RIP my wallet

Usually people are speaking in synecdoche when they write that, jokingly referring to some expensive luxury item or Steam Summer sale they can’t resist, but in this case, my literal wallet has finally died.

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Above: my old weatherbeaten wallet. Below: the until-now unused wallet my brother got me last Christmas, with my ID lazily photoshopped over

My wallet is the oldest item I possess by far, even factoring in that I’ve used it every single day of its life. I picked it out after graduating fifth grade, since I was getting library cards and credit cards and other things that required too many slots to fit into my plastic kid’s wallet. It followed me through high school, college, Ohio, Texas, back to California, and now it’s retiring at the very end of my Master’s program. It visited England, Scotland, Norway, Germany, France, Spain, Canada, Mexico, and countless US states. God only knows how many dollars, notes, cards, keys, and coins that have passed through it.

It’s weird to think I’m moving onto the next phase of my life without it. I’ve got a replacement all ready to go courtesy of Jake, but part of me wants to shell out for a wallet restoration place and keep the legend going (especially since the Velcro works perfectly, it’s just the worn-through fabric back that needs replacing). Something I can think about in September, once I’ve graduated and some of these distractions are resolved. Either way I think it’ll appreciate a short break.

If you want to know about some of these other things, I made an apology video for the YouTube channel since I’ve been letting it stagnate as my graduation looms:

And finally, its a bust at Pixelberry, but I can’t say I didn’t give it my all. I finished and returned the writing sample, and they sent me a form rejection. So I wrote back asking if I could downgrade to their Junior Writing position. Not content to leave my chances up to one email, I took a day off school and Ubered down there with a hard copy of my application.

Pixelberry was in a large multicorporate building, I had to sneak in at the same time someone exited the front entrance. Pixelberry’s office was locked with a fob, and I think everyone was at lunch so I loitered in the courtyard till 12:45. Then I flagged someone down at the front desk and asked to deliver my application to HR. They let me go in where I gave my printed application directly to the guy in HR. Explained I’d been in the running for Senior Writer and didn’t get it, so now I’m applying for junior and wanted to make sure they had a paper copy. He seemed nice, I think I made a good impression on him. either way, my efforts earned me a personalized rejection, which I genuinely consider a win. They ‘appreciated my persistence’ but they didn’t think my assessment ‘demonstrates the qualities they look for in our writers.’ Which is probably true; in all honesty I had a hell of a time writing it since teen romance is somewhat out of my comfortable writing purview.

So that’s the end of that story just kidding they recently opened up for a QA Story Tester position and I’m already printing out my application for another trip down there. I’m sure they can’t wait to hear from me again.

 

Pixelberry Wants a Writing Assessment!

Just got my first writing job application that wants to move forward! Pixelberry has asked for a writing assessment to see if I can move onto the interview stage. This is super cool, and I’ve taken the day off school so I can fully focus on it.

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I like the artstyle, and I can definitely do this sort of writing, though I hope they assign me to the sci-fi/supernatural/fantasy/not-just-high-school settings. The “every good option is locked behind a premium currency” business model is super frustrating but I bet it makes a fortune

I’ve kinda taken everything else off too, just to send out job applications fulltime. I repurposed my old C++ learning story into an all-purpose story for working on things in the third-person, and it’s got a pretty cute spreadsheet tracking my job applications and their status.

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I’ve kinda let my YouTube channel fall by the wayside as I sort this stuff out, but it’ll be there when I get back. My viewers almost exclusively come from my reddit threads, so this might actually be a chance to test whether a brief hiatus even hurts my numbers. Itch.io’s been sitting barren since February, but I’m pretty happy with the game selection already on there tbh.

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Just broke my 200th download on itch.io, which is genuinely cool. It warms my heart to check every few days and see a handful of people have downloaded stuff. Almost all of the hits are from TV Tropes, since I wrote full pages for Gamer 2, Find the Cure!, and Oedipus in my Inventory. Any of my future creative content will get its own page no questions asked, it’s great for building steady (if minor) traffic. My Clickteam Fusion tutorials and C++ Projects are steady hitmakers too, the latter of which I don’t really understand but I’m not complaining.

I can’t help but be a little worried overall. Literally no other job I’ve applied to has even written me a rejection letter, so if Pixelberry doesn’t work out I may not have a lot of options going forward. One safety net is that I’m in the running for their Senior Writer position, and if they say no, I can ask if there’s any chance I can downgrade to their Junior Writer position. I mean, you never know.

Update on Things

This might not be my most coherent blog post since I didn’t sleep last night, but at least I spent it being productive, right?

The first big thing that happened was that my article scored the second-to-top comment in a reddit thread dedicated to an insane play performed by the LA Gladiators during the Overwatch League playoffs. A blog called Daily eSports contacted me and asked if I wanted to start writing articles for them at a rate of $1 per 100 words. I agreed mostly because they said I’d get to work with an editor and use their SEO tools, two things I’ve been meaning to get more practice with, things that would teach me valuable skills to making my content marketable. It’s a little depressing because the SEO tools were like “please replace every single interesting word with the most generic synonym” and the readability tool was like “Every sentence over 20 words is too short”. I mean, I assume they’re right since they were literally designed to attract people, but I like my $10 vocab words ;~; But I’ve already written my first article for them, which is officially the first online article I’ve ever been paid to write.

I’ve been strongly considering making a Patreon for my YouTube channel, maybe start getting some pocket change for that pastime too. It’s still humming along, nothing but the Payday videos are getting hits but I expected that when I decided to invest into a single franchise. The only Fortnite video I’ve made is maintaining a steady climb of new viewers despite me phoning in marketing, so I’ll probably more of those. I decided to do my Fortnite vids with a Scottish accent just because I need some way to enjoy myself, the game itself certainly isn’t doing it.

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Right: Before aabicus learned Photoshop. Left: After aabicus started learning Photoshop

Look at how goddamn gorgeous those thumbnails on the left are. Sure, they’re not Rembrandt, but they actually qualify as YouTube-worthy thumbnail quality. I’ve finally finally started Photoshop, and I’ve recently passed the threshold where I know enough that it’s just fun and awesome and I look forward to making the thumbnail instead of dreading it. Photoshop is a goddamn miracle and it blows my mind what I’ve been able to accomplish with next to no effort. This makes me really happy because I’ve wanted to know Photoshop for years, but I’ve always put it off because the initial hurdle felt too daunting. That leaves Unity as the one looming beast I’ve never managed to tame. Have made no progress on that front.

Kinda related segue, my new school project is to make a Mixer game with 3 other students (Tyler from Zone Out, Akshay, and Wong). Mixer is Microsoft’s attempt to beat Twitch at their own game and, following their failure to do so, rebrand itself as the leading avenue for crowdplay games (the genre Twitch Plays Pokemon invented). To their credit, they have done a great job of that and there are a bunch of thriving crowdplay games on the channel. Our job is to make one more.

My job specifically is to write the design document and create a mockup in Clickteam Fusion for playtesting purposes. The design document is a work in progress and the school’s private Google Drive is a real twip about sharing stuff outside network, but you can see the mockup via this secret itch.io URL. That’s never going live anywhere else, so consider it a thanks for reading this blog. Hopefully it’s more user-friendly than Hurdles.

Into the Black: A Retrospective

In one month, the Into the Black RP series will be celebrating its 5th anniversary! With thousands of posts and almost a dozen different authors, there are a lot of different characters and storylines filling our furry cyberpunk universe. While mainstays like Soren, Marita, Tony, Axel, and Emilena have had plenty of time to leave their mark on the world, I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate some characters that may not be as well-remembered, but are no less the heroes of their own story. (Click on any image to enlarge)

Patrick Anderson

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The complete saga of Patrick Anderson

Who can forget Rocky’s contribution to the canon? He only posted three times, during which his character drove home, fell asleep, and started snoring. Luckily, after real-world days stretched into weeks without the author returning to wake his character up, the rest of the authors made good use of Patrick by detonating a brick of C4 in his bedside cabinet, to give the bad guys a much-needed victory.

Kaien

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As yeswonderful’s post-count might foreshadow, Kaien didn’t stick around very long either. Her author joined the 2nd RP while our heroes were trekking through the dangerous jungles of Bolivia. Kaien emerged from some bushes, asked the heroes why they were in Bolivia, and then bid them adieu and returned to the bush. Some say she’s still there to this day.  Personally, I say she was an ignored Grecian chorus, a messenger begging the authors to reflect on that whole nonsensical Bolivia plot and reboot the storyline before it went any further. If only we’d listened.

Winky Face

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The only remnant of the late Winky Face. Gone but not forgotten

Not technically a character, but bestariana1girl nipped in once and posted a single emoji after learning she needed 50 posts to qualify for a forum member tag. nick22 quickly deleted it with his admin powers, but Winky will forever live on in Serris’ OOC.

Gittsun

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Series regulars bushwacked and nick22 share co-author credit for Gittsun’s brief adventures. bushwacked wrote him as a random drunk who gets gunned down as flavor text during a shootout, but nick22’s characters rose to the occasion and heroically bandaged him up. bushwacked sportingly kept the character around, but he never really knew what to do with him, and Gittsun’s antics, speaking style and general uselessness annoyed everybody…a lot. Finally Pterano had enough, and Gittsun’s appearances ended as violently as they began.

Felix

bushwacked is responsible for this one too. Near the end of the RP, the heroes raid a Purifier factory to try and steal info on the location of the pulse bomb threatening to EMP the city. While searching, they ambush a Purifier hit squad and leave one hapless grunt alive for questioning. bushwacked played the out-of-his-league Felix as he begged for his life and gave the heroes all the info he knew. But since pacing was never our strong suit, the questioning continued on…and on…and Felix slowly slipped into reverse-Stockholm Syndrome until he was suicidally begging the heroes to kill him just so the plot could continue.

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Felix’s swan song arrived when LettuceBacon&Tomato posted this. It was the final straw, and the heroes finally dropped Felix off a catwalk and continued the storyline.

And those were just the characters that actually appeared in the RPs! We’ve also got some honorable mentions who never even made the leap from the discussion threads. Put your hands together for these unsung heroes:

Hania Enapay

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Belmont2500 already held the record for fewest posts of any author in the Darwin’s Soldiers canon, but he outdid himself when Hania Enapay never progressed beyond this bare-bones character sheet. Belmont’s phrasing makes it sound like there are other RPs the character has appeared in but I don’t actually care enough to go check.

Warren Joseph

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Forum newbie Alien Ant Farm joined shortly after Belmont, posting a police chief for a city that he’d just made up. Then he was almost immediately banned from the forum for unrelated violations. At least Chief Joseph got that retirement he wanted so badly.

Dolly and Karl

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But it’s not just one-hit-authors whose creations couldn’t quite reach the silver screen! Serris made Into the Black history by posting Dolly, a gene therapy pioneer who doesn’t survive her own character sheet. LettuceBacon&Tomato’s character Karl took a similar bullet for the plot in the Racing the Storm discussion section. At least they’re in good company.

And, last but not least…

Life

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Flora, the futa fuchsia folf, was popular among a certain caste of authors. She got a bunch of side stories and even her own spinoff RP where she (and some of nick and Starfall’s characters) could do sexy things while the rest of us were RPing dark and gritty high-octane cyberpunk. But something I never told anyone else was that she had at least one fan who never posted in the RPs or even made a forum account. It was a guy that messaged me and offered to pay me for a private RP with Flora and his OC, an immortal Snivy diety named Life.

And I can’t think of any worse way to end this article than with a link to it. Happy 5 years, Into the Black universe, god only knows where you’ll be in five more!

A Pizza the Action – first look

I’m working on my next game title! This one’s all about procedural generation, since it started as a final project for my ProcGen class. You can see the video I turned in for said project here:

(or the tie-in PowerPoint, which I’m not going to record myself presenting because it’s only a five-minute presentation)

I’m almost immediately taking a two-week break from this game as I survive finals and travel around showcasing Major League Magic at various cool events like Sammy’s Showcase and The Mix, and I don’t suspect I’ll be done with this game any time soon. It’s looking to be something of a complicated endeavor, (I’m learning more about the RandRange command than I ever cared to) but I am excited to finally get to use my “flying angelic pizza sprite” in an actual game 😀

Individual self-assessment

I get melancholy at the end of every quarter.

1) What work did you you contribute to your game/team this quarter (similar to how you’d list it on a resume)?

I designed a website, recorded videos, wrote articles, created social media accounts, posted on said social media accounts, took minutes during sprint reviews, shoutcasted tournaments, and wrote spell descriptions.

2) How do you feel about how your game progressed during the quarter?

Major League Magic progressed extremely well. We’ve made big strides on every level, with the very successful implementation of terrain alteration being the biggest success. We’re getting some decent numbers on social media, but I didn’t do nearly enough marketing. I should have tweeted at least ten times as often, I barely touched the Facebook page, and in general anything I finish should have been done at least a week earlier. We also could have made more success on art, but what we managed to accomplish with the better-looking UI does wonders towards making the game look better.

3) Was there anything that you struggled with?

The sheer volume of content marketers need to release to get anything to happen. I just couldn’t find things to tweet about, and it took me far too long to actually make the social medias to tweet from. My excuse I kept using was “I’m waiting for us to get better art”, but considering we literally just our first few updated art assets yesterday, we’d have been SOL if I’d truly waited that long. Also I never actually started that weekly dev stream I’d been planning due to not being able to come up with stuff to dev stream about. The team never really kept me in the loop as to what they were working on, unlike Medical Necessity and personal projects where I always knew exactly the progress we’d made every week. If this game fails, it will largely be my fault due to shoddy marketing.

4) What you are working to improve next quarter?

I need to apply to more jobs. I need to finish my self-assigned jobs faster (I was more than able to finish things on Ahmet’s or the college’s pace, but the assignments were too slow and I should have finished things long before anyone asked for them.) I need to be more involved with the team and less of a free agent doing his own thing in the corner of the lab. This master’s ends in two months and I have nothing lined up. Again. After five years of not being able to break into the games industry, I’m about ready to give up if this college program ends and even that wasn’t able to turn me into somebody companies would want to hire.

 

New trailer

For whatever reason I’m turning into more and more of a videographer. Guess that’s to be expected when my YouTube channel is the only thing taking off of my various creative enterprises, not that I’m complaining.

Interesting conundrum with the new trailer I made for Major League Magic. People who have never seen the game before like it, and people who are familiar with the game have a bunch of things they think I should change. So far I’ve mostly committed to keeping it as it is for that reason, so have a look if you want. Don’t tell anyone though, it hasn’t officially gone live yet:

In less than a week we’re going to The Mix, and I’m gonna dress up in a wizard’s costume and drum up hype for the game. We’re gonna have two monitors setup for players to fight each other, and a third bigger monitor letting the crowd see what’s going on. I’m pretty excited, I think this could go super well.

But before that I need to make a press kit, and I’m trying to create a small backlog of Payday videos so my YouTube channel doesn’t take a 2-week break at the same time I do. Gonna travel to see my brother graduate college, then visiting a friend in St. Louis for the rest of the summer off.