All the pages I've completed thus far in the comic.

I'm going to have to link them since they are relatively large files.

Average about 400-600 kb.


Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Phew... I'm a bit undecided about page 3, on the one hand, it's really confusing and twisted. On the other hand, thats not necessarily a bad thing.


Creativity in MMO Design

After starting my trial of EQ2 today, it brought back afresh all of my thoughts on design. Possibly the most dissapointing portion of modern MMOs for me is the relative sameness of the titles in the genre. There are some that have radically different controls, or introduce a few new and interesting features, but by in large we've seen the set pieces of the genre placed and seldom see people approach those with an eye to change.

Perhaps I have a unique perspective on MMOs since my first, and best remembered, MMO was a free to play browser based war game. The action of building an empire and leveling a character are fundamentally different actions, and build very different sets of core rules. For instance I never grinded for my empire level, in fact going to war was always a risk, because you could grow very quickly by winning and absorbing population, but you could also lose very quickly if the invasion went badly.

I understand the pressure in the industry to conform to the proven formula, but it seems as though whether it is a random person on the web or a key note speaker at GDC everyone is keenly aware that change is needed. If we continue to produce games off the same formula, burnout is bound to set in, if it hasn't already.

Of course it is easy to say cover new ground, but finding that ground is the source of some debate. I know there are some people in the industry reading these blogs so I'd like to give any of them in a position to take action some ideas that may be actionable.

Firstly: A political/fashion/counter culture MMO. What you do is focus on a single city, and populate it with NPCs who can vote on major political issues every couple months. The players spend those two months forming activist organizations who can paper the town, hold in game concerts, tag buildings, etc. The fashion layer is mainly on the community level, as players should be able to design their own clothes or purchase other people's designs.

Each Player gets a certain amount of money every day, and an amount equal to that is sent to their cause(guild). The only way to increase your money is to win community awards which should be at least biyearly, if not bimonthly. Best graffiti, best musical performance, etc..

Second: A Medieval Re-Enactment MMO. Unlike the basic D&D based MMO, the MedievalRe-Enactment MMO is to mirror the usefulness of actual weapons and armor from the dark ages. While obviously you aren't looking for complex physics simulations, you are looking to emphasize the situations in which each combination was actually useful. For instance heavy armor and large shields gain large bonuses when in a workable formation, but are basically an excercise in exhaustion in one on one and small group. Calvary has it's place, but it's weakness to a well organized phalanx relegates it to the actual use of calvary in history, breaking the flanks and harrassing.

You could leave historical servers where you could replay historical battles and work for hsitorically accurate organizations. You could then open free-play servers where a large section is left open for players to colonize and develop.

These are just a couple of ideas I've had over the last couple of years. Maybe they can help people get a feel for directions you can go besides the current MMO standard.

ITT: I suck at drawing cars.

The roughs for another page. The next one has a main character on it so I'm going to have to take a bit longer on it. Don't really want the person turning out like this car...


Further examination of comic writing.

When I sit down to write, which honestly doesn't happen too often, I tend to start with a few basic ideas. I covered in an earlier post my brainstorming for what my comic would be about, and then I gave a peek at the scenes I would use. Here I want to cover how I came up the content of the scenes themselves.

First, I need to get a view of the bigger picture of my writing. I never have an ending in mind when I start, I do however have an opening arc. A story that needs to be conveyed to give the setting a proper introduction and open up lots of possible story options in case I need to drag it on indefinitely. I don't want to ruin the story, so I can't reveal what the opening arc is exactly, just know that I have it.

Still out in big picture territory, I like to think of what it is I like in movies and comic books. Strangely enough, I actually like cheesy, and over the top movies, Tarantino flicks, Shoot Em Up, Smokin' Aces, but I like them for a particular reason. Movies that know what they are and don't pretend to be anything else, so when I approach the writing I ask myself, "what am I trying to be?" I'm always trying to get across a deeper point, but the vehicle for that needs to be in keeping with my basic genre. I'm using horror, since it isn't thriller it doesn't really have to be suspenseful, but it does need to stray outside of people's comfort zones.

Also since we have a creature we need to lay down some ground rules. For instance, it kind of defeats the purpose of the monster if they can be defeated by an unarmed and/or untrained opponent, also even a well armed and well organized force shouldn't be capable of easy take down, the point is that the creature is significantly more powerful than the human characters. Lastly, there should be no closet popping, it's the inevitability of it's win that is important to our story, we want to clearly introduce it in a scene. Also closet popping doesn't work in a non-real time environment so it would be a waste of panels anyways.

Now I move into an individual scene. First I pick out the most important character in the scene, or a focus object in scenes with no characters. I generally prefer to introduce them with nice long shots that immediately place them in their surroundings, but variety is the spice of life so each scene needs to be examined as to what will have the best effect. The rest of the panels I've alloted them, usually I prefer to devote a page or two, are supposed to be informative, but to show you, not tell you... I want you to have an experience. When the creature attacks the plane for instance, I have to introduce you to the creature as an oddity in these people's lives, and also as inherently dangerous. When the people in the plane react it gives you a good sense that the expectations of this world are much in line with our own, and the human reaction helps give the scene some life on the first page to contradict the third page. Going into the Control Tower removes us from the action, it keeps an air of mystery about the creature, but also builds our human connections, it says to the reader that i'm more concerned with characters than with action. But coming back to the plane on page three we see the carnage, we see the monster in true form, and as little as we understand we make it perfectly clear, the monster's job is to kill things.

In a comic though, we need to worry about pacing, you've probably noticed, but I tend to move things along at a rather deliberate pace. Early on, there isn't really tons of story going on, but everything that happens, and every character introduced has a great deal of significance. By keeping it slow and quiet, I can use few words and expect the reader to attach the proper significance to them.

Anyways, I'm no expert, but I thought I'd share my thoughts on my style. Finally, some more script.

Page 7, four wide panels.

Top panel: Looking at the car from earlier from a rear perspective, empty road in front of them with a billboard off in the distance.

Second Panel: Focus in on the billboard with a Denny's advertisement.

Third Panel: Inside the car, behind the front seats.

Fourth Panel: Same as third but with a dialogue bubble from the girl. ("I'm hungry.")

Page 8, One large panel on top half, two wide lower panels.

Top half: Chopper angle of the car parking in a denny's parking lot.

Second Panel: They're sitting in a booth. The woman and the waitress chat. ("Well thats a pretty darling there, Shelly, where did you get her?")("Found her by the side of the highway, was going to take her down to the sherriff's office. She probably has a family looking for her.")

Last Panel: The front window of the Denny's through which the scene from the second panel is visible.

Page 9, 4 panels

Top Panel: Back inside the plane, with airmen in latex gloves crawling over the seats, while engineers take measurements on the hole.

Second Panel: ("Doctor, we could certainly use your input on this.") A woman in a white lab coat stands in the latrine from earlier with an officer. ("They found her here right?") ("Yes Ma'am")

Third Panel: The woman is rummaging through a purse that was seen on the counter last panel. ("Ma'am?")

Fourth Panel: She is grabbing a woman's suit coat off the floor with one hand while holding up a perfume bottle with the other. ("I may have an idea.")


Anyone up for some text based creation?

I haven't been posting enough blogs, blah, probably wouldn't be very interesting anyways.

Anyways, I wasn't much in the mood to draw today, although I did manage to get pressure sensitivity working on my tablet so we'll see if that helps the quality. Consequently I put in a little bit of time and now have a mush I was working on online. There isn't much to see, but that is the great thing about mushes, you all can help me fix that if you want.

It's over at mush.thetagamerz.biz:4201, go ahead and stop in for a bit if you feel bored, or if you just have good memories of the text based days. The title of the mush is Dark Queen, and it is generally a high gothic theme.

For the people who not of MUSHes:
You're going to need a mush client... well you can get by with a telnet screen, but thats going to suck so don't.
http://www.xcalibur.co.uk/MuckClient/ <- should work for most windows based people. I'll compile a list later, though I only use that one myself.

Once you get in, your going to want to start a session, for Muckclient it'll be under options, others tend to have different ways with varying degrees of user friendliness, but they should all be simple enough to find from the start session button. In Mucklient after you open options, just hit the little plus sign at the bottom left. Enter Dark Queen as the session name, and under host name/ip address enter 'mush.thetagamerz.biz' then under port type in '4201'. You can ignore the rest, especially the first time.


Game Design, my thoughts and what not.

I've wanted to make games since I was 8. Since the first time I sat down and kicked pixelated dos based ass as Jill of the Jungle, I knew I wanted to make games. My dad wanted me to be a coder, an engineer of somesort so I could be like him. I bounced from learning Visual Basic to C to Java to PHP to C++ to ladder language, and back again... I find it safe to say I am not a coder by nature.

Which brings me to the first problem of game design. A design is useless if you cannot prototype it. I've seen many designs of varying degrees of brilliance that will never see the light of day, and have created a fair number for whom that is equally true. I should probably start a compendium and write down the designs and their stubs, but honestly it may just be too depressing for me. Back to the topic though, the only way to get your design out there and really make it work is to get a prototype of it done. Collaborative prototyping works about as well as team shoe tieing and fails for much the same reasons. So at the end of the day, no ways around it, you have to create a prototype of your game, or at least an important feature of your game.

Of course, surfing around the internet you get to see a wide variety of desigeners, creators and contributors and the variety of motivations behind them. The real proffesionals are generally the ones making money to do it, they've got opinions and are happy to tell em to you. The smaller their budgets the more likely they are to be found bumping around IRC with other small teams, or at least so it seems to me. Perhaps the difference I find most striking is they're the ones out there beating down doors to find investors.

Contrarily you have the GNUligans who also display a greater sense of professionalism, but have activily removed any option of getting paid for their labor. One defining attitude of the GNUligans is "if you want it to do more, write it yourself". This isn't to say that they won't support their product, but rather that anything which doesn't rate highly on their priority list is better left to someone else who feels strongly enough about it to do it.

Further down the list are the modders and the hobbyists. So far of all the groups I've seen or been a part of, the most dangerous thing to projects at these levels is the process of collaboration. Get too many hands in the pot and rather than working on making a game that follows a design, they work on making the game that follows their individual design regardless of the consistency of the project. These have to have strong leadership, or else the whole thing falls apart. Now a large section of the one man wrecking crews fall into this category also, but their major problem is the sheer difficulty of any game project.

The last category I'd like to cover is the one I fall into, the hopefuls. A hopeful doesn't start every project expecting a pay-off, but they do expect all their projects to eventually lead to their getting paid to make games. Probably the biggest problem to face a hopeful is feature creep, we always want to make the next BIG splash, sometimes we forget to just try and make ripples first.

I've started at least a half-dozen projects lately, only one has any hope of my getting paid. But I intend to finish all of them one way or another. Still I think it's important to leave a word of advice to other hopefuls and hobbyists, something I've learned from a thousand metaphorical scars. Start with one. One room, one character, one gimmick, one button, doesn't matter, just start with only one. Work on that single item until it's damn near perfect, get it playtested, get it polished, make it shine until you can see yourself reflecting in it on a clear day. Then make another one, a different one, and go from there. After you've made enough ones, you'll finally have something big.


Ha... You aren't even going to see this.

Just finished 3:10 to Yuma and All I have to say is...

In Soviet Texas, the stars pin you.

Okay so sillyness aside I also finished this.

turns out panel sexiness is increased a hundred percent by monster appearance... I didn't do as well in the panel layout on that one, seeing as how it's an overglorified storyboard anyways...

In a way I really am concerned that my inability to draw on this 2x4 tablet is going to severely fuck up the writing that I'm really starting to like. Who knows, we'll have to see how it goes when I try to finalize some of these.


Almost time to get a scanner set up.

I used my little 2x4 tablet to create some roughs... yeah, that's not gonna work too well unless I switch to Illustrator. Here are the roughs anyways, though.

hopefully you can figure out whats going on in page 1. It's hard to fit that much in, while still being understandable, when your just trying to get shit down to give you an idea where it should all wind up.

Another few of pages running through my head.

Page 4 (split into quarters)
A car is driving down an empty highway, nice long back shot from a ways in front. panel 1
The car passes a lone, small, figure walking along the side of the road. 90 degree shift in angle to be from the passenger side of the car. panel 2
Car comes to a stop pulling off to the side of the road. panel 3
A tallish woman steps out of the car. Panel 4

Page 5(again in quarters, need to pace the pages so that these two are across from each other, should make the air traffic terminal two pages probably.)
Camera moves to behind the car keeping it's facing, but putting the two figures on each side of the panel. The little figure is a little girl in a yellow sun dress with no shoes on. Dialogue for panel 1: ("Hey, hun, where are you're parents?")
The woman takes a step towards the girl. ("What are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere?") panel 2
Finally the woman crouches down to only a little taller than the girl and reaches her hand out. ("Want to ride with me into town here? We can take you to the sheriff and he can help you find your mommy and daddy. How does that sound?")
Split the panel, one side is zoomed in on the empty extended hand. The other is the little girl taking the offered hand.

Page 6(Split in eighths.)
Top left side is a woman in flight attendant's clothes sitting at a table in an austere room lighting a smoke. The cigarette is shaking a little. Some dialogue reads ("Just tell us what happened on that plane, Ms. Janoway.")
Top right side is the outside of an airplane lavatory door with a strange hole about half way up. The door reads occupied.
Next down on the left is the interrogation, shes taking a puff. ("Ms Janoway, please answer the question.")
Next down right, a topless woman is dead leaning over the counter of the lavatory. She is visible only from the back where the gaping wound is easily visible.
Next down left, she holds the cigarette to the side. ("Ms. Janoway?")
Next down right, Ms. Janoway is curled up half naked in the corner of the lavatory, violently shaking and obviously crying, watching the door as the dead woman's sightless eyes watch her.
Next down left, she takes another puff.
Next down right, the door is open and a pair of Airmen are standing there with rifle's at the ready. ("We've got a live one!")

(I think I'm doing way better at the whole writing thing than I am at the drawing... so far at least.)



Yay, now you get to gain some insight in how I work on story lines. I'm going to go ahead and do something comically, or was that make a comic, who knows.

I'm just not feeling the two guys hanging out, talking about games humor comic. Instead I think I'll go with the traditional 21-24 pages per ish good ole American comic book. Problem, as much as I like the concept of a person with super powers, I hate super heroes and absolutely will not add another crappy comic to that overdone genre of doom!! So lets go with horror instead. I'll have to practice my faces a lot to get them believable anyways, so this is as good an excuse as any.

Horror... Serial killer? Nah, as much as the SK mind fascinates me, it invariably winds up following the detective/FBI agent investigating the case and I don't want to focus overmuch on law enforcement. Besides, I want something that leaves the reader questioning, something that I can show from lots of POVs and give information on a little at a time. I'm thinking monster horror, not giant monster, but monster. How about a Tsutomu Neihei Abara-esque creature. More like the main character, less like the creatures it fucks up.

Now I need a scene, something exciting to open the book and hook the readers, but one that also sets the tone for the rest of the comic. Some quick script brain storming.

Cover: Camera covers the wing of a plane, the fuselage is on the right side of the page. Something dark, with sharp long shapes is sitting on top of the engine. Title across the top. Bottom edge of the engine should be just above the bottom line of the frame.

Page 1: A passenger looks out the window of the plane. Camera should be be looking straight so that the window is centered in the panel. Should be the left half of the top third. The passenger begins to look distressed and waves his right hand, we don't record any words. Same angle as before. Right half of top third, should be slightly off kilter
Middle third: A zoomed out version of the above angle, showing at least three windows and people gathering around them.
For the bottom two panels, zoom in to the bounds of the window and show the dark figure standing up and walking towards the cabin.

Page 2: Show a disheveled air craft controller sitting at his terminal, but show at least half of the terminals on either side. Dialogue bubbles should read,
("It's walking towards the cabin. Oh god, what is this thing!?")
("Delta Niner-three-zero come to heading two one niner and maintain speed. Delta Eight-Niner-Eight come to heading three one five and increase altitude to twenty thousand feet. Get me a view of niner-three-zero's wing.")
("This is nuts, nothing could possibly hold on at those speeds.")
("Taking over the eastern group, air space should be clear in about ten minutes"). Top third.
The controller writes quick notes while taking a drink of his red-line.
("Delta Eight-Nine-Eight, Delta Nine-Three-Zero coming into view. Cloud bank in front of wing, can't make anything out yet.")
("It's near the cabin I can't see it anymore. Oh god we're loosing pressure! What's going on!?")
("Delta... Jesus Christ! It's cutting into the cabin! Was that a, passenger!? Control!? Control are you hearing... Oh god the blood!")
("Get me the Air-force!")
("Control to Delta Eight-Nine-Eight increase speed to three hundred and fifty knots and come to heading three one five. Get out of there, NOW!")
("Airspace is clear for next hundred miles!"). Middle third.
The controller stabs the scratch pad with the pen.
("Airforce is responding, escort is en-route.")
("About fucking time.")
("Control what's going on!? What the fuck is going on!?")
("Delta Niner-Three-Zero, this is control, Airforce is en route.")
("I can hear them screaming control! Let me put this plane down!")
("Delta Niner-Three-Zero, you will maintain your current heading and altitude until airforce escort instructs otherwise.")
("Airforce is reporting escort as three minutes out.")
("Three minutes till escort delta, just hold on a little longer.")

Page 3: The dark figure is standing over a man in a business suit who is desperately holding an oxygen mask to his face. The camera is facing away from the closest wall of the plane, letting you see the blood and devastation behind the creature and the open sky through the hole in the cabin. Top third, but could make the far left have the important scene and the right side just background.
The man sits exactly as he was before, while the creature runs to the hole. Middle Panel.
The creature stands in the hole, nothing behind it changing. Bottom third left. Then it disappears and the man finally starts spraying blood from his chest and neck. Bottom third right.

Probably going to change in some of the details, could change in length and pacing. I'll start storyboarding it tomorrow most likely.


I used to write about game programming

Seems like at the old Gax I would always post about the game programming I was doing... of course while the old gax was up I was actually doing game programming. I'm still not sure why but programming is just an insanely hard field for me. Anytime I try and understand other people's code, it's as though they wrote it in an obscure Martian dialect.

Still I've been making huge progress in my art. My pen sketches are finally coming out half-way decent half the time. My pixel art still sucks, but at least I'm practicing now, and I'm a bout a week behind schedule on a 3d module... yeah I should probably get on that.

Game design as a whole still fascinates me, but it's hard to put any oomph behind an idea went can't make even a simple prototype. On the other hand this minimum wage bullshit is killing me so I really do need to get started on a marketable skill. Or else start a famous and popular web comic and demand hand outs from my reader base... of course, I'd have to build an audience.

Even for an internets fangrrl I seem to have a hard time reaching out beyond my shell. Mostly it's just that when I have nothing to do, which isn't all that often, I'll either run off and play something, or start doodling. It never even occurs to me to run around chatting with other internets people most of the time. Being with people is just... not my natural mode.

Signing off.
Sara Pickell


I'm finally tired enough to blog

It's one pm where I am. I've been up since at least five pm yesterday, still can't sleep though... maybe it's those five mountain dew code reds. Or maybe it's having my computer back after my video card's recent burial, who knows.

Since having my computer back I've played four hours of Heroes of Might and Magic V, still pretty darn HoMMy but slightly more tactical, created a model from scratch, started a digital painting, and created five frames of sprite art... Perhaps I have a bit of artistic manic clawing at my brain right now, whispering in my ear, driving me forward.

On the subject of sprite art, it's fun.
Really, enjoy this fine piece of crafted brilliance!

Okay just kidding, that was from a few days ago and it's utter shite. This is what I did today.

I just barely started playing around with the non-black outlines so now I have to go back and fix all of them, but it's okay, it's worth it.... I think.

These were made for Battle for Wesnoth, btw. It's a free open source game available at Wesnoth.org... Great game, but try and ignore the portrait art whenever possible.