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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Latest Webcomic: Fall of Valhalla Chapter 3, Page 9

Whew... it's been a tough couple of days, but it's Easter, the weather was beautiful, we got to spend time with family, and a new webcomic is up. It can't be all bad, right?

If you like this comic and want to see me make more of them, you can always sign on to support my Patreon Campaign!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Shakespeare Deathmatch: A Post-Mortem

Well, the last post-mortem I did on the MTDAA Kickstarter was my most read post of all time, so we'll see how my full disclosure on all things Shakespeare Deathmatch goes...

Here's the breakdown (remember that my starting balance was after fees for Amazon Payments and Kickstarter):

Starting Balance
Proof Copies

Card Printing/Shipping
Printing Re-do
Shipping Rewards #1
Shipping Rewards #2
Shipping International
- 158.30

- Well, this got ugly! I ended up losing 27.77 on this project (actually a little more, since I don't include some supplies like envelopes and tape that I purchased and kept the extras of for other things...). The cards were more expensive than I expected (since I printed cards at 6"x6" and didn't get the bulk discount I expected), and International shipping (10 packages at an average of 15.80 a package when I charged only $5 or $10 extra depending on what was ordered). I also short ordered cards on the first go-round for some odd reason  (I did the math three times on three different occasions before ordering cards, and still was a dozen decks short when I was packaging, so had to re-order). Basically I took a hit in two places to keep the quality of the project up: the character cards and the t-shirts. I could have cut my t-shirt costs in half and received lower-quality shirts (wasn't willing to do that), and I could have created simpler character cards that were part of the deck and saved quite a bit (also wasn't willing to do that). If I had it to do over again, I would skimp on the character cards, since these were a huge cost (more than half of the cost of the cards - layering these as standard playing-card size cards would have cut about $200 off the card printing) and I'd get rid of t-shirts altogether as a backer reward. These were a big $ sink in this project. It was fun to do the project, and I hope people are enjoying it, but I sure didn't make anything on it! I was putting together the Saga of the Splintered Realm KS as this was winding down, and I applied some of the lessons here so that I wouldn't repeat mistakes in that KS.

And by the way - in case you're wondering (because I would be at this point if I was you...) I did not use any money from the Saga of the Splintered Realm KS to pay for the overage on this one - that's all out of pocket. I actually don't get the funds from that one for two more weeks, so there's no financial overlap between the two projects.

I hope based on this that you can see I want to feel like my customers get their money's worth, and maybe you'll consider backing my Patreon Campaign to shift my Army Ants webcomic into high gear...

Webcomic Design: Layout Considerations

I was strongly influenced by the Carl Barks approach to laying out a page for Uncle Scrooge (which I'm sure has been used by many other artists, but which I first learned of through the good duck man) of laying out each page as half-page sections. You consider each page as two units, with an even break exactly halfway down the page.

For the last few months, that has been my approach to the webcomic. Since I have envisioned this as appearing predominantly on a computer screen, this has made sense, seeing as the page appeared pretty clean in a standard browser. In the long term, this translated well to the printed page, since it allowed me to place two webcomic releases on a single page when I ultimately put this into a collection later on.

However, recent attempts to increase my reach into other formats (facebook, flickr, direct posting to the blog) have not translated as well. I struggled with how to re-format, and I was thinking about how the 'standard' four-panel daily strip format is ideal: you can easily re-format the image by taking the last two panels and layering them beneath the first two to square it off, or you can leave it with a longer panoramic view. However, the weakness of this approach is the way it limits your storytelling in terms of layout and design. You cannot really use the page itself to help tell the story.

I think I've arrived at something of a compromise. Starting in a few weeks, I'm going to tinker with a hybrid of this, where the layout is (effectively) a square, with an upper and lower tier. Each tier is a complete design unit (it can be a single panoramic frame, a pair of frames, a series of 4-5 narrow frames, whatever) and this stacks on top of another tier. In this way, each webcomic represents 2/3 of a printed page (whereas my current format represents 1/2 of a printed page). Every other webcomic would be spliced over two printed pages at the back end, but it will be easy to make that transition down the line.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ultimate Bundle Now Live

The Splintered Realms Ultimate Bundle is now up for sale on RPGNow. This collects almost everything that I've published in the last decade in one massive bundle for under $15... Army Ants, Mythweaver, Resolute, Wrestling Battle Bugs, Guardians of Metro City, Knights of the Falling Stars... it's all here. It took me over a decade to create it all, and it will probably take you that long to digest it all!

Of course, if you sign on as a supporter of the Patreon Campaign at the $5 monthly level or higher, I will send you a link to a free download of this collection. If you are a current supporter, your e-mail link will be forthcoming for the download of this bundled collection.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fall of Valhalla 3.8

Michael T. Desing's Army Ants - Fall of Valhalla 3.8
Fall of Valhalla 3.8

Cleaning up the blog

I've been cleaning up and re-organizing the blog a little bit. On the left pane, you can see a list of links - I've added the Patreon Campaign (which I hope you support), links to the webcomic on the two portals it currently appears, and two new links.

- I set up a CafePress page in case you wanted to pick up some bling with the awesome Jeff Dee MTDAA cover art on it.
- I put a link to vote for the MTDAA webcomic on the topwebcomics page. While cracking the top ten is going to be a challenge, we can probably propel the MTDAA webcomic into the top 100 with a little diligence. You can vote once a day (per machine) and it takes about 3 seconds. If you would send a few votes my way, I'd appreciate it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Army Ants Patreon Campaign Launches

For several months, I've been considering launching a Patreon Campaign to support the Michael T. Desing's Army Ants webcomic. I delayed because I didn't want to run overlapping fundraising campaigns. I even considered delaying the launch of this campaign further, seeing as I just finished the KS campaign for Saga of the Splintered Realm last night. However, I decided to go ahead and launch for a few reasons:

1. These are different projects, with different bases of followers. Many of the followers/backers of Saga of the Splintered Realm and my fantasy RPG work do not overlap with followers of the Army Ants work.

2. I've continued to produce the Army Ants webcomic, and I want to be able to reach a larger audience, and to be able to justify spending more time on it. As it is, I have a full-time job, a part-time job writing test questions for a test-development company, and often take on roles chaperoning and serving in other capacities in my school. I want to be able to look at my calendar every month and carve out more time for Army Ants. If this means giving up an extra-curricular activity or chaperoning a few less dances and concerts, I'm all for it!

3. I need to stop feeling like I should not ask people to support my work. When a creator releases a new work, they ask their followers to help support it. I should be no different.

Signing up to support the campaign is easy, and it will cost you only a dollar or two a month (if that's all you can afford to give). The Saga of the Splintered Realm Kickstarter gave me the opportunity to increase how plugged in I am to the larger online community. Now, I want to carve out a niche for myself online, and make MTDAA into the greatest comic it can be.

I hope that you'll help me to do it.