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Learning to draw on the internet

I was feeling a little nostalgic today. Usually I never go back in the archive but today I kept jumping back and forth between the current comic and the first one. Like this:

I’ve been really focused this year on pushing ahead and trying to improve after a couple years of feeling sort of stagnant. This was a nice little reminder of how far I’ve already come, which is something I don’t often think about. I can still remember drawing that first strip. In fact there were two comics that I drew before that one, that never got posted. I can remember sitting at my drawing table being so proud of that comic strip and so excited about making more.

I guess this is what 16 years of practice looks like.

-Gabe out

Club PA!

It’s been a long time since we talked about Club PA but it’s still going strong. I first of all want to thank everyone who signed up when we first launched it last year. If you signed up previously it might be about time to renew and if you don’t have any idea what Club PA is, let me break it down for you.

Club PA is a subscription to Penny Arcade that gives you a bunch of special perks. You can see the entire list of stuff you get right here on the Club PA site. It starts with the removal of ads from the site and just gets better from there. If you’re a Club PA member you get access to the comic as soon as it’s posted, You get to download high res versions of each comic, You get discounts in the store and access to special Club PA merchandise including an exclusive Pin. You get early access to our DLC podcast and there’s actually a PA staff podcast just for members of the club. We’ve hosted pizza parties here at the office for members and I’ve seen Robert give special Q&A’s at PAX just for Club PA members. If you’re a PA fan we really try hard to make Club PA worth your money.

It only costs 10 bucks for the basic subscription but hit the site to see all the options. Many of you probably don’t remember but around 14 years ago, a system like this is exactly how Tycho and I kept the site afloat. We made special wallpapers for folks who supported the site and even did a few bonus comics. I hit the Internet archive to see if I could find any of those old posts and ended up poking around our site from 1999 and just shaking my head. I still remember building that web page and thinking, “I wonder if anyone will read this.”

Thanks for reading that.

And this.

And all the stuff in between.

-Gabe out

Tycho / 1 week ago

We had a really good time checking out both games, actually, but yeah.  As soon as the bing bong told us it was downloaded, this is what was up.  It’s been a long time since I invested myself in the larger budget “Square Games,” we’ve been in different places for awhile now, with my tastes more or less chipped into granite and them trying to broaden scope.  But go to a friend’s house and check out that FFXV shit, for reals.  It’s a road movie where everybody is some species of sorcerer.  The tone is fucking whacked out.

The last controller I broke - actually broke broke it - was an Epyx 500XJ.  I consider that a failure state not for the game or for the joystick, even though I suppose it’s literally true in the second case.  It’s a failure state for the self, and I’m still ashamed of it.  I’m fairly certain I was playing Impossible Mission, which makes sense.  I mean, it’s right there on the tin: we are giving you an objective which cannot be completed.  “Don’t bring your best joystick” seems to be the subtext.  But Ori and the Blind Forest is the game I’ve come closest to breaking another one.  I’m in a kind of pre-break state, loosening it up, whitening the flex points in fevered preparation for the final act.

I’m not prepared to say that the game is mean spirited, but it is exacting: it requires that you either bring substantial platforming literacy, or that you develop this literacy “on the job,” in mid-air.  And then they layer in various game-busting means of traversal, and ask you to do things that I frankly didn’t think were possible when I started trying them.  I don’t want to say anything too specific.  But I had this experience a few times in The Swapper also, one of my favorite games from recent years, where I would get an idea about something I had to do that was so fucking insane - such an edge case of the perceived interactions - that I would investigate them just to foreclose the impossibilities.  Except that’s what they actually wanted, and I thank them for it in either case.  Once you have accomplished the impossible, the rest of the day seems to go better.


Tycho / 1 week ago

This is the strip we did on stage at PAX East.  Typically its manufacture runs virtually the length of the time allotted, but with all the extracurricular sketching he’s doing it was like forty minutes or something.  The cold was real, though: I had to bring someone a pass, outside, and only a few seconds out there triggered a fight or flight response.  I felt the surface of my eyes freeze.

In my role as forward scout, I almost never have a chance to go back to a game.  It sucks, kinda.  I can think of two examples - Command & Conquer: Renegade and Phantom Crash - where reexamining my initial take lead to discovering savory favorites in what was essentially the garbage can.  Both examples here are from 2002, and it’s not a coincidence.  There was actually time to do that, then.  You don’t have to wait very long for a great game these days, and you can get as many as you want for nothing.  DLC creates an interesting dynamic too, whatever else it may do: Guitar Hero and Rock Band were essentially living documents, and with weekly tracks I was back in there all the time.

But I never really leave Orcs Must Die 2.  I know they got their wild MOBA hybrid thing, Unchained, but they’re still turning large and small screws on it, and then cupping their ears trying to hear what it has to say I’ll come back to it when the flaky crust has browned.

There are lots of tower defense games, there are even a few where a character is ensouled on the battlefield alongside.  Sanctum 2 is a good example, and it allows for four players, which I am given to understand is more than the 2 offered here.  But the personality and execution on OMD2 is just more my style.  It’s… slapstick, if you’ve done it correctly.  It is an orc being dragged heavenward by an automatic punching machine before he is drowned in acid and then sucked into a wall-mounted shredder.  You almost feel bad for them, but not really, except you sorta do.  Because of what happened to their bodies.  And not just what happened, but how it happened, with its ineluctable swiftness.  You are essentially contractors, you and your co-op partner, except instead of creating functional living spaces you produce the polar opposite.

There are a couple things that they would have done differently, if they had made it today: it’s a game about bringing tools into a level, tools you buy with Skulls, which must be considered the ultimate currency.  But much in the way that Blizzard finally let you have different specs, they’d have let you do that here too; as it stands, you have to refund your spec altogether and build it if you want to really try something new.  But I ain’t mad; they were just doing the best they could, trying to invest the Spec with the weight of a true economy.  They couldn’t have imagined I’d still be here years later, delivering unforgettable “experiences” to gallons and gallons of increasingly liquefied customers.


Tycho / 2 weeks ago

Steve Hamaker’s Coloring Video

As someone outside all the traditional production-y roles for visual stuff, I find this kind of thing really interesting.  Steve Hamaker, who did all the coloring on The Judging Wood and a bunch of other rad stuff, all over the place, everywhere, recorded himself coloring the last page and it’s pretty fuckin’ wild.  My son winced when I typed the f-word there, but I assured him that this is how the truly hardcore comport themselves.


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