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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
I have tried being employed, and swallowing my arguments with my employer rather than walking out.
I have tried being unemployed.
I have tried being employed, but feeling quite content to walk out when things don’t suit me.
I dislike all of these states. But the first feels dishonest, and the other two at least feel honest.
It is possible, just possible, that there is a job out there in which I can be content. It is also possible that I need to learn, by the Grace of God, to be content in a suboptimal job.
But I think I had ought rather to try being self employed.
Previously I have stated that I think I would rather have a day job than have to choose my artistic projects on their profit merit. Now that day jobs require obeisance to the State Religion, I am less content with that conclusion.
I talked it over with my best friend. My real plan is to tinker until mid-September, and hope that I can be drugged into being a productive citizen. But my ultimate goal is to create a little media company that covers my family’s needs, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t act on that goal. And following a pragmatic plan that I have considered and ignored because I doubt I can hold to it with my ADHD, on the basis of “Well, I might get treated a month from now, and that might enable me to carry it through,” is every bit as sensible as getting a retail job for a month, and hoping my treatment allows me to hold down a real job.
That was where I ended my thoughts the day before yesterday. Yesterday was a whirlwind tour of journaling in the form of comic-making.
I hope never to run these comics on Bunny Trail Junction. Navel gazing is self-indulgent and poor entertainment. But the rules are I draw whatever I feel like at the time and hope God gives me something good. And the whole point of this blog is to permit me to be self-indulgent.
Bunny Trail Junction is excruciating. Today is the fourth. There are four episodes up. I have gotten 31 episodes uploaded. But nobody will see them all until the 31st. Unless they buy the paperback or subscribe to the subscribestar.
And this is necessary. I am trying to lay a solid foundation, and build up a six month backlog (I currently sit at an unacceptable “almost two month” backlog.) I want to gather fans one at a time, slowly, steadily. I want the rock solid growth that doesn’t vanish, not the flash-in-the-pan growth that is amazing one day and gone the next. This is how to do that.
But it’s agonizing to watch. I’m currently drawing comics that wont be seen until November. And nobody cares about the website yet. Nor should they. The story everybody cares about just started today. I’ve already posted all 14 episodes of that story on Twitter. There will be no new, unseen episodes until September 15th.
The middle of next month is the soonest I can expect interest to start picking up. But the plan, the plan I’m working, isn’t a failure until the comic has been running, unmarked and uncared for, for ten years.
Today, as an experiment, I tried printing out a double-size template and drawing the comic with a pocket brush. I am not displeased with the results. Here’s a comparison of the test comic and an earlier comic in the format I’ve been using:
And in a final progress report, I may or may not have abandoned my day job rather than submit to a mask mandate.
I am by no means certain and dogmatic in my position. I don’t think masking up is a terrible umbrage, not to be borne. I think it may even be sensible. But I also increasingly think that the only hope of preserving the culture and values I love is to respond to even paltry requests for concession with defiance. The elites are not acting in good faith, and should be treated as such.
Anyway, I’m not fully convinced of my own position. My workplace forced me to make a call before I had sufficiently considered it. I have made the best call I can. God help me.
My theories about using green/red ramps for screens, and then printing in grayscale have been vindicated.
But for the sake of making a Wren RPG, I changed up my pixel art style to something more like a 2D Brawler.
Which drew on my cartoony hand-drawn style, and turned about and influenced it in return.
Now, I’ve been explaining my RPG notion in comic form, and have half a mind to put those episodes in the September BTJ..
But while the pixel art uses my Rainbow Rose color palette, which is intended for print, it wasn’t specifically designed with black and white printing in mind like the Rainboy Palette. So I had to get a sneak peak at how it would turn out in print. Fortunately, each monthly should preview the next monthly. And so..
It’s fine. It’s not great. Specifically targeting black and white would be a wiser choice. But it’s fine. Good enough to print.
But I’ve been going back and forth. When I get treatment, should I work on my RPG engine…
Or focus my energy on Dronefu?
Those are the financially viable ideas, right? I’ve made series of comics explaining both ideas that will likely one day run on BTJ.
The RPG is viable because when Alpha Dream died it left a huge void in the JRPG community. Maybe not big enough to feed Nintendo, but certainly big enough to feed me. Dronefu is viable because it’s basically Megaman X, only moreso. And HD drawings. Nobody wants another pixel art platformer, but HD platformers are still in it to win it, right?
But I got to thinking. Hat Trick is the thing that is turning heads right now. Any game I end up making will probably be heavily influenced by what parts of BTJ people are talking about. And I could make a pixel art Megaman X-style game with Merlin from Hat Trick. I’ve toyed with it before.
It came to a head this week because I crashed my bike and bruised up my hands. I’ve been unable to manage the fine motor functions of drawing for most of a week. It’s been frustrating.
Though I’ve pulled some pretty panels out of my recovery all the same.
And I thought about making Hat Trick comics using pixel art.
It felt wrong, so I didn’t do it.
I like how the Rainboy Palette comics turned out, so making pixel art strips for BTJ in general doesn’t feel wrong at all. But the notion of doing portions of Hat Trick in pixel for some reason causes my spirit to rebel.
So I tried an experiment. I took my Wren RPG sprites, downgraded them to Rainboy palettes, and dropped them in the bus stop scene.
It doesn’t look terrible. It looks okay. I can make comics this way.
And maybe games?
And maybe games. Maybe the combination of the Bunny Trail Junction webcomic, and making low-res pixel art platformers will work out for me. Can be turned into a career.
I think it can.
I just… love how much more expressive and stylized these larger sprites are. Even though they are 5x as much work as the smaller sprites, easily.
So, I tried popping myself and Jump the Shark into the retro diner. I had to scale up the door because it was obviously too small, but I didn’t really need to fix anything else.
It’s too small. But it’s not terribly too small. It’ll do until I get in the mood to make another. And… yeah. I’m thinking I’ll try making a platformer using these graphics. Maybe using Godot, but maybe just picking up my old Unity platformer. Because after all, it already has a shader meant for these palettes, and lighting effects ready to go. I could just fork it…
I’d want to scale up the world, or else scale back to the 16×24 sprites instead of the larger more detailed sprites. I dunno man. I kinda love both.
There’s a certain irony that the platformer already exists with Candy. Way back in the day, when I did a Ludum Dare with a programmer who is now my friend, I conceived in my head a platformer staring Merlin. But I swapped in Candy the Witch because if my partner turned out to be dodgy, I wanted a character I wouldn’t be too upset over losing to be in the game. And Hat Trick is fairly dear to me.
I do have Merlin in both sprite scales.
Well. Anyway. The comic is launching in roughly four days. Everything is primed and ready to go. I’ve got the first week loaded, the first month planned, the first two months drawn…
I was assembling Bunny Trail Junction for August, and that necessitated making introductions to each of the lines of comics therein. Dronefu didn’t end up making the cut, but I didn’t know whether it would going in, so…
And indeed, platfomers have always been my interest. But, you know, metroidvanias in general and pixelart metroidvanias specifically are overdone.
Nobody’s done right by Megaman X yet, though.
I’m not switching projects. Or rather, I’m not reswitching projects. My commitment is to produce more than one Bunny Trail Junction comic per day, and one month’s worth each month. A video game has more interest for me — and more financial upside. But I’m not committing to anything bigger than the comic unless and until I’ve gotten my ADHD sorted out.
Or at least, that’s my decision for now.
That doesn’t stop me from toying with ideas. How could it? That’s literally my damage. So today, forced to call out by non-Covid-related covid symptoms, I tried tinkering with Dronefu a little. Ended up sculpting a character.
Dronefu is in a very real way a game that’s designed to be everything I could want in a game both to play and to make. But I can feel in my bones it’s not ready yet. Some element is missing that I haven’t found.
As for the comic, work proceeds apace. I need to draw five or six pictures to serve as endcaps, get far enough into the month to know what I’m doing for September, get a test print, and figure out the website. But I’ve got 3/4ths of the month left to do it in.
I think frankly, I’ve already bitten off a bit too much. But that just means I need to figure out where to streamline. I’ll take a look at it tonight.