Captain’s Log M1•B2: Cleaning Up

This week’s update is simple. My mother is returning home on Thursday. I have to spend most of my time preparing her house for her return. I may tinker a bit here and there before, and I may return to my work full-force after, but this week will be mostly dedicated to those preparations, and to her return.

That I am, by no means, anywhere near where I thought I’d be at this point in development means I need to reconsider my whole plan and workflow. Since my watchers in the government are asking what my plan is, I think next week will be dedicated first and foremost to very question.

February, I historically take off to do whatever I feel like. At the moment, despite spending three weeks of December and one of January pushing hard, though, I don’t feel burnt out on this project. I could easily switch projects, but I could easily just keep my nose to the grindstone and keep going. That’s a good sign that the medications are working, and I expect to re-evaluate, come to new estimates on the same plan, instead of changing plans again.

I ended last week by finding a plugin for Godot that will allow me to import animations directly from Aseprite, and by being fed up with my social media participation and choosing to go dark for a while. I predict both aid my productivity immensely.

Presently, I aim to spend whatever work time I get this week retooling the plan to take the new timing information into account. That, and producing a polished business plan take priority until such are done. I hope next week’s post will be the result.

Captain’s Log LC•R2

Last week, as predicted, I did very little on the game. Not nothing, though. I spent a lot of time doing character and setting designs that will tie into the comic. I found a workflow that is almost as fast for creating “hand-inked” looking vector art as my pixel art workflow is at making pixel art…

..which re-sparked the age-old question of whether I should use HD art or Pixel Art.

There were three elements that tipped the balance for me. First was the seasonal enjoyment of Muppets Christmas Carol. My piqha, and indeed all characters in the retro-cartoony art style I’m developing, are my version of muppets as much as anything. And one thing I like about “my” muppets is that they exist in a digital world, where Mr. Henson’s exist physically. It’s something I’ve tried, and failed, to develop, in the past:

But as much as I haven’t got it figured out, I haven’t let go of it either. Even my “paper dolls” exist conceptually in my head as digital life forms. Pixel art merely makes that explicit.

The second element that tipped the balance was watching a video on Super Mario Brothers speedrunning where they talked about frame rules and manipulable RNG. Mechanics necessitated by the hardware of the time, but mechanics that I fully desire to include in my games on purpose. And the fact that they are pixel art helps thematically hint that these things will exist in my games.

The third element that helped tip the balance was a tutorial on YouTube on how to create a pixelation filter, which I immediately implemented yesterday out of the sheer joy of doing it.

I now have a glitch animation I can call whenever I want from code, as well as a fade out/fade in method that is both more elegant than what I did with Prelude to Nightmare and more Godoty: my Hat Trick fade was done the same way I would do a fade in Unity.

Along the way, I tweaked my inky caricature to be in tune with Popeye, and tweaked my pixel art caricature to be in line with my inky one.

Which is a great improvement in my eyes.

Ink and pixels will both always be elements of how I present my stuff, I think. With 3D making rare but real appearances from time to time..

But I do love the pixels.

One marginal fourth factor convincing me to go with pixels over HD was that I want my games to run on potatoes, and not require super high-end hardware.

One marginal fifth factor is that Sierra called their graphical adventure games “Hi-Res Adventures” because this was hi-res compared to a text adventure:

… and I think it would be hilarious to call my games “Low-res adventures” despite them being higher res than the Sierra high res adventures.

The one thing that was not a factor despite the fact that it ought to have been the single most important factor is that it’d take much of a week to rebuild what I’ve got so far in HD. At some point in a project, you have to commit to not starting over, even though you’ve learned so much and done so much that you know starting over would be faster and better. Because if you let yourself start over once, you’ll let yourself start over again and again and never get done.

My books are not perfect, but they are finished, and the lessons I would learn by starting over get applied to the next book.

But while that should have been the first factor and the deciding factor, I never considered that factor, as the other factors made the decision before I got to that point.

What are we going to do this week?

A game is complete when it has a start menu, sound and graphics options, an input screen (although, ideally input customization options), a credits screen, and gameplay with the game over conditions (win conditions, lose conditions, so on).

I do not release incomplete games.

Note LA•S8: Complete Game

This week, my primary goal is to turn my gameplay demo into a small complete game. Doing the bare minimum work as fast as possible to have it done.

Then, in January, the first two weeks will be dedicated to expanding the game, and the second two to polishing the game, making sure at the end of each week to end with a finished game. In this way, at the beginning of February, even if I have to cut content that I wanted to put in the game, I will be able to release a game.

So that’s the plan for this week. Make a title screen/start menu, the options and credits, and the end conditions.

The FYOOOTCHER..

If God wills, and I haven’t finished development for the Mad Christian Last Legend comic by February, as a side-effect of making this game, February will be devoted to comic development until it is ready to go. Using the game engine and comic assets together to make YouTube animated shorts (and I dunno, TikToks) will be the hoped-for side-effect of that project as well, because the plan is then to spend March and April producing a JRPG, Last Legend I.

If Bunny Trail Junction is the the rocket, then Last Legend I is the launch and Last Legend Zero is the fuel.

Captain’s Log LC•K4: I’ll not be focusing on the Game this week.

Last week we got a lot done. The game now has lighting, spaceship graphics, and a lot of input/bug fixes.

I may tinker with it this week, but my plan is to focus on holiday preparations, as well as story matters. Figure out who the characters in the comic are. Make presents for my family members. Clean my house.

Next week, the first proper week of Christmastide, my goal will be to make a Complete Game. That is, to make the title screen and menus, the win condition, the credits… the minimum product, so that all development in January will be improving and expanding a complete game, and I’ll not spend the last week or so trying to desperately tweak it into a finished product before release.

And that’s all I have to say about that. May you have a Merry Christmas.

Captain’s Log LC•D3: A Look of my Very Own

We closed out last week just a little shy of all the needed gameplay (namely, going places, clicking on things, and having my scripts play as a result). Thanks to a helpful plugin called Dialogic, I had no need to make my own dialogue system…

And Godot comes with pathfinding out of the box, albeit buggy pathfinding, which may mean I need to apply a couple bandaids of my own.

The hope was to have all the gameplay systems done that week, spend this week making a Complete Game, and then the rest of December and January expanding the game.

As of the close of today, I have reached the point I aimed to hit last Friday which is… not great, but better than my other missed targets by a lot. Crosswiring multiple forms of input in Godot proved challenging, but not nearly so challenging as Unity. With Dialogic coming with choice boxes, and me spending my first couple days implementing palette management and a custom animation system suited to my prejudices, my Godot RPG Engine is now more capable than my Unity RPG Engine, and I have less experience with Godot on the whole.

Here’s my sweet, sweet radial menu radial menuing.

But that is not (for me) the most exciting bit of news. Unhappy with my test graphics, I began the process of doing research and mockups into the sorts of graphics I’d like to do in my game. I have wavered between my hand-drawn style and pixel art in the past. And one of the reasons is I can make competent pixel art, but not unique pixel art.

Until now. The dam broke.

foo

That’s a mockup, but that’s the style. It means the characters (except for the piqha) need to get larger, but I’ve realized I can bring the feel of my brush into the pixels. In fact, I’ve done it before:

I am now genuinely excited for the art I am going to bring to this game, and to future books and comics, even if it is low-res adventures.

When I ended the week without reaching my goal, the plan changed. This week is no longer for finishing, but for building. Next week is not for finishing because of Christmas. The last week of December is now for finishing. But that’s fine. I went for two months so I would have that space to work in.

So this week, the plan is to build out from this foundation. Get the game looking interesting.

Next week, I intend to work on it some, but not a ton, thanks to Christmas.

And the week after that is a race to make it a complete game. That is, having the win or lose conditions, the music, the options menus, the title screens, and so on.

Usually I post all this stuff to Twitter as I do it, but ever since I hit on the art direction, I’ve been holding off. I want my next salvo to hit hard, with lots of the new art to gawk at.

Captain’s Log LC•72: Pixels or Pens?

According to schedule, this week is supposed to be the first full week of development on Last Legend Zero, in which basic gameplay is established. Next week, then, is the week of “finishing” Zero, that is, ensuring it is a finished game, so that anything added or refined during the remainder of the development time is literally added or refined. However, yesterday I had a mild cold, and today I slept in due to the some moderate symptoms.

Additionally, I spent the last week developing a workflow that would create HD graphics that I could then reuse in books. However, there are still several advantages to using pixel art, and I recently was reminded of them.

At the moment, most of my work can be re-purposed easily. Turning my HD palette shader into a pixel art palette shader will only make it simpler, not more complex. The palette management system I’ve devised for the one shader will work for the other. I’ve made almost no graphics for the game.

So, let us weigh the pros and cons of making a game in both pixel art and HD graphics with these emoji: 👾🖋️

  • 👾 Pixel Art is Future Proof: As screen resolutions improve, pixel art will continue to look just the same.
  • 👾 Pixel Art Implies More Gameplay: The more bespoke an asset is, the less you can do with it. The more reusable the assets are, the bigger the world feels.
  • 👾 Pixel Art is More Gameplay: Pixel art takes less time to make, meaning more of my time and money budgets can be devoted to the actual game.
  • 👾 Pixel Art Runs on Potatoes: The lower the resolution of the active area, the less work the computer has to do, the wider the range of machines that can run your game.
  • 👾 Pixel Art Palette Controls are Tighter: Instead of having to adjust several related colors into several other related colors, I can simply turn one color into one other color. This allows for shading, and for larger palettes if I so desire.
  • 🖋️ HD Art Is More Distinctive: While pixel art styles vary, especially as you go up in resolution, unless you try to adopt a fairly extreme style, your game will not stand out from other pixel art games. An HD hand-drawn game will always look like Hollow Knight to some degree, but it will have more of an identity of its own than a pixel-art game.
  • 👾/🖋️ Pixel Art Is Considered “Cheap”: You have to charge less for the same amount of effort if you make your art pixelly. Although with the current plan, we’re already talking price ranges that fit pixel art just fine, so this isn’t decisive for one or the other.
  • 👾 If we do pixel art in 3D, we can replace it with HD art at a later date: This means committing to pixel art is not committing against HD art.
  • 👾🖋️ HD Art works better for illustration, but not decisively: There are plenty of kids’ books and shows that use illustration styles that seem sloppier or otherwise less good styles. And, in fact, if I make children’s books with pixel art illustrations, I will be doing something that few people do. It will be a distinct book style.
  • 🖋️ Pixel Art Implies a Computer/Virtual World: While I do want to mix Digimon, Wreck-It-Ralph, and Tron for a virtual setting, and both art styles can be used to mean both kinds of world, HD art is better at representing both realities.
  • 👾 I have better tools for animating Pixel ArtAseprite is simply better than any HD animation tool I own. It is certainly better than animating by pencils and guesswork.
  • 🖋️ I’ve Always Wanted to Make a Hand-Drawn LookingGame: And here’s where I trot out the classic pen test of piqha:
  • 🖋️ Godot Does Not Gracefully Translate Inputs Into Differently Scaled Viewports: In Unity, I could set one camera to a pixel art scale, and one to an HD scale, and mix and match the styles, which is how I made this lovely thing:

    Mixing and matching scales like this doesn’t work out of the box in 2D in Godot AFAIK. Although, this isn’t a total win for hand drawn art, as it does work out of the box if I do a 3D world:
  • 🖋 Piqha Just Work Better Hand Drawn.: Here I want to do a compare and contrast between the above picture and one I generated in Aseprite that, for some reason, refuses to export correctly. But it refuses to export correctly, so I can’t.

So it looks at this point like Pixel Art is winning by a wide margin, especially if I use a 3D world.

This week’s task, as I said, is to get the basic gameplay up and running. Next week’s task is to turn it into a complete game. Time to buckle down!

Update:

I got scale-mixing working in Godot and it wasn’t even hard.

Norm

Standard Maintenance Leaf Node, or “Norm,” is the single most common Piqha aboard a Peoples of the Cosmos Theriopliotic vessel. Their duty is to scurry around through ducts and perform general maintenance and repair. They are characterized by a no-frills, pale gray shell, and that’s that.

Maintenance nodes are by-the-book sorts. They get their marching orders, they perform tasks according to the manual encoded in their aether cores, and they plug back in for R&R.

Most feral piqha began as “Norm.” Common changes are loss of the mouthplate, and slow diffusion of color into the shell, so that a younger Norm gone feral may reach a jewel tone shell by adulthood, but most have pastel, desaturated shells.

Most wild piqha have an abundance of Norm genetics, more than any other variety.

Captain’s Log LB•T3: Fabrege Eggs

So, today I’m going to point the Mad⳩ team (let the reader understand), to this (the logicmonkey.media) blog.

When I started writing posts entitled “Captain’s Log…” the idea was I’d make a blog post twice a week. On Monday, I would lay out what I aimed to do that week, as well as the larger, but far less committed-to plan. On Friday, I would review whether the week had gone according to my plan, so I could adjust accordingly.

In practice, this has devolved into one post once a week serving both roles. On Monday or Tuesday most weeks, I review the previous week and lay out the next one. However, if you click the Captain’s Log Link on the sidebar, sometimes I post a summary at the end of the week and sometimes I even post updates throughout the week.

Historically, this has been kept on logicmonkey.media/blog, where I blog about whatever I feel like. However, as of late October, I have been transferring my notes into an Obsidian Vault, including my weekly logs. See LBT 31 Obsidian Aside.

My primary responsibility as of last week was to finish my Business Plan for various agencies. I noted that I expected to end up on a plan of creating a series of Piqha games and deriving books and comics from them.

Here’s how the week went:

  • Monday: 12 hours poured into writing the business plan.
  • Tuesday:
    • 4 hours poured into writing the plan. At this time, I decided it was well to transfer my Kids’ Pulp Formula into my Obsidian Vault, because the plan called for weekly writings of books in accordance with the formula.
    • 1 hour doing that.
    • 4 hours reading and recording my notes on An Evaluation of Claims to the Charismatic Gifts by Douglas Judisch, so I could get the copy I borrowed from my pastor back to him on Wednesday.
  • Wednesday: 8 hours spent either worldbuilding for Last Legend, or analyzing the question: can I make reusable graphics for comics, books, and games.
    • In the past I have explored working in pixel art for games and printing it. And it is workable, but Piqha really cry out for a hand-drawn look.
    • Eventually, I settled on a pipeline for turning handmade ink drawings into vector graphics, then turning them back into raster graphics in Godot (the game engine) and coloring them in code. Here is the proof of concept, using graphics I had lying around.
  • Thursday: I had a nice dinner with my family because it’s Thanksgiving in my country.
  • Friday:
    • I spent 2 hours on the business plan and finished all save the financial projections.
    • I spent 2 hours updating my logs, as they had not been kept up to date since my mother went to the hospital.
    • I spent 2 hours working on the worldbuilding and story for Last Legend.

Saturday was entirely consumed by work on my mother’s farm in her absence, and Sunday I rest, yo! Although somewhere in there, I did the preliminary work on the print layouts I expect to use going forward.

This Week

Today, my first and highest priority objective is finishing the financial projections for my Business Plan, and then formatting it properly to file with the appropriate agencies. I expect to be finished today. But I am willing to work on it tomorrow as well if necessary.

My intention is to hit the ground running on December 1st on producing the Last Legend Easter Egg Hunt game. I have December and January set aside for this game.

My aim is to have a hand-drawn piqha walking in a hand-drawn room in a spaceship by Saturday, December 4th. Because this is a brand new workflow for me, albeit grounded in things I’ve done before, 3 days to get that up and running is ambitious. I’m 90% sure I can pull it off, but even without life throwing curve-balls at me, as it does, I can’t be 100% sure.

What does that mean for the comic?

I am aiming to make the games in such a way that graphics from it can be repurposed to make episodes of the comic. I am also developing the stories and characters in tandem. They are meant to flow into each other.

I believe I will be ready to produce an episode a week of the Last Legend comic by January. That is my current objective. If by February I have failed to launch, I will be all in, 100% on the comic until it is ready to go because the comic and the game cross-promote.

Captain’s Log LB•M1: Piqhing a Fight

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:

  1. Reconstruct my JRPG/Adventure engine in Godot.
    image
  2. 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.
    image2
    • Develop within/alongside the game the sets and characters for the Last Legend comic.
    • Last Legend as a story about Piqha rebuilding their lives is designed to be a 4x8x9 comic, as laid out in Formats for Print and Screen.
      • 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.
  3. Work on other projects with the Illusive Man as they come up.
  4. 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.
    image
  5. 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.
  6. Pour 2-4 months into producing Last Legend II.
    image
    This should
    • 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:
  7. 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 Legend Kids’ 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.

Formats for Print and Screen

Social Media and Screens

  • The average computer screen or TV has a ratio of 16×9
  • Phones range all over, however, well over 1/3rd of them use some variant on 9×16, with the exceptions typically being longer.
  • However, 4×3 or 3×4 is also very common because tablets work better with a more square ratio. This is what iPad uses.
  • Twitter will not crop, but will display fully:
    • 1 16×9 picture
    • 2 8×9 pictures
    • 1 8×9 picture followed by 2 16×9 pictures
    • 4 (2×2) 16×9 pictures
  • 3 16×9 pictures stacked vertically fits neatly on:
    • The average phone screen
    • Facebook, if contained within a single larger image
    • A 5×8 print book with generous margins
  • 16×9 panels with 12-point text in a 5×8 book results in text that is still large enough to read clearly in a 2×2 grid of images on Twitter on mobile.
  • Therefore, Bunny Trail Junction is formatted as 3 16×9 panels, the first two of which may be joined into a single 8×9 panel (absorbing the gutter between them to make up the difference). Any of these two or three panels may be split vertically into two ‘sub-panels’ wherever I like. Although the format is so small, it seldom makes sense to do so anywhere but the center.
    • This is posted on Twitter as individual images plus an additional “Title Card” posted at the beginning of a 3-image set, or the end of a 2-image set.
    • This is posted as just the individual images on bunny-trail.com which, thanks to the webcomic WordPress theme I’m using, arranges the panels horizontally on desktop and vertically on mobile.
    • On Facebook, I found that uploading the pages meant for the print book had some irritating cropping, but was readable.
      • Ideally, I would export a separate, lower-resolution image that was less tall, to control the cropping myself, but at the time I judged the extra work was not enough benefit for the time.
      • Just prior to launching Bunny Trail Junction, I deleted my Facebook because they were getting extra-specially Stasi.
    • None of these formats works well for Gab. I think assembling the 2×2 grid I post on Twitter, but as a single image, might work for Gab, but as I rarely go there, I have not yet tested it.
    • Instagram is supposed to be the place for images, but every time I consider starting an account, I have turned away for some reason.
  • My first print book was 8.5×11 because that’s as big as Amazon KDP lets me go.
    • I stopped making them that big because it felt wrong that my books were larger than Dr. Seuss’s.
      • However, reading a biography of Seuss killed my reverence for him. I may not yet be on his level, but I no longer care if my books are bigger than his.
    • Big books with big illustrations are great. Why wouldn’t I want kids to have bigger pictures?
    • However, ideally, I would create my drawings even larger than the final pages
      • Consumer tools are not well-suited to going larger than 8.5×11
        • I do have a printer that prints and scans 11×17
        • The paper types available at that size are either poorly suited to take ink drawings, or else too heavy for my printer to process well.
        • My standard workflow of sketching digitally at low-res, printing the sketch big, refining by hand and inking, and then scanning in, is still poorly suited to available equipment.
        • But I do have a light table that might fill the gaps once I clear out the Den.
        • More testing is required.
      • KDP’s Hardcover formats have one that is physically 8.5×11, but the pages inside are slightly narrower.
  • Amazon KDP is geared towards 6×9 and tries to push you towards it.
    • Most of my books are 6×9
    • My 11×17 scanner/printer makes my workflow quite well optimized for 6×9 work.
    • Bigger pictures would be nicer, but 6×9 isn’t bad
  • 5×8 is the smallest KDP will go
    • 5×8 does, just barely, fit into my pockets, but calling it a pocket book is a terrible stretch.
    • 5×8 it well-suited to holding 3 16×9 images on a single page.
    • KDP has a dedicated 5×8 hardcover format.
  • 8×9 is one half of 16×9, and therefore a single two-page spread of an 8×9 book would be one ‘screen’ in size or one ‘panel’ in the Bunny Trail Junction 3-Panel format.
    • 8×9 is a weird size. Some printers won’t do it.
      • This is an important consideration. If a publisher I want to work with is doing print runs instead of POD, 8×9 is not impossible, but may complicate matters.
      • KDP certainly won’t do it hardcover.
      • But they will do it paperback.
      • The first bulk POD comic printer I’ve looked at will do 8×9! And hardcover! We’re looking at $4.50 a book perfect-bound softcover, full color, or $11.52 per book hardcover, assuming my usual 30-ish pages. That’s assuming a small bulk order, unlike the single-issue POD of KDP (these will be intrinsically more expensive).
    • Prototyping a 2-page spread of 8×9, a prototype for a portion of a kids’ book, would work as an episode of Bunny Trail Junction. Or as a “Hit for the Eye-buds”
    • A 2-page spread of 8×9 would fit on 11×17 paper, albeit only just. If I want to work bigger than my final size, I still have the tech hurdles I have with 8.5×11 books.
    • You could fit 4 16×9 panels on two pages, though the read order would be unclear, and the panels would be hyuuuge.
      • Conversely, you could fit one 8×9 four-panel comic per page, the read-order would be fine, and the panels would be a more traditional newspaper comic ratio
        • This would post fine on Twitter as a second image with an 8×9 title card.
        • This would probably post fine on Gab by itself.
        • This would probably post fine on Facebook by itself.
        • I have no data for Instagram.
        • Ideally, the panels would display 4×1 on Desktop and 2×2 on mobile, but I can’t yet predict that.
        • Actually, yes I can. I can do a makeshift comic using my Inktobers. BRB.
          • Toocheke likes to do 3 panels in one row, and 1 in the last in Desktop mode, but on Mobile it stacks them vertical, and you can see 1 whole panel and most of the second on my phone (which is taller than 16×9) Not optimal, but I can live with it.
    • For projects with people making comic books and manga, I will probably favor comic book and manga sizes, in accordance with the sort of thing that is being created. However, I need to make at least one 8×9 book, and I suspect that will be my format of choice going forward.