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Monthly Archives: February 2011
Coming Thursday: Page update notifications for the Thrilling Tales

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Thrilling Tales of the Downright UnusualWell, in response to a reader request I’ve just added a page update notification for Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual. It seems to be working just fine, but I’m interested in seeing how everything behaves in a real-life test. We’ll see that on Thursday morning when the next page goes live.

The page update notifications will be available through an RSS feed here, in my Webomator blog. The RSS link will go on the Thrilling Tales front page. I’m not sure I want those updates to actually appear here in the blog, though: that might be annoying for my readers or for folks on Facebook, since these blog posts get echoed over there. I guess I’ll see how it all works and then deal with where it all works.

Two Sales, on T-Shirts & Archival Art Prints, through February 27th

Filed under Works in Progress

T-Shirt & Archival Prints SaleThis is really two different sales that happen to end at the same time; it’s statistically so unlikely that anybody who thinks about it will realize the only way this could happen is if time-traveling creatures, who are almost certainly hamsters, have been meddling with the fundamental causality that keeps our universe from imploding and, coincidentally, makes it necessary for us to wear T-shirts and hang pictures on our walls.

The proof is left as an exercise for the reader.

But enough of that boring physics lecture!

SALE THE FIRST: through midnight, Mountain Time, on February 27 you can save up to $35 on a T-shirt order from The Retropolis Transit Authority, Saga Shirts, or Hot Wax Tees. It works like this, with these coupon codes you should use during checkout:

Save $5 on an order of $25 or more PFBDAY$5
Save $15 on an order of $50 or more PFBDAY$15
Save $35 on an order of $100 or more PFBDAY$35

…and because these T-shirt sites use the same shopping cart you can mix and match, either until the hamsters destroy the Universe As We Know It, or until midnight (Mountain Time) on February 27. Which, for all I know, is the same thing.

SALE THE SECOND: Until midnight (Pacific Time) on February 27 you can get 20% off any of my archival art prints – either the Retropolis prints from the retro future, or my Celtic Art prints.

That sale just happens automatically: you won’t need to exert yourself or anything.

Now in progress: Part Two of The Toaster With TWO BRAINS

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Thrilling Tales: The Toaster With TWO BRAINS

So here I am, with the automagical Clockwork Book machine posting its pages while I’ve got my back turned – through June, anyway: I’d be in trouble if I didn’t get back to it on schedule – and at last I’m back at work on Part Two of The Toaster With TWO BRAINS. It’s a nice feeling, even though I still obsess about promotional tasks for The Lair of the Clockwork Book.

I was paying pretty close attention to Part One as it shaped up (well, naturally!) and I’ve continued to think about it since. There are such differences between what can work well in the web version and what can work well in print… more so than you might expect. That means that some things that made perfect sense to me about the script for Part One didn’t turn out to be as perfectly sensible as I’d like.

It’s not the story itself. It’s more about its fundamental structure. In a lot of ways Part One emulates a graphical adventure game. I think that shows up most clearly in the conversation trees that eat up a lot of pages. They seemed perfectly okay because they were essentially free pages in the web version; but the pages are the opposite of free in the print version, so adding a lot of nearly identical story nodes was a bad idea. The reader gets to page through a conversation in any order at all – but so what? Very little is really added for the reader, and the additional pages cut down on how many unique things can take place in the story because of the cost of the printed pages.

I made a virtue of that by often doing alternate illustrations for similar story nodes. But that still didn’t make it a good idea.

nat gonella, rocket pilotSo this time I’m approaching things a little differently. One thing I really enjoy about Epicsplosion is that its story branches take off in completely different directions. There aren’t all that many options on most pages, but when you do select one, the two story branches are very, very different. I’m not doing the same thing, really: my story’s a multi-part one, and my branches each have to leave you in a very similar place at the end of the volume. So the story can’t transmogrify into something completely different. What I can do, though, is to take a very different route to get to that same eventual spot.

One of the things that I think worked very well in Part One was the way you can follow more than one character in the story. I’m doing even more with that in Part Two (in fact that’s pretty fundamental, as are some tricks that make you wonder what happened in the other branch, once they come back together).

So in Part Two I’m concentrating on the several point of view characters. An individual page may not have as many options, but I’m trying to do more with the options you get. More of these options "expire" if you haven’t used them (you don’t often get the same choice on two consecutive pages). So the result should be a story whose branches are thinner, but longer: a tree rather than a bush.

I think it’s going to make for a better experience. Maybe even for me – I just realized that there are fewer flow charts in my future :).

So far, let me see… the first draft is about 25% along. My next stop is a chess tournament that’s celebrated pretty much like a basketball game, or maybe like a NASCAR event. I’ve got three different characters headed there and only one of them knows what’s really going on. Good times!

Toby Fraley’s Recycled Retro Robot Sculptures

Filed under Found on the Web

Robots! Rockets!
Robots! Rayguns!

Just because I like them, here are two retro robot sculptures by Toby Fraley from Uncommon Goods. Each one’s a large illuminated piece that would look swell on your world domination console, provided you’ve dominated enough of the world to afford them. That was envy, just then, is what that was.

This fellow on the right stands 48" tall; the Slim Pickens version above is just 28" tall, but equally wide, due to that cool rocket it’s riding. They’re built from aluminum, steel, and wood, and – as you can probably guess – many of their parts are recycled vintage mechanical whaddayacallums.

Fraley’s exhibited widely, including a show at the Smithsonian, and he must be haunting the estate auctions and second hand stores of Pennsylvania even as we speak.

You know, this guy on the right would make a pretty nifty desk lamp here in the Secret Laboratory. I’d kind of enjoy that thrill of knowing an armed recycled vacuum cleaner was watching my every move.

[tags]retro, robot, sculpture, artwork, vintage, found objects, recycled, toby fraley, you know you want it[/tags]

Alexander Bruce’s “Hazard: The Journey of Life” is an original game concept, for once

Filed under Found on the Web

I like everything I see about this indie game in development but that just can’t compete with how well I like the last line in the video: “Made by a single person who had an idea”.

But maybe that’s just me. Whether or not this is true, plenty of other people have liked what they see: it’s the grand prize winner in Epic’s "Make Something Unreal" contest; it’s won awards from a couple of other competitions; it’s currently competing in the Indie Game Challenge; it’s attracted the omniscient interest of Sony; and it’s not even done yet.

I’m not very interested in games these days, but this one interests me. It might just be the revenge of every kind of game that was slaughtered by the first person shooter, made with the tools of first person shooters, which would have a lovely symmetry.

Found via Ars Technica.

Crazy Sales Promotion for Project:Messiah, a State of the Art 3D Animation System

Filed under Computer Graphics

I’ve had an admiring eye on Project:Messiah for several years now. It’s a sophisticated 3D animation system, though it’s gradually grown some nice rendering capabilities, too, like sub-surface scattering, global illumination, and a hair system.

The latest version is messiahStudio5. In one version or another, the program’s contributed to a lot of film productions including The Tripletes of Belleville, Hellboy, Jimmy Neutron, Ghost Rider, the Harry Potter films and, well, more.

The developers are doing a remarkable thing with messiahStudio5 right now. In a sort of self-built Kickstarter type promotion they’re offering their software for practically nothing… but only if enough people sign on to buy at these prices.

So the basic version of messiahStudio5 – at the moment – could be yours for $10, while the Pro version is offered at $40. Their normal prices are $499 and $1195, so you can see what I mean by "practically nothing".

Because it is a promotion your purchase won’t be completed unless enough people respond. If the promotion fails your money will be refunded and, well, that’s that.

It’s easy enough to see that they’re relying on everyone who wants to get their software at these prices to go out and tempt as many other people as possible, in order to create a viral groundswell. Pretty clever, no?

Messiah’s strengths are in its rigging and skinning system. Since it also functions as a plug-in it’s possible to use its animation features inside another 3D application like 3DS Max or Maya. It’s well worth a close look, and you can bet that it’s not likely to be available at these prices for very long. How long? They don’t seem to say. But a graph on the sale page shows how close they are to the goal.

It’s Day One for The Lair of the Clockwork Book, at Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Starts Today: The Lair of the Clockwork BookI’d have liked to launch it with a sonic boom and a tremendous plume of multi-colored and potentially toxic smoke… but due to local ordinances I’ve simply uploaded the new files that have jolted The Lair of the Clockwork Book into its new shambling, unlikely life.

Sort of thing.

Yep, after months of preparation I’ve just added the first page of my first serialized story at Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual. The next thirty-two pages are all loaded up and scheduled to post on Mondays and Thursdays – that’s only about a quarter of the whole thing, so obviously I’m going to be laboring behind the scenes as we go.

Here’s a link to the first page; this link, on the other hand, is one that will always display the most recent page of the story.

Because there’s only one page of Clockwork Book today, the new navigation buttons are ghosted. They’ll lurch into usefulness on Thursday, when the next page appears. The new comments system is all live, though. Um, muahahahaha, etc.

[tags]thrilling tales of the downright unusual, the lair of the clockwork book, retro future, illustration, illustrated, stories, fiction, serial[/tags]

One Day T-Shirt Sale at Retropolis Transit, Saga Shirts, & Hot Wax Tees

Filed under Works in Progress

It’s time for another mathematically perplexing T-Shirt sale at the Retropolis Transit Authority, Saga Shirts, and Hot Wax Tees. (This includes the brand new and remarkable Clockwork Book T-shirts).

Here’s how it works: when you place any order – that’s right, no minimums – the web site does a complex and bizarre computation based on the item you’re ordering and some stuff that’s way too confusing to try to explain. Then it takes a percentage off your order.

For dark colored T-shirts, it works out to 36%. For light colored T-shirts, it works out to about 29.4%. Or so my experiments told me… when they were still able to speak.

All you need to do to get that discount is to enter the coupon code FEBLUV11 in the shopping cart.

It’s all over at midnight (Mountain Time) today, February 5th. Not to pressure you or anything. But, you know, get clicking, would you?

Counting down till Monday – The Lair of the Clockwork Book

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Coming Monday! The Lair of the Clockwork BookI’m still counting down to Clockwork Book Day (Monday!), but "counting down", in this case, doesn’t mean that I’m sitting around and, you know, counting. Which makes me wonder why I’m calling it "counting down". But I choose to ignore that, and just press on*.

I’ve kept tinkering with the revisions to the Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual web site – from content-sensitive banners to new site banners to a new home page that I almost, but not quite, like a lot; but the rest of my time’s been spent on redoing four of the Clockwork Book illustrations at a much higher resolution for use as posters and archival prints; that’s led, along the way, to new T-Shirts, coffee mugs, and iPad cases because once I get rolling it’s pretty hard for me to stop. Even though I see that I’m doing merchandising for something that won’t be published till next week. Hey, whatever. Timey-wimey.

I’m really happy with the way the poster designs have shaped up. And as for the story itself, well, Monday’s coming. It’s nearly here.

* As the years go by, I find myself doing that more and more.

[tags]thrilling tales of the downright unusual, the lair of the clockwork book, retro future, illustration, illustrated, stories, fiction[/tags]

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