Life of a Stick


  • Category Archives Webcomics
  • DreamKeepers Happenings

    For those of you that don’t know, I’m really big on webcomics. I have several that I read regularly, and odds are I’ve at least heard of it if it’s worth mentioning.

    A while back, I came across a webcomic called DreamKeepers. It was cute, funny, entertaining, well drawn, and all around neat.

    One of the things I hate about webcomics is when they give you like five pages and then they’re all “Oh, HA! You thought this was a free comic! No, we just put five pages of our published comic online. Now you should buy it.”

    Another solution, which I find much better, is the route that Digger took. You get two hundred and eighty five comics, and then you have to pay to see the rest. BUT, if you’re good with schedules, you can see the current page every day. I would much prefer if there was some large gap in the middle that was moving, so you could keep reading you’d just be behind. But it’s a lot less evil than just putting up a couple pages.

    The least evil solution I’ve seen, which is why I purchased DreamKeepers when I’ve never purchased a dead-tree version of a webcomic before, was that not only did it offer a small sample of the book version (19 pages) but it has a pre-book webcomic that’s updated weekly.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to read the DreamKeeper’s physical comic book. It arrived and my mom saw it. She said, “Hey, I wasn’t allowed to have comic books when I was a kid,” took it, and walked off, thumbing through it. Based on the webcomic, I have no doubts about its quality.

    In other news, I still need to post my past grades. I don’t even know when the last time I posted them was. And I don’t know if I’ve posted my upcoming fall schedule, either.

    I will make a post when my Seawolf project is finished for Second Life, though. If I haven’t mentioned it, I make Boats with a friend. We’re working on something else now, though, but have been careful not to make the information public and only gotten the opinion of close friends and professionals. It’s really, really, really awesome though. Really.


  • Miniforum History Fixed

    As many of you know, I don’t use the commonly available shoutboxes or whatever they’re calling them these days. I prefer to control the code and information myself, even if it means things get done slowly or tend to not work… perfectly. So I created my own little version and I called it the “miniforum.”

    It worked fine, for a bit. Then we hit 900 posts and it got a little confused about what it was supposed to do. I knew what it was supposed to do, but apparently I didn’t explain it quite clear enough.

    Of course, the 900 posts confusion didn’t really cause an actual problem. It wasn’t until about 2MBs of posts were made that PHP decided it wasn’t funny anymore and stopped laughing.

    I’ve returned PHP’s good humor and the chatboxes/miniforums/whatever should now be in good working order. Please notify me if there are any problems. Thanks.


  • Starting a Webcomic

    I’ve heard from a lot of people over the years about their plans to start up webcomics. And I’ve given a lot of advice about how to make webcomics. But it’s all in different places, like IM logs, my head, unlogged chatrooms, IRC, and my miniforums, and it’s just not practical to expect people to go dig up all that information for themselves. So this is a post to hopefully help those people that want to start a webcomic.

    This post will be separated into the following categories:

    -Why Make a Webcomic
    -Website Hosting
    -Webcomic Engine
    -Planning the Comic
    -Making the Comic
    -Promoting the Comic

    Why Make a Webcomic
    ——————-
    Everyone has their own reasons, and most of those reasons are valid. Valid reasons include:

    1) I want to improve my artwork.
    3) I want to learn to be funny.
    2) I want to make something to entertain me and my friends.
    5) I want to make new friends.
    4) Everyone else is doing it.
    6) I want lots of people to congratulate me on my birthday.
    7) I love to draw!

    But there are a number of invalid reasons. Here are some invalid reasons to make a webcomic:

    1) Fame. The internet is no place to get famous. The last person to get famous on the internet is Miss Teen South Carolina. And you don’t want that. Getting famous on the internet is a bad thing.

    2) Fortune. A webcomic is no place to try to earn money, especially if you don’t have an awesome work ethic. The few “successful” webcomics I’ve seen did not get big until many years after they started, and only did so after lots of hard work.

    Website Hosting
    —————
    If you need help on hosting, then I’m going to take the easy way out. I don’t want to try explaining things like setting up your own local webserver, buying a domain name, or paying for a shared server. So let’s play it easy and go with “free and simple webcomic hosting.”

    Here are four sites that host webcomics for free:
    -Drunk Duck
    -Comic Genesis
    -Webcomics Nation
    -Smack Jeeves

    There are many more, but some of them are harder to get into or are specialty hosting sites. Xepher is an example of a slightly more “exclusive” webcomic hosting site. Exclusive is awesome, because you tend to get more freedom and control. But it also means you’d better be ready for a commitment, because they take themselves more seriously.

    These dedicated webcomic sites are awesome because when you sign up, you’re magically in a webcomic community. People can find you effortlessly. Also, no technical knowledge is required, and if you do have technical knowledge you can customize your site’s appearance and function.

    The downside is that it’s free because there are ads on your site. Also, free hosting sites have a reputation of downtime and lagginess.

    Webcomic Engine
    —————
    Each of the sites in the last section have their own way of updating and maintaining the webcomics they host. It would be a good idea to sign up to each of them and see how they work, and then pick your favorite.

    The rest of this section is for people that are hosting their comic themselves, be it locally or on a shared server, or whereever. Some specialty hosting sites may require you to have your own engine.

    The webcomic engine is what powers your comic. If you have no engine, then you’ll be manually editing files and links whenever you upload a new comic. If you have an engine, then updating your comic can be as easy as uploading the latest comic image and having the whole site magically rearrange itself. The “back” button goes back one comic, the “latest” button goes to the latest comic, and etc.

    Engines come in a few flavors, from PHP to ASP to JavaScript and from simple to really complex. The first thing you need to look at is what your hosting provider supports. PHP is the norm for paid hosting, and “nothing” is the norm for a free website.

    I’ve created two comic engines, one extremely simple and one rather complex. Both require PHP.

    The complex one was never finished. It included adding news to the comics, editing old news, comments that stick to specific comics, mass updating of previous comics/news entires, a queuing system for uploading comics and having them update later, and all sorts of fun things. But as I said, I never quite finished it, so I won’t be distributing that until I get around to finishing it, which is probably never.

    The simple one I created was for Maglot‘s comic, Cry of the Wolf. You can download this simple comic engine here: http://www.skaarj.com/extras/comic.zip. It includes some instructions on how to use it.

    If your hosting provider doesn’t allow the use of PHP, there’s still a solution besides hand-editing everything whenever you update. You can find/make yourself a Javascript comic engine.

    Back in ages past, before the giant webcomic hosting places went up, you could find webcomic engines easily on the internet. These days it’s rather much harder, and you usually end up making them yourself.

    Planning the Comic
    ——————
    There’s a right way and a wrong way to make a comic.

    The right way involves:
    -Creating your characters, and creating character sheets for them to use as reference so the characters always look the same. This includes costume sheets for all their different outfits.
    -Creating the environments the comic takes place in, and creating reference sheets so the environments don’t go changing all the time.
    -Creating the props that appear in the comic, including reference sheets.
    -Creating the story. All of it. This is the real time consumer, and has a ton of substeps going from idea to general storyline all the way down to rough drafts, then the final comic.

    As far as I know, the number of books that teach you how to draw comics can be counted on one hand.
    -Graphic Storytelling by Will Eisner (father of the graphic novel)
    -Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner
    -Making Comics by Scott McCloud
    -Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
    -How to Make Webcomics by several famous webcomic authors (edit: Added here on Oct 9th, 2011)

    No doubt there’s more, as an Amazon search can point out, but Making Comics and Comics and Sequential Art are the ones Rob Kmiec recommended.

    It’s important to decide the following, as well:
    -Daily gag or serious story?
    -Standard panel style or freeroam?
    -Colored or black and white?
    -3D, traditional, or CG?
    -Daily or whenever?

    Making the Comic
    —————-
    So you’ve planned everything out. You know what kind of comic you’re making, how you’re making it, how often you’re updating, who all the characters are, where the story is going to take place, and what the story is from start to finish (or at least have pages of ideas for jokes for your daily gag strip).

    The Beginning
    The first thing you need to do is make the first half-dozen pages before you even put anything online. This accomplishes a couple things.

    1) It lets you know if you’re actually going to be able to handle it. If you planned for a daily strip and it takes you three months to make half a dozen pages, then you’ll want to rethink your update schedule, and/or your method of creating the comic.

    2) It creates confidence. Most webcomics seem to die after zero to two pages. If you have more than that already up, then you’ve proven to your viewers that you broke the barrier most people fail at.

    The Buffer
    Having a buffer on your comic is a very smart thing. To have a buffer means to have more comics ready than you’ve committed to giving.

    For example, say you have a Monday, Wednesday, Friday comic. You’ve spent two weeks and created six pages before you put anything online. In order to create a buffer, you would create even more comics, perhaps spending two more weeks to create half a dozen more. Then you start the comic by putting the first half-dozen online, and keep the last half-dozen to yourself. In case you get sick, or can’t update, you’ve got extra comics to fall back on, and your readers won’t see a hiccup in the schedule.

    Just make sure after you start digging into your buffer that put in extra effort to build the buffer back up, or you’ll just use it up and that’s that.

    Keep at It
    Updating a webcomic can be hard. But if you stick to your schedule, you’ll eventually get to your end goal and be finished. If you need support, talk to your friends, family, or (if you have some) your readers.

    Communicate
    The most effective method of communicating to the readers of your comic is in comic form. Most people don’t read news posts. I personally think that if someone doesn’t care enough to read the news post, then they don’t care enough to know. But how you communicate is up to you, just know what’s most effective.

    It’s polite to inform your readers (or reader) when an update is going to be missed or late. You don’t need to tell them about your personal life if you don’t want to, just tell them it’s going to be missing or late.

    Promoting the Comic
    ——————-
    I’ll admit that while fame shouldn’t be a reason to start a webcomic, it can be a reason to continue a webcomic. Who wants to spend time making a webcomic if no one’s going to enjoy it?

    You should start promoting your webcomic once you’ve got a solid base of comics. That base is up to your discretion, but the marketing tactic is like this: The good art draws them in, and the good story (or funnies) keeps them. If people can’t see the awesome story, you may want to wait until you’ve got enough comics to do that.

    Notice I said you should have a solid base of comics before promoting. I don’t want to see any one who’s read this promoting their comic before they’ve even put anything online. I’ve seen those promotions before, and visit their empty sites, and get horribly disappointed. Most of the time, those sites stay blank forever because they were expecting instant fame, and got no responses because they had no content. Don’t promote your comic until you have something to promote!

    There are two ways of promoting. The free way, and the pay way.

    Free
    -Post on forums that you have a comic, and give a sample or two in the thread itself so people can see what it’s like then and there.
    -Sign up for one (or all) of the many webcomic listings, like The Belfry or The Webcomic List.
    -Sign up for one (or all) of the many webcomic contests, like Top Webcomics or Webbed Comics, or buzzComix. Just don’t expect to get anywhere near the top, especially not at first. People do check the low-rankers on those, so it gets your name out there.
    -If you’ve got a lot of readers already, get them to promote your comic. Word of mouth is the most effective method of advertising, because it’s sincere.

    Pay
    -Advertise on other webcomics that are similar to yours. Advertising a sci-fi comedy on a historical horror may not be the best idea.
    -Check out Project Wonderful. It’s an effective auction-style advertising solution. From what I can tell, it’s focused heavily on webcomics.


  • Current Game Plan

    I want to lay down for myself (and so others can see) what it is I currently have planned. Please keep in mind that while I’m getting better at judging what I can do and when, this list is subject to me being lazy or busy or both. If there’s something you like on the list, cross your fingers. Or bug me about it. Either way. My current attitude is shifting more towards a focus on Gimpystick.

    Immediate plans: Sit in the magic massage chair for a good 10 minutes, then finish the Anatomy assignment due for class tomorrow. Then sleep.

    Weekish plans:
    -Catch up on my schoolwork that was painfully effected by the snow (More snow by morning! Woo. … Yay.)
    -Add the necessary polish to the Seawolf boats in SecondLife to get them released
    -Finish up Trivium and put the closing capstone stuff on it so it’s over

    Pre-summer plans
    -Pass all of my classes at DigiPen.
    -Update Gimpystick (quick and easy usability features)
    a) Make comments easier to use and reply to
    b) Auto-scale image option on upload
    c) Spell-checker
    -Do Morrowind Comics whenever able (probably not)
    -Play Ocarina of time when I’m lazy and not busy

    Summer plans
    -Start and complete the next Seawolf project in SL
    -Finish the Morrowind Comic
    -Update and universalize look and feel of website
    -Get fun new features into Gimpystick
    -Beat Ocarina of Time if not done yet, and Wind Waker
    -Beat Twilight Princess again
    -Spore, UT2k7, check out Stalker

    I don’t think there’s enough time in the summer for all of that, but I can’t think past summer right now so it goes there.


  • Bunch of Stuff Happened

    It’s probably best to order things chronologically rather than categorically for this post. It’s a long story that lasts about five days. I’ll see if I can condense it into less than five days of reading.

    It all started on Thursday, December 14th. “High wind warnings” were on the news, saying winds would get up to 80-90mph with 130mph gusts. Silly me didn’t realize quite how serious this is. If these numbers don’t mean much to you (and you haven’t been watching the news), then this is enough wind to knock over many, many trees. And when trees fall down, they land on things. Like power lines. And cars. And roads. And houses. But back to the story at hand.

    I showed up at DigiPen campus around 4pm, I think. My plans were to mat mount the final project for Art 101 so I could turn it in before 5pm the next day, when it was due. Then I would work on animation. I’d expected the power to go out, as I’d brought some flashlights.

    When I arrived at school, there were signs posted at every corner that the school was closing at 10pm instead of midnight due to the high winds warning.

    After I left, it was only slightly gusty. I took the “back road” home, like I usually did, because even at 10pm traffic is decently heavy and moving around 50mph through Bellevue. Besides, the back road was a straight shot to my house, and the freeway went in the opposite direction for a bit before turning my way.

    The back road was already littered with tree branches. It was fun to dodge them, and felt a bit like a video game. Then something above me went SHAZAM! and all the lights on the street went out. The scariest part of the drive was when a few cars were coming in the opposite direction so I was effectively blinded, and my car a puddle I didn’t see and sprayed water off the side of the road. Normal enough, except the puddle didn’t end. After the three cars had passed me, I could see the end of the “puddle” about 50m further up.

    The last exciting thing about the back road was when I was halfway home. The sky lit up briefly with this beautiful blue and purple explosion in the distance. I was sure it was the power at my house. Fortunately, it was all the power just before my house. Unfortunately, that meant the streetlight were out, and traffic in the Seattle area is notoriously bad not because of the sheer amounts of people, but because the people suck at driving. So no one had no idea that a downed traffic light means you’re supposed to behave like it’s a stop sign. And no one knew the proper way to handle a six lane, four way intersection as a stop sign, either. I’ll admit, it’s a little daunting, but if you face it logically you don’t have a problem.

    The power didn’t go out until an hour or so after I got home. I spent that night doing general maintenance. I cleaned the dust out of Goliath, this webserver, I put a new PSU in the internet gateway box (which had a faulty fan for the past year or so and required external cooling), and I took the last of the good pieces out of my downed main computer (namely, the CPU) and put it into my secondary machine. So I’m still down to one desktop computer, but it’s almost as good as my best one was. I also did a little general cleaning around my desk. The rest of the night was spent drawing some Trivium comics.

    So the power went out Thursday night. Friday morning at something before 7am I get a call from my good friend xcXEON wondering how things were and if everything was ok. I told him we were out of power, but otherwise fine. I was out of touch. I don’t normally watch the news — I’d heard about the strong winds from my brother, and probably then only because I live in the same house as him. The scope of power outages and damage was much larger than I thought it was, which is why he’d thought it important enough to call me. I enjoyed talking to him, it had been a while, but then I had to get ready and go to school. I had a final project to turn in, and an animation to redo so I could try to up my grade in Animation 101. I had my friend check www.schoolreport.org to make sure DigiPen wasn’t closed, got up and headed out.

    Bad idea. The first road I tried was blocked by half a dozen downed trees. (Ok, only three were visible, but I bet there were more further down) After going through a dozen intersections with broken stoplights, I finally made it to DigiPen after only a little over an hour. Not like it meant much. The doors are electronically sealed, and there was no power. A random programmer and I took a walk around the block to gawk at all the pretty damage from downed trees. Later, the head of facilities showed up and told all the people milling around the sign that said “DigiPen’s closed” that the finals will be rescheduled, and the final project that’s due will be turned in at the start of next semester. I asked about www.schoolreports.org and he said they’d managed to leave a message for them around 8am. The cell phone lines were jammed, and there was probably a downed tower or two.

    I was not looking forward to driving home. Against my better judgement (I claim curiosity), I took the freeway home. I noticed a few cars by the side of the road as traffic crawled along and wondered why they were there.

    A few places started getting power restored during the day. The first ones were the stores and malls. Makes you wonder. A gas station or two got power, and then I noticed something a little scary. There were only one or two gas stations in the area that had power. The line of cars wrapped around the block.

    The night, my dad informed me he was out of gas. Completely empty, and maybe only enough to drive to the gas station. I told him since I was going to be up late working on drawing Triviums, I’d take his car out at around 11pm and gas it up.

    Another bad idea. There was one gas station with gas left (the others had their lights of with “no gas” signs in the driveways) and the line was still around the block. I managed to make it home, and left a note for my dad to take my car, since it still had half a tank.

    Saturday, my friends I’m working on Booster Logic with called me and said their power was back, and that I could stay with them until mine came back.

    I left out two events. One was a trip to a church Christmas dinner party where I brought my phone charger and charged it while I was eating, and the other was a trip to Bellevue Square Mall where I picked up the Playstation 2 game Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. I got lucky. The game’s rare, and the Gamestop at the mall just happened to have ae copy when I was there.

    So when I got the invite from my friends, I packed up my PS2, Disgaea, Shadow of the Colossus (another great game), a change of clothes, my clothes for church, and left. My dad wasn’t interested in taking a free shower for some reason, so he stayed behind in our dark, cold house that was starting to smell a lot like burnt candles.

    The next couple days were a blur. Disgaea is awesome. I felt no guilt, as the power was out at my house and all my plans revolved around the internet (which they didn’t have yet). Been a long time since I’ve played a game for more than an hour or two without feeling guilty that I should be doing something else more important.

    I called my mom about halfway through to see how they were fairing at home. Turns out my dad had tried to light a fire and hadn’t put it far enough back in the fireplace. Nothing burnt down, but the entire house was filled with smoke. It still smells, and probably will for weeks. They also got invited to stay at someone else’s house, but for some reason my dad had declined them again. I’ve been taught that doing good deeds is all well and good, but denying other people the good deeds they want to do isn’t actually very nice. I don’t think anyone ever taught him that. Or maybe he just really needed his special matress for his back, since it’s so bad. Who knows. (I’m rather certain he doesn’t read this, and my mom isn’t tactless enough to tattle-tale on me, so I should be safe in questioning his sanity here.)

    So the last thing of note that happened was this: I woke up this morning at around 10am to the sound of my phone ringing. My brother was calling to let me know that the power had come back on, and that he wanted to make the internet work, but the power buttons on the router wasn’t working. I let him know it wasn’t broken, and I’d just flipped the switch on back, but I’d prefer he wait for me to get home and get everything working.

    I started packing up and I noticed the end of the extension cord that I unplugged my phone from wasn’t glowing green. I checked, and the cable modem/router wasn’t lit up. Oh noes, I thought. What have I done! Then I noticed that the red light on my PS2 wasn’t lit up, and I realized the power was out.

    So I packed up, came home, turned on my computers with only minor issues, and here I am.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get those Triviums I drew inked, or this Christmas Special will never go live.


  • Imitation Trivium

    First, I believe I’ve fixed the problem with people impersonating me on the miniforum. If the name’s not red, it’s not me.

    Second, the guy who posted in my name saying more Triviums were coming soon wasn’t entirely wrong. I might as well tell those few people that read this what my plans are.

    I had an idea for a Christmas storyline last Christmas, but I didn’t realize it was Christmas until about a week beforehand, which is why we saw this comic out of the blue. School takes a whole lot out of me. And while responsible me says that I should get a job and make a few bucks over Christmas break, I’m not sure I want to wear myself out any more. I also want to just sleep. But, what I really want to do is that Christmas storyline for Trivium that’s been hanging over my head for a year.

    So nothing’s in stone, but we’ll see what happens. Remind me to post news now and then if you’re curious what’s going on. I always hate it when things I like just die quietly and never give me an update about what’s going on. Even “oops, I’m a lazy bum,” on a comic is better than silence.


  • Closing Up the Comics

    I’m closing up both my comics. They’ll likely be down for at least four years (college, remember?), perhaps forever. You never know what’ll happen on Christmas or summer breaks, though — but there’s no way I can make any promises at this point.

    Just for the record, I don’t want to do this. I’d love to continue drawing these comics forever. But in truth, I should have given up in the middle of last January when I started having a lot of trouble updating them. I just never know when to quit, so I keep making promises to myself and others I can never seem to keep. However, I believe it’s more important to have hope and goals that may never happen than to have none at all. The hard part is getting back on the horse every time you fall off, because it seems to happen a lot.

    There’s a “closed” filler up for the Trivium comic. I’m sure the transparent symbology used will be visible to anyone who sees it (lol, motel6). I’m still trying to figure out what to do for the Morrowind comic.


  • Not Quite 300 Triviums

    Those that know me know that I’m not very good with special dates or events. Heck, you only have to read my comics to realize that I forgot about things like Christmas. I take things as they come, and here’s a perfect example.

    Trivium Entertainment is coming up on 300 episodes. I recently got a filing cabinet so I can turn all these stacks of papers into less clutter folders filled with papers. One of the piles of papers I picked up and sorted out was pages and pages of Trivium. Most every single page has two episodes on it — saves paper that way. But the stack is still impressive to see.

    Since I found it impressive, and people like to be impressed, perhaps it will impress you, too.

    Stack of Trivium Comic Pages


  • New Webcomic: ehunno

    I’ve been pestering a friend of mine to start a webcomic for a while, and with the help if his girlfriend he’s finally gone and done it!

    The comic, called ehunno, can be found at http://ehunno.tragically1337.net/ but will be found at http://www.ehunno.com/ as soon as the whole registration and nameserver mess clears up.

    I spent most of today setting up a slightly modified version of Trivium’s comic engine on his server. The Trivium comic engine (and before that, the Morrowind comic engine) was supposed to be a “professional” project for me that I would eventually finish and sell/give to people that wanted to make webcomics, and it would be so easy to set up and use that anyone could do it. I never did finish it, so it’s got little holes all over the place, but it works well enough for my needs. I had to mess with it terribly to get it function on his server with most of his layout. And there were a few tweaks he wanted to make it behave differently.

    The deal that I made with them is that they’ll update twice a week while I’m updating Trivium three times a week. I’m looking forward to what those two come up with!


  • Trivium, Three Times a Week

    I have a friend and his girlfriend who decided to start a webcomic. It’s been a long time coming, and I made a deal with them.

    They’re both fans with Trivium, so if I update Trivium three times a week, they will start their comic within a month and update two times a week.

    Of course, this also means that the Morrowind Comic will have to update more often.



  • dinamic_sidebar 4 none

©2017 Pointy Sticks Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS)  Raindrops Theme