Restructuring III – Launch Week

I found myself in a quite surprising situation the past week.

The week I declared to be my relaxation and restructuring week became the week my husband and I released our first videogame, „Your Land“ and I prepared and opened my first digital solo art show in that same digital space.

Your Land Release

I‘d carefully say both my husband and I are rather daydreamy creative types, although I clearly and sadly beat him in anxiety by miles. So it might seem like a miracle we actually finished the game. We have been working on it since a year and as it‘s our first game, so the development cycle was rather shaky and a sandbox fantasy RPG probably too big for a team of originally two people. But luckily for us we met a lot of great people along on the way who in one way or the other contributed to „Your Land“ while we grew and learned. We hope that we in turn could either contribute to their visions, too, or at least give the best game back that we could make at the moment. Also, I am very grateful for the small but creative community that has formed around „Your Land“ already. They help to shape the world more than in a classical development model. In the classical model there is a clear distinction between devs and players and devs throw content out and get feedback in return. In „Your Land“ everyone can contribute content, build own places within the world or otherwise get involved while we as head developers oversee the creative vision and consistency and provide the framework of a game lore and a general direction in which the world is heading. My husband loves interactivity even more than me. In his ideal vision the players write the world‘s further history all by their actions. The future will show whether we can achieve that.

Above: testing the “whirl technique” for gesture drawings stressing volume control. A huge thank you to comic artist Stinch Wackbacker who introduced me to it!

Manul Art Show

And the art show? Oh, the art show. I can best describe it as a tale of blind passion and redemption that absolutely does not show in the end result. That is nothing special if you think about it. Every piece of art tells a story in itself and there is a whole different story of how the artwork got made. So the creation of an exhibition as an art event in itself can have a story of itself, too. I had nightmares about middle school and my dreamy forgetfulness that tends to bring me into trouble sometimes. But it‘s just a price I have to pay for an otherwise very creative brain. My nightmares circled around past failures. Of course they would do that in an important launch week and when I would work on an art show, something that I know as a big source of disappointment. But still powered up from the completed 100 days challenge I just accepted what I felt, the past, and let it not influence my work in any way. I just pushed through scaling down and editing some of the best of my manul pictures to exhibit them on 128pixel squares in „Your Land“. It is funny how my experiences from real world art shows translated into that. Yes, we even had to prepare the ingame digital space and make sure interested visitors would find the exhibition rooms, had snacks available and would not get lost in the other parts of the exhibition site, an airship airport. I met several versions of past me while working through the pieces, a lot of past confusion that luckily got resolved. I was very content but also very tired, when everything was finished. And I‘m working on a manul zine with at least two volumes to bring this project to a final conclusion.

Above: avatar of my husband admiring the Moonul during preparations for the show.

Also, I was very lucky. A streamer was present at the grand opening and later uploaded a clip of his adventure at the Manul Exhibition. You can see it through his eyes here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0OkYfSkMEc

And was it good?

The release of „Your Land“ was a huge success for our means and set a new record of 10+ players being online on the server at the same time. There was only one small bug and that got identified and fixed by my husband in what felt like under two minutes. He, the experienced coder of us, said himself the launch went almost too good. A couple more plots in the digital city of Haven were claimed, new houses in the merchant area were and are getting built, filling „Your Land“ with more life. The opening of my art show was a modest success. I cannot pour my life story and all background stories of the manul drawings onto the viewers, so I practised myself in smaller talk than that. And the visitors seemed to be entertained by the manuls, too. I could not ask for anything more and am also grateful that this simple, small event probably helped me to get over past wounds and made thus made me a better artist again. The world of anxiety is boundless and has no solid floor( that is the beauty of it, isn‘t it?), but I feel like I‘m standing on solid floor right now. So if I could do the 100 days challenge, and I could do that, too, what else can I do? The future will show.

Restructuring I – Interactive choices and heroism

It is no surprise we are back at it again with a new blog post. First of all blogging is a solid daily habit by now. Also the brain doesn‘t stop grinding, just because you don‘t actively think about something for a change. I immediately had some more blog post ideas when putting my 100 days of making comics materials to the side. I guess I will have to go through all of them over the next weeks to reflect and to make sure I‘m understanding what actually happened and what didn‘t.

I have a really interesting topic for you today. Yesterday I posted a comic panel that offered a choice to make to the readers. The situation: Rich, the protagonist, has spotted three dangerous or at least unpredictable looking men he does not know. He can then decide to either look for a way around them or stay on the main road, standing his ground against them so to speak.

It is a simple situation. But that one must have struck something, as many readers left long comments why they chose which option. What also came up repeatedly was the philosophical trope of the illusion of safety. The readers were aware that potential danger could lurk on both paths down the line, even if Rich chose the ‚safer‘ way to circumvent the strangers. Most chose to send Rich towards the strangers.

And I was deeply fascinated with the vigor with which most of the readers sent him there. I myself would avoid the situation. I would take the ‚cowardly‘ choice and I take the freedom to assume that at least some of the readers who want Rich to stay his ground would act like me as well in the same situation. Then it struck me. It is not about just simulating our reality here. They want Rich to be a hero.

If I think about it, this is the first moment where Rich is in a shred of trouble. And should this really be the moment he completely falters already before even being actually attacked or opposed in any other way and leaves the scene to the back alleys? I can see why the readers would instinctively dislike that, while you could see it as a smart move. We seem attracted to people who display confidence, people who take risks and walk straight into trouble and towards the unknown. And then, another irony of the matter is, that cowards like us tend to survive those situations – and must have survived them since thousands of years – but then we tell stories about people like Rich to each other and hold this up as an ideal.

I am not criticizing my readers here, no, I want to thank them for sharing their instinct and collective wisdom and leading me down this train of thoughts. Only now do I begin to understand and really feel what a „hero“ as opposed to an everyday person actually is. Hero… That word gets thrown around a lot when talking about story structure and can at times seem like an empty hull or just synonym for main character. Your main character could be anyone. A hero is an idealized version of this anyone who displays or represents one or more higher values, much to our liking. Most heroes seem unattainable by us in their ways…but being a hero by walking towards three strangers…really? That counts already? Apparently it does! And you don’t even have to do it free of fear. You can be scared but do it anyways. And not everyone can or must be a supernatural power wielding superhero.

And then it got even more interesting. My own comic got me thinking about myself and with what knee jerk reaction I would have disappeared from the scene. I should strive to be more confident. In the long run, I must. Living only to survive and stay in relative „safety“ as much as I can might lead to a very miserable existance, where a lot of things have the power to kick me around, just because I would run on sight. Does that mean I should walk towards any dangerous looking situation in future? Probably not. It is rarely as simple as always yes, always no, and nothing in between. Yet, I have to take risk to move within the void outside of proven ways. I take risks daily when creating new panels. They could always go terribly wrong and I could run out of time and then not deliver. Or they could look horrible. Also the project could run into the sand and never amount to anything. I could never find success as an artist. But so far, I‘m not failing, at least not totally. And at least the falling movement seems to go forward.

Am I …finding out what stories ought to do? Give me just a little bit more than just entertainment for my time without getting on the nose preachy? I was told nothing of that by the comic. I am very glad and grateful for this experience today.

(Voting results: 27 votes were cast in total, 10 on Instagram, 17 on Discord. The winning option got 19 of 27 votes, 70% of votes in total. Instagram was a bit more mild with only 60% of votes for “walk on”. The discords went with “walk on” for 76% of all votes.)

100 Days – 91

Today is Friday the 13th 2020 – and the day was surprisingly balanced for that. Good things and bad things happened. I started to draw quite late but still managed to do my current daily tasks. I’m drawing at least 5 environment thumbnails per day. These have the potential to change you like every drawing exercise that is repeated rapidly.

I dreamt about geometry and characters in perspective tonight. Apparently my characters did exist outside of a space ruled by perspective for the sake of getting them done at all when all my fundamentals were weaker. Sure. In the beginning you cannot take care about everything without overwhelming yourself. But I’m not at the beginning anymore, so it’s time to make the jump and update my process. It might happen that I have to break my style of drawing characters another time, just to make everything work in my developing desire for having perspective in my artworks. I could not have planned for all of this and I feel like there was no way of avoiding years of struggle and confusion. What counts is that I’m here and that I’m pushing myself for growing further. And again, it just might take a while until what I came up in my head ends up in my hands. Creating this simple background in today’s panel was pretty much faster and felt “easier” already.

I also started setting up a discord that I’ll be glad to share with you all soon. It will house some of my collected knowledge from my journeys into art, a place for the community around my webcomic (gotta have one, gotta build one!) and a general hangout. Relaxing and having fun between working sessions is very important. That’s another first, setting up a discord like that.

100 Days – 89

Panel 3 is out! And it wasn‘t such a fight as the days before, so I was on time with it.

My warm-up was environment studies again. I‘ll save those up to post a whole page of them in a couple of days. For the panel I tried two different versions and went with the simpler one, as it expresses everything I wanted it to express. Rich is conflicted. Also the grid and self-hug emphasize a lack of openness towards what is troubling him. Let‘s see whether I‘m as lucky the next days, so that I have time for other creative endeavors as more Manul pictures again.