Friday, August 5, 2016

After 10,000 years, it's free!

Back in the distant lands of 2010, Danielle found an online tutorial about how to code ActionScript games in Flash. The tutorial instructed the reader on how to make a game in which you, a paddle, use a ball to destroy apples in a tree. The very most basic of brick breaker clones. Having completed the project, I saw her excitement in having coded something. And I decided in that moment to obliterate that small happiness forever.

"What if we made it more elaborate?" I said while lightly tapping in the first nail. "You could be a little guy knocking down a building! What if we added procedurally generated levels of a building with cutscenes in between them?". Meeting with little resistance I decided to query further, sweeping my hand along a shelf of antiques. "How about adding different kinds of bricks and building materials?" This, of course, destroyed the fancy procedural generation script that had already been completed. I either did not or could not recognize the shattered finery on the rug. More. There must be more.

"Racket physics! And we'll need new levels! We'll make new levels to replace all that hard work you just did! While you're at it, how about we add construction workers that call the police on you! Oh! Yes, we should have multiple game over conditions! We'll need a health meter, and power ups to go with it like buckets and sandwiches. And let's add more level designs while we're at it!" Unable to accept the fact that this would be just another brick breaker game, no matter how many bells and whistles we duct taped to it, I proceeded to push us deeper into madness. "Let's add something besides rocks that you can hit at the building!" Having seen the resulting rock re-skins, I could not let this scab go unpicked. "What if they each did unique things, like broke or exploded? Let's put in multi-ball functionality and an inventory bar while we're at it.
How about a remote control that brings in a wrecking ball? Wouldn't it be cool to fight a UFO with a wrecking ball?"

Years had passed at this point and the once simple tutorial game had already been reprogrammed from scratch, including several code revamps to handle all the new ideas I was polluting this once innocent project with. But my nagging suggestions and torrent of new assets had only increased with time. Three mini-games were planned and the groundwork laid out for them. More bosses. The collectibles system. Easter eggs, including a cheat system and a new hidden game mode within it. Remastered the cutscenes. Made a new cutscene gallery to replace the old ugly one. Added corrupted cutscene files to the game which replaced all the sprites with cutscene frames and almost irreparably broke the game. The level auto-complete system. Randomly generated countdowns. Procedurally generated room interiors. An actual ending to the game, instead of an endless loop of levels. More cutscenes. Throwing out of the previous groundwork for the three mini-games and adding the Demolition Carnival in their place. Unique cutscenes for all the bosses.

Neither of us wanted anything to do with it at this point. A spaghettian titan of tangled code and jumbled ideas, desperately trying to be something more than the uninspired monster it was. Meanwhile, Danielle had surprised me with Cardiac Snowdrift in 2011 which was everything Hitting Stuff at a Building was not - concise, addictive, and quaint. With Cardiac Snowdrift out in the wilderness, HSaaB had become even more reprehensible. What was the point of this mutant hearse of a training-wheels game when Cardiac had totally supplanted it in that role? We did not know. We did not care. Hitting Stuff at a Building rotted in the depths of our hard drives for years, untouched and unloved.

But here we are. We finally pulled it together in 2016 and made a concentrated effort to finish it. I am still coming to terms with the realization that I am a horrible, horrible project manager and our first substantial game will be just one of millions of derivative indie-games that are over-saturating the market. This trend of nostalgia fixation and subverting retro game tropes is something I desperately don't want to be a part of. Having grown up without video games, I had very lofty ideas about what video games actually were, and when I finally got to start extensively playing them 5-6 years ago, I was disappointed with how limited most of them actually are. Seed of Destruction is more along the lines of what we'd like to make, but we played it "small" and "safe" with Cardiac Snowdrift and HSaaB in order to get a handle on how to make games ourselves. But we've learned a lot, and thanks to her trucking through this programming boot camp hell, Danielle's grasp on coding is now so high that her career is moving up as a result. We've come away from this a lot more experienced than before and that's what really matters at the end of the day.

When asked for comment, Danielle added "FUCK FLASH RRRHAAABBGGLKKKGGRAAAH". Needless to say, we will thankfully never be working in Flash again. Our next project is being built in Javascript and HTML5 and it has been phenomenally easier to work with. It doesn't hurt that I've learned to plan out the full scope of a project in advance, as to prevent another catastrophic idea cascade. Meanwhile, I'm working hard on getting the Zehkiflorn reveal trailer ready for BarfQuestion's 10th anniversary on January 14th, 2017. It's going to be a huge update.

Monday, June 13, 2016


In the wake of Sunday's tragedy it is imperative, especially as artists, that we look closely at this issue. This was something I had previously assumed was obvious, as years ago the internet gleefully took to causes like Draw Mohammed Day in defense of free speech. But the death threats, torture, and executions in response to people practicing their basic human rights have continued to intensify. The Charlie Hebdo shooting, the Paris massacre, and Sunday's mass killing as well as countless atrocities committed against human rights in the middle east are things that we cannot just willfully ignore the motives behind. But here we are.

I understand that many people, the majority in fact, that follow an Abrahamic faith do not actively practice the contents of their respective holy book. Few Christians these days have even read the Bible in its entirety. Which is good, because that shit is unjustifiably evil in a lot of places. Even the oft-quoted New Testament contains some crazy shit which culminates in the balls-to-the-wall global murder orgy that is Revelations. A balls-to-the-wall global murder orgy that just so happens to be one of the primary inspirations for Empire of Sock.

Heaven on Earth: the descent of New Jerusalem
The credits sequence was meant to draw a lot of parallels to the Bible, showing Sock sacrificing a version of itself to itself in order to appease itself and then slumbering underground awaiting its second coming (which would herald the apocalypse). The cult is shown divided, and members wearing attire and symbols suggestive of the three major Abrahamic faiths are depicted murdering each other over their religious differences.

The idea was that the Cult of Sock inspired these modern day faiths, which are all watered down but still occasionally batshit nuts versions of the Cult's religion. The underlying theme of the Sock series is that religion is inherently dangerous, devalues actual life by promising an eternal afterlife, and reduces people to the playthings of Gods- causing more problems than it solves. Hence the other Gods showing up to combat Sock's destruction, only to use the victims of Sock's wrath as literal ammunition in their crusade. It's how religions have functioned for millennia.

People (Judeo-Christian and Muslim alike) are happy to ignore the shadow their religion casts over the world and pretend that their holy books filled with glorified judgement, rape, and murder are somehow metaphors about unconditional love and forgiveness. In some ways this is a good thing - despite the inherent hypocrisy entailed in such an action - as by redefining what these religions stand for, we are able to move forward as a more peaceful and more forgiving species. However, when these hate crimes and atrocities are still being committed, you cannot just turn your head and write these 'outlier incidents' off. This kind of deplorable behavior IS what religion in its base form encourages. We rightfully do not give Nazis or the KKK a free pass just because most of their members haven't killed anybody recently and they've been a largely nonviolent organization for some time. If you stand with a hate group, you are supporting that hate group.

If you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Scientologist, Mormon, whatever - if you can't account for the immoral things your religion preaches and encourages others to do, if you don't support the crimes committed by your peers, you need to find another way. People have been making splinter factions of religions over petty disagreements for ages. You can too. Redefine and reclaim your faith by creating a new one or drop it altogether. But by doing nothing and pretending the problem doesn't exist, you are condoning these massacres and the hateful beliefs that give birth to them. The exact same thing goes for people of different beliefs that do nothing and make excuses on other religions' behalf.

Sock, like religion, looks sweet and harmless on the surface, an object of comfort- but just below the skin dwells a seething mess of insanity.

LGBTQ, artists, liberals, anyone remotely forward thinking, this is our problem too. In an age where someone like Trump is honestly running for president, denial is terrifying. If we are too afraid to discuss these issues, if we are too afraid of looking politically incorrect, we feed fear-mongering tyrants like him. People are scared and desperate and if it means committing revenge killings against Muslims or electing a stubby fingered Hitler-wannabe like Trump, they will because no one else is willing to talk about this issue and it drives them to heinous extremes.

Discuss, make art, raise awareness. It's pretty much our only responsibility as artists, aside from drawing dicks on things. Or you can just accuse me of having bad taste in headwear and maybe of being a hateful racist for good measure because this is the internet after all and when in Rome.

Illustrating hotel Bibles for the greater good

Thursday, May 26, 2016

BarfQuestion International Development Conference

So Hitting Stuff at a Building reached a state of completion for the seventh or eighth time, and then I was like WAIT A MINUTE all the bosses need cutscenes! and then all production on the books ground to a halt and I lost a week's worth of work on the trailer because of it and then I worked straight through most of the weekend on it and sad. I am the worst. The worst director.

While I pulp my face against this demon of my own making for next to no reason, the coding remains basically completed which frees up the programming queue. I don't know where queue gets off having all of these fucking vowels but here we are. 

What that means is that the new website I blew several months last year making assets for is being coded. That is to say, Danielle is tearing through it with an inhuman fervor and doing an incredible job. Now I understand that news about a website design sounds not so impressive because websites who cares everyone just uses social media move on already and accept the heat death of human imagination already right WRONG. I don't want to sound conceited or anything, but YOU'RE SUPER WRONG. Seeing it all coming together and being able to play with all the little dynamic elements has been a really exciting experience (and there are so many more yet to import). I had previously hated mobile everything, but the mobile version is way more fun to play with than the desktop version. The ability to manually poke and prod all the squishy things turned out to be really engaging. It's looking to be far more playground than website at this point.

It's still in the very early stages, but we'd really really like for it to launch during BarfQuestion's upcoming 10th Anniversary Week in January. That's also the timeframe I'd like to launch the Zehkiflorn trailer in. But now that I've speculated a release date I've cursed both of them to rot forever in development hell. Oh and there's going to be a 10th Anniversary week in January. I'm lining content up for it now including the aforementioned two projects and maybe a 24 hour animation stream (I HATE STREAMS)!?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Side Projects Assemble! Ganglotron is on the scene!

It has come to my attention that Cafepress quietly disposed of their publishing service in hopes that no one would notice. Which means that the Encyclopedia Retardium is no longer in print. Which means extra despair because I lost the pdf used to print it ages ago. Which means that the thirty or so of you that bought a copy are now in possession of an extremely rare item. But the fact that less than thirty of them sold kind of indicates how worthless that status is.

So, my own personal copy has volunteered to undergo open-air invasive bowel surgery in BarfQuestion Films' first ever attempt at cloning a perfect child!* I am attempting to make the second edition as close to the original as possible, and it is proving to be incredibly difficult. Not on a technical level, but simply because the contents are proving to be woefully unfunny. I have not touched this book in years and it has not aged well, but I suppose that is like saying afterbirth does not age well. The more I think about it, the more appropriate the description of the comic being the afterbirth of my animation career becomes. As a result, I am torn. On one hand I want to charge as little as the new publishing service will allow as a pre-emptive apology, but on the other hand people might take the lower price as encouragement to buy it over the vastly superior volume 2 so I should charge monstrous amounts for it instead. Either way, I will also be releasing the book electronically as a free ebook download.

Oh, what's that about volume 2? Tales of BarfQuestion volume 2 is on the way! If I'm already wasting a bunch of time on compiling one book, why not two? I was going to wait until Syphilis Rice chapters 1-3 were done and theme the next book around them, but there's an entire book's worth of material to cover before we'd even get to chapter 2. I think I'll just withhold Syphilis Rice #1 and save it for the future third and final comic anthology.

With two books on the way in the coming year, I'm also excited to announce that Hitting Stuff at a Building is in the homestretch. No really, I'm serious. We finally stopped procrastinating and started plowing through play-testing. The final bugs are desperately running for cover from the UNHOLY LABOR STORM we are raining down on their filthy nonsensities.

On top of all this, I'm still trucking through the Zehkiflorn trailer. There's probably five? production blocks and I'm mostly done penciling in the first one (plus a bit of inking as well). I've been recovering from some persistent health issues that have limited me to working on remastering content for the books for a week or two, but I'm ready to get back into animating full time. Once the books are finished, it'll free up my spare time so I can also get back to remastering my old films as well.

Two books, a game, various remastered projects, the stray comic here and there, and maybe maybe maybe a feature film trailer oh no please don't give estimates we've talked about estimates you know the trouble this gets you into don't make me say it supervillain 6 2011 stop screaming you brought this on yourself biting me isn't going to solve anything


* The pursuit of creating perfect children is both futile and impossible and the practice is in no way endorsed by BarfQuestion Films, BarfQuestion Games, or its subsidiaries on the scientifically demonstrable basis that children are fucking horrible.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I regret to inform you that the Hype Engine is time-soluble.

The 550 frames of animated assets needed for the drastic website redesign are finally complete! The crazy part is that the new website is entirely contained within a single page, making the frame count all the more unreasonable. Now, to the programming backlog with you!

Speaking of the programming backlog, HSaaB bug testing is progressing slowly but surely. Game development is an extra job for both of us, so we can only really put aside 2-4 hours a week for it. But unlike past years, we're sticking to it fiercely, like some kind of carnivorous tape. Redundant, since tape obtains nourishment by way of consuming the movement freedoms of other organisms.

And with that, we set sail for a new land in 2016! One of new heights and possibilities! A new vista that will leave you stunned! Flabbergast! Outraged over when the hell am I going to get around to animating of Rictus of Sock already! The name of this sheer cliff face we're currently locked into a flaming crash course with?
Why, it is Zehkiflorn!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Zehkiflorn Web Design Warmup

A third of the year on comicstuffs like Syphilis Rice, another third on general preproduction headpurgery (and prettying up Hitting Stuff at a Building), and here on the last third I was starting to wonder why I was feeling depressed. Upon sitting down to do some actual animation work, the pen started scraping paper molecules off the index cards and osmosis siphoning them directly into my bloodstream, converting them into some kind of animation-based antidepressant. Wow, it's like doing what you love makes you happy or something.

The original 2007 BarfQuestion website
When I say I'm back to animating, that probably sounds like I'm doing work on that Zehkiflorn reveal trailer I said I was already working on. It was a bit intimidating, diving straight into something like that after 66% of a year with little to no animation, so I'm working on the website redesign instead right now. That might not sound like something that would entail a whole lot of animation, but this heavily interactive iteration of Tales of BarfQuestion is tailored specifically to murder data plans. You're welcome.
 Looking back at the history of the website, you can tell I did not much care for web design outside of my shaky, initial efforts. The sketchbook design from 2007 is, I think, where the current comic page comes from. It will never die. It is unable to die.

The short-lived original original comics page where you had to manually click links to the individual image files for each comic.
The site's second form was a big step down. After four hours of searching my archives and the internet, it appears that fortunately all evidence of its existence has been wiped from history. Merely a collection of links to basic pages circling a malformed, poorly proportioned BarfQuestion that looked pretty damn pleased with itself to be standing in a spotlight, unaware that it was the star attraction in the "Biannual Unwarranted Displays of Hydrocephalic Enthusiasm" pageant. This version had all the terrible- bad art, advertisements, those previous two things I mentioned and nothing else. Certainly not discussion forums. I see you starting to correct me, and I'm telling you to forget about it. Those never happened.

After Sketchbook Doodlytimes and Monetized Freakshow Spotlight came Phase 3, or as I unaffectionately refer to it, BarfStar Runner. I think this was the ultimate low for me. I wanted (needed? seemingly at gunpoint?) to redesign the site on a whim and I remember throwing it together in a weekend. Zero original thought, and generally the kind of minimal effort involved in BLATANT PLAGIARISM. Unfortunately this has been the longest running design and serves as a monument/power plant for efficiently generating a steady stream of shame.

The start of something not-suck...?
I'll finish up animating the new (and first good) design this month, and when bug testing finishes up on Hitting Stuff at a Building, Danielle will be coding it in Javascript + HTML5. It looks like it should be mobile compatible as well, but its bandwidth costs will certainly not be. I've seen a disappointing trend in web design to just link together all your social media accounts. This approach is safe and ensures you'll remain compatible with all the technological trends, but I'm going in much the opposite direction. I don't want to see the internet continue to devolve into a featureless newspaper, filled with inane details about personal lives and videos of people playing video games. I think it important that the internet remains a bizarre carnival of unchecked creativity.

(while I was digging around looking for the old website designs, I found these creepy sprites from a 2007 Smash Bros style game Komix Games and I almost made before before making SpermRider: Seed of Destruction instead)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Preproduction Excitement Rush

During August I finally managed to just about finish the mountain of concept art required for Zehkiflorn. The sheer amount of time just to do the design work should probably serve as some kind of ominous warning about what I'm about to undertake, but I've plugged up all my sensory orifices with hopes and dreams long ago, so now all I can perceive is an eternal, hellish expanse of rainbows.

As I've probably mentioned, it's been a lifelong dream of mine to be a filmmaker, but what really swayed me toward animation was the limitless power it gives you to realize anything you can imagine. The last years of self-educated animation have made me realize just how vast that freedom is. In the past, if I were to animate something set in a city, I would just draw some normal buildings without much thought and have done with it. But why limit yourself? Animation makes you into a god. What a waste it is, to not fully explore that potential.

Once I started creating a new world, I couldn't stop, continuously adding details and coming up with new ideas as a result of those details. Harkening back to "Monarch", a big theme in Zehkiflorn is the obesity epidemic. There is currently a worrying trend to alter our surroundings to accommodate more personal mass, rather than to take any personal action to alter the source of the problem. And it got me thinking about what the world would look like if this greed set the standard by which our buildings were designed and built. I started designing doors that were obviously once door-shaped, but have been massively expanded to accommodate more girth. And then that got me thinking about how this would effect room layout, reducing corners and distances required to walk from one area to another. And then that inspired more design work to design buildings that were centered around colossal elevator mechanisms, which in turn created new scenarios and characters specific to these behemoth contraptions. And that set into motion designing thin shapes and hard corners out of all human made constructs, because these woefully out-of-touch humans would enjoy having their environment reflect and reaffirm their own pear-shaped image. Days later, I'm swimming in designs and notes about how this world looks and functions based on the addition of just one root detail.

There is always the fear of over-designing, but I'm really happy with how everything has turned out. It finally has 'that feel' to it, where I no longer feel like I'm spitting out scribbly moving doodles, but really making something with real depth to it. Something I feel really passionate about. And it really has to generate copious amounts of passion, because I have no idea how much enthusiasm this is going to require in order to finish. This all probably sounds a little alien (and potentially disastrous) compared to my normal fare, but just hang in there until the reveal trailer. There will be surprises for all the fans. All five. Anyway, production is go!

Click here to see larger version so the difference is actually noticeable.
Weeks and weeks of nonstop mental diarrhea is a bit exhausting and I've burned myself out a couple of times, so to give myself creative-off days, I started remastering my work in true 1080 HD. The original shorts on YouTube are mostly film ed with a cheap DV camera from a backlit, window mounted brace I made out of more index cards and tape. A few years back, I 'remastered' them in HD for Vimeo, but all that involved was filming the frames with a cheap HD camera off of a table with slightly improved lighting. This (final) time, I'm subjecting the frames to the same process I developed during Empire of Sock which involves scanning the frames and touching them up digitally, including digitally enhancing the colors (although I haven't really started that yet since I'm still in the black and white stuff). It's a really good time to get around to this, since some of the older frames are starting to yellow with age.

I'm already a little worried that The Five will riot, 1) because I might be coming off as a bit of a George Lucas and 2) the really early projects show maybe a little more detail than they should. That is to say, they look like absolute shit. This was nicely obscured early on by the fuzzy digital video quality, but you can't hide anything from the scanner. But I actually kind of like them like this. Seeing all the poorly-erased mistakes, smudging, and reference lines in there is kind of nostalgic. I'll try to keep the original low quality video files around for as long as possible on YouTube, but if you are (for whatever reason) really attached to them, download and archive them. Just another reminder: you can use KeepVid or a similar service to capture the YouTube ones, and the on-page links on my website to download the Vimeo versions. Get to it though if you're going to, because my work on Vimeo and NewGrounds is going fully HD starting today. In fact, my first three projects are live in HD right now! 

NewGrounds set to 1080p actually looks better, especially in the first one. Vimeo is downgrading my videos again, despite me being a paying customer. Might have to switch off of that service soon.

The next time I see you will probably (hopefully) be for the release of everyone's favorite disappointment: Hitting Stuff at a Building! That is, if anyone even has Flash installed on their computers anymore. Speaking of which, I desperately need to throw together a new site design to act as a placeholder for the next year or so until we have time to make that crazy site redesign I keep foreshadowing. Freak out as hard as you like when everything suddenly looks different.