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Strip 999

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< Piro >

first panel from todays comic, untouched.

"farewell to a leading zero"

Wednesday - May 16, 2007

[Piro] - 12:41:23 - [link here]

I went out this morning to get a cup of coffee and to regroup a little. I suppose there is something pitifully ironic about getting stuck on Megatokyo comic number 1000.

(note - there is some important information at the bottom of this rant regarding Convergence and Conspiracy in Australia and New Zealand and whats up for the first half of June while Sarah and I are out of the country including a special we will be running at the MegaGear store that involves Megatokyo Volume 5 while we are gone. Be sure to skim that if you don't want to slog through the rest of my rant :)

Keep in mind that it's not REALLY my 1000th comic. The comic I'm working on right now will be my 744th story strip. There have been 256 Omake, OSE, DPD, SGD, NNMT, and Guest strips. While a lot of these do count as important Megatokyo material, I'm not about to boast about my 1000th comic :)

Even so, there is something notable about the 1000th numbered page. I remember back when MT started, i wanted the comic numbering to be 4 places so that if we ever did go over 1000 comics, it wouldn't mess things up. If i was on a mac at the time, i probably would have been fine with not putting a 0 in front of the three digits that identify most MT comics (i had lots of arguments with Jon and Largo about why we didn't need it, but i insisted because of the way Windows sorted numbered files). Here I am, seven years later, and all those years of carrying that leading zero are finally over.

If you are a regular reader you have probably noticed that i tend not to celebrate comic milestones. Comic 500, Comic 750 (haha! it was a SGD!!), Comic 666... you get the idea. Although, you might notice something interesting about 666... it just happens to be a good number for this particular comic. I did that on purpose. Another example of subtle nods towards real life are the comics right before Valentines Day this year. Sometimes i coordinate things with real life numbers and dates when i can.

As I said in my update, Comic 1000 is normal story comic, but it's normal in the way the 3vil Dom comic was normal. I wanted something rather profound to happen, something important to the story. From a story development perspective it worked out just right. In fact, it was working out so well that i figured comic 1000 would be pretty easy, I just had to draw it right. I gave myself plenty of time, started early, was even hopeful of getting it done by that etheral 1am.

I should have known better.

My first few attempts at layout really did not work. Granted, it's a rather complicated series of things i'm trying to show, but i figured that once i got my head around it it would eventually flow. That never happened yesterday, which is actually pretty unusual. I have so much trouble with production time because i never really know how long it will take before i am able to connect with the drawings, to start feeling the life in them. It's times like this when i really feel my lack of artistic training. A professional artist could fall back on his skill and pull off decent, if somewhat lifeless drawings. When my drawings are lifeless, they are jarringly so.

At 2am last night i gave up on the page i had been working on all day and started over.

Maybe i'm being too hard on myself. Maybe by putting such high expectations on this comic i've made that artistic mule in my head sit down on its haunches and refuse to move. It's frustrating, upsetting, and causes a lot of piro-angst (which i try hard not to subject you folks to anymore). After seven years i should be used to the fact that drawing is a struggle for me. Sometimes it's not too bad, other times it's overwhelming. recently, it's been pretty hard, and i'm not really sure why.

I guess it's unreasonable to expect that comic 1000 to be any different than the half dozen comics before it. I've been struggling to produce comics since i started working on this thing seven years ago. Sometimes i feel like i'm forcing something that i'm not really capable of doing. I'm fooling myself thinking that i'm any good at making comics. I just can't imagine that other comic artists struggle with it as much as i do.

It might be true. Megatokyo is what it is more because of my stubbornness than any innate artistic talent. At times like this i question if this constant forcing and pushing myself to do this is right. Am i really an 'artist'? Can i really claim to do decent comics if i have to push so hard to force them to come out?

Maybe. There are a lot of things wrong with Megatokyo, but there are a lot of things right about it too, and some of that is because i work the way i do. There is a lot of feel in the drawings, a lot of emotive content that i think wouldn't be there if i could draw this stuff absently. This content makes it possible for people to overlook the problems in my drawings and my awkward grasp of anatomy. I think it makes my work... somewhat unique. :)

So, as i lose that leading zero, and look back on seven years of making comics, it's very much a glass half full/half empty thing. It's been a struggle, constantly missing goals and dealing with the guilt and worry that readers will loose patience with my struggles. There are so many things that can go wrong, it's like trying to run a big ship by yourself :) It's also been satisfying and looking back at what i've done. I actually feel good when i read through MT Volume 5 (which, by the way, will hit book stores next week :). I feel just a little bit proud of some of what i've done over the years, there are some comics and story lines that really make me smile.

As i move forward, i have great aspirations, goals, desires, fantasies about what i want to produce, to create. It's crushing every time i fail, time and time again, to meet even the little goals and expectations i set for myself. It's incredibly satisfying when i find myself standing in the supermarket and suddenly something in the story clicks and a whole wave of ideas fall into place like i had planned it all along... It's been a roller coster ride for seven years, i don't know why i keep expecting it to change :)

And so, here i sit, with the scarred and bruised elements of comic number 1000, with many, many hours of work ahead of me to do, and still feeling that i may not be able to draw it the way i want to. Why did i take the time to write this rant rather than just keep drawing? Well, i think i do that a lot. I spend so much time struggling with things that i don't take the time i should to rant. That's what rants are for right?

I feel better having written this. It's not quite the rant i wanted to write for my 1000th comic, but maybe this is more appropriate. I got an email from a smart alec named, er, Alex:

"You have to make comic #1000 a dead piro day. Preferably be late in posting it and offer no explanation either. It would just feel right ;)"

;_;

Well... it's not a DPD. I hope it has some artistic virtue when it's done. Yes, it will be posted late, but this time you get an explanation. :P

...

A few quick notes while i have your attention (if you are still with me and haven't given up in disgust). Sarah and I are leaving for Australia and New Zealand in two weeks (on the 28th) to attend Conspiracy and Convergence (be sure to come if you live anywhere near those conventions!). Totally not prepared for the trip, but what else is new? In many ways i wish we weren't going because we are going to be gone for almost 3 weeks (May 29th through June 16th).

As you can probably pick up from the rant above, i was hoping to push ahead on comics as this trip approached, but as usual i have not been able to do so. It's going to suck having a 3 week gap in the story, but i am working on an idea that i think will cover the 3 weeks in an interesting way and will be something i can finish before we leave (it involves a comic that will be released 1 panel at a time, and will be paced in a way that will work for this kind of release. Still parsing the idea, but i promise i wont leave you with three weeks of Shirt Guy Dom strips. (shudder)) Also, the last story comic before we go will be at a good stop point (hopefully).

Finally, regarding the MegaGear store. As you may have heard, the US Post Office has drastically changed and upped the costs of shipping, especially International shipping. Ironically, it's now usually cheaper to ship UPS than Priority Mail for most packages. International shipping is currently disabled until we have a chance to test and make sure things are working (this dimensional weight stuff is crazy, and our website can't account for it). We should have it back up and running in a few days.

The MegaGear store will be open while we are gone, but we won't be shipping until we get back. Originally, we were supposed to have the new Megatokyo book last month, and we were going to spend this month selling and shipping them to people. Now the book is arriving just around the time we leave for New Zealand. -_-;;; The good news for you is that you should have no problems finding the book in local book stores next week, but as you can imagine we'd like to sell a few ourselves. I will be signing all copies of Megatokyo Volume 5 purchased from the MegaGear store between May 29th and June 16th. This will give those of you who never get a chance to go to conventions to get a signed book :) I'll draw tiny little boos, piros, etc in them - nothing complicated, and i can't personalize them, but i'll do them as nice as i can. There is no extra charge for this, it's just our way of saying thank you for purchasing the book from us while we are gone :).

We will also have a new poster (with Piro, Largo, Erika and Kimiko in it - it's a drawing i haven't shown you yet :P) currently being colored by the overworked Hawk and a really cool new t-shirt design based on largo's Big Gun shirt. :) More on this next week as we get it all online and ready to go.

Oh, and there is an interview with me up on Publishers Weekly you can read to tide you over 'till i'm done. :)

ok! back to drawing. Thanks for slogging through my rant. I feel better. Thank you so much for your patience and your support.

< Dom >

Kenka joutou!

"Big Bangs and Bothersome Buttons"

Wednesday - May 9, 2007

[Dom] - 14:00:00 - [link here]

It's weird, having so many rants in my head and so little time to write them. I have at least two half-written rants in our little MT database (when I say "little" I don't mean it, we have about 850 rants in here or so), and none of them have gotten past the first paragraph before I get pulled away by work or weekend plans.

However, this is a subject that I need to clear up before too long, so this one gets out of the gates first. It's a matter of gamepads.

It's been about four years since my last fighting game obsession, Guilty Gear XX. That means the time has been ripe for me to take up strange numerical notations and frame counts for some time now. Dead or Alive 4 scratched the itch for maybe a week, but it just didn't do it for me.

Leave it to Japanese H game fans to give me something to latch on to, though - NRF is coming out with a fighting game using characters from Daibanchou (a game you may remember from my 2003-2004 Japan trip) called Big Bang Beat (this isn't QUITE as silly a name as it seems, given that Daibanchou was called Big Bang Age for no discernible reason). The demo's out now, and I've been toying with for a couple days. I think it's great fun - an easy-to-learn system, simple combos that can be expanded with practice, smooth animation, and best of all, I've managed to suck my friends into playing it too, so I know I'll have people to play against.

There's just one problem so far, and it will hopefully be fixed soon: since Big Bang Beat a PC game, I need to find a good game controller before the full version is released at the end of the month. I tried using my Xbox 360 arcade stick, which is designed perfectly for fighting games AND has a USB cable. Alas, the joystick on the Hori stick seems to be mapped to the second thumbstick of the 360 controller. This means that it's absolutely useless on a PC unless I can figure out how to switch the wiring on the arcade stick to have it output as a left stick.

So, with that option closed, I tried the Xbox 360 controller instead, and discovered that I'm absolutely terrible at controlling 2D fighting games on a thumbstick. I mean, I can get by, but rapid changes in direction take a proportionally huge amount of effort on a thumbstick compared to a D-pad or an arcade joystick. With a d-pad, a flick of your thumb and a button press can reverse your direction easily (handy when you're, say, going from a 214 motion to a 63214 or something similar), while a flick of the wrist does the same for an arcade joystick. With a thumbstick, that flick of the thumb becomes a process of dragging a stick with you, and while I could probably get used to that in time, I would infinitely prefer to stay inside my comfort zone.

With that said, I'd like some help in researching USB game pads. I've looked at a few of the standards, and they tend to mimic the PS2 or 360 controller too closely to be useful for a PC fighting game. I've also looked at the X-Arcade, which would be perfect except for the high price tag and the sheer hugeness of the rig.

This is what I'm looking for in a game pad:

1: The primary directional input is either a d-pad or an arcade joystick - I've seen a few gamepads which can switch their primary input between an analog thumb stick and the d-pad, so this would work too. The d-pad also has to be relatively firm - I've played some d-pads that are essentially mush, and that's not very good when you want precise inputs (IE you want to do a 236 without hitting 9, otherwise you jump forward and look like an idiot). Arcade joysticks, well, those are the best way to fly.

2: It has buttons in a decent fighting layout - The old-fashioned Street Fighter configuration is ideal here. However, the Xbox 360 controller actually works pretty well for Big Bang Beat. The game has three attack buttons, a super button, and two buttons that aren't used very frequently, so just four buttons on the face works alright. I do prefer the 360 controller if I have to resort to shoulder triggers because I like the feel of the left and right buttons, but I'm trying not to be overly picky here.

3: The product description does not include the words "friggin' tank" - That X Arcade is mighty tempting, but I'm working with limited space, here. I don't have a giant computer desk, so on top of the cost of the X-Arcade, I'd probably end up having to buy a new desk. That's a little too much money to spend on a fighting game that costs 2500 yen.

So, with that in mind, anybody have suggestions?

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