Captain’s Log M8•T0: Ink-Slinging

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.

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Captain’s Log m8•11: Clip Studio Kaplooey

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.

Continue reading “Captain’s Log m8•11: Clip Studio Kaplooey”

Why not make animations?

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.

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Captain’s Log m5•x1: Sudden Turn

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:

https://gotm.io/bunnytrail/jump-vs-slug

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.

Captain’s Log m5•n1: The Ragged Rascal Ran

John Michael Jones Gets A Life has already launched in the Mad Christian Mondays newsletter, and should be launching tomorrow on Bunny Trail Junction

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.

Continue reading “Captain’s Log m5•n1: The Ragged Rascal Ran”

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•D1: Wren Redesign Coda

Here’s my historical Wren imagery, plus the brainstorming for the redesign, with the additional work I did after I more or less settled in on a design.

I also went back to my pixel art last night and implemented the new design, as well as updated some of the pixel character designs. The new Wren design is down in the bottom left. It works very well indeed in this format.

My two or three month long flirtation with HD art is grinding to what may be a close. It looks nice, and is more marketable. But. I have two issues with it.

1. I am making a comic about John Michael getting sucked into a video game.

Using pixel art helps sell that it’s a video game. John Michael is, in many ways, the anti-Scott Pilgrim, and deserves much of the same marketing style for the same reasons.

My other option to get a video gamey look is low poly, but I’m less confident in how well I can go from construction to print. Not that I haven’t considered it:

2. I am considering whether I haven’t made a wrong turn in putting vidya as prime.

While there are many video games I want to make, and they are unique and would add something useful to the world, they are not as unique as or as useful as the stories I want to tell. And the fastest, most useful way to tell them is children’s books. Let other people make them into comics and games if they want.

I can make a good kids’ book in about a month. Two months, given time for editing promotion and release. And yet, since 2019, I’ve only made 4, even though this is the best, most useful thing I can do. And most of those were in the first year. I made 3 books in ’19, 1 book in 2020, 4 comic compilations in 2021, and that’s it.

I think I need to try and put out at least two or three kids’ books every year. 4 if I can. Make the games a hobby instead of a primary goal.

And if the games are a hobby, they may as well be pixel art.

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.

Forgiveness is Virtuous

The College Loans thing has come back up, as it will keep returning until either debtors are enslaved openly in America, or else the debt is forgiven, presumably by some socialist takeover that brings on mass starvation.

I prefer neither option.

My favorite “plan” to deal with the Student Loan Crisis is as follows: declare that most college degrees to be scams. Seize the university endowments to pay the debt. Forgive the students.

I am led to believe this would cover the debt without having to dip into tax money. The Universities are bastions of the Left. There is nary a Right-winger who wouldn’t claim that most degrees aren’t fraudulent. Advocating this and, indeed, enacting it, would win the hearts and minds of many brainwashed children who are currently en route to imposing the Communist Revolution, and our homebred version of the gulags. And both I, and many others who advocate it would without hesitation agree to many of the stipulations that the so-called Right insists it would have to have.

  • “Well then, those degrees are revoked.” Certainly. It’s not as though they are furnishing the jobs they were billed as providing.
  • “If you aren’t smart enough not to sell yourself into slavery, you shouldn’t vote.” By all means. Revoke the franchise from those so forgiven.
  • “The federal loan program would have to be ended to prevent it happening again.” We are in complete agreement.

And yet, it is a mark of the “Right’s” commitment to losing that the mere mention of delivering this relief pushes them into shrieking fit for any vampire confronted with a crucifix.

“Why should my taxes pay for the forgiveness?” But I never proposed that they should.

“You just aren’t willing to cut Netflix and work two jobs like me.” I don’t have Netflix, and moreover, my debt is not at issue. Even if I get my way, mine will be paid off before it ever happens.

“If your student loan gets forgiven, what about my car loan?”

And now we have landed on something meaty. Something meaningful. Something I’ve been wanting to get around to.

Yeah. Let’s forgive that too.

You see, the Church has historically been against usury. That is, lending money at interest. At all.

Now this business of student loans is cast as a political and economic argument. These are not my area of expertise. My interests are drawing, writing, storytelling, programming games. On subjects outside my expertise, I defer to religion. In fact, I defer to religion even within my expertise. If I say one thing, and Jesus says another, I am wrong and Jesus is right. Period.

And what does religion tell me about debt, forgiveness, and usury?

Well, the theocracy of Israel is forbidden to loan at interest to their countrymen, and they are to forgive all debts every seven years.

I eat bacon and shellfish. I am not under the Mosaic Covenant. But I am not about to say I am wiser or more righteous than God. So the idea that it is morally superior to make men pay their debts is out the window.

You cannot be more just than God. Simple as. Nor more wise.

Which undercuts another argument, namely that debt forgiveness would create perverse incentives. Surely, God knew the incentives when He devised the Mosaic Covenant.

And of course, we are taught to pray “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

Even supposing we paid for student loans out of our taxes, do you really intend to stand before Christ and say “I was unwilling to pay for my neighbor’s freedom, but I’d sure like you to pay for mine!”

“But Jesus is talking about moral debts, not financial debts!”

So, if I take your money, that has no moral component? Balderdash. Anyway, the idea that monetary debt has no moral component certainly undercuts the line “No one put a gun to your head and forced you to sign. You agreed to pay that.”

Either it is not immoral for me to refuse to pay, or “forgive their moral debts” applies to financial debts. You can’t have it both ways.

So yeah. I think student loans and car loans should be forgiven. Maybe once every seven years. Maybe through some process like bankruptcy. I’m not a theonomist. I’m not committed to reinstating Moses in America.

But I am saying if your argument for your system is that it is more righteous than Moses’s, or more wise, then you are flatly wrong.

“But our economy can’t work like that!”

You underestimate my willingness to appear an utter gibbering moron if it means doing what Jesus says. I am certain that a country who makes “foolish” financial decisions because that is what Christ would command will somehow find a way to daily bread.

The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Anything that claims to be wisdom and is not founded in God-Fearing, cannot be wise.

Anyway, our economy is crumbling already. The Horseman of inflation rides among us. And our country will continue to be accursed so long as it murders infants and enslaves children.

Politics and Economics

Now, I do think there is an argument that can be made for forgiveness that is political and a couple that are economic.

A country’s true economy, I would argue, is measured in whether men are taking wives and having children. By murdering half my generation, the Boomers have doomed America to darker winters for a long time. By selling the remaining half to the banks, they have made the coming winters darker and longer still.

Our house is on fire. To pull out of this nosedive, we need normal men and woman raising families. To make this happen, we need to get normal men and women out of debt.

This is one economic argument. Let us suppose that the only possible way to forgive student loans is with taxes. Let us suppose we don’t do it.

There will be fewer goods and services in the years to come because there will not be the human capital to furnish them. Nor the brain capital to maintain the automation needed to furnish them.

The second economic argument is that building an economy on debt is as foolish as centrally planning an economy, and for the same reasons. The ability to take imaginary money out of the bank and buy real things with it disrupts the healthy mechanisms of supply and demand. Our currency isn’t just inflated by the money printers. It is also inflated by credit cards.

To be sure, we have food, and communists have starvation. So to say our system is as bad as, say, Venezuela’s is objectively false. But I think it is still bad, and will all blow up in our faces.

The political argument I have already made above. Men have gone to college, been told that capitalists are evil, and had every evil for which capitalism is blamed done to them by the colleges. If we let them be, if we let Bernie and his ilk continue to enchant them, they will put us all in gulags, and then everyone gets to starve to death. But if we forgive the debt, and fix the blame where it belongs, perhaps another path becomes available.

I am neither a politician nor an accountant. I believe these arguments, but I am not really able to defend them.

But That’s Not the Point

The point is forgiveness is objectively good and laudible and I cannot and will not claim otherwise so long as I hope for salvation in the Blood of Christ.

My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me.