Art: Miss Karas


Doing something to get me back into working on Occulted, while also trying out colored pencil on the good, thick paper.  It’s a bit of a waste, but I wanted to see how my fixative worked outside of a sketchbook.  There isn’t any bleed-through with the thick paper, of course, but what I did find interesting was how the spray seemed to lie on top of the paper rather than soaking into it.

Colored pencil doesn’t smear like graphite does.  This means it doesn’t need to be fixed as badly, but this also means that I can’t really smooth out the roughness of it.  These means that I just have to leave things like the line on 3’s face.  I also have to accept the skin tones not being even.

For Miss Karas’s design, the overriding idea is someone who is beautiful, even if she can’t be bothered to comb her hair.  I also wanted to try something out.  5 is an example of how I’ve been drawing Miss Karas up until now, complete with her proportions being off.  (See how much shorter her left arm is than her right?)  The stark black and white, inspired by the lampad nymph, is striking, but I think it might stand out a bit much, and more importantly, Jessica’s already rocking the raven-and-ivory look.

So, to make her look a bit less undead, I tried to give her skin some color and make her hair brown.  I like how her skin turned out, but I think she still looks better with black hair.  Her solid black eyes are alien looking when her skin’s colored in, but I think I like that.

More generally, I need to practice drawing legs.  And the rest of the human body, but my legs are particularly bad.  Now that I have found a way to control length by giving myself time to look at a piece with fresh eyes, I need to find a way to do the same with shape.

“0 A.D.” and “Hyrule Conquest”

0 A.D. is an open-source, freeware, real time strategy game that takes a lot of cues from the Age of Empires series.  Hyrule Conquest is a mod for 0 A.D. that turns it into an RTS inspired by the Legend of Zelda series.  I’ve recently downloaded both, and what striking about the two of them is how little they play like each other.

When I first started playing the base game, the factions struck me as mostly the same.  Each one had equivalent units built at the headquarters building (women, light melee infantry, light range infantry, light scouting cavalry), each could build more-or-less the same buildings using the same units, and every faction needed a ridiculous amount of wood.  I haven’t actually completed a game yet, as I always gave up after the computer launched an attack that ruined my economy and I realized that I wasn’t having fun.

I have completed three games of HC, each with a different faction, and each game needs paragraphs just to describe it.  The first game I played was with the Kingdom of Hyrule, the most basic of the factions and the one that plays the most like a faction in 0 A.D.  The most notable differences were that the basic infantry didn’t build most of the buildings, leaving that to the worker units, and that the second tier infantry couldn’t gather resources.

As for the game itself, the first thing I noticed was that everything was cheaper, making the game feel faster.  I didn’t spend nearly as much time gathering resources, and spent a lot more time actually interacting with the game.  The second important thing was that I found my base being attacked by monsters.  Now, I had assumed that the monsters were simply the equivalent to the wild animals in the base game, something to harvest for food, so being attacked by neutral units really threw me off.  However, I managed to fight off the early attack, and on account of everything being cheaper, I wasn’t nearly as devastated by the damage to my units as I would have been in the base game.

My second game was with the Darknut Legion, which plays absolutely nothing like the Kingdom of Hyrule.  For example, they are unable to build free-standing buildings.  Everything they build is an add-on to their headquarters building.  If they want to build a second base of any kind, they have to capture a ruin and turn that building into a base.  However, this new base won’t be able to build add-ons, which when combined with their units incredible slow movement rates, means that they have no ability to control the map, even if those units are powerful in actual combat.

In order to explain the other way the Darknut Legion is different, I have to explain the resource system in HC.  While the base game has the resources of food, wood, stone, and metal, the mod combines wood and stone into material, calls metal ore, and adds a new resource, currency.  In the base game, wood comes from chopping down trees, while stone is harvested from rocks.  This is important, because the Legion is unable to cut down trees, and all of their material comes from quarries.  The thing that took up so much time in the base game isn’t even an option to some factions in the mod.

I used the Gorons in my third game.  They also used the add-on system for most of their buildings, although they could build some free-standing structures.  Other than that, the most notable things about the Goron faction is how the basic melee unit can go into rolling mode to book it around the map and how they can use the food mines.

(As an aside, the mines in HC are deeper than the mines in the base game by several orders of magnitude.  The mod also only allows you assign less than half the number of workers to each one.  Combined, this means that you build new bases less because you run out of a resource, and more because you need to collect the resource faster.  Just something I noticed.)

You might have noticed that I enjoy Hyrule Conquest a lot more that 0 A.D.  This isn’t particularly surprising to me, I’ve always preferred for the factions in a strategy to be very different to each other.  The only exceptions to this are games with exactly two factions (where the factions mirror each other almost perfectly, like chess) and games with dozens of factions (where giving each faction a completely different units, buildings, and techs is impractical, and even then, the differences should be noticeable from the beginning of the game.)

What did surprise me was how the cost of the units affected things.  When I was attacked in the base game, seeing my workers all die was devastating, like there was no way I could recover.  When all of my workers in the mod died, I started to scramble to recover, and prepare for the next attack.

I guess my ideal RTS gameplay is defined by early, low-level raiding.  These early raids shouldn’t have any expectation of ending the game, or even destroying any buildings, and just be something one player does to put the opponent on the back foot.  These early raids should kill a few workers, and leave the aggressor vulnerable to being raided in turn, on account of the units lost.

I didn’t start this essay thinking about that, though.  I wanted to talk about how the very different factions made me enjoy the game more.  And now that I think about it, it’s possible that my problem with the computer’s attacks might simply be the AI rather than with the game mechanics.  I’m not sure what to make of these thought only coming to me now, as I am writing.  I’m glad I’m having them, though.

Old Art: Shrub Monster


I recently had cause to see some old drawings of mine, from years ago.  All I had back then were pencils and some graph paper.  You can still see the gridlines in the image.  It’s odd to see them again, after I’ve forgotten what my inspiration for drawing them was.  The memories tend to come rushing back when I look at pencil-work.

I remember thinking about elemental spirits and their ranks when I drew this piece.  The idea I had was that the spirits of earth, water, fire, and air would style themselves in the manner of medieval nobility, from knight to baron, from baron to count, and so on, and so forth.  The spirits of ether, conversely, would use titles associated with the Church, so that priests answered to bishops, and so on.  I also remember throwing that out when I drew this little guy, and deciding to draw a spirit of wood instead.

Planning for the Future

That’s another short serial finished.  This one needed a few too many installments to finish, and I had a surprising amount of trouble keeping track of the characters’ names.  This is the first time I’ve ever really used names that I made up while I was writing.  Samuel’s story was a worthy experiment, even if I didn’t enjoy writing it.

This story was frustrating for a number of reasons.  First, there was how my computer gave up the ghost and finally needed to be replaced while I was writing it.  Another is how I had to keep referring back to previous chapters while I was writing.  But the worst thing was how I didn’t really know what I was writing about.

Thematically, the story is about friendships formed from similar experiences, and how the friendship is destroyed by those same experiences.  I didn’t find a place to explain what those experiences were, however.  There was also how the story took over a month to tell, and I drew a picture for each week.  That was seven pictures, and I felt the need to complete them (with my new way of checking for flaws in the penciling) before I could draw anything else.

I need to concentrate on other things right now.  I need to find a job.  I need to work on Occulted.  I need to find people that share my interests, and meet with them in person.  I’m applying to jobs.  I’m starting to learn LaTeX, which will help me with formatting issues when I copy chapters to and from WordPress.  As for meeting people…I’m not sure how to even start.

Growing up, if I noticed someone around me, it was because I hated them.  I didn’t sit by myself because I was afraid of others; I simply didn’t want to talk to other people.  Even today, a large part of the reason I want friends is because of the benefits they provide, rather than wanting to spend time with people.  I feel like I need to start a cycle that should have been started years ago.

The only idea I have is to call up the local nerd stores and ask them about how to find people interested in the same things I am.  That’s not what they actually do, but it’s the best thing I can think of.  Wish me luck.

Poetry: Why am I Waiting?

Day after day, I find myself stalling
Putting off actions I need to take
And yet I can feel my impatience grow by the day

Have you ever met an impatient procrastinator?
It seems like a contradiction of terms
If you find yourself needing to take time, just do the things you need to do anyway

What is it that I feel when I stall?  Fear?
What do I have to be afraid of?
These I need to do can only help me, whether they give peace or pay

I must go forward, pressing on
I cannot let my feeling stop me
Everything I do has worth, even if it does not bring me closer to day.


Art: Marshall Badge


I should buy a template.  It would have really helped with the unevenness in the proportions of the star and the circle.  Other than that, the design of the badge combines the star of the United States, with the double-headed eagle of the Holy Roman Empire.  I wanted the setting to be a mixture mid-19th century America and Europe, but I don’t think I really pulled it off.

The Aftermath

Samuel wiped the remains of the shaving cream off his face.  “Yes, yes, I can hear you!”

He opened the door, and there stood a man in a black suit, with a black hat, and a shiny bronze badge on his chest.

“Oh, hello, Marshall.  Is… is this going to take long?”

The man in black raised his eyebrow.  “First, I’m just a deputy.  Second, I didn’t think you had anywhere to go…?”

Samuel turned back into his room, gesturing for the deputy to follow.  “Your right, I’m unemployed.  Mar’s going to get the job, and Wall is…” Samuel made some vague gestures, expecting his visitor to understand.  He started packing.  “Anyway, I’m not the kind of man that can just sit around doing nothing.  I’ve only got one life, and if I’m not careful, it’s going to wander away from me.”

The deputy leaned against the wall.  “So, what, spending several hours a day reading wasn’t a waste of time?”

“Learning is never a waste of time.  Understanding and experiencing the world is the best way to spend our time in it.”  Samuel stopped, and looked at the man.  “What is this about?”

He shrugged.  “To put it bluntly, the Marshals could use someone who understands destructive magical forces and the people that wield them.  What happened here yesterday, you see, isn’t unusual.  Not these days, at least.”

“You’re…you’re offering me a job?”

“Well, yes.  I’m not the one to talk to, really, they only sent me because the didn’t have anything else for me to do.  But if you’re interested…”

Samuel was taken aback.  “Well, it’s not like I have anything better to do today.  Shall we, shall we get going?”

“As soon as you’re presentable.”

Quickly, Samuel got dressed, and they headed out the door, out into the new day.  Sunlight fell on them, and the world seemed like it was righting itself, just a little.

Poetry: Manufacture

Have you ever worked in a factory?
I have, I’ve heard the whine of hydraulics
and the toadying of the weak.
The twin indignities of kept ignorance
and fearful agreement
The endless days without thought
And you find ways to go faster just to stay sane
We were rewarded with nothing but a paycheck
We didn’t know what our work was going to
And the truth was, we didn’t care.
It’s not something I wish on anyone
I myself could not stay there for long
And if you think a revolution would change the job
Even if the work stays the same
Maybe, just maybe,
You should work in a factory too.