Captain’s Log LA·B3: Biting off a lot

So, I have launched the Awesome Moments Kickstarter:

Tell your friends. Tell your enemies.

If Awesome Moments funds, it will be the main focus from then until it is done. And every day until then, I will post something about it on Twitter. I will seek out opportunities to speak in churches or otherwise. I’m going to give this thing the best possible chance I can to fund.

That said, I have no idea if it will, and I’m not married to either outcome.

I am going to try and get a couple of story videos made in time for November, because I see a useful lining-up with Thanksgiving.

If Awesome Moments doesn’t fund, I will double down hard on making videos in November. We will try to prime the algorithm with a glut of good stories.

December’s Bunny Trail Junction will be at least partially a prayer book, so I can keep the prayers I want to pray every day in my pocket. It will be the last Bunny Trail Junction monthly for a while.

After December, I will release bimonthlies instead. Bunny Trail Junction will drop from 7 comics a week to 3 comics a week, plus a video each week on YouTube/other media outlets. I hope to one day go back to daily comics, but my commitment is to reaching my audience — little kids — where they are first, and keeping the comic going second.

This week, my primary goal is to turn Prelude to Nightmare into a finished game, however short, stupid, or terrible it may be.

Then improve it each day, while keeping it a finished game, until November, when it is released as is. My ultimate business strategy is to build an audience on YouTube and use them to crowdfund books, and seed the demand for games. My videogame strategy is to proceed as previously outlined, making a 1-month game, making a 2-month game that is advertised , and then Kickstarting a year game for a year’s salary. The timeline for these events varies based on whether I am making Awesome Moments or not. If not, I’ll aim to begin work on Game 2 in December, and release it as an Anniversary gift for my wife. Otherwise, if Awesome Moments does fund, I will spend a month spinning up the YouTube channel before launching into Game 2.

My third post today: Considering the Plan

The following section now breaks Hat Trick into two pieces in the November Monthly. It’s a little ad-hoc and hastily assembled due to precise constraints on how many comics I needed…

Some of these are Frankencomics, single comics assembled from panels of multiple different previous comics. I’m not 100% happy with them. They mostly make sense and say what I want to say in the space I was given. I may make some additional comics to try out different ways of saying what I mean to say more intentionally rather than reuse the old ones or use frankencomics.

I’ve got about a week to figure it out. No big deal. If Bunny Trail Junction isn’t perfect on its first outing, well, that’s how I learn the skills that will perfect it.

So let’s think about some stuff I’ve largely already covered on this blog:

Sadly, it’s late, and I’ll have to consider course corrections tomorrow, which is irritating because my aim was to reach a conclusion today. But describing the question is half the answer.

Captain’s Log L9·R1

Three days left in September. I’ve got my plan.

I work on the Awesome Moments Kickstarter as my primary project every day until it’s good to go. Target Launch Date for the Kickstarter is October 9th.

Let’s GOOOO!

Once it’s ready to go, I return to Hat Trick: Prelude to Nightmare. At this time, I might start streaming my development on Twitch or YouTube.

Yesterday I made a brush holder so I could ink vertically.


And inked a Hat Trick with it. End result: good idea, didn’t actually make things easier overall.



L9·O2: Too many things

Progress progresses nicely. Sometime in the next handful of days I shall upload some new Hat Trick comics, and we will do another compare and contrast between the different drawing techniques.

The game prototype is also coming along. I went from not having enemies:

…to having enemies you can attack and kill in a single day.

I’m still stumbling along slowly because I don’t know the language or the engine, and yet it would take me as much time or more to do this in Unity, and I do know the language and the engine.

Over the next day or so I want to generalize the character physics. Next week, we’ll add some enemy AI.

I have a pretty good plan to roll up an indie game business, and I’m fairly confident in it. Problem is, it won’t pay me before November, and it won’t be self-sustaining before February assuming I do nothing else. But I’m aiming to do other things. Maintain and get ahead on Bunny Trail Junction, which after all, ties into Bunny Trail Junction. Oh, and launch a crowdfund for Awesome Moments.

I’ve made zero progress on that front.

I’m confident. I’m energized. I’m more productive and focused than I’ve ever been. (I’m medicated). But… I’m trying to do too many things. I don’t think I can launch the crowdfund if I work on the game at all next week. I don’t think I can get the game done in time if I work on the crowdfund at all.

And my family is hard up for cash, me having lost my job. If the crowdfund works, I’ll get money in mid-November. If the game makes any money, I’ll see that in mid-November. If I get a day job, it’ll be all I can do to keep the comic running.

I think I’m going to prioritize the crowdfund, try to launch by October, and as soon as it’s launched, go back to working on the game.

Hard choices. Pray for wisdom.

I’ve been considering how to get ahold of my audience. The six-year-olds. The people who want to read Jump the Shark and Hat Trick.

The easiest way is YouTube. Launch a new channel. Dramatic readings of my books complete with illustrations on the screen. I could produce weekly content if I went back to the Kids’ Pulp system I’ve previously outlined. Of course, that one extra ball in the air would definitely cause all the others to fall. But maybe it’s something I can bring into fruition once I’ve safely landed Awesome Moments 1 or Hat Trick: Prelude to Nightmare or both. Anyway, I wanted to get the notion written down before it escaped me. Write one bedtime story a week. Make one illustration for it. Read it out loud for YouTube. They can’t all be stinkers.

Each of those stories becomes a seed that can turn into Bunny-Trail comics, children’s books, games.. It’s a great idea. But I need to decide if it’s the great idea I’m going to go for.

Got a lot of compliments the other day for my piqha. I miss my piqha. I want to do something with them.

Captain’s Log L9·J1: Requiem for Selling Jam

My mother has a 40 acre farm which, with her blessing, I aim to turn into some kind of dynastic residence where my children and grandchildren can stand against the encroaching darkness.

Bit of a tall call for a man with bad ADHD where it’s all he can do to promise to draw one three panel comic per day and maybe try to get a job. Where is epic scheme to make vidya is predicated on getting medicated.

Now, my mom has bills to pay, and has never had a proper day job in her life. What she does is she cans jams and jellies and pickles and takes them to craft shows and somehow manages to make just enough to cover everything. I’ve been able to ease the pressure since my return — at least when I was employed. But that’s still her thing.

And I always end up going along as muscle, to lift crates of jelly jars and set up the tables. So I had a thought the last time I was lounging around at a farm show, hawking my mother’s jam: what if I brought along some of my own products and tried to sell them too?

The result was both illuminating and unsurprising. The crowd that shows up at craft shows to buy jam and pickles doesn’t overlap greatly with the crowd that buys pictures of wizard bunnies and piqha riding therians. in 2 days of showing my art I had 3 customers, for a gross profit of $22 and a negative net — spent more than that on gas, food, and supplies to set up.

My mother, contrawise, made hundreds of dollars each day. This crowd is her customer base.

Nevertheless, it’s not a terrible idea moving forward. I’m going to be at these craft shows helping my mother until she decides to stop doing them. I may as well have the potential to pocket an extra $5 for myself while I’m there.

Now, I didn’t have time to make new pictures for this craft show. I wanted to. I wanted to make a funny cartoon about mosquitos, or maybe a rural scene of cows driving tractors. The sort of thing that would actually appeal to the local crowd. But I was wrapping up the October Monthly until five minutes before the show started, so I only had a chance to print pictures I’ve already made. And if the urge strikes to make such pictures, I for sure am going to indulge in it and thereby furnish myself with a higher chance of pocketing beer money while helping my mother. But…

The tiny slice of overlap between her customers and my customers changed my whole attitude.

There was one nerdy couple that literally came out for my mother’s jam, sidestepped into my booth, and gushed for twenty minutes over my art before walking away with one of my framed prints. And that single compliment session gave me enough positive vibes to last a week.

But besides that, every time a family with children pulled up, the kids were drawn like magnets to my booth. Man, if only I had some more of my books, or some toys of my characters, instead of cards and prints! Ah, but it doesn’t matter. Kids don’t have cash, do they.

But my audience is 10 year old boys. And girls, but mostly boys. And other ages, including a handful of adults if they love what 10 year old boys love.

They aren’t going to turn up in large numbers at craft shows, farm displays, or farmer’s markets. That’s not where my audience is. But they are mine, I appeal to them effortlessly, and I love them and I love having them for an audience.

I spent the first day of the jam sale fretting over whether or not I could find a spare minute to make product for my mom’s audience. After all, I can’t make money doing this unless I do. And that’s true. It’s a true fact that unless I appeal to the people who are there, I won’t make any money.

But I don’t care any more. It doesn’t worry me. Because like I said, I appeal effortlessly to the people I want to serve. The question isn’t how to change up my art. The question is how to get to my actual customers. My customers, and not my mom’s.

10 year old boys don’t care about business cards.

Or authentic home-canned preserves, for that matter.

I’m going to consider that over the next few days. Maybe write up a blog post or two. This is a Captain’s Log at the end of a week, though, and beginning of another, so I’ll finish up the after action report with a few takeaways, and then I’ll make another post examining my plans.

  1. My current plans are fine: That is, keep Bunny Trail Junction alive. Make a small video game followed by a larger video game followed by a larger video game. Kickstart Awesome Moments in October. I should note that I feel there may have been a bit of Providence in the fact that I finished the Awesome Moments draft long ago, but didn’t feel up to Crowdfunding it until after I spent a month learning to use, and then love, the brush.
  2. My Colored Ink Drawings Print beautifully, my Paintings do Not. I’ve discovered I prefer my cartoons to my paintings on a screen, but that effect is magnified tenfold in print. A painting I kind of like on a screen looks hideous on paper. A cartoon I was okay with but not thrilled about, on screen looks pretty good on paper. I think painting is a discipline now reserved for practicing my art as opposed to making products.
  3. Children’s Books are Great, Actually. Even though I’m focusing now on comics and vidya, there’s nothing wrong with deciding to pair illustrations and text in a non-panel-dependent methodology. In fact, I might prefer it to comics. I’ll get to spend fewer illustrations on conversations. In fact, I may consider formatting Bunny Trail Junction less like a comic and more like a children’s book in the future.
  4. Saving the Beauty is a Matter of Principle, not Gonads. Over the last few decades I’ve looked for excuses to get attractive females into my stories because I like to draw attractive females. But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter to my audience and it doesn’t matter to me whether I can get a space princess in a bikini. I need to stop trying to force it just so I can draw space princesses, and instead let it happen when it is right to do so. Shocking SJW prudes with teh sexy is already well handled by Kamen America team; my audience is 10.
    Which is not to say we eschew Space Princesses, just that we focus fare that will entertain and uplift 10 year olds.
  5. I Need to Bring my Products Where the Audience Can Get Them. Scholastic came back from the dead by using pulp writing techniques to produce series like Goosebumps and Animorphs, and by holding book fares at public schools. I’m perhaps not likely to be the most welcome at public schools. But my marketing efforts need to be similarly inspired. This is an important consideration: for Awesome Moments to fund, I have to be better at marketing than I have ever before been. And I have been planning a marketing push for Bunny Trail Junction to coincide with the New Year. Going on podcasts and mentioning my merch on Twitter is nice and all. But what I really need to do is make more things the ten year olds want and get them to the ten year olds.
  6. I Think I Need a Short Term Way to Make a buck and selling pictures at a craft show isn’t it. I’m on leave of absence from my day job right now, meaning I’m not making money, because I refused to wear the mask for a second bout. Now that our Fearless Leader has mandated companies with 100+ employees get the experimental gene therapy for their workers, all chance of me going back — or going back to a similar company — has dried up. The soonest I get funds from my current plans is November, a week or two in, if Awesome Moments funds.
  7. I Should Consider Pixel Art for Comics, and HD Art for games. 10 Year Olds aren’t nostalgic for the Game Boy days. But they aren’t 100% graphics snobs either: they like Minecraft just fine. They’d get a kick out of a pixelart comic that goes with an HD game that goes with a pixelart comic.

Well. Today is the Lord’s day. The 8th day of Creation. Time to reflect on what came before, but also to begin anew.

Tomorrow we put the petal to the metal.

Captain’s Log L9·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…”