Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Status update 2! Onward to other things...

Hey guys, it's me again with another status update for you.

TL;DR version -- Lumia's Kingdom is still alive. But I don't plan on coming back to it for a while. I'm going to work on a simpler and smaller project in the interim.

Now for the details...

It pretty much boils down to me not feeling terribly inspired lately. There are still hundreds of pages to get through before I can even begin to consider LK "complete", but I've been feeling mentally and emotionally burned out when I think about getting to that point.

Basically, I feel like I've bitten off a bit more than I can chew and that I should dial things back a bit. I still want to work on it and want to tell stories for it, but I can't mentally afford to keep wracking my brain over something so super long term at the moment, especially given my unpredictable work schedule.

I am still thumbnailing pages every now and then when I can break through the writer's block but it's going to be several more months before I can consider them ready to see the light of day. Some of them are pretty kick-ass and I want to show them to you now, but I also want to balance pacing and humor and push the story forward with a more consistent update schedule.

So, LK is going on super-extended hiatus. I don't know when I will return to it, but I will return to it. This won't be another Blue Zombie. It might literally be a year or two from now before I start working on it again, I don't know for sure. I wish I had a definitive date for you guys.

In the mean time, I've had other smaller ideas running about in my brain and I really want to execute one of them to completion. It won't be nearly as extensive or dramatic as LK nor as long. I'm pretty stoked about it and, believe me, I really wanted to do it along side LK but I know that I won't be able to commit to more than one project simultaneously. So for the time being, this new project wins out. I don't have a definitive date for when it'll be revealed either. Hopefully within the next few weeks. Keep an eye here or follow me on Twitter for updates.

I know some of you guys are upset with me (I'm upset with myself) but the truth is that if a personal project stops being fun sometimes it's best to set it aside for a while and come back to it later. And I reiterate, I will come back to LK. There's so much I want to do with it, you guys have no idea!

But for now...I'm putting it on the back burner.

Comments, questions, death threats--feel free to leave them here, email me or hit me up on Twitter.

Toodles for now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Status update

Hi guys.

Long time no see.

I got a night to myself and wasn't quite sure what to do. I knew what I should be doing...writing the next few strips for Lumia's Kingdom.

What I did instead was decide to write this blog post.

First thing's first-the comic will continue. I just need to find the time and motivation to keep doing it. Both have been depleted as of late.

Around August of 2012, I was (begrudgingly) pulled off of one game project at my job and put onto another where we had a very big push towards mobile. That's what I've been up to ever since. It's been a slow, steady grind that, on many an occasion, has required 12+ hour days. It's inconsistent, some weeks are better than others but it hasn't done well for my will to do much else when I get home.

And, as you know, social games are an engine that never really stops. There is never a finished state. NEVER.

It's not all tears and snot-noses, though; my coworkers keep me sane (I pray I do the same for them) and we get treated pretty well at work for the most part.

Since then, as is evident by my Twitter feed, I have been increasingly in programmer mode and decreasingly in Lumia's Kingdom mode. In November, I tried to find a way around this and posted two comics in four panel format, thinking I could adopt this and be more willing to update more if I didn't have to spend nearly as much time drawing, inking and lettering.

...Except now I view this as a mistake. For a variety of reasons. I'm even considering removing those two pages and redoing them in proper, full-page glory at some point in the future.

Secondly, we now have a puppy. He also came into our lives in August. And it has been a mostly pleasant experience so far. I say "mostly" because, well, he is a rescue with severe separation anxiety and, on more than one occasion, has taken his anxiety out on door frames in our apartment. But he's a fast learner, he's sweet and cute. OH GOD, HE IS SO CUTE. When people see him, they're like "THAS A CUTE DOG!" and I'm like "WHY THANK YOU" like I had something to do with his good genes >_>

But pups take time, too. My girlfriend does most of the grunt work, but I do help her out by waking up a little earlier to take him on walks and get him food and whatnot.

Thirdly, I admit, I am distracted by another personal project. I love working on comics, but I also love working on my own games and the two don't necessarily get along well went it comes to vying for my attention. I have been working on particular game since 2010 off and on (and, if you are one of my coworkers, please note that it does not compete with our products :P) and have brought a friend on board to do artwork while I focus on designing and coding it. Which has been interesting because it has inadvertently pushed me into make decisions on the design sooner rather than later. And since I'm already in programming mode, I have put more thought about coding and implementation rather than comic scripting. Hence, why I haven't worked on any new ideas lately for the comic.

So, there you have it.

With any luck, the work schedule will hopefully be back to some altered level that can be considered "normal" in a month or two and I can use that to properly plan around my other distractions. Until then, please bear with me a while longer.

Cheers.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Just when you think you're getting better...

One likes to think that they improve in craftsmanship the longer they participate in the trade.

For example, take my inking abilities.

Here's a panel from 2009, when I first started doing Lumia's Kingdom. I was using some basic equipment-pens with definite widths, not terribly suitable for varying line weights, but workable.


And here's a panel from the latest comic, where I joined the big boys group and moved on to a Pentel Pocket BruOH GOD THAT ROUGH LINE WORK LOOKS LIKE CRAP D:


So... looking back, there is obviously still a lot I have to improve on. And it's possible that in the process of changing the tools I work with, I have changed the quality of my work as a result. At first, I thought it was for the best, but a recent run through of the pages has proven otherwise...

Guess I still have quite a long ways ahead of me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Funemployed!

So after almost three and a half years of working there, I (along with some other cool folks) got laid off today from Meteor Games. Sad day, as we worked on a lot of Facebook titles together. There were good times, bad times but as long as you work with people you like and laugh at each other, you can tough through anything.

But sometimes, in order to move on, our walls have to come crumbling down first! It's as much an opportunity as it is a loss and I've got nothing but wonderful things to say about my coworkers.

Anyways, I've decided to take the rest of the year off. I don't anticipate a lot of business getting done from any company around Christmas as it is and, call me selfish, but I think I could use a break.

In the mean time, I'm gonna be hanging out with my wonderful girlfriend, working on some pages for Lumia's Kingdom and dabbling in a few personal game projects. So looks like I'll be working from home for a while!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Expensive investments

Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted something on this blog. How you guys doing?

I apologize for the lack of updates lately both here and with the comic. There are a mixture of reasons why I've not been as productive lately:
  • Work got a bit crazy and dramatic as of late
  • I became obsessed with my personal game project
  • Flat out laziness

With that in mind, I'm constantly thinking of ways to try to improve the speed of which I do the comic. Several strips ago, I tried digital inking and I was pleased with the results but had to fight with my Wacom Intuos to get what I wanted. As a result, I abandoned digital inking in favor of pen and paper. But this, too, is time consuming as I'm not a very fast inker and it makes it harder to try to keep at something when it takes so long.

As that was going on, I set a goal for myself financially--I wanted to get my savings account up to a certain amount. I figured I could do that by the end of the year and then I could use whatever was left over to get something nice for myself.

I met my goal earlier than I expected a few weeks ago.

So when my next paycheck came in, I gave some real thought to one particular question: should I get a Cintiq?

I'm not talking about the huge $3,000 one. I mean the small $1000 one, the Cintiq 12wx.

I have a bit of a bad habit with investing in technology and then not using it as much as I'd wish (my DS and original Intuos tablet are evidence of that). Also, I wasn't sure that I'd truly like having a Cintiq.

After much deliberation, I came to a particular conclusion: I'll go ahead and get one. And if I don't like it, I'll sell it to one of my friends who could use it.

Of course, Wacom was sold out on their website. I saw it listed that the Fry's in Burbank had some in stock, but upon visiting it we found out that the sole Cintiq still said to be in the store could not be located. No biggie, I figured. I'll wait.

Then I went home and checked Newegg. And surprisingly, they had it in stock.

So I dropped a grand and had it shipped to me at work. I expected it to come in a packaged box with "Newegg" on the front.

...It came in the original box from Wacom, with "CINTIQ" written and pictured on the front. Just poorly wrapped in clear plastic.

...And in the front where all the artists at work could see it.

It was an awkward walk to the back of the office.

So I took it home, stuck it in my room and then... went with Daniella on vacation for a week.

We got back and spent some time just resting.

Then, I finally dragged out that box and hooked up the darn thing. I had read a bit about it and thought I knew everything to expect from it tech wise.

Except for the handy back stand. That I did not expect :3

So far, it's been pretty useful. I configured it to work with GIMP pretty well and I've liked what I've seen (except that, since GIMP opens multiple windows on the desktop, I open a window on from the tablet and it appears on my other monitor. A bit annoying.) I'm currently thumbnailing/penciling page 178 digitally and it hasn't felt too laborious.

Well... that's not entirely true. There is one side affect; my back hurts now.

The handy stand allows me to prop it up on my computer desk to draw. Except, like any desk, it sits lower than one can comfortably draw at. So I have to hunch over a bit to get eye level with it...

My spine doesn't like me now -__-

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Writing the beginning of your story

I got an email in my inbox this morning from someone who had been reading my work ever since I was drawing Blue Zombie. I don't really have permission to divulge everything that was brought up in the email he sent, but this snippet should explain everything:

"I need help with [the beginning of my webcomic], and was wondering if I pitched my story to you sometime, you could suggest a good way to open it up? I can get everything else to work just fine(action scenes, the works) but i'm just pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to open it up!"

And, of course, me being me, I wrote a huge response about things he should consider when starting his story and how to approach going about it and even examples of TV shows, comics and video games that have done it very well.

And then, right when I was about to hit that "Send" button, I thought "Hey, this would make a good blog post!"

Now, before I begin, I will say that while much of what I have written in this post is truthful, it doesn't necessarily mean that I followed all of the advice myself. Much of Blue Zombie and Lumia's Kingdom (...well...okay, MOST of it) is made up as I go along. But while I might not be the shining example of the practical application of what's written here, there are several thousand examples that do take this path and shine brighter than anything I could ever write.

So without further ado...

When writing the beginning of your story, be it a novel, a comic, an animation or even a character-driven video game, your first goal is to hook your audience as quickly as possible. These are some (but not all) of the things you will want to consider in order to effectively pull this off:
  • The mood you want to convey
  • Past/future events in your storyline
  • How you intend to develop your character
  • The current social climate of your character's world

The mood you want to convey
The beginning of your story is what will ideally hook people into sticking with you. With that in mind, you should try very hard to give a good idea of the mood you wish to convey relatively early on. When you choose to do it is up to you; you don't have to convey the mood right from the get-go, but I don't think it would be very wise to switch your story from super serious in the beginning to slap-stick mid way through the entire plot.

Is your story humorous? Then it might be best to lead in to a funny or silly situation. It could start off super serious for the first few minutes/pages, but then have a really wild and hilarious twist that makes your audience roll in the aisle with laughter.

Or perhaps it's not funny at all; perhaps it's super dark and very gruesome. To illustrate the contrast, you could show something beautiful and bright, showing what the world could have or used to be like and then segue into a dark, rainy world where hope is hanging on by a thread.

A good example of this is the beginning of Shaenon Garrity's webcomic Skin Horse. The first two panels of the comic explain the situation our heroes are facing; they're in the Washington D.C. National Zoo facing down a genetically altered African lion that has escaped from its enclosure. There appears to be a person standing fearlessly a few feet in front of the lion. He mentions that there's a sniper on the roof poised to shoot the lion a moment's notice. How does this sound to the reader? Dangerous? Yes. Intriguing? Heck yes. How did the lion get loose? How is it genetically altered? We want to know.

And what do the next panels show us? We focus on that person standing in front of the lion. It's a man with a folding chair. Huh. Why does he have a folding chair? Why not a club or a katana or a rifle? And he's wearing women's clothing?? What kind of guy is this??

Finally, we get to the last panel. This man, who has been thinking to himself the entire strip, lets us know that despite the seriousness of the situation, everything is under control. Confidently, he reveals his title to us: "I'm a psychologist."

Why is a cross dressing psychologist facing down a genetically altered lion in the nation's capital? I don't know, but I do know that the story is extremely silly and that this man, whoever he is, is confident in his ability to bring a stop to the chaos and is willing to do so dressed in a skirt and some high heals. At this point, the reader can decide for themselves whether this story is their cup of tea. As for me...well, I'm game :)

Starting with the past or the future
One way to start the story is to start off with a flashback or show events further ahead to in the series and then segue into past to show how everything unfolded up to that point. This provides a bit of intrigue for the audience; they're given a glimpse of what has happened or will happen and they will want to see how it effects or is effected by what's going on in the story now.

Take Joss Whedon's sci-fi series Firefly; the beginning starts off with a massive fire fight between two opposing forces on the planet Serenity. We're introduced to our valiant hero Malcom Reynolds as he tries to rally the troops and stand up to the Federation. He has his partner radio for aerial support only to find out that his side has given up the fight. We pull away in slow motion as the federation bombs his troops to death and see despair and hopelessness in Malcom's eyes.

And now we're in the present--we are plucked from the battlefield and presented with Mal and his (new?) crew several years later. Who lived through the ordeal? What are they doing now? How have they changed since the events that have taken place on Serenity? I want to know.

How you intend to develop your character
Regardless of if you've given your audience a glimpse of what your character was like or what they're going to be like in the future, you'll need to plot out how your character develops as time goes on. Are they going to become incredibly strong throughout the course of the story? Then they should start off relatively weak or put in a position where they have trouble fending off the opposition. Or perhaps they're already strong, but need to fall in love or become compassionate. Then they should start off refusing to get attached to people. Maybe they find skillful ways of avoiding interactions and commitment, or maybe their a bit of a hard-ass who simply tip their hat and walk away from people's problems.

Okay, bare with me for a moment, because the freshest thing I can think of right now is the first episode of the rebooted My Little Pony series. In the beginning, the main character is a pony named Twilight who seems to prefer the company of library books to dealing with other ponies. Her behavior has proved to be quite useful, though; through reading the books, she learns of dark prophecy that could prove to be disastrous to all of Equestria if not brought to the attention of those in charge. Despite her efforts, though, the prophecy is brushed off by her superiors and she's sent to another village to prepare for a ceremony. There, she meets up with several other interesting ponies who, against her will, try to befriend her. She struggles to deal with learning about friendship just as the events of the prophecy manifest and their darkest fears are realized.

The episode ends on a cliffhanger. What will happen to Twilight? Will she put her issues aside to band together with her new "friends" and save Equestria? Do you even care? I do, and apparently so do millions other people.

The current social climate of your character's world
The character and the mood aren't the only thing that are important to beginning of the story. It would also benefit to give a glimpse into the social climate of the world we're looking at. What are the people most concerned about? What makes them happy? What makes them sad? Are they thriving or are they dying and why?

One of my favorite video games of all time is Michel Ancel's sci-fi action-adventure game Beyond Good and Evil. Starting a new game opens up with a news reporter immediately talking about an alien race referred to as the Domz attacking a faraway planet called Hillys. From there, we're given the image of a what appears to be a relatively quiet planet and a strange object comes rocketing towards it at high speeds. Then, we're taken to a rather pleasant scene where our main character Jade and her orphan companion are peacefully practicing meditation under a tree. As Jade opens her eyes, we see the sky turn dark as the alien object enters the atmosphere.

What's Jade's response? Contrary to what we may think, it's not "What's going on? Why did the sky go black??" Instead, she says "They're coming!" She, and the rest of the world, already know who "they" are. And she knows enough to gather up the orphans and take cover. Whoever is coming, the people of Hillys are scared of them and know to run away when "they" arrive.

In summary...
These are just a few of the things you should think about as you start writing the beginning of your story. There are, of course, several more aspects that that you could and should take into consideration, but for the sake of brevity, I will simply end the my list here. As I stated before, the goal here is to try to hook your audience as quick as possible. The results will vary and the each medium will have a different set of expectations associated with it. But regardless, there is one definitive fact that holds true to them all; if it takes you more than an hour or several hundred pages to describe the setup of your story and/or introduce your characters, then I'm going to take my attention and time elsewhere.

If anyone has any other suggestions on how to go about starting a story, want to talk about what's written here or simply have a question, feel free to leave a comment below.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Very ill timed

If you've been reading the comic up until now, you know that I try to keep it very funny and light-hearted for the most part. However, even I sometimes dare to venture into darker territory and strike up a violent cord or two. No where was this more evident than when Violette went berserk a few pages ago.

This particular incident was not an isolated one--I do indeed plan for more violence to occur in the comic. Some of the characters I have planned are very sinister and gruesome and I have no intention of censoring myself as long as I feel the timing is right.

At this particular moment, I am inking page 150. It is an incredibly violent page. And it could not have come at a worse time.

In case you've had your head under a rock these past few days, there was a very serious earthquake that struck Japan last Friday. Entire towns have been wiped off of the map by very devastating tsunamis that struck shortly afterward. Mere words cannot describe the destruction wrought by all of this but I don't want to link to any images of it for you guys to follow. I'm sure Google is swamped with enough of those at this point.

So, after a lot of thought, I decided to hold off one week to post page 150.

I simply think that, in light of what has happened, I should put some distance between what I am going to show and that which has occurred in our world.

That is all.