SPREY Log #26 – Ingame Books and Fan Dragons

Welcome back, everyone!

My life is moving so fast right now. Currently, „Your Land“ has it’s first anniversary. Organizing the subevents and celebrating with the community is keeping me busy, as well as a few smaller commissions. And yes, there is pressure, but I’m learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable as they say.

I’ve mentioned last blog post already how I let go and went programming for a while, let go of everything (that is not the same as giving up) then realized „less is more“. I have then also tested this new paradime already by writing several ingame books in Your Land. Our game has this amazing feature where players can copy and paste a text up to 10.000 signs into an ingame book. My husband had even collected most of the past books written by players into a library. It was in an okay state when I took it over, but now with me as a driving force behind caring for the library and encouraging players to write new fun books at all occassions, the amount of books is skyrocketing, and so is the number of readers and writers, and the library is thriving. We have an organically grown literature scene now. I have heard from others again and again what I have learned ingame as well. „I had no idea how fun writing can be!“ We have all just forgotten how fun it is.

These ingame books are my playground, my experimental ground to finally stretch and strengthen my writing muscles far enough to get to a state where I can write a finished anything. You can do a lot with 10.000 signs it turns out. I don’t think any of my ingame books even scratch at that limit, I’m rather comfortable at 1.000 signs. Everytime I finish an ingame book though, something magical happens. Something in me listens up, realizing me and storytelling is not a lost cause, adding more curiosity, confidence and just a bit more ambition to the next work.

The next benefit of practising my writing in a videogame is that I get to experience a whole pipeline from idea of the book to finding the book on the shelves in a relatively self-contained, secure environment without added costs. Yes, even in a game where less forces than on the actual market are influencing what is read you have to advertise your stuff. You still have to proofread and edit and offer this service to other writers, too, in exchange, as none of you get paid. You still have to finish things. You still have to show up to write on the regular. You have to make the time to do all of this. And what I also had to do was to learn how to socialize at all. I think I finally got over the bump with that. I am running a well known Candy Shop in the game’s spawn city. And none of the players would believe my old shy „true self“ that isn’t true anymore. And no, this is actually not a case where I’m confident on the internet alone, it already crossed back over into the real world. Streaming works better than ever for me and I enjoy the resulting conversations a lot.

And it is actually true, if you have finished a couple of stories, your perspective on writing is changing up. You have more of a grid to work from in your head. It’s easier to keep the structure of the work together mentally as you’ve already worked through some of them in their entirety before. And having a good theme, really having something to say, doesn’t seem that difficult and abstract anymore, too. That was actually one of the things I learned fastest. Writing 1.000 signs is not hard, you can do it in a day or two. Writing 1.000 signs that give a meaningful or even pleasing experience to both reader and writer, that is harder. When you are thinking to yourself „Why bother?“ your current work probably does not have enough substance yet. For me, the fun at trying new things and testing how far my writing can go within the constraints has soon and quickly taken over.

I think my stream even taught me something very important the past days. I met Shiro4K, an old friend, again who now streams videogames now. He told me an anecdote from the day he met me in 2016, that I had forgotten myself. I was tabling at a convention and he jokingly asked me to draw something I had never drawn before. So I asked the tabling artist next to me for a fan you can draw on yourself and drew a dragon. I saw a photo of it, it doesn’t even look like it was drawn by me, but still works. That taught me something very important about myself, that I haven’t figured out without the reflection from others. Apparently I was never one for a uniform look of the art. I am rather one that relentlessly experiments, always moving forward and shaking perceived own limits. And it is fun being around me when I am like this. You can shake your head and go „what is she up to now?“. Let’s admit, that dragon could have gone terribly wrong, especially with my limited skillset back then compared to today. I was drawing it live on a convention. A stunt like that requires bravery. Apparently there’s more of it in me than I tend to show nowadays. It turns out again and again that I was worrying about the wrong things all along. I’m currently writing a sonnet written by an orc (with orc grammar and everything, but still attempting to keep up with the rhyme scheme and structure). I can’t say I’m good at poetry, but I’m taking the challenge. I am exactly the right person for something like this.

And now comes the clue, I’m not writing this down for the sake of me. But this gave you a taste of an authentic Styxcolor, maybe even just a glimpse of it. And if people hear about other people being authentic, it tends to encourage them to show a bit more of themselves, too. People do appreciate you when you show yourself. Go out there, try it, even on a small scope. You will probably not want ot miss it again. If you need to write books in a videogame to figure out and work on your true skill level, so be it. I bet there’s other venues to get started or repair your skillset as a storyteller, too. See you out there!

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.