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.

Friday, July 31, 2015

RIP Flash

Up until now, I've been very obstinate about sticking with Flash, despite its plummeting popularity and support. Filmmaking has been a lifelong dream of mine, but in my late teens and early twenties, flash websites featuring animations and games were a big inspiration to me, such as Newgrounds and Homestar Runner. However, with the recent maelstrom of exposed vulnerabilities and malicious exploits found in Flash, I've finally come to accept that the ride has probably been over for quite some time. At least it coincides well with my transition away from web-based content and into film festival projects.

a terrible, incomprehensible reject comic- just for you!
My vision for the new website design is pretty specific, and I'm not quite sure which formats will be capable of realizing the new design while still being convenient to visitors (and hopefully mobile users as well). We're going to be sitting down once HSaaB is done and going over our options. And not just in search of a programming language to write the site in, but also a platform for future games. It's a shame, Flash could have been so perfect for both of these things.

hitting stuff at a building: seriously almost done, for real this time
Having grown up alongside the internet, I'm sad to see it devolve into a platform that caters specifically to unwarranted self importance, parasitic advertising, and absurdly overblown and unethical government surveillance. The new site will probably be largely self-contained and even more esoteric as a result. YouTube is walking a fine line, and the instant they switch over to a more intrusive advertising model, I'll be done with that service.

just remembered that this game was announced in 2010, can i feel any more disappointment and hatred toward one game? oh wait, portal 2
Here is a rough release schedule for the next several years (?), which as always, is bound to change at any time:
• Hitting Stuff at a Building (2015, hopefully)
• Zehkiflorn reveal trailer
• the Adventures of Puddlenaut game
• Website redesign launch
• Zehkiflorn
• Valentine's Day Forever

If you're awaiting a project that doesn't appear on this list, don't despair yet. There's almost definitely news regarding it just around the (maddeningly over-complex labyrinth made entirely of) corner(s).

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Start of Something Potentially Terrifying

Ever since Syphilis Rice #2 was completed, I've been busy wasting even more time on Hitting Stuff at a Building. Growing up, I was not allowed video games, save for a handful of free ones that would run on our old Macintosh (the same computer seen in the Making of Empire video as a joke, until everyone took it seriously and thought that I actually use a 20 year old computer for postproduction). I've recently revisited these games in order to finally beat them, and upon completing the last and most difficult of these nostalgia trips, I was greeted with nothing but an empty room. No ending, no text, nothing. I was frothing until I realized that all of my games so far have pretty much had terrible non-endings as well. That's my justification for spending the last couple of months adding even more junk (including ending cutscenes) to the already underwhelming and embarrassingly derivative timesink that is Hitting Stuff at a Building. All that remains now is to program the "final boss" and bug testing.

So, with all that roundabout whining out of the way, I reach the current issue. For the last few years, I've been jotting down lots of ideas for Film Festival Project #1. Alongside various HSaaB work, I'm finally organizing all of these ideas, 'script' writing, and drawing concept art. And wow. Not only was this complex to begin with, but my brain is vomiting torrents of ideas into this. This went from a "film festival project" in the same way that the Closing Hour or Grumatorium were normal shorts that I sent off to a film festival to a "FILM festival project" because it is looking like it is going to turn into an actual freaking movie. If Empire of Sock, a glorified fight scene, ended up being almost 10 minutes long, I cannot even conceive of the runtime of this. To clarify, I say that as someone who has never released something longer than 10 minutes. I think 20 minutes is enough to make me faint, and I have no idea what this will turn into. Let's not think about the production time. Please. I'm having an awfully fun time digging this grave.

Since the basic plot structure of the movie has been floating around in my head for so long, I really expected writing and designing for it to be a fairly simple matter, but every time I begin to flesh out a new area, I immediately get diverted down tangents, writing little details and stories around minor background characters or constructs. I'm kind of terrified of all of these ideas coalescing into an indecipherable mess, especially considering the primary venue of distribution will be theaters, in which it can only be watched once, when it's threatening to become something that will require multiple viewings to fully appreciate. I guess I should take inspiration from my own characters, enthusiastically throw caution to the wind, and microwave this car battery already. I'm in this primarily for myself after all.

Instead of trying to animate the entire thing in one go, or splitting it into production blocks (as with Empire), I'll be approaching production by picking whatever scene I want off of the storyboard and animating it in full. This means I get to see finished product on a regular interval which is great for my morale, and it also means I can release an exciting reveal trailer (that I've been choreographing in my head for some time) relatively early on.

Since you're A) reading the production blog at all and B) still following my work, it stands to reason that you know the drill by now. Scarce comic updates, production blog posts consisting of nothing but complaining about long production times, the works. Thanks for coming along with the ride so far, and let's hope you survive this next one. I'll see you next time with that "new" game release that might have been exciting if it had been released three years ago, but now resonates with me on the same level as discovering dried cat puke of an mysterious and indeterminate age.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Seriesous Problem

The second chapter of Syphilis Rice is finally over. I really did not see that taking four months, but I guess that's just how things are in this modern age of quality standards. With the first chapter, I had a vague plot outline but was mostly making it up as I went along. Very transparently, I ran out of steam when the fight scene rolled around and elected to just drop it on its face.

This time around, I scripted the whole thing in advance to prevent this and I'm impressed that I managed not to flake out and see it through. The third chapter is outlined and, like the rest of my series, I have an ending in mind but frustratingly will have to wait for years in order to finish it thanks to all my other ongoing projects, leaving me Sisyphussing all over the place.

BarfQuestion Films is only a few years shy of being a decade old. That's a big and kind of frightening thing for me, because the average person only has like eight or ten decades at most, and I've wasted the first two just growing up. This third decade has seen a lot of tedious and inefficient self-education and progress in what I want to do with the rest of my decades, but as of Empire, I'm finally at a point where I'm confident enough in my abilities and want to try and tackle bigger projects. As I've previously mentioned, there are 2-3 big film festival pieces I really want to begin undertaking.

Furthering this ambition is the realization that the internet and I are not a good match. Agonizingly slow updates, original ideas instead of pop culture references, obstinate refusal to use social media, etc, etc. It's not an ideal primary venue for my work. Starting fresh with a more suitable outlet is increasingly tempting and it just feels like a waste of time to postpone this first film festival project any further. This is not to say I am abandoning my series, nor Tales of BarfQuestion in any way. These new projects are still extremely relevant to what I've been doing all these years. More on that later.

However, before this first behemoth of a film festival project would be the perfect time to wrap up Valentine's Day and maybe even Syphilis Rice (and get another comic anthology published). If I wait until after the first festival project is done, it's going to be awkward because I'm going to be caught up with the site redesign (which will be super user-unfriendly). So do I continue to shelve my burning passion for this new project in order to take an opportune moment and end one or two series, or do I awkwardly postpone those final installments for many years in order to do some much needed horizon expansion? Since I'll be doing both anyway, this normally would not be a big deal, but the amount of time they will both take makes this a big decision for me.

I kind of wish I had just let Spacelope be the final installment of Valentine's Day (those end of credit taglines promising future episodes are really kicking my ass), but I've already sketched out some character (re)designs I'm very attached to, so now it kind of has to happen. I was going to try and tackle it immediately after Empire was completed (in time for Valentine's Day 2015), but after seeing my shot list, Danielle pointed out that I'd have to complete at least one shot every day between then and Feb.14th to finish in time, which would have entailed like 20+ hour work days every day so that got pushed back.

For now, I have a couple more Hitting Stuff at a Building cutscenes and assets to make. Since we conceived the project in, what, 2010 (?!), the game has been spending years at a time on the back burner gathering dust since we keep losing interest in it. As such, it looks pretty dated. As such, I keep getting insecure about it and adding more junk to it, postponing its release even further. The further it gets delayed, the more it aggravates my fear about how dated it looks, and the cycle repeats. Fortunately, this will give me some extra time to decide on what course to take next.

P.S. - I've been faithfully updating the comic for like six months now at the cost of getting regular animation work done, so it's time to go back to sporadic updates again until I can get through another project or two. I definitely won't let it die before hitting 1,000 comics!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Way down south where the dairyswamp flows

After the chaos of Sock, I've been busy with some pretty low key stuff- namely comics and continuing to overcomplicate the already dated-looking 'Hitting Stuff at a Building'.

If you've been following the comic, you'll have noticed Syphilis Rice #2 is finally underway! I don't remember comics taking this long at all, increasing quality standards is troubling business. My normal forty hour work week only nets me two full pages which I find extremely distressing. I've been obsessively following a serialized comic called 'JoJo's Bizarre Adventure' for the last five years and I have no idea how the author manages to cope with pumping out 40 pages a month.

Syphilis Rice #2's thirty pages should see me well into May, a fact that I am not terribly comfortable with. I'd do overtime to hasten it, but I'm already putting in overtime to work on 'Hitting Stuff at a Building'. I would really like to finally publish another comic anthology featuring Syphilis Rice #1-3, but the work to do the third and final chapter would require several more months (plus some extra time to actually format and publish the book). I'd really like to get going on those insanely complex film festival projects already, so I'm not sure what I'll do yet.

Since BarfQuestion Games has its own schedule (because it's something we do during weekends), 'Adventures of Puddlenaut' should be ready to start production once 'HSaaB' is completed. I've also been kicking around the idea of making lots of tiny, stupid mobile games but we'll just have to wait and see if my schedule will allow for it. I'm also putting off the site redesign until the first film festival project is nearly complete, so you're stuck with the current, moth-eaten design for a few more years yet. Additionally, I had planned to do the final Valentine's Day project right after I finished Empire of Sock, but when I designed and storyboarded it, I realized that there was absolutely no way it would be done in time. Some other year perhaps!