October 30, 2011

Journeys Start

"The Journey" is an upcoming short story which will be available online starting this December. Meet Eli! Our stories hero. Really looking forward to going full steam ahead with this, it'll teach me a lot.


October 16, 2011

Why Sonic Generations is a Big deal.

If you're a gamer, possibly in your Twenties- you'll be aware of Sonic The Hedgehog. You might also be aware of Sonic Generations- the latest game that is hitting stores early in November. You might not be planning on buying it though and who could blame you- Sonic has had more bad eggs than any other video game character imaginable, to the point where it begs the question "Why is he still around and relevant today?"

Well the answer is because he deserves to be. Sonic games still come out because he deserves one last Hurrah. So let's begin with a quick history recap-

The Nineties in video games was a very different world to the console-fanboy invested, DLC plagued, graphics race of gaming today.

In the Nineties the world of Gaming had given birth to two of its greatest Icons. One of which had quite the head start in the eighties; debuting with a smash hit and going on to be more recognisable world-wide than Micky Mouse. The other, was his competition- and he was everything the plump plumber wasn't. In this case, Sega really did DO what NintenDON'T- and if Mario was famous for his Jumping, Sonic The Hedgehog was famous for his Speed.

Sonic was designed to embody everything cool in the Nineties, he had a sassy attitude, he didn't take no guff from anybody and he was a rebel who had the freedom to make his own choices. And for many years- he was exactly what he was destined to be. He was cool.

Going head to head with Mario was taking on Goliath but Sonic had the edge to share the spotlight and soon became the established mascot for SEGA, selling system after system on the promise of a mind-bendingly crazy roller-coaster ride as the furry blue git.

As a Gamer you made your choice; SEGA or Nintendo. Sonic or Mario. You chose a side. And for the Era of 2D in gaming, Sonic and Mario were the undisputed champions.

Until everything changed.
In 1994 Sony revealed their new Disc-based system; the Playstation- a force not to be reckoned with and a legacy that would continue to burn brighter as time marched on. With it was the concept of moving through fully realised 3d spaces and in 1996 everything changed when Sonics rival- made the leap to that new found land in Super Mario 64.

Hailed today as one of the finest games ever created and one of the 'Pillars' of Modern Gaming, Mario could not have made a better effort, his place in the new age of gaming was forever solidified. But what of his competition?

Unfortunately for Sonic, his introductions into the world of 3D were to be just the start of a long struggle. After a string of bizarrely disastrous games on various failed SEGA consoles, The SEGA Dreamcast launched in 1998 and with it; Sonics salvation, his 'Super Mario 64'. Sonic Adventure.

It boasted blistering speeds, the best graphics ever seen on a home console at the time and a scale and presentation not yet matched. However, it was plagued with problems, falling victim to the now demanding expectation of Gamers, it had been too long since the dawn of 3D for Sonic to get away with mistakes now addressed in many rival games.

Ultimately, the game did well but criticism spread and cut deep, governing over opinions and choices for games to follow. Sonic Adventure 2 released in 2001 and sought to improve on the many problems of its predecessor. In many fans opinions it was the last good attempt at 3D for Sonic and fondly remembered as his adventures that followed only spiralled deeper into bizarre attempts to stand out.

In the meantime, SEGA fell apart- forced to abandon attempts to create competitive hardware and becoming a software developer- publishing games on existing platforms. It paved the way for the least likely thought ever imaginable in the early Nineties- a Sonic game on a Nintendo platform. Not only that but a Sonic game WITH Mario in it.

Even in this new age for SEGA, Sonic continued to suffer with each new game tarnishing his reputation. Seemingly unaware of the problems with 3D Sonic games at their core, Sonic Team(The group formed and responsible for all the games)continued to try new gimmicks with Sonic to freshen the forumla. They tried making more characters, they tried complicated stories, they gave him a sword(!?), all the while ignoring the glaring basic problems with how the games functioned.

He was a Werehog. That's how bad it got.

However, with no game fully without merit and with the whiniest fan-base imaginable, demands for a classic outing not wrapped in the pretence of a complicated real-world story, or bundled with a pointless stand-out gimmick were HEARD.

No doubt inspired by Sonics new found alliance with his old Rival, Sonic Team created Sonic Colours in 2010. To thunderous applause. Here was a Sonic game with the same spirit as that cheeky scamp we first fell in love with in 1991.

It had no endless sea of annoying characters, it had no stupidly over-done story, it had no stand out gimmicks. Just speed, fun and some platforming for good measure. It was the Super Mario 64 that Sonic Adventure should have been and it was the natural evolution of gameplay to welcome Sonic, arms open, into the world of 3D.

And now, we have different expectations of Sonic Generations- a game that promises to build purely on the merits of Sonic Colours(of which there were many)whilst at the same time, paying tribute to the long turbulent history of the SEGA Mascot.

So why should you care?

Maybe you didn't play Sonic Colours- maybe you still think there's no such thing as a strong 3D Sonic game but I'd ask you to remember the admiration and fond memories you have of what a GOOD Sonic game is.

And to think of the downfall of a Hero who meant a great deal to so many. This story is the story of a Heroes retribution- the fanfare of the Heroes return. Taking his rightful place amoung legends with an adventure that does him justice.

Because crappy games or not- Sonic is an icon of gaming, a symbol forever associated with the hobby that we spend huge fractions of our lives on and if he's to die- let him die with honour. Sonic Generations is such a big deal because this is his return to form, this is putting him back on the map. And that's well overdue and well deserved.

Welcome back old friend!


October 14, 2011

The Fate of Felicity.

Felicity was supposed to have seen a third Issue as early as Summer '09 and yet here we are, closing the year '11 and no sign of the elusive third part to the ongoing adventures of Team Crimson.

So where is it?

Well I'll tell you! It's a long tale of what I hope has been evolution and learning.

To begin with the simplest answer- Issue 3 is right here on the computer I type this on, in a folder, labelled FELICITY ISSUE 3. It's a complete comic, coming in at 105 pages. Those pages are inconsistent in terms of polish and attention- some in black and white, some in colour. Some are as old as January 2010, some are newish- with my hand having revisited them in June of this year but overall it's a totally readable- complete visual representation of my Issue 3 script.

So why isn't it online? Because it isn't finished. Issue 1 and 2 are full colour adventures, coming in at a fraction of the scale but never-the-less a complete 'polished' outing. I'm a stickler for consisentancy and reason one for Issue 3 not seeing the light of day just yet is that it isn't finished to the same degree.

Reason two is the kicker- Over the past two years I have begun to really involve myself in the world I wish to go into, career wise. I've taken on more Freelance work and explored more options open to me than I have in my life previously. What this boils down to is a lack of free-time. And Felicity exists because of Free-time- my choice to spend my time off to create and tell a story. Now, I still have free-time but when you're working Freelance jobs between working in a go-out-the-door job for half of your week, sometimes your free-time needs to be exactly that, free time.

Reason three is my standards. In 2009 I finished Issue 1 of Felicity, which was the first comic I've ever made. That wasn't a long time ago- and the amount of learning I've had to do since then has been astonishing. Comics is a craft whose many intricacies go deeper and deeper- as soon as you think you understand what you're doing you realise there's a whole other world you're suddenly involved in- and guess what? You've no idea where to go. There's no rule book to comics but there is also a million things you can do wrong.

Since creating Issue 1 I have studied the craft of comics in many different areas, from basics like timing and story-telling, to how far you can push the boundries of layout and composition. Really addressing the flaws in my own work for Issue 3- laser focusing on what I've done wrong and working to fix it with my next effort. And while this is a natural thing that all craftsmen and artists go through(learning and evolving)it's also a process that takes a lot of time and patience- it's a process that creates tension and stress. It's a process of building walls that we eventually need to smash through and sometimes our journey to get to those walls are creatively draining and test the very limits of what we are capable of. That in of itself isn't good fuel for a comic journey- and can seriously hinder your progress(That said though, it isn't what I'd call Artists Block, it's more so a coming of higher standard, and feeling that your work no longer reaches it.)

My standards have been raised considerably from when I first started out on Felicity, I know I'm a better artist than I was back then so I want to make sure that my work now reflects that- what that means for production on Issue 3 is a self-critique of each page and each panel, which upon reflection can sometimes seem completely uncalled for but mostly is a necessary part of getting better.

Reason Four is time. Relating somewhat to what I've said previously on why Free-time is involved, time itself is an issue. I've reached the point now where I have to carefully manage my time to allow me access to various things I deem important in my life. I need to prioritise work I'm going to be paid for over work I'm not, that's basic common sense. But what it means for personal projects like Felicity is a queue for my time and my attention- despite the fact I may not want it that way, that's the way it is beginning to be and that is the way it will now continue to be. There is only so much time in a day and I need more than a day to really make any progress on Felicity.


Time and thought has presented a solution.

Felicity Issue 3 will be released, and it was never an intention to cancel it. I admit that I have been idiotic with my tight-lipped approach to its fate, having now pretty much destroyed the following I worked really hard to build. I trust that there are some folks who can understand that life gets in the way of these things and who believe I really have done everything I can to get as far as I have without going mad in the process.

So the solution?

It won't be a colour comic.

It'll be purely black and white and available in exactly the same format as its older sisters- online in a flash-flip book. Which leads me to the last point concerning it. Felicity will also be released as an APP on iOS devices sometime in the new year- aswell as that; shorter iOS device only stories set in the same universe are due to come in the next year. That's an exciting prospect that I really look forward to seeing realized with the help of my friends.

And on that note I want to thank a few people-

Firstly Paul J Holden who has mentored me on many of the aspects of being a comic artist, earlier in the year called me on Skype to be frank about his concerns with me and the directions I was taking with my art. He raised some difficult points to hear about whether or not it was really worth my time to be working on a comic that has no publisher, no money and not a great deal of a following when I could(and should)be working for money, on all kinds of books that are going places with writers who can help push me up the ladder.

At time I found it offensive and disappointing, something I've come to realise is the exact reason why I need to take a step back from Felicity. There are a whole host of reasons I could(and don't worry, won't)go into as to why I created the comic and continue to draw it, some of which I feel are hugely key to me being where I am with my current ability. But these kinds of things are what they are; personal stories. And no matter what your grand ideal is for said personal stories- the reality is that they aren't going to be understood or accepted in the same way you understand or accept them. That the reality is, you shouldn't get too attached or you'll not have the perspective to understand where next to go and potentially, as PJ highlighted to me, be caught in a inward spiral of just creating story after story for 'yourself' and never achieving anything in the process with your talent.

I could list PJ as one of the reasons Issue 3 isn't online(as his comments put me off my stride on it for a good few months)but ultimately I have to thank him for helping me get my head screwed on about things, working on Felicity is a labour of love and it can always continue to be that but I can't expect it to solve my problems of being stuck in a dead end job that has nothing to do with my abilities.

Secondly Sonira, a friend and huge supporter of Felicity, I probably owe more to her than she realises. She's behind the Character selection sprites you see on the Felicity Website. She also made and mailed me a 99 Plush, which sits proudly on my desk as a reminder of the support behind me when I can't seem to get the standard I want. She has done countless fanart to voice her support and excitement for further installments and has even created a parody comic 'FALICKITY' which above all else makes me feel like I can't ever let her down by slacking on Felicity.

It is an immensely powerful force when someone takes time to create something in tribute to you or your work, out of the blue, out of the nowhere a hand signalling that someone out there loves what's happening and has got your back. I thank her for that, I'm not sure I ever properly have. Her continuing fanfare for all things Felicity doesn't go unnoticed and is certainly the voice of encouragement when I feel alone with where I'm headed.

There are so many supporters on DeviantART who question the whereabouts of this next Issue, who are the folks I feel like I've let down the most with this delay- it's a hugely amazing thing for me to have anyone read my comic and want to read more, you tend to expect the worst and folks have been extremely accepting and kind to what I've created. Also I've been so lucky to have received more-than-I-should amounts of Fan-art and been able to see so many takes on my characters through art-trades. Anyone who has ever drawn one of my characters is so to blame for me caring so much about these books and I need to thank them as well.

Lastly to thank Tracy Deines and Darryl Walker- two people the closest to my heart who have shared in so much of my struggle to complete Issue 3. Darryl is solely responsible for the fact Felicity has an on line presence at all, taking my designs and making them work on anyones computer screen- he also sprinkles the magic dust that turns my pages into a digital comic book that readers can flick through and browse. Thats a huge weight off me, it's also an impossible barrier that alone I couldn't achieve- to know that when I finish a comic, I can pass it to him and have that magical moment of seeing it 'finished' without it being spoilt is something I look forward to. Tracy by comparison has been around since the beginning and is one of the earliest voices of support- her voice now literally being the loudest. She knows what she has done for Felicity and how she continues to help it to rock on. Before this blogpost gets any LONGER or Smuushy, I wanna end on my plan for 2011.

You might have seen in previous blogposts that I've been working on a short story(Don't worry, this one is ACTUALLY short, and PJ- it has a start middle and an END!)called THE JOURNEY. Ideally, I want it to release sometime around Christmas Eve. MID to late December.

That's a goal I don't really want to compromise, so I doubt Issue 3 will see a 2011 release, which makes me feel abit pathedic actually, however! With the new black and white goal kicking off, I can rest assured that I'm not only halfing my production time but probably shaving 2/3 of the time per page(Colours takes me forever)so I can expect to finish it to a polished standard very early in the new year.

As for the fate of Felicity beyond that, we'll have to see. I need to take my time away from it for awhile after I complete Issue 3, there are things I need to get out of my system and goals I need to achieve, I will not stop with Felicity until I finish the story- I just might take a lot longer to get there.