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.

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

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ONWARD!

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·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.