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Visiting Vardala

So I won’t have a comic this week for a few reasons. I had an out of state court date on Thursday, so I was out of state for two days and unable to access my computer. Couple that with a blown out shoulder that aches even after I take pain killers and I just didn’t have time to get one out this week.

That being said, I DID get a chance to work on the sim a bit more. Here are some teaser pictures of Vardala, the neo-victorian city back on Thessra. At this point I have just a few of the major landmarks laid out and some of the tenement houses lined up. No roads, no landscaping, no little details that make a city come alive.

But it’s a start, and it gives you a teaser to look forward to for when we get back to that part of the world.

What do you think?

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It is Okay to Blink

As many of you know, my day job is running a post-apocalyptic LARP.  Its a world of horror, community building and no little amount of fake blood.  It allows folks to immerse themselves in a world outside of the normal and be someone they are not.

The problem is the last few weeks have been stressful for so many of my players.  The real world has become even scarier than my horror LARP.  Many of my friends are terrified about what is going to happen to them now that Trump is in power, both conservative and liberal alike.  Now, I don’t like getting into politics online.  I feel such things are better left for face to face conversations, but you know its got to be bad when the uniting force between liberals and conservatives is the insanity that is our government right now.

More than once I have heard folks state that they need their ‘zombie camp’ now, more than ever and it’s gotten me thinking about how the arts become such a huge part of people’s lives when the world is in the shitter.  People need the escapism.  They need the ability to turn away from the real horror and soothe themselves with the fake horror, even if for only a few minutes.  We cannot keep up the good fight if we are exhausted.  It is why things like LARP, RPGs, comics, books and movies are so important.  Why the arts themselves are so important.  It allows us to express our fear and discontent in a healthy way, a way that won’t end up with us driven mad with fear.

Don’t get me wrong, done to extremes escapism is harmful, we cannot turn a blind eye to the atrocities being committed around us, but we do need to blink once in a while.  I am happy to provide that moment of rest and respite.  I am not a front lines fighter, never have been, and with any luck I won’t have to be.  But I am a helper, a healer, and a friend.  I hold safe spaces for the wounded and give folks something to think about that hopefully eases their daily burdens.

I hope this comic can be an enjoyment for people too.  I certainly find the trials and tribulations of the crew of The Jeweled Heron to be amusing, and putting the comic together has been of great enjoyment thus far.  I know it isn’t the same as marching on the front lines and hitting the pavement with sign and raised fist.  But it’s still important.  It’s still needed and I for one am happy to provide.

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Midwinter 2017

I spent the weekend at the Midwinter Gaming Convention in Milwaukee.  Let me see if I can fully express how I feel about it.

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Hm.  The Doctor is cute, but not nearly excited enough.  The quality of LARP that I got to experience this weekend deserves much more than cute.  I played Tron and A Series of Hauntings this weekend and I have to tell you, both LARPs brought something different to the table.  Tron allowed me to play Alexa, the overly helpful program with minimal access to the forbidden ‘Users’, and A Series of Hauntings was emotionally intense, ridiculously dark and ultimately very satisfying.

The Dystopia Rising mod we ran on Saturday afternoon was fun, and I didn’t even get to play! (I ran the Logistics table, as you do when you are Coordinating Director.) Just watching the players as they left and listening to their excited comments was worth it.  We had 61 players total at the game and 24 of them were new!  I’ve already got emails from the new players who want to come to game.  It is all the little things that make this gamer girl happy.

Let’s not forget the Tabletop events too! I got to play 7th Seas tabletop with John Wick himself!  The new rule set makes playing a lot more fun.  Ussura is still my favorite country!

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There we go.   Thank you Jack, you hit the nail on the head.  I was delighted to be able to hang out with friends I don’t normally get to hang out with and even swing through the vendor room to do some geeky shopping.

Sunday VIP brunch was delicious, and allowed for even more great conversations with good company.

TOTALLY WORTH IT.

I am looking forward to next years Midwinter!

YAY!

 

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Mild Spoilers – More Scenes!

I spent Sunday working on the next set that is needed.  The homestead of Boyd and Eudora.  So many of my writing teachers have said “show, don’t tell.” so that is exactly what I am going to do.

The picture below is a bit of a spoiler, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out exactly why it’s a spoiler.

It’s so pretty!  I’m not happy with the garden yet, nobody has made mesh vegetables, so I’m having to use prim vegetables.  These vegetables are basically pictures on multi-layered surfaces and the pictures bleed through each other so they don’t look quite what I was hoping they would look like.  But unless I find something better it’s all I’ve got.  Luckily, I can make it work by setting up the shot properly and post processing.

It’s not perfect, but it will certainly do!

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The Process of Creating a Comic Part 2

So I have the raw photos from Second Life, the graphic program I use to make this comic.  They look fantastic, right?

Not usually.

They  usually are too dark, or missing props, or I like the look of one pose in one picture and the face in another picture, or the sky isn’t right, or the lighting is off.

There is a whole host of reasons why I use Photoshop on these pictures.  Now that I have my own half-sim I can make sure most of the props are in the right spaces, which helps, and I can move backgrounds to get the perfect composition.  But as I said in the last installment, it is better to make sure you get the brightest picture you can and create the lighting in Photoshop than it is to try and get the right lighting in Second Life and hope that you can use the photo as is.

Here is an example of before and after:

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As you can see, I had to crop the picture for the panel size I needed, add shadows, add the box in Talon’s arms because I couldn’t rez it on the sim itself, color adjustments and a better sky. This was on a sim that wasn’t mine, so I had to be careful to take out things that didn’t belong in the comic, like the poster on the right that says “Touch for a Landmark”.

Not exactly something you can do in the world I’m creating.

I lay out the comic in Photoshop making sure every panel is sized correctly for the page, and if any special panels are needed I work those up as well.  Below is an example of a special panel.  Rosabelle’s bust in the lower right hand corner is called an overlay, and requires a careful touch to get just right.

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After the layout is set up I get the word bubbles set up.  Laying out the words before I surround them with the bubble is an easy way to make sure they fit properly.

I use color to distinguish between characters only for artistic purposes.  It is certainly not a requirement.  Because I create these comics digitally I can use any font I want.  I choose to keep to an easy to read comic font.  You can have the best script in the world and if folks can’t read it, you are going to lose out.

I am by no means an expert when it comes to making comics, but this is my current process, and it is being refined every time I create a comic.

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The Process of Creating a Comic – Part 1

Some of the most fun, and time consuming, moments in the creation of this comic is the set up and photography sessions.  I can spend several hours making sure the scene is just right so that I can get the photos I need.

Let me show you a bit of the work that goes into creating a comic page.

First, you have to have a world in which to set your stage.  Recently I purchased half of a sim and have spent the last week or so building the world I need to have to fill all my needs.  I am nowhere near done but Clio’s forest and the hovel that she lives in has been set up.  While I am sure there will be some tweaking I won’t have to recreate it for each photography session.

Props and appearance of the avatar are also important.  I have gone nearly all mesh in my build because it looks better in the photos.  A few of my avatars are still not fully mesh, but many of the main ones are.  The lines are smoother and they are more rounded.  They also bend better, and while you still get some clipping, the clothing actually folds with the body rather than glides through the body like sculpted clothing did.

I should do a comparison between when I first started Second Life and the way it looks today.  I’m sure many of you would get a kick out of it.

Poses and facial expressions can express more emotion than words can describe in many instances, and making sure that they are appropriate for each panel is key to making sure the reader gets the intent of that panel.  I have several facial expression HUDs and mesh heads usually have some expressions built in too.  I love the CATWA heads, their animators are great for photography because they allow you to animate the eyes and the lips separately or together.  This makes things SO much easier for a perfectionist like me.  This also usually takes the most time.  Getting everyone set up and their faces emoting properly can take 15-30 minutes alone depending on the complexity of the scene and whether I’m using static poses or animations I have to wait to cycle.

Then with any good photography the lighting and angle of the shot will make or break all your hard work.  Second Life has a lot of lighting options but usually I choose one that casts the right shadows and then edit the photos in Photoshop so that I can get the mood I want without having to flip through the several hundred lighting presets in the program itself.

I take a lot of photos each session, many of which will never be used, all searching for that perfect shot that I want to put into the comic.  I love the feeling of “HA!  Got it!” that you get when you know you have the one.  It’s so rewarding!

You may have noticed that this is the first part of a number of posts.  In the next post I’ll go over how I pick the perfect picture to use and some of what I do in Photoshop to make them a full fledged comic page.

Be seeing you!

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Decorating the Hovel

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Clio’s house is featured predominantly in the upcoming page of the comic so I have spent much of my time getting it ready for its big debut.  Little details make the scene, so I am making sure that those little things are perfect.  Everything in the scene has a story.  I do that mostly because I’m a masochist but also because it adds depth to a scene and allows the visuals to be more than something overly simple.  Most of what is out there won’t ever make it to print, but it *might* so I spend time making the environment, rather than just a few out of place scenes.

It’s nearly done, then I can get the photos for the next page of the comic, edit them together and have something to post come next Tuesday.

That is, so long as the holidays don’t steal all my time.  I’ve got quite a few things that need to be done for home and family and they come first.  I’m sure you all understand that, so thank you for your patience.  I will do my best to get a comic out asap!

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Pretty Things to Share!

I spent a few hours this afternoon working on the sim, there is a LOT still yet to do, and many tweaks before anything is final for the comic, but here is a sneak peak at what the world is slowly forming into.

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Many thanks to my husband who provided much of what you see in this picture.  (He has LOTs of fun buildings and props in Second Life.  It’s where we met! <3)

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So it Begins…

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Realizing I wouldn’t be able to continue to fill this comic on the regular without having a sim to use for the builds needed, I decided to go ahead and purchase a half sim plot of land in Second Life to create the scenes I need for the upcoming pages.

I am still holding the first goal at $150 so that I can pay for this sim, but I can’t wait any longer to put it together.

That means I will be spending the next week or so building said scenes so that after the holidays I will be able to create the comic the way it was meant to be created.

I’M SO EXCITED!

I will be posting pictures of the progress here and on Patreon so stay tuned for some really amazing stuff!

That being said, because of this, there will be no comic this coming Tuesday as I build the set needed for the next page. Instead you will get flooded with in progress shots of the sim as I work on it.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!