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Strip 130


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< Piro >


"healing arms around you"

Friday - June 8, 2001

[Piro] - 21:17:00 - [link here]

Gee, two rants in two days.

I wasn't actually planning to abuse your sensibilities with a Shirt Guy Dom strip today, but the stick-figure personification of me as a kodama with a rattling head amused me to no end. Besides, it's been a while since we've been dom'd.

There are two reasons i bailed on the strip for today. The first is that largo and I hadn't finished fine tuning the script for it, and it's one of those strips i want to do a good job on. No, it's not the start of Chapter one, that will be sometime later next week, it's something else. :) By 10:00 pm i figured there was no way i was going to get the damn thing done without staying up till 3 in the morning, so i kindly asked Dom to fill in for me.

The big problem with doing something like this 3-a-week comic is that it tends to leave little room to freely pursue inspiration when it hits. For the most part, the structure provided by the comic schedule is a plus for your art. It forces you to draw when you don't really feel inspired, and often is in itself enough inspiration to create something halfway decent. As I sat down to try scribbling out the drawings for what was going to be friday's comic, i kept finding myself doodling on this sketch instead.Once i had patted Dom on the head and sent him off to do offensive things with his trackball, i took the time left in the evening to colorize the sketch.

The inspiration for this drawing actually came to me when Largo and i were at E3 a few weeks ago. The folks at Bioware had invited us to come over and sit in on a demonstration of Neverwinter Nights, their long awaited D&D based RPG game. Now, i'm not a big player of RPG games, never really have been. When i was in high school, i used to dabble in D&D, but it was really more of an excuse to hang out with friends and eat bad frozen pizzas with those little crispy onion things on them. Largo is the big Neverwinter Nights maniac - the mere mention of the game makes him salivate and get this frightening, eerie gleam in his eyes. I went into the demonstration with an open mind, frankly, wondering what to expect.

Honestly, i was astounded. You see, the gameplay for your typical visual novel or dating simulation involves complexities that deal more with story structure, cinematic presentation, portrayal of character and statistical back-ends that attempt to transparently guide the actions of the girls and other characters around you. The games tend to have long, linear paths that vary depending on the paths you pursue. The hard thing is - the protagonist tends to only gain parts of your personality - the rest is hard coded. It's always annoying when you have to select an action that is not something you would normally do. When you are dealing with dynamic story telling of this nature, it's just not possible to avoid these problems. Neverwinter Nights was fascinating because it was built around the concept that you would create your own worlds and your own scenarios - and the interface to do this was incredibly robust. In around 10 minutes, they had put together a fairly complex dungeon scenario and populated it with stuff and monsters, and then proceeded to plod around in environment that was rendered beautifully. I was also surprised by the ability to customize your characters - clothing, armor, look, etc.

The feel of the game is great. It has remarkably smooth flow and sensuality to the way the light of torches and other magical items are rendered. The little details, like arrows sticking out of your character after he'd been shot by goblins was fascinating. The visuals for performing spells was also quite remarkable. I'm looking forward to playing this game. I used to work on making level maps for Quake, but found the process to be long and arduous - the folks at Bioware have developed a system that really seems intuitive and easy to use. I just hope that we don't have to put the comic on a 2 month hiatus when the game finally does come out. :)

The illustration i did last night was inspired by one of the production illustrations for the game itself. As you probably already figured out, Largo and Piro get so immersed in the games that they play that it isn't unreasonable to actually draw them *in* the games. Largo doesn't change much when you set him in a game environment - dress him up and he's good to go. Piro is a little more complicated. Like many players, Piro tends to play female characters - hence the existence of 'piroko', his online gaming alter-ego. I've found that it's quite fun to place Largo and Piroko in gaming situations, and this is one of the better drawings of such recent attempts.

I should also mention that this is NOT the final version of this sketch. In fact, i will be producing a much more fine tuned and detailed version, including Largo and perhaps another character that I will be turning over to Merekat to color (if you frequent the Art forums, you know who she is). She has a wonderful 3d style and professional grade to her work (duh, she is a pro ^_^) that i think will produce a very nice final image, very much in the same vein as the original image that inspired it. One of my goals is to improve my coloring skills, and Merekat (who doesn't live that far from me - I had a chance to hook up with her and Thien last weekend - i was 3 hrs late getting there, but it was fun meeting you guys. ^_^) Anyway, Mere and I will keep you posted on the status of this little collaboration - should be fun.

< Dom >

this picture disturbs me...


Sunday - June 3, 2001

[Dom] - 00:00:01 - [link here]

I Just got back from A-kon, in Texas. And sorry about not ranting after Anime Central a few weeks ago, but I've been running around since and just now have found the time to rant.

Let me begin by saying this--completely in jest, mind you, so put those flame-throwers away--I have seen the enemy, and he is you.

Other people's con reports have been fairly accurate--I especially like Piro's interpretation of my Vibrating Sheep of Doom. And yes, the Vibrating Sheep was a real stuffed animal. Now let me explain, before you all start wondering about me. I'm weird, but I'm not THAT weird.

See, Piro's always mentioning/complaining that people ask him for cheesecake pics of Kimiko and Erika. And with a MegaTokyo panel at ACen, I feared that a fan or two would get out of hand--thus the idea of the booby prize was born. A pair of velcro gloves was specially made by Natsuki--wool gloves with "I (heart) MT" sewn on the left hand, and "I (heart) (sheep)" on the right.

And thus the search for a suitable stuffed sheep was born. On a day I went costume shopping with Okashina Okashi's Tanzy (Yes, thanks to Natsuki and Ed's fangirl both being carriers of the cosplay disease, I'm a cosplayer now... pray for me) we found the perfect Booby Sheep at a semi-local thrift store. It was an old, dirty little wind-up sheep (note the key in Piro's depiction) with a broken unwinding mechanism. So instead of unwinding slowly, dancing and playing a tinny little tune, it all unwound at once, leading to two possible effects, depending on how far you wound it--a jingle and a twitch, or full-out vibration and a death rattle. And with Ed's video camera (not with Ed behind it, mind you) following me most of the con, you better believe there's some fun footage of me hauling that sheepy around. It took a threat from Piro along the lines of "If you keep that, I'll never let you live it down" to get me to give it away to a deserving fanboy--the one who asked if we had any shirts on us.

Okay, on to the panel itself. See, Piro and I met up a few hours before the panel and were wandering the halls talking about how the hell we were going to fill an hour with our uninteresting spiel. And yes, I was in my Shin Kusanagi Kyo costume at the time. About fifteen minutes before the panel was scheduled to start, Piro and I headed down to the tiny room allotted to MT--and noticed that the halls were lined with people. "Hmm, I wonder what they're lined up for?" And then I flashed back to the day before when I'd gone around asking people in MT shirts (or even costumes) if they were going to the panel. And after a good fifty affirmative answers I was scared, since the room seated about 30...

So anyway, Piro and I wormed our way to the front of the line and a space on the wall after looking in the room. Seeing it semi-full of people, we assumed there was another panel going on, and started talking to people in the halls without them knowing who we were--which is the best way to talk to fans, really, I don't like it when people have nothing to say to me but "MegaTokyo rocks." So Piro and I just asked some basic questions and they answered them honestly, which was cool--and then a friend of mine in the room stepped out and said "Hey, Dom, when're you coming in? Everyone in here's waiting for you."

That's when I started praying for a miracle revocation of the fire code... that room was absolutely _packed_ with people. And I heard reports that there was a cluster of people outside with their ears to the door and going "Sshhh!" to passersby. As Piro mentioned in his rant on the subject, it was pretty awe-inspiring to see this show of support and respect. Especially when that guy in the back of the room yelled "Hey, Piro! YOU DON'T SUCK!" and was greeted with a rousing cheer...

That's all for now, A-kon and cosplay thoughts coming in a future rant...


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