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Captain’s Log LA·F1: All Vidya, All the time?

A long time ago, I tried to ink a drawing with a brush like a real cartoonist. A Windsor and Newton #7, the favored tool of greats like Bill Watterson. It did not go so well.

Well, my challenge for ynk-topia, my terrible corruption of Inktober, was to ink with a brush from start to finish. And I have. I just now finished my 31st picture, which means once I get them all scanned and processed, the October Monthly should be ready to publish.

I’m not going to show you the ultimate picture, mostly because it isn’t scanned yet, but partly because I want to save it for the 31st, but here’s a picture from near the end:

Inked with a brush.

And this picture I made for my wife for her birthday:

Inked with a brush.

I’m at the point where I almost love the brush as much as my tombows. Almost. I can produce far more expressive linework with it, going from finer than the tombows can produce to thicker than they can produce. But it’s a fight. I need to focus. I need to pay careful attention to what I’m doing. Meanwhile, the tombows produce close to what I want with very little effort on my part.

Anyhow, starting tomorrow, I’m going to do one comic a day, to tread water, and focus all the rest of my creative energies on my game.

However, I am starting to get the feeling that the time is right to Kickstart Awesome Moments. I think I’ll run a campaign in October and work my way, bit by bit, towards having it ready, again, starting tomorrow. I’m not 100% committed to this yet, but it feels like it’s time, so I’m pretty sure I will be.

Captain’s Log L9·A1: The Dismal Science

Yesterday, after doing my Inktober stuff, I put together an interface mockup and (therefore) the interface graphics for the game I’m making over the next couple of months. I’m pretty proud of this, though it doesn’t run in-engine yet:

Couple of worldbuilding notes: I’ve decided in my game engine/game world that magic/stamina/special attacks use Star Points and life uses Heart Points (nothing too extreme here). Heart Points can be split into quarters and Star Points into 5ths for finer-grained HP/SP applications while keeping the interface readable at a glance.

Money is measured in chips. Which, in universe, each contain one dram aether, with a direct conversion of 12 chips/gil if I want to measure things in a game via gil. It’s a nice way to unify my various fantasy settings. A chip is just a 1 dram coin in the game world.

There are some pleasing coincidences. In my comic, I’ve been bopping back and forth between 320×180 and 160×90 for screen resolutions. The first is the obvious 16×9 retro resolution, the second I did half-size (and with the initial Rainboy palette) and called it the handheld version because I felt production was taking too long.

Anyways, I felt 320p was too big and 160p was too small, so I threw a dart at a resolution splitting the difference. I was aiming for 240p, but I hit 256p by accident.

You’ll notice in this gallery (at least on desktop) that the middle picture is shorter than the other two. That’s because the mockups were done in my tile editor, and assuming 16×16 tiles (which is most convenient for this style), 320×180 and 160×90 are vertically 11.25 and 5.625 tiles respectively.

But 256×144 is 16×9 tiles. Nice. In fact, I’m kicking myself for never thinking, “I wonder what would happen if I multiplied my tile size by the aspect ratio” before today.

Another nice coincidence is I made the interface panel the size that “felt right”. I was originally aiming to make the playable area a square, but that meant the interface would take up almost half the screen, and that was unacceptable.

I landed on doing 4 tiles wide of interface, which reduced the play field to 12×9.

12×9 is one off in each direction from 11×8, which are Fibonacci numbers. Which means the playing field vaguely in the ballpark of a golden rectangle.

Okay, to be honest, I’d want 14×9 to get as close to a golden rectangle as possible. But you know what? I like this rectangle. I find it aesthetically pleasing. I’m going to pretend that’s because it’s in a golden rectangle ballpark.

So here’s some sword animations before I get to the economic bit for which this post is named:

Continue reading “Captain’s Log L9·A1: The Dismal Science”

Captain’s Log L9·52: Comic Relief

As I’ve gotten further into my inktober work, different pictures have taken over the cover of the October monthly. Here’s the current lineup:

(And hey! The September monthly is finally available for sale!)

Meanwhile I’ve begun work on a game. Work is slow because I’m doing two full ink drawings a day, which eats into the time I can work on the game at all. Here’s what two days of this have netted me:

Let’s pretend I have about 4 hours of brainpower in the tank per day. That’s one per comic, and one spent on Japanese, leaving me only one for the game. To be sure, I spent more than two hours on this program — but most of the stuff outside the two hours of “brainpower” were minor tweaks rather than getting somewhere and doing something. So, all told, not bad.

Normally, my rule with Bunny Trail Junction is it has on months and off months. In on months, I focus all my brainpower on the comic, and I expect to produce three to five episodes a day. This is what I was doing during my proof-of-concept in April.

If, say, I’m working on a video game, it’s an off month. In an off month I produce one comic a day. So in an on month I am rapidly gaining ground, and in off months, I am slowly losing ground. Simple enough.

I’m making a game, so September is an off month, right? Except I’m doing two drawings a day instead of one because I have to hustle through the Inktober prompts and get them all done before the Ides in patent violation of the spirit of the law. So, I’m trying to cobble together the bones of a game while working twice as hard on comics as I intend to do for the rest of the month once the Inktober prompts are finished.

By the 14th, my visit with the doctor, the prompts should be finished, and I should be back down to making a comic a day and spending the rest of my brain hours on the game. If I throw together a decent series of comics about the game, I can have November assembled within days of October and start to be truly ahead of the game. The game being Bunny Trail Junction obviously.

But one dark shadow has been lurking in the corners of my mind.

What about Awesome Moments? Awesome Moments is the most important thing on my to-do list, after all! Making comics about bunnies fighting goblins is nice, but this is leaving a record of my faith for my children!

When am I going to finish that?

Oddly enough, Awesome Moments got kicked into production by my work on the comics. This:

Became this…

…and this…

Perhaps it is time to unfurcate it, and roll Awesome Moments back into the comic.

I’ve toyed with the idea of setting Awesome Moments as the story of David Jones catechizing his kid.

It sidesteps a lot of the angst I have over it. As a convert from one faith tradition to another, I am painfully aware of the doctrinal differences between me and my Christian brethren. It doesn’t matter: Awesome Moments is my presentation of the faith to my children. I cannot, I must not, bend on any doctrine of note just because I love my brethren with whom I disagree.

So, you know, if you’re reading my Bible Story books to your kids, and you disagree with me, you’ll want to point out (incorrectly, of course) where I’m wrong. You should be doing this with all the childrens’ Bible Stories you’re using already. You don’t know what crazy cults have gotten their fingers into making those books!

Making the book “The Bible, as told to John Michael by his dad” makes this a lot less messy. You can say, “Look, David Jones is super cool, and we love his perspective, but he’s an imaginary character and sometimes he gets important stuff wrong.” Badah-bing, badah-boom.

(Of course, there’s no need, as obviously I am right about everything. But the option is now cleaner.)

Anyway, today I was avoiding work, as one does on the Lord’s Day, and pondering, and the thought came to give it a little test comic. And here we go:

If I decide I don’t like it, I don’t have to run it. But for some reason, this feels right. This feels like how I’m supposed to do this.

Intellectually, it’s not quite right. Bunny Trail Junction is supposed to be pure entertainment. I’m not trying to evangelize with my comics. There are Believers in them, and Christianity is true in them, but they are meant to be Christian stories in the same sense Lord of the Rings is a Christian story: that is, the work of a Christian craftsman plying a trade, not as a preacher, but as a man pursuing excellence in his particular craft.

But it feels right. And as I grow older, I get more mystical. My gut says aye. The ayes have it.

For now.

Captain’s Log L8·X2: Wrapping Up August, Looking at September…

My well oiled machine of Bunny Trail Junction has thrown a cog: I submitted the September monthly for publishing back on August 13th and…

Reasons it could be delayed include copyright disputes, and I quoted a single Bible Verse at the beginning of the book without giving the appropriate copyright notice, so I think that’s what’s going on. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about it until Amazon takes it out of Limbo. After more than half a month, I begin to worry that it will never leave Limbo, and September will be the lost episode.

Of course, September is scheduled. And I have a new picture of my merch to put on the “Support Bunny Trail Junction” page:

It’s incomplete without the September Monthly, but I decided to add in all my kids books. Including Awesome Moments, even though it isn’t done and available for sale yet.

Which leads me to the question of what to do tomorrow.

Continue reading “Captain’s Log L8·X2: Wrapping Up August, Looking at September…”

Captain’s Log L8·U1: Some things I aim to do

Right now I’m pushing ahead on getting Inktober drawings done. I’ve got 7 of the 31. I hope to finish the day at 8 or 9, and get 2 or 3 done tomorrow as well, then average 2 a day through September. To pull it off, though, I may need to scale them back. Do smaller pictures.

My other option is to do one or two a day, and do a comic a day in addition to that, to build up my backlog even further. And while Hat Trick and John Michael Jones are both calling out for work, I have another option as well. After all, I’ve been talking lately of which game I should make, if I were to try and make a go of making a business of making games…

Considered using one of my Unity builds..

And now I’m planning to switch to Godot. I want to reduce my reliance on Unity, and I want to reduce my reliance on Windows. I don’t trust either of those companies, least of all Microsoft.

And I’m thinking, let’s do it. Let’s build games that bring us inchwise closer and closer to Breath of the Gameboy.

So I’ve mocked up some Gameboy style graphics,

and I’m thinking make a short game where Arthur fights goblins in a graveyard over September and October, and then release it in November, just as Arthur starts fighting goblins in a graveyard on Bunny Trail Junction.

Then, next year, I can build up to and crowdfund 8 Lives Left.

Of course, my need is to make a living, and I still haven’t worked out a short term connection between my working on this and my paying my bills. I have a long term connection. January I’m planning to ring in the new year by going on a publicity blitz for Bunny Trail Junction. At that point I’ll have five months of comics, two to five months of backlog and, assuming I follow this plan, a video game. When I reach out to the internet at this point, I’ll have a lot of stuff to point them to, and a reason for them to tune in every day. Then if in, say, February or March, I run a crowdfund for 8 Lives Left, I’ll be able to build on that foundation.

I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, a seven comic arc going over the Hat Trick → 8 Lives Left → Breath of the Gameboy pipeline could ring in November, followed by the Hat Trick arc as it now sits, followed by some bestiary entries or something would make a decent November.

A Different Piece of Paper

Yesterday’s drawing and today’s drawing:

Part of this challenge is to master the brush. So, I’m not using my Tombows at all, just a #2 Round Princeton Mini Detailer. In both of these pictures. I’m not even using the Pentel pocket brush.

I expected my art to start out like that first picture and gradually move towards that second. Not to jump in a single day. Did I change anything?

Yes, actually. For my first two pictures I used Strathmore 100 lb Bristol Board. Since it’s too thick to feed through my printer, I’ve been doing my underdrawings on the computer, and using a light table to ink. But for the third picture, today’s picture, on a whim I decided to try my “printer Bristol Board”. It’s 67 lb, and not as smooth, but it comes in 11×17, so I can work much larger.

Now, working larger does make a piece look better because errors, smudges, and quivering hands are smoothed out by the greater distance. But! On an inch-for-inch basis, the second drawing is still better than the first. The lines have just as much energy, but are much better controlled.

The other change is I haven’t had caffeine today. For some reason, my craving for soda has been matched with an aversion for soda in the last two days, and the nice thing about having two warring impulses is it takes very little willpower to pick the one I’d like to win. May God let this continue.

The last observation is that I’ve been able to produce about one drawing a day since I got the prompts. But I need to do more than that if I’m going to have them ready in time. Moreover, I have reason to believe I’ll be sharply curtailed this weekend, maybe not able to draw a single picture.

I don’t know how to address that yet. I also don’t know how I’m going to store my finished pieces. I’ve been chucking my comics in dated envelopes, but 11×17 isn’t going to fit. Well, time to chew on those problems.

Dueling Spirits

The prompt list for Inktober 2021 dropped yesterday. The email says “don’t tell anyone ’til September 1st what’s on it,” but I am confident that my first essay doesn’t spoil anything. This picture is based on the first prompt, but it’s non-obvious.

But something else in the email caught my attention:

Please don’t share until September 1.


Now that you’ve got the list, use the month of September to sketch out and explore ideas!

The email assumes you will be drawing the Inktober prompts… in October!

With Bunny Trail Junction, I am (with the exception of Inktober) two months ahead, and my goal is to be six months ahead. You see, the spirit of Bunny Trail Junction is freedom. The freedom to jump around, work on whatever I feel like, confident that I can discard it or rearrange it before it comes out. The purpose of Bunny Trail Junction is to get all of my stories into the world without putting sufficient pressure on my flaws to make it fail.

The Spirit of Bunny Trail Junction is freedom, and this spirit is served by having a backlog.

The Spirit of Inktober is to encourage artists to produce a finished piece every day. The Spirit of Inktober is served by making setting aside specific days to produce and display finished pieces. The early release of the prompts is not so you can draw them in advance, it’s so you have time to think them over, do any research sketches you want.

These two spirits are intrinsically opposed. You don’t make a Bunny Trail Junction on the day it releases, you make it at least two months before that. You don’t make an Inktober drawing in advance, you make it on the day it is released.

There are four methods I can think of off the top of my head to resolve this conflict:

  1. The Worst of Both Worlds: Get the prompts ASAP (A week before September) and crank out 2+ pictures a day so you can have the monthly assembled by the ides. Does severe violence to the spirits both of Bunny Trail Junction and Inktober.
  2. Offset By A Year: Do Inktober properly. Publish it on Bunny Trail Junction a year later.
  3. Christmas Vacation: Publish normal comics in October, but do the Inktober challenge as well. Use the Inktober drawings to fill the December Monthly.
  4. Prompt in a Different Way: Similar to Offset By a Year, but instead of using the Inktober prompt list, I come up with my own prompt list to disguise the fact that I’m not doing the art at the same time as everyone else. This fits with coming up with my own branding for Inktober, and further, would allow me to pick a different 31 day month to execute in if I wish.

I am already committed to the Worst of Both Worlds solution for October 2021. However, I am considering the other solutions for 2022 and beyond.

Explorations in Ink

I’m going to post three panels from Bunny Trail Junction, but they are ripped from three different episodes:

Except they’re not just three different episodes. They’re three different workflows.

In Panel 1, I printed out two comic templates on a sheet of 8.5×11 paper. Since BTJ monthlies are printed 5×8, and this is scaled to use almost all of the page up, whereas the monthlies have generous margins, this means the artwork is, say, 20% bigger than its final form.

I letter in the text with a Pigma Micron 05, except for bold text which gets my Tombow しっかりbrush pen. (And know, I don’t know what the heck “shikkari” means, I just know enough Japanese to sound it out and produce the correct letters with my keyboard). Large pools of black are filled in with the Pentel Pocket Brush. Hatching is done with a Pigma Micron 01, and corrections/stars/white outlines on black are done with white Sakura Gelly Roll 10.

This is how the hand-drawn episodes have largely been done.

However this month, I decided to try something new.

For Panel 2, I printed my template so that one template fills an entire 8.5×11 sheet. This means I’m working at well over twice the final size, as the Good Lord intended. The lettering was done with the Tombow しっかりbrush pen, with bold provided by the Tombow な(?)やか brush pen. In this case, I’m not actually sure I read the kana right. It’s something-ya-ka anyway. Maybe that first symbol is a kanji I have yet to learn (that would be most of them). The scene is then drawn with a blue pencil (like the first), but inked with the pentel pocket brush. I have a lot less control over the pocket brush than I do over the Tombows, so the result is less consistent, but it has a certain life to it that the Tombow art lacks. Again, I use my Gelly Roller for white bits and my Pigma Micron 01 for hatching. Which looks about the same, despite the fact that it should look noticeably thinner.

Panel 3 was a process I “Prototyped” yesterday. I noticed that some of my art looked from ink leeching into the paper around my brushstrokes and decided to try drawing the comic on Bristol Board, as if I were some sort of professional.

Other than that, the process is identical to 2. Well, not exactly. Since I can’t print my template onto the bristol board, I have to use a light table to project the template through. And if I’m going to project the template through, I can “pencil” on my computer and print the pencils out, which allows me to use all sorts of hacks like selecting, rotating, scaling, and smudging to more quickly assemble my scene.

The lines are, indeed, crisper on bristol board. There’s a reason it’s the industry standard. However, I still don’t have good control over the pocket brush. Moreover, because the ink doesn’t leech into the surrounding paper particles as much, it also dries much slower, and it is easy for someone sloppy — someone like me — to smear it with his hand.

At this moment, I have half a mind to go back to the Tombows for illustrating. Maybe use the bold/mystery meat tombow for outlining at this double scale, see how well it handles on Bristol Board. But I really want to keep that life that the pocket brush is giving me.

Here’s a test panel of John Michael Jones, illustrated in like manner to the above, but then colored with the Rainboy palette:

My plan, at this moment, is to take it up a level. Use an actual paintbrush and actual ink for Inktober. Then back off and try a few comics with the Tombows after I’ve finished that gauntlet.

Prompts drop tomorrow. Here’s hoping I hit the ground running.

Captain’s Log L8·J2: Taking Stock

I’ve started half a dozen blogs, easy. The reason I’ve stuck with this one is I write whatever I feel like, instead of trying to keep it on brand, whether that brand is theology, stories, or what have you. I feel like writing a bunch of unrelated updates all together, some of them useful, some navel gazey. And so I shall.

Bunny Trail Junction

Yesterday instead of making comics, I made the above stickers, which is what I’m calling my HD sprites. Today, I drew a Hat Trick, which brings the number of unscheduled (likely to run in November) Hat Trick comics up to 14. That’s half a month, and about what I ran this month and what I’m running next month. Unfortunately, while I have more than enough comics to fill out November (I could run Drone Fu, or either of the sets of sprite comics I’ve posted the last couple of days), I do want BTJ to be 90% pure entertainment, and only 10% whatever bullshit I’m on about. I’m not there yet. But hopefully I will be there by the Ides of October.

I’m toying with the idea of making November pure Hat Trick. I didn’t want to do that for the first two monthlies simply because I want it to be very clear that Bunny Trail Junction is whatever I feel like, and not just Hat Trick. But Hat Trick is the story that is pulling eyeballs (albeit not many yet), and I feel that after two mixed monthlies and an Inktober, if I have 30 Hat Tricks by the Ides of October, I’ll run 30 Hat Tricks in November.

Speaking of which, the September Monthly was submitted last week. Usually, Amazon approves my books in a couple of days. But they haven’t approved the September Monthly yet, nor commented on it at all. I’m a bit worried/annoyed. If the September Monthly exists in limbo forever, and I never get it printed, I will live, but I’d like to have a few copies to sprinkle around, plus one to pose with my merch and various books.

Anyway, next month’s Hat Tricks are mostly Arthur working through the aftermath of the fight with the Snake. Bleh. Comic after comic of him and a turkey talking in a room. I hate drawing the same thing more than once. But part of the reason I’m looking at sprite/sticker comics is that no matter how hard you try, in every story eventually two characters are going to sit down and chat.

Ugh. Well, at least November’s set has some proper action.

In terms of general success and promotion, Bunny Trail Junction isn’t getting eyeballs yet. Not really. And that’s fine. My plan, my big idea, is to ring in the New Year by promoting the comic. By then, we’ll have five months of history, a ton of available merch, and, I hope, I’ll be four or five months ahead on drawing the comic.

Of course, that’s not soon enough to pay the bills. But I gotta play the long game if I’m going to play any game.

Paying the Bills

I’m juggling three notions for paying the bills…

Continue reading “Captain’s Log L8·J2: Taking Stock”

Sticker Stars

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.