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 L8·X2: Wrapping Up August, Looking at September…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Considered using one of my Unity builds..

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

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

So I’ve mocked up some Gameboy style graphics,

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

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

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

I guess we’ll see how it goes.

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

A Different Piece of Paper

Yesterday’s drawing and today’s drawing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explorations in Ink

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

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

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

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

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

However this month, I decided to try something new.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain’s Log L8·J2: Taking Stock

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

Bunny Trail Junction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paying the Bills

I’m juggling three notions for paying the bills…

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

Sticker Stars

So here’s basically all the characters I had as tests of the new pixel art style, plus Octoboy and Piranha. I decided to meet in the middle on the linework: Jump and me have thinner lines than our previous outing. Octoboy and Piranha haven’t been updated to have thicker lines yet, but I’ll let it be for now. It stands out like a sore thumb to me, but it’s decent art for all that, and you wouldn’t notice it didn’t match without me telling you.

I’m utterly uninspired to work on any game at the moment, and have just been fine-tuning the process of producing stickers, which is what I’m calling the HD sprites. I do intend to start jamming on a game, though at this point I think I might start on the dot in September instead of starting now. That rules out Halloween, which averts certain temptations for me.

Well, some elements of Bunny Trail Junction have not functioned gracefully. So I’m off to go fix those bits. I’ll probably use my stickers to make some basic merch as well.

Bunny Trail Junction is a Machine

Today, I got the finishing touches on the September Monthly done and sent away to Amazon. Because part of it was trying to make a preview image for the Inktober Monthly, I ended up “finishing” the cover for October as well.

I’m not content with it. Piranha, in the foreground, has a funny looking head, and not funny looking in a way that I prefer. Perhaps I will do a new version tomorrow, and fix or replace the cover. Nevertheless, it is work well done for all its faults, and I may just move on with my life. For such is the mantra of Bunny Trail Junction.

Made this bit of art for the interior, though, of which I feel justly proud:

I’d like to take a moment to go on about how much of a machine Bunny Trail Junction is.

Every weekend, I upload a week or two of comics to the site. August is set. September is halfway done. It’ll be completely done tomorrow or Monday.

The September monthly is done. I’m just waiting for KDP to decide if they want to pick nits. There is already merchandise available on Teespring based on the September art.

October is going to be Inktober, which means I’m going to be busting my butt trying to get it ready in time when the Inktober prompt list drops. But I have enough strips already to run November.

I don’t want to run November based on just the strips I have. I want to have a wider selection, so it can be higher quality. But if I had to, I could. And by the time September is done, I should be good for November and December, which means I should be good to create the first Annual.

I have created a monster. It’s amazing.

I mean, yeah, it doesn’t make money. Not yet, maybe not ever. And it is not for me to say my work will stand the test of time.

But in 12 months, I will have 12 monthlies. My stories can blossom and grow on this comic, some into good fruit, some into bad.

I do need to figure out how to make a living.

I’m not worrying about it too hard right now. I’ve worried about it hard for darn near 20 years, and that hasn’t solved it for me.

I’ll feed this machine I’ve created until next month, when I see a doctor about my chronic underachievement, and depending on how that goes, I guess we’ll see.

But you know, there is something about this machine.

It’s a machine that should work despite my flaws. And it’s bigger and better than I thought my flaws could ever allow. And that’s why I’m so self-impressed.

Pride goeth before the fall. So ask again in a year, I suppose.

Captain’s Log L841

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.

Captain’s Log L7R1: Platformer

I have the August Bunny Trail Junction.

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…

Onward!