Proof is in.
Oops. That’s not my proof. That’s a blanket octopus. The females fly through the sea with superhero capes. The males went undiscovered until very recently because they max out at an inch long.
Work on getting my paperwork squared away for the Kickstarter proceeds slowly. My first read through of the book as already identified multiple grievous errors.
And I feel this close to figuring out my ‘golden path’.
I had a plan. Make pixel art graphics. Switch back and forth between working on a sprite comic and games as the mood takes me. I developed a format that would fit a 5×8 black and white book. Tested making HD graphics. Developed a couple of monochrome color ramps that would convert to readable graphics in black and white print, designed the imaginary game device that would hold the graphics, and so on.
The thought was: prototype my stories in as low-effort a medium as possible and distribute them freely and widely. Then, choose from my completed stories to kickstart and produce higher quality products.
Once I’ve done enough of a story in comic form to make a book, I go for funding, and produce it as a kids book or comic book. Or I can drag and drop these graphics into Unity to produce a retro style game. And if people like the game, I can remaster it in HD. After all, I can just drop in HD graphics with the same proportions and change the pixels per unit, right?
It turns out, alas, that I cannot.
For a brief time I toyed with rebuilding my RPG engine from scratch in HD. Since I can’t establish a pixel art to HD pipeline for zero effort, may as well work in HD from the start, right?
But there are several elements of Piqha design that were not 100% settled in my mind, so I worked those out.
I decided that I was content with the design, but I did not like the translation to cartoon because it didn’t have the same feel as my handmade ink drawing. So I played around with that, found a look I was interested in pursuing…
Then I sculpted, posed, and tested the look,
And made a new piqha template to doodle piqha concepts.
Thing is, an HD RPG engine, even starring Piqha isn’t my golden path where I work from quick and low-effort to high-effort high-quality anymore. I should just keep everything in the world of my pixel art.
Make games that are scoped to my abilities.
The Variety Show
There once was a newspaper comic called Thimble Theater.
The concept was simple, and in fact, straight up cribbed from a comic whose artist had retired and which therefore needed replacing: Make fun of whatever movies were showing in the theaters. To maintain continuity as they switched from movie to movie, the comic would have its own independent cast of characters who would be slotted into the movie character roles as the cartoonist saw fit. Effectively, the cast of the comic was a troupe of actors who took on and cast off roles as needed.
This comic ran for a solid decade before the introduction of a new character that would change it forever.
Popeye instantly became a fan favorite, and stole protagonist Ham Gravy’s girlfriend, Olive Oyl right from under his nose.
But the format of the storytelling remained the same. Popeye and friends weren’t characters who lived in their own world. They were actors who got typecast in different plays. And in fact, many other shows would follow this format. Having a cast that retold stories with themselves slotted in. Muppets would play in Treasure Island. Family Guy characters would star in Star Wars. The Super Mario Super Show would re-enact the Sword in the Stone.
Speaking of Mario…
Legend has it that Nintendo began negotiations to make a Popeye video game. Popeye would rescue Olive from Bluto, who would throw barrels at the sailor. But negotiations fell through at the last minute, and Nintendo swapped in a gorilla for Bluto, a blonde for Olive, and a carpenter named Jumpman or Mr. Video for Popeye.
Years later, when asked why the cast of the Mario games would be mortal enemies in one game, and go go-carting or play tennis in the next, Mario designer Shigeru Miyamoto said that the cast of Mario were like the cast of Popeye: a troupe of actors who take on different roles for different plays. Or games, as the case may be and in fact was.
In short, the Super Mario Brothers Super Show had it right all along. Mario characters were meant to be copied and pasted into existing stories for amusement purposes.
Now, I have many, many properties. And several of them can be forced into this variety show format, which in turn is well suited to not only rehashing, but also prototyping stories. Hat Trick’s animal world could do it. The Awesome Moments 3D puppets could be reused for it.
But I have two properties that fit this format without being forced.
My retro sprites, and the piqha.
And the relationship is entirely reversible. I can make piqha as retro sprites, and retro sprite characters as piqha.
Anyways, attempts at assembling my variety show, settling on a cast, etcetera are, at the moment, not clicking. Part of me wants to go haring off after a hand-drawn piqha dealio. The sensible part of me is thinking “just make the sprite comic. It’ll all come ’round to the other projects if God Wills.”
None of this is at the forefront of my effort. My labor is directed towards the crowdfunding of Awesome Moments. But this quasi-puzzle is taunting me.
My piqha are marketable. Lovable. Flexible. Distinct. But my sprites have the golden path, still, if I give up on converting retro game art to HD game art. A peculiar spin on tried and true ancient character design principles are not of themselves a replacement for a pipeline that allows me to keep my fingers in all the media varieties that interest me, jumping around as desired, while constantly moving forward on all.
Nothing is clicking yet.
I feel like I have a variety show that is the headspring of my golden pipeline, but it’s just missing one key ingredient. I’m one epiphany away from having my cake and eating it too.
It’s not urgent. I need to finish Awesome Moments 1 before I can seriously develop this concept. So that’s a month or three, probably closer to three. And the epiphany that cemented Thimble Theater came ten years into its run. The epiphany that cemented Dr. Seuss came ten years into his run, and wouldn’t have worked so well if he hadn’t established a track record.
But I feel like it’s there. Just beyond my fingertips.