Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One Chance


(If you intend on playing the game "one chance" on Newgrounds, and want toe full experience, I'd recommend playing it first.)

I'm really depressed right now. I just played a game called "one chance" in which you are told every cell on earth will die in six days and you only have one chance. I misread the meaning. I spent five of the days trying to find a cure, passing up opportunities to socialize with friends, go out with a girl to "get a drink", or spend time with my family. All I ever did was spend time trying to find a damn cure. People were dying around me, and then my wife killed herself. On the fifth day, I took my daughter to the park, because no child deserves this, to be left alone. She died that day.

On the sixth day I drove into the lab and went to work. Completely fruitless, my character closed his eyes and died, alone, in that lab. The worst thing is they really do mean "you only get one chance" because not only is there no replay button, the internet settings save so you can't even reload the page. It's an incredibly haunting image to reload the game in a different browser and see that still image of your character, alone, given up, dead.

I've never wanted to replay a game so much in my life. I completely misread the design, it wasn't "you have one chance to find a cure", it was "you have one chance to enjoy your life". This is one of the most moving game experiences I've ever had. It wasn't just the idea of only being able to play the game once, or the depressing and disturbing way they drove the narrative, it was deeper than that. It made me realize something about myself.

That's exactly how I would approach the situation, using my last dying gasping breath to find a cure to the madness. This has been what I've always been doing since high school and college. I always told myself I would put my work and my art before socializing or friends or parties or girls; I would scoff at people who would blow off homework in favor of going to a club. But in the end, what will my art bring me? What great answer will it give to the world?

Not to say I'm going to stop making art and start doing keg stands, but this game made me reevaluate the way I look at life. It forced me to bring my workaholic values into question. THAT is a great game. That is the kind of game I want to make. Overall I'd give it a solid 42 out of 43.

So let's see what we've learned:

A) I am now saddened

B) I am jealous and want to make a game as good as this

C) I have to force myself to enjoy life more

This has been kind of rambly without purpose. I just felt the need to write after playing this game. I highly recommend playing it. Don't make the same mistakes I did.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sticky Note System

I think I’ve finally mastered my Sticky Note System and I thought I should share it. I started it in College so I would remember all the homework I had to do in my 5 or 6 classes. I’ve kept it and evolved it and I think I finally have a good solid system. It helps me get stuff done and add structure to my routine, so maybe it can help you too! This is helpful to artists with lots of projects, or students with homework assignments.

NOTE: not for the stanch conservationist as this uses A LOT of paper, until I can find a computer program to do exactly what I want it to do(If anyone knows of such a program, message me).

First, there are five main boards: What to do for the week, what to do for the day, done for the week, Projects, and the Backburner(also I have a books board, but that’s only if you read a lot).

The Projects board is just an overall list of projects I have, it may or may not be needed. I have it because I have a huge list of ongoing projects. What to do for the week is a list of all your projects that you plan to do for that week. What to do for the day is a list of tasks you plan to do for that day. Done for the week I have split up into the 5 days of the week, and whenever you complete a task or project, you put the sticky on the according day. I find this useful for seeing how productive I was on each day, and I don’t include weekends; that’s my off time. Backburner is a list of tasks or projects you didn’t complete that day or week, although this has turned into my “Things that will never ever get done” board. So if you have a lot of stickeys on here, try to force a couple each week.

Next are the Sticky notes themselves. I use 5 different colors: Yellow, Purple, Green, Pink, and Blue. Also, each has a certain point value(This can be useful if you want to use a rewards system, but you’ll have to figure out what your point average is before setting a goal. On a normal day I clear 20 points, and on a good day I do more than 30, so I made TV a reward for 20 and videogames a reward for 30.).

Yellow is for menial tasks, chores, and little reminders, such as doing the dishes, cleaning your room, taking out the trash, going to the bank, etc. These get 1 point.

Purple are for small tasks that are important but not necessarily huge projects. Theses are things like doing a daily comic, watching a tutorial, reading a chapter in a book, practicing backgrounds, etc. These are worth 3 points.

Green and pink are tasks associated with major projects. When you have a major project like doing an animation, you can’t just put one sticky that says, “do animation”, that’s too vague. You have to break it up into smaller tasks that can be done.

I usually break them down into tasks that can be completed in an hour or two. A breakdown could be something like: write idea, do research, do character designs, do background designs, do storyboards, create animatic, animate keyframes, animate inbetweens, clean up and titles(depending on how big the animation that is). These stickys are worth 5 points.

Blue are reserved for the major projects themselves and are worth 10 points, so when you complete a huge project, you get to see how much you’ve done. Major projects could be homework assignments. Books to read, art projects, etc.

You can see pictures here of how I have it set up. I place the main project sticky at the top with al the task stickys underneath.

(the cards are for something completely different, they represent all the contacts I’ve met.)

I usually have 6 projects or so per week, and I put 12 tasks to do a day(although I rarely do that much). When the week’s over, I discard them all(when you have them all in your hand, you can really see how much you did that week). Since it’s a system you did yourself, it’s hard to cheat yourself. I don’t put anything too easily done or give myself points I didn’t earn. What’s the point? Don’t you want to feel like you’ve accomplished something?

I hope this helps anyone who’s looking for a structured way to get stuff done!

Writing this article gives me 3 points. Go me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My 10 Tips for Facebook Dating

A guy friends a girl he wants to go out with. A girl chats with a guy who seems like boyfriend material. It happens all the time and it’s completely normal. I just wanted to give you my top ten tips on dating when it comes to Facebook(although some may work with online dating in general, or perhaps even real life!).

  1. Know the difference between general interest and romantic interest

Just because she LOL’d at your comment does not mean she wants to sleep with you(although sometimes it does). And just because he comments on all your photos doesn’t mean he wants to be your new BF(although sometimes it does).

There are so many times when people start talking and they misread signals because a someone is just being friendly. If she ‘liked’ that one comment you posted, don’t read into it. If she gives you her phone number after talking over facebook chat several times, then you can call home.

  1. Don’t friend your friend’s friends

Gosh that’s fun to say. But seriously, don’t. I’m not talking about someone who you have 10 mutual friends and who you probably met in a class and just don’t remember, I’m talking about that cute girl who is obviously best friends with your mate form class that you’ve never met. It’s creepy and they will think it’s creepy. They will asking, “why is he friending me?”

Not to mention pissing off the friend of the person you’re friending; it just looks like you’re using that person to get to all the hot people on their friendslist. The exceptions to this is if A) you’ve met the person in real life, it was a positive interaction, and they want to get to know you more, B) you find yourself exchanging comments and likes over your mutual friend’s posts and you both want to cut out the middle man to talk, or C) if your friend introduces you. Otherwise, it just looks like you’re friending random hot people. Speaking of which…

  1. Don’t friend random people (unless you have a good reason)

Some people think it’s weird to just go out and friend strangers, but I for one have made numerous good friends of people I’ve met in groups or through friends, or just randomly. I consider it acceptable as long as you have a good reason, and no, thinking their pics are hot doesn’t count. Having mutual interests, liking their clothing/art style, liking their sense of humor or their links and posts, does.

Actually, this is similar to real dating, because you can’t just date someone because they’re hot, you have to like something about their character. Plus, anyone can be hot these days with the right photoshop filters. Now having said that…

  1. Don’t start dating someone unless you’re sure you’re attracted to them

I’m not saying anything about beauty, or that you should only date supermodels. Attraction has to do with what you like and what you’re attracted to. There are a lot of beautiful ladies I know that I’m just not attracted to because they’re not my style or type. What I am saying is don’t get too involved with someone before you know what you’re getting into.

I would highly recommend not getting to much into sexual talk with someone who doesn’t have pictures up, because there’s nothing like falling in love with the idea of someone and then meeting up and getting taken completely by surprise(especially if you made a point of saying looks don’t matter to you). Which brings up possibly my most important tip that should be taken with ALL online dating…

  1. Meet up as soon as possible

I’ve been guilty of this more than once. As soon as one of you suggest meeting up and hanging out(and the other agrees this is a good idea), meet up within the week if you can. You need to find out if you two are really compatible and can stand each other; this cannot be found out on the internet.

The longer you prolong a meet up, one of two things will happen: it will get more and more sexual in which case there’s a big chance that you’ll meet up, find out it doesn’t work, and then it’s too late to end it nicely, or one or both of you will get bored and the relationship will die out. If you meet up and you both realize it won’t work out for whatever reason, the both of you can still be friends. If you meet and it turns out well, then hey, you can make out in real time rather than making :* faces at each other. There’s an important addendum to this:

  1. Don’t start dating someone 5 states away

Seriously, what do you think will happen? One of you is going to hop on a plane and fly down every other weekend? Why would you knowingly enter into a relationship like that? I know this is the information age and you can have skype sex with girls in Bangladesh if you want, but if you know she’s in another country before hand, it’s best to just stay friends.

I would say the most you should have to go to meet up is a long car ride. Otherwise, you’ll both tell each other you’ll visit, then neither of you will, then one or both of you will realize you can have your needs met very easily somewhere much closer. So if you’re a guy in Arizona and you found this really beautiful gamer chick in Alaska, what can I say but…

  1. There are other fish in the sea

Because, yes, we do live in the information age. So if you meet a girl and she’s cute but she hates anime, or you met someone on a train and you friended them only to find out they’re already married, or the girl you’ve been posting comments to just doesn’t get your kind of humor, or the girl you were holding off asking out suddenly went from “single” to “it’s complicated”, let it go because quite literally, you will find someone else. I really don’t understand why people STILL get hung up on others(ok I do, but move on) when they could so easily be perusing facebook(or any number of other online sites really) for other prospective partners! Which brings me to my next point…

  1. Don’t stalk people

Unless the other party stalks you back and it becomes a mutual stalking, otherwise, just don’t. But you don’t stalk people, right?

FACT: 72% of facebook users stalk friends without even knowing it(not a real fact). Do you: Comment and like every single one of their posts? Go through their extensive photo library and like and comment on their hottest picks with comments like “Ur so sexxxxy”? Do you even comment on conversations they’re having on other people’s walls? You may be a stalker.

Now I’m not saying you should completely ignore them, but try to keep the comments to a minimum. Comment only as much as you would comment any other friend. And don’t comment for the sake of commenting, actually have a good reason or funny quip for doing so. Don’t be one of the ten guys that likes a girl’s new sexy photo, be the one guy she has a meaningful conversation with and gives her IM name to. But then, a little stalking can go a long way…

  1. Don’t ask stupid questions

I’m not sure about anyone else, but when someone asks me questions that are clearly on my Facebook info page, I get really annoyed. Really? It’s that hard to see what college I graduated from? No, I’m not going back on my previous entry about stalking, but you should at least scan the info page(after you’ve freinded them of course) before asking the most general of questions to start a conversation.

And by doing so, you’ll have a better conversation! “Oh I see you like MGMT. What do you think of their new work?” Also, don’t get mad if someone doesn’t memorize every you single thing you like. It’s really hard to remember sometimes whether someone is “single” or “in a relationship”.

  1. Facebook dating is not a substitution for real dating

Let me explain. It’s fine if you met someone on facebook you really like. It’s fine if you get really into each other before you even meet up(well not if you follow my tips). It’s fine if you start sexting each other and plan out in detail what you’re going to do with each other. But when you finally do meet up, don’t expect to copulate right there in Grand Central.

Just because you talked about it over the Internet doesn’t mean you just skipped that whole, “getting used to each other a.k.a. going on a date” thing. You still need to prove that you’re a sane human and that you are the person you typed you are, and that both of you have something more in common than the love of sexting. So yes guys, even though you wooed her with your snarky quips, You still need to woo her in real life.

Well I hope these tips help you in your scandalous facebook affairs. Do you disagree with any of them? What should I add or take away? What are your tips for facebook dating?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Waiting for Joseph Varnhein

This is a short piece of fiction I just wrote entitled Waiting for Joseph Varnhein. I hope you enjoy it!

I read all his books, and he wasn’t even there. All seven of his amazing books in the Gatsby Starship Series, all of his short stories(even the one with the tentacles he said he only did for the money), his biography, his autobiography, and I even signed up on that thing know as Twitter just to get his inspirational quotes every week or so. I drove three hours out of my way, in the car kept together by Duct Tape, in my dirty white Stop N’ Save shirt just to wait on line, just to see his face, just to get a squiggle that barely resembles the beautiful words, “Joseph Varnhein” on a book to battered to remember its creator.

And he wasn’t even there.

A few fans were standing around, arguing over whether Tabatha really died in the fifth book and whether the second was better than the fourth. The Borders patrons were walking around as if nothing had happened, as if Gods walked around them daily. There was one guy dressed in tin foil and wire that really made a good Drasnick from the third book. I tried to figure out what had happened to the man I joined the Twitter for. He was here. He wasn’t here. He was here, but then he left, but he’ll be coming back in a Cadillac, so don’t worry. The point was that he was not here now and I was standing with an unsquiggled-on book. It was probably about time I took care of the bladder problem I had been holding for the last forty-five minutes anyway.

I was standing at the urinal with my back to the door, watching my urine create a city of bubbles when I heard the creaking of another visitor. He shuffled straight past me and headed to the middle stall. I only caught a glimpse of him through the corner of my eye, but I saw the brown blazer and the gray mustache, and that was all I needed. That was Joseph Varnhein.

The stream instantly cut off. I was petrified. Dare I peak in the crease between the stall door and wall and risk bursting into flames at witnessing the holy of holies?

Crazy idea the first: Jump over the stall, snap a quick picture with the phone I never use, and blackmail him into coming to my house and signing every book in his series.

Crazy idea the second: crawl under the stall and hand him both a pen and a book without looking.

I could do neither of these. I stood and listened. Just to listen to Joseph Varnhein would be enough. There was a rustling of toilet paper being pulled and carefully placed down. Of course he’s a careful man. I’m surprised they don’t have a fur seat cover waiting for him with the letters of his name outlined in gold.

There’s a shuffling of shoes, and a fiddling of the belt buckle. I don’t know why, of course Joseph Varnhein wears pants, I just never imagined him with a belt. Not that it isn’t obviously a practical way to keep one’s pants up, it’s just the clickity clack of the buckle unhinging from the notch is such a normal familiar sound. I suppose I would have pictured fairies holding up and lightly dropping his pants for him, but I suppose that’s just a little much.

And then there is nothing but his breathing. I could never envision Joseph Varnhein breathing like that. One could scarcely envision Joseph Varnhein breathing at all. Do gods breathe? Do heroes breathe? I guess they have to. It’s a deep nasally intake, just a bit raspy. It’s long and slow and a paints a picture of his lungs filling with oxygen. He doesn’t remind me of my grandfather. He reminds me of all the old people sitting around my grandfather, with walkers and breathing mechanisms, watching Alex Trabeck on a TV with rabbit ears.

The breathing doesn’t sound human in the emotional sense of the word, not as though you’d envision a brother or a sister or a friend. It’s mechanical. This is a Joseph Varnhein breathing machine.

There is a heaving and a panting and a silent release of gas. I can’t in all conscience picture what this Joseph Varnhein machine is doing. And then there is a plop in the water, a light splash. Two plops. Three. This is the creator of the seven greatest works of literature of all time and something is coming out of him. If this were really a Joseph Varnhein machine, I’d like to think that what was going on here was the creative process. Three little ideas just dropped into the water and are floating there, waiting to be used. Four. But I realize I’ve been standing at a urinal for the past two minutes, holding my genitals, and this can not possibly be anything related to writing an epic.

I zipped up and walked over to the sink to fill my hands with soap. It is only after I’m standing with my hands under the sorry excuse for a wind machine that I realized I’d forgotten to flush. One does not forget to flush in the presence of Joseph Varnhein, no matter what process he’s in the middle of completing. I had to walk over and shamefully pull the plunger. And then of course I had to wash my hands again because one must be clean in the presence of Joseph Varnhein.

And I waited. I’ve read all his books and all his short stories and I drove three hours out of my way to listen to this machine release gas, and I wasn’t about to leave without knowing whether this is really Joseph Varnhein or not. Because there’s always the chance the creator of the battered and now slightly wet tome I’m holding does not share the same identity as the man that is in that stall. A very good chance.

There was a flush, and the familiar sound of the belt buckle again. He unlocked the stall, and walked out. There was a moment of awkward silence as we both stared at each other. I gave him the weakest smile I had while hiding the book behind my back. He shot a quick smile back, and then he left. I didn’t ask him to squiggle on my book. I didn’t run after him and ask him about the riddle of the squid in the fifth book, which had been bothering me for four years; I just stood there and continued to wait. Because that was not Joseph Varnhein.

Joseph Varnhein would not have made those noises and sounds. Joseph Varnhein would not have made those breathing noises. Joseph Varnhein would have had a much more serene creative process. Joseph Varnhein would have washed his hands. Joseph Varnhein would have been great, and that was not Jospeph Varnhein. So I kept waiting. But he didn’t come.

I read all his books and he wasn’t even there.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why I would never make a Spider-Man Game

“LIES!” you say. “How could you even think such a slanderous thing?!” Well ok, I might consider it. But here’s why I’d rather have my own character in an original videogame.

You can’t make him dance

You’re using someone else’s pre-made character instead of your own. That character comes with baggage: his own ways of doing things, his own quips, his own reasons, his own backstory. It would be like playing D&D with someone else’s character. “I want Broahan the Wise to slit that Goblin’s throat.” “What? You can’t do that! Broahan the Wise would never do such a thing!!” This already used, already established character has a certain way of doing things, and there’s no way you can change that, because that’s what defines the character.

This is also the reason why people say Batman is the least interesting character in the story. Batman will never go over the edge and murder someone, he’ll always have his parents killed and have a need to avenge them, he’ll always have the need to dress up like a bat, and he’ll never say, “Nah, I’ll take a break from crime fighting tonight. The crooks can arrest themselves.” And to meander from these traits would not be Batman. How could Batman not be Batman? His villains, on the other hand, have a little bit more leeway, and the game/cartoon/movie/comic creators always have the opportunity of creating a new one.

Everyone will hate you

Why did we all hate Spider-Man in Spider-Man 3(Let’s not get into the fact that they had too many villains with too little screen time)? He was acting the way Spider-Man would never act. Peter Parker would never strut down the sidewalk provocatively. Peter Parker would never break into a jazz number. Peter Parker would never do a sassy hair flip at J. Jonah Jameson (No seriously, WTF Pete?!). Peter Parker would never kiss another random girl when he’s already dating a super model. Wasn’t that what you were thinking when you watched that? They messed with an established character.

Now, if they had made a film about Super Duper Arachno Man©, all those things could have been believable because it was a new character. In fact, if they had gone that route, all those things could have looked like they were mocking the established character of Spiderman, as Kick-Ass did so wonderfully.

It’s all been done before

Characters like Spider-Man and Batman have been around a long time, so any “new” idea you may have for that character(that would fit with that character and in that universe) has probably already been done before. He’s had a girlfriend, he’s been married, he’s had his unborn child murdered, he’s been in an alternate reality where he does have a kid, he’s had clones, he’s has secret robot parents, what more do you want to do to the poor guy?

Make your own character

You don’t want to write fan-fiction all your life, do you? By making your own character instead of using an already existing one, you can make him richer and fuller than any pre-established character. Don’t make an exact carbon copy, just enough to pay some homage. Give him enough unique touches to make him an interesting and rich character. Maybe Super Duper Arachno Man© is a huge tool and gives everyone a sassy hair flick because the Super Duper Archno Radiation© that gave him his powers also gave him incurable cancer and he has to get in all the sassy hair flicks he can! Interesting yes, but could you ever see that as storyline for Spider-Man? No. Which makes it even better in a game or animation, you’ve just made something unique that no one else could have seen coming.

Super Duper Arachno Man©2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Strategic Use of Swearing or What the F@#$?!

Profanity is an important tool in any artist’s tool belt. Whether it’s movies, games, novels, or plays, dirty language needs to be carefully considered. Some authors abstain from swearing because they feel it’s juvenile. Others swear every other word to feel natural. I am neither arguing for the use of swearing or arguing against it, but merely suggesting a smart way of considering whether or not you should.

And before we go any further: Ass, Fuck, Bitch, Bastard, Cunt, Damn, Hell, Balls, Meekrab.

To curse or to hold your tongue

In some instances, it makes dialogue feel more natural and situations feel more realistic. Why? Because in real life, we curse all the time. When we stub our pinky toe on the corner of the coffee table, when we just realize our significant other has his or tongue down another’s throat, when we get hit by a blue shell while playing Mario Cart, we swear. A lot. But as discussed below, it doesn’t mean every other word should use a swear.

But then, there are a lot of instances where swearing isn’t needed at all, and the writing still looks realistic and full of life. If you’re writing something from the past(1800’s, 1920’s, middle ages), it’s more realistic if you don’t swear(also consider the curses of the time. There was a time when Zounds! was synonymous with damn). I would go so far as to recommend not swearing if you’re just starting out, or at least trying a pg script first; finding new ways to express, “Fuck!” will make you a better writer.

Why is it so bad?

Why is swearing such a big deal? Why did we feel so dirty exclaiming, “Crud!” when we were kids? Swearing is a forbidden language.

Why do we do it?

But why do we swear in the first place? Because, first, we want to insult someone or curse the situation but we’re too flustered or frustrated to express what we’re feeling with the right words or come up with something more hyperbolic. It’s much easier to say “Fuck you Asshole!” than to say, “Sir, that was completely unprofessional. Your use of language concerning my weight and dietary habits was completely out of line, and I think you a buffoon for doing so. You are a horrible human being, and I wish you the worst torment imaginable for such actions.”

Second, we’re so angry we want to use a word, or string of words, that we feel would do harm to the person or thing causing us pain. “You stupid fuck-monkey!” Yeah, that’s right, you called him a fuck-monkey. He’ll think twice about getting your coffee order wrong now.

How to use it for comedic value

This can be hard. There is no straight “swear” or “don’t swear” rule in comedy. The basic rule is to do what the audience is least expecting. Sometimes it’s incredibly funny to hear children swear at certain occasions because it’s the opposite of what you’d expect a child to say.

Other times, a grown man who swears like a drunken Sailor on Crack might have his next words be, “Oh my dear lord!” because that would be the least likely thing to come out of his mouth. It has that effect of the character experiencing something so incredible, it’s beyond regular swearing capacity.

It’s best to use it where it will have the most impact. If you have a character that swears like a sailor, juxtapose him with characters that never utter a dirty word, or cringe at his foul mouth. Your curse might burst from the mouth of a character that has been holding it in the entire adventure waiting for the wrong moment to explode. Or perhaps it’s used wrong on purpose by characters that aren’t worldly enough to have smarter language.

How to not use swearing

Swearing is not a meaningful character trait. Yes, I’m looking at you Gears of War. Your characters do not look full and rich if all they have going for them is putting “fuck” and “shit” five times in every sentence. It doesn’t look smart or realistic, just lazy. Especially if ALL of the character swear the exact amount and in the same way.

Best use of swearing

The best use of swearing is when you get the idea of swearing, the feel of swearing, without actually using a swear at all. Fantastic Mr. Fox did a wonderful job of this by implanting the word “cuss” in place of every swear word that would have been there.” “Are you cussing at me?” “Don’t cuss at me!” What the cuss is going on?!” This is a great way of expressing the feel of a forbidden word. Another good example is from Mystery Team where the main characters are juvenile, so to them, shouting, “Gumballs!” and “Chinese Checkers!” are the worst curses they can muster.

I hope this fucking helps in your god forsaken piece of shit script!