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 L9·52: 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.

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.

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.

Been thinking about HD graphics, IDK.

Using the Rainboy palette in an HD game would be unusual. But it would have the advantage of being a unique look. Doubtless, folk would accuse me of making a Hollow Knight rip off if I made, e.g., an HD platformer using Rainboy colors. But the charge wouldn’t easily stick. Between the ink look and the 8-color palette, the game would have too much of a clear identity.

If the comic’s conceit is it happens inside a video game, ala Wreck it Ralph, HD sprites over pixelart backgrounds work well, but that kind of mixing and matching in an HD game would be odd. On the other hand, I could mix it up in the comic and keep the art consistent in the game.

Drawing with real ink would certainly be a thing, but it would be a ton of work to have the animation be consistent. If I draw it on the tablet, I can modify one frame to create a similar frame. Drawing as a vector file would be the slowest, but not only do I get infinite scaling out of the deal, I can color everything in the Rainbow Rose palette, and then convert easily to the Rainboy palette if I so desire. Of course, I can reasonably turn a Rainboy Palette game into a more colorful game with shaders — that’s what I do in the Candy Raid platformer prototype. But it’s easy to make well behaved palette shaders for pixel art. Less easy for HD.

Yeah, I overuse this gif. そすみ.

I am leaning towards Bunny Trail Junction living in a Dragon Egg / Rainboy world. HD art with a distinctive look wrinkles my JRPG Vs Platformer internal debate because the chief issue with a pixel art game is it harshly limits the marketability. The JRPG overcomes that by finding an underserved audience, but HD art overcomes that another way.

Well. I need to ponder for a while, then pick a direction. I certainly need to stop making these self-indulgent, “brainstorming and testing ideas counts toward my quota” serieses. At the same time, the September Hat Trick bit has pages and pages of “these two characters have a conversation” exposition. Such things are needed in stories, even in comics, though one ought to avoid or mitigate them as much as possible. Premade art with lush backgrounds would ease the pain of making such a segment.

I’m not going to use it for Hat Trick. The art shift would be too jarring. It doesn’t feel right. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel wrong to use it as a device for telling other stories.

I certainly won’t be ashamed of using Vidya-style graphics to make comics, even if it’s not pixel art. Not so long as you can buy Dog Man comics at Walmart.

Edit

Couple of things. Here’s how the print test went. Turns out, Amazon prints lighter than I do. Which makes sense. But the palette works either way.

Second, I tried making and then converting sprites for Octoboy and Piranha.

But there’s a wrinkle. I scaled all the sprites up to the same size in inches… but different DPI. I initially tried to draw Jump and myself at 600 DPI, as that’s what I print at. One inch per 16 Pixel Art sprite pixels. But the lines were too fine. I wanted them to be meatier. So I went with 300 DPI.

(Presumably, I can get the same effect by going to 600 and doubling the brush side, but never mind that, this was just a test).

I was fairly content with that. But then, due to sleep deprivation, when drawing the supers, I went ahead and scaled them to 600 DPI per my original plan, and didn’t notice that I was drawing finer lines until I was done.

It looks nice. The finer linework fits the characters better. But I want all my HD sprites to be consistent. So I either need to fineline myself and Jump, or broadbrush Octoboy and Piranha. Or, worse still, pick a relative brush size halfway between the two (as though I were working at 450 DPI) and redo all four!

I’m completely out of capacity to make further progress today. So I’m going to leave the question aside for now, and we’ll pick a path tomorrow. But at least the test furnishes me with the data I’ll need.