Posted in Blogging, Internet, Webcomics, Writing

The Passing of Project Wonderful & A Look at Current Blogging/Creativity

Does anyone remember Project Wonderful?

They are (were) a little company that allowed you to pay into the site and place ads up on other sites in the network. You could also place your own ads up on your page and people could purchase those in return.

A Short Look Back

pwadI used Project Wonderful quite a bit for various old blogs, writing sites, but especially for our webcomic, Wayrift. In fact, I think a high number of our long-term readers at Wayrift came from discovering us through Project Wonderful. For a small webcomic, it was an affordable option, and it really did connect a lot of the comics together.

At the height of advertising on Wayrift, I was not only breaking even, but making a little extra here or there. I won’t say that traffic was flooding in, but it wasn’t terrible, either. It was a pretty viable way of getting fresh eyes on our content. But for some reason, it fell out of practice for us to use it.

In fact, I haven’t used it a whole lot in the past 5-6 years. I did try a short stent with it last year, but didn’t really see a ton of results, and I was putting more money than I was getting views for. But even so, I never guessed it was on its last legs.

Relevance to the Blogosphere

Project Wonderful sent out an email yesterday (see it here) to inform all of us that this is the end. It said a few things that were relevant to how I’ve been feeling about the small websites, our blogs, and the health of the blogosphere. While this may be on the negative spectrum, I do think it’s relevant, and what I wanted to repost here:

…in the past several years, the internet has changed. Large sites like Facebook do all they can to keep readers on their network, rather than sending that traffic out to individual websites. As such, many readers – who used to visit dozens if not hundreds of websites a day – now visit only a few sites, and things like the indie “blogosphere” (remember that?) are disappearing. We’re hopeful that individual creators can adapt – either by embracing these walled gardens in a way that protects themselves, or by finding other ways to draw attention to their work – but as a network founded on supporting independent websites, our options were limited.

It’s certainly no secret that I’ve seen less and less in the way of active blogging as the years go by. There’s a certain set of writers who are either too stubborn, too dedicated or too frustrated to fold up shop and stop posting. But aside from those folks (thank goodness you’re here!), I’ve seen things slowing down as the years pass.

If we’re getting new folks in this space, they’re either hard to find, they don’t know the channels it takes to reach out and be heard, or they simply fizzle out after the magic of the new-blog smell wears off.

nbi_supporter_badgeThe NBI used to help a lot with that, but even that had trouble drumming up the energy and time to run. There wasn’t a whisper of it that I heard last month. I can’t say a lot because I’m in the same boat — with work and everything, I just don’t have the time to organize something of this magnitude. But it’s still a sad thing.

Interestingly, when I went to Google NBI, I found that there still appears to be a NBI Reddit out there that sometimes people post to, even recently. I wonder if that’s a tool that could be used for something more than it is now.

Anyhow, I’m starting to ramble. I don’t know that I rightly have the words to express my thoughts. I came from the early days of learning rudimentary HTML code in order to build your own free GeoCities site… because if you wanted to put your work out there, that was the best option you had. Due to that barrier, if you consistently made something good, it was noticed.

As the Web has grown, our options for communication have gotten wider to the point that everyone can easily spin up a site or a blog and share their thoughts. But just as many options as we have to be individuals online, as Project Wonderful has pointed out, with social media, our communication-vision has begun to grow narrower…

You can’t blame people for wanting to go where they think everything is (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Wattpad, etc.). But where does that leave all the creatives on the fringes? The new blogger. The new online web novelist. The uptsart webcomic. The digital artist…

Folks who are developing a craft and trying to find an audience? They don’t have much of a choice but to go where they think that audience is. Even if that means that they’re straying far from home into the sometimes scary world of social media. Even then, that doesn’t promise they’ll be seen or heard.

These thoughts are nothing new. They just keep getting stronger as the years go by.

I dunno. What do you guys think?

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Posted in Art, Gaming, Webcomics

New Year, New Creative Goals

I’m finally back home after a good chunk of time away on holiday vacation… which means I’m going through that readjustment period where there’s no food in the house and I have to clean up the messes the cat made while being cared for by someone else… and that kind of thing. I’m also shaking off the cobwebs on my blog like I do every year.

I already wrote about my gaming goals for the month, but I also want to talk about some creative goals I have in mind for 2017.

RPG Making

I didn’t buy a whole lot during the Steam sale this year. In fact, my only big ticket purchase was RPG Maker MV… something totally unexpected. Mostly because it costs $80 when not on sale.

I’ve puttered around with many of the older RPG Makers in the past. Some of my best memories were while making a game using the fan-translated RM2K by Don Miguel back before it officially came to the English audience. I also messed around with the RPG Maker VX, but didn’t like the limitations I found in that version.

The new MV is supposed to fix a lot of the things I didn’t like in VX. It has a lot of nice features that I feel are essential, such as side-view battles. But again, it’s so pricey that I didn’t consider purchasing it until this sale.

Nefol RPG

So what is the purpose of purchasing the new version of RPG Maker? Well, because once again, Syn and I have started kicking around the idea of making a Nefol RPG game.

This is not the first time this idea has come up as it’s something we both really want to work on. I hope we can put some time into it, because it could be fun to have a long-term collaborative project like this again.

“But didn’t you just start posting up Nefol as a webcomic?” you might ask.

Well, yes, I did. And if we do start developing a game, obviously, I won’t continue working on the webcomic version because of the time trade-off.

The webcomic really just came about from me messing around with Inktober last year and the fact that I really want to make some progress on the Nefol story in one form or another. To be honest, I haven’t had much response to the comic, anyhow. So I don’t think anyone will be too sad to see it discontinued in exchange for a game.

Inking Explorations

On the other hand, I also don’t want to give up inks just yet. Practicing using more traditional media is a challenge for me as I’ve become too reliant on digital art tools. If anything, I really want to make time to practice inking more.

Obviously, if I’m nixing the Nefol project, then I need to find another project to ink. Now don’t hold me to it, but I’m considering the possibility of reviving the old Shimmer webcomic project. Only, if I did, it would be a complete remake that followed the revised Shadows of Zot storyline with a darker tone and inked style.

When Shimmer first started back in 2004, it was meant to be an experimental art project. Just something I did on the side when I felt like it. But I got a lot of strong positive feedback, which encouraged me to make it a weekly comic, so I managed to keep it going while I still had the time to do so during college. After graduating and getting a full-time job, I ended up having to cut back on a number of my creative projects, and Shimmer was one of them.

I know that Shimmer is still some folk’s favorite story, so it’s one that I’ve tried to keep around in some form or another. Novelizing it has helped flesh it out a lot, and I think that it would be a fun story to practice inking. I can’t promise I’ll color it and all, though.

We’ll see where it leads.

Posted in Art, Webcomics

Wayrift – 14 Years of Webcomic Change

wayriftchange

This past week, our ongoing webcomic, Wayrift, celebrated 14 years of being online. This is not just online time, however, but 14 years of consistent updates, 3 times a week (now in full color). Every now and then, Syn and I take a week off for vacation. But even then, she sometimes draws humor comics or I post a sketch to fill in the blank.

Rather than post something sappy about the whole thing, I decide to post an art comparison of my style evolution instead. Inspired by a post about Twitter folks who are showing before and after shots of their work, I chose one of the oldest frames of Ben, drawn in 2003, to compare to one of the newer frames, drawn just a week or two ago.

Before someone does the math and says 2016 – 2003 = 13… not 14! The earliest comics from 2002 were scrapped and redrawn. So I don’t have 2002 stuff to show without digging for it.

Don’t laugh too hard at either of them! 😀

Posted in Webcomics

Fantastic Webcomic: Above the Clouds

abovetheclouds
Art from Above the Clouds by Melissa Pagluica

I’ve been into webcomics since before webcomics were really a big thing on the Internet. My own comic is going on 14 years old soon, so it’s been around a while. Needless to say, I’m a bit jaded when it comes to webcomic reading. That’s why when I find one that really captures my imagination, it’s rare, and I want to share it.

My newest find is a comic called Above the Clouds.

The creator describes it as this:

ABOVE THE CLOUDS tells two intertwining stories–the adventures of a hero who must save a dying world, and a girl who must convince an author to finish what he has started.

I was at first drawn to the comic by the lovely art style (it reminded me sorta of the game Journey at first glance). But I found the plot, characters and writing to be top-notch too! It’s interesting to me how the only dialogue and narrative in the comic is what is written – be it in a story or in letters sent between characters. I also love how well the powerfully-crafted Frame Story device (story within an story) is used. It reminds me a whole lot of tales like Neverending Story.

I also love how this comic speaks to creators and dreamers. As a writer, artist and imaginative person, I can very much identify with the main characters who sort of live a dual life. They have to get by IRL, though their dreams and fantasies keep calling to them. I’ve also experienced the embarrassment of admitting your secret stories to others who you are afraid wouldn’t get it. Such is the burden of creative folks, and I see myself in both of these characters.

I don’t want to say much more because this is a story you should experience for yourself. If you love whimsical fantasies, give this one a read!

Posted in Webcomics

Wayrift: Looking Back on 13 Years of Webcomic Creation

wayrift13years

I’m a webcomic artist who works on a comic called Wayrift. Wayrift is turning 13 years old today. It’s actually been around longer than that, but for simplicity’s sake, I just call it 13 years.

13 years and 1,921 comics posted! For any creative project on the Internet to last that long – website, blog, fiction, webcomic – that seems like a lifetime!

Webcomic Longevity

During that 13 years, Wayrift has updated three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – come rain or shine. We take a scheduled vacation week off once or twice a year. But I’ve not actually missed an update for anything within my control in all this time. We’ve had no hiatus. We’ve taken no creative breaks.

wayriftcecildrakeI don’t know if that’s good or bad. Or if that’s part of the reason this still exists.

I know I couldn’t do it without my creative partner and best friend, Syn. Together, we forged this strange world and family of figments who remain a very strong creative outlet for us both, even throughout our adult lives. I can’t imagine a life without this creativity and these fictional pieces of myself.

They’re part of me in a very deep and mysterious way – maybe that’s why we can’t stop creating stories for them. We have so much backstory… so much script… I could probably draw Wayrift for a lifetime and never cover everything we’ve written over the past 14-15 years!

How does it get done? We started this project as just a silly foray into comic-dom back when I was still in college, and I had a lot more time on my hands. Producing Wayrift takes many, many hours of my free time, and yes, there are some weeks I just don’t feel like doing it… but I still do. I’ve locked myself into a pretty rigid schedule that I’ve followed for years. I know that if I were to waver just a bit, I’d be tempted towards laziness (my natural state of being), and I’d likely let the project slip… so I never give myself that opportunity.

My motto is always “Wayrift before gaming!” (So hard some days…)

Our readers and friends, who I thank for being part of this for the long run, would also not let me get away with it. Some of our readers have been here ever since I can remember. Old and new, they are just as much a part of Wayrift as us creators are. Some weeks, I’m in a creative mood and create just for the sake of it. Some weeks, I create because I don’t want to disappoint folks who were left on one of our normal Friday cliffhangers. 😉

To Fan or Not to Fan

snes_finalfantasyiiI don’t usually tell people that I’m a webcomic creator. It’s not something I spread around at work or with folks I meet IRL. In fact, it’s not something I usually spread around online, either, even in the various guilds and MMOs I’ve been a part of.

Some of that is because the origins of Wayrift – the history, world and some characters are loosely based on the original SNES version of Final Fantasy IV (which was FFII to us back then). It’s always a little embarrassing to admit that, because then Wayrift sometimes gets the response of being “just fan-girl stuff.” I’ve even once had a reader, who really enjoyed Wayrift initially, tell me they were “very disappointed” when they learned Wayrift was “fanfiction”… despite the fact the stories, lore and characterizations are all 95% original stuff.

However, when I say loosely based upon, I do mean loosely.

Here’s the scenario:

  • Back in 1991-ish, two girls on the opposite sides of the US fell in love with FFII as their first JRPG in their early teens… before JRPG was even a known term.
  • These two girls were inspired to create fan works about FFII… This was back before the internet existed for me and I even knew what “fan fiction” or “fan art” was.
  • Later in life, these two girls met online and realized – Hey, someone else created a really cool version of a fan world based on FFII!
  • These two girls were inspired by each other and began to role play chat, having their characters (which were based loosely off of what we knew about FFII as teens) interact with each other.
  • Blending this together made a whole new sort of world, two different sides of the same coin, with lots of neat original lore, magic and history. Because the FFII world used to be so open-ended, there wasn’t a lot we could do that actually broke canon, and our imaginations soared.
  • These two girls thought it might be funny to take those RP chats, which were already in script-like format, and turn them into a silly online comic…

…which turned into Wayrift, still being created 13 years later.

Zeb in Wayrift
Zeb blasting the annoying changes in original canon.

Our problem is that we walk the line of fandom-yet-not-fandom. Back in the early days of Wayrift, there was only one re-release of FFIV, for Playstation. We thought FFIV was safe as a forgotten entry in the series, what with FFVII being a more lauded gateway for new folks. So, we took for granted that Square would leave our fantasy world alone… which didn’t happen in the end (It got a like a million re-releases and a canon-destroying sequel, FFIV: The After Years).

As years passed, Wayrift moved more and more away from its FFIV origins. The characters we write about are almost exclusively our own, or our own version of how we saw canon characters. In fact, at this point, we could pick up our cast and toss it into a completely different world, rename a few things, and the story would still go on, unhindered.

So now, it’s hard to describe Wayrift. Do I call it a FFIV fan comic… because it’s not. And anyone coming to it may be disappointed at how far we’ve strayed from the FFIV world. But, I also can’t say that it’s 100% original work, because it’s also not, since the origins were based in FFIV! So much confusion!

I tend to just throw it out there as a “Fantasy Webcomic” and call it a day. We don’t usually attract a lot of FFIV fans, but we do seem to attract fantasy lovers. In fact, a poll we did 2 years ago said that 43% of our readers had never played FFIV before reading Wayrift, and went on to play it because they enjoyed our comic so much! Squeenix should hire us as marketers! XD

The nice thing about playing FFXIV now is that we meet a lot of FF fans… some who even remember FFIV as FFII! It makes it easier to admit, “Hey, yeah. I have a webcomic that’s really loosely based on that old game…” to our Free Company members. 🙂

A lot has changed over 13 years. Characters have changed. My art has definitely changed – what started out as a “manga” style, including the black and white screentone attempts, is now a full-colored comic… that still retains a bit of manga influence to it.

Where will Wayrift go from here? I don’t know, but we’re going to keep on creating!

The very first page of Wayrift, from 2001, compared to the newest page posted in 2015.
The very first page of Wayrift, from 2001, compared to the newest page posted in 2015.