cult propaganda. However, practitioners of the Pop Cult are not necessarily conscious Death Cult Members.

However, I believe that attention absorbing, escapist media is good, right, and salutary for two purposes, hinted at by Tolkien.

  1. For Christian Rest. That is, for escape from this world, this vale of tears, with all its woe, toil, struggle, and incessant Death Cult propaganda.
  2. For escape from cults. That is, Christian men should create media that permits refuge for their fellow believers, and a doorway to freedom from evil cults for the trapped cultists.

Consumption of non-Christian-made entertainment is not wholly contraindicated here. I’m not making a law saying “don’t watch TV”. Nor are Fisk and Koontz.

Fisk and Koontz, (and I) would recommend, rather, that you consider what the media you consume is doing to you, and consciously decide whether you want that to happen.

And what is indicated is the production of media by Christians.

Reasons FOR the Primacy of Vidya

  • can make it. While the barriers of entry are lower than they ever have been, and continue to plummet, not many men can.
  • It combines all the skills in my talent stack, making it both more valuable and harder to duplicate.
  • Distribution is solved. While I can (and want to) make physical copies, I can give away a game to Kickstarter backers for 25% of the final intended cost, or as a free add-on for subscribing to my mailing list. These things are not possible for paper children’s books.
  • It is easier to derive my other media forms from vidya than vidya from the forms. I have already solved the problem of making black and white print comics from pixel art. I have not yet made motion comics for YouTube, but I suspect a game->video pipeline is simpler than a video->game pipeline.
  • It is much more likely (IMO) that I will build a game business that puts out books and comics than that I will build a book business that puts out games.

Conclusion

My new plan is to finish out December in Bunny Trail Junction, then go on indefinite hiatus while I roll up a video game business. That game business should quickly start leaking into videos, comics, and books as well. I hope in time to end the hiatus in February with a bimonthly format that carries through 2022, so that the 2021 annual and the 2022 annual are roughly the same size, but the Vidya is Prime.

Captain’s Log LA•Q3: One Thing At A Time

Let’s review — shall we?– the plans for some previous months.

July

August

  • Continue making comics for Bunny Trail Junction. Hit Inktober in the last week.

September

  • Finish Inktober as comics for Bunny Trail Junction, and continue making comics.
  • Start working on the first minigame in a series of progressively larger games.

October

  • Continue making comics for Bunny Trail Junction.
  • Finish the minigame
  • Kickstart Awesome Moments
  • Prepare some YouTube stories for launch in November.
  • BONUS ROUND: Grow my Twitter Reach!
  • SECOND BONUS ROUND: Start making a wearable computer for myself!

Can we see the issue?

I went from doing one thing a month to doing two things a month to doing four things a month. And then to make matters worse, I lost last weekend to hyperfocusing on a project that I should rather have noted and moved on from.

Smart Notes work well with ADHD because impulses can be boiled to a note. The Chaos Elf can then discard the impulse and re-center on what he’s supposed to be doing, as a normal person would, confident that his shiny notion will be saved and grow over time. The Smart Trees that grow also play into his strengths, as his random explorations eventually ripen into large projects that nevertheless, can be completed with minimal work and, therefore, discipline.

LA•Q•1•2 Smart Notes and ADHD

It’s no good. I can’t maintain it. I haven’t maintained it. Neither of the things I did in September received half the attention it deserved, let alone October.

In October, I tried to do four things at once. Instead, I did one thing at once. I spent a week working almost solely on the Kickstarter. I spent a week working almost solely on the game. And I spent a week working on various other projects of varying importance and unimportance. Some days, I spent endlessly scrolling Twitter in an attempt to say something good and link it back to my work. And that publicity work did pay off with steady Twitter growth… but steady Twitter growth was not on my priority list!

It seems that even when I’m doing two things at once, I’m really only doing one thing at once.

If I do two things at once, I will accomplish neither. I must do one thing at a time.

LA•Q•3•1 Single Project Principle

The thing is, I thought I’d be more effective once medicated for ADHD. And I am. But my increased effectiveness isn’t the ability to do twice as many things (or worse: five times as many things).

My increased effectiveness is the same amount of productivity over the same amount of time, but I can choose where it goes.

And by choosing 6 things, I am throwing that away.

The Dark Moment

Every story has a dark moment before the climax. For me, I became obsessed with the idea of assembling a wearable computer using a Raspberry Pi. One that would put data on a display over my eye. I could look through the ocular window and see the world. But also see what time it is. See what project is scheduled for this particular moment. Press a button and run a Pomodoro timer.

My first prototype is useless as a display, but it will serve nicely when I take my kid trick-or-treating.

Of course, with the shipping crisis ongoing right now (October 2021), the soonest I can have a Pi is November or December. I have built a working mockup of the display out of sculpey and junk I have floating around. But the parts to make a good eyepiece won’t arrive ’til November or December.

But the real irony is that a thing invented to keep me on task took me off task. For three days straight.

Sunday night, as I put down the third eyepiece prototype, with 4 projects on deck only two of which had received appreciable work, and they only a week apiece, and a bunch of money poured into eyepiece parts in the mail, I realized I’d screwed up big time.

I also realized that losing only three days and a hundred dollars or so was a grace.

I will do this again any time if I do not take steps to prevent it.

The Break in the Clouds

Sunday Night I did some quick research into choosing tasks and staying on task for Chaos Elves[1]. I resolved by the time I went to sleep to begin the next morning two short-term correctives, and a long term corrective.

The short term correctives are as follows:

  • Schedule each day out in advance and keep the schedule before my eyes. This would be done with Google Calendar and an app that reduces Google Calendar to a friendly clock face with wedges for the scheduled events. For this, I chose Sectograph.
  • Begin to assemble a digital ZettelKasten with checklists that can be synced between my phone and computer. Transfer my work into the ZettelKasten. This will empower the long-term corrective..

The Long Term Corrective

I am dedicated to creating a fountain of entertainment for children. Stories you will not regret giving your kids. Books, comics, videos, and games. I am dedicated to finishing the story of Hat Trick. To creating Awesome Moments. To releasing more Jump the Shark.

I need to consider how I am going to fulfill that goal. To create a system that will pay for itself and continuously get my stories out. Bunny Trail Junction was a fantastic first draft of that system. But it does not pay for itself, it does not find the fans, it spends too much time indulging in navel gazing (which should instead be reserved for my blog), and not enough time telling stories. I need more stories, better stories, faster stories, but!

Most of all, I need to do only one thing at a time.

If I do two things at once, I will accomplish neither. I must do one thing at a time.

LA•Q•3•1 Single Project Principle

I do not know how I am going to accomplish this. And so, for the rest of this month, barring a day or two to upload November’s comics to the site, I am going to hammer that out. I am willing to even go a week or two into November to do this. Options on the table include:

  • Reducing Bunny Trail Junction the Comic to 2 or 3 episodes a week, starting January
  • Making January a Hiatus for the Comic
  • Devising actual Sprite Comic Stories so that more story can be produced more quickly
  • Canceling the Awesome Moments Kickstarter and redoing it when I can devote a whole month to nothing else.
  • Making everything into vidya so I can build a profitable business, then extracting comics and videos and storybooks from games.

By working in the ZettelKasten, and by loading my story ideas into the ZettelKasten, I am confident that eventually, I will have the operation I need to succeed.

Denoument

Right now, everything is up in the air.

I haven’t been on Twitter except for one or two brief posts since Thursday. Several Inktobers haven’t been posted to Twitter (they have gone up automatically on the comic site, of course) as I’ve been A) building eye pieces and B) wrestling with the fallout of my bad choices.

This blog post was built in the ZettelKasten as well, and if it copies into WordPress reasonably well, future blog entries will as well. Ideally, one day, I’d publish the ZettelKasten as my blog, with the personal bits redacted, so that readers would get the full connectivity.

But I’ve spent the last two days going over my business and plans, and I don’t like what I see. I need to make something new.

I need to make a system I can promise to follow.


  1. LA•Q•2•1•1 Chaos Elf: A Chaos Elf is a man with ADHD. The name was chosen to reflect the stunted self-control more accurately called Executive Function Retardation that typifies the disorder. Since nobody but me is willing to call me and those like me Executive Retards, a different rectification of names was selected.

Captain’s Log LA·K1: I need to do one thing.

So, here’s the updates I should have done on Monday, except I was pushing the game to completion, and yesterday, except I was power-recovering from a head-cold.

Awesome Moments

I promised to upload the third draft by last weekend. I have failed because I don’t yet have my pastor’s notes. I will be getting them today, inserting (I think) two more pages into the story to really hammer home the centerpiece of the plot, and keeping my promise.

The Kickstarter is 1/3rd funded! Right now, I’m not pleased with the options I have available for people to back it. This weekend, I hope to tweak it a bit so people can get, e.g. coloring books, or something else that I can price relatively low and have the book itself have a large enough markup I can actually use the funds for more than production and shipping.

I have mixed feelings about Awesome Moments. I am 100% on board with making it, and it being the greatest thing I’ve ever created, for the sake of my children. But as a product I offer the world, I am hesitant. So I am praying that it funds or not based on God’s blessing the project as a whole.

I am not hesitant to share the project with the world, however. I love it. I believe you should love it too. I am excited about it. And I am going to be putting up posters, arranging to speak at churches, and so forth. The trick is, how do I balance that with what I said I’d do in October and November before I decided to try

Bunny Trail Junction: The Comic

November has been assembled all month. So according to my normal process, I should have it uploaded to Amazon, right?

Wrong. I’ve been tearing my hair out all month trying to simultaneously do the Awesome Moments Kickstarter and get the game that also launches in November done. I haven’t even kept up on producing comics.

Technically I have, as the pixel art comics…

… are so easy to produce that I have 24 comics already done this month. The problem is, that’s not what I want to run. I don’t want to offer my Bunny Trail Junction readers me blathering about what I should do or not do. That’s what this blog is for! I want to offer the readers stories!

Moreover, Hat Trick is picking up traction at least as much as Awesome Moments, thanks to all the work I’ve been putting into the game. Although neither is getting the kind of traction I need to make a living yet.

Currently, I have a couple of ideas for the comic. All of my ideas involve finishing out December strong, then maybe changing it up.

These ideas can be mixed, matched, and stacked.

  1. Cut Back Next Year: The current favored plan is to reduce the comic to 3 strips a week instead of seven, and release bimonthlies instead of monthlies. This frees up enough time for me to work on games and videos while keeping the comic on life support.
  2. January Sabbatical: No comic in January while I focus on retooling everything. This would be really helpful because even if I cut back to a bimonthly, I still have to have January and February both done at the beginning of January. Unless I take a one-month sabbatical. And then, if I do the full 31 comics for Inktober next year, with every other issue being every/other month, the 2022 annual will be roughly the size of the 2021 annual.
  3. A Story In Pixel Art: This is my favorite plan, but it’s also the newest, and I haven’t let it marinate as long. If I can devise a story that works as a sprite comic, in the style that I’m doing for the games, I can generate enough comics to cover the gap between months where I draw and months where I work on games or books.
  4. Story Books As Web Comics: And finally, if I just do a two-page spread of the 5×8 as a single day, like the prayers I’m going to be including in December, that totally counts, and it fits certain story beats better.

3 and 4 are the newest, but most awesome notions. Sprite comics allow for awesome animations. The title screen I’ve got for my game has already convinced me that I want to do comics that look like this. And if I can make storybooks for Bunny Trail Junction that later lead to larger, illustrated books, so much the better.

Just look at that title menu! Comics that look like that would kick ass! And the more I weave my comics and games together, the better for each of them.

November will have two or three comics that straight up have animations in them on the website. And that rocks. Putting that stuff in stories will be super cool.

Anyhow, today I’m going to try and polish off the last edits to November and get that submitted to KDP today.

Hat Trick: Prelude to Nightmare

I spent Saturday and Monday neglecting all my other responsibilities to make Hat Trick: Prelude to Nightmare a complete game. And it is done.

That doesn’t mean it’s a good game, or even the game I wanted to make. To get close to what I want, I need to add:

  • Enemies that fight back.
  • Health and health drops
  • More combat options like dashing and parrying.
  • More world to explore and waves of foes to fight.
  • Nice sound effects to menus and the like.
  • Spawn animations of goblins bursting from the ground.
  • Music changes when exploring Vs. Fighting.
  • Arthur’s portrait changing based on the situation.

But, it has a win condition, a lose condition, an options menu, and a controls menu. If I get only partway through the things I want to add by November, and then have to cut it off, at least I will cut it off a finished, if sub-standard, product.

I want to make a whole blog post about what I’ve learned from making the game, and how I’d like to tweak things moving into the next one. So stay tuned for that.

Going Where My Audience Is

I have rebranded my Jump the Shark YouTube Channel as a Bunny Trail Junction Youtube Channel.

I have observed before my audience is kids. To reach kids, I need to go where kids are. Which is not twitter, or bunny-trail.com. It may be YouTube.

My current idea is to take my Kids’ Pulp Formula, write a bunch of stories, and upload one or two a week to YouTube. I’d draw one or two pictures for the story, record myself reading it, and thus build the audience for my books, my comics, and my games. For the same purpose, I’ve created a branded SubscribeStar.

My intention is to create a family-supporting setting and cast using my Piqha for the majority of the stories, although doing my existing books and comics is also fine. But Piqha, man, they’re so cool, and so far none of my finished work is strongly counter to modern propaganda pieces. I want a Berenstain Bears but with a respectable Papa. And the Piqha can do that.

But I haven’t put a single penstroke down for this project yet. Fulfilling my comic promises and advertising Awesome Moments has eaten all of my time! And right now, I’m not even feeling it. I’m feeling my game.

Man, getting my comic to look like this would be so cool. Heck, using bits like this rendered in-engine for videos would be so cool.

I’ve never edited videos before. I’ll need to record myself reading stories and edit the audio as well, and I’m not sure how I’ll find the silence necessary to pull it off on this farm. Right now, as I write this, my sister’s dogs are barking, and there are baby chickens chirping directly under my window.

These are all rather niggling excuses. I can overcome them. But that leads me to the one all-encompassing problem that I have with my projects.

I Should Only Do One Thing At A Time

I am able to do a great job getting funding for Awesome Moments, telling people how great it’s going to be, doing updates for the Kickstarter, and tweaking the rewards to generate interest.

As long as I do nothing else.

I am able to do a great job inking beautiful comics with intriguing stories to run on Bunny Trail Junction every single day for months ahead of time.

As long as I do nothing else.

I am able to build a retro game that looks super fun and exciting and slowly build up hype for it as I put in more and more cool features.

As long as I do nothing else.

I suspect the same is true of the YoutTube videos. The reason my mind is coming up with a slew of excuses is right now I am in game-development mode, and my mind doesn’t want to switch to advertising mode or to video mode or to drawing mode. But somehow, I’ve developed a plan of action where this month I’m doing all four at the same time.

That has to stop.

I can present all four at the same time. I’m presenting Inktober right now, although it’s certainly not getting me the eyeballs I had hoped for. But I’m not doing Inktober right now. I did Inktober last month.

I have to be doing one thing at a time. If I am making videos and games and comics and childrens’ books and funding, I have to be working on only one of these at a time for multiple days at a time. I may do one per month. I may do one per week. But I can’t do two per anything ever, ever again. I am making it work half-ass right now because I promised a game in November, and I promised the comic would come out every day this year and I’m doing the Kickstarter right now and I owe it a fair shot.

Tomorrow I have an appointment to work on a business plan. My business plan has to be to make one thing at a time. And it has to be something that gets my work to my audience and starts up a cash flow.

So today, I figured I had better sort my ducks out. Here they are. Now it’s time to ponder on how to line ’em up.

Captain’s Log LA·B3: Biting off a lot

So, I have launched the Awesome Moments Kickstarter:

Tell your friends. Tell your enemies.

If Awesome Moments funds, it will be the main focus from then until it is done. And every day until then, I will post something about it on Twitter. I will seek out opportunities to speak in churches or otherwise. I’m going to give this thing the best possible chance I can to fund.

That said, I have no idea if it will, and I’m not married to either outcome.

I am going to try and get a couple of story videos made in time for November, because I see a useful lining-up with Thanksgiving.

If Awesome Moments doesn’t fund, I will double down hard on making videos in November. We will try to prime the algorithm with a glut of good stories.

December’s Bunny Trail Junction will be at least partially a prayer book, so I can keep the prayers I want to pray every day in my pocket. It will be the last Bunny Trail Junction monthly for a while.

After December, I will release bimonthlies instead. Bunny Trail Junction will drop from 7 comics a week to 3 comics a week, plus a video each week on YouTube/other media outlets. I hope to one day go back to daily comics, but my commitment is to reaching my audience — little kids — where they are first, and keeping the comic going second.

This week, my primary goal is to turn Prelude to Nightmare into a finished game, however short, stupid, or terrible it may be.

Then improve it each day, while keeping it a finished game, until November, when it is released as is. My ultimate business strategy is to build an audience on YouTube and use them to crowdfund books, and seed the demand for games. My videogame strategy is to proceed as previously outlined, making a 1-month game, making a 2-month game that is advertised , and then Kickstarting a year game for a year’s salary. The timeline for these events varies based on whether I am making Awesome Moments or not. If not, I’ll aim to begin work on Game 2 in December, and release it as an Anniversary gift for my wife. Otherwise, if Awesome Moments does fund, I will spend a month spinning up the YouTube channel before launching into Game 2.

My third post today: Considering the Plan

The following section now breaks Hat Trick into two pieces in the November Monthly. It’s a little ad-hoc and hastily assembled due to precise constraints on how many comics I needed…

Some of these are Frankencomics, single comics assembled from panels of multiple different previous comics. I’m not 100% happy with them. They mostly make sense and say what I want to say in the space I was given. I may make some additional comics to try out different ways of saying what I mean to say more intentionally rather than reuse the old ones or use frankencomics.

I’ve got about a week to figure it out. No big deal. If Bunny Trail Junction isn’t perfect on its first outing, well, that’s how I learn the skills that will perfect it.

So let’s think about some stuff I’ve largely already covered on this blog:

Sadly, it’s late, and I’ll have to consider course corrections tomorrow, which is irritating because my aim was to reach a conclusion today. But describing the question is half the answer.