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8/9/2010 Getting ready

No time to write a long news post today. But Wednesday will be Pebble Verseion's seventh anniversary! Though I'll talk more about it then... Barring unforseen circumstances, Ink should return later this week as well.

See you Wednesday!


8/6/2010 My trip to Denver...finally

There's a new special bonus comic for everyone who votes! This week's features forum member Siranae.

I'm been spacing quite a lot of stuff this week (to busy focusing on things like my book, my aunt and cousin who are visiting, and the like). But it's finally time to talk about my trip to Denver last week. My dad and I went together to see a Weird Al concert but we figured that, as long as we were going, we might as well get there early in the day and do something in the city. In the end, we decided on the art museum due to a combination of location, hours, and a couple other things. While I do like looking at art (some kinds of art, anyway), the main reason I wanted to go there was to see the King Tut exhibit, which is there through the end of the year. Gotta say, the exhibit was pretty cool. There was lots of statue, jewelry, and even some furniture that was all in pretty amazing shape, especially considering that most of it was around 3000 - 45000 years old. I'm pretty sure that makes it the oldest man made things I've ever seen. And wow, the ancient Egyptians were really good at carving. Unfortunately I couldn't take pictures of anything in the exhibit (they wanted you to buy the photo books), but we walked through a few other parts of the museum afterwards, where pictures were allowed. The Asian section was pretty nice. Here's a statue of an Indian monkey god and a cool Japanese folding screen (which they rarely let you photograph in Japan). There was also an special exhibit featuring all sorts of things (baskets, carvings, furniture, etc) made from bamboo. Finally, here's a statue from the American Indian section that my dad really likes.
After the museum, we walked around downtown Denver for a bit, and I ate at a great Moroccan restaurant. The concert was in a fairly small theater but that worked out well since it meant pretty much every seat had a great view. Weird Al is great in concert. Here's got ton of different costumes, some of which are pretty strange, and is almost always dancing around. And, most importantly, he sounds really good. The whole thing was a lot of fun an absolutely hilarious. And hey, what could be better than cell phones, er, I mean dancing storm troopers. Really great trip overall and a nice break from writing.

Well, that's all for now. Enjoy the weekend and look forward to the return of Ink sometime during the coming week.


8/4/2010 Sprite Comic Guide

Josiah's Sprite Comic Guide Part 8: Setting Up and Creating a Comic Web Site is finished! Now I just need to find some time for those ROM chapters... Well, I'll be sure to get to them sometime this month. I'll try and resume Ink updates soon as well. In the meantime, enjoy the sprite comic guide.


8/2/2010 Too much going on...

Ugh... This week is getting crazy. I spent quite a lot of Sunday working on a variety of things (and still didn't get to one item on my "to-do" list). Then my mom and brother got back from their trip that evening so I was catching up with them and, as a result, didn't really have time to get my pictures and videos from the trip formatted for the web. So they're going to have to wait until Wednesday. Sorry guys! I'll be sure to have them done by then though. I'm pretty far along on that sprite comic guide as well. Though I'm not sure when I'll have time to finish. In addition to the normal stuff I'm working on (my book, Car Washer, etc), some relatives are coming tomorrow. They'll be here for a week and a half and I've also got to help out with cooking and stuff, especially since my dad is teacher seminar on Sunday...

Well, I figure that if all goes well I should have the book pretty much done by the end of the month so I can take things easy for a week or two in September, maybe catch up on some video games or something. Of course, that's assuming that I don't get a job somewhere else by then... For now though, I need to focus on the work I have.



7/30/2010 Awesome trip

Sorry for the late update. The hotel internet was great...until too many people got on at the same time and overwhelmed it shortly before I sat down to update the site. There's a new voters' bonus comic, this one featuring long time forum member Doodleshark. New ROM too.

The Weird Al concert was awesome (as was the rest of the trip). I'll be getting back home later today and I'll have some pics and videos ready for Monday's update. For now though, I have to get up early so I need some sleep.



7/28/2010 Searching for screenshots

I'll be out of town for a couple of days to go to a Weird Al concert so Friday's update may be late or skipped depending on my internet situation.

Work on my book continues. While the writing itself is going well, I recently took a day off from that to focus on obtaining permission to use more game screenshots in the book. I got to say, finding the correct person to contact at each company can be a huge pain in the neck. A few were easy enough, most were kinda tricky, and there's there's a couple where I still haven't found a good contact... At least a lot of them are fairly easy to work with once I find the right person. I'm still waiting to hear back from a few companies though (annoyingly enough, they're the ones I need the most screens from) and I had a couple turn me down for no real reason. However, I would like to take a minute to thank the awesome folks at Don Bluth Games and Nippon Ichi. They were quick to respond, very friendly, and extremely helpful (they even went out of their way to find good images for me to use, saving me a lot of time)

Anyway, it's back to work for me. Later everyone!


7/26/2010 Making some progress

If you haven't seen Friday's special bonus comic, featuring Silver, all you need to do is use the TWC banner or button to vote! In other PV news, the commentary for strip 121 - 140 is complete! You can check it out in the Archives.

With the commentary and a couple other things taken care of, I'm starting to get caught up on stuff. I think I'm gonna hold off on Ink updates for just a little longer while I get the next part of the my sprite comic guide done though (hopefully sometime this week). One of the reasons I'm trying to get so much done right now is because I'll be out of town for a couple days later this week. The reason? I'm going to a Weird Al concert! I love his music and I missed his last tour since I was in Japan, so this'll be my first time going to one of his concerts. It should be a lot of fun, and a nice break from all the work. Especially since things are going to get even busier next week... Speaking of the concert, there's a chance Friday's comic may be late or skipped, depending on my internet situation during the trip.

See you Wednesday!


7/23/2010 Too much to do...

There's a new voters' special voters' bonus comic. This week's features Silver who once again won Most Fun Poster in the Forum Awards. There's also a new ROM and, for the first time in ages, a new That Soap Opera comic from Silver.

It seems like I can't get anything done this week. In reality though, I'm getting quite a lot done, there's so just many things that need doing that I'm not making as much headway as I would have liked. The chapter I just finished for my book took a day longer than I planned (though I'm currently on track to finish the first draft about two months ahead of schedule, so an extra day here and there isn't a big deal). I wanted to finish the part of Car Washer I'm currently working on but I just haven't had the time. Haven't been able to finish the batch of PV commentary I'm doing either (though I did make fairly good progress on it). And then there's something I need to do for my dad (which is probably going to take up my Sunday)... It doesn't help that I'm in charge of answer the phone most of the time since my mom is on a trip and there always seems to be some new errand I have to run or e-mail I have to write. Sigh... Hopefully I can get more or less caught up on the high priority stuff over the coming week or two so I can put more time into that PV bonus content.

Anyway, I'll see you Monday. Hopefully I'll have gotten a lot done by then.


7/21/2010 Always more to do

Still working on the bonus content (and a whole lot of other stuff) so I don't have time to write a long post right now. It's kinda a busy week so I'll just see you on Friday!


7/19/2010 Um...

Uh, so apparently Friday's update didn't upload like at all... Not sure both how I missed that until now. So today you're getting two PV strips (hit Previous Comic to see the one that came before this), two days or news posts, along with Friday's special voters' bonus comic (that one actually might have updated correctly on Friday though) and Friday's ROM. Sorry for the error. You guys should really le tme know if something like this happens again so I can fix it sooner. Barring some diaster or serious computer or internet issues, I never skip an update without announcing it ahead of time.

I was thinking about what kind of jobs I'd like to do other game design and writing (both for games and novels). Those two are my first choices, but there's a lot of other things I think I'd enjoy. I bet I'd enjoy being a game reviewer or strategy guide writer, and am actually qualified for those, but I've got plenty of non-game related ideas. Being a tour book writer or having a show on the travel channel, for example, would be a whole lot of fun since I love visiting and exploring new places. And, of course, working on Myth Busters would be utterly awesome. Moving away from TV shows, being a professional manga or web comic artist would be cool. I'd need to team up with an actual artist while I focused on the writing though since Pebble Version certainly isn't going to make me a lot of money (it rarely does more than pay for its own domain and hosting fees) and drawing good looking stuff by hand takes me way too long. Teaching English in Japan was fun and I wouldn't mind doing it again, but I don't know if I'd want to make a career of it. Teaching karate could work though. I've also toyed with the idea of starting a restaurant, since I enjoy cooking, but it seems like it'd involve a rather ridiculous amount of work. Other than that, working in movies (writing, acting, set creation, or something) or working for LEGO have a certain appeal. I've also good pretty cool ideas for a Disney park based on Kingdom Hearts and a Japan themed Vegas hotel, but there's pretty much no chance that I'll ever be in a position to act on either of those... Oh, and then there's games (not video games, board and card games), I'd enjoy creating them too.

But anyway, enough rambling. I've got lots of stuff (that Pebble Version bonus stuff included) to work on. Ink updates will probably return later this week once I get a bit more of that bonus stuff done.


7/16/2010 A problematic habit

There's a new voter bonus comic, the first of a short series featuring the winners of this year's Pebble Version Forum Awards. New ROM too!

There's a couple of habits I picked up while in Japan that I've never really gotten rid of. The first is bowing. You bow a lot in Japan, though often it's more of a nod or short bow and I still tend to do it when I'm introduced to someone or thank someone. The other thing I picked up is more conversation based. In Japan, when someone is talking to you it's polite to frequently say hai (yes), so desu ka (really?), and a few other little words and phrases just to show that you're paying attention. We do this in English too, though not nearly to the extent Japanese people do. Anyway, after my time in Japan, I started doing that a lot more when listening to people, using words like yes, uh-huh, and yeah. I was doing it yesterday and ended up using yeah twice in a row in a relatively short span of time. The guy who was talking to me thought I had said yeah-yeah and was brushing him off, which didn't go over too well. I'm gonna have to be careful about that in the future...


7/14/2010 Getting to work

I'll keep the news post short since I'm working on all that bonus stuff I mentioned in the last post. I'm doing the commentary first, so look for it to appear in the archives over the coming days. Hope you enjoy it!


7/12/2010 Lots of cool stuff

Friday's bonus comic is up if you haven't voted and checked it out yet. Also, I'm very pleased to announce the return of ROM!

In other Pebble Version news, check out the donation guage below! That's right, you guys have some cool bonus content coming your way! There'll be commentary on the next set of old PV strips, a chapter of ROM The Novel (actually, I think I'll do two), and the next part of Josiah's Sprite Comic Guide! Can't say exactly when it will all be done but keep an eye out for it over the coming weeks.

And, for those of you who remember Car Washer, I've decided to push hard to try to get in done and up for sale in the next few months! And then, of course, there's my book on writing for games, which is coming along pretty well (over a third of the way done with the first draft!). So yeah, busy but kinda exciting time for me. Look for more updates on both projects in the future.


7/9/2010 Vacations

There's a new bonus comic up. With Saber Knight Saga over, it's back to regular Blooper Reel comics, for the moment anyway...

Despite Brendan and May's experiences, I love family vacations. My family has always done tons of traveling (mainly due to a combination of my dad's work and his hobbies) so I've gotten to see nearly every state and several other countries as well. As you might have been able to tell from my travelogues, I love seeing new places and trying new things. On that note, I miss being able to travel as often as we did back before I started college. But anyway, time for another Ink menu.

Ink's Status Menu
<Insert status menu mock-up image here.>

The status menu displays an image of the the selected character along with a complete list of their stats and a short character description / bio which will be updated over the course of the game.

Designer's Comments:
Once again, nothing too out of the ordinary here. Status menus are yet another standard part of the RPG menu system. The only unique thing here is the addition of a character description / bio, which I thought would be appropriate since the status menu is something like Josiah's reference sheets for each character. Not that I actually use character reference sheets when I write, but I've thought about it every time I find myself digging through previous chapters because I can't remember what color someone's eyes are or something like that.

Have a good weekend!


7/7/2010 The menus continue...

More menus? Well, Ink (like any RPG) has quite a lot of them and they all need to be covered in the design doc. Don't worry though, before too long I'll be moving onto other things like the menu mock-up images or the character development system. For now though, it's time for another menu.

Ink's Techs and Spells Menu
<Insert techs and spell menu mock-up image here.>

The techs and spells menu lets players view all the techs and spells learned by the selected character. When highlighting a particular tech or spell its effect and attack or element combination is displayed. Double and triple techs are also displayed.

Designer's Comments:
Unsurprisingly, there's nothing special about this menu either. Players naturally need a menu section where they can check which techs and spells players have learned and see their effects and combos. I may eventually add the ability for characters to cast certain spells from this menu as well, though at the moment I'm not sure if it's really necessary.


7/5/2010 Happy Independence Day

Ok, so the 4th was yesterday, but I hope everyone (or at least everyone in the US, enjoyed it). I ended up spending the entire morning getting some assorted work done (because I'm spending a lot of time during the week working on my book, Sunday is my best time to catch up on other stuff) but the afternoon was more relaxed and after that I went to the local fireworks show with my mom. We ended up going to the full on show in the stadium instead of just grabbing a place to sit in the nearby park. The entertainment was a mixed bag, the best by far was a 40's style girls band. The fireworks themselves were good and matched up pretty well to the music. All in all, it wasn't a bad day but now I need to get back to work.



7/2/2010 It's July!

The final episode of Saber Knight saga is up! Just use the Top Web Comics banner or button to vote for Pebble Version and check it out. And remember that survey I keep bringing up? Well, it's going pretty well but if I could get a few more responses before I close it off, that's be awesome. If you play games and haven't taken it yet, please take five minutes to do so and pass it on to your game playing friends as well.

I like July. Well, parts of it anyway. Can't say I was all that fond of the heat while in Phoenix, but I like summer in general (even though I'll probably be spending most of this particular July stuck indoors working on my book). But hey, there's always the 4th. Probably won't have anyone to hang out with other than my family but it should still be fun. And fireworks are always awesome.

Ink's Equipment Menu Structure
< Insert equipment menu mock-up image here. >

The equipment menu will allow players to view and modify equipment on characters. Each character can equip one weapon, one piece of armor, and two accessories. While armor and accessories can be removed entirely, characters must always have a weapon equipped and can therefor can only replace their weapon with another weapon and cannot dequip it.
When a piece of equipment is highlighted, the character's stats will show any changes that would be made by equipping that piece. Stat decreases will be shown in red and increases in green.

Designer's Comments:
Once again, nothing too unusual about this. If you play RPGs you've doubtless encountered tons of similar equip menus. At the moment, I'm planning to allow one piece of armor and two accessories per character, though there's a slight chance I'll change that later on. Finally, the reason characters must always have a weapon equipped is so the art team won't need to make two complete sets of battle animations (armed and unarmed) for each character. You may have noticed that a lot of other RPGs these days do the same thing.

Well, see you Monday. Happy Fourth of July weekend to all my US readers!


6/30/2010 More on menus

Nothing too exciting going on right now. The book is progressing pretty well, though getting permission to use screenshots from some of the games I want is proving to be rather difficult. If I've got any readers out there who know some PR or legal staff members at game companies, please send me an e-mail.

Ink's Item Menu Structure
< Insert item menu mock-up image here. >

The item menu will allow players to automatically sort items by type or alphabetical order and also contain a manual sorting option. The menu my have entirely separate sections for different types of items (currently undecided). The player can also use healing items directly from the menu.

Designer's Comments:
Yeah, nothing special here. Just your standard item section in the menu. The one thing I haven't decided yet is whether or not to have separate sections for different times of items. The reason? I haven't finalized the different item types that are going to be in the game yet so I'm not sure if there will be enough to for the extra sections to really be worthwhile.


6/28/2010 All about the menus

If you've been following the Saber Knight Saga mini-series, the next to last strip is up right now if you use the Top Web Comics banner or button to vote for Pebble Version.

Ink's Basic Menu Structure
< Insert main menu mock-up image here. >

The main menu contains the following options.

Items: View, sort, and use items.
Equipment: Equip and unequip weapons, armor, and accessories.
???: Increase party members' stats (name undecided).
Techs and Spells: View the techs and spells each character has learned. For Josiah, it shows the battle and exploration phrases he's learned.
Status: View party member stats.
Party Formation: Swap characters in and out of your active party.
Josiah's Novel: Read Josiah's unfinished novel (updated as the game progresses).
Talina's Log: View Talina's notes on scanned monsters and other information.
Options: Change various game settings.

Designer's Comments:
Nothing too special here. Most of the sections are pretty basic stuff for RPGs. Other than that... Talina's log was mentioned in her character profile. You can use it to view information on monsters she's scanned and possibly some other things as well (still working out the details). Josiah's Novel lets you read the book Josiah was writing before he got pulled into its world. Throughout the course of the game, the book updates itself based on the events that have taken place. It serves mostly as a very comprehensive plot summary but contains some hints and tips as well. The ??? section is for character development. It's where you go to "level up" your party, though Ink doesn't exactly have levels. It'll be kinda similar to Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid or XIII's Crystarium, though still fairly different. I'll be explaining it in-depth in a future update. As for the reason it's currently called ???... No big mystery, I'm just having trouble coming up with a good name for it.


6/25/2010 Avoiding clichés

The new voter bonus comic is up. It's the penultimate episode of Saber Knight Saga so check it out and see how Saber manages to defeat the evil twin. I've also got nearly enough responses for that survey. Just a few more and I'll be all set.

I spent most of yesterday working on my book. One of the sections I was writing was about common video game clichés. One of which was cliché characters (the mysterious cute girl who holds the key to either saving or destroying the world, the run-away princess, etc). When I finished my writing for the day, I thought back over my own game plans and stories and was pleased to note that I use relatively few cliches in my own work. Not to say that I don't use any (they do have their uses) but most of my stories have few if any blatant cliches.

Unfortunately I don't have time for an Ink update today. I was originally planning one but got distracted trying to catch this one armored vehicle in Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker. Unfortunately capturing it required getting rid of its back-up units...all twenty of them. Needless to say, it took a while. Should have more Ink ready for Monday. In the meantime, when reviewing those video game cliches, I came across a rather amusing list that you might enjoy so have fun with that and I'll see you in a few days.



6/22/2010 A useful power

I could still use another thirty or forty response for that survey I'm running for my upcoming book so if you haven't taken it yet please take fives minutes and give it a go, it'd be a big help.

Talina's Moment of Power
MoP: All Seeing Eye
Duration: 1 Turn
Recharge: ??
Description: Talina's turn ends immediately upon use. Performs a scan on all enemies in battle, revealing their HP, stats, elemental weaknesses and resistances, status weakness and resistances, and a brief description of the enemy which makes note of any notable abilities or characteristics. The scan itself is instantaneous. The data can be displayed and cycled through using the R1 and L1 buttons. The data for previously scanned enemy types is saved and can be pulled up at any time when battling that type of enemy or viewed in the Talina's Log section of the menu.

Designer's Comments:
Because of her backstory, Talina's moment of power had to be something that a noble would find useful in an aide. Because of her role as a party member, it also had to be something useful in battle. Taking both of those factors into account, I decided to give her the All Seeing Eye. Aside from stat scanning, Talina's power gives her an instant read on everyone around her. While she can't read minds, she can sense peoples' emotions, fears, and the like. As far as its use in battle, her moment of power falls under the same category as Ralin's. Very useful from a strategic standpoint but seriously lacking the coolness factor. If you're looking for some fancier moments of power, you'll have to wait for some of the other party members... The advantages of scanning enemies is obvious though, especially since Talina records her findings in a log so that all previously scanned enemy types remain scanned in future battles. It should also be noted that, due to the nature of her moment of power and her special training growing up, it recharges far more quickly than any other party members'.


6/21/2010 Fight, fight, fight!

If you haven't yet, please take the short survey I'm conducting as part of the research for my upcoming book (see Wednesday's new post for more details).

Although I'm trying to put a lot of time into my book so I can get it done early, I like to keep my weekends work free when at all possible. Or at least free of my main type of work. So half the time Sunday ends up as more of a "get misc stuff done" day than a "relax" day. Yesterday was a bit of a mix of the two.

I did get a chance to see the new Karate Kid though. It was a pretty good movie overall and way better than the old one. The scenery was nice too, especially the whole cliff side temple complex. I'd really love to take a trip to China someday. Not because of the movie, I've been thinking that for a while, but the movie did have some really neat areas in it. Anyway, a few of the fighting moves were rather ridiculous (I refuse to believe that any half-decent martial artist would teach someone a jumping leg lock take down, for example) and, remake or not, calling the movie "Karate Kid" really doesn't make much sense since he's in China and learns kung fu, not karate (which is Japanese), but I recommend checking it out whether or not you liked the original Karate Kid.

See you Wednesday, when I hope to have the section on Talina's moment of power finished.


6/18/2010 A new character appears!

There's a new voters' bonus comic up, continuing Saber's epic saga. Also, if you haven't done it yet, please take the short survey I'm running as part of the research for my upcoming book. I'm just over two thirds of the way towards my target number of responses so please take the survey and tell your game playing friends and family about it too.

And now, it's time to introduce another Ink character.

Ink Characters: Talina Fey
Gender: Female
Height: 4'2"
Build: Slight and limber
Age: 14
Hair: Jet black; long and braided
Eyes: Blue
Left Handed
Weapon: Staff
Clothing: A noble girl's riding outfit with loose pants, a shirt, and vest.
Background: The daughter of a minor noble family, Talina manifested a rare and useful moment of power from an early age. Because of this, she was trained rapidly and sold to one of the higher ranking nobles to serve as an aide. Never having had a real childhood, she tends to be very unemotional and usually acts much older than her age. Having never known anything else, she's content with her life, until a chance meeting with Jessie and Ralin's group changes things. Originally intended by Josiah to serve as a younger sibling of sorts to Jessie and Ralin, his presence causes things to work out a bit differently...

Designer's Comments:
Talina is a character I've been thinking about for quite a while but I only finalized her name and backstory recently. The things I always knew was that she was a young girl with an important power who had grown up serving a noble family. As a very unemotional character, she'll make a good foil for the other more hot blooded members of Josiah's group. While her lack of training and weak build make her unsuitable for close combat, she excels in magic, having been trained from a young age as part of her duties as an aide. As with many of the important characters in Ink, Josiah's presence causes her place in the story to shift away from what he originally intended, though in a much different way than Xavier. But I don't want to give too much away here...

See you Monday!


6/16/2010 Survey time!

Work on my book is continuing, though I haven't actually started writing yet as there's a bit of prep work that still needs to be done. For instance, getting permission from various companies to use screenshots form their games (which is what I'm working on right now). Hoping to get most of the prep work done and actually start writing in the next day or two (Monday at the latest). The writing part should be a lot more enjoyable and a whole lot less frustrating than some of the prep stuff has turned out to be.

But anyway, speaking of the book, as part of my research for it, I'm conducting a survey about how stories affect (or don't affect) which games people buy. I still need a decent amount of responses, so please take the survey and pass it on to your game playing friends and family members. The survey is very short (it takes five minutes at most) and is completely anonymous. It does ask for your name and e-mail when you sign up for it, but that information is only used to help prevent people from taking the survey multiple times. It can't be tied to your answers and I don't look at it. Actually, I'm not even sure if I have access to it (might be encrypted). Anyway, if you play video games (which I assume you do if you read Pebble Version) and have a few minutes to spare please help me out and give the survey a go.

I may be pretty busy over the next couple of months. Although I have till mid-October to finish the book, for a variety of reasons I'm going to try and get it done as early as possible (hopefully sometime in August). Pebble Version updates won't be affected, but I may have a bit less time to spend on news posts. I'll try and keep Ink updates fairly frequent (should have one ready for Friday, BTW), though I can't promise anything.

See you Friday!


6/14/2010 A book!

Well, I'm back from Arizona and my schedule is looking pretty calm for now (though with the whole job hunt still going on, there's no telling when that will change). Not that I won't be working though... And that brings me to that big announcement.

While it's not a job per say, I did find some work. Back when I was at GDC in March, I talked with a publisher about an idea I had for a book on storytelling for games. Now, after around three months, a whole lot of back and forth, and a ton of "prep work" (which I don't really want to talk about), my proposal was accepted. There's still some paperwork that needs to be signed but other than that it's all confirmed. It'll be called Interactive Storytelling for Video Games, with an as yet undecided sub-title, and published by Focal Press. Not sure about the publication date but, taking my completion deadline into account, it'll probably ship sometime in the spring. The book will contain a couple of chapters on basic story writing and character development and an overview of the use of stories in video games, but the majority of chapters will build off the work I did in my master's thesis, with a focus on the different interactive story structures used in video games, their strengths and weaknesses, and how to write them. There will also be lots of case studies on existing games and their stories and a section on the debate on just how much control should be given to players, along with the results of my own research on the subject. I created the outline for the book and will be writing about 90% of it. I'll also be doing most of the related supplementary work The remaining 10% or so will be made up of of short extra segments written by Chris Klug (and industry veteran and university professor)

So that's my big project for the next few months. The due date for the completed manuscript is mid October though, if nothing drastically reduces my free time, I'm hoping to have it done much sooner. I'm not sure if I'll end up making a lot of money off of it, but it's a subject I'm very knowledgable and passionate about and should really help get my name out there in the industry. Plus, it's the type of thing I can still do while also holding a full time time (which I'm still searching for). May also help me find a publisher for my novels...

Anyway, that's it for now. I'll keep you updated about the book's progress. In the meantime, Ink updates should return later this week. Later!


6/11/2010 Long drive ahead

Saber Knight's epic saga continues in today's voter bonus comic! Use the Top Web Comics banner or button to check it ou.

Well, I was planning on announcing my mystery project today. However, since today was my last day in Arizona, I ended up staying out a bit late with friends and I've got to get up early tomorrow for the long drive back home to Colorado. While I could announce the project now, I just wouldn't have the time to give it the explanation it deserves so I'm pushing the announcement back till Monday. Sorry about that but don't worry, I'll definately be doing it then. Overall it's been a pretty good week. While I'm not all that confident that anything will come of my univerity's job fair, I really do like Phoenix and it was great to hang out with my friends, browse my favorite stories, and eat at my favorite restaurants again. I'm already thinking that, if I end up with a work from home type job, I might move back down here in the fall so I can audit some classes (UAT alumni get free audits for life) and pick up a few new skills while I work. But that's not something I need to think about for another couple of months...

Anyway, see you Monday when I really will announce the details of my mystery project.


6/9/2010 Some little updates

Well, I'm not so sure that the career fair was worth coming down here for. Only about half the companies on the tentative list that was e-mailed to everyone a month or so ago ended up attending and half of them were only looking for unpaid interns right now. But that's my school.... Awesome professors, classes, and atmosphere, but lousy career services department. At least if you're in game design (they seem to do fairly well with the net sec grads).
But that aside, I'm having a good time. As planned, I've been hanging out with friends (I was out with some kinda late last night, so I need to keep today's update short) and stopping by some of my favorite shops and restaurants. Found some great rare games at Bookman's too...

Other than that, my mystery project has been officially approved! Since it's late right now (and they're still finishing up the contract), I'll wait until Friday to announce the details, but I'll be sure to tell you everything then. In other job news, I'm also starting to investigate a potential game business idea I have. It's the type of thing I could start myself (which would be nice considering how the job market is these days) but I need to look into a few key things before deciding whether or not it'll work. I'll be sure to let you know if anything comes of it...

In still other news, as part of my job search, I've been looking into teaching English in Japan again. While doing so, I noticed that some of the links in my "So You Want to Teach English in Japan..." guide were a bit out of date so I've gone through and updated them.

See you Friday!


6/7/2010 Sleep please

Yawn... Well, I made it to Phoenix (the drive really wasn't that bad) but I'm dead tired (combination of the drive, the time change, and a couple other things) and I've got that career fair today so I really need to get some sleep.

See you Wednesday!


6/4/2010 Change the world

There's a new voters' bonus comic!

For me, the job search continues. Since getting a game design job in this economy is pretty difficult for someone just out of school (though I haven't entirely given up yet), I'm applying to some games testing and Japan teaching jobs as well. Not entirely sure what I want to happen. I do, of course, want to be a game designer and writer. Testing might be the fastest way to get there if I can't start right off in design or writing, but the pay sucks and, despite what you may think, it's really not all fun and games (rather monotonous really). A part of me really wants to go back to Japan (though another part thinks a vacation may be better than living there) and improving my Japanese more would be nice, but getting from there into game design isn't a very direct route (doable, I think, but more complicated). I've also applied for some jobs teaching game design at different universities, which could be fun as well... There's also Car Washer (which is steadily moving closer towards completion), which could eventually lead to a company of my own if it gets done and sell decently, and I've been toying with this other idea for starting my own business (though I don't know if I really want to risk most of my savings on it), either one of which would be pretty cool if it worked. And finally there's my mystery project, which I should (finally) get a definite yes or no on next week. If it goes through, it'll get me some money (though probably nowhere near enough to substitute for a full time job) and should really help get my name out. But anyway, on with Ink.

Ink: Area Changing Phrases
These phrases are used to open up different areas in the game. Some are part of the story, others are optional. All of these phrases require special ink to use.

Note: When used in the wrong area, these phrases have no effect and do not consume Ink. Josiah says, "What am I thinking? That won't work..."
Note: The exact phrase Josiah writes will very depending on the specific area being opened up (the phrase wording is included in the list of areas that can be opened).

Title: Bridge
Effect: Creations bridges over rivers, chasms, etc.
Ink Cost:

Title: Unlock
Effect: Unlocks doors, gates, etc.
Ink Cost:

Title: Clear
Effect: Removes rocks, debris, etc.
Ink Cost:

Title: Reveal
Effect: Reveals hidden paths, objects, etc.
Ink Cost:

Designer's Comments
Josiah will need to use some of these phrases over the course of the story in order to help the party progress. In those cases, where and when to use them will be obvious. However, there will be lots of optional areas which can be revealed with these phrases as well. I'm still deciding how obvious (or hidden) to make these areas. At the moment, I'm thinking that there shouldn't be anything special pointing them out and that the players will need to look carefully and search them out. Though, if the testers had a lot of trouble finding them, I might change my mind there.
Instead of having a stock phrase for Josiah to write each time, I think it makes a lot more sense to have him write different things for each location these phrases are used. After all, if I was writing about a bridge over a small river, the same words wouldn't really work to describe a bridge over a large canyon.
As mentioned in a previous comment, in order to prevent the need for grinding and limit which secret areas the player can access at any given time, these phrases use a special type of Ink which can only be gotten in certain story battles. To keep it from being an obvious gimmick, I do have a story explanation for the "special ink", but that'll be discussed in a different part of the design doc.

That should do it for now. I'll be in Phoenix next week. My university is having a career fair and, while there's no guarantee I'll find a job there (it's a small career fair), worst case I waste a couple days driving. Besides, the career fair will only take me a day or so and I'm staying most of the week so I'll have time to hang out with friends and visit my favorite stores and restaurants. PV updates shouldn't be effected but just in case an update is late or something, you'll know why.


6/2/2010 Running around

Yawn... Had a late night (the second in a row, actually) following a very busy day (the third in a row, though it was busy for different reasons than the previous two). It actually wasn't a bad day, but really busy. And, since it ended with a late night...you guessed it. There wasn't really any time left for the Ink update. Sigh... Believe it or not, I really do want to get it done. Hopefully I'll have better luck (or just a less crazy schedule) come Friday.


5/31/2010 Happy Memorial Day!

As the title says, happy Memorial Day, to all my US readers anyway.

Unfortunately, a bunch of stuff related to that mystery project of mine came up and, after finally getting through it all, I had to spend my time catching up on PV strips instead of writing the Ink update. Sigh... Seems that every time I think I'm done doing stuff for that project something big and supposedly urgent always comes up. And it's still not even "official yet". Actually, if/when it is official, I can probably just focus on the project itself without having to worry about all these unexpected things related to it that have kept popping up lately. Forum members already know what I'm talking about, but I'd rather not announce said project here on the main site until it's officially confirmed (or officially canceled, though things are looking pretty good at the moment). In the meantime, I really should have that Ink update ready for Wednesday, barring another surprise deluge of work.

In other news, I got Super Mario Galaxy 2 and, though I haven't had time to play it for very long (all that aforementioned work and everything), I think I can safely say that it's a game no fan of Mario or platforming games should be without.



5/28/2010 How'd that happen?

There's a new voters' bonus comic (Part 3 of the Saber Knight Saga mini-series). As always, old bonus comics can be found in the Archives. It appears that, despite it updating in the archives and having the correct title on the main page, Wednesday's strip (1015) never actually displayed here on the main page (Monday's comic stayed up in its place). Now sure how I didn't notice that till now... Anyway, if you missed it, just click on Previous Comic and take a look.

In other news, there's a new comic on the Link Exchange. It's Simple Pixel, another Pokémon R/S comic, so check it out if you'd like to see a very different take on Brendan and May's adventures. Be warned, it's somewhere around a PG-13 rating for language.

I'm working on the next Ink update but it's taking a bit longer than planned. Not that the update itself is that much more complicated than usual, there's just been a bunch of stuff going on (some of which I mentioned in previous posts, some of which I haven't). Barring something big and unexpected happening, I should definately have it done in time for Monday's update.


5/26/2010 It keeps going and going...

Today's news post is a short one. The reason? Well, about half an hour before I usually start working on updates, I started fighting a boss in Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness (which I've been playing on and off for ages and am currently making a serious effort to finally finish). And now, two hours later, I'm still fighting that boss. And I don't mean that I keep dieing and retrying either. It's still the same fight. What's worse, while I'm winning, said boss still has around 2/5 of its HP left... So yeah, no time left to write anything. If I'd realized it was going to take this long I would have waited until I had a day (or two) free... So I'll see you all on Friday. Hopefully I'll have finished this fight by then...


5/24/2010 Goodbye to Lost

I just got through watching the final episode of Lost (don't worry if you haven't seen it yet, I won't get into any spoilers). While I haven't been watching Lost from the beginning (picked up the first DVD set on a whim shortly after Season 3 aired on TV), I've been following it for a long time and, while it's too bad it's over, I was certainly looking forward to seeing how it all ended. As for the ending itself... I'm still deciding how I feel about it. I was really liking it for a while but then there was one last big twist at the end which changed a lot of things. While I wouldn't say that the twist was bad, a part of me thinks that I would have liked the ending a lot better without it. But I'm still thinking about it, so I might change my mind later. Anyway, the finale was very long (two and half hours, and that was after the two hour series retrospective) so I don't have time to write a big Ink update today. I hope those of you who watched the finale enjoyed it. I'll see you all Wednesday (probably with more Ink).


5/21/2010 Character death

As usual, there's a new voters' bonus comic up for everyone who clicks the Top Web Comics banner or button. This week's is the next part of Saber Knight's special mini-series.

There's this fantasy series I've been reading lately (which I won't name right now to avoid spoilers). It's a pretty good series and I've been enjoying it... At least until yesterday in book 7 when the author suddenly and very randomly killed off two of the main characters. Now I'm not upset because some characters I liked died (well, that's not the main reason anyway). I'm an author and a story buff, I perfectly understand that characters need to die sometimes for a variety of reasons. What annoys me is how their death was handled. It was quick and unexpected (not necessarily a bad thing) and, as far as I can tell, totally pointless. They didn't die for any good reason, their death didn't help anything, and it felt like it was just tossed in there. They weren't even killed by some major villain but by a few random bad guys. In the end, there didn't seem to be much point or reason to their death or, for that matter, how they fought and survived up to that point.
While I can't say whether this is the case with the series I'm reading or if the author has something big planned in relation to their deaths (I've still got two books left), I've noticed the misguided belief among some people that a story just isn't "good" unless someone important dies. Thing is, it just doesn't work that way. Killing off an important character doesn't automatically make a story more mature, emotional, realistic, or anything else. And, if you kill off a character just for the sake of killing off a character (because you think it'll make the story more of one of those things I mentioned), it's probably going to hurt the story more than anything else. Like I said, I'm an author.  I know that sometimes character need to die and that, at times, their death is abrupt and they don't always need to go out in a tearful farewell or a blaze of glory. But even in those cases, their death needs to serve some sort of grand purpose for the story (even if the readers can't immediately tell what it is). Character death should never just be a check box in a list of story elements. If you try and write a story by going something like "romantic sub-plot, check; betrayal by a friend, check; kill an important character, check;" it's not going to turn out well. A story shouldn't be built around the plot elements, the plot elements should be chosen to best serve the story.

But enough ranting. Time to update and finish that Ink post from Monday. Now with some added info and designer's comments!

Ink: Battle Advantage Phrases
Note: The Stealth, Strength, and Protection phrases last for thirty seconds or until the player starts a battle or moves to a different area. Multiple phrases can be active at the same time. Once active, a glowing aura surrounds the party to show that the phrase is in effect. The health and power phrases have an aura as well, but it fades a moment after the phrase is used.

Title: Strength
Effect: The party starts the next battle with all offensive buffs already cast.
Phrase: "Determined to press on, the group found themselves filled with a sudden strength."
Aura: Red
Ink Cost:

Title: Protection
Effect: The party starts the next battle with all defensive buffs already cast.
Phrase: "Steeling themselves, the party prepared for battle."
Aura: Blue
Ink Cost:

Title: Stealth
Effect: Enemies can't see the party. If the player initiates a non-story battle, he'll get an automatic sneak attack.
Phrase: "They moved as silently as possible, determined not to be seen."
Aura: Translucent
Ink Cost:

Title: Power
Effect: Recharges one party member's moment of power.
Phrase: "Power flowed through <character name> infusing every part of <his/her> body."
Aura: Orange
Ink Cost:

Title: Health
Effect: Refills the party's HP.
Phrase: "Stopping for a moment to rest, they felt their strength returning."
Aura: Green
Ink Cost:

Designer's Comments:
If you've played Final Fantasy XIII, you've probably noticed the similarity to their aerosols. And yeah, that's where I got the idea. As I'd said before, good game design is a mixture of originality and knowing what elements to adapt from other games.
Anyway, the phrases themselves are pretty self explanatory. The title is what the player selects from the menu, the effect is what the phrase does (pretty straight forward), and the phrase is what Josiah actually writes (since text in Ink is done novel style), and the aura is the visible indication that a phrase has been used and/or is active. All that should be simple enough for anyone familiar with RPGs (or video games in general).
The ink cost is, naturally, how much ink is required for each phrase. You'll notice that, for the moment, I've left the ink cost blank. The reason being that ink is used for a variety of things in the game (these phrases, phrases in battle, character development, etc), so balancing the costs for all its different uses with the amount of ink gained from various enemies is going to be a very very important part of the game design. Because of that, I want to complete the design for a lot more of the ink related game elements before I start getting into the numbers. If I just start making up values as I go, chances are I'll just have to go back and change them all later. Of course, there's a good chance that, even if I wait and put a lot of thought into the numbers, I'll still have to go back and do a lot of tweaking after seeing how they work out during testing. But, as a rule of thumb, it's much quicker and easier to change things on paper during the design phase than in the code later on. So it's always better to put a lot of thought into things at the beginning, rather than just make them up and hope they work out later.
A couple other things I've been thinking about in relation to this section. First off, I've been thinking of giving Josiah multiple written phrases for each one, just for variety (players will likely get tired of reading the same phrases over and over). That kinda falls into the category of nice little touches to add if there's time to spare during development. I was also thinking about having weaker and stronger versions of each phrase, with Josiah "upgrading" them over time. I still might do it that way, but for now I'm thinking that I'll just make things more complex without all that much benefit. Finally, I've been toying with the idea of having the party's HP automatically restored after each battle, since I'm trying to make battles in ink strategically challenging instead of things boiling down to whether or not you bought enough healing items to make it through the current dungeon. I haven't decided yet but, if I go in that direction, the Health phrase will be unnecessary so it'll be removed.

See you Monday!


5/17/2010 Prepare for battle!

I'm going to be busy on Wednesday since it's a holiday (Shavuot) so there's be no new comic that day. Updates will resume on Friday. Also, if you haven't seen Friday's voters' bonus comic yet, you may want to take a look. It's the first part of a special mini-series featuring forum member Saber Knight.

Now for some more Ink! Due to time issues, I'm going to be splitting this across two updates. The main part of the section is below, but I'll be saving the designer's comments for Friday.

Ink: Battle Advantage Phrases
Note: The Stealth, Strength, and Protection phrases last for thirty seconds or until the player starts a battle or moves to a different area. Multiple phrases can be active at the same time. Once active, a glowing aura surrounds the party to show that the phrase is in effect.

Title: Strength
Effect: The party starts the next battle with all offensive buffs already cast.
Phrase: "Determined to press on, the group found themselves filled with a sudden strength."
Aura: Red
Ink Cost:

Title: Protection
Effect: The party starts the next battle with all defensive buffs already cast.
Phrase: "Steeling themselves, the party prepared for battle."
Aura: Blue
Ink Cost:

Title: Stealth
Effect: Enemies can't see the party. If the player initiates a non-story battle, he'll get an automatic sneak attack.
Phrase: "They moved as silently as possible, determined not to be seen."
Aura: Translucent
Ink Cost:

Title: Power
Effect: Recharges one party member's moment of power.
Phrase: "Power flowed through <character name> infusing every part of <his/her> body."
Ink Cost:

Title: Health
Effect: Refills the party's HP.
Phrase: "Stopping for a moment to rest, they felt their strength returning."
Ink Cost:

And that's all for now. I'll be finishing this one up on Friday so see you then!


5/14/2010 Time to write

There's a new voters' bonus comic! But we're not returning to Blooper Reel strips quite yet. Instead, it's time for another special mini-series. This one stars Saber Knight, winner of this year's King of the Forums Contest, and follows her as she embarks on an epic saga.

So what's the writing about? Well, I've been working on a new novel lately. It's the first in quite a while, mainly because I just didn't have a lot of free time over the last year and a half or so. I'm also going to be doing a whole lot of writing of a different kind next week for that mystery project I mentioned a little while back (which I'll tell you about in couple of weeks or so, assuming it passes the final approval process). But the writing I'm talking about right now is in relation to today's Ink update. Before you ask, Ink has nothing to do with my mystery project, unfortunately. But hey, if I've got any rich fans out there that want to front me a few million dollars to get a team together and make Ink, please feel free to contact me anytime :-P

Ink: Writing for Exploration Overview
When outside of battle, the player can push a button to open the writing menu. The writing menu contains a list of phrases Josiah can write to affect the world around him. He learns new phrases at specific points throughout the story. The phrases are divided into two types, ones that give a one-time advantages in the next battle (automatically gaining a first strike, getting a temporary power boost at the start of battle, etc) and ones that open up new areas (creating bridges, removing rubble, etc). While battle advantage type phrases can be used at any time, area effect can only be used in specific places (trying to use one in the wrong area will have no effect and use no ink).
Battle advantage phrases use regular ink (the same ink that's used in battle and character development, which is gotten from defeated monsters). Area effect phrases, however, use a special type of ink which can only be gained from certain story events and boss fights.

Designer's Comments:
Since Josiah's writing has the ability to affect the world of Ink (sometimes subtly, sometimes drastically), it would be a shame to limit its use solely to battles. The writing menu adds two additional ways for Josiah to put his skills to use.
The first is to give the party certain advantages in the next battle. While these effects aren't overpowered, they can provide a significant advantage if used properly (much like the aerosols in Final Fantasy XIII). However, as the phrases use ink, the player needs to think carefully and decide if their effects are worth the cost or if that ink would be better off saved for character development or use in battle. This should add on yet another layer of strategy to ink use and make for an interesting change as opposed to just using consumable items for this type of thing.
When it comes to phrases that open new areas, however, a different type of ink is used. I do have a story based explanation for this (which I'll get into in the story section), but there's also some gameplay reasons. First and foremost, I don't want players to ever get stuck having to farm ink in order to open up an important new area. Limiting the amount of special ink available at any point in the game (since it can only be gained from certain specific events and battles and therefor can't be farmed) also allows the designers to exercise a better control of just how soon the player will be able to reach certain special areas. That, and the fact that all the phrases aren't available from the start, will give players and incentive to revisit previously explored areas later on to open up secret areas they originally couldn't access.
At the moment, I'm undecided as to how obvious to make areas where area changing phrases can be used whether or not the game should point out exactly which phrase is necessary. On the one hand, if it's all obvious players won't ever get frustrated trying to find the right areas and the right phrases to use on them. On the other hand, I like the idea of having a lot of little hidden areas that players really need to search for and think about how to access. If given the option, I'd probably start out without anything in particular to call attention to those areas (aside for ones necessary for story progression, of course), see how much success play testers had in finding them, and then make them more obvious if necessary.

And that's it for today. See you Monday!


5/12/2010 An action packed spring

I recently finished playing God of War III. It's the third big action game I've played this year,after Bayonetta and Heavenly Sword. And, though I liked Bayonetta more, GoWIII is still a good game. If you played any of the previous GoW games, however, you pretty know exactly what to expect from III. The graphics are excellent, the music is good (though not really memorable), and there's lots and lots of battles, some of which are big epic boss battles. And the boss battles are really, really big and epic, as you'll discover about ten minutes into the game. There really isn't much to complain about in GoW III, other than a somewhat ambiguous ending, but in some ways it just feels too much like all the previous GoW games. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense. The games take place (storywise) in a relatively short span of time and Kratos doesn't undergo any big changes so it makes sense that he'd fight in pretty much the same way against pretty much the same enemies in similar areas. III has a few nice tweaks (some nifty items like a bow and "flashlight" that use an item gauge that automatically refill instead of draining your magic) and extra weapons that are actually fun and worth using (though in the case of two of them, it's mostly because they're so similar to his normal blades). Plus Kratos has a couple of new tricks (riding certain monsters and using other enemies as battering rams), but he's mostly using the same weapon as before (albeit with a different name, as usual) along with the same combos and a bunch of similar quick time events to battle the same monsters (harpies, cyclops, medusa, etc) in the same places (wartorn Greek city, check; Greek palace, check; Hades (yet again), check). Like I said, it makes perfect sense from a story perspective and the formula clearly works well (I and quite a lot of other people have enjoyed all the GoW games) but after playing Bayonetta with its fast combat, seemingly endless amount of combo attacks, crazy characters, and insane amounts of style, I still find myself wishing that GoWIII had advanced things a bit further. There is a rather cool bit where Kratos has to work together with another character to do some puzzle solving of sorts but it's unfortunately a rather small section. Plus, as ridiculous and over the top as Bayonetta's story and characters were, I found myself a lot more invested them than in Kratos and his quest. Despite the excellent voice acting and dark violent take on Greek mythology, when it comes down to it, Kratos isn't a very deep or likable character (tragic backstory aside, he mostly just runs around brutally murdering anyone that wronged him or happens to be in his way, consequences be damned) and the plot isn't particularly deep.
Like I said early on though, God of War III is a very good game and I had fun with it. It's a mostly fitting conclusion to the series (barring some loose threads which'll hopefully be at least mostly resolved in the recently announced prequel) and full of the epic battles, brutal violence, heavy action that fans expect. But if I had to pick the best action game I've played this year (or maybe even ever), Bayonetta would be the one with the crown, not Kratos.


5/10/2010 Catching up

If you haven't seen the conclusion of Marley's mini-series yet, all you need to do it vote!

Not a lot going on at the moment and I'm slightly behind on Pebble Version strips so I don't have time to write much tonight. Guess I'll just leave things there for now.



5/7/2010 Gotta save

There's a new voters' bonus comic up. It's the last part of Marley's bonus series, so vote and check it out.

Saving in Ink:
Ink will use a standard save point system. Save points will be placed throughout the game, when standing on one the player will be able to save the game. There were be no limit on the number of save slots (other than the free disk space on the console). Save points will take the form of chair, desk, fallen log, or other objects (based on the location) where Josiah can sit and write. All save points will be bathed in a golden orange light to make them easily recognizable. When using a save point Josiah will get a "flash of inspiration" and stop for a moment to write.

Designer's Comments:
Nothing too special about saving. Save points are a pretty normal things in games, especially RPGs. While I could use a save anywhere system, I've never been overly fond of those. Aside from the reduced challenge that come from being able to save before every little thing, I've also noticed that save anywhere systems can actually cause people to lose more progress when they get game over. See, with save points, the player sees a save point and thinks that he should stop and save either since it's been a while or because the presence of a save point often indicates that a tough fight is coming up. When you can save anytime though, it's easy to forget about it entirely (especially if you're doing well) and then, if you run into some bad luck or a tough fight and get killed, losing quite a lot of progress. Not sure how many people are that way versus the number who save almost constantly, but it still can be a problem.
As for the save points themselves, having some sorta magical crystal, computer, or whatever scattered everywhere (even in the deepest dungeons and on other worlds in some games) is a bit odd from a logic and story perspective. Which is why I wanted to use a more natural approach for Ink. In addition, it fits the story nicely to have Josiah "save" by writing. Of course, it's very important that save points are easily recognizable, which can be difficult if they all look different. However, I think that having them all glow with the same color (especially if said glow is bright enough) should solve that problem.

Well, I should get going. I'm making French bread today and it takes a lot of time to do properly. See you Monday!


5/5/2010 Lousy cable...

If you're curious, the cable I'm refering to isn't cable internet or cable TV, it's just a plain old USB cable. Which, despite working well enough to charge a USB device, for some reason prevented said device from being detected by my computer. In the end, there was a lot of frustration and wasted time as I tried to get my USB ports working before finally deciding to try a different cable, which instantly fixed the problem. As a result, it's late, I'm tired, and I don't have time to write much of anything here.

See you Friday!


5/3/2010 Shopping

And we're back to Brendan and May. I really don't have anything in particular to talk about today so, on with the Ink update.

Shopping in Ink:
When shopping, a standard RPG style shopping menu system is used. When an item is highlight, the item's description and the player's current stock of that item is displayed. If the highlighted item is a piece of equipment, the effect it will have when equipped to various party members will also be displayed. Players can purchase multiple copies of items at once, provided they have enough money. When the player buys a piece of equipment, they'll be given the option to automatically equip it. If they choose to do so, they'll be given the option to automatically sell the old piece of equipment.

Designer's Comments:
Yeah, nothing too special here. The standard RPG store interface hasn't changed all that much over the years. Sure there's been some other versions (for example, walking around the store, picking up what you want, and taking it to the counter), but nothing has really managed to match the convenience and simplicity of the simple menu system, especially a menu that shows stat changes from equipment. The ability to automatically equip a purchased piece of equipment and sell the old piece isn't all that common, but I've seen it in a couple RPGs before and have found it to be very convenient. Though, for the people who just hate to sell anything, I may stick an option to turn the whole thing off in the menu.
You may also notice that I don't really describe what the menu looks like. Depending on the team size, the design for GUI items like menus and stat displays might be done by a designer, concept artist, or a dedicated user interface artist. Either way, there's no need to put a detailed write-up of the appearance here in the design doc. Instead, a mock up image (or possibly a set of images) should be placed either here or in the art bible.

And that's all for today. Nothing too exciting, but game design isn't all cool features and fancy gameplay elements, the basics are important too. Besides, the section on writing outside of battle is coming up pretty soon and that should be an interesting one.



4/30/2010 Platinum!

There's a new voter's bonus comic, continuing the short story of Marley's efforts to win the King of the Forums Contest, and some new fan art on ROM.

No Ink post today. I had to reinstall a computer program that got screwed up by an update and that kinda ate up the time I was going to write the next Ink update. Nothing too amazing going on with me at the moment. Just waiting to for the games companies I interviewed to decide if they want to hire me or not while working on Car Washer and that mystery project I mentioned before (which isn't confirmed yet, but just cleared one big hurdle so I'm fairly hopeful).
I did get my platinum trophy in Final Fantasy XIII today though, which I've been working on for quite a while. If you're not familar with the PS3's trophy system, that basically means I did pretty much everything there is to do in the game (beat the game, finished all the optional stuff, killed all the strongest monsters, etc). It really went pretty quickly once I finally got enough Gil to upgrade all my weapons and accessories. As I've previous said, overall I really enjoyed FFXIII. Enough that, on a scale of 1 - 10, I'd give it a 10. Sure the graphics are amazing and the music is excellent, but what really sets XIII apart is the story, particularly the character development, and the surprisingly fun and strategic battle system, all of which are some of my favorites for the entire series. My only real complaint is the lack of side quests (there's really only one, though it is a pretty big one) and mini-games (there's one short one you play once, that's it), and they've got a good story reason for that, so I can't fault them too much. In the end, I don't think XIII quite managed to surpass X as my favorite FF game, but it came pretty close. XIII has better graphics (obviously, since it's PS3 vs. PS2) and story (thanks to the character development), while X has lots of great sub-quests and mini-games. I can't really choose between the battle systems as they're both excellent (X has what I consider the perfect form of the classic RPG system and XIII has its unique fast, fun, and dynamic system), though X gets the nod as far as character and item improvement go (thanks to the versatile sphere grid and fully customizable weapons and armor). I'll also say that I like X's soundtrack better, though XIII's is quite awesome as well. In the end, XIII was pretty much what I hoped and expected it to be. It's an amazing game and I'm really looking forward to seeing how it influences future RPGs, especially FFXV (XIV is going to be a MMO, so it doesn't count).

But anyway, you're probably tired of hearing me talking about FFXIII by now. See you Monday when the scene will be shifting back to Brendan and May. Have a great weekend!


4/28/2010 Ready...fight!

Poor kid. It wasn't a bad idea, except for the fact that people really don't want to kill grass most of the time and environmentalists have come down pretty hard in the past and chemicals that kill anything more than they're supposed to. Of course, for most people that's a good thing. Well, moving on...

Exploration in Ink: Interacting With Enemies
With the exception of enemies that are hiding in an ambush of some sort, enemy groups are on screen and can be seen by the player during regular exploration. All enemies in the group can be seen. Depending on the specific enemy group, they may stay in one place, randomly roam around a certain area, or patrol a fixed route. Enemies have a vision range. If they see or hear the player party, they may (depending on the enemy type and specific group) chase the party, try to avoid the party, or ignore the party entirely. Battles start once the lead party member (usually Josiah) comes into contact with an enemy. If this happens before the enemy spots the party, the player party gets the first strike in battle (a sneak attack). Similarly, if the enemy touches the party leader outside of his vision range, the enemy group gets the first strike.

Designer's Comments:
This was already covered briefly in the battle section but I figured it would be best to add a bit more depth to it in the exploration section. Overall, this is similar to the way a lot of newer RPGs handle things. Many RPGs still use random battles (where enemies are invisible until encountered) or only show one enemy instead of the entire group on screen before the battle starts. But newer games systems have no trouble showing large amounts of characters on the screen at once so there's no need for the old shortcuts (though it should be noted that level designers have to take care to give all the enemies room to walk around). In addition, showing everyone on screen gives the player a better idea of what to expect from any given battle. Since I'm going for more strategic and challenging battles in Ink than most RPGs, the bit of extra information can really help players decide which battles to fight and which to try and avoid.
If you've been paying close attention to Ink, you may have noticed that I removed an old idea where the player could actually attack during exploration to score extra damage on the enemies the moment the battle starts. The reason for its removal is that I decided that there was no need for both a first attack and a sneak attack, since they serve a similar function. In the end, I decided that the sneak attack worked better for Ink (in terms of controls, battle system, and general context) so it stayed and attacking in the field was dropped. As this demonstrates, game design tends to be an iterative process. Just because something sounds good at first, doesn't mean it'll sound good later when more of the game has been planned out. And at times seemingly good ideas will fall flat once you actually try them in game and end up being removed or replaced by something better. Games always change during development, generally for the better. So designer's can't be afraid to rethink and even throw out old ideas. On that note though, a good designer also needs to know when to stop changing things. If the design is always in flux, it's difficult to finish the game and the end result is usually a buggy mess due to the constant revisions. So designers need to both embrace change and know when to call it quits.


4/26/2010 Back to the basics

Looks like Xain and Cali are way off course again. But, knowing them, they're bound to somehow catch up to Brendan and May before too long. There's still a few more characters to check in on before we return to Brendan and May next week. Now for some more on Ink.

Exploration in Ink: Interacting with Objects and NPCs
When close to signs, chests, and various other objects the X button can be used to interact with them (read signs, open chests, open doors, examine things more closely, etc). When the player nears an object that can be interacted with, a sound effect will play and a notice will display in the bottom left corner of the screen indicating the action that can be preformed.
When near a NPCs, the player can greet them with the X button. Depending on the NPC, they may respond briefly, start a conversation or event, open a shopping interface, ignore the player entirely, or the like. Some NPCs will automatically greet the player when he draws near. In this case, the X button is used to respond to the greeting.

Designer's Comments:
This is another one of those things that could almost be taken for granted, but really should be included in the design doc anyway. Interacting with objects is pretty straight forward. Well, regular interactions anyway (the other type will be explained in a later section). The only thing of note is that there's an on-screen confirmation when the player nears and object that can be interacted with. While that type of thing was never heard of in older RPGs, it's become fairly common these days. On the one hand, it removes the ability to hide something cool in plain sight. On the other hand, it keeps players from having to run around examining every single box, pot, crate, and the like in hope of finding a hidden item.
Interacting with NPCs is pretty straight forward and standard too. The most notable difference is that some characters will attempt to start conversations with the player instead of waiting to be spoken too and others will ignore the player no matter what. The reasoning? A combination of combining some trends from newer RPGs (like Final Fantasy XIII, where all NPCs start speaking automatically when you get close) and a nod towards realism. If you walk around a town in real life, most people won't talk to you unless you start a conversation but others will great you and try to start a conversation and some will do their best to ignore you even if you try to talk to them. Also, being able to actually here what your characters say to start conversations with others (instead of just hearing the response to your presumed greeting) will add another touch of realism that many games lack.


4/23/2010 Stuck waiting

There's a new voters' bonus comic. This one is the start of a special three comic mini-series about forum member Marley's (aka Blastotoise) past attempts to win the King of the Forums Contest (he got second this year, BTW). And, while there's no new ROM comic today, there's a news post by Shauni explaining the delay.

While I don't have a problem waiting for things, I seem to be stuck waiting on quite a lot of things lately. My job search, for example, is on hold while I wait to hear back from the companies I've interviewed with. If they don't hire me, I have some backup jobs to apply for that I'm pretty certain I can get. But I don't want to apply for them until I've heard back from the other places, since it'd suck to sign a contract for one of my backup plan jobs only to find out that I got accepted for one of my top choice jobs. In games, I'm similarly spinning my wheels a bit. In FFXIII I've spent all week farming for gil so I can evolve my various gear while in Disgaea (which I've been playing on and off for ages on my PSP), I'm stuck power leveling so I can do the optional dungeons. It's not exactly boring, I suppose, but not overly fun or exciting either (a bit frustrating at times, actually). Well, can't say how long I'll have to wait on the job stuff (hopefully no more than a week or two, since I really can't wait forever in that regard) but I should be done with gil farming in FFXIII soon, and I may just give up on Disgaea power leveling so I can move onto Pokémon Heart Gold.

Anyway, I need to get going. I'll be spending a lot of the day cooking for a big Moroccan themed meal tonight. Should be fun, and a nice change of pace. Look for a bunch of Ink updates next week.


4/21/2010 Ink returns yet again

Looks like the Black Suit Guys are actually pretty close to catching up to Brendan and May. Fortunately for our heroes, they're going to have a rather difficult time leaving the old woman's house. And now, I promised to get back to Ink updates so let's get to it. Today I'll be kicking off a new section that covers Ink's exploration (as in, how you get around outside of battles), explore, shop, get into fights, and the like.

Ink: Exploration Basics
In Ink, the player will directly control Josiah, while the other characters in the party following him on screen. Instead of having the party follow directly behind him, they'll wonder around the general area hanging back, exploring, scouting ahead, and the like. While doing so, they'll frequently comment on what they see and engage in short conversations with Josiah and each other.
The camera will follow Josiah from behind and slightly overhead but can be manually adjusted by the player.

Designer's Comments
As it says in the section title, this is the very basics. I'll get into more details such as conversations with NPCs, finding treasures, the mini-map, the writing menu mentioned in the controls, and more in the sub-sequent sections.
I already talked about the camera positioning in the section on Ink's graphical style. Suffice it to say, it's the standard system used by most current RPGs and it works very well so I see no real reason to change it. If you want to read a bit more about my thoughts on the camera, you can do so in the aforementioned section.
As for the way the party members act and converse while exploring, it's pretty much the same as Final Fantasy XIII. While the idea of having the part members following after the lead character during exploration has been around for a while (though isn't always done due to various technical issues), having them run around and explore a little on their own (instead of following directly behind the leader) and talk amongst themselves (without starting a cut-scene or having the player having to manually trigger the conversation) is something I saw for the first time in FFXIII. I thought that it both added to the realism and helped further develop the characters' personalities and hope more RPGs adopt a similar style in the future, which is why I'm doing so in Ink. Good game design isn't just about creating good original ideas, after all. It's also about picking out some of the best elements from other games and working them into your own. Of course, sometimes this leads to what was a neat element getting horribly overdone (like bullet time and cell-shaded graphics) or overly blatant rip-offs, but for simple system improvements like this, it's stupid to use an inferior method if you know there's something better out there.


4/19/2010 1000 comics and counting

Well, I did say that the guy in the dark office would probably have his lights fixed. I didn't say that you'd be able to actually see him. To be honest, I did actually consider revealing his identity in this comic, but decided that the story hadn't progressed quite far enough yet. Sorry! It shouldn't be too much longer though... Anyway, the next batch of strips will be checking in on quite a lot of different characters, some of which we haven't seen for quite some time.

So, one thousand comics. Actually, although this is the thousandth regular PV strip, if you count all the Blooper Reel and other bonus comics, there's over 1300. But anyway, it's still a rather impressive milestone that took over six years to reach. I have to admit that I kinda thought that, by the time I hit one thousand strips, that the plot would be a bit further along. But the pace should be picking up a lot soon as Team Aqua and Magma's next big operation kicks into gear... I hope everyone has enjoyed the last thousand strips (or most of them, anyway). There's going to be a lot of fun stuff coming up so please stick around for the next thousand strips as well (or however many are left in the story).



4/16/2010 A little out of it

There's new voters' bonus comic up! No ROM this week either, but Shauni is hoping to get it going again sometime during the coming week. In other site news, this in the final Pokéwalkers strip. I know wailord are never shown anywhere near this big in the games but, according to their pokédex entry, they're actually over forty feet tall so today's strip shows wailord at more or less its correct size. Just think about that next time you send one out in the middle of a building. On the plus side, even though there aren't many open spaces large enough to really use a wailord, it could probably win nearly any battle just by rolling over and squashing the other pokémon...

Anyway, the 1000th regular PV strip will be on Monday. Over the next week or two, we'll be checking in on all the important characters who haven't appeared in the story for a while. However, Monday's comic will kick things off with the ever mysterious guy in the dark room. I don't want to give too much away, but he's been working very hard to fix all those lighting problems in his office...

Unfortunately, there's no Ink update today. I'd originally planned to do one but it's not happening. Due to a variety of reasons, I spent Thursday morning in a pretty lousy mood. Fortunately, things improved significantly in the afternoon but my family was having guests over for dinner so I was kept pretty busy cooking and talking for the rest of the day. At this point, though I'm feeling ok mentally, the combination of the lousy morning and busy afternoon, evening, and night, along with the fact that I didn't get much sleep last night (one of the reasons for my lousy mood) has left me pretty worn out and I really need to get some sleep. Monday's news post will likely be a retrospective of sorts on the past 999 PV strips with Ink returning on Wednesday.

Have a good weekend!


4/14/2010 Getting things ready

Technically, there's an Ink update today. Nothing you can really read though. Instead, I created several new pages in preparation for the upcoming updates I have planned. Not too exciting, but it needed to be done before I could get to the next updates.

See you Friday with the last Pokéwalkers strip!


4/12/2010 Lucky number thirteen

Remember to vote if you want to see Friday's bonus comic. Once again, I hope you're enjoying the special Pokéwalkers bonus series (inspired by Heart Gold and Soul Silver). The Pokéwalkers will be wrapping up this Friday with the thousandath PV strip coming up a week from today.

I was going to talk about Ink today but I, since I've been working quite a lot lately, I decided to take Sunday off to relax, read, and play video games. It was a nice rest and, even better, I beat Final Fantasy XIII! The ending was great, but I'm nowhere near done with the game yet. There's a lot of optional stuff left to do, especially since I want to get the platinum trophy for it. I usually don't specially try to plat a game, but I always do pretty much everything there is to do in FF games and XIII won't be an exception. But anyway, long story short, the reason I'm not talking about Ink today is because I'm going to review Final Fantasy XIII.

A long time in the making, Final Fantasy XIII, the latest entry in the famous RPG series, had a lot of big expectations. So did it live up to them? Well, that depends who you ask. Like every Final Fantasy game, XIII changes things up, experimenting with new game play styles and progressing the RPG genre. Are the changes good? Once again, it depends who you ask, but there's no denying that change is as important a part of the FF series as chocobos, Bahamut, and Cid.
The first thing you'll notice about FFXIII undoubtably the graphics. I've played a lot good looking games lately, but XIII surpasses them all. The amount of detail in the graphics and aminations is astounding, backed up by some very unique and creative environments. From crystalized oceans, to mechanical forests, to futuristic cities and primevial planes, there's also something interesting to see. I frequently found myself stopping just to pan the camera around and admire the scenerary. And that's not even mentioning the people and monsters, all of which look fantastic as well.
Next up is the sound. As always, the sound effects are top notch and completely appropriate. Square Enix also continues its tradition of excellent voice acting. All the voices fit the characters perfectly and, in a series first, every single line of dialogue in the entire game is voiced. As for the music, despite the lack of longtime series coposer Nobuo Uematsu (who did the music for the first ten FF games), the new soundtrack is really really good. It's a bit lacking in familiar themes (no Prelude or Final Fantasy Theme unfortunately and the Chocobo theme is very very heavily remixed), but even so there really isn't much to complain about. There's a lot of excellent tracks and the main battle theme is one of my favorite in any RPG ever.
But no one had any doubts that the graphic and music would be amazing. That's kind of a given as far as FF games are concerned. It's the story and gameplay that everyone wants to know about. Once again, it's open to opinion, but I'd say they're easily some the best in the series.
Without giving too much away, the story starts out in Cocoon, a enormous moon like place floating above the world of Pulse. The people of Cocoon live properous lives but are always afraid of an invasion by the people of Pulse. Both Cocoon and Pulse contain humans and Fal'cie, strange beings with incredible powers who (in Cocoon anyway) help provide the energy, water, and the like needed to keep the world functioning smoothly. Fal'cie also have the ability to take human servants. Called L'cie, these humans are given strong magical powers but, in return, are forced to complete a specific goal given to them by the Fal'cie. In Cocoon, Pulse l'Cie are feared above all else. Early on in XIII, several ordinary people from Cocoon (including a soldier, pilot, and scared kid) have an unfortunate run in with a Pulse Fal'cie and end up becoming L'cie. Hated and feared by everyone in their world, and tasked with a vague focus that may very well involve destroying the world they call home, they end up on the run from special forces, trying to survive and figure out what to do. The pacing is fast and furious and you'll rarely if ever find yourself running around wondering when the heck the story is going to advance. While the story itself has a few surprising twists, it's your party members that really take center stage. XIII's heross aren't heroes. Most of them aren't even fighters. They're mostly ordinary people pulled into a desperate series of events that they don't understand, which little idea of what to do next other than simply survive. They all have interesting backstories which are revealed throughout the course of the game and the way they react to events, grow, mature, and change throughout the course of their adventure is one of the best parts of the game. And, without spoiling too much, I want to note that the main villian, while he lacks the "charisma" of classic FF foes like Kefka and Sephiroth, is every bit as twisted and diabolical as they are.
Now for the game play. Exploring the world works much as it does in past games. The level design is similar to that in FFX, with tight mostly linear levels. Aside from a certain very big complex area you reach late in the game, there mostly only one way to go in most areas (other than some short detours leading to some chests). While this limits exploration, it keeps you from getting lost or going somewhere where all the monsters are way too strong for you (as in XII) and keeps the pacing fast and fun. Your characters can jump this time around (though there's no button, it's all automatic) so the days of getting stuck because you can't climb over a six inch tall obstacle are mostly gone. Like in VIII and XII, you see all the members of your active party on screen. Unlike previous games though, they don't just blindly follow the leader. They hang back, run ahead to scout, and explore while frequently commenting on the location of their situation, which is pretty cool. It's also worth noting that, as your characters spend most of the game as fugitives feared and hated by just about everyone, they don't really have the luxury of walking around towns and cities and browsing through the shops. You do visit some towns and cities, but you usually spend most of the time on the run from enemies so shopping is handled over the internet via save points.
As in XII, all enemies can be seen walking around before you get into battle, allowing you to prepare yourself, use one of several consumable items to power up before the battle, or even try to avoid them entirely. Unlike XII, enemies are in specific groups and there is a little screen whipe (like in FFI-X) when battles start. The battles themselves use a new system that emphasises speed, quick reactions, and general strategy over mico-management. First off, you only directly control your party leader, the others are controlled by a surprisingly smart AI. And, even thought you can manaully control everything your party leader does, chances are that, after a couple hours, you'll find yourself frequently letting the auto-battle AI choose your character's actions each turn while you focus more on choosing targets and switching paradigms. Paradigms are the heart and soul of the battle system. In a nutshell, there are six very distinct job classes in XIII. Commando is for pure offense, Ravanger for elemental attacks and building combo chains, Medic for healing, Synergist for buffing (protect, shell, haste, etc), Sabatour for hexing (poison, slow, etc), and Sential for pure defense. While all party members eventually gain access to all the jobs, for much of the game they're limited to three each (and even late game, they're better at those three than the others). Even more importantly, they can only use skills for the job they're currently using. A Medic can't attack and a Commando can't heal, no matter how many cure spells that character has learned. That's where paradigms come in. Outside of battle, you can set up six different combinations of job classes for your party, which you then switch between on the fly during battle. To give an example of an average battle... You may start out with a commando, ravanger, and synergist to start softening the enemies up while buffing your characters. Then, once your buffs are in place, you'll want to switching a combination of three ravangers to quickly build up combos and stagger an enemy (staggering enemies reduces their defense and often stuns them as well) then go to two commandos and a ravanger to deal heavy damage while they're staggered. And, at some point during all of this, you'll probably need to switch to a paradigm with a Medic or two and heal up. Battles are fast, deadly, and often require a good bit of strategy and fast paradigm switching in order to survive. In fact, the battles are some of the hardest in any Final Fantasy game every. I think I died more just playing through the main story in XIII than in the FF V - XII combined. Fortunately, when you lose you're generally left with an idea of what you did wrong and how you can do better next time and there's a very generous retry system which allows you to restart just before a battle you lost. While some people bemoan the lack of micro-management, there's no denying that XIII's battles are still strategic and a whole lot of fun.
Finally, character development. Characters get stronger using the Crystarium, which is essentually a simplified version of FFX's Sphere Grid. Each character has their own Crystariums (one for each job class) and they can spend CP (which are won in battle) to move along it, activating crystals which grant stat boosts and new abilities. It's a perfectly good system, but is very straight forward (with few branching paths) and offers little to no customization beyond choosing which jobs to focus on, making it a bit on the simplistic side. Weapons and accessories (the only equippable gear) can also be strangthed by upgrading them with a variety of items and eventually evolving them into new more powerful forms. Once again, it's a pretty good system but highly simplified compared to similar systems in previous games. But the variety of gear is pretty broad, so you've got a lot of choices in that regard.
The main story clocks in somewhere around 40-50 hours, depending on how many enemies you do or don't avoid. There's also a massive monster hunting sub-quest similar to (but much less frustrating) than the one in FFXII, which you can't really even complete until after you beat the game and unlock the highest level in the Crystarium. It can easily up your total game time to something in the 80 - 100 range. Unfortunately, there's no big mini-game for your characters to take part in but, considering the story, it wouldn't really make sense for them to do so anyway.
All in all, FFXIII is very different from past games in the series, but so is just about every main series FF title. As always, some people won't like the changes but, if you give XIII a chance, you'll discover it to be a beautiful game with an excellent battle system and one of the best character driven stories ever to be seen in a video game. Whether you're a long time fan or new to the series (or even RPGs in general) Final Fantasy XIII is an amazing game that shouldn't be missed.


4/9/2010 Still keeping busy

There's a new voters' bonus comic. No ROM comic this week either. Shauni is busy with life stuff and having computer problems on top of it.

The past week has been interesting. Not overly exciting, but interesting. First off there was the last couple days of Passover. Other than that, I've spent part of this week and quite a lot of last week working on a certain project that I probably shouldn't talk about quite yet (I'll say more if/when it becomes official). I've also been running errands and spending a lot of time working on Car Washer. So when will the full version of Car Washer be finished? Hard to say. It'll probably depend quite a lot on when and where I get a job (that mystery project may affect it as well, one way or the other), but I'll be sure to let you know when it's close. I'm also getting close to the end of Final Fantasy XIII (though there's a whole bunch of optional stuff to do after you beat the final boss, so I'll still be playing it for a while), so I'll probably be talking more about it next week, after I find the time to finish the last dungeon.

About the only other thing I've done this week is watch a ton of stuff on Home Star Runner. See, when working on certain things (like the sprites for Car Washer) I like to have some music or a TV show on to keep me from getting bored. Thing is, I'm working downstairs where my parents' old TV is (since my dad uses the new one a lot) and it doesn't have cable. I'm also all caught up on DVDs so I was using my PS3 to watch the afore mentioned unlicensed anime on the TV. But quite a lot of the stuff I was planning to watch is in mkv format which, aside from being a rather buggy format (or maybe just a format with lots of buggy codecs), doesn't play on PS3s. So I figured, what the heck, I can use the web browser on it to finally get caught up on Home Star Runner cartoons. It's been amusing, though I'm nearly done and looking forward to getting back to the anime.

And that's about it. I've got some more job stuff to do this coming week, along with my CW sprites and possibly more work on that mystery project. Hopefully I'll have more time to play FFXIII though. Oh, and I want to say that I'm very happy the Flower soundtrack was finally released. Sure it's only on the PSN, but it's DRM free MP3s which can then be transferred to a PC and/or MP3 player, so I can't complain. Being a bit of a game soundtrack collector, I've been wanting a Flower soundtrack ever since I first got the game around a year back. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, I should get going. I'll see you Monday with one final week of Pokéwalker comics before it's finally time for strip 1000.


4/7/2010 All about those trophies

Sorry about the lack of an update Monday. I was planning to tell you on Friday but totally spaced it out, hence the last minute announcement. Hope you're enjoying The Pokéwalkers. There's several strips left in this little mini-series before we get back to the main storyline with the thousandth strip. And now for more Ink.

Ink's Trophies / Achievements:

Title: <name of trophy>
Image: <trophy image>
Type: <trophy type>
Requirements: <how to unlock>
Secret: <Is the trophy info hidden prior to achieving it?>
Additional Unlocks: <anything else unlocked by the trophy>

Designer's Comment:
Another place holder section? Don't worry, I'll be moving on to other parts of Ink soon enough. But in the meantime, a bit about trophies (or achievements, depending on if you're on a PS3 or 360). I actually do have ideas for some of Ink's trophies, put I figure that it's best to wait until more of the design doc is done before writing out the whole list so make sure there's a good balance of different types of trophies.
As you can see, I did put in a template for the trophy list. Naturally there's sections for the name, the little image that goes with it, the type (bronze, silver, gold, or platinum on the PS3) (which would be replaced with the point value on the 360), and unlocking requirements. The secret line is for weather or not the name and requirements for the trophy are shown when you check the game's trophy list prior to unlocking said trophy. And the additional unlocks part is to note if getting the trophy unlocks anything else in the game (for example, in some games certain trophies unlocks items in an extras menu).
The thing that requires the most thought is, of course, what to give the players trophies for. You should start by setting aside somewhere between a third and half the trophies in the game for completing various story related events (unless the game is something without much of a story mode, like a sports, puzzle, or fighting game, for example). They should be spread out fairly evenly throughout the game and tied into either chapter or level completion (if the game has chapters or levels) or key events (a boss fight, escaping a crashing helicopter, etc). And, while many developers forget about this, a good added touch is to make sure the trophy confirmation message doesn't pop up right when the player is trying to watching or listen to something important. For example, it's better to have the "Congrats you beat the game!" trophy message pop up during the ending credits than in the middle of the actual ending itself so you don't distract the player.
The rest of the trophies are the optional ones. You know, the ones that are given out for completing optional stuff. For these you want some that aren't too hard to get and some that require a good bit of work. What you probably want to avoid is have some trophy that requires spending tens (or more) hours doing some sort of boring busy work. Most people, even the dedicated ones, aren't going to do that type of thing chances are you'll seriously annoy the handful who do. For a RPG like Ink, some potential optional trophy conditions include: completing a big optional quest, defeating a super powerful optional boss, learning every combo attack and spell in the game, maxing out a character's stats, and finding every treasure chest in the game. As for which of those Ink will actually have, you'll have just to wait a while for the full trophy list.


4/2/2010 Happy April!

One of these years I'm going to get around to doing another April Fools joke...but obviously not this year. There is a new bonus comic though, so click the Top Web Comics banner or button, confirm your vote, and help get PV off to a good start on the list this month.

I'm going to have to keep things short today. Because of Passover, a few things I've been working on (job search stuff and Car Washer), and Final Fantasy XIII (which I really haven't been able to spend half as much time with as I'd like), I'm a bit behind on PV strips right now. I should be able to catch back up over the weekend, but in the meantime I'm in a bit of a crunch for time. Despite being done with school, it seems like I've still been really busy this year. I keep thinking that "next week" I'll be caught up with everything and can take it easy for a while but it's always "next week" never "this week". So how's "next week" looking now? Well, I should probably start applying to some of my backup jobs (I'm waiting to hear back from some of the people I had phone interviews with, but I figure I should start applying to other stuff just in case) but that should be a lot less time consuming than my initial job search. And I really need to spend a lot of time working on Car Washer, which I've gotten behind on due to job stuff. The week after though? Well, that might not be too bad...


3/31/2010 Back, again...

If you missed Monday's news post, I'm running a special mini-series before the thousandth Pebble Version strip. It takes place much later in the Pebble Version time line and follows Brendan and May as they experiment with the art of pokémon walking (like in Heart Gold and Soul Silver).

I'm once again back in Colorado. How long will I stay this time? Hard to say, but probably until I find a job (or have to go to in person job interviews), so there's no telling. I hope it's not too long though. I mean, I really do like it here, but I do hope I find a job soon. Though I suppose if I end up with a work from home type job (which some of the ones I've applied for are) I might stay here for a while. Either here or Arizona anyway. Though that's only if I end up with a work at home job. No telling how likely, or unlikely, that is at this point (with the way the economy is, I have to take what I can get). Anyway though, I guess it's time for an Ink update.

Ink's DLC
Details to be added at a later time.

Designer's Comments:
This is a place holder section for two reasons. The first is that DLC really shouldn't be decided on until the game is further along and you've got a better idea of exactly what will and won't make it into the game itself. The second is that I'm not sure if Ink will actually have DLC or not. But since it might, and DLC is a big part of many games these days, I figured that I should include the section here just in case, and also so I have the chance to talk to you guys a bit about DLC.
There's a couple advantages to having DLC for your game. The first is, of course, a way to make a bit of extra money, especially after the game's initial sales rush has died down (most games reach a considerable percentage of their lifetime sales total within the first month or so after release). DLC can also increase replay value and renew interest in your game after everyone has already beaten it. That aside, it also lets you add things to the game that you didn't have the time to include in the original retail release. Or, alternately, it allows you to make some extra money on things that should have been included in the retail release (if you're being greedy).
So what're good things to release as DLC? A pack of extra weapons, abilities, and the like can be kinda cool though they need to do a good job of differentiating themselves from what's already in the game or buyers may feel cheated. On that note though, if they seem like things that really should have been included in the game in the first place, some people are going to be annoyed that they had to pay extra for them (which applies to all DLC). Alternate character costumes can be fun, though unless they grant some special abilities you really shouldn't charge very much for them or a lot of people won't be interested. Extra levels and quests make for great DLC, especially if there's something about them that makes them stand out a bit from what's already included in the game. They're also great for adding a little bit more backstory or character development. Though you should generally avoid leaving any key plot threads to be resolved in DLC as everyone who paid for the full game deserves to see the story through to its conclusion (or cliff-hanger ending, in some cases). Finally, things like system themes and avatar icons, if reasonably priced, are a great way for fans to show how much they like your game. Though, if you're feeling generous, it's nice to toss some of that stuff on the disc itself (perhaps as unlockable bonus content like in Final Fantasy XIII). Naturally, no matter what kind of DLC a game has, proper pricing is extremely important. While you can try and put a value on DLC based on how much it adds to the game or the amount of time and effort it took to create, at this point it's probably easier to look at the average pricing for similar DLC for other games and base your prices off of that.


3/29/2010 The Pokéwalkers

Expecting strip #1000 today? Well, you're in for a (hopefully pleasant) surprise. Remember I mentioned that I had a little bonus planned? See, I was playing Pokémon Heart Gold, in which the lead pokémon in your party always follows you around as you walk (since you're investigating how that effects the pokémon's development). It's kinda neat in the game, but it got me thinking about some problems that could arise from walking around with your pokémon all the time. And from those thoughts arose this little mini-series. Please note that, while The Pokéwalkers can be considered a canon part of Pebble Version, it takes place significantly later in the time line than #1000 does, so Brendan and May will have some pokémon that they haven't caught yet in the main comic. The real strip #1000 is already all planned out and will be showing up in a week or two once The Pokéwalkers is finished.

Unfortunately, no Ink update today either. I just got back from the big Paul McCartney concert with my dad and brother (which was one of the reasons for this little Arizona trip I'm on). The concert was really good, but it ended kinda late and I'm probably going to be heading out fairly early this morning to return to Colorado so I need to get some sleep. I'll post the next Ink update (and maybe talk about the concert some more) on Wednesday.



3/26/2010 Technical difficulties

There's a new bonus comic.

Sorry for the late update. I was hanging out with some friends again yesterday evening and night, but that's not the reason for the delay (just the reason for the short news post). Turns out, when I got back to my brother's apartment, the whole building's internet was down, which made it kind of hard to upload the comic. There's a chance that Monday's update may be a little early or late too, though due to entirely different circumstances.

Have a good weekend and look forward to the special bonus I having coming up next week!


3/24/2010 Hanging out

I spent a while yesterday helping my dad shop for a new counch and then was out with friends until rather late so I don't have time to write a big post right. Almost to 1000 though... And then that's that bonus surprise thing I mentioned, whihc you'll be learning more about on Friday.

See you then!


3/22/2010 Gotta have control

Since I'm in Phoenix at the moment, I decided to head to the Renaissance Festival yesterday. It was awesome, as always, but I already gave it a pretty good write-up last year so I'm just going to move right along to today's Ink update.

Ink's Control Scheme:
Note: This control scheme is designed with the PS3 controller in mind. Any buttons not listed are not used in that mode.

Left Analog Stick: Move character (press lightly to walk, stronger to run)
Right Analog Stick: Rotate camera
R3 Button: Center camera behind character
Start Button: Pause game
Select Button: Open full-screen map
X Button: Talk to NPC, examine object, confirm decision
Circle Button: Cancel
Triangle Button: Open menu
Square Button: Open writing menu

Left Analog Stick: Move cursor
Start Button: Pause game
X Button: Select
Circle Button: Cancel, close menu
Triangle Button: Close menu
L1 and RI Buttons: Change tabs / characters, turn pages

Left Analog Stick: Move cursor,
Right Analog Stick: Choose attack type, choose magic element
Start Button: Pause game
X Button: Select, confirm attack / magic set
Circle Button: Cancel, clear attack / magic set
Triangle Button: Switch out active party member, switch out KO'd party member using active member
Square Button: Make the current character wait and take his/her after the next person (ally or enemy) in the queue.

Designer's Comments:
There isn't too much to say here. Designing a control scheme is about two things. The first is making all necessary functions available to the player when needed, which basically boils down to finding them all a button (or button combo, as the case may be). The second is about arranging those button assignments so they're logical and easy for the player to reach and use. For example, putting the movement controls on the shoulder buttons or the d-pad would be clunky and an all around pain in the neck compared to using the analog stick. That's obvious enough. As for some of the other button assignments, it's important to take into account genre norms as well. For example, in most RPGs X is the confirm button and circle is cancel. Sure I could switch them around, but that would just lead to a lot of RPG fans accidently getting the buttons mixed up for the first few hours of play (I should know, that's happened to me plenty of times) and wouldn't really offer any benefits. On that note though, in Japan circle is often confirm and X cancel, so it's important to make the controls easy to change (adding the option for players to customize the button assignments never hurts either). I should also note that while this control scheme was created for the PS3 controller, it would be very easy to switch it to the 360 controller if needed since they have a similar layout and number of buttons (the Wii, however, would require a bit of rethinking).
I should also note that a good designer will study how well testers adapt to the control scheme and make adjustments if they seem to be having a lot of trouble with certain button assignments.


3/19/2010 Getting close...

There's a new voters' bonus comic and a new ROM.

In other Pebble Version news, we're getting pretty close to the 1000th strip. So what do I have planned? Well, I don't want to say too much yet, but we'll definately be checking in on some other characters who haven't show up for a while. There might (or might not) even be a big reveal of some sort. And that's not all I have planned. I came up with a pretty amusing idea today that I'm thinking will make a good 1000th strip bonus of sorts. I'm still planning out the details but it should be ready to go in a week or week and a half. All I'm going to say now is that it was inspired by Heart Gold and Soul Silver...


3/17/2010 A bit on the basics

Time to explain a couple of my more basic decisions regarding Ink.

Ink's Platform and Genre:
Genre: RPG
Platform: Playstation 3

Designer's Comments:
Ink's genre and platform were already mentioned in the pitch doc, but it's good to list them early on in the main design document as well. Now, I want to talk about about why I chose this particular genre and platform for Ink.
First off, the genre. Yes, RPGs are my favorite game genre, but that's not the main reason that Ink is a RPG. There are many different reasons to choose a specific genre for a game. Perhaps your development team has more experience creating games of a particular genre, or maybe it was chosen to please a publisher or in an attempt to cash in on the latest fad. On the other hand, sometimes a certain genre is just the best way to express a game's concept and story. From what I've told you so far about Ink's story, I'm sure you can all agree that it simply wouldn't make sense as a sports or music game. It's obvious that the concept and story of Ink simply aren't compatible with those and several other genres. To give further examples, an FPS wouldn't be appropriate because there aren't many projectile weapons (other than bows) in the world where Ink takes place, and survival horror wouldn't work because Ink's story isn't meant to be particularly scarey. An action game could potentially work, but would probably allow the combat focused party members (like Jessie) to completely overshadow Josiah's roll in the game. And, seeing as Jessie and the others aren't really supposed to be bad-ass super fighters, would probably misrepresent them as well. The genres that are the best fits for Ink (storywise) are RPG and adventure game. Of the two, RPGs are more popular these days and also allow the characters' fighting skills (which are an important part of Ink's story) to be better represented. And that's why Ink is an RPG.
Now for the platform. Once again, choice of platform can be influenced by several factors including: which platformers your team have experience developing for, which platforms you have a license to develope for (while anyone can make PC games, console games require a license and development kit, which are often fairly costly), which platform the publisher prefers, and the like. It's also important to consider which platform will work best with the chosen genre and game style. For example, the Xbox 360 really isn't known as a good platform for RPGs. Yes, I know there's some good ones on it, but when most console gamers think RPGs, Playstation is the platform that comes to mind. Of course, this could also mean that 360 owners are somewhat of an untapped market and might like to have more RPGs, so you can't just decide the platform on a whim. Another plus for the 360 is that it (at the moment) has the higher install base in the US. On the other hand though, it has a fairly low install base in Japan so if I decide that Ink has the potential to sell well in Japan, that could be a problem. When it comes down to it, Ink could work on the PS3 or 360. It might even be best to make it as a multi-platform game. But even then it's usually best to pick a "main" platform to work on and worry about porting it others later on. On that note, I chose the Playstation 3 over the 360 for a combination of Sony's reputation for RPGs and my own personal preference between the two systems. As for why the DS, PSP, and Wii aren't in the running... The DS can't handle the level of graphics and amount of voice acting I'd like to have in Ink and I don't think the touch screen would add much to the experience. The PSP could probably make a decent go of it, but things would have to be scaled back a bit more than I'd like (in particular, the amount of voice acting would have to be significantly reduced) and I don't think Ink would benefit all that much from the portability. As for the Wii, once again it can't quite handle the level of graphics and amount of voice acting I'd like to have in Ink and I don't see the Wiimote really adding much to Ink's gameplay. To top that off, more serious games targeted at older audiences have (unfortunately) a rather spotty track record on the Wii in terms of sales.


3/15/2010 From here to there and back again...but not for long

Well, my California trip is finished, but come Wednesday I'll be heading off to visit my brother in Arizona for a week and a half. Pebble Version updates shouldn't be affected though. I'll be doing more Ink updates later this week, but first a quick rundown of my recent trip.

As previously mentioned, I went to San Francisco last week for the Game Developers' Conference. It's a big yearly conference for people in the game industry (no, duh). Unlike E3, GDC isn't the place to show off new games (though there's usually a few that work their way in somewhere). Instead, it has a relatively small expo focused on hardware and software used in game development and distribution, a career pavilion for job hunters, and a lot of lectures and round tables by famous industry figures. This year, the decided to try something different and run the main part of the conference on Thursday through Saturday, instead of the usual Wednesday through Friday. From what I heard, the change didn't seem too popular. I sure didn't like it. For religious reasons, I can't do work related stuff on Saturday and I try not to fly on that day either so I ended up with only two days at the conference even though I had to stay in San Francisco until Sunday. But anyway, on to what I actually did on the trip...
I got into San Francisco on Wednesday so I'd be able to get to the conference first thing Thursday morning. Since I was getting in a day early, I figured I might as well try and get in early in the day as well so I'd have time to do a bit of exploring. I ended up at my hotel around noon and, luckily enough, my room was ready early so I was able to drop off all my stuff. The hotel was an interesting one. I chose it because it was within walking distance from the convention center (a bit over a mile, but not too bad), cheap, and had fairly good reviews. The whole place was done up in an old Victorian style. My room was a little small, but the decor was kinda neat. Certainly different from any other hotel I've ever stayed at.
Since I had time to kill, I decided to check our the nearby Japan town. Though fairly small (several blocks) it was a pretty nice place with a large mall filled with Japanese shops and restaurants. Not quite the same as being in Japan, but probably the closest I've come since returning to the US. There was even a US branch of Japan's Kinokunya Bookstore, which was pretty awesome (even there was a bit of an import mark-up on their stuff). Later that evening, I met up with some friends of mine from UAT (my college) and we headed down to the bay to get some food.
I spent all of Thursday and Friday at GDC. It was pretty much the same as past GDCs. Kinda interesting, though not overly exciting unless you really love looking at various software utilities and the like. There were a few interesting pieces of hardware on display. One company even had a giant hamster ball thing that rotated when people walked, for use with VR goggles (kinda amusing, but I can't imagine it catching on). I did get to check out Sony's new 3D TV and the Playstation Move (their motion controller). The TV was cool, though you still need to wear special glasses and, though cool, I'm not sure if it really adds enough to the gaming experience to justify buying an entirely new TV. The Move, on the other hand, worked really well. It's far more accurate than the Wiimote and the games they had on display (a Wii Sports type mini-game collection and a rather cool virtual pet game) worked really well. For those of you who have spent a lot of time with the Wii though, you have to get used to making complete motions with your arm instead of just flicks. The fighting game in the sports collection, which had you using one Move as your weapon and a second as your shield, was really cool. Assuming it gets good software support, the Move seems to have a lot of potential.
I spent most of the conference talking to people at the various job booths and checking out the latest hardware and software stuff. Highlights (aside from checking out Sony's new stuff) included the annual Independent Game Festival and Game Developers' Choice Awards (once again, with hilarious videos by Mega64) and Sony's Buzz! Quiz World tournaments (I got a close second in the first and then won another close match the second day, winning a free copy of the game). As for the job search, there were some people who seemed pretty interested in my resume, but it's too early to tell if anything will come from it.
Saturday morning was taken up by synagogue services. On the way back though, I passed the capital building where they were having a big St. Patrick's Day celebration. Since I had some time to kill, I decided to stay and watch the parade for a while. There were plenty of cars, bands, marching people, dancers, and more. And more, and more... I watched for over half an hour and still didn't see the end. At that point, I'd been on my feet pretty much since arriving in San Francisco and wanted a break so I hung out in my hotel room during the afternoon then went back to Japan town to eat (there's some great restaurants there).
Sunday (nearly all of Sunday, unfortunately) was spent traveling back to CO. And that's that. I enjoyed the trip, for the most part. San Francisco has a lot of nice areas, and Japan town was cool, but there were plenty of dodgy looking streets downtown as well and I got tired of all the homeless people hanging out along the streets. When it comes to big cities, I really prefer either the more spread out ones (like Phoenix) or the cleaner safer ones (like Tokyo). At least on a long term basis.

Anyway, I've got another trip to get ready for so I'd better go. See you Wednesday!


3/12/2010 Busy in CA

Good news, bad news time. The good news is that I have free internet in my hotel so I had no trouble uploading today's update. Bad news is that I was out pretty late yesterday so I don't have time to write much of anything here. I'll talk a bit about my trip and get back to Ink next week when I have more tme.



3/10/2010 Final Fantasy XIII!!!

As I mentioned in my last update, I'm off to the Game Developers Conference today. Depending on how the internet at my hotel turns out, and how busy I am at the conference, Friday's update may be late (or skipped entirely if it turns out that I don't have internet).

After years and years of waiting, Final Fantasy XIII is finally out! For those of you who don't know, the Final Fantasy series if my favorite game series of all time. It was Final Fantasy VII that both convinced me to get a Playstation and got me into RPGs (which eventually led me to Pokémon). Since then, I've eagerly awaited each new Final Fantasy game (a few spin-offs and the MMO aside). FFX is my current favorite game and many other FF games are pretty high up on the list. I've got nearly every Final Fantasy game, soundtrack for most of them, a bunch of figurines (most of which were bought while I was in Japan), and several wall scrolls as well. So, of course, I've been eagerly looking forward to FFXIII ever since the first trailer debuted. I was particularly happy to hear that XIII had a lot of the team from X working on it, since X was my favorite and all. While there were a lot of things I really liked about XII, I had a few fairly serious issues with it as well and, in the end, it wasn't one of my favorite entries in the series.
Anyway, back to XIII. Gamestop had a midnight launch so I hung out at the store for a couple hours (while playing (and joking about) Dante's Inferno with a couple of other people there) then picked up my copy. I thought about playing it as soon as I got home but I figured that I'd rather wait till I was completely awake and alert instead. Since I'm leaving today and won't be back until Sunday evening (really lousy timing) I wanted to get in as much playtime as I could so I ended up playing nearly straight for about nine hours yesterday. Which was in itself unusual since (outside of car and plane trips) I rarely play games for more than two or three hours at a time (often I just don't have the time, but sometimes I just want to go do something else instead). I'll give FFXIII a full review once I finish it, but for now here's my thoughts so far.
Final Fantasy XIII is, without question, the best looking game I've ever played. The characters, world, and animations are all spectacularly done and filled with nice little touches and details. The music is excellent too. It's too bad Uematsu didn't compose the score for XIII but I've really liked the music I've heard so far and the normal battle theme is one of my favorites ever. I like the characters and the story is interesting so far, though I really can't say much about it until I get a lot further in the game. The level structure is more like that of X and XII (more linear and tightly done than sprawling and open), which has its pros and cons (better design and appearance but less freedom). I'm a bit disappointed with the lack of towns to explore but, considering the level of detail they put into the graphics in every scene, I can believe the devs' claims that modeling big sprawling towns like those in past games would have taken way to much time. And hey, it makes sense from a story perspective that the characters aren't wondering around towns anyway. The battle system is something like the one from X-2 (really fast with the ability to change jobs mid battle) with a bit of XII (AI controlled party members, though this time you don't have to set their strategies, they're pretty smart) and Chrono Cross (creating chains of actions). Though the first few hours are more or less a big tutorial, once you get access to most of the features, there's actually a lot of strategy involved. It's fast and fun and even many of the ordinary enemies offer a decent challenge. I already died several times, which is usually rare for me outside of optional super battles, fortunately there's a ton of save points plus if you die you always have the option to restart from right before the battle and try again. While I'll have to see how the battle system fairs in later more complex fights before I can give a final opinion on it, I like it quite a lot so far. The character development is good too (a mix between X's sphere grid and the job system) if a bit simpler than that in past games.
To summarize, while I can't give my final opinion of XIII until I've played all the way through it, it's been pretty awesome so far. In many ways it's a departure from previous entries in the series but, when it comes down to it, the FF series has always been about trying new things and redefining the RPG genre. Will XIII supplant X and my favorite game? I have no idea. But I can't wait to play more and find out. Even if you're not normally a fan of RPGs, I highly recommend giving Final Fantasy XIII a try.


3/8/2010 Back to Ink

Now that my guide on writing mistakes is finished, it's time to return to Ink. More or less anyway. On Wednesday I'm heading to the Game Developers' Conference in San Francisco and I'll be gone until Sunday night. Wednesday's update shouldn't be affected by the trip, but since Final Fantasy XIII is coming out Tuesday and that's the only day I'll have to play it before going off to GDC... Well, PV will update. I'm just not sure if I'll actually be taking the time to type up a big Ink post or anything. I'll probably be able to update Friday (my hotel is supposed to have free internet) no guarantees. Finally, next Monday's update should go as planned, as long as my return flight doesn't get delayed. Now for Ink...

Ink's Voice Acting
Ink will include full voice acting tor all key scenes.

Designer's Comments:
It's a filler section! This section could eventually contain things like: a list of characters that will need voice actors, a list of each of those voice actors, and a list of all the voice audio files and where they go (though that would probably be spun off into an appendix or a document of its own). This space could also be used to include a few notes on what type of voice would be most appropriate for each character, to aid in casting.
Casting voice actors for a video game is pretty much the same as casting them for an animated movie or TV show (though games often have a bit less of a budget to spend on voice actors). If you've not familiar with it, you usually have a bunch of different people come in an read lines for one character or another with a group of people (probably including the lead designer, lead sound guy, and maybe the producer listen to them all and choose the best one for each roll). These days, it's common for big games to have voice overs created in several different languages (usually English, Japanese, and an assortment of the more popular European languages). Sometimes the main design team handles the voices for other languages, though most just focus on the voice overs for their home country and leave the others to whoever is localizing and publishing the game in other territories.
My ideal for Ink would be to have voice acting for every line of dialogue in the game. Of course, RPGs like Ink tend to have enormous scripts so full voice acting is often very expensive and time consuming to create. Even many of the big RPG companies, such as Square Enix, limit voice acting to cut-scenes and/or important characters only. Chances are, Ink will follow a similar route. Cut-scenes and at least most of the dialogue spoken by the main characters will be voiced, while the rest will not.


3/5/2010 Getting busy

There's a new voters' bonus comic and a new ROM. Now, time to wrap up this special guide on common amateur mistakes in writing.

Mistake #8: Everywhere isn't Just Like Home
The best way explain what I'm talking about here is, you guessed it, with a bit of sample dialogue.

"Tom, stop beating around the bush! Do you want to go or don't you?" James groaned in exasperation.
"To Olive Garden? Of course I do. But it's like, five miles from here, my parents won't want to give me a ride, and I only have around eight dollars anyway."

Well, that seems simple enough, right? No problems as all...assuming that it's taking place in the modern day US. But what if this was supposed to take place in Japan? Obviously, James and Tom aren't Japanese names, the Japanese currency is the Yen, not the Dollar, and (as far as I know) Japan doesn't have any Olive Garden restaurants. A bit less obviously, Japan measures distance in kilometers, not miles, and "beating around the bush" is not a Japanese idiom so it would be very unlikely for a Japanese person to use or understand it. Finally, in many parts of Japan most people get around using bicycles and/or public transportation so Tom's comment about getting a ride from his parents might not fit either. And that's just from two lines of dialogue. Even though you may be writing a story in English, people in other countries talk differently, live differently, and have different idioms and manners of speech. They'll also react differently in certain situations. Everything isn't just like it is in your home country (or even your home town) so you've got to take that into account, research the place where your story takes place, and make sure that your characters, terms, and the like are appropriate for the situation. And even then, that's just modern day Earth. If you mix in other time periods, things change even more. The US of the 50's, for example, was a very different place than the US of today. Technology, stores, lifestyles, mannerisms, and the like were all considerably different back then and you need to take that into account if you're writing a story that takes place in that time period.
You also need to be careful if your story takes place on another world. Other worlds are not Earth and would naturally have their own currencies and units of measurement, so you should probably avoid, inches, miles, kilometers, and the like. They'll also have different names for the days and months (and may even have different numbers of days and month). And, even if the people on another world look and act like Earth humans and talk in a fairly similar fashion, they're still going to have different terms for some things and different idioms as well. Chances are, most people wouldn't have common "Earth names" as well, so James and Tom may be out. Of course, there's a fine line between making things different enough to clearly differentiate your fictional world from Earth, and making it so different that readers have to constantly check an appendix (assuming you write one) to find out what all your new terms and words mean. Like with everything else, it takes thought and practice to figure out exactly what should and shouldn't be changed. It also varies a bit by story and target audience.

While this is hardly comprehensive list of potential writing mistakes, it should at least tip you off to many of the more common ones made by novice writers. But, in the end, the best things you can do to improve your writing are to read lots of well written books in all styles and genres and then practice, practice, practice. And don't just write something and move on. Instead, reread and edit your writing while keeping and open and somewhat critical mind towards what could be improved.
Like any skill worth having, the ability to write well takes a lot of time and effort to develop. Not everyone can become a great storyteller. To a certain extent, the ability to create interesting characters and stories is something that you either have or you don't. However, with enough effort, just about anyone become a good writer. And that's a skill which will serve you well in many ways all throughout your life.


3/3/2010 Ugh...

Tuesday, which started out to be a nice laid back day, ended up turning into a kinda crazy mass thanks to a lot of unexpected distractions, delays, problems, and the like. At this point, I'm running very late, need to get some sleep, and didn't even finish all the stuff I'd wanted to get done. On that note, I don't have time for a big news post. I'll try my best to finish up the writing guide Friday though, depending on how long the remaining sections end up being, it may end up being spread over Friday and Monday. Sorry. Hopefully things will calm down sometime soon.


3/1/2010 How people act

It's a new month so why not vote using the Top Web Comics banner or button, check out Friday's bonus comic, and help get PV off to a good start in the rankings? Anyway though, it's time to continue on with the next writing mistake.

Mistake #7: Unbelievable Characters, How People Should and Shouldn't React
When I say unbelievable characters, I'm not talking about someone who can fly, cast magic spells, or transform into a t-rex. The thing is, no matter what world people live in or what strange powers they have, you can count on most people to react in fairly similar and predictable ways. Naturally, there's some variation based on different peoples' personalities and lives but, a few extreme examples aside, it's still very easy to predict how someone will react in various situations as long as you know a little bit about them. In Mistake #4, I already talked about the importance of making your character talk in a natural and believable way, but all that's useless if they don't act believably as well. Take a look at the following example.

"Jim! Jim! Did you hear?" Brad burst into the workshop, sending the door crashing against the wall. "The princess was found murdered in her room this morning!"
"Really? The Princess?" Jim looked up in surprise. "I never would have guessed that someone could have snuck into the palace and done something like that. I wonder who did it. The whole place must be in an uproar now." he sighed then turned back to his work.

So, what's wrong with that bit of dialogue? Absolutely nothing, but only if we make certain assumptions about Jim. If Jim is just some average guy who lives in the kingdom, his reaction is perfectly normal. After all, he wouldn't be close to the princess. He may have never even seen her. Sure some people, like Brad, will be a bit more excited and curious about the events but even so, for them it's just a bit of exciting news, not a big deal. But what if Jim and the princess are friends? Maybe they're even in love. In such a situation, Jim's reaction would be completely unbelievable. No one without serious mental problems would react like that to the death of someone close to them. If that was the case, her death isn't something Jim could just brush off with a single comment and return to work. He'd be shocked and sad at very least. If they were very close, he'd be absolutely devastated. Her death would effect him for months or years, maybe even his entire life. On a slightly less important note, if Brad knew of Jim and the Princess's relationship, he probably wouldn't just burst in and blurted out the news either, he'd be much more depressed and sensitive about it. Let's look at another example.

Light swirled through the air as the stranger raised his hand and sent a shimmering red ray streaking towards the monster on the other side of the clearing.
"Hey, he's using magic." Jackson murmured as he watched the battle unfold from his hiding place behind a large rock.

Well, can you spot the problem? This one should be easier. To put it simply, unless he frequently runs into magicians and monsters, Jackson's reaction is completely unbelievable. Even if Jackson lives in a fantasy world where magic and monsters are fairly common, he should probably be somewhat surprised, scared, and/or excited (depending on his personality, profession, and just how common that type of stuff is in his world). And what if Jackson is an ordinary guy from the modern day US who ran into the magician and monster while hiking in the woods? In that case, the above reaction would be a million times worse. If a person sees something strange or impossible, they don't just casually accept it. They might get really scared or really surprised and they'll quite likely try to convince themselves that it can't possible be real. The one thing they definitely won't do is just go "ok" and be fine with it.
Both of the above examples are a little extreme and many of you are probably thinking that this is pretty obvious, but I've seen lots of novice writers make this exact mistake in very similar scenarios to the ones above. And if it's that easy to mess up in such extreme situations, just imagine how easy it is to make this mistake at other, less blatant, points in a story. When writing how your characters react to different situations, try to imagine what you would say and do were you in their shoes. Naturally, your characters may have different mannerisms and personalities than you, but your own feelings can still make for a good starting point. If characters act in extreme ways to something that shouldn't matter to them or just calmly accept life changing events, they lose quite a lot of their believability and readers will have a much harder time forming a connection with them. Subconsciously, most of us have a good idea of how people would or wouldn't act in different situations. As such, when we see characters acting strangely, our minds will pick up on it and reduce our immersion in the story even if we can't consciously point out what's wrong.
Writing realistic and believable characters is something that comes naturally after a while but many novice writers (and even some long time writers) need to spend a lot of time stopping and thinking about. As the characters are, in most cases, the most important part of a story, if they aren't believable the entire story will suffer greatly.


2/26/2010 Lack of space

There's a new voters' bonus comic and a new ROM!

60GB just isn't as much as it used to be, you know? I remember my family's first computer. It had just over 1GB of hard disk space and we were sure we'd never fill it up. Back in those days, I could back up nearly all my important files on a single floppy disk... Of course, by the time we got our next computer, 1GB didn't seem like quite so much any more. The hard drives kept getting bigger and even the 160GB on my current laptop (which I was sure would be more than enough when I got it a little over three years ago) could easily get filled if I actually installed a few more of my larger computer games. Floppies were replaced by writable CDs, then writable DVDs, and now even several DVDs wouldn't be enough to back up my "critical" files, which is one reason I switched to online backups. Of course, my definition of critical files has expanded significantly since the old days. I've still got my Word docs, of course, but also all my web site files, graphic design work, photo collection, game saves, favorite downloaded software (free stuff and some DRM free programs I've purchased that I don't want to have to re-find and redownload should something go wrong), and my music collection (most of which I could re-rip from the CDs, except that I'd have to manually re-enter all the track information since the auto fill doesn't work so well with all those game and anime soundtracks I got in Japan). At least my 30GB MP3 player still have a good bit of free space left (as opposed to my original 1GB player).
But the real reason I'm bring this up isn't because of my computer, it's because of my PS3. Sure I expected to run out of storage space on my Wii, since it only had a measily 256MB of internal storage, but the PS3? I was sure that 60GB drive would be way more than I'd ever need. And it has proved more than enough for all the patches, DLC, and the like I've gotten over the last couple years. The problem is that just about every new game I get these days has a 4 or 5GB installation and those add up pretty quickly. Sure I understand the benefits of installing games to the hard drive, but I think a lot of developers are just getting lazy. The PS2 did just fine without a hard drive and a lot of the great earlier PS3 titles (like Uncharted) barely install anything and run just fine. Well, regardless, I'm stuck with the installations. Sure I can delete them, but that means having to reinstall whenever I want to play the game. There are some games I can't see myself coming back to anytime soon, but there's enough I really want to keep installed that, when combined with my saves, DLC, and download only games, hard disc space is becoming a problem. I suppose there's a couple more games I could delete off the system, but the thought of not only reinstalling the game itself but having to redownload all the patches and DLC is rather daunting. Fortunately, the PS3's hard drive is supposed to be really easy to swap out so I went ahead and ordered a new 320GB one off Amazon. And, while I hesitate to say that I'll never fill it up, it should last for quite a while. Actually, it's going to be kind of weird that my PS3 will have twice as much space as my laptop... I also ordered a drive case though, which I plan to use to turn my PS3's old hard drive into an external. Which, while a bit on the small side (yes, 60GB is now considered small in may cases) will be rather convenient and should hold me over until I get a new computer.

Anyway, looking for and ordering the appropriate drive (combined with some dumb web game that caused me to lose track of time for a while) has put me way behind schedule at the moment. I still plan to finish my little guide to writing mistakes this coming week though, so I'll see you Monday with the next entry.


2/24/2010 A few improvements

I've made a special page for the writing guide I've been doing. There's a link to it on the Extras page too. While I was at it, I ended up re-arranging the extras page and some of the stuff it links to (travelogues, how to guides, and the like) to make them easier to navigate. But, because of that, I don't have time to do a big post tonight. The writing guide will continue Friday, when I'll be talking about how to make more believable characters. The guide itself will probably be finished sometime next week, BTW, after which it'll be back to Ink.



2/22/2010 More about writing

Nothing particularly special going on right now, so I'll go right to the next writing mistake.

Mistake #6: Skipping the Small Stuff and Other Problems With Pacing
This is a common mistake both in written stories and in web comics. Unlike the previous mistakes, which are all tied into writing itself, this is more of a storytelling mistake. Anyway, if you look at any story you'll see that there are certain "key scenes" in it. A key scene it a scene that is extremely important to the main story line If you don't quite get what I'm talking about, take a look at this simple outline.

Chapter 1: The main character finds the legendary sword of evil killing.
Chapter 2: The main character explores the city.
Chapter 3: The main character joins a team of adventurers to fight the great evil lord.
Chapter 4: The group takes a rest from their journey to relax.
Chapter 5: The group defeats the great evil lord in an epic battle.

Ok, so here we have the outline for our rather short and overly generic fantasy story. Take a look at the descriptions for each chapter. As you can see, chapters 1, 3, and 5 are clearly very important to the main plot and are therefor the key scenes of the story. They tell the story of the hero finding the sword, meeting his allies, and defeating the bad guy. Chapters 2 and 4, on the other hand, don't sound very important. Chances are, if you removed chapters 2 and 4 the main plot of the hero going after and beating the villain would remain intact.
So why bother with chapters 2 and 4 at all, if they're clearly not needed? Might as well just skip them and jump right to the important stuff, right? Actually no. It's a common mistake for novice writers to have their stories jump from key scene to key scene with few if any other scenes mixed in. But, while those scenes may not be crucial to the main plot, they can still add quite a lot to the story. Going back to our outline, while chapters 2 and 4 don't do much of anything to advance the main plot, they're a good opportunity to develope the personalities of the main character and his friends, show more of the world where the story takes place, and maybe even work in a bit of backstory.
If you just jump from key scene to key scene, it makes it much harder for readers to get to know the characters and really understand their personalities and motivations. Any character development will likely seem rather rushed and often disjointed, since you won't be able to gradually show them change and grow. Your world and setting will likely feel undeveloped as well since there will be little time to show any aspects and locations not directly tied into the main plot. Not to mention that if you just go from big scene to big scene without any breaks you run the risk of "wearing out" the reader.
If you don't believe me, just take a look at any good plot driven novel or TV show. You'll see that there are quite a lot of chapters or scenes that have little to no real importance to the main plot but instead serve to further develop the characters and setting and offer a change of pace from the more intense key scenes.
There's a partial exception to this rule when it comes to short stories. Because of their limited length, you need to keep the focus mostly on the main plot. While it's still good to work in a few less important scenes if you can, they should be rather short and few in number (perhaps only one or two) in order to maintain the appropriate pacing.
On that note though, it's important not to overdo it either. Like with the previous mistake, you need to find a balance. If your key scenes are too close together, you'll have the problems I previously mentioned. But if you place them too far apart, your story will drag and, no matter how much people like your characters and setting, they'll eventually get bored waiting for the plot to advance. No matter how good the main plot is, without proper pacing, it's going to suffer, sometimes significantly. The only real way to improve your pacing is to examine good stories, try to get a scene of their pacing, and keep it in mind when writing your own stories. In this case, studying and practice make perfect.
The main exception to this is stories which don't really have a main plot like most TV sitcoms and some "slice of life" type stories. In those, the whole point of the story is merely to follow the characters and see what they happen to be doing, whether it happens to be big and important or not. However, since those type of stories lack a main plot, extra care needs to be paid to the jokes and/or characters to ensure that they can maintain the reader's interest for a long period of time on their own strengths alone.


2/19/2010 A new link and a not so new mistake

There's a new voters' bonus comic waiting for everyone who clicks the Top Web Comics banner or button and a new ROM. I've also added Missing Number to the Link Exchange. Now it's time for another story specific writing mistake.

Mistake #5: Dialogue is Everything...Or is it?
Dialogue is an important part of nearly every story. Not that you can't write a good story without dialogue, but that's a fairly uncommon approach, especially outside of children's stories. But anyway, I probably don't need to convince anyone about the importance of dialogue. What's often overlooked by novice writers is the importance of everything else. For example, take a look at the following bit of dialogue.

"It sure is peaceful here, isn't it?" Sara commented.
"Yeah, it is." Brain replied.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
"No, not really." he answered.

So what's wrong with that bit of dialogue? Actually, the dialogue itself is fine, it's the rest of that sample that's the problem. Or, more specifically, the fact that there isn't really a "rest of the sample". Now take a look at this version of the same conversation.

"It sure is peaceful here, isn't it?" Sara sighed happily as she dropped down on the soft green grass. A cool breeze passed over the hill, blowing a loose strand of strawberry blonde hair across her eyes as she lay there, enjoying the rare moment of peace and relaxation.
"Yeah, it is." Brian's tone was cold and dismissive, a stark contrast to the warmth of the day. Unlike Sara, he looked anything but relaxed as he stared down at the city below.
Startled by his response, she looked up, a worried expression on her normally carefree face. "Is something wrong?" she asked, concern filling her voice.
For a long moment, Brian was silent, unsure how he should respond. At last he turned away, not wanting her to see the hurt in his eyes. "No, not really." he clenched his fists, angry at himself for lying to her. But really, what choice did he have? She wouldn't understand and, even if she did, there was nothing she could do change things. There was nothing either of them could do.

So, what do you think? It's like an entirely different conversation, isn't it? All the dialogue itself tells you is that Sara and Brian are talking in a presumably peaceful place. Brian might be upset, or Sara might have just misread the situation. But when you add in all those descriptive sentences from the second example, you not only find out a bit more about where they are (on a grassy hill overlooking a city on a warm yet slightly breezy day) and a little about what they look like (Sara has strawberry blonde hair), you're also able to notice all the subtext hidden in the conversation. In the second example it's obvious that Brian is troubled by something, and a bit angry as well. The two seem to know each other well (something you also can't be sure about by just reading the first example) but Brian is keeping something important from her, quite likely to keep her from worrying.
As you can see, dialogue is important, but it often doesn't come close to telling the entire story. And, even where there isn't some deep subtext to a conversation, it's still important to use some descriptive sentences (though maybe not as many) so the reader can get a feel for where the characters are, what they and/or the surrounding area look like, and what they're doing. It also helps break up long chunks of dialogue, which can start to drag after a while. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Always remember that, unless you're writing a comic or a movie script, you don't have a picture so you're going to need those thousand words instead.
On a related note, while it's important not to neglect descriptive sentences, don't over use them either. While this mistake is more often made by more experienced writers than amateurs (at least from what I've seen), it's still good to keep in mind. While you want enough description to set the scene and keep your readers informed about what your characters are doing, you don't need to go describing every building, rock, and passerby as well. The reader doesn't need to know exactly what the third house on the street looks like (a basic overview of what houses or buildings in the area look like is fine) unless it's a very important location in the story. Similarly, the reader doesn't need to know the complete life story of the guy who runs the coffee shop either (a couple sentences about his looks and attitude should be more than enough), unless he's an important character. In writing, as in just about everything else, finding a proper balance is important.

And that should be enough for today. See you Monday!


2/17/2010 About stories

Continuing on with my little mini-series on common mistakes made by novice writers, now that I've covered the basics (grammar, criticism, and the like), I'm going to get into some mistakes that are specific to story writing.

Mistake #4: Unnatural Dialogue and Narration, The Importance of Flow
To better illustrate what I'm talking about, look at the following bit of sample dialogue between a couple teenagers.

"Hello, Dan. Do you want to hang out after school?" Fred asked.
"Sure. We could get pizza and then go watch a movie." Dan replied.
"Yes. That will be lots of fun." Fred agreed.

Now, there's nothing particularly wrong with that exchange, but take a look at this rewritten version.

"Hey Dan, want to hang out after school?" Fred asked.
"Yeah! How about pizza and a movie?" Dan replied.
"Sure, that'll be great!" Fred agreed.

Both versions are grammatically correct. But if you think about it, the first version sounds overly formal and a bit stilted. Most people these days don't talk like that, especially a couple of teenagers. It's a common mistake for novice writers, whether they realize it or not, to make their characters talk in an overly formal and stilted way. In real life, people combine a lot of sentences (using commas, "and", "but", and the occasional semi-colon), use a lot of contractions (that will = that'll, let us = let's, etc) and talk with each other in a fairly casual and not overly polite way (at least in the US, in some countries (such as Japan) people do speak in a very polite and formal fashion in many situations). Their words and sentences flow together in a smooth and natural way, at least most of the time.
While it's technically not "dialogue", narration is still essentially someone talking (even if that someone is a non-existant third party who is describing the events) and therefor follows a similar rule. While narration is generally a bit more formal than a conversation between friends, it's still fairly informal and should have a smooth flow as well. Just look at this guide, for example. I'm using plenty of contractions and compound sentences because I'm "talking" to you, my readers, just like a narrator in a story. For another example...

The night sky was dark and black. There was not a star to be seen.

Grammatically it works, but it's kinda stilted and rather dull to read.

It was a dark night, the inky blackness completely blotting out the stars.

Doesn't that sound a lot better? Considering that most people talk in a fairly well flowing fashion, you'd assume that they'd naturally write like that as well, though it usually doesn't work that way. Making your writing sound natural and flow well is something that often takes a lot of practice. A good way to work on it is to read your writing back to yourself (ideally out loud) and think about if that's the way you or your friends would say it if you were talking to someone in real life. Of course, you may not want your characters and/or narrator speaking the exact same way you do, but this should still help you notice if things don't sound right.

And that'll all for now. I'll have another mistake or two, and an addition to the Link Exchange page, ready for Friday so I'll see you then!


2/15/2010 Things not to do when writing

As promised, it's time to continue my little mini-serious about common mistakes made by novices writers, specifically in regards to story writing.. If you want to see the intro and first mistake, take a look at Wednesday's news post. Soon though, I'll probably compile all of these onto their page...

Common Mistakes in Writing Part 2

Mistake #2: Proper Spelling and Grammar...Or Lack There Of
Despite the pervading attitude in web forums and chat rooms, proper spelling and grammar are very important. While just about everyone will forgive the occasional typo, a large number of mistakes makes your work look sloppy and unprofessional. In extreme cases, it can even make your writing nearly impossible to read. I've received a few e-mails before where the grammar and spelling was so bad that I really had no idea what the sender was trying to say.
While you may think that it's no big deal if people don't like your spelling and grammar, you'd be wrong. True, if your spelling and grammar is bad online the worst you'll do it annoy the people reading it. But if you get into the habit of ignoring proper spelling and grammar when you're posting in forms, sending e-mails, IMing, chatting in games, and the like, you'll have a harder time using proper spelling and grammar when you need to. And if your spelling and grammar is bad on something more important, like a school paper, job application, or any other professional bit of writing, you're going to find that even a few mistakes can cause major problems.
What's more, there's no good excuse for not using proper spelling and grammar in your writing (unless English isn't your native language, in which case you get a bit more slack). You learn this stuff all throughout school. Plus, pretty much everyone with a computer has a program with a spell checker (Microsoft Word, for example). Of course, spell checkers can't catch some things (like if you mix up "where" and "wear") but they'll find the vast majority of spelling mistakes and typos. If you have problems with spelling things correctly from memory, there's no good reason not to use a spell checker. Even if you're writing something for a web forum or e-mail program that lacks a build in spell checker, you can always type it up in Word (or whatever word processor you use) then copy and paste it into where ever you want it. It'll only take a few seconds extra and can seriously improve your writing.
Many programs also have a grammar checker you can use, but personally I'd avoid them, or at least take their suggestions with a grain of salt, as they tend to be wrong as often as not. Instead, pay attention to your grammar lessons in school and look at how things are written in books and magazines (as they go through professional editors before being published). With a little work, you can pick up decent grammar quickly enough if you try. For that matter, I've noticed that most people speak with better grammar than they write. If you have problems with grammar in your writing, try reading what you write out loud and then think if you'd really say it that way if you were talking instead of writing.

Mistake #3: Making Things too Casual
This should be pretty obvious, but you shouldn't use chat speak, text speak, or emoticons (smiles :-) and the like) outside of texting and IMing. For that matter, your really shouldn't overuse them in texting or chatting either, as it can lead to bad writing habits. Nothing makes your writing look dumb and amateurish like a bunch of LOLs, OMGs, and :-P  l33t speak is even worse.
You should NEVER EVER use that type of stuff in formal writing. When writing a story, the only time you should use that type of language is if your characters are using it. For example, if I was writing a story about some thirteen year old kids living in the modern world, and there was a part of the story where they were IMing each other, they'd likely be using chat speak in their IMs, so it would be ok for me to use it there, since I'd just be reporting what they said. However, if they were talking to each other in person, or if the story wasn't about people who would normally be using chat speak (for example anything not set in modern day Earth), it should be avoided at all costs.


2/12/2010 A very important thing

There's a new PV Blooper Reel bonus comic for everyone who votes! New ROM too.

And now to talk more about common mistakes people make in writing...is what I'd like to say. Unfortunately I got off to a slightly late start on today's update. Which wouldn't have been a problem except that my web editor kept crashing as I got the update ready (my computer has been having problems all day for some reason). So at this point I'm already running pretty late and really don't have any more time to spend on this. I'll plan to cover two or three writing mistakes on Monday though.

Have a good weekend!


2/10/2010 Writing tips

While this isn't part of Ink, I suppose it's somewhat related. Anyway, I've been thinking a lot lately about writing styles and techniques. While doing so, I got to thinking about the common mistakes inexperienced writers make with their stories. So I'd like to take the next two or three news posts to talk about those mistakes and how to avoid them.

Common Mistakes in Writing: Introduction
I love reading and ever since I was a little kid I've never been without a book or two. My love of reading, combined with my somewhat overactive imagination led me to writing. I've been writing stories and novels (mostly as a hobby) since I was eleven or twelve years old. Unsurprisingly, my earliest attempts weren't all that good. Some had good ideas but poor writing while others were just lousy in general. But, over the years, I've improved significantly.
There are many things that helped improve my writing. First off, I got advice from others and, while I didn't blindly accept everything they said, I didn't dismiss it either and gave each suggestion careful consideration. I also took a look at the writing styles in my favorite novels and compared it to my own, trying to determine what what those authors did differently (and in most cases better) than me. Finally, I wrote a lot. Like with most things, writing improves with practice. Though writing isn't enough by itself. I didn't just write, I read my writing, thought about what could be done better, and rewrote it. While I'm not one of those overly critical people who's never happy with their work, I'm not one of those guys who thinks that everything he does is absolutely perfect and brilliant either. I've always been very good at taking a critical look at my own work and identifying its strengths and weaknesses.
Unfortunately, not everyone has this talent and, even for those who do, learning from your own mistakes takes a lot of time. In order to help out aspiring writers, and those of you who just want to improve your school projects and fan fics, I'm going to be talking about some of the common mistakes made by amateur writers and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Failing to Take Constructive Criticism
This is something I see a lot these days, especially on the internet. And not just in regards to writing (it happens a lot with art and other things as well). A lot of people just can't take constructive criticism. The moment anyone says anything negative about their work, they get angry and rant about how their work is perfect (or close enough) and no one has any right to criticise it.
This is a really bad attitude to take not just towards writing but towards life in general and will serve you poorly in school and the work place. Of course, that doesn't mean everyone who criticizes your work is correct. Comments like, "OMG this sux" should naturally be ignored and even many more respectful and thought out critiques should be taken with a grain of salt. But if someone takes the time to give you a well thought out comment or critique you should pay attention. For example, if someone told me something like, "You keep forgetting to use quotation marks when your characters are talking," or "You need to do a better job of describing what your characters are doing in this section" I'd tell them thanks and check to see if they were right or not. If they were right, I'd make any necessary changes. Furthermore, I'd be glad that person took the time to read my writing and tell me how to improve it.
Keep in mind, most people who offer critiques of your work aren't trying to be mean or pick on you, they're just offering their thoughts, opinions, and sometimes advice. That's no reason to snap at them or get angry and defensive. Some of them are probably wrong but many are probably right as well. And if you can't learn to take constructive criticism and see when your work needs to be changed, your writing will never improve.


2/8/2010 Getting technical

Looks like I've got another week of watching anime while working on job applications and Car Washer to look forward to. Not too exciting, but not too bad either I guess. If nothing else, it gives me the chance to catch up on all my DVDs.

When I talked about Ink's graphics before, I focused mainly on the artistic side of things. Today, I'll be discussing the more technical details.

Ink's Graphics - Technical Details:
3D Software:
Polygon Budget:
  Entire Screen:
  Important Characters:
  Misc Items:
Texture Size Range:

Designer's Comments:
You'll notice that I didn't really fill in any of the details in the above list. The reason being that the graphical specifications are dependent on several factors. Said factors include: which game system(s) the game is being developed for, the game engine being used (the engine is the software backbone of a game, many developers license engines from other companies while others create their own), the game design itself (how many objects need to be on the screen at once, how detailed those objects are, how much AI and animation they'll be using, etc), the size and skill of the art team, and how much time the art team has to work on the game. So naturally this isn't something I can just fill out randomly, a lot of thought and planning goes into these specifications. Instead, I'll explain what all those categories are for.
3D Software: The two most popular professional 3D modeling programs are 3D Studio Max and Maya (there's some others out there, but they're not used anywhere near as much). Both have their pros and cons and while most modelers will vehemently defend their favorite, it really comes down to personal preference. Usually, to make things simple, game developers will choose one program and make sure all the modelers stick with it. In addition to the main 3D modeling program, the art team may use some more specialized 3D software and plug-ins as well.
Polygon Budget: A polygon is a closed 2D shape with at least three sides. While there are a few different ways to render (draw) 3D models, the most common way is to build the models out of polygons (or just plain triangles, depending on the engine). The more polygons a model contains, the more smooth and detailed the shape can be. However, there's a limit to how many polygons any given computer or game system can draw at a given time. And this number is further reduced by whatever other things the system is doing at the same time (textures, sounds, animations, AI, etc). The polygon budget is the maximum amount of polygons that the developers feel the game can show on screen at one time (ideally without any slowdown, dropped frames, or other graphical problems). Once the overall polygon budget has been decided, the team needs to decide how to divide that number between all the things that need to show up on screen at any given time. There's lots of tricks for making models look good with a small number of polygons, and things like pre-rendered backgrounds and pre-recorded movies (such as FMVs) can circumvent the limit entirely, though they're less interactive as a result.
Texture Size Range: A normal 3D model is just a plain boring shade of gray. The texture can best be thought of as the paint job that goes on top of the model to add the colors and fine details. The process of creating good textures is actually a lot more complicated than just drawing a nice picture. In most situations, you have to unwrap the model first, which involves cutting it open along a seem and stretching the "skin" out flat. This isn't the place for a full explanation but suffice it to say that unwrapping complex models can be a very complicated process. But back to the textures. Textures themselves are 2D graphics files, often created in Photoshop or a similar program. Depending on the engine, platform, and the like, there are often limits on the dimensions and file size allowed for each texture, which is what this entry is for.
Shading: Textures aren't the only way to add color and details to a model. You can also use shaders. Shaders are simpler to use than textures, but also don't allow for fine details. They can be quite useful for objects that just need basic colors or appearance traits though, like a glass jar, red ball, or shiny metal poll. Of course, the amount and type of shaders that can be used varies by engine and platform.
Lighting: Nothing in 3D can be taken for granted, and that includes lighting. Lights need to be created, tweaked, and very carefully positioned. And, predictably enough, the number and type of lights that can be used varies by engine and platform. Larger art teams will often have dedicated lighting specialists to ensure that the lighting always looks natural and appropriately illuminates each area.
Shadows: In real life, shadows are determined entirely by lighting. In 3D, however, you have quite a lot of control over what casts shadows and how. There's a lot of advantages to that, but it also means more work, especially to create good looking shadows. There's numerous different techniques for rendering shadows. Some put less of a strain on the hardware, others produce better looking shadows. And yes, the engine and platform have an influence in how shadows are handled as well.


2/5/2010 Kinda out of it

There's a new voters' bonus comic and a new ROM!

Ugh... I had planned for another Ink update today but my mind's a bit of a mess right now. Probably a combination of spending two days in a row doing little but working on job applications, a little bit of nerves in relation to where and when I'll get a job, some assorted technology related problems, and the rather depressing song that's been running through my head all evening. Anyway, with the mood I'm in right now, I'm having trouble organizing all my thoughts on the next Ink update so it's going to have to wait till next week, sorry.

See you Monday!


2/3/2010 Lost returns!

Not sure about you guys, but I was pretty psyched about the start of Lost's sixth and final season last night. And I wasn't disappointed. I was pleased to see that some of the theories my friends and I had been talking about proved to be correct and the way they handled the attempted "reset" should prove to be pretty interesting as the season progresses. If you don't have any idea what I'm talking about, then you probably haven't been watching Lost. I gotta admit, the plot is very complicated and you pretty much need to see just about every episode in order to know what's going on. It's interesting though, and the character development has been great. I'm really looking forward to seeing how they explain all the mysteries and wrap things up.
I didn't start watching Lost in the beginning. Actually, when I first heard about it, I thought it was some sort of reality show (people stuck on a deserted island and all that). Eventually, I learned that J.J. Abrams was behind it and started to get interested (since my family and I were really into Alias, a different show of his, at the time). But it sounded like a show I couldn't just jump into so I waited. Then, one day, I had this really awesome coupon for a DVD set at Borders. They didn't really have any anime, but they did have season one of Lost. Alias was over at that point and I figured it would be nice to find another show my whole family could get into watching together, so I decided to pick up the DVDs and give it a try. We quickly got hooked and bought the second season soon after finishing the first. After that was a rather long wait for the season three DVDs to be released (which happened while I was in Japan), followed by a rush to watch them all before season four started.
I'd go into some of my theories about the plot and what's going on in the series, but I don't want to spoil things for those of you who aren't caught up with the show. Besides, I've rambled long enough. I really should get back to work.



2/1/2010 Listen to the music

Looks like this is going to be another week of sitting around and working on job applications. At least I've gotten the complicated ones out of the way so I can spend more time on other things (like Car Washer). And hey, the final season of Lost starts tomorrow, so that's something to look forward to.

In's Musical Score:
The music for Ink will be recorded live if possible. It will contain an original vocal song as the main theme.

Designer's Comments:
Like the sound effects section, that really doesn't get filled out till a bit further along in the design process. Once again, like the sound effects section, it'll eventually contain a list of all the music files along with where and when they play in the game. It's used as a reference for the people who actually put the music into the game and in case anything needs to be changed. Usually it's someone from the sound department (either the composer or sound engineer) who decides exactly how many audio tracks will be in the game. The decision is, of course, based on the content of the game itself, so at very least a decent outline of the game's plot and flow is needed. Besides, while I'm fairly knowledge when it comes to music (game music in particular), I trust that the composer would have a better sense of what types of tracks would best fit each part of the game. I'd need to approve them, of course, but I don't want to box the composer in by writing up a big detailed list. At most, I'd do a basic list of the things I think we'll need music for (background music for X town, ordinary battle theme, victory fanfare, etc).
Before DVDs, most if not all music in games wasn't recorded live. Instead, the composer would create the score which would then be programmed into the game as a list of instruments and what notes they play. Then game system or computer would then use that data to recreate the music on the fly. The advantage of this approach is that it uses very little disc space. Pre-recorded music (music that's recorded live and then converted into an audio file like a WAV or MP3) sounds better than even the best synthesizer but can take up massive amounts of disc space (especially in the days before the MP3 format was created). Because of this, pre-recorded music was generally limited only to things that couldn't be synthesized (like vocal tracks). However, when games started moving to higher capacity discs like DVDs (and now Blue-Rays on the PS3), storage space became a bit less of an issue and more games started using pre-recorded music. Of course, many still don't. Sometimes it's still a matter of space and other times the developer doesn't have the time or money to hire a band or orchestra to play the entire score. Ideally, I'd like for Ink's music to all be pre-recorded by skilled musicians. Though, depending on the time frame and budget for the project and what game system it's developed for, that may or may not happen.
As far as I can tell, Final Fantasy VIII was the game that really popularized the concept of having an original song (often sung by a fairly popular singer) as the main theme in a game. Since then, it's become pretty standard, especially in big RPGs. I'm a huge fan of game music and these vocal tracks are quite often some of my favorites. Songs like FFVIII's Eyes on Me, FFX-2's Thousand Words, and Kingdom Heart's Hikari (or Simple and Clean, depending on if you're playing the American or Japanese version) are extremely memorable and really do a great job of expressing the theme and feel of their games. When it comes to Ink's song, I want something original though whether I'll write the lyrics myself as lead designer or leave that up to the composer or the singer (usually it's one of those three who does it), I'm not sure.
So, who would I want to compose the music for Ink? Well, my two absolute favorite game composers and Nobuo Uematsu (the genius behind nearly all the main series Final Fantasy games) and Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Xenogears, etc) so if I could get either of them to do the score that would be a dream come true. But I could easily name several other excellent game composers (most of whom are also Japanese) that could doubtless create amazing scores as well. Chances are, I wouldn't be able to hire any of them but hey, doesn't hurt to dream.


1/29/2010 This and that

There's a new bonus comic and a new ROM. Speaking of bonus comics, I'm kinda curious about why PV gets so many fewer votes on TWC these days than it used to, despite having a similar amount of readers. Is there something about the newer bonus comics you guys don't like or have you just gotten tired of Top Web Comics' frequently changing vote confirmation methods? Maybe I don't bug you about it enough :-P Anyway, if you've got any thoughts on the matter, send an e-mail and let me know.

Nothing too exciting going on with me these days. I'm still sending out job applications (was hoping to be done by now but my applications to Japanese companies took a lot longer to finish than I'd thought they would) and doing some web and graphic design to earn a bit of spending money here and there. I saw Avatar the other day (amazing effects, decent but rather predictable story) and have been playing a bit of Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles The Crystal Bearer here and there, though I haven't had a lot of time for it (decent game with some really cool parts but it could have been so much better). Hoping to finish my applications this coming week and get some serious work done on Car Washer. So nothing too exciting, at least for now.

That's about it. I'll be back, with more Ink, on Monday. See you then!


1/27/2010 Can you hear it?

Continuing on with some more basic parts of Ink, it's time for a bit on sound.

Ink's Sound Effects:
Sound effects need to be appropriate for a medieval fantasy world. Important types of sound effects that are needed include weapon and battle sounds and city background noise.

Designer's Comments:
Well, that was a real comprehensive section, wasn't it? Eventually this section (or possibly a separate document spun off from it) will contain a complete list of all the sound effects files being used in the game along with when and where they play. This is useful both as a reference (in case something needs to be changed) and to tell the programmers where to place each effect. There's a couple reasons I'm not doing that right now. First off, it takes a long time. Secondly, it's a lot easier to do once more of the game design is completed (so I have a better idea of exactly what sound effects will be needed).
Now, a bit on sound effect creation itself. If you like to watch the bonus features on movie DVDs you've probably seen a bit about how Hollywood sound effects artists go around recording all sorts of different and strange sounds in order to create the effects they use. It's a really cool process. Unfortunately, most video game developers don't have the budget to hire full on sound effects pros or the time to record most of their effects from scratch. So instead they rely on sound effects libraries which, actually, quite a lot of movies and TV shows do as well. A sound effect library is pretty much what it sounds like, a huge collection of sound effect files (usually stored on a set of CDs or DVDs). There's quite a lot of sound effects libraries that you can purchase and/or license for use in a game. There's even some free ones (though they're generally nowhere near as good or comprehensive as the ones you pay for).
Anyway, once you've got your sound effects library the sound engineer(s) will dig through it and find appropriate sound effects for everything in the game. Then they'll often edit them and possibly combine them with other effects in order to better fit the game and to prevent things from sounding too generic. As a designer, it's not a process I'm usually very involved in (though I've had to do a bit here and there to help fill in the gaps in various teams I've been on), but it's an important one. Sounds don't make the game, but they can certainly add a lot to it.


1/25/2010 Graphics

As always, you can use the Top Web Comics banner or button to vote for Pebble Version on Top Web Comics. It's a nice way to show your support for the comic and you get to see Friday's bonus comic as well.

Ink's Graphical Style
Basics: Real-time 3D
Perspective: 3rd person, behind the back
Camera Control: Fully rotatable in most areas, locked in others
Art Design: Realistically designed and proportioned characters. European style medieval fantasy setting (lots of stone and wood, hints of Renaissance style architecture).
Graphical Style: Hand drawn (pen and pencil) look (?)

Designer's Comments:
This is mostly fairly standard stuff. A 3rd person behind the back camera is the norm for most RPGs these days since it gets you close to the character while still providing a good view of your surroundings. And, with graphics as good as they are now, there's no real need for high quality pre-rendered environments (which were all the rage back on the original Playstation). Besides, doing everything in real time (which means it's being rendered by the game system as you play) allows you to move the camera around however you want. While locking the camera in a single place does allow you to ensure the most dramatic shot, letting the player control the camera most of the time ensures that they can always see where they're going and better explore each area. And, um, do I really need to be explaining this? It just seems so obvious...
On to the more artistic aspects of this... As previously mentioned, the world of Josiah's novel is a European style medieval fantasy world. And, since it is about a real world author who gets pulled into said world, I want to keep the characters fairly realistic looking (at least in terms of their proportions and the like). Simple enough, at least in theory. In an actual development process I'd probably give the concept artists fairly detailed descriptions of the main characters and some key areas. They'd then do a whole bunch of rough sketches of each and then I, and probably the lead artist, would pick the versions that we thought worked best and give them back to the concept artist, along with a list of any additional tweaks or changes we wanted.
As for the hand drawn look... While I'm not completely committed to it at this point, since the name of the game is Ink, it takes place in a book, and you gain ink from defeated enemies, going with the hand drawn look pen and pencil look (something like the style used in Valkyria Chronicles and the FMVs in Final Fantasy Tactics War of the Lions) would be rather appropriate. In addition, it's not used very often so it tends to get people's attention (generally in a good way). And, while nearly any half serious gamer will tell you that graphics are far from the most important part of a game, a good cover or screen shot is often what makes someone first pick up a box or read a review.


1/22/2010 A big review

There's a new bonus comic up so just click the Top Web Comics banner or button and then confirm your vote to see it.

No Ink update today, for a couple reasons. First off, I got caught up finishing the third scenario in Higurashi. It's one crazy story and I'm really looking forward to finding out what the heck is going on. But anyway, that wasn't the main reason. The main reason is that I've decided to take a break from Ink's plot for a bit and focus on the gameplay for a while. Specifically, what happens outside of battles (character development, exploration, etc), so I wanted to do a bit more planning in that regard before the next Ink update. Plus, I wrote a pretty comprehensive review of Bayonetta as part of a job application and I figured that, after putting so much work into it, I might as well post it here so everyone can read it. So, here you go.

Platinum Games’ Bayonetta could likely be summed up as overly violent, overly sexual, and quite possibly sacrilegious, but I haven’t have this much fun with an action game since Viewtiful Joe. No surprise, as they were both the creation of action game mastermind Hideki Kamiya, famed creator of many of Capcom’s greatest titles, including Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry, and Okami.
Bayonetta herself is a witch who, after being sealed away for centuries, is out to recover her lost memories. Along the way, she gets involved in an ancient struggle between the Umbra Witches and Lumen Sages in a plot that, while a bit convoluted, is intriguing nonetheless.
An army of killer angels, their designs both majestic and disturbing at the same time, dog her every step. Fortunately, Bayonetta has skills that could put even Dante and Kratos to shame. Wielding a set of four guns (one for each hand and foot), she fights, jumps, and dodges her way through battles with a constant stream of fast and fluid movements. And, if that’s not enough, she can also summon up all manner of torture devices and channel massive demonic beasts though her hair (stripping herself nearly naked in the process). The controls are tight and responsive and transitioning from one stylish attack to another and stringing them together into impressive combos is unbelievably easy. With a focus on constant movement and offense, there’s no option to block and countering enemy attacks. Instead, if Bayonetta dodges at the last moment she can activate witch time, a short period in which everything and everyone (except her) is forced into slow motion, allowing her to unload on her helpless foes. It makes for a strong risk vs. reward mechanic and is also used to great effect in various puzzle and platforming segments throughout the game. And then there’s Witch Walking, which allows Bayonetta to walk on walls and ceilings whenever the moon is full, which seems to happen far more often than should be realistically possible. Add in numerous weapons to collect and use (each more over-the-top than the last), hundreds of combo attacks, and some enormous screen filling bosses, and you have some of the fastest and craziest battles ever seen outside of an FMV.
If all this sounds over-the-top, you’re right, it is. To Platinum Games’ credit, you’ll never catch them taking their game or heroine too seriously. Bayonetta delivers frequent charged one-liners (backed up by excellent voice acting), strikes sexy poses whenever possible, and always seems to have a lollypop handy but, thanks to the game’s tongue-in-cheek approach, it’s never creepy or disturbing, just part of the fun. Especially when combined with the extremely diverse and frequently lighthearted soundtrack.
Like in most action games, Bayonetta proceeds through the levels in an entirely linear fashion. However, the ability to replay cleared stages, combined with a large number of hidden items, optional challenges, multiple difficulty levels, and a robust online ranking system ensure that there’s a lot to keep players occupied after their initial 10-12 first play-through.
From a technical perspective, the graphics are topnotch and backed up with excellent animation. The controls are slightly loose in the occasional vehicle stages, but that’s really just nitpicking. The Playstation 3 version does exhibit occasional slowdown during particularly intense battles, a slightly darker color pallet, and longer load times (though you can keep yourself entertained and sharpen your skills in the practice mode while you wait). None of these issues are serious enough to detract much from the overall experience, but if you have both systems and are wondering which version to get, the 360 is a slightly better choice.
While it may not redefine the genre like some of Kamiya’s earlier works, Bayonetta instead provides a perfect example of what makes action games great and establishes itself as a title that no fan of the genre should pass up.

And that's the review. Will it get me the job? Who knows. I though it turned out pretty well though. Anyway, I'll see you Monday with a new Ink update.


1/20/2010 Meet the author

Ugh, doing job applications in another language isn't easy. My Japanese isn't bad but there's still a ton of kanji and words I don't know. I do have Google translator to help figure out the Japanese web sites but as anyone who has ever used one can tell you, computer translators often make no sense at all. Needless to say, making sense of everything takes time. Filling it all out takes even longer. Not to mention that a lot of Japanese job application forms don't take into account that the person applying might not have a Japanese address and phone number (the formatting is different than US ones, meaning some of those forms just return a whole lot of errors). And, just to make things even more complicated, quite a lot of Japanese companies want you to snail mail your resume instead of submitting online. Now that's a decent amount of extra work as is but, to top it off, when submitting resumes in Japan, it's traditional to fill them out by hand. A nice touch, sure, but a whole lot of work. Anyway, back to Ink.

Ink's Plot: Part 4 - An Author and His Creations
Now that Josiah knows that something is going seriously wrong, he decides to tell Ralin, Jessie, and Xavier the truth about who he is and what's happening to his story. At first, they understandably think he's crazy. But after Josiah details several events from their past, which he really shouldn't know about, and demonstrates his writing powers, they can't help but start to believe him. However, as the truth starts to sink in, the three start to realize that they're sitting there with the very person responsible for everything that has taken place during their lives.
Jessie, being the most hot tempered of the bunch, is the first to react. She attacks attacks Josiah in a fit of emotion, screaming about the death of her parents and everything they've gone through because of Lord Lesheer. Ralin and Xavier pull her back, but they're feeling very conflicted as well. Unable to reach Josiah, Jessie continues to yell out tearful accusations, begging to know why he'd made them go through all this. Josiah is stunned by their reactions and, try as he might, the only answer he can give is that it made for a better story. Unable to face them, he runs off into the forest.
After spending several hours on his own, it's the middle of the night and Josiah is hopelessly lost. All of the sudden, he's set upon by monsters. He manages to stop the first with his writing but the second knocks his book out of his hands, leaving him defenseless. At the last moment, he's saved by Jessie and Ralin. Shocked by their sudden change of heart, he asks how they can bring themselves to help him after all he's done. They respond that, while they're still not sure how to feel about him, he is the creator of their world and they're unsure of what will happen to them if he dies. For the time being, it appears that they have no choice but to help him find out who or what is rewriting the story. Though Xavier comes with them, he hangs back. While he didn't become as emotional as Jessie, he seems to be having a harder time accepting Josiah...

Designer's Comments:
As an author, I can't help but think how cool it would be if the worlds I create really do exist somewhere out there. Especially if I could visit them and meet the characters I devoted so much time and effort to developing. Some of my characters might be curious or happy to meet me. We may even become friends. Problem is, there's other characters (and I'm talking heroes, not villains) who would quite likely kill me on the spot. Take Guardian of the Stone, for example, the novel I self published. In the prologue, Kren's (the main character) village is destroyed. Many of his friends and family, including his childhood friend and fiance Lucia, are killed. It's hardly a happy start to the story. Yet if I met Kren face to face and he asked me why I made that happen, what could I say? Sure it started him on a quest that eventually led to the defeat of a great evil, but if the attack on his village had failed, that evil never would have become a serious threat in the first place. In the end, I killed Lucia and the other villagers simply because it made for a better story. Kren could have stayed in his village and lived out a peaceful ordinary life...but that's not the type of story people want to hear. Nearly any interesting story needs conflict and tragedy of some kind. Now someone doesn't always need to die to make a good story (a common misconception among some writers and readers), but often times a tragic death is the only way to force another character to grow and do what needs to be done. From the perspective of a storyteller, it all makes perfect sense. But from the perspective of a character in that story... Kren may very likely have preferred to simply live out an uneventful life with the girl he loved. It's an interesting thing to think about, at least for a writer like me. If you find the subject interesting, you may want to check out a movie from a few years back called Stranger Than Fiction.
But anyway, when it comes down to it, Jessie and the others' reaction to Josiah is completely normal. In many ways, he's the source of all their problems and hardships. He created the good things in their lives as well, but does that balance things out? In many way's, he's like a god to them. Though, while you could argue that a god who gives his creations freewill can't really be blamed for what they do, an author doesn't have that excuse. Everything that happens in a story, good and bad, is written out and detailed by the author. There's no free will and no random chance or fate, everything was his decision.
Anyway, I could probably continue on about this subject for several pages but I think you get the idea. How the other characters relate to Josiah is a major issue throughout much of the story, so I'll discuss it more later on.


1/18/2010 Links, links, and more links

No Ink update today. The reason? Because I spent a whole bunch of time updating the Links and Link Exchange pages. There's links to some great new comics on both pages and I removed all the dead links.

Look for more Ink on Wednesday.


1/15/2010 A return to Ink

There's a new bonus comic so vote and take a look! Also, it's finally time to get back to Ink updates. I'm going to keep today's kind of short since I have some other PV related stuff (site tweaks and the like) I want to work on and because I'm running rather late at the moment, but there'll be plenty more next week.

Ink's Battle System: Party Size and Switching
The player's party will always contain Josiah and up to three other characters (the exact number varying by story events and the number of characters that have joined the party). Outside of certain story based situations, the player cannot remove Josiah from the party. If the player has more then three members in their party, they can swap active members both in and out of battle. Outside of battle, party switching will be handled in the menu. In battle, every character (except Josiah) will have the option to switch places with an inactive party member as part of their standard command menu. The character who is swapped in will be able to act immediately, there is no penalty for switching members. If a party member is unconscious, a different member (Josiah included) can activate a swap for the unconscious character. However, doing so is not a free action. It ends the turn of the character initiating the swap (he/she carries the unconscious character off the field) and the replacement character's turn does not come up immediately, but when it normally would in the rotation. Unconscious characters cannot, in any way, be swapped into battle.

Designer's Comments:
In a normal console RPG, three or four characters is usually a good party size. The reason I'm limiting it to three is that Josiah will always act as a fourth character (though likely a rather limited one). Also, I want to the player to have enough characters to form two complete parties (for story reasons) and, while I can't say for certain since I haven't written the entire story out yet, I'm pretty certain that Jessie and Ralin's group isn't going to end up containing eight people (not counting Josiah).
As for character switching, from a pure realism standpoint it would probably make the most sense to allow all the party members you've got to fight at the same time. Some games come up with a half decent story reason for the party size limit, though most just ignore it. If a story reason for Ink it necessary, I suppose it would be that, if you have too many people fighting at once, it ends up becoming a big brawl and it becomes much harder to ensure that you don't accidentally hurt one of your own allies. Something Xavier will probably mention when teaching the twins how to fight. That said, even if the other party members aren't actually fighting, if they're in the area they should at least be standing around ready to help if needed. That why I decided to use a character switching system similar to Final Fantasy X's. Allowing members to switch out at any time makes more sense from a realism standpoint and also allows the player to effectively use each character's strengths to effectively counter different types of enemies.
I originally wasn't going to allow the player to swap out unconscious characters as a balance issue, since the game becomes a lot easier if your B team can always pop in, revive the A team guys, and keep the battle going. Of course, that's not very realistic either. I think this method allows for a good compromise. It allows the player to swap out unconscious characters if he can't or doesn't want to revive them, but it uses up a different party member's turn (since someone has to get the unconscious guy off the battlefield) and, once swapped out, unconscious characters are effectively removed from the remainder of the battle. You can't swap them back in while they're unconscious and you can't use spells or items on characters not in the active party while you're fighting, so there's no way to heal them until after the battle is over. A little different than most RPGs, but I think this strikes the best compromise between gameplay and realism.


1/13/2010 The great job hunt begins

I'm happy to say that I'm now caught up on PV strips, and just about everything else. So what's next? Looking for a job, of course. The way game design jobs work, it seems just about everyone wants you once you've gotten a couple years of job experience. But without it, you've gotta take what you can get. So I may have to send out a lot of applications until I find a place that is both willing to hire a designer/writer right out of school and has an opening for one. Of course, with the economy the way it is, this really isn't the greatest time to be looking for work. The game industry is still doing fairly well and has more job openings than a lot of industries (though not as many as they used to) but there are enough experienced designers that are out of work that the competition for those jobs is a lot tougher as well. I'm giving myself till late March (a couple weeks after the Game Developers Conference) to find a game design or writing job. If I haven't got one by then, I plan to either get a job as a game tester (should be fairly easy with my qualifications) or teach English in Japan again. Neither is quite what I want, and the pay isn't all that great, but I wouldn't mind doing either one and, more importantly, they'd help me get an in in the game industry. Really good testers can get promoted up to design and, for English teaching, if I lived in Japan for another year or two my Japanese would probably improve enough for me to get into translation and localization, from which I could move into writing. Then again, some rich guy could always fall in love with Car Washer and decide to sponsor the game so I can start my own studio. Ok, so that's pretty unlikely, but you never know. Well, whatever happens, it'll be an interesting year.


1/11/2010 Catching up

Wow, I haven't screwed up on the year yet. I'm impressed. Anyway, I'm not quite done rebuilding my comic buffer (close, but not quite) so I'm not going to do a big news post today. For those of you waiting for more Ink, it'll be returning either Wednesday or Friday.
I've spent the last couple of days catching up on things and unpacking and not much else. I did manage to snatch a bit of time here and there to play Bayonetta. It's actually what I thought it would be from the previews and E3 demo. Ridiculous, over the top, and a whole lot of fun. I don't play a ton of action games (starting to get more into them though), but I think Bayonetta is my favorite so far. Even better than God of War. The controls are perfect, there's tons of crazy weapons and combos, lots of insane action (outing a river of lava, fighting on the side of a tower while its plummeting down a cliff, etc), great music and voice acting, and the whole thing has one heck of an attitude backing it up. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but that's all part of the fun.

Not that I've had time to get very far in it yet... Speaking of which, I need to get back to work. First the buffer, then I start on job stuff. Later!


1/8/2010 I'm back!

Updates are back too! In addition to today's strip, there's a new bonus comic for everyone who votes. Ink updates should resume sometime this coming week as should, according to what I've heard from Shauni, ROM. Now here's the final entry in my New Zealand Travelogue.

Day 16 (6th): Heading Home
Though it was the day of our flight home, the plane didn't leave till late afternoon so my parents decided to take the opportunity to hit up one last sightseeing destination, the Auckland Botanic Gardens. The gardens were pretty large and had a wide variety of plants including lots of nice flowers. Not the best botanical gardens I've ever been to, but certainly worth a visit if you're in the area.
We walked around the gardens for a while then got lunch and walked around some more in a nearby mall before heading to the airport. Plenty of waiting, three flights, and a whole bunch of security checks later we made it back to Arizona...minus three suitcases that disappeared somewhere in LA. Fortunately, the airlines found and returned them the next morning, marking the end of our New Zealand trip.

New Zealand - Final Thoughts:
(Note that everything I say is about the North island, since that's the only one I've been to.) New Zealand is a very nice country. While it lacks the "exotic" feel of the Asian and many European countries, it's a pretty place and there's plenty of cultural diversity to be found in the cities. NZ is pretty clean, pretty safe, and fairly easy to get around (assuming you can manage to drive on the left side of the road). There's some unique plants and birds (though you may have to go to a zoo to see most of them) and the scenery is excellent. While there isn't much you couldn't find somewhere in the US (rolling hills, ancient forests, mountain valleys, beaches, rocky coasts, etc), NZ packs it all into a much smaller (and thereby much more easily accessible) area. The cities are nice (and tend to have a large variety of restaurants) but, when it comes down to it, NZ is a place to go for outdoor activities, be they things like hiking and camping or more beach related activities. If that sounds like you idea of a good vacation, than NZ is a great place to visit.


1/4/2010 One last guest comic

Yes, that's right, this is the last guest comic for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, there will be no update Wednesday, as I'll be stuck on a plane somewhere. Assuming my return trip goes as planned, there will be a regular PV update (comic with comic, bonus comic, and the final part of my New Zealand Travelogue) on Friday. Ink updates will resume sometime next week, once I'm home and have my comic buffer rebuilt.

Day 12 (2nd): Hanging Out in Wellington
Saturday in Wellington was very cloudy and very windy. From what I've heard, the wind is pretty common. I've got to admit that I have a tough time thinking of this type of weather as summer, even early summer. Between the temperatures, wind, and clouds, it's more like spring or fall. Actually, while we're on that topic, I have trouble calling December and January summer regardless of what the weather is like. Sure I've been to hot places during winter months (my family used to go to Florida a lot on vacation and I've spent a few years living in Phoenix, after all) but in those places winter is still winter, even if it was warm. Calling winter months summer is just strange...
But anyway, back to today. Since it was a Saturday, my family and I attended services in the morning.. We'd originally thought about going hiking in the afternoon but no one really wanted to do another long drive followed by more walking so we went to a museum instead (one nice thing about Wellington is that a lot of the museums are free). The Te Papa museum is pretty large and covers a very broad range of subjects, although they all relate to New Zealand. There was a section about marine life, complete with a very large fossil snail shell and the only colossal squid on display in the entire world. My picture of the squid isn't great because its size, the reflectivity of the display case, and the amount of people crowded around it, make it hard to photograph, but it was huge. Then there was the section on the Earth and tectonic activity, complete with this nifty ancient Chinese earthquake recorder. At the exhibit on New Zealand's wildlife I finally decided that I'm probably not going to get a good picture of a live kiwi on this trip so here's a picture of some stuffed ones that were on display instead. There were also big exhibits on the Maori (NZ's indigenous people) and the later British settlers and a collection of art by NZ artists. All in all, it was good museum.
That was pretty much it for the day. We walked around Wellington a little more, but didn't do anything special.

Random New Zealand Comment: Internet Access
It may not be all that interesting but it's worth noting if you're thinking of traveling to New Zealand. So far, I've yet to see a single hotel that offers free internet access. While you can pay for internet access, the prices tend to be rather high (average of $7-$10 (New Zealand dollars) for an hour and around $30+ for a day). Many places don't even offer an all day package and force you to buy an hour or two at a time. On top of that, most of the internet plans here, regardless of how much time you buy, place very strict limits on your bandwidth. It's more than enough to check your e-mail, but if you plan to be sending a bunch of photos, watching movies, downloading much of anything, or something like that, you could easily run out of bandwidth before your time is up. Fortunately, cities and larger towns have internet cafes which provide much more reasonable rates and some even allow you to bring your own laptop. But, when it comes down to it, it's probably best to plan on not being to get online all that much while you're here.

Day 13 (3rd): The Final Destination
With only a few days left on our New Zealand trip, my family headed to Tongariro National Park to do some hiking. It was a several hour drive from Wellington and we arrived in the early afternoon.
The park is way up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. And I do mean in the middle of nowhere. The town we're staying in is really small and a good twenty minute or more drive from the next tiny town. On the bright side, the internet rates here are considerably cheaper than anywhere else we've stayed. Anyway, my dad didn't want to do anything big today (partly because of the time and partly because it's pretty cloudy and windy up here today) so we took a ninety minute hike to, you guessed it, a waterfall. It was a pleasant hike and the scenery was nice, nothing spectacular though. After that, my brother wanted to check out the chair lift a bit further up the mountain. Why a chair lift? Well, this place is a sky area in the winter and in the summer the lift takes hikers partway up the mountain so they can shave some time off of their hike. My brother wants to hike to the top of the mountain tomorrow but my dad doesn't like the look of the weather or the chair lift and wants to do a different hike so we'll see what happens.

Random New Zealand Comment: Sports
New Zealand's big sports are rugby (a British game that's somewhat similar to American football) and cricket. I don't really get cricket. It vaguely resembles baseball and my brother tells me that games can go on for up to five whole days, but that's about all I know. Soccer is also pretty popular here (no surprise there) and, though there aren't any pro teams as far as I know, there's some TV stations here that broadcast US basketball, football, and probably baseball (though I'm not sure cause it's not the right season). Outside of the big sports, there's tons of water sports, extreme sports, golf, and the like, which is no big surprise since NZ seems to be a very active outdoors oriented country.

Day 14 (4th): Change of Plans
In the end, we didn't do any hiking today. Come morning, it was raining fairly hard and, even if it let up in the afternoon like it was supposed to, the trails would be way too muddy for hiking.  Since there wasn't much to do in the area besides hike, we changed our plans one last time and decided to head to Auckland a day early, figuring that, even if the weather was bad there too, there'd be plenty of things to do in the city, at least after we got the several hour drive out of the way.
As it turned out, the weather in Auckland was pretty good. My brother, ever the sports fan, suggested that we go watch a pro cricket game that was taking place today so we went and saw the Auckland Aces play the Canterbury Wizards. The normal stadium is undergoing renovations or something so the game was held in a college field. In my opinion, the whole thing had much more of a high school game vibe than a pro sports one. Fairly small crowd, pretty casual, etc. I learned a little bit more about how cricket itself is played, but this isn't really the place to detail the rules. If you're curious, you can find them online easily enough. Suffice it to say that I was correct, cricket is something like baseball, though it seems to have less tension, scale, and strategy (no offense to cricket fans, that's just my assessment from the little bit I've seen of the game). Doesn't look like a bad game but I personally found it a lot less interesting to watch then a baseball game, and I don't think that watching baseball is all that captivating to begin with.
After we'd had our fill of cricket, we walked around in a shopping mall and around Auckland's harbor and that was about it.


1/1/2010 Happy new year!

Happy new year everyone! Happy birthday to me as well. Wow, 25... But this isn't the time to be thinking about that. Got another guest comic for you today and, well, that's about it. Unfortunately, I not only burned through my buffer of regular PV strips, but my buffer of bonus comics as well. Speaking of updates, just so you know, PV will update on Monday (assuming I can get internet access at our new hotel) but not on Wednesday (I'll be flying back to the US so I won't be able to get online). Updates should resume normally next Friday. Anyway, on with the travelogue!

Day 10 (31st): Wellington
We got an early start today and headed South towards Wellington, New Zealand's capital city. It was about a six hour drive and, aside from a brief stop at New Zealand's largest lake, we didn't really take any breaks on the way and got there in the early afternoon.
Wellington is NZ's second largest city (after Auckland) but it's pretty condensed, which can make it feel larger at times. It's a rather pretty city situated by the ocean. While the downtown area is flat, the city itself is surrounded by hills so if you leave the central area you can expect a lot of climbing.
After checking into our hotel, we split up. My mom and brother went to check out the stores while my dad and I took an old fashioned cable car up to the botanical gardens. The gardens were pretty and had some interesting flowers I hadn't seen before. Though they were situated right on the side of a hill and featured a twisty maze of paths that made them a little hard to navigate. We walked around for a bit then headed back towards and through the downtown area, looking for a health food store my dad wanted to visit. After that we slowly made our way along the harbor and back towards the hotel. There was quite a lot of walking involved, but it gave me a good overview of the city. It's nice. Very clean, with lots of shops and restaurants, though they're scatted about a bit instead of being organized into different "districts" like they are in many larger cities. On a more odd note, we saw a lot of people riding around on unicycles. Turns out, the unicycle world championships are going to be here sometime in January. I never knew they had championships for unicycles. I guess they do tricks and stuff, though I'm not really sure.
Anyway, my whole family met up later on and got supper at a Turkish restaurant. I haven't had Turkish food before, but it was pretty good. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by the area where Wellington is doing their New Year's Eve party. They had some local singers and stuff to entertain people, though it seemed to be aimed at a younger audience. It was mildly entertaining, but not really my type of thing. Besides, I'll probably have to get up fairly early for tomorrow's hike so staying up late probably wouldn't be a good idea.

Day 11 (1st): Seals!
January 1, the beginning of 2010 and also my 25th birthday. But, seeing as I and my family are in New Zealand, those things didn't make as much of an impact on the day as they otherwise might have. Anyway, we started off with a fairly long drive towards a hike where they did some filming for The Lord of the Rings movies. But before going on the hike itself, we continued down the road, hoping to find the fur seal colony that's supposed to live there. Though we ended up driving quite a lot, we did find the seals, which made it worthwhile. There were a surprisingly large number of them just lounging on the rocks along a mostly deserted stretch of beach. They didn't seem to be very scared of humans (or maybe they were just lazy) and lay there watching as we walked around and looked at them. They'd waddle away if we got too close, but that was about it. While I've seen seals before in zoos and all, it was really cool to be able to see so many of them in the wild. Since we were there, we also climbed up to an old lighthouse to get a great view of the coastline. Then, after a little more time spent looking around the nearby beaches, we made our way back to that hike.
The hike was to The Pinnacles. Though my memory is a bit fuzzy (been a while since I've watched the movies), it's supposed to be the place where Aragorn's group went through on their way to find the army of the dead. The Pinnacles were neat and the hike itself wasn't bad, though most of the scenery reminded me a lot of the American mid-west, which I see all the time back home.
We did some grocery shopping and spent a little while walking around in a mall on our way back to Wellington, but nothing too exciting. Shortly after making it back to the hotel, my mom, brother, and I went out for my birthday dinner. We went to a place called The Thai Chef, since I really like Thai food and it won a big award. It was a bit of a walk, but the food was worth it. I had duck with a yellow curry. some vegetables, and lychee fruit in it. Really, really good. And that was it for the day. We've still got one more day in Wellington, so I'll be talking more about it next time.


12/30/2009 Rotorua

Yep, it's another guest comic. Can't say if there'll be any more regular strips until after I return to the US or not. I've got a couple more unused guest comics though and, if anyone would like to submit one, feel free. Also, I wanted to let you know that my New Zealand travelogue has its own page so check it out if you missed any entries.

Day 8 (29th): Rotorua
The weather took a turn for the worse, prompting a sudden change of plans. Instead of heading to a national park to go hiking (which wouldn't have been much fun in the rain), we pushed it to next week and headed to the town of Rotorua instead. Along the way, we stopped at The Lost Valley, an area with a lot of thermal activity (geysers, mud pots, and the like), kind of like what you'd see at Yellowstone National Park back in the US. There was even a cave with a thermal pool at the bottom. The valley itself was a short ferry ride across a river and had a nice circular walking path that hit all the main points. It rained most of the time we were there, but I had my umbrella so it wasn't too bad.
Once we'd seen the whole valley, we continued on to Rotorua, a large town / small city on a lake. Like The Lost Valley, there's a lot of thermal activity in the area so it's got its share of geysers and hot springs. It's a nice town, though you can smell sulfur in the air in many areas. I'm not sure if that's something I'd get used to or really sick of... Anyway, we stopped at a shopping center to grab lunch and look around a bit and then dropped by our hotel to unpack and figure out how we wanted to spend the rest of the day, since the rain had screwed up our original plans.
My brother really wanted to do the Zorb. You may have seen it on TV. Basically you get inside a giant inflatable ball and roll down a hill. They had the normal version and a wet version, where instead of being strapped in you're just in the ball with enough water to ensure that you're constantly slipping and sliding around. That's what my brother and I did. It was a lot of fun, though very expensive considering how short the ride was.
After the Zorb, we went around the town a bit, saw some sheep, and checked out the restaurants. We ended up eating at a place called New Zealand Supreme, a Chinese restaurant of sorts specializing in local meats including venison and duck. It was all really good. Duck is a lot better than I expected and it was the best venison I've ever had (not that I've had a lot though).
To finish up the day, we took a walk by the lake, which was home to tons of seagulls, black swans, and other birds. There were too many clouds to see much of a sunset, but it was still a pretty area. We'll be staying in Rotorua for another day, so I'll talk more about it next time.

Day 9 (30th): Hanging Out in Rotorua
My family and I spent the day hanging out in Rotorua. My dad and I left early to visit the Rainbow Springs Nature Park. It's a zoo of sorts focusing on birds. They also hatch and raise young kiwi there. It's a nice place. Here's a few animal pictures. First up, trout, (they've got a lot of them), a native New Zealand Kea bird, a neat bird with a sort of white ruff, a wallaby (there's actually some wild ones around that were brought from Australia), and some sheep (since it is New Zealand and all).
After we'd finished in the park, we met up with my mom and brother and went to a nearby hot springs spa. This was a more normal hot spring (unlike the one we went to up north). It had a lot of pools of different temperatures and made for a pleasant way to pass the morning. After that we walked around downtown Rotorua for a while, looked in stores, got lunch, and did some grocery shopping. And, well, that was about it. We spent most of the rest of the day hanging out at the hotel (doing laundry, relaxing, etc). My mom and I also headed back to Rainbow Springs for a little while (my tickets were good for the entire day) to see if we could get a better look at the kiwi later in the day. Tried to get a picture for you, but it was pretty dark so none of them came out very well.

Random New Zealand Comment: Food
Like it's "mother" country England, New Zealand isn't really a place that comes to mind when you think of foreign food. NZ food, unsurprisingly, borrows a lot from England. There's tons of fish and chips places everywhere (NZ also has chips made out of their local yams) and meat pies of various types are quite popular as well. Meat in general is big, especially beef and lamb, though there's plenty of chicken and pork as well. As for foreign food (well, foreign to New Zealand), a lot of your "typical American" meat dishes like hamburgers and steak are pretty common. And, in the small towns, fish and chips, hamburgers, and meat pies are often the only things you'll find. In the cities and larger towns though, you'll also find quite a lot of Indian, Thai, and Chinese restaurants along with some Italian, Japanese, and Korean, with the occasional other type of some sort. It's certainly a lot more diverse than Japan was, though some types of food (such as Mexican) are still pretty rare.
Grocery stores are pretty similar to what you'd see in the US, though the ones in small towns tend to have pretty limited selections. Some types of tropical fruit (such as kiwi) are a lot more common than in the US and there's the occasional odd popular item (lime flavored milk, chicken flavored potato chips, etc), but they don't strike me as being nearly as "different" as Japanese grocery stores did.


12/28/2009 Kiwi, Caves, and More

Another guest comic, sorry. But, considering the internet situation at this hotel, be happy I was able to update at all. Well, let's get right to the travelogue.

Day 5 (26th): Hiking in the Mangroves
Today we took a hike to the Haruru Falls. Since it was a 10 kilometer hike (five each way) my dad wanted to get a fairly early start. Despite a minor snag with the GPS routing us on some small, slow, curvy country road, we got to the trail head ok and headed out. The trail started out in a forest next to a river. Here's a shot of me in the forest. It eventually led out onto a boardwalk through a mangrove forest. The tide was out at the time so we could see the local "wildlife". Can you spot the mud crab? There was also snapping shrimp there. We didn't see any, but you could actually hear them snapping. Never thought shrimp could make so much noise... After the mangroves, there was more regular forest followed by the Haruru Falls themselves. We stopped there for a lunch break before heading back. Along the way, I snapped some pictures of some of the shags hanging out and nesting in the nearby trees. There was even some babies (though rather large ones). The baby warbled (both noisy and silently) quite a lot. It was a little weird.
After the hike, we returned to the hotel and I gave the beach another try. I actually got in the ocean for a while. It was cold at first, but I got used to it after a bit. Still no waves though. Now that I think about it, I haven't been to a beach with waves in a really really long time. Several years at least. Maybe not since before college. I'll have to keep that in mind for future vacation planning...

Random New Zealand Comment: Animals
New Zealand actually doesn't have much in the way of native animals. There's plenty of birds, including the famous kiwi birds, some sea creatures (fish, crabs, etc), and insects of course, but that's about it. Now a days though, people have the usual dogs and cats and there's a ton of cows and sheep. Which makes sense. Considering all the grassy areas, mild weather, and lack of predators, this country is most likely an excellent places to raise livestock. There's possums too, though I imagine they were brought here at some point for one reason or another. But anyway, the general lack of animals, especially the little ones you see a lot like squirrels, rabbits, and the like is a little odd.

Day 6 (27th): Driving South
Today marked the end of our time in the north. We left early and got to Kerikeri just in time for the weekly farmers' market. It was pretty nice as far as farmers' markets go. Lots of fruits, veggies, and assorted other foods. Some great snacks too.
After that, it was time for a whole lot of driving. We passed a big lake and lots of green farm covered countryside. We also made a stop to see New Zealand's oldest (and probably largest) tree. Not sure how well you can tell just from the photo, but the tree was huge and completely dwarfed everything around it. Pretty cool.
After spending most of the day in the car, we eventually made it to Hamilton, a nice little city with a river running through it. Reminds me a little of Austin, actually... Since it was Sunday, a lot of things were closed but we walked around downtown a bit and checked out the restaurants (there are a lot of restaurants) before eating at a Mediterranean place. I also got a picture of a weird sign and one of my brother and I next to an odd sci-fi statue.

Random New Zealand Comment: Money
New Zealand's currency is the dollar. As of earlier today, $1 NZ was worth about $0.70 US. Like the US dollar, the NZ dollar is equal to one hundred cents. There's bills for $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 (all of which have this odd transparent plastic oval shaped bit in them) and coins for $0.10, $0.20, $0.50, $1, and $2. The interesting thing is, despite the fact that there's no coins for anything less than ten cents, things can still cost eleven cents, thirteen cents, and the like. So instead of paying exact price, once your bill has been added up the store (or wherever) rounds things up or down to the nearest multiple of ten. Kinda strange if you ask me, but it works.

Day 7 (28th): Kiwi, Caves, & More
This was the day I was really looking forward to. Our main destination was the Waitomo Caves to take a black water tubing tour, but more on that later. On the way to the caves, we stopped at the Kiwi House, a bird park that has, among other things, kiwi birds. The kiwi themselves were pretty cool. They're a bit over a foot tall and very different from other birds I've seen. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to photograph the kiwi but I did get pictures of a kiwi skeleton and my brother next to a big kiwi statue. The Kiwi House also had lots of other birds, like these clam eater birds, and a few other creatures, such as this weird salamander thing.
The cave tour itself was really awesome. My dad didn't go, but my mom, brother, and I did. We took the Black Labyrinth tour. Unfortunately, since we spent most of it in the water, I wasn't able to bring my camera. But here's the basics. Our group (twelve people plus two guides) started off getting wet suits and caving helmets (complete with head lamps) then drove to a nearby river to get our tubes and spend a few minutes practicing how to jump backwards into the water (landing on your tube in the process) and paddle around. Then it was off to the cave itself. To sum it up, we basically followed a river through part of the Waitomo cave system. Sometimes we walked through the water, sometimes we floated on it. We also had to clamber over some rocks and make a few jumps down to the lower levels (landing in the water on our tubes). Our guides were great and pretty funny, and climbing and floating around through the caves was awesome (and cold). But that's not all, there were also the glow worms. Actually a type of maggot, glow worms emit a bioluminescence in order to attract and trap insects that wander into the cave. With our head lamps turned off, the ceiling of the cave was almost like looking up at a starry sky. The entire experience was really cool and I highly recommend it (for all of you guys who just happen to come to the North Island of New Zealand).
After we got out of the cave, we met my dad who wanted to take us to some spots he'd visited while we were floating around in the dark. First was a short walk through very jungle like terrain to the Manapohue natural bridge. The "bridge" is a stone arch of sorts that you can walked under. The bridge (and the surrounding forest) are both great and very pretty. Next, another quick hike. This time to the Marokopa Falls. Easily the best waterfall we've seen so far this trip. He's a shot of my whole family at the falls.
Our hotel is in a small town nearby that proclaims itself to be the "shearing capital of the world". Ok... It's a pretty place, though there isn't much here. Surprisingly, our "hotel room" turned out to be an entire house. And a pretty fancy (albeit old) one at that. There's a lot of nice flowers nearby so here's one flower picture I'm particularly pleased with to finish things up for the day.

12/25/2009 Exploring Northland

Hi everyone! Sorry about the guest comic but, as I said before, I pretty much ran through my buffer during finals and have limited time to make new strips while on vacation. There is, however, a new voters' bonus comic (a special one featuring the winner of this year's Week of Randomness event on the Pebble Version forums).

Oh, so you know, I've give my New Zealand travelogue its own page (and a link to it on the Extras page).

Day 3 (24th): Exploring the North
Today was spent exploring various parts of the Northern part of New Zealand's North island. To start, we decided to go check out some hot springs. It was a kinda long drive and, along the way, we passed through a lot more tiny little towns and sprawling farmland. The springs themselves were interesting. They were actually less like an American hot spring or a Japanese onsen than like those bubbling mineral pools you see at places like Yellowstone National Park. They weren't bad, but I prefer more normal hot springs.
When we'd finished up at the springs, we went to check out some nice idyllic little beach towns. We started in a town called Piahia and then took a ferry across the bay to the very pretty town of Russel. Both towns had a bunch of shops and restaurants and lots of pretty flowers. The ferry itself also provided some nice views of the coast. Out last stop was the town of Kerikeri. It wasn't on the coast, but was the largest town we've seen since Auckland and had a main street with a wide variety of shops and restaurants.
So yeah, it was a nice day, though nothing overly exciting. It was nice to see towns like Russel and Kerikeri though, I'd been starting to think that all the towns north of Auckland were tiny places with little besides small grocery stores and fish & chips restaurants. I'm glad that's not the case.

Random New Zealand Comment: Health
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a country with so many rural areas, New Zealand seems to have a very strong interest in healthy and organic foods. Not that other countries don't, but it seems to be a bit more widespread here. To the point where even a lot of things in regular grocery stores are advertised as being all natural and/or organic. There's a lot of health food stores as well. Most interesting to me (though probably no so much to most of you) is all the carob products available in those health food stores. If you're not familiar with carob, it's something like chocolate (personally, I like carob a lot better than chocolate). It used to be really big in US health food stores back ten or fifteen years ago, but has since been eclipsed by chocolate and now you can't find nearly as many carob items as you used to be able too. Being a big carob fan, it's really cool to see such a large selection available here.

Day 4 (25th): Hitting the Beaches
Being Christmas, we figured that most things would be closed so my dad decided to use this day to check out some of the nearby beaches. Along the way, we found ourselves driving through some drier areas, with some more interesting looking trees. The first two beaches we stopped at were very big, very pretty, and very empty. The first one had a ton of shells lying around, some of which were fairly nice. The second beach included a little hidden beach nearby and, while we were there, we hiked up a tall grassy hill, which offered some great views of the beach and the surrounding countryside.
We drove around and stopped at a couple more beaches after that but the first two were by far the nicest and had the best sand. I got part way in the water a couple times but it was a little cold and, since all the water was really calm (my favorite thing to do in the ocean in play around in the waves) I didn't have a whole lot of motivation to get totally wet.
The rest of the day was spent hanging around the hotel and relaxing, which was a nice change of pace from all the driving and walking we've been doing. We also grilled up some of the local lamb and beef for supper. It was pretty good, but I definitely missed my spice collection (currently sitting back in the US).

And that's all for now. Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it! I'll be at a new hotel next week so here's hoping I've got internet access (and that it's reasonably priced).


12/23/2009 Traveling in New Zealand

There's a new ROM.

Well, I'm in New Zealand. Where Christmas is in the summer and hotel internet access is extremely expensive (at least at our first couple of hotels). I'll still be updating but, as previously mentioned, they'll probably be a little early or late and I may have to skip a day here and there (like Monday, when I couldn't update because I traveling). Also, unless some of our future hotels have much more reasonably priced internet access, I may not get a chance to respond to my e-mail until I get back to the US, just so you know.

Day 1 (20th - 22nd): Plane, plane, plane, Auckland
Ah, gotta love long plane rides...or not. So why New Zealand? Well, my dad has always wanted to go (combination of the scenery, hiking, and plant life, I think) and, with our schedules continuing to diverge, this could very well be the last "great family vacation" my parents, brother, and I get to take together. So New Zealand it is.
Anyway, the day actually started out with my parents helping me move the last of my stuff out of my Arizona apartment, as I'm going to be moving in with them for the next month or two while I look for a job now that I've got my master's degree. With that taken care of, we all hung out at my brother's place for a while since our flight didn't leave till the afternoon. In the meantime, my parents decided to spend some time on one of their hobbies, looking as restated, and checked out a condo place right near my brother's apartment. They actually had some really nice units. In one, the elevator actually opened right into your condo. Really cool.
But that's all off topic. Our trip started out with the usual run through Phoenix's rather boring airport, followed by a ninety minute flight to LA. This was in turn followed with a trip through customs (international flight and all that) and then a "lovely" five hour layover. Helpful tip, if you ever find yourself flying internationally out of LA, once you get through security, there's hardly any shops, restaurants, or anything. So eat, buy your magazines, or whatever first. Fortunately, I had David Drake's Lord of the Isles and Mario & Luigi Bowser's Inside Story on my DS to keep my entertained (though not fed). The flight itself was your usual long (a bit over ten hours) flight. We had a big plane and the flight was smooth enough but it was long, not all that comfortable, and the food was lousy (which is pretty much the norm for airline food).
You'd think by now we'd be in New Zealand, right? Not quite... See, it was apparently a lot cheaper to change planes in Fiji. Seeing as we arrived at about 5 AM (local time) I didn't really get a chance to see much of Fiji aside from the airport, and a brief overview when our plane to New Zealand finally took odd. It looked very green and tropical and, uh, that's really about all I can say from my brief time there. The airport was interesting (more of a shopping plaza than an airport, really), but they made everyone run through customs again despite the fact that they really didn't have enough people or security people to handle such a large group in any sort of reasonable amount of time. When all was said and done, we spent about forty-five minutes in line, another couple hours in the airport, and another three hours on a plane before finally arriving in Auckland New Zealand.
We crossed the international date line during all of this (hence the reason why I listed multiple days as "day 1") and ended up arriving in the early afternoon New Zealand time (which is twenty hours later, or fours earlier (and one day later) than Arizona time). From a jet lag perspective, that's pretty easy to get used to (though I've never had much problem with jet lag) though the combination of all that time in planes and airports, combined with that busy morning back in Phoenix, made things a bit worse. After spending an overly long time getting everything with our rental car worked out, and freaking out as my mom tried to get used to driving on the left side of the road, we made it to our hotel, dropped everything off, and spent the next few hours wondering around the city.
My early thoughts on New Zealand? Well, it looks a lot like the Eastern US. Very green and hilly, though with some interesting trees. Auckland is also somewhat similar to the Eastern US, or maybe some of the older cities in California. It's got the same mix of quirky private stores and restaurants and big (often US) chains (McDonald's and Starbucks are, unsurprisingly, not that hard to find). Despite being the largest city in New Zealand, it doesn't really feel overly large or crowded. And, while it doesn't seem all that old, it's not extremely modern either. It's certainly cleaner than most US cities, though not as clean as cities in Japan. It's even got the Seattle Space-, er, the Auckland Sky Needle. What's cool is that you can actually pay to take a free fall off of it. Maybe if I have some time later in the trip...
Getting back to the city, we spent some time wondering around downtown. There was a park there with some more nice trees and a big fountain and the occasional interestingly designed building. Oh, and we saw Santa. I guess he visits New Zealand early. That as he seems to have been really bulking up lately... We mostly just looked around, checking out the occasional store and restaurant. Lots of clothing stores (some pretty fancy) and souvenir stores mostly. When asking one local for directions to a certain shopping area, he said to look for the big chimney. I was pretty sure we'd either misheard or he'd given us bad directions...at first. Turns out though, it's actually good advice. After a few hours of this, and picking up supper at an Asian food court (more on the Asian stuff in today's Random New Zealand Comment), we headed back to the hotel to rest up in preparation for tomorrow.
Interestingly enough, despite the fact that New Zealand is an English speaking country, there's still the occasional weird language things. For example, the Hot Yacht Sandwich. Does anyone get that sign? I don't... And then there's this place. Personally, I wouldn't name my company after a type of hospital that treats crazy people...

Random New Zealand Comment: The Asian Influence
Since it's fairly close to China, Japan, and the like, New Zealand gets a lot of Asian tourists (there's actually a big group of Japanese teens staying the same hotel as me). It has a lot of Asian citizens as well. While I haven't seen a dedicated "China Town" in Auckland, there's so many Asian restaurants and stores (mostly Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) scattered all over the place that they really don't need one. Not sure how prevalent they are outside the city (haven't seen many yet), or how big of an influence it has on the New Zealand culture itself, but it's certainly worth noting.

Day 2 (23th): Heading North
Remarkably, and very conveniently, my dad actually managed to sleep through pretty much the entire night (he usually has a lot of trouble with jet lag), so we didn't have to worry about him wanting to leave at 3 AM since he couldn't get back to sleep. Though, come 8 AM, we were still in the car and headed off to our first "hub" hotel, several hours to the north. I spent most of the drive watching the scenery and listening to music on my MP3 player. New Zealand still reminds me a lot of the Eastern US. Very lush and green, with lots of rolling hills and tiny little towns. There's a whole bunch of farms as well. Lots of different types of fruit are grown here, and there's plenty of cows and sheep too. I have to admit that the, compared to Japan and Europe (where I went once a year or two before starting Pebble Version), New Zealand isn't nearly as "different" from the US. Nothing wrong with that, and it certainly makes getting around a lot easier, but it's a little less exciting that way.
We stopped along the way and took a quick walk to a nice waterfall, followed by a much longer walk through the nearby forest. Definitely some plants here that you don't see in the US though. Some nice flowers too (though most of them do grow in the US too). Here's a pic of myself and my parents on a walkway in the middle of the forest.
After that it was back to the car for a while longer until we arrived at our destination, a small beach town called Taipa. Our hotel is right on the beach, though it was pretty cloudy and windy today so I didn't feel like getting in the water. We walked along the beach for a while though and spotted some of the local wildlife such as seagulls (pretty much the same everywhere in the world) and assorted sea creatures (such as this starfish) hanging out in some tidal pools.
Next up, dinner in a small fishing town nearby (they had good fish and chips) and grocery shopping. So far, all the grocery stores I've seen here in New Zealand have been pretty small, though that could just be due to the locations I've been to so far (downtown in a city and in small rural towns. As for the food, aside from some different brands names and a bit more of a focus on organic and natural stuff, most of the food isn't all that different than what you'd find in grocery stores in the US. Though the more popular fruits and vegetables are a bit different (beets and, unsurprisingly, kiwi fruits are quite popular here, for example). And, oddly enough, instead of mild, medium, and sharp, cheddar cheese comes in mild and "tasty" varieties.

Random New Zealand Comment: The Accent
I suppose to the people here, I'm the one with the accent, though I have a very hard time thinking of American English (well, aside from the deep south and hillbilly varieties) as having an accent. It all seems pretty plain and flat to me... Anyway, the accent here strikes me as being closer to British than Australian English. Though, seeing as I've never been to Australia (I've met a couple people from there in real life and have some Australian friends online though) or the UK (though I have an aunt from Britain), I'm nowhere near an expert their accents (their real everyday ones, not the stereotypes) and could be way off here. At very least, I can tell that they use a lot of British spellings for words.


12/18/2009 PV update schedule

There's a new voters' bonus comic for everyone who (take a wild guess) votes for Pebble Version using the Top Web Comic banner or button. There's a new ROM too.

So, now that I'm finished with school, I'm heading off on a family vacation this Sunday. My dad has always wanted to go to New Zealand so that's where we're heading for the next two weeks. I'm not entirely sure what's there, other then nice scenery (the did film Lord of the Rings there) and kiwi birds, but it should be an interesting trip. That leads me to two announcements.

First up, I should (theoretically) have internet access for most of the trip so I'm still planning to update PV more or less regularly. However, since I don't know what times of day I'll have time to get on my computer, and I'll be in a very different time zone anyway, updates may be made bit earlier or later in the day than they usually are. Also, it's possible that I may miss an update here and there if I get really busy or end up in a hotel without internet. This Monday's update in particular is up in the air because of my flight to New Zealand (pun not intended).

Secondly, while in New Zealand I plan to keep a travelogue. Something like my Japan one, just a lot shorter. So expect write-ups of what I see and do, lots of photos, and the like. I'll try to make a new most every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, like usual. Though, as I said before, updates may be a bit early or late and I might miss a day or two here and there. I'll try and have new Pebble Version comics every time I update but my buffer isn't in the greatest shape right now thanks to finals, moving, and some computer issues (technology really seems to hate me this week), so I can't guarantee anything. If you want to send me a guest comic, just in case, feel free.

Unfortunately, I don't have an Ink update for today (didn't have time thanks to those computer issues). Ink updates will resume after I get back from New Zealand.

Well, I think that pretty much covers everything. See you Monday, or maybe Wednesday, depending.


12/16/2009 Farewell to Phoenix Part 2

Time for the second post of my post about what I'll miss about Phoenix.

One Last Store
Can't believe I forgot to mention it last time, but I'm definately going to miss the local Fry's Electronics. Games, movies, computer parts, appliances... If it's electronic, they probably sell it and they've got a great selection. Not to mention awesome clearance sales they have on random items. Of course, not having Fry's Electronics around will probably be good for my wallet...

The University of Advancing Technology, or UAT, is where I got my bachelor's and where I'm about to get my master's. On one hand, I'm certainly glad to be done with school. On the other hand, I'm gonna miss UAT. Sure marketing and some of the higher-ups are a bit out there, but the professors and deans are awesome. The fairly casual environment, various student events, and the like are great as well.
I'd like to give a shoutout to Ken, Mike, and Derric, the greatest game teachers ever. Also to the other great teachers here including Kathleen, Sharon, Randy, Gavin, Kumiko, and the rest. With the exception of a few classes, it's been a lot of fun.
I'm also going to miss the UAT anime club. The club was started by my friend Matt during my first semester back in 2005 and I've been a regular attendee back then and since returning for my master's. I've met lots of great people in the club and been introduced to a ton of great anime that I probably never would have seen otherwise. I'm gonna miss Mark and his Mystery Science Theater style commentary as well, even if we don't always agree about certain anime.

Finally, and most importantly, my friends. Most of my friends from my Bachelor's days graduated and left around the same time I did and most of the ones who were still around when I returned have left by now as well. Matt, David, Patrick, Brad, Evan, Alex, Charles, I hope you guys are all doing well. As for the old friends I have who are still around, and the new friends I've made since returning to UAT... Ian, James, Jess, Nick, Megan, Matt, Nick, Jon, Mark, Strawberry, Luis... It's been fun! I'm gonna miss hanging out with you guys. Hopefully we'll end up living near each other again sometime.

Well, not much time left, still a few days, but that's about it. I'll miss this place...

Anyway, I'll see you Friday. I'll try and get one last Ink post up then before I go on vacation. Speaking of which, I'll talk more about said vacation, and how it will affect PV's update schedule, on Friday. Later!


12/14/2009 Farewell to Phoenix

There's a new ROM up.

I'm not leaving Phoenix quite yet, but it's getting close. This is my last week of school and then I'll be going off on a family vacation on Sunday. After that it's back to Colorado while I search for job. The is the second time I've left Phoenix (the first being after I got my Bachelor's degree), but this time it seems rather unlikely that I'll be coming back. I could get a job here, but there aren't that many game companies so it's not looking all that likely. Anyway, with my time here running out, I want to take a day (or maybe two, depending on long this ends up being) to write up a tribute of sorts to the things about Phoenix that I'll miss once I leave. If you're ever in the Phoenix area, check them out if you can.

The Siamese Cat Thai: This is my favorite restaurant. I've gone so many times (bringing lots of different people over the years) that I'm on friendly terms with the owner. She's a very nice person and the food is awesome. I've loved everything I've had on the menu but I especially recommend the spring rolls (very different from the Chinese style), pretty much every curry dish, and the home made coconut ice cream.
YC's Mongolian Grill: Ever been to a Ghengis Grill? YC's is like that, only better. Get a big bowl, still it full of meat, smash the meat down, stuff it full of veggies, build a mountain of noodles on top, then cover it with your own mix of sauces and watch them grill it up for you. With a bit of practice, you can easily get three meals worth of food out of a single trip through the buffet. Fun, cheap, and tasty.
NYPD Pizza: I've tried a ton of different pizza places in Phoenix but NYPD is the one I keep going back to. Definitely the best New York style pizza in the city. They also give you a ton of coupons if you get on their free e-mail list.
Haru Sushi: A Japanese style kaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant? It's almost like being back in Japan. They've got tons of good sushi, most for only a dollar or two per plate.
Sushi Ken: Introduced to me by my Japanese teacher as "the place where all the Japanese businessmen eat", sushi ken is the place to go for cheap authentic Japanese food, from noodle dishes, to curry, to fish. It's another place that almost makes me feel like I'm still in Japan.
Those may be my favorites, but they're really just a start. Phoenix has tons of awesome restaurants. A few other great places include Udupi (Indian), Cafe Lali Bela (Ethiopean), and Chompie's (NY style deli). And, once again, I could keep going. Definitely gonna miss the restaurants here...

Admittedly, most of the shopping I do around here is in chain stores. But AZ Mills Mall is pretty nice now (big arcade, movie theater, anime store, game store, video game store) and there's great plaza's around I-10 and Ray and Baseline and Val Vista. And then there's my nearby Whole Foods. Where ever I end up living next, I hope they've got a Whole Foods or something similar. I don't really want to go back to ordinary grocery stores...
But the store I'm really gonna miss? Bookmans, hands down. Imagine a store the size of a fairly large Barnes & Noble of Borders, but everything is used. And they've got more than books. There's tons of books, of course, but also magazines, music, movies, video games, and a few assorted other things as well. They've got a huge selection, great prices, and an awesome trade in program. I've been taking all the books and stuff I don't want there for ages and have found tons of great deals there and even some very hard to find items. I've seen plenty of used media stores before but, with the possible exception of a couple of places in Japan, nothing comes close to Bookmans selection and prices. If you've ever in Phoenix, Flagstaff, or Tuscon, make sure you swing by the nearest Bookmans, you won't be sorry.

There's a lot of stuff that goes on in Phoenix. Concerts, shows of all types, the fair... I've really barely scratched the surface of Phoenix's entertainment scene during my time here. But there's a couple of events in particular that I've attended which stick out.
Matsuri of Arizona: Phoenix's yearly Japanese culture festival (a weekend in early spring) is always fun with tons of shows demonstrating various Japanese performing arts and plenty of booths selling Japanese food and assorted items. Admittedly, after living in Japan for a while, I find it a lot less impressive than I used to. But it's still fun and certainly worth a trip if you're here during the right time of year.
The Arizona Renaissance Festival: I only wish that I'd learned about this thing sooner. The festival is the size of an amusement park and features a huge amount of free stage shows (comedy, acrobatics, medieval sports, etc), lots of awesome items for sale (many hand crafted), great food... Let's just say that there's no lack of things to see and do. It's lots of fun and something I highly recommend attending for a day or two if you're in the Phoenix area in the February through March time frame. If you want to know more, you may want to check out the photos and write-up from my last visit in the old news pages. I'm gonna miss it.
As I said, there's plenty of other things in Phoenix as well including two small anime conventions (Anizona and Sabotenkon) (for my thoughts on those, you can check out the old news for the write-ups from my previous visits), a comic convention (which I've never been to) and plenty more.

Wow, this getting pretty long and this seems like a good place to take a break. I'll finish off this Phoenix tribute next time.



12/11/2009 Short and sweet

Well, maybe not sweet, but definately short. There's a new voters' bonus comic today and a new ROM. And well, that's it. I was out late at a friend's birthday party and need to get some sleep before getting to work on final projects.

See you Monday!


12/9/2009 Plot, plot, and more plot

There's a new ROM. And now it's time to post a bit more of Ink's plot.

Ink's Plot Summary - Rewrite:
Continuing to follow Josiah's original story, Jessie, Ralin, and Xavier decide to search out an old acquantience of Xavier's, an accomplished magic researcher. As they travel there, Josiah begins to notice a large amount of small changes from what he'd written, but assumes that they're a result of his presence, and the bits of writing he's done in order to aid the others in their battles.
As they travel, Josiah slowly starts becoming more comfortable around the others, though Xavier still doesn't seem to like him very much. However, the trip goes pretty smoothly.
Xavier's acquantence is able to tell the group about the basics of moments of power and, to help them defend themselves against Lord Lesheer's men, he begins to train them in the basics of magic use. It's here that things start to go wrong. While flipping through the pages of his book, Josiah suddenly sees pages and pages of writing disapear. At the same time, a new passage begins to replace them, talking about a group of Lord Lesheer's elite warrior drawing near. He runs out to warn the others but it a moment too late to save their host, who is cut down while trying to protect the others. Knowing that, even with their powers, they stand no chance against the enemy forces, Josiah realizes that their only chance at escape is for him to rewrite the scene. Having limited his previous writing attempts to small tweaks, he's unsure how well it will work. Fortunately, his diversion works, though it leaves him extremely weak, allowing everyone to escape.
When they've reached safety, Xavier demands an explanation of Josiah's actions. Realizing that things have somehow gotten dangerously off course, Josiah decides to tell the others who he really is.

Designer's Comments:
This is the point in the game when the group first learns how to use magic. It's also the point where Josiah's original plot begins to completely unravel, forcing him to put his powers to a serious test. In his original story, the magic researcher wasn't supposed to die. These events cause Josiah to realize that he can no longer count of his knowledge of future events. In addition, he begins to wonder if such a major chance could really have been caused by nothing other than his presence. This is, in many ways, the major turning point in the story.


12/7/2009 My master's thesis

Remember that you can vote to see Friday's bonus comic!

I stayed out pretty late with friends, so no time for an Ink update today. However, if you want something long to read, I've got you covered. Presenting my now completed master's thesis entitled Do Modern Stories Need Interactivity? A Comparison of Storytelling Methods in Media. It's about traditional vs. player-driven storytelling in media, with a particular focus on video games. Being a master's thesis, I had to write it in APA style, so that the writing is pretty formal and a little dry in spots, but if you're into writing, storytelling techniques, and/or interactive stories you may find it pretty interesting.



12/4/2009 Defense, defense!

There's a new bonus comic so vote and check it out!

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to keep things short today. The reason? Well, over a year of research, writing, and editing, I'll finally be defending my master's thesis bright and early this morning (I wanted the afternoon time, but someone else beat me to it). Since this is a pretty big thing, I want to make sure that I'm well rested and have enough time to practice my presentation once more before the defense. If you're curious, my thesis is what I was running that big survey for a while back. It's about different types of storytelling in media (books, movies, and especially video games), spefically more traditional linear stories versus more open ended player-driven stories and which are likely to dominate in the future. Despite the fact that I really hate APA formatting (which does its utmost to ensure anything you write is as dry and boring as possible), I'm still very happy with how the whole thing turned out. If you're interested, I plan to post the entire thesis for free here on Pebble Version sometime soon. Possibly even next week.

Have a great weekend everyone!


12/2/2009 The story continues

Time to get back to Ink updates.

Ink's Plot: Ink Part 2 - Setting Off on a Journey
A few days after escaping from the city, Jessie, Ralin, and Josiah find themselves struggling against a particularly strong monster. They're saved by Xavier, a young mercenary between jobs. Since they seem to be going in the same direction, he offers to travel with them to the next city and teach them how to use their weapons. With his help, the twins fighting skills improve considerably and the three become quick friends.
Josiah, meanwhile, is attempting to minimize his impact on the story. To that effect, he acts somewhat withdrawn and doesn't talk to Xavier very much. Instead, he spends a lot of time observing the others and poring over the pages in his book.
As they near their destination, the group is attacked by a group of Lord Lesheer's men. Despite their training and Xavier's help, it's a difficult battle. Jessie is forced to use her moment of power but the soldiers are expecting it and launch a counter attack the moment it ends. In order to save her, Xavier's reveals his own moment of power. When the battle is over, the twins have little choice but to tell Xavier the truth about who they are. Wanting to know more about moments of power, and spend more time with Jessie, he decides tag along with the twins for a while longer.
With his story seeming to continue the way its supposed to, Josiah begins to think that the incident when he first met up with the twins was a freak occurrence. He continues to be very much the outsider of the group. However, the twins continue to wonder why he's following them and exactly what he knows. When he reveals that he's a writer, Jessie's interest in him grows due to her deep love of stories. At her insistence, he begins to tell her some of his stories...

Designer's Comments:
So far, the story is advancing in a fairly predictable fashion. The twins gain a friend and mentor, who also acts as a possible romantic interest for Jessie. Joining together, they continue on their journey to learn more about their powers. Fairly standard progression for a fantasy story. Without any big changes in his story, Josiah starts to become complacent, assuming that everything is as it should. But Jessie and Josiah are forming the starts of a friendship, which will have a far greater affect on future events than he could imagine. And he's no the only one changing the story, as he'll soon discover...


11/30/2009 Lucidity

If you haven't tried it yet, please check out the free demo for Car Washer: Summer of the Ninja, the casual game I'm making.

Well, I'd planned to pretty much avoid Black Friday sales this year, due to a combination of staying up later playing games on Thanksgiving and there not being any sales that really caught my eye this year. Didn't quite work though. First, I did make a quick run to Wal-Mart Friday morning and ended up with a couple of blue-ray movies. Then, a trip to the ATM is the nearby mall Saturday night ended up turning into a big shopping trip thanks to some major sales on clothing and PS2 games.

And then there's Steam, which has been having a different set of specials every day. I ended up finally getting Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic (would have rather had a console version, but for only $2.50, it was too cheap to pass up) a couple days back and yesterday I got Lucidity for the same price. And, since I don't have time to finish my next big Ink post tonight, it's what I'm going to talk about. Don't worry though, I did get caught up on PV strips (as well as a bunch of other things) so I'll have plenty of time for Ink updates over the next couple weeks.

Lucidity is a downloadable puzzle game / platformer by Lucas Arts. You can get it for the PC (via Steam) and the 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade). Lucidity starts off with the peaceful scene of a young girl lying in bed reading stories as her grandmother sits nearby. As the girl drifts off to sleep, she begins to dream, and it's in here dreams where the game takes place. The dreamscapes start out idyllic and happy but, as dreams often do, they slowly descend into nightmares. Lucidity uses a beautiful hand drawn art style, looking very much like the pages of a classic children's story brought to life. The music is also beautiful and appropriate, matching every haunting level. Little bits of story are found at the beginning and end of each level in the form of diary entries by the girl and postcards from her beloved Nana, slowly giving you a picture of the girls hopes, dreams, and fears. It's too bad that the gameplay itself doesn't live up to the high standard set by the visuals, music, and story.
Much like in Lemmings and Yoshi Touch & Go, you don't control the girl directly. She marches forward (sometimes cheerfully, sometimes nervously), even if the path leads straight into a pit or dangerous creature. It's your job to place objects in her path (platforms, stairs, springboards, etc) to keep her out of harm's way. Along the way, you can try to collect numerous fireflies scattered throughout each level in order to unlock a large number of bonus levels. It all sounds great...until you actual try to play it. And try is the key word here. First off, placing objects is extremely clunky. You're limited to an invisible grid, making it occasionally difficult to place an object right where you want it. Even worse, the controls are all tied heavily into the grid, making getting your cursor to the right place a very slow and jerky process. I found the mouse nearly unusable (regardless of the sensitivity setting) and, while the keyboard was workable, I found myself dieing way too many times, even in the early levels, because I simply couldn't move the cursor to the right spot quickly enough. That's the first problem. The next problem is that the various objects you use to guide the girl are given to your randomly one at a time. You can't get a new one until you either use the one you have or store it (and you're limited to storing only one item). While this does keep you on your toes and force you to think up creative ways to use what you have but it also causes a lot of problems. There's plenty of times when the girl will get stuck up against a wall and only one or two items can get her moving again. Problem is, you may have to fill the screen with tons of useless junk before you actually get the item you need. At first, this is just annoying, but in later levels, where you have to stay ahead of the encroaching darkness, it can quite often turn deadly. And that's just walls. It's far worse when you lack the proper item to save the girl from plunging into a pit or running headlong into an enemy.
These flaws turn what should be a clever dreamy puzzler into more of a frustration filled nightmare. Be prepared to die a whole lot simply because you got a bad selection of items or couldn't move your cursor correctly. Quite often, success or failure in a level will come down to little more than luck. And if you're trying to collect all those fireflies? Prepare for even more frustration as you repeatedly miss the fireflies you need because you didn't get the right item to reach them, forcing you to restart the level and try again. As beautiful as it is, I can't imagine how Lucidity managed to get through design and playtesting with such highly flawed controls and gameplay, especially since they're the type of things that would actually be really easy to fix.
The visuals, music, and story still make Lucidity worth a look, especially if you can get it for a really cheap price (like I did), but unless you've got a lot of patience, you'll probably get fed up with its flaws long before you reach the end of the adventure.

And that's it for today. I'll see you Wednesday with a new Ink update.


11/28/2009 It always takes longer...

There's a new voters' bonus comic! Unfortunately, that was about all I had time to get done (hence today's guest comic and lack of an Ink update).

When I wrote Wednesday's post I fully intended up get completely caught up in time for today's update. However, life had other plans. First off, my thesis defense is coming up soon (possibly as early as next week) so I've been working to finish up the revisions and the related Powerpoint show I need for the defense. It took a lot longer than I though it would and ended up eating up most of my time on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Then yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the US. Though I didn't go home this year, my school always has a free meal so I went there. Some of my friends came as well, and we ended up hanging out for a while and playing games. I expected all that. What I didn't expect was that we'd end up hanging out until nearly midnight. I had a lot of fun, but there wasn't really any time left to work on PV stuff. Especially since I need to get some sleep so I can finish up that thesis Powerpoint (and a few other misc tasks) today.

Sorry, but I should have more than enough time to catch up over the weekend so look for a new regular PV strip and a big Ink update on Monday.


11/25/2009 Still catching up

Sigh... Thanks to school work, the site going down this morning, and playing New Super Mario Brothers Wii with friends (ok, so that one was fun, the others not so much), I'm still behind on PV strips and don't have time for an Ink update today. It's been a rather odd week so far. But hey, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I won't be going home for the holiday (my family is scattered all over the country right now anyway), but my school always has a party so I'll be hanging out there and playing games (probably more New Super Mario Brothers) with friends. It should be fun.

Right now though, I've got work I need to do. I'll be sure to get caught up on everything in time to do a full Ink post on Friday. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


11/23/2009 Car Washer!

For a wide variety of reasons, I'm really behind on Pebble Version strips right now and also don't have time to write another Ink update tonight. I'm sorry about that, but I've got something else for you today.

As you probably know if you read these news posts, I'm a game design student (one more month and I should have my masters). As you may or may not know, I've been leading a small team working on a casual game. And, as you probably guessed from the teaser image above, that game is called Car Washer: Summer of the Ninja. While the game itself still has a ways to go before it's finished, we recently completed a demo which we entered in the Independent Game Festival's Student Showcase competition. Said demo is now available for download at www.carwasher-ninja.com The site also has some information about the game (which is why I'm not going into detail here, since, if you're interested, you can just click on the link and read all about it there) and a free Car Washer desktop background, among other things.
Since the game is still in development, and we want the finished product to be as much fun as possible, I'd love to hear your comments, suggestions, questions, etc. Also, while I think we did a pretty good job of find and removing all the bugs, please let me know if you run into any so I can pass it on to my programmer.

Hope you like Car Washer! Regular updates will resume on Wednesday so I'll see you then.


11/20/2009 A bit more plot

There's new bonus comic up for everyone who uses the Top Web Comics banner or button to vote! Quick comment on today's strip. While I totally understand how EVs and EV training, it's something I've never cared too much about. Yeah, some extra points towards on stat or another couldn't hurt, but in most cases it's probably not going to be the deciding factor in a battle and EV training takes a huge amount of time.

Ink's Plot Summary: Ink's Plot Part 1 - Josiah in "Wonderland"
Josiah wakes up after the break in and finds himself in medieval fantasy world. Before he has much time to think about his situation, he recognizes Jessie and Ralin, the main characters from his unfinished novel. The pair is being pursued by guards sent by Lord Lesheer and Josiah gets up getting pulled along with them. As they're hiding, Josiah finds a strange pen and book, and discovers that the book contains his unfinished story. While Josiah expects Jessie and Ralin to escape the soldiers' notice, as he originally wrote, something changes and they find themselves unable to escape their pursuers. On a whim, Josiah writes a line about them finding weapons, and is shocked to see a crate of weapons appear before them. Jessie and Ralin successfully fight off the soldiers, with the help of Jessie's moment of power, and escape.
Figuring that he's dreaming, and eager to see more of the world and characters he created, Josiah decides to tag along with the twins. Jessie and Ralin are unsure about him, but allow him to join them in hopes of discovering how he knows so much about them. As the twins continue their quest to escape from Lord Lesheer and learn more about their abilities, Josiah is content to act as little more than an observer, in hopes that the dream will last long enough to break him out of his writer's block and figure out how the story should advance. Along the way, he continues to experiment with the book and pen he found, determining the extent of his new found powers, and using them to aid the twins in their journey.

Designer's Comments:
I don't have too much to say about the first part of the story that I haven't said elsewhere. After figuring out where he is, it's only natural for Josiah to assume that he's dreaming. For me (and I assume many authors) the chance to explore the the worlds of my stories and meet the characters I've created would be an amazing experience (dream or not) and I'd certainly want to take advantage of it. Since Ink Josiah is having trouble with writer's block, he figures the best way to approach things is to just follow along and see where the story goes. He's hoping he stays asleep along enough to find out what happens next after the place where he stopped writing. Because of that, his goal is to keep the original plot going smoothly and interfere as little as possible. However, there's another force at work in the world and it won't be long before Josiah is forced to less a more active roll...


11/18/2009 Get ready to rumble!

Been a while since I've talked about Pokémon here, despite the fact that this is a Pokémon comic and all. And, since I'm still planning out the next Ink update (should have it ready for Friday), this seems like a decent time to talk about Pokémon, and maybe some other video games as well.

I've been getting a lot of games lately. In my last post, I mentioned getting New Super Mario Brother Wii. It does an excellent job of recapturing the magic of the classic 2D Mario games like Super Mario Brothers 3 and Super Mario World. It's got the colorful looks, the catchy music, fun power-ups, perfect controls, and brilliant level design (which was unfortunately lacking from the DS's New Super Mario Brothers). Haven't gotten a chance to get some friends together for the multiplayer yet, but I did play the demo with several other people at E3, and it was pretty fun. If you've loved the old NES and SNES Mario games, you're bound to love NSMBW too.
Then Monday night (or Tuesday morning, depending how you look at it) I picked up Assassin's Creed 2 and Assassin's Creed Bloodlines. While there were a lot of things about the first AC that really annoyed me, it had some really cool elements as well and a lot of potential. I haven't played AC2 yet (and it may be a little while before I get to it), but from what I've heard, it sounds like AC2 fixed most of the problems with the first game, so I'm looking forward to it.
Not to mention that, when I was out really early Sunday morning looking for a copy of NSMBW, I ended up spotting a copy of Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon on clearance for $10...

But anyway, I did say I was going to talk about Pokémon, didn't I? Where to start... First off, thanks to last week's Toys R Us event, I finally got an Arceus. Now the only pokémon I'm missing in Shymin. Speaking of which, if anyone has a legit Shymin (not hacked, gotten via a mystery gift or Oak's Letter) and wants to trade for, well, pretty much any other pokémon (Arceus included), send me an e-mail.
I've got to admit, since I have a complete pokdéx (minus that Shymin) I'm not as excited for Heart Gold and Soul Silver as I could be (and I still think the names are really corny). But Gold/Silver were really awesome games (probably the best entries in the series before Diamond Pearl) and I enjoyed Fire Red/Leaf Green a lot more than I thought I would, so they should be a lot of fun.
What really came out of the blue (at least for me) is Pokémon Rumble, which was released on Wii Ware this week. It's something like Gauntlet meets Pokémon (except without your main starving to death every 30 seconds). If you have no idea what that meant, it's an action game that supports up to four players. You control a pokémon (who can learn up to two different moves) and run around beating the crap out of lots and lots of other pokémon. Defeated pokémon drop money (which can be used to buy new attacks and more pokémon) and can occasionally be "befriended" and added to your collection. It's not all that deep or long but if you want to "catch 'em all" and get a good set of attacks for your favorite team members, that'll up your playtime considerably. All in all, it's simple fun, especially if you ever feel like beating up hordes of pokémon.

And that's for now. See you Friday!


11/16/2009 A rival appears

Yesterday was interesting. Between going out at midnight to get New Super Mario Brothers Wii (which is awesome), having to relocate anime club thanks to some event going on at school, and ending up at a special Best Buy event (completely by accident). Anyway, let's get on with today's Ink update. I think it's time to introduce a new character...

Ink Character Profile:
Decon "Deke" Parker
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 1"
Build: Average
Age: 26
Hair: Blonde; fashionably styled
Eyes: Green
Right Handed
Weapon: None
Clothing: Dark slacks and a button down shirt (not tucked in). Goes for a very stylish look..
Background: Deke is a young author from the real world. Highly ambitious, he was determined to make it into the big leagues. He met Josiah and a writers conference. The two spent quite a long time talking. They seemed to be becoming fast friends and Josiah shared some details of the novel he was currently working on. Deke took the key elements of Josiah's novel and wrote his version, working hard to ensure that his novel would be finished before Josiah's. The result was a runaway success, gaining Deke the fame and success he desired. Millions of fans are eagerly awaiting his next book, but Deke has been strangely silent on the subject...

Designer's Comments:
Deke is the one who stole Josiah's story, leading to his current predicament. He's a skilled writer in his own right, especially in regards to the speed of his writing However, he lacks Josiah's creativity and knack for creating masterful plot twists. Extremely ambitious, he's as much of a suave con man as he is a writer. Deke plays a far greater roll in Ink than just the cause of Josiah's current slump, but that'll be covered elsewhere...


11/13/2009 All around town

There's new voters' bonus comic and a new ROM.

I can't believe the week is almost over. Where did all the days go? Well, I did spend quite a lot of time running around town on various errands. And then there was all the time I spent testing out the latest builds of my game demo. And some work for my dad... I did end up going to Pizzaria Bianco with my brother and friend of his through. We ended up waiting in line for around 2 1/2 hours, but I've had tons waiting for stuff (planes, trains, lines at conventions, lines for rides, etc, etc, etc) so that wasn't bad. As for the pizza, it was really good. I still prefer a good New York pizza (like the ones from NYPD) over fancy artisan pizza like Bianco has, but I'm glad I went and I wouldn't mind going again sometime. Though I'll probably be leaving Phoenix again, quite possibly for good, once this semester is over and I have my master's so I probably won't get the chance.

Sigh... I'll miss the restaurants here... That isn't the only thing I'll miss about Phoenix, but I'll talk about that a bit closer to my departure date. For now, I've got another day of book keeping for my dad to look forward to. Not that I mind too much. Besides, with New Super Mario Brothers Wii coming out in a couple days, I could use the extra money. See you Monday!


11/11/2009 Backstory

This is turning into a surprisingly busy week. Not really the bad kind of busy though. I may elaborate on Friday but for now, back to Ink.

Ink's Plot: Josiah's Unfinished Novel: The Start of the Story
The following is the basic plot summary for Josiah's unfinished novel.
Jessie and Ralin are servants in the service of one of the most powerful noble families in Rennez. They were sold into the Lesheer family's service at a very young age and have spent their entire lives working in the lord's manor. Everything changes shortly before their nineteenth birthday when Jessie is called to serve as "entertainment" for Lord Lesheer and his bodyguards. She fights back, and Ralin comes to her aid, but the two stand no chance against the experienced bodyguards, who begin to beat them in retaliation.
It's than that Jessie snaps and activates her moment of power for the first time. With future sight, often thought to be the strongest and rarest moment of power, she gains the power to see the immediate future and the instinctive knowledge to react to it. With its power, she is able to incapacitate the bodyguards. Shocked, confused, and afraid, she and Ralin run. As they try to escape the manor, Ralin's own Moment of Power awakens as well. As Jessie's twin, he holds the other half of the Future Sight Moment of Power, the ability to see the (slightly) more distant future and uses it to guide them safely away from the manor.
Lord Lesheer, being an expert on Moments of Power, recognized Jessie's MoP and is determined to capture her and use her power for his own ends. He in, in fact, a MoP user himself and has surrounded himself with other users in order to further his schemes. Though not the king, he is the one truly pulling the strings in most situations.
Jessie and Ralin find themselves on their own for the first time and on the run from Lord Lesheer's soldiers. During their journey, they meet other MoP users. Some become friends, and some enemies. And then...

Designer's Comments:
Chances are, you're thinking that the above summary seems incomplete. And it is. Note that this is the plot summary for Josiah's unfinished novel. As mentioned in the plot summary for the real world, Josiah's confidence was shaken after the theft of his pervious story and he's had trouble progressing with his new novel. It's nowhere near finished, both on paper and in his own thoughts. As is, he has little more than a setup and a few of the events along the way.
There are a few unique points but this is to some extent a typical setup for an epic fantasy novel. Most fantasy novels (and stories in general, for that matter) follow a fairly predictable story structure, it's the characters and details that set them apart. And, as previously said, Josiah has been having trouble with his writing and has yet to add as many unique elements to his story as he normally would.
I'd also like to point out that, in real life, I would never start writing a novel using such an incomplete summary. When I start writing a story I always know the beginning, the ending, and a random collection of events (both major and minor) that happen in between. The rest is filled in as I go and get a better feel for the characters and world. So, while I'm not the type of writer who creates extremely detailed outlines before starting on the novel itself, I don't go in with just the beginning of an idea either.


11/9/1009 This and that

Don't forget about Friday's bonus comic! All you have to do to see it is click the Top Web Comics button or banner and confirm your vote.

Now that I don't have to spend all my time working on my game project (not that I still don't have things to do on it, but I don't have a strict deadline anymore), I can take some time to catch up on other things (chores, school stuff, and various other projects). I'm not done reading the new Wheel of Time book either, so there's always that too. I do get Wednesday off this week, but I'll probably spend quite a lot of it waiting in line to get a seat at what's supposedly the country's best pizza place. Personally, I doubt it'll be good enough to justify several hours of waiting in line, especially when I can get a pretty awesome pizza in about 30 minutes from the nearest NYPD. But hey, I gotta try it once before I leave Phoenix, just to see.

The next Ink update will be Wednesday. Right now, I just need some sleep.


11/6/2009 Just a little behind

There's a new voters' bonus comic and a new ROM up today!

No Ink update today, sorry. I burned through my entire comic buffer last week with all that work I was doing on my game project and just haven't had time to remake it this week. I should be able to get it rebuilt over the weekend, but only if I hurry up and get to work on it.



11/4/2009 The world of Ink

I can't think of much to talk about right now so let's move right on to today's Ink update.

Ink's Plot Summary: Josiah's Unfinished Novel: The Setting:
The world where Jessie and Ralin live is called Galesia. At first glance, it's a fairly typical medieval fantasy world. There are three main continents in the known world, but the story in Josiah's novels takes place in the one known as Thalleen. While the continent was originally split between several kingdoms, over the past two hundred years the kingdom of Rennez has grown considerably in power and influence, to the point where the other kingdoms are little more than regions of Rennez. At present, Rennez effectively controls the entire continent as well as the numerous small islands which lay off of its southern coast. This expansion has been due mostly to the large concentration of moment of power users that have been born into the royal and noble families of Rennez.
Humans are the dominant race in Rennez and throughout most of the world. (Other races do exist, and details about them will be added at a later time.)
Magic in Galesia exists in two forms. The first is elemental magic, which involves channeling and combining the ambient energy of the four elements (earth, fire, wind, and water) and can be used by any person with sufficient training. However, the training is expensive and often quite difficult to master so few commoners learn how to wield it. The second form is non-elemental magic, which certain individuals can channel to gain brief bursts of incredible power. This is known as a moment of power (more details can be found in the Moments of Power section).
Beings known as monsters also exist in Galesia. Most are simply very strong and violent types of animals. Some of the most dangerous of these have the ability to channel elemental magic in certain limited ways. Far more dangerous are true monsters, which began as artificial creatures made from twisted magical experiments in ages long past. Difficult to create and even harder to control, some of these monsters escaped from their masters and turned feral. Some were able to breed with other creatures and expand their species. As such, traveling in certain parts of the world can be very dangerous so it's common practice for travelers to hire mercenaries or other bodyguards to protect them on dangerous journeys.

Designer's Comments:
This type of description is made up of information that probably won't be specifically detailed in the game, but provides a good background for the writer(s) and designers to work off of. This helps make the world feel more real and consistent. Plus, you never know when you might need to some some obscure detail of lore for your world, especially if the game becomes an entire franchise with sequels, books, and the like. Some well established game worlds, such as the Warcraft world, actually have hundreds of pages of lore created specifically for the writers and designers (and the writers and designers for spin off novels, movies, and the like) to reference when needed. In fact, Blizzard actually has dedicated lore masters whose primary job is to be an expert on all things related to the Warcraft universe and aid the rest of the team whenever they have questions about it.
So really, this is just the very basics. While I could write up a ridiculously expansive lore for the Ink world if I wanted to, at this point it would be a waste of time. While it depends on what type of game and story you're making, in most cases you can just start with the very basics and fill in the blanks as needed as you write the story itself. And if, in the end, you never needed to write out the complete timeline for Country X or explain the inner workings of Elven Society, that's fine.
On another note, the part about Galesia being a fairly typical medieval fantasy world is a bit of a commentary on my own writing as a whole. Truth be told, when writing stories I tend to put most of my energy and creativity into the characters and the events surrounding them, rather than the world itself. Which makes the worlds most of my stories take place in fairly ordinary as far as fantasy and/or sci-fi worlds go. Not that there aren't a few exceptions, but that's the way most of my stories go. It's not necessarily a bad thing, there's tons of great books, games, movies, etc out there that take place in more or less "ordinary" worlds, and a complex world can sometimes steal the center stage from the plot and characters. Then again, it's not a good thing either and I'm working on some stories with more unique and interesting worlds so I can improve myself in that regard.


11/2/2009 More on moments of power

November already, huh? Well, please remember to vote for Pebble Version using the Top Web Comics banner or button both to see Friday's bonus comic and help PV get off to a strong start for the month.

Saboten-con was fun. Definitely a lot better than this year's Anizona. Though the lack of all day viewing rooms and a dedicated space for card games was rather disappointing and the vendor area was really small. But anyway, I've still got a few things I need to catch up on so let's move right along to day's Ink update.

Ink's Plot: Josiah's Unfinished Novel: Moments of Power:
To better understand the plot of Josiah's unfinished novel, it helps to have a basic overview of moments of power.
The world of Josiah's novel contains two types of magic. The first is elemental magic, which any sufficiently trained person can weave together to form various spells. There's also raw non-elemental magic. Unlikely elemental magic, which is spread fairly evenly throughout the world, just like the elements it represents, non-elemental magic rarely exists in a free state. Instead, it clusters around various foci. While foci can occasionally be found in special artifacts, the majority are naturally occurring in humans.
There is no training, ritual, or other method to become a magical focus, some people are just born with the ability. While no one has ever been able to figure out the exact determining factors for which people are born with foci, they do have a tendency to run in family lines. Due to hundreds of years of concentrated effort, most of the current royal and noble families in the world, as well as some of the wealthiest and most powerful common families, are genetically predisposed to produce descendants with magic foci.
People with a non-elemental magic focus gain what is known as a moment of power. As there are slight variations in the type and amount of non-elemental magic drawn to each focus, moments of power vary by person. While certain moments of power do tend to surface repeatedly over time (though often with slight variations), it's extremely rare for two or more people in a single generation to have the same moment of power.
A moment of power occurs when a person with a non-elemental magic focus uses their accumulated magical energy to briefly gain great power. The name is due to the fact that such use rapidly burns though all the accumulated magical energy, so the powers granted last only for a very short time. After a moment of power has been used, it can't be used again until the user's magic focus has drawn enough non-elemental magic to recharge its power. This amount of time is usually fairly consistent, but can decrease or increase based on both the amount of ambient non-elemental magic in the area and the user's physical and emotional state. The actual activation and use of a moment of power is instinctive, though after the first time they activate it (often in result to strong desire, need, or duress), users can train themselves to call about it all will (provided it isn't currently recharging).
Since all the family lines with high chances of birthing children with magic foci are gathered among the social elite, they have mostly succeeded in hiding the existence of both foci and moments of power from the common people. While children outside of these families are occasionally born with magic foci, few ever discover the reason for their moment of power or that others with similar abilities exist. Some use their powers to aid in their everyday life, some to amass fame, fortune, and/or power, and still others become legendary heroes, scholars, and the like. The elite have, however, spent significant time and effort researching moments of power and many books on topics such as how to increase the odds of birthing a child with a magical focus, the exact science of foci and moments of power, and lists of known moments of power and their variations and users throughout history.

Designer's Comments:
I knew that I needed some sort of special element for the plot. Specifically, a reason why Jessie and Ralin are special and why they're on the run. With that need in mind, I decided to focus on the concept of a single moment of ultimate power. But what exactly was "ultimate power"? Truly god-like powers would be overkill but below that, what was the ultimate? Strength? Speed? Foresight? In the end, my list of various moment of power became quite broad, covering not only the more obvious types of power (ie. super-human strength) but some more unique and less direct ones as well (ie. Jessie and Ralin's versions of future sight). And that's only to start. Quite a lot of moment of power users will play a roll in the story and I hope you find their diverse abilities both surprising and intriguing.


10/30/2009 Sprite, sprite, sprite, and keep on spriting

There's a new bonus comic up if you vote!

I was originally planning to have another Ink update ready but Saboten-con (a local anime convention, which is looking to be a lot better than this spring's Anizona) starts today and I had to stay up late finishing up some sprites for my game project. As the team's only sprite artist, I've got to meet the deadlines I set or we won't have our demo ready in time to enter in the IGF (especially if I want to be able to take the weekend off for an anime convention). So anyway, I need some sleep. There will be a new Ink update on Monday.


10/26/2009 What the heck?!?

So, Sunday night I wrote Monday's news post, got everyone on the site ready to go...and apparently it didn't upload. What's even stranger is that I didn't realize it until about five minutes ago. I thought about doing a double update today to make up for it, but I could use some extra time to work on my game project anyway so I'll just leave it as is. Monday's news post (complete with Ink update is as follows).

There's several different stories going on in Ink. Starting today, I'll be doing some summaries of them and explaining a bit about how they fit together. I'm not going to completely outline anything yet, or go into serious detail (that's for later), but this could give you a much better idea of the main plot.

Ink Plot Summary: The Real World
Josiah is a young but famous fantasy author. His novels are, in particular, famous for their great characters and shocking plot twists. However, while working on what he considered to be his greatest story, he shared some of the details with another author at a writing conference. Shortly after, that author published a book of his own with the same major plot elements as Josiah's. Unable to prove anything, Josiah canceled his own book and began working on a new story (an unnamed novel that serves as the focus on Ink). However, his confidence and trust was shaken by the event and is making little progress.
One day, while Josiah is trying to work on his new novel, a burglar breaks into his house. Josiah is knocked unconscious during the struggle and wakes up to find himself in the world of the very novel he was writing.

Designer's Comments:
The only parts of the game that take place in the real world are cutscenes, mostly flashbacks, dealing with Josiah's career and how the theft of his favorite story affected him. It's an important part of setting up Josiah's emotional state, the problems he's been having with his new story, and his currently conflicted feelings about his writing.
As I've said before, the Josiah in Ink doesn't act quite the same as I would in the same situation. For example, if one of my stories was stolen, I'd be a lot more angry than depressed and it wouldn't stop me from releasing my own story either. Plus, I would probably do my utmost to sue the thief into oblivion. But, from what I know of copyright law, it is possible that I wouldn't be able to prove that my story was actually stolen. It would depend heavily on the situation and how careful the thief was. Anyway though, the whole point is that, despite sharing my name, the Ink Josiah's personality has be changed a little here and there to better fit the story.


10/23/2009 Inspiration

There's a new bonus comic and all you need to do to see it is click the Top Web Comics banner or button and confirm your vote. And there's only a week left it you want to donate a few dollars to help support the site. Well, actually you can donnate next month too. But there's already $10 in the donation bar this month, just $15 more and you'll get the first batch of specian bonus content (see below for more details) plus the next part of Josiah's Sprite Comic guide .

Now that I've covered all the major elements of Ink's battle system (though the finer details and statistics will need to be discussed later on), I've decided to spend some time on the story. So, starting Monday, I'll be posting various details about Ink's plot. For today, here's something I've been meaning to post for a while, a photo of the book that served as the inspiration for Ink.

See you Monday!


10/21/2009 So many sprites...

Once again, I'm in the midst of a lot of work on my game project and I don't have my Ink notes with me so I'm going to keep it quick tonight. I'll get back to some serious Ink updating starting Friday. Right now, I just have lots and lots of spriting to do. But it'll be worth it. If all goes according to plan, my team and I should have a playable demo ready for release sometime next month.

See you Friday!


10/19/2009 A few comments on LittleBigPlanet

There's a new ROM today!

Due to a long and rather random list of reasons, I didn't get anywhere near as much work finished yesterday as I'd planned so I don't have time to do an Ink update today. Instead, here's a few random things I've noticed about LittleBigPlanet's online levels and level building community (just because I've been working on some more LBP levels recently).

1. There's a lot of great user made levels out there.
2. There's also a lot of mediocre ones, a bunch of fairly blatant clones, and some that are so bad you have to wonder why anyone would upload them in the first place.
3. Barring a lot of luck, new levels tend to get buried and lost in the crowd pretty quickly, even if they get good ratings.
4. The first rating a level is given often seems to stick (not sure if that's due to peer pressure or if the rating system gives higher priority to the first rating given).
5. There's lots of friendly users that give helpful tips and comments after playing a level.
6. There's also a lot of people who will heart every level they find in hopes of getting hearted back so they can get some trophies. Nothing horrible about that, but it's not how the system is supposed to work.
7. Unfortunately, there's also a bunch of pure jerks who like to go in and give new levels really bad ratings just because they can. Which can be a real problem when combined with comment 4.
8. A lot of level creators (even really good ones) don't adequetly play test their levels before publishing them. I've run into quite a lot of levels with fairly easy to find glitches that can leave players unable to finish. It's also extremely common for people to forget to glue down jet packs, power removers, pain guns, and various other objects that really should be glued in place.
9. The level search isn't all that great, so finding specific levels can be a problem if they weren't created by someone in your friend list.

Well, I should get back to work. Got a bunch of catching up to do. Later!


10/16/2009 Other things to work on

There's a special voters' bonus comic up featuring the winner of RP Week on the Pebble Version forums. New ROM too.

You want to know what there isn't today? Much of a news post. I'm busy working on sprites for my game project so I've got to keep things short. See you Monday!


10/14/2009 Xavier's power

You know, I could swear that I had something I wanted to talk about in today's news post. But, now that I'm actually writing the thing, I can't remember what it was. So, instead, here's another Ink update.

Xavier's Moment of Power:
MoP: Supreme Strength
Duration: 2 Turns
Recharge: ??
Description: The damage dealt by Xavier's physical attacks (regular and special attacks) is doubled. This is applied after all other damage buffs and debuffs are calculated. If Xavier takes part in a dual attack, the damage is increased by 150%.

Designer's Comments:
Much like his fighting style, Xavier's moment of power is very straight forward and focused on raw strength. It lacks the strategy or Ralin's MoP and the versatility of Jessie's, it's all about dealing a whole lot of damage. Xavier is a pretty powerful melee fighter to begin with (which you see more when I start getting into stats) and, since his MoP stacks on top of other damage boosts such as some of Josiah's writing skills, his attack power can be raised to extremely high levels with a little bit of preparation.


10/12/2009 An interesting week

Don't forget to vote and see Friday's bonus comic! Also, the donation gauge for this month has gone up again! Only $7 more and you'll be getting the next part of my sprite comic guide. And, if it gets at least another $15 this month, there'll be lots of other bonus content too.

This could be an interesting week. For starters, I get three days off from school (combination of Columbus day and fall break). Though, the way my schedule is this semester, I actually only end up getting to skip one class. Anime club is planning a marathon for Tuesday night though, which should be fun. That's not all that's going on though. My dad's visiting right now and there's some stuff going on this week he wanted to go to so my brother and I are joining him. Today is a talk by Dennis Prager (a popular radio talk show host). I listen to his show occasionally when I'm out driving and it's pretty interesting, so the talk probably will be too. Then, Saturday night, there's a Bob Dylan concert. I think I mentioned it, but my dad tried to go to a Bob Dylan (and a couple other guys) concert here earlier in the year, only for it to be canceled at the last minute because one of the singers thought it was too hot (on what was actually the coolest day we'd had in months). That was pretty annoying, but at least my dad will get to see him now, and the tickets are a whole lot cheaper than ones for the canceled concert were.

Well, I'm off. More Ink updates will be coming later in the week.


10/9/2009 A new character!

There's a new voters' bonus comic ready and waiting. No ROM though, Shauni has been having internet problems and wasn't able to get it to me. And now, a new Ink character.

Xavier Dauntes: Character Profile:
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 1"
Build: Muscular
Age: 21
Hair: Sandy Red; a little sandy and unkempt
Eyes: Green
Right Handed
Weapon: Chain Flail
Clothing: A tunic and trousers, tight and functional. Wears a weapon belt with a pair of knives.
Background: Xavier is a young mercenary / bounty hunter who makes his living guarding caravans and hunting criminals. He genuinely enjoys fighting, but tends to take things with a light hearted air. He tends to avoid killing his opponents when possible and captures them alive instead, though whether he does so out of kindness or for the generally higher bounty is anybody's guess. Xavier was originally written as one of the main characters in Josiah's unfinished novel. In the original story, he teamed up with the twins and became Jessie's love interest. Josiah's presence, however, changes things and leads him down a different path...

Designer's Comments:
Xavier was the first major character I planned after Josiah, the twins, and the main villains (who I'll be discussing another time). Josiah (the one in the game, not me) created Xavier as a more experienced fighter who would end up joining Jessie and Ralin. His experience (not a lot, but more than the twins have) and carefree attitude would be a big help on their journey and he'd eventually become Jessie's love interest. At least that's the way things were supposed to turn out... Though Josiah tries his best not to interfere with the story (at least at first), his presence changes a lot of things. Some are barely noticeable while others take the story in entirely different directions. Xavier is one of the people affected the most by Josiah's presence and his roll changes considerably as a result. I'll save the specific details for the script.

That's all for today. Hope everyone has a great weekend!


10/7/2009 The twins' power

As promised, here's the details on Ralin and Jessie's moments of power.

Ink's Battle System: Moments of Power:

MoP: Future Sight (Distant)
Duration: 5 Turns
Recharge: ??
Description: Modifies the turn gauge, allowing the player to see what the enemies are planning to do on their upcoming turns. Note that planned actions can changed based on what the player does. In that case, the gauge will update to reflect the new actions.

Designer's Comments:
Ralin has what may initially seem like the weaker half of the Future Sight ability. And, admittedly, it's lacks the power and "coolness" factor of Jessie's future sight. But while Jessie's is designed for combat, Ralin's future sight is a very powerful strategic tool. While it's likely not necessary in normal battles. In boss battles and other difficult fights however, knowing what to prepare for can be the difference between life and death. Due to its emphasis on planning and strategy over direct power, it's one of the longest lasting moments of power in the game.
When deciding on the various characters' moments of power, I decided on Jessie's first and created Ralin's to be a counterpart to it. I don't want to go too much in the details here, as the twins' moments of power are an important part of the plot, but I will say that Ralin's power is a good fit with his personality, as he's far more cautious and thoughtful than his sister.

MoP: Future Sight (Immediate)
Duration: 2 Turns
Recharge: ??
Description: Jessie's turn ends immediately upon use. On the next two enemy turns, she'll automatically intercept and counter attack any actions taken. For melee attacks, she'll be shown expertly evading and countering every strike in the combo, for magic and item use she'll charge and attack. Certain special attacks may be uncounterable. In that case, she'll grab the party member most likely to not survive the attack (or, if none, the one who will take the most damage) and pull him or her out of harm's way, allowing both of them to avoid all damage.

Designer's Comments:
Jessie's version of future sight is extremely powerful, allowing her to evade and counter any move made by the enemy. It's so powerful that I'm considering decreasing its duration to one turn, instead of two, though I'd probably have to do a bit of actual play testing to decide for sure. In many ways, she has the "strongest" moment of power in the game, which is intentional.
The idea for Jessie's moment of power is based off the affects of atium use in the Mist Born novel trilogy. Namely the ability to see the immediate future and the mental speed and clarity to react to it the moment before it happens. It's a power that, in battle, makes its wielder all but untouchable. Aside from its power, Jessie's future sight also plays a key roll in the plot, though that's something for a different part of the document.


10/5/2009 Technology is annoying

You may have noticed that the donation bar has $5 in it. Since it's been a really long time since I last mentioned the rewards for donating, here's a quick refresher. Every month that the donation bar reaches at least $25, you'll get a chapter of ROM The Novel and commentary on the next batch of old Pebble Version strips. If it hits $50 than, for the following month, Pebble Version will update five times a weak instead of three. At $75 you also get a new Zelda page. And at $100 or more? A super secret mystery gift! And those are just the monthly bonuses. Every time PV gets $50 in donations (no matter how long it takes) you get a new section of Josiah's Sprite Comic Guide. Not to mention that Shauni typically has some ROM related donation gifts as well. But enough promoting. If you'd like to donate to Pebble Version, you can do so with the Paypal button on the left above the nav menu. If you don't, just keep enjoying the comic anyway. Moving on...

Seems lately that any new tech item that I get (even for free) ends up costing me a lot of time and money. For example, I got my grandparents' HD TV when they moved. The TV was free, but it cost me $100 to get all the cables I needed to hook my game systems up to it and about another $100 (plus several trips to the nearest Fry's Electronics) to get it to where I could play DDR without an upscaling lag. Then I got Windows 7 for free...the end result being that I spent about two and a half days getting my computer upgraded properly and had to buy new versions of several programs since my old ones wouldn't run on Windows 7. Despite the fact that my future career and quite a lot of my hobbies revolve around modern technology, I've got to admit that sometimes it just plain annoys me.

And then there's tonight. No new free item this time, just more annoyances.  Like my laptop losing its wireless network conntection and refusing to reconnect no matter what I did. Fortunately, a restart fixed that. Unfortunately, after that my web editor crashed and wouldn't start again, which required another restart. Long story short, everything is work again now but only after I wasted about forty minutes of time. I was going to talk about Jessie's moment of power but, thanks to said computer problems, it's late and I could use some sleep. To make up for it, I'll detail both Jessie and Ralin's moments of power on Wednesday.



9/2/2009 Long day

There a new voters' bonus comic up! All you need to do to see it is click on the Top Web Comics banner (above) or button (to the left) and follow the instructions to confirm your vote. It only takes a few seconds, helps Pebble Version out, and let's you see the latest special bonus comic. It's a new month, so why note vote and help PV get off to a strong start? There's a new bonus comic every week, but you can vote up to once per day if you want to. There's also a new ROM.

I was planning another Ink update for today but thanks to some computer issues (my router wasn't working) and some work on a different game project (which just might see a playable demo released in the next month or two) it'll have to wait until Sunday. Have a great weekend!


9/30/2009 Moments of power

Yom Kippur is over, my computer is working correctly again (long story) and I'm nearly caught up on everything. So, it's time to cover the last major aspect of Ink's battle system.

Ink's Battle System: Moments of Power:
Each party member, other than Josiah, has a unique moment of power ability which can be used in battle. A character can activate their ability on their turn. Depending on the character, activating their moment of power may or may not end their turn. Once activated, a moment of power ability will last for a certain amount of turns (the exact number will vary depending on the character and possibly certain other factors as well) or until the end of the battle.
After a moment of power ability has been used, it must recharge for a certain number of battles/rounds (not yet determined) before it can be used again. The recharge time carries over between battles and varies depending on the character. They are fully recharged whenever the party members sleep (either at an inn or as part of the story). Certain other factors may also cause them to recharge sooner than usual (details to be added later on).

Designer's Comments:
Moments of power could sorta be compared to the Final Fantasy series's famous limit breaks, though they're actually closer to Final Fantasy IX's trances. Moments of power aren't big fancy super attacks. Instead they're special abilities unique to the individual characters that last for a short time once activated. Unlike trances, however, moments of power can be activated at will as long as their fully charged. I'm still deciding exactly what the best way for them to recharge would be, but most of them are probably going to take quite a while to recharge, though it will vary depending on the particular moment of power. I'll be detailing various characters' moments of power in future updates, but suffice is to say that some of them are extremely powerful and can really turn around a battle.
Moments of power are not only an important part of the battle system, but a key element of the the plot as well. I'll save the exact details for a different part of the document, but they're a major element of Josiah's unfinished story. Josiah is the only member of the party without a moment of power, due to the fact that he's from a different world. As I said before, I'll give more in-depth explanations of all of this in future updates.


9/25/2009 Mixing up days

There's a new voters' bonus comic up and a new ROM. Also, I've got an announcement. There will be no Pebble Version update on Monday. Thing is, I just realized it a minute ago. See, Monday is Yom Kippur, a really important Jewish holiday. Though, admitedly, it's not really a "holiday" so much since there's no celebration involved, it's actually a very serious and somber day. Anyway, I was thinking it was Tuesday, but it's not so I'm going to be pretty busy from Sunday evening until Monday night and won't be able to update. Sorry. Updates will resume on Wednesday. And now for that Ink update I promised...

Writing in Battle: Types of Phrases:
Following are brief summaries of the types of phrases that Josiah will be able to use in battle.
Damage Boosting Phrases: These phrases focus on boosting the power and/or critical hit rate of melee attacks.
Defense Boosting Phrases: These phrases focus on increasing defense and evasion.
Accuracy Boosting Phrases: These phrases focus on increasing attack accuracy.
Magic Boosting Phrases: These phrases focus on increasing the power of magic spells.
Speed Boosting Phrases: These phrases focus on allowing characters to act sooner and/or more frequently.
Moment of Power Related Phrases: These phrases have various effects related to Moments of Power.
Other Phreases: These phrases don't fit into any of the other catagories and include effects such as reviving unconscious party members and instantly killing certain enemies.

Designer's Comments:
As you can see, Josiah's writing in battle covers a very broad range of abilities. Most are fairly standard, although there'll be some rather interesting ones in the Other catagory. The available phrases will range from a mild boost to a significant (possibly battle changing) improvement. But, as I previously said, Ink is not only in limited supply but tied into other aspects of the game as well. The player will need to think carefully about how and when to make best use of his Ink.
As you've no doubt noticed, the above list only mentions the broad catagories of phrases and doesn't list the phrases themselves. The reason for this is that the section of the design doc that this was written for is designed to give an overview of the battle system, not to list every last detail. Lists of spells, special attacks, equipment, and the like have their own sections in the document where they can be easily referenced by anyone who needs the information, but won't get in the way of the majority of the team, who'll likely have no real need to inclination to read them all.

That's all for now. See you Wednesday!


9/23/2009 GDC Austin recap

Since I didn't have the time last week, I'm going to use today's post to talk about my trip to the Austin Game Developers' Conference.

Back when I was planning things, I knew this would be my third conference of the year (already had the main GDC and then E3) so I was looking to save some money. Meanwhile, some of my friends were also planning to go and wanted to save money. After some discussion, we decided to drive together and split a hotel room. A lot more work than flying and doing my own thing, but it did save a ton of money (total travel and hotel expenses ended up at only about $100 per person) and I got to hang out with my friends a lot. Good thing I saved all that money on travel too. See, I'd hoped to get into the conference as a volunteer, which would have gotten me a free pass in exchange for some time spent helping out with things. Unfortunately, the selection has some randomness involved and I didn't get picked (though my friends made it). Even more unfortunately... Scratch that, it's not so unfortunate as annoying. Anyway, the day they tell you whether or not you made it as a volunteer is the day after the early sign up discount ends. So not only did I not get a free pass, I had to pay a whole lot of extra money for my pass because they couldn't have told me a day or two sooner. <_< On the bright side, not being a volunteer meant I could spend the entire conference attending sessions and stuff, without having to spend any time working.

Moving on to the trip, my friends needed to be there a day early for volunteer stuff so we decided to drive the entire way on Sunday. Google estimated a 14 hour drive. Taking into account rest stops and the two hour time difference between Phoenix and Austin, I knew we'd have to leave early. We started out a bit after 5 AM and didn't get to Austin till around 11:30 PM local time. The drive wasn't that bad. It was long, but several of us switched off from time to time. We even stopped to see "The Thing" on the way since there were a million signs for it and we needed to stop soon anyway. Turns out it was a small museum of assorted old stuff, some of which was pretty neat.

While my friends has their orientation on Monday, I took some time to walk around downtown Austin. From what I saw, it seems like a pretty nice city. The state capital building is certainly impressive and the downtown had a lot of nice shops and restaurants. It's too bad I only had time to look around a little bit of it before I had to pick up my friends. Though we eventually ended up at a mall which just happened to have a really awesome used movie and game store, full of mint condition rare (and expensive) games. That was pretty cool. Austin also happens to be home to the world's largest suburban bat colony, which spends part of the year living beneath a large bridge. Though some people were originally freaked out when they first arrived, the bats have become quite the tourist attraction. Plus 1.5 million bats eat quite a lot of bugs, which is pretty useful. I don't have any good pictures of the bats since it was night time, they're dark, and the move extremely fast, but it was cool to watch and I've got this nice but mostly unrelated pic of my friends in front of some extremely tall grass.

The conference went from Tuesday through Friday, though Tuesday was just the various special interest sessions (I was in the writers' summit). I won't got into the details of all the lectures, roundtables, and the like I went to. Some of them were pretty interesting and I learned some useful things, though whether it was enough to justify how much I had to pay for my pass, I'm not sure (yeah, I'm still sore about missing that big early registration discount). There was an expo too, though it was tiny compared to the one at the main GDC. I did pick up a few random pieces of neat swag though and got some leads on possible jobs (though it'll probably be a while before I find out if anything will come of them).

We didn't start driving back until late Friday afternoon around when the conference ended. We were driving pretty much all night. It wasn't that bad, though I can't sleep in a car unless I'm dead tired so I did get rather out of it at one point (fortunately, my other friends didn't have that problem so I just let someone else drive for a while). Annoyingly, Texas highways have lower speed limits at night and there was some construction in Arizona, which slowed us down a bit. By the time I finally got back home, I didn't really have any time to sleep.

Long story short, it wasn't a bad trip. Kinda fun at times, and pretty educational. Though, in the future, I may want to reconsider doing 14+ hour drives in a single day.

I'll see you Friday with a new Ink update!


9/21/2009 An interesting thought

Well, I'm back in Arizona. Now that GDC is over, I shouldn't be going anywhere for a while and can finally get caught up on things. As you can see, Pebble Version is updating normally again. Friday's voters' bonus comic is still up too, if you haven't seen it yet (or just want to see it again). I'll give all the details about my trip on Wednesday. Ink updates will resume on a regular basis starting Friday, once I've gotten caught up on a few other things.

Speaking of getting caught up, I came across a rather interesting and disturbing comment when going through some old issues of PC Magazine. My favorite columnist was talking about how often old web links stop working, even to things such as news articles on major sites. And, with the big push some people are making to replace all print media with digital copies, this poses a problem. Personally, I'm not so certain that printed books, magazines, and newspapers will be disappearing any time soon (and I really don't want them to), but then again, in another few decades they might. But back to the matter at hand. Both individual web pages and entire sites disappear all the time, for one reason or another. It's usually not much more than an annoyance but what if all our important information (news, history, etc) was stored online? The way things are now, it's near impossible to destroy every copy of a book. But when it comes to web sites and other internet based works, it's quite common for only one or two actual copies of any given page or file to exist. If a page is taken offline, a data-center burns down, or the server is hit by a virus, the contents of that page could be lost forever. While it wouldn't really be any big disaster if we lost that video of a guy doing the numa numa dance, what if what was lost was a historical record or important news story? For that matter, what if someone decided to "change" history by accessing some key records and making a few changes? How long before the true story would be lost forever? It's kind of a scarey thought.

On a completely different note, I got a free copy of Windows 7 Pro. While I'm pretty happy with my Vista install, 7 has been getting some good press and according to the compatibility checker, I shouldn't have any real trouble switching over. Thing is, I'm running Vista Home Premium and, for some dumb reason, you can't just upgrade Home Premium to 7 Pro. Oh, I can still install 7 Pro, but I'd have to do a clean install which would mean formatting my entire system. If I had 7 Home or was running Vista Business, I could just do a straight upgrade without needing to format. But I don't, so I can't. If there's any sort of rational explanation for this, I'd really like to hear it, because I can't think of any and it's pretty annoying. I even thought about "upgrading" my copy of Visa to Business (which I can get for free) and then upgrading to 7 Pro...except that you can't "upgrade" Home Premium to Business because Business isn't a superior version of Vista and you can only upgrade Vista to a better version, not an equivalent one. That leaves me with the following options.
1: Pay a whole bunch of money to upgrade my copy of Vista to Ultimate (can't get for free) then buy a copy of 7 Ultimate (Pro is the only version I can get for free). That'd work, but be a huge pain and there's no way I'm spending all that money.
2: Forget about 7 entirely until I get a new computer. Easy, but a waste of that free copy of 7.
3: Format my system and install 7. A huge pain, though I've got all my important stuff (and a lot of not so important stuff) saved in my online back-up and I've got the install discs for all my most important programs handy (though most of the less critical stuff is sitting in boxes back in CO). Assuming everything worked correctly, it'd probably take a day or two to reinstall stuff and redownload all my files from the backup. Not horrible, but my computer wouldn't be all that useful until it was all finished.

Right now, I'm kind of bouncing back between options 2 and 3. I don't really want to format, but it theoretically shouldn't be too hard to restore everything and my computer has gotten a bit slow lately (understandable, since I've had it for a few years and never formatted it)... In the end, I don't know what I'll do. Anyway, this turned out a lot longer than planned and I need some sleep.



9/18/2009 Driving

There's a new voters' bonus comic up and a new ROM.

Well, today is the last day of the conference and as soon as it's over it's time for the long drive back to Arizona. It will be...long. Regular PV strips will resume on Monday after I've had a chance to recover from the trip.


9/16/2009 Off at GDC Austin

Busy time at the conference so I'm keeping this sort. I'll do a whole write-up of my trip on Monday, once I'm back home. For the rest of this week, I'm running a two part guest comic by forum member Kaida. Regular PV comics (and Ink posts) will resume next week.


9/14/2009 Late arrival

Sorry for the late update. I got into Austin later than planned and, by then, was pretty tired and completely forgot that I needed to update. Anyway, here's a guest comic for now. Wednesday and Friday's updates will probably be more or less on time, though I can't say for sure whether they'll be regular strips or guest comics, just depends how much time I have.


9/11/2009 A calmer semester...in another week or so

There a new bonus comic! This one marks a return to the normal Blooper Reel bonus comics. There's a new ROM too.

Did I mention that I'm only taking three classes this semester? It's all I need to graduate and, unlike last semester, I decided not to audit a bunch of stuff. The main reason is that none of the classes I really want to audit are being offered this semester, but I'd also like a bit of free time to work on my game project, among other things. And it looks like I'll have it. My classes for my (probably last) semester are:
Thesis III: Unlike most of my group, I finished drafting pretty much my entire thesis last semester so, unless my committee wants some major revisions, which seems unlikely, there shouldn't be much I need to do. Just a bit of revising and then my defense.
Game Project: Now that's a generic class name if there ever was one. Actually, the details of this are still a bit hazy. The guy teaching it is one of the newer professors. I had classes with him my last couple semesters and, when teaching a class for the first time, he tends to remake it as he goes (with a whole lot of feedback from the students). Chances are the class will either end up having something to do with my current game project or result in more LittleBigPlanet levels.
Forecasting Emergent Technology: Something along the lines of general analysis and study of technology with an eye towards how it will develope in the future. It could potentially be fairly interesting or rather dull, a little too early to call. There's a lot of reading and short essay questions involved, but it looks like nothing I can't take care of in several hours a week.

So yeah, it looks like I'll actually have free time this semester. Quite a lot of it will end up being spent on various other projects, but it'll be nice to take things at a slightly more relaxed pace...at least it will be in another week or two. I've spent a good chunk of this week taking care of the usual post vacation and start of school stuff plus preparing for next week's trip to the Austin Game Developers' Conference (which will be taking pretty much the entire week). I've also been spending some time teaching a friend how to drive. Partly because I'm such a nice guy (and very humble too :-P), and partly because, the more of my friends that can drive, the less time I'll have to drive on the estimated 14 hour trip to Austin. Yeah, it's going to be a road trip, though all in a single very long day.

As should be quite obvious from the above paragraph, I'll be on "vacation" next week at the conference. And by vacation I mean sitting in on lectures, looking at game development software, and the like. Anyway, I'll try to update Pebble Version normally, though I can't guarantee anything. If updates are a bit early or late, that's why. I really doubt I'll miss an update entirely (assuming that the hotel's free internet access works as advertised), but, depending on how busy I am with conference stuff, I might end up running guest comics some of the days.

See you Monday (hopefully)!


9/9/2009 The Law of Nines

Actually, The Law of Nines came out a few weeks ago. Great novel though. It's by Terry Goodkind, the author of The Sword of Truth, one of my favorite fantasy novel series. Law of Nines is billed are a real world action/thriller, but it's actually a spin-off of The Sword of Truth. Speaking of the number nine, the movie Nine comes out today. I like Tim Burton, so I definitely want to see it. Though I'm not sure whether I'll go this week or wait until after GDC Austin.

Anyway, I was going to write more about Ink tonight, but I'm at anime club right now. That in itself isn't a problem except that club is in a dark theater. Too dark for me to easily read my notes, which I need for the next update, so I'll have it up Friday instead.

In the meantime, go do something involving the number nine. It'll be awhile be with have another three nine date. Not that I really care too much myself, but lots of people seem to be having fun with the theme. Unfortunately, a new Tim Burton movie and some Beatles stuff can't compete with the awesomeness of 9/9/1999, which is when Final Fantasy VIII was released in the US. Wow, hard to believe that it's already been ten years since then... I really should replay FFVIII sometime soon. Only problem is that my copy is currently buried in a box somewhere in my room back in CO. Oh well, at least I can play as Squall (FFVIII's main character) in Dissida.

Anyway, I should probably get going. Lots to get done before GDC next week. Later!


9/7/2009 Back, gone, then back

If you haven't seen Friday's special bonus comic (featuring Saber Knight) just vote using the Top Web Comic button or banner.

By the time most of you read this, I'll be back in AZ preparing for my next (and most likely last) semester of graduate school. Hard to believe that after only a few more months I'll be done with school (quite possibly forever). I mean, I had my graduation when I got my bachelor's. but at that point I always thought that I might go back for a masters. But I can't really see any need to go beyond masters so these next few months really should be it. Well, I'll think about that more in a couple of months. Classes start tomorrow but I won't be there for long since next week I'm off to Texas for GDC Austin. Once that's finished I can finally settle down and focus on schoolwork, my game project, and the like.

As usual it'll be kinda nice to be back at my apartment and get into a nice routine again. But, also as usual, I wish I had a longer vacation. Two and a half weeks is barely enough time to unwind, especially after a really busy semester like my last one. Not to mention that I like Colorado and enjoy spending time with my family. Unfortunately, there aren't any game companies around here so, unless I start my own (which would either require winning the lottery, or my current game project getting finished and hitting it off really well), there's very little chance I'll end up working here. I might be back here for a bit after graduation while looking for a job (if I don't find one immediately after graduating, which is certainly possible with the way the economy is right now), but that'll probably be it. Kinda hard to imagine, really. I'm gonna miss this place... Well, I suppose it's a little too early to start thinking about that as well. Gotta stay focused on school and all that.

Anyway, I enjoyed my vacation. Got to spend some time with my parents, catch up with the people at my congregation, make some money, and work on a few projects. I also took some time to visit my old hometown, which was fun, and play some Dissidia Final Fantasy (ok, probably a bit too much Dissidia). Looking forward to winter break (my parents are planning a big family trip somewhere). But, that's yet another thing to think about at another time. I've got to get some sleep before my flight. Later everyone!


9/4/2009 The pen is mightier than the sword

There's a new bonus comic up for everyone who votes! This is the last of the special series featuring the winners of the 2009 Forum Awards on the Pebble Version Forums. This week's comic features Saber Knight, winner of Best Overall Poster and a special achievement award. Regular Blooper Reel bonus comics will be resuming next week. There's a new ROM up too.

Unfortunately, my vacation is almost over. I'll be back in AZ on Monday and back in class the following day... Pebble Version updates shouldn't be affected. Continuing with Ink, I'm going to use the next couple updates to talk about how writing works in battle.

Ink: Writing in Battle: Overview
In battle, Josiah has the unique Write command. Writing something uses Josiah's turn. Josiah starts with a very small number of things he can write but he learns new phrases by repeated writing and through story events. Different phrases have a variety of effects including increased attack, defense, and speed for party members, guaranteed critical hits, and more.
Each phrase requires a certain amount of ink to write. Josiah's special pen absorbs ink from defeated enemies (the amount of ink earned depends on the type of enemy). Defeating enemies is the only way to gain ink.

Designer's Comments:
Josiah's writing abilities are very versatile and can do anything from provide a giving party members a little boost to completely changing the tide of battle. Naturally though, it'll take him a while to learn the more powerful phrases.
Just reading the overview above, it may seem like writing could make the game too easy, at least if some of the phrases are as powerful as I say they are. But that's not the case. First off, Ink can only be gained by defeating enemies. And, while the player could always grind for ink, they can do the same thing for EXP in most RPGs if they want to, that's just the way RPGs are. For everyone else, ink will need to managed carefully. While this isn't the place to go into detail, ink is used for other things as well and if the player uses all his ink in battle, he'll find himself without ink for other important parts of the game.

That's it for now cause I need to get some sleep. I'll get more in depth next time. Later!


9/2/2009 Enjoying my vacation

It sure is nice to be on vacation. Of course, it'd be even better if I had a longer one (less than a week remaining). Aside from relaxing, I use vacations as a time to catch up on things that I didn't have time to do during the past semester. Only problem is that I have a tendency to over-estimate just how much I'll be able to get done during any given vacation. On the "bright" side, the only thing I'm "behind" on is the video games I was hoping to finish during the break. A little annoying, but nothing terribly important I suppose. And, admittedly, the main reason I haven't gotten to some of the games I wanted is because I'm spending most of my game time playing Dissidia.

Getting back to my things to do, I'll probably be spending most of today (and a lot of the rest of my vacation) working on sprites for the game project I'm leading. Speaking of which, if all goes according to plan, I'm hoping to release a demo before the end of the year (hopefully late October or early November). I'll definately keep you posted. Anyway, I need to get to work on those sprites. Creating original sprites complete with all the frames neccessary for animation is a lot of work. Fortunately, between Pebble Version and some other past projects of mine, I've got a lot of spriting experience. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of other people at my school, seeing as I wasn't able to find a dedicated sprite artist for the team. Not that I mind spriting, but I'm also doing the design, sound (hoping to find someone to take that over though), and most of the testing. Not to mention that the game requires a huge number of sprites and it'd be nice if I didn't have to make everyone single one myself... Oh well, at least it gives me an excuse to catch up on some DVDs (I usually sprite while watching TV).

See you Friday!


8/31/2009 The end of the opening

As usual, you can vote for Pebble Version using the Top Web Comics banner or button to vote for Pebble Version and seek Friday's special bonus comic. And now, without further ado, it's time for the last part of Ink's opening scenes.

Ink's Opening Scenes: Part 4: A Story Rewritten
Jessie yanks a startled Josiah to his feet and takes off running down the ally, with Ralin following closely behind.
"But, this isn't supposed to happen..." Josiah pulls his hand free and tries to flip back to the correct page in his book while running.
"Idiot!" Jessie glances back at him. "If they catch you you'll never be able to read again! Just run!!!"
Josiah ignores her. "This isn't right at all... I didn't write it this way." he finds the page. "See, it-" he drops silent as the words on the page vanish and are replaced with a new passage that reflects their current situation.
"They're gaining..." Ralin's voice is strained.
Jessie takes a quick look behind her. "Burn it! If only we had weapons or something we could use to hold them off...":
"Weapons..." Josiah mutters thoughtfully. "It couldn't...could it?" Slowing down a bit, he raises his pen and begins to write the following.
"As the rounded the corner, the twins found themselves staring at a weapons sitting abandoned in the middle of the road."
As Josiah finishes writing, the words begin to glow and the world briefly blurs around him. Josiah is left a little disoriented but the others don't seem to notice the "shift". A moment later they round a corner and nearly run into a large crate of weapons.
"Well, that's eerily convenient..." Jessie gives the crate a suspicious look. "But, this isn't the time to complain." she yanks out a sword and turns back in the direction of the approaching soldiers.
Ralin grabs a spear and stands next to her. Josiah is behind the two, his attention divided between the twins and his book. Both of the twins have a look of determination but hold their weapons awkwardly, as if they're not quite sure how to use them. A moment later, a pair of soldiers approach and the battle tutorial begins.

Designer's Comments:
This scene continues to introduce some key plot elements and set the stage for the rest of the story. First, is Josiah's discovery that his story is changing. Though it'll be quite some time before he discovers exactly why it's happening. However, the changing story makes him think about the purpose of the pen and the book, allowing him to create a workable, if rather contrived, solution to their current predicament.
In my first version of the opening, Josiah actually showed Jessie the book in the previous scene, as proof that they had nothing to worry about from the soldiers. But I decided that it would be better for him not to reveal his identity to the main characters just yet. They'll find out soon enough, but it will be more interesting to have them start to figure it out by observing Josiah's actions, rather than just having it spelled out for them from the beginning.


8/28/2009 A little teaser

There's a new special voter bonus comic up for everyone who clicks on the Top Web Comics banner or button. This week's features forum member Siranae. There's also a couple of new ROM comics.

I was going to write up the last part of the Ink opening scenes today but I had a lot of stuff going on (dentist appointment, cooking for tonight's big Danish dinner at my congregation, doing some web design work, etc) and just don't have the time. So, instead, here's a little teaser for a future update. Some of you might remember that I posted a short teaser for a unamed feature of the battle system (it's still on that page, if you forgot about it). Well, here's a little bit more info. That teaser is for something called a Moment of Power and it plays a very important roll in both the battle system and the game's story. But that's all I'm going to say for now. More details will come later.

Now, I'm going to go get back to Dissidia...er, cooking. Yeah, cooking first, then Dissidia. Have a great weekend!


8/26/2009 Dissidia!

Dissidia Final Fantasy is finally out! Been looking forward to it for a while now. I have some friends who imported Japanese copies, and I played a bit at E3, so I'm already somewhat familiar with it, but it's nice to spend some serious time with it. Of course, now I just need to make sure that it's not all I do on my vacation. I've got some web design work I need to get done (which I'll probably try and finish this week if I get all the stuff I need for it) and once that's done I need to spend some serious time working on my game project. Not to mention that there's some other fun things I want to do besides play Dissidia.

Anyway, I did slack off a bit and play for a while yesterday (first day and all, and also the reason why today's news post is a tad shorter than I'd originally planned). So far, I like it a lot. It's definitely not a "serious" fighting game. Actually reminds me more of the DBZ Budokai Tenkaichi games, or maybe an action RPG. Lots of fun though, and there can still be a lot of skill and strategy to the battles without complicated button combos and infinite juggles. So far I've played through Cloud and Ceciel's story mode chapters and started Tidus's. While the story doesn't seem particularly deep, there's a lot of cut-scenes (all with full voice acting) and it's nice to see some of the more "generic" characters from the older games like the Warrior of Light and Firion get a more defined personality. And the near constant stream of unlockable stuff (and all the special goals you need to meet to unlock some of that stuff) is a nice incentive to keep playing (though, if you ask me, the battles are incentive enough). Definitely worth getting if you're a Final Fantasy fan. Even if you're not, and you've got a PSP, you might want to check out the demo. The fast and flashy battles are a lot fun whether you know the characters or not.

Well, I should probably get going. I'm planning another Ink update for Friday so I'll see you then.


8/24/2009 Ink returns

Remember to vote and see Friday's special bonus comic!

Now that I'm on vacation and finally have some time again, it's time to get back to Ink updates. Namely, that next part of the opening scenes that I only half-finished before. Since you've probably forgotten the first half that I posted, I'm gonna repost it here along with the rest of the scene.

Ink's Opening Scenes: Part 3: The Book
Hearing their names, Jessie and Ralin freeze, looking scared. Spotting Josiah, they turn towards him.
"How do you know our names?!?" Jessie grabs Josiah's shirt, her voice a mixture of anger, nerves, and fear. "Who are you?!?"
Meanwhile, a group of soldiers (some on foot, some on horseback) enter the far end of the street and begin moving slowly through the crowd. They appear to be searching for something...
"Jessie..." Ralin casts a nervous glance towards the soldiers. "We don't have time for this."
She looks back, swears, then tightens her grip on Josiah's shirt and pulls Josiah into the nearest ally. Ralin follows and they duck behind a group of barrels.
"Keep quiet." Jessie hisses at Josiah then turns her attention back to the soldiers, who are continuing to search the street.
Shifting uncomfortably, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a leather bound book and an old fashioned pen. He frowns, not recognizing it, and begins to flips through the pages. A moment later, his eyes widen as realization dawns. "This is my story..."
"Shh!" Jessie glares at him.
"Don't worry, they won't find us." Josiah grins and points to the open page of the book. "They'll be moving on to the next street any minute now."
*The camera zooms in on the book to show the relevant text.*
The book says, "Jessie and Ralin crouched in the alley, barely daring to breath. The soldiers combed the square with an unhurried and uninterested air, almost as if they regarded the entire search as a waste of time. After several tense minutes, then turned away and headed down the opposite street, never noticing that their quarry was hiding only a short distance away."
The sibling ignore him and remain silent, stealing nervous glances at the soldiers who, contrary to the book, appear to be very alert and focused on their task. A few of them draw closer to the alley, leading Jessie and Ralin to shrink back, looking scared. Josiah remains where he is, both calm and confident in the outcome he wrote for this scene.
One of the soldiers pauses and stares intently into the alley. "Hey, you there!" he calls. "Come out!"
Ralin's face pales and Jessie swears. "Run for it!" she yells.

Designer's Comments
In this scene Josiah discovers his book and pen, two items which mysteriously appeared in his pocket when he awoke in the world of Ink and are central to both the plot and his special powers (which will be discussed in detail later on). As you can probably tell from this scene, the book starts out containing Josiah's story...or at least what his story was supposed to be. For some reason (which I'm not going to discuss yet since it's a major plot point) the story is changing, leaving even its author unsure of what will happen next. Naturally there's much more to the book and pen than that, and you'll be finding out a bit more about their powers in the next scene.
Aside from introducing the book and pen, this scene also severs to introduce several other important elements of the plot. This scene shows that Josiah is in the world of his story. It also introduces Jessie and Ralin as important characters, makes it clear that they're on the run, and begins to establish their personalities. The goal is to bring the player into the scene as quickly as possible and with a limited amount of dialogue. Naturally there's a lot of details missing but there's no reason to throw them all at the player from the get go. You don't want to overwhelm someone with details early in the story. Once they know the basic setting, they can fill in the rest as the story progresses and more details are revealed.

That's all for now. The next scene will be up later this week!


8/21/2009 I'm back!

Not that I've really gone anywhere (actually, I'm going on vacation now are over), but I'm making new PV strips again and Ink posts will be resuming next week once I've had a chance to rebuild my comic buffer a bit. Anyway, aside from the new PV strip, there's a new voters' bonus comic featuring Astral Omega, and a new ROM.

Ever noticed that new technology equals new problems? For example, I recently got my grandparents' HD TV (they moved and didn't take it with them) and a new much fancier cell phone. The new phone is pretty cool. Internet, keyboard, touchscreen, a USB jack so I can hook it to my PC, and tons of features... Getting ring tones on was a pain in the neck though. See, it's real easy to add music to the phone...but apparently you can't set your music as ring tones. You can call your music files "sounds" instead. But some file types that play if they're "music" don't play if they're "sounds" and, while you can set sounds as ringtones, it requires a rather roundabout process and since they're not true ringtones, you can't use them for everything you can use ringtones for (like alarms and calender alerts). After way too much time spent researching and playing around, I finally found a program that let's me get into the phone's file system and drop files into the actual ring tone folder. Though, since they're ringtones now, I can't listen to them in the phone's music player... Gee Verizon, would it be so horrible if people could use their own music as ringtones instead of rebuying songs they already have from your overpriced store? And don't get me started on using my phone as my PC modem. Long story short, it's a pain in the neck to set up (especially since the process isn't documented in the manual), and my "unlimited" data plan only works when using the phone itself. If I want to use the phone to get internet on my PC, it's an extra $30 (or was it $50) a month and I'd only get 5GB of bandwidth. Yeah, not something I'll be using any time soon...

And then there's the HD TV... While it's not my dream set (a bit too small, and it tops out at 1080i instead of 1080p), it's a pretty nice improvement over my old normal TV, and it was free. Well, except for the $100 I had to spend on new cables for my game systems (cables are seriously overpriced), and the $10 for a universal remote (the real one seems to have gotten lost in transit). My PS3 and Wii look great on it. My cable, not so much (I don't have the HD package and, even if I did, it only covers a handful of stations) but it's ok. The problem is that it's got a slightly lag when playing regular SD video. It's pretty much unnoticeable when watching TV, but just enough to ruin my DDR timing. While I could learn to play DDR with the lag, then I'd have trouble playing DDR on non-lagging screens. So my choices now are to either keep my old TV around for my old non-HD game systems (which I still use quite a lot, especially for DDR), which would also require some sort of table or stand for my old TV, since it's not really large enough to sit on the floor, or spend $50-70 on a box that I can run at least some of my old systems through and is supposed to virtually eliminate the lag (the way HD works, you can't get rid of it entirely, but it's possible to reduce it to the point where it doesn't matter). Though whether or not such a cheap box would work well enough for DDR is hard to say. There's high quality boxes (but they're way out of my budget) and there's TVs that have settings you can change to reduce lag (but I don't plan on buying a new TV till after I've graduated and gotten a job). Oh well, I'll figure out something after vacation (probably cross my fingers and get the box). I didn't get a $300 dance pad and move to a first story apartment so I could not play DDR.

Anyway, it's vacation time. See you Monday!


8/19/2009 One last short update

Well, this should be the last short cop-out news post I'll need to make for quite some sometime. Can't say stuff won't occasionally come up, but at very least they should be fairly uncommon. Regular Pebble Version strips will most likely be resuming on Friday as well. The reason? Well, there's a few but mainly I've finished all my final projects, my last test is Friday morning, and after that I'm on vacation for a couple of weeks followed by a semester that, while probably not "relaxing" should be a lot less busy than this one was. So anyway, expect regular strips (and possibly a slightly faster pace to the main plot), more Ink updates, and the like.



8/17/2009 More comics by Saber

And the guest comics continue. I'd hoped to return to regular Pebble Version updates today I've just had too much going on to work on new strips, mostly because of final projects. Nearly done though. On Wednesday I'll put up the final Saber and Brendan strip and Pebble Version should resume on Friday (Monday at the absolute latest, but probably Friday). Once again, sorry about the delay and the general lack of interesting news posts lately. I should have plenty of free time over my vacation (short though it is) and, the way it's looking now, will be a lot less busy next semester. So things should get back to normal soon and, for the most part, stay that way for the forseeable future.


8/14/2009 Finicky stars

There's a new ROM and a new voters bonus comic. This week's is another special one, it features forum member bioniclemandi121.

At this point I can't really say yet when I'll be able to start new PV strips again. Monday isn't looking good though. The last few days have been kinda crazy. My parents are visiting now and we were going to go to a concert they wanted to see (Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and one other guy I can't remember). But, when we got to the stadium, we found out the concert was canceled at the last minute because one of the singers thought it was too hot. Seriously. Now I'll admit that Phoenix can get pretty hot in the summer, but you'd think that they'd have thought of that before booking the show. Not to mention that the day in question was actually the coolest day we'd had in at least a month. And that's just such a selfish thing to do anyway. I feel sorry for all the people who bought tickets (my parents included).
I did go to the water park the following day with my mom, brother, and a friend of his though. That was fun, but it certainly didn't help me get my finals done. As is, I've got half a project left to do (which involves making a Flash movie), a rather long paper to write, and a few tests. I did finish my Japanese assignments though, and that LittleBigPlanet level, which you guys should really play if you haven't yet (it's called A LBP Christmas Carol Part 1 and it's under my PSN name, NBolt). Speaking of which, I'm hoping to get some photos and maybe a video of it soon.
I also wasted a bit of time setting up my new TV (my grandparents' old one) which, while certainly not perfect, is a nice improvement over my old one. I got a new cell phone too, and a much nicer one at that, which also took a while to get set up the way I like it.

Well, anyway, I've got to get going. Lots left to do. Have a good weekend!


8/12/2009 An anniversary and a brief intermission

Yesterday was Pebble Version's 6th anniversary! Now normally I'd say something about the comic's past, present, and future and how lucky I am to have so many great fans... Normally, there'd also be a regular strip up, but I'm afraid that's just not going to be the case this time. I hate to say it but I've been so busy with finals and stuff that I've burned through my comic buffer and probably won't have time to make any new strips until at least this weekend, and possibly not until the middle of next week. Fortunately, I have some guest comics stashed away for just such an occasion so I'll be running them until things calm down enough for me to get some new PV strips made. I'm still planning an Ink update for Friday though, and I'll do my best to resume regular PV strips shortly (Monday at the earliest, next Friday at the latest).

Sorry for the suddenly interlude. I hope you enjoy the guest comics and thanks for helping Pebble Version to reach the six year mark. You guys are great!


Pokemon and all related images and trademarks are copyrighted by Nintendo, one of my favorite games companies who would certainly never waste their time by trying to sue me. Especially since I'm protected under the Fair Use Rule of the United States Copyright Act of 1976. Aside from that the actual site content is copyrighted by me, Josiah Lebowitz 2003.