Kickstarter Progress

kickstarter progress

With 18 days left on our Kickstarter, we have 55 backers and nearly 60% of our goal met! But I wanted to take this opportunity to thank some great peeps who’ve supported our project from the get-go:

The Otaku Judge – one of our first backers, most constant commenter, and great reviewer-of-anime – Thanks for turning Geek Out South-West’s attention over to us, thanks for your support, and thanks just all around. What a guy!

Geek Out South-West – thank you for the tremendous shout-out! Posted just today, we already got two additional pledges within less than an hour of your post. Hats off to you, sirs!

Ross Tunney – Another fantastic project creator you can find on Kickstarter – currently has a live campaign for his awesome, anime-inspired game, Data Hacker. Thanks for the shout-outs, Ross!

And I’d love to take this moment to thank not only anyone who has backed us, but anyone who has spread the word about Legend of Lotus – even if unable to financially back us. Please help us keep this campaign going! If any of your friends A) are rich B) love retro games or C) all of the above, send them our way for our eternal gratitude.

If anyone out there has ever wanted to take part in video game creation but lacks the time, the energy, the money, the skills or the… creativity, by backing even just $1, your name will be memorialized in our credits. By playing the demo and offering feedback, or becoming a $15 backer and downloading the game through its Beta stage, you can earn a special place in our credits as a consultant.

As long as we’re talking about Kickstarter, here are some great projects currently live:

Aegis Defenders – a visually stunning pixel art game

Steam Punk & Cthulu Soundtracks – a soundtrack production group to create awesome soundscapes for tabletop gaming

 

And finally, I’d like to give a preview of a new concept we’re planning to develop once Legend of Lotus is done:

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We’re exploring 2D platformer construction using Unity – with a totally new art style. But not only will the art be completely different; the storytelling, game mechanisms/play, and goals will be completely different too.

aki

 

Without words, this game will tell the simple but moving story exploring the depths of the bond between a dog and her boy. It will be a pixel art game with puzzle mechanisms, and a simple, clear story with one goal: to get home with your boy. The above .gif is a rough design of the dog’s sprite, animated by yours truly.

Our goal to finish Legend of Lotus is January, provided the Kickstarter goes through. Production on Bound is slated to begin shortly thereafter. Wish us luck!

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Characters in the Cold

Ren Jacket-Normal

Jtaya-normal

So far, I have two jacket designs down for the colder climate areas! The only problem is that we might not be able to make the battlers match the difference – though the travel avatars will.

What do you think of changing character clothing depending on the climate?

Not too Super

Tonight, I will be watching Man of Steel for the first time since it was out in theaters. While it was an honest disappointment to me the first time I saw it (didn’t like Clark, or really even Lois although I like Amy Adams, Jonathan Kent’s death was… laughable, it was too “artsy” and long in some parts, Clark’s reckless abandon), there were enough good points that I hope a second watch will improve it (the fight scenes, every Kryptonian that wasn’t Clark).

Basically, half the movie is Clark with this expression on his face.

What did you think about Man of Steel. What do you think about the casting, etc., going on for the sequel?

Four Things Everyone Needs to be a Creator

Four Things Everyone Need to Become Creators

At certain points in my life, upon hearing a statement like that, I might think that “talent” would be at the top of my list – I’m not going to lie. And not because I’m so talented or anything; on the contrary, it’s my lack of talent that has made me feel this way, for example, when confronted with a piece of art forever beyond my capabilities. But more and more I’m learning: talent is not necessarily needed to be creative, and as you’ve probably noticed, not even to be commercially successful.

Yeah, you’ve noticed.

In fact, someone can actually create with little talent in the medium and still be good. No offense to John Porcellino, for example, but the indie-American comic Perfect Example is… well… a perfect example of that. His drawings aren’t particularly great – I don’t know if that’s intentional or not – but it’s effective in telling his story; and that’s something I can appreciate.

From my readings, watchings, listenings and attempts of creativity, these, in no particular order, are some of the traits that creators just need.

1.       Something to Say
It seems to me that creativity is synonymous with self-expression. That may seem really obvious… or that may be a statement that people take exception to. But at least for me, a person who loves to draw and write, all creative endeavors come about because I want to show the world, or at least my audience, something about myself.

Now Justin seems pretty content creating simply for the fun of it. He makes music, and not always to express emotion (often not, in fact), and The Lotus War really came about because he wanted to make a video game. Not because he wanted a statement about racism or war or anything. It is, however, at core, an expression of Justin’s fondness for video games. That is the statement he’s making with that (in addition to the rest that we decided to add in); he likes video games (and making music and computers and good stories and working with me, of course) and to the extent that he wants to participate in the creation of one.

And there’s nothing wrong with creating for the sake of creating; it’s fantastic to really just enjoy the act of creation. Lots of people start each and every project that way. Writers, musicians, visual artists… they start with the feeling of “I like sculpting” or “I liked writing” and then think “What can I write/sculpt/draw about?” I’m pretty sure Stephen King didn’t write Carrie because he was swept up in the idea of “bullies are not cool… how I can I use supernatural phenomenon to show that? Huh… and in what medium?” It was probably “I need to write. What should I write about?”

So it may start with a base of “I want to show my love of [insert medium here] to the world!” but eventually that desire will latch onto a theme, and that theme will shape the work.

2.       An Audience
So this is the point when people are going to say, “I have a whole bookshelf full of notebooks with poetry/drawings/My Little Ponies/Beast Wars fan-fiction that I’ve never shown anyone!” And to this I say: great, me too. In fact, for the longest time, I could not be in the same room when a person read/viewed my work. I couldn’t sit there and see their face because I’d analyze them in terror as they analyzed me on page. Also, I’d keep interrupting, “Have you gotten to that point yet? Because let me explain why I did this one thing…” so they’d have my verbal explanation rendering their feedback moot before they could ever give it to me.

Still, regardless of whether My Little Beast-Ponies’ War: A Romeo and Juliet Story has ever or will ever see the light of day, you cannot deny that it was written for someone – even if that someone is only you, as you sit in your room sketching ponies riding rainbows into combat against robo-organic entities.

The catch is, Firefly Meets Outlaw Star (oh, wait, that can’t happen; they’re the same thing. BURN!) probably will end up seeing the light of day… or at least the digital light of the internet. Even if you post it anonymously in a fan forum or have a little LiveJournal dedicated to odd mash-ups, you’re casting a net for an audience of your work because creativity thrives on a give-and-take/show-and-tell relationship.

3.       Time

Oh, and what time. And who has that time? Most work, if lucky, 40-hour-per-week, soul-sucking jobs that eat up our time and kill our creative instincts. No wonder artists need to be starving. It’s either starve and make or eat and don’t. Or at least it certainly feels that way. I mean, after an eight-hour day of working by compulsion, all we want to do is decompress and watch The X-Files re-runs. Hurrah. Even if you really, really enjoy playing clarinet or whatever, by the end of the day, you’re drained of creative energy. And that’s a sad state to be in. That’s the kind of state that makes me hate work. My job itself doesn’t do it; it’s the all-consuming energy that it takes.

But I find that carving out the time to do it helps. Just like most of us got home drained from school and then had to do homework on top of that, if we set a time and then sit down and make ourselves do it, we’ll find that it’s not that hard. And it’s a lot more enjoyable than homework to boot.

4.       Endurance (or, in lieu of that, a partner with endurance who will spur you on)
This is something that has historically eluded me. No matter how much I long to create, really, really at the core want to and respect people who do, I’m horrible at follow-through. Inspiration strikes and for a while, I’m really excited by the prospect of this new project… and then half way through, a new idea comes to mind and I get excited about that instead. And the cycle continues. Then a while later, I’ll try to pick up the first idea (which in itself had supplanted some other now-antiquated one) but my style or my “something to say” or my vision has changed so drastically that I feel compelled to start again… from the beginning. Scrap what I had and re-do it all. Not exhilarating work.

Even now, with The Lotus War, this lack of “stick-to-it-ness” has afflicted me. Justin and I already have ideas for two more games – one of which was my idea for a comic that’s large and exciting to me, so I’m really motivated to do that. Not to mention, little side comics I’d like to do of a personal nature. It’s getting difficult to keep trucking along drawing character portraits – especially since now all the major players are done. I don’t have a clear picture of what else I want to say.

Two saving graces are keeping me going: the multi-faceted nature of video game making (I can do portraits or make battlers or work on the origins comic or map or…) and Justin – who is very good at project-oriented work. He’s the little nudge that keeps me trucking.

“Barefoot Gen” – a manga amongst manga

I’m not in a position of authority to call Barefoot Gen the best manga (or series) ever written – I have read only a small selection of the vastly limited selection of manga available in mainstream American bookstores, to be perfectly honest. But today after reading the first two volumes, I certainly want to declare it the greatest manga ever written – by far the greatest manga I’ve ever read. In fact, manga is too limited in scope, as it really only applies to Japanese graphic tales. Barefoot Gen surpasses, to me, the recognized greats of the American medium, including the ones with similar themes such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus or Joe Sacco’s The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo. Admittedly, I have not yet read Persepolis, which from the description seems to be the most similar to in content and style to Gen – mixing humor and optimism with the stark contrast of the losses and tragedies war brings. However, considering that Gen came first, it earns points additional points solely for being this landmark work that really blazed the trail for exposing such harsh realities in comic form.

Gen is a strong and cheerful protagonist, full of life and very vibrant. He’s by no means a perfect character – he’s rowdy, occasionally disobedient, hard-headed, and often bratty. But for all that, he’s plucky with a good heart. Even in his moments of weak and whiney selfishness, I can’t help but to pity him; he handles starvation better than any six-year-old I ever met – than any six-year-old I ever was. His family, too, is colorful and multi-dimensional: his father while having strong morals and teaching his children to treat others humanely is simultaneously able to lose his temper in a way that would get Child Protective Services called on him here in the modern US; his mother is hard-working and loyal, but has bouts of mania; and his siblings, too, are well-fleshed out, although his neighbors can become caricatures.

What I appreciated perhaps the most is that it doesn’t reach the true atrocity of Hiroshima during World War II – the dropping of the Atomic Bomb – until the very end of the first volume. Instead, it establishes the Nakaoka as a real family, sharing in their joys, their small triumphs, but also in their despair at being outcasts for speaking up regarding their anti-war beliefs. There were many misty moments during these scenes, but they served to make the coming heartbreak of the bombs even more poignant. If not for this initial character-building, I would not have bawled so unabashedly during those moments.

While the forward by Art Spiegelman (author of Maus) held slight criticism for Nakazawa because Gen portrays the main reason for the atomic bomb on Japanese stubbornness and the evils of the few men leading the empire, instead of distributing any to the Allied Nations – something he felt made American and British readers a little too comfortable with the decision to enact such an evil – I rather disagree with this position. Nakazawa assigns plenty of blame to anyone who felt justified in dropping such a harrowing weapon on innocent civilians. Not to mention that in the context of its originally intended audience, this decision made sense: it was for Japanese people by a Japanese person, not only to illustrate how whole communities could be swept up in a nationalistic fervor, but the penalties for such a fervor were devastating. He was urging all to never fall into such a trap – a trap wherein one abandons reason for conformity – ever again. Don’t get me wrong; it assigns plenty of blame to Japan too – afterall, Gen’s father is staunchly anti-war. But I feel it’s a realistic portrayal of the mixed feelings a young boy at the time would’ve experienced.

Though I mentioned that the context of its originally intended audience was important, I do feel that it’s a necessary read for particularly Americans, too. As an American, I particularly cued in on the theme that no matter who you are or how you view your purported enemy, they probably view you similarly – and not because of their own knowledge about you but because of sheer hearsay and the people that lead them. Just as Americans during WWII held Japanese in derision, comparing them to monkeys and calling them names like “Jap” and “Nip,” the Japanese were taught to view Americans as “devils” that probably “eat shit.” Similarly, just as Japanese were viewed as lower-class, almost negligible in America, they viewed their racial minorities (the Koreans and the Chinese, many of whom were shang-haied) as second-class citizens, really not even treated with the dignity that should be ascribed to any human. If we can remember, as Gen’s father sought to teach, that every human being is a person such as ourselves, if we can remember that the hateful stereotypes we hear of others are just as false as the ones they hold of us, perhaps there’s hope for humans yet.

It surpasses Maus particularly in that human element – bringing the characters to life apart from all the death present. Because this story is autobiographical, rather than one created through second-hand information, there’s a more personal depth. The losses are greater. The feelings more raw. The emotions less translated, less transcribed, more transcending.

Those are just a few reasons that I view this national treasure of Japan as one of the most important works a person may read. I’d urge anyone to read it and share – although it must be noted: despite being often listed in the children’s section of stores and libraries, this comic is rather graphic in its depictions of bomb victims with melting skin and infested with maggots. The tragedy experienced by Gen and his mother – the losses they suffered and the mode by which they were inflicted – are hard to bear, even in a mere reading. But if this work can speak to anyone about the evils of elitism, racism, nationalistic fervor, and the pointless deadliness of war, it is something that needs to be examined.

Based on a Friend

Gina-Normal

 

The hard thing about basing a character on a friend is making them recognizable as the person – but especially while doing anime, where many features are exaggerated or minimized.

Blonde Elf

elissa

 

How’s everyone doing? Still trying to chug these along. Anyone got some suggestions?

Look for the Creators Part II – Animefied Selfie

danielle

 

The nice thing about drawing yourself is being able to trim the fat and gloss the hair. You know… and all the other things that make a person look better. Hint: I don’t have abs like that in person.

Characters Based on Friends

galen

 

One way to keep diversity going is to rely a little less on your own imagination and start looking at reality.

When I write, and even when I draw, I always end up making characters that are a little bit me. I think that’s why, when drawing, I really prefer to draw women. Aside from drawing and for my characters in general, I always like quiet but spunky types with a little damage. I find a good way to keep all characters from being too uniform is to base them on people you know.

This guy, above, is based on one of Justin’s best friends. We call him Muscle Milk… haha. He should make a great boss battle.