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.
This week’s goal, aside from hugging my kin, and thanking God for what I have, is to finish my business plan.
At this point, I am about 80% sure the plan goes like this:
Reconstruct my JRPG/Adventure engine in Godot.
Build a 1-month adventure game therein, probably using Piqha. Probably an Easter Egg hunt, to publish in time for Easter 2022. Put it up for sale for $2. Let’s call it Last Legend Zero. Say the story is set before the crash of the ship, one Piqha suspects that something is wrong, and is exploring the conduits of his ship to figure it out. I want, somehow, the Word of God to be available to post-crash colony, so perhaps this easter egg hunt is the story of how it gets there.
Develop within/alongside the game the sets and characters for the Last Legend comic.
On the completion of the adventure game, I should be set for Last Legend comics for 1 or 2 months.
And/or 8×9 storybooks.
Bunny Trail Junction will reboot as a comic in like format, or storybook pages in the 8×9 storybook format, in due course.
I may spend a portion of November or December assembling a post-hoc December wrapup of the current format, and perhaps the 2021 Annual. Just tie up the first year in a bow.
Work on other projects with the Illusive Man as they come up.
Pour 2 months building a JRPG, Last Legend I. This is our business launch. Our “two-month, $5 game that makes 4K per month of work.” Our 1K wishlists on Steam.
By this time, presuming all goes well, we should be far enough along on the Illusive Man’s manga project, that taking a month or two off to produce something here is a good idea.
Pour 2-4 months into producing Last Legend II.
Get us our party mechanics.
Finish the challenge I undertook on behalf of my swordsmanship master.
Be a solid game that secures the Last Legend/Piqha brand, universe, and assets for use in the comics.
Be a solid showcase of what my micro JRPGs look like. Which leads us to:
Licensed JRPG. Say to the Illusive One, to Brometheus, to Niemeier, to my other homies, “Behold: here is a small game I have made that is designed to present a story. You have stories and an audience. Let us therefore run a Kickstarter together and produce a grand thing.” And do so. Choose the best fit. Run a crowdfund. Make a game. Lather, rinse, repeat, to raise everyone’s boats, while taking appropriate breaks to produce my own stories.
The only thing I would add is I want to produce a kid’s book every now and again. Keep my library of kids’ books growing. I feel the itch even now; it has been too long. So, keeping my format notes in mind, I think I may aim to produce a 8×9 Last LegendKids’Pulp Formula book next, and try and put one in every other month. Maybe break Awesome Moments into that format length as well.
Maybe do a Jump the Shark story before years’ end so I keep my pattern of one per year rolling.
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.
A 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.
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.
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:
Release the Proof of Concept with no real gameplay to the world and immediately begin working on the second brick.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So here’s basically all the characters I had as tests of the new pixel art style, plus Octoboy and Piranha. I decided to meet in the middle on the linework: Jump and me have thinner lines than our previous outing. Octoboy and Piranha haven’t been updated to have thicker lines yet, but I’ll let it be for now. It stands out like a sore thumb to me, but it’s decent art for all that, and you wouldn’t notice it didn’t match without me telling you.
I’m utterly uninspired to work on any game at the moment, and have just been fine-tuning the process of producing stickers, which is what I’m calling the HD sprites. I do intend to start jamming on a game, though at this point I think I might start on the dot in September instead of starting now. That rules out Halloween, which averts certain temptations for me.
Well, some elements of Bunny Trail Junction have not functioned gracefully. So I’m off to go fix those bits. I’ll probably use my stickers to make some basic merch as well.
There is a thing called comicsgate. I mention it with some trepidation.
When it became obvious that Marvel and DC were more committed to their observance of the Death Cult’s religious shibboleths than even to profit, several groups of people began simultaneously making their own comic books. Some, I consider friends and allies to this day. Some, I wish well, but I would rather ignore them and be ignored by them in turn. Together, this merry band was branded comicsgate.
And then it fractured into pieces as the groups attacked one another. I have my own theory as to who is at fault, but I’ll not share it here. Obviously, my guys were 100% innocent and the other guys were 100% guilty. But I am not in the thick of Comicsgate; I am outside it.
See, I’m not a comic book sort of a dude. I never got ahold of comic books as a kid. While Comicsgate is either reminiscing about the glory days when we didn’t know Wolverine’s true identity, or even delving back farther, to the days when Batman wasn’t afraid of guns, my exposure to the comic art form was 100% newspaper comics.
I knew superhero comics were a thing. My mother loved the Chris Reeves superman movie. I spent hours pouring over a book about Spider man from the local library. I had caught bits of the Adam West TV series. But I don’t have nostalgia for the good old days when comic books were good because the only comic books I had access to where collections of BC, Peanuts, Wizard of Id, Garfield, and Calvin & Hobbes.
And, as I’ve related before, I also had access to books on how to make these newspaper funnies, and articles interviewing Jim Davis, Charles Schulz, Johnny Hart, and eventually, Bill Watterson.
All because five-year-old me miscommunicated and said I wanted to be a cartoonist rather than an animator.
And you know what? I want to be a cartoonist rather than an animator. I love the art of the newspaper comic strip. I think Scott Adams’ formula of 6-dimensional humor is a fantastic innovation in the understanding of the format.
Even though, you know… I’m not making much use of it.
Yep. I’m taking the lessons I’ve learned from the study of newspaper comic strips and applying them to story telling rather than joke telling. And that’s just how I intend to do things.
This is fine. There have always been newspaper comic strips that worked this way. Either mixed humor and storytelling, or else abandoned humor altogether and focused entirely on storytelling.
The newspapers are dying. The Newspaper comic strip is dying. The webcomic is its heir. But the webcomic changes some things.
Newspaper comics were filtered by syndicates and newspapers. Webcomics are unfiltered. The filtering process weeds out visionaries and prophets who defy convention and social norms, but it also weeds out dreck. So now, comics can exist that are better than what the papers would allow … but a lot of other comics exist that previously were denied existence because they were legitimately crap.
Webcomics can have color every day, not just Sundays! And yet I’m ignoring this and working purely in black and white ink. I’ve considered trying to come up with a setup where I use grayscale paper and black and white ink to create a tri-tone comic, or simply adding in a gray after I scan, but I’ve discarded these ideas.
Webcomics can have animation. Again, I’m ignoring this. I’m just making paper comics, but keeping the web in mind.
And that’s the aspect ratio for you. 16×9 doesn’t show up in a lot of newspapers. But it works nicely on Twitter, and if I stack the panels vertically, you can read it on your phone.
This kind of vertical formatting is the innovation of Webtoonz, and now Arktoons as well. Webcomics for a new era. Huzzah. I approve. Especially since, IMO, they will fit nicely in a pocket book printed by KDP.
I think the Newspaper format comic deserves to live. I think I’m going to take it under my wing and continue to produce things in this fashion. I think my 3x16x9 styling will neatly combine the needs of screens and books. But it has other advantages that recommend it to me.
The Format of ADHD
I can spend several months making an illustrated book. I’ve proven it several times over. And I’m definitely going to drag Awesome Moments across the finish line. I don’t know when, but it’s good for my kid to have.
But long projects are hard. If what I am told about ADHD is true, I don’t struggle with controlling my focus; rather, I literally cannot control my focus.
When I try to simplify comic making down enough to make it a rapid prototype, which was the original purpose of this strip, I lose interest. It’s too easy. When I try to do multiple drafts to maximize final quality, as is really ideal for the kids’ books, I lose interest. It’s too long.
If I have an excess of focus, enough to make a proper comic book or (alas) a children’s book, I can make my RPG engine, and that will be better both for me financially, for the culture at large, and of course, for great justice.
But I need enough of a challenge to care. It is not enough to make beans. There has to be craftsmanship.