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Gabe / on Mon, Mar 16 2015 at 10:48 am

Monday Sketchdump

I’m still on my post PAX vacation but I wanted to post a few sketches since it’s Monday. First though I wanted to say I hope you enjoyed the Trill comics. I know our stuff can be a little hard to follow sometimes. We don’t like to start at the “beginning” of stories and we rarely stop at the”end”. I can’t speak for Tycho but I know for my part I like to leave room for people to interpret their own stories. What we do is intentionally loose and I know that’s not for everyone. I really love Trill and her birds and drawing her was so much fun especially in this last page. I guarantee she will be back again at some point. For now though we will be returning to your regularly scheduled PA strips.

As I mentioned before, I am on vacation for a couple more days. Tomorrow I’ll actually be doing something pretty cool. I love tattoos but I have never designed one for myself or anyone else for that matter. I have never felt comfortable having something I drew permanently displayed on anyone’s body. That is changing tomorrow though. My wife and I are both getting Daughters of the Eyrewood tattoos tomorrow and I am equal parts excited and terrified. I’ll post some pictures once the ink is dry so to speak.

Okay, here are a few pages from my sketchbook.

-Gabe out

Tycho / on Fri, Mar 13 2015 at 11:27 am

The Judging Wood is only five parts - well, this side of the equation is, anyhow - and here is Part Four.  I had to “know” a lot of things to work on the book, and some of that stuff is in this stuff.

Typically we run the comic from the “Make A Strip” Panel on the Monday after a PAX, but since we had a linear thing going on that’ll hit Wednesday.  And then we’ll have to write new comics, every other day, which is the normal thing I’ve done for like sixteen years but for some reason I can’t imagine doing it.  I’ll have to listen to one of our podcasts just to remember how.

I wish my associate were around to boil furiously about Ori and the Blind Forest, to clang his lid and spill all over the place; I don’t know that I could ever do it justice.  He talked about it a little bit, in the circumspect manner of those who hold Secret Knowledge, but he didn’t want to ruin it.  I feel certain he’d never even heard of it before, so he must have endured a profound shock.  Understand this: he doesn’t play games on the Xbox One if he can help it.  He doesn’t want to give it a permanent HDMI, he’s always getting it back out of a closet resentfully when something comes out.  So, if he’s breaking quarantine for some reason, it’s gotta be big.

When I wrote the paragraph before this one, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it justice in the way Gabriel can because our perceptions are calibrated differently.  But now I think it might just be a straight up “dancing about architecture” thing.  I don’t want to dance about architecture.  You need to look at it, and optimally, you need to play the first ten minutes.  But there are a couple choices that are very interesting here that I’d like to highlight.

The first is that I have yet to see anything really like a “trash mob.”  Typically in a Metroidvania (Gabriel wasn’t familiar with the term, but it’s useful) there are certain types of dudes that you pass by all the time.  Right?  Then you have Bats or Medusa Heads, which I am referring to as specifics but could very easily be considered Classes - enemies with odd movement or high damage that require the active mind.  There isn’t any creature here, even the dumbest, purple urchin thing, that doesn’t require my attention.  Either because of high damage or because their attack pattern is clever, I can’t ignore them.  That’s an interesting choice in a game where re-traversal is so core.  I get instakilled walking to the Ori equivalent of the corner store all the fucking time.

The second item - and more are materializing in my mind as I write this - is that you can save basically anywhere.  That’s also nice in a game of this type.  But it’s only nice on the surface and is in fact way fucking hardcore.  Because if you don’t remember to save, you’re going to be doing a lot of stuff a lot of times, precision platforming to grab shiny bits, tough ass dudes, all of it.  Putting that on the player actually reinforces the danger.  There are also going to be times and places that you can’t save, because the place you’re standing doesn’t allow it or because you don’t have the energy, and that’s when the compulsion to press your luck in an environment where the creatures I just described hold sway begins to mechanically stretch your human resolve like a taffy puller.  The game looks super cute.  But it hates youuuuuu.


Gabe / on Thu, Mar 12 2015 at 9:13 am

Check out these games!

I usually try and pick up a new game or two at PAX and I grabbed some good ones at East.


This game is fantastic. You play as an apprentice alchemist trying to impress your master. There is a center play area with potion cards that each player is attempting to make. On your turn you will select a component card to “transmute”. This will grant you a couple elements (colored gems) that then get placed in your cauldron which is just a section on your player card. On your turn you can also “pour” which means you take a single element from your cauldron and place it in your “vial”. Once the contents of your vial match those required for a particular potion you can make it. You take the potion card, move all the elements from your vial to the card and place it in front of you. The winner of the game is the person at the end with the most elements on potion cards. Each little element is essentially a victory point.

The really interesting bit is that you can then drink your potions if you want. Taking a drink means removing one element from the card and then applying its effect. Potions let you attack other players, take extra turns, and tons of other stuff. Each time you take a swig though you are essentially removing one of your victory points. This makes for some really fun decisions as players say fuck it to victory points and start drinking all their shit just to mess with everyone else. 

In addition to all that you also get a hand of cards that you can play on your turn. You can kick over other players cauldrons, make them spill their vials, and just generally be an asshole. The game is a blast and it’s great for kids too. I highly recommend this one if you like “screw your friends” games.

Krosmaster Junior

This is a simplified version of the normal Krosmaster game. It’s designed for kids 7 and up it says. Essentially it works as a stand alone tutorial that teaches you how to play the full version of the game bit by bit. It comes with four figures and each one has an adventure book that will guide you through the game. Each “adventure” takes between five and ten minutes and will teach you one or two key parts of the game. You start off just learning how movement works, then they add a little bit more with each adventure. The idea is that by the end of the adventure book you should be able to transition to the full game.

Just like the real thing, this version is beautiful and fun. If you have kids who are drawn in by the figures but are not quite ready for the complexity of Krosmaster this is a great way to get them started.

I also picked up Ori and the Blind Forest yesterday. I really think this game is something special. I don’t want to go into too much detail here because I’d rather you all just go experience it for yourselves. The visuals are stunning, the music is brilliant and it’s a damn good platform game. Just go get it.

Finally here are some high res, no text panels from yesterday’s strip. Thanks again to Steve Hamaker for his incredible colors on this project.

-Gabe out

Tycho / on Wed, Mar 11 2015 at 11:11 am

Part Three of The Judging Wood is now available, with a lush cameo prowling over from the other Daughters project, “The Tithe.”  We are the luckiest fans of this setting, I think.

I have a hard time with my role here sometimes.  Part of the problem is that what I think that role should be moves, but all my interpersonal mechanisms are based on the old spec.  Plus, in the manner of an RPG, there are certain “targets” that require different approaches.  I’ll tell you what I mean.

Making anything is hard.  Well, except enemies.  I have a lot of points invested in Make Enemies.  But committing yourself to draw form from the fucking void can make you very fragile at first.  Your energy is elsewhere.  So, I need to assess where you are at when you ask me to listen to your band.  Or play your tabletop game, which is probably more appropriate to the weekend I just had.  When you decant yourself like this it can make you thin, like a Christmas bulb.  Some people need to know that there is a part of the universe that is not bent toward their annihilation.

I can provide this service.

Now.  What you realize eventually is that, once this process is underway, it’s like siphoning gas with your mouth.  Eventually you redirect that flow, you don’t just sit there drinking gasoline.  I can sense when a person has gotten to this part.  What I have determined in the last couple years is that I can have a different conversation with that organism, and what’s more, I think it might be my responsibility to do so.  I talked about how hard it is for me to “harm” imaginary characters, and I find giving people functional criticism hard in the same way.  But I have seen and experienced hundreds and hundreds of systems at this point, released ones and primordial ones, good ones and bad ones, and I actually do have something to say to someone whose intention is to contribute to that body.  The fear of turning them away from it altogether, of kicking a dreamer awake, can’t be more real to me than offering material assistance if I can.  I played good stuff this weekend, some of it could be better, and this time around I chose to offer a Dark Menu of relative brutality.  I’m honored to have been asked, and I pray that any bleeding stopped shortly after the incision.


Gabe / on Mon, Mar 9 2015 at 8:38 am

Monday Sketchdump

We just wrapped up another PAX and I celebrated by sleeping until almost noon. I always have a great time at these shows but this one in particular was great. This year’s Acquisitions Inc. will go down as one of my favorites. We had a few thousand people watching live in the audience and then another 15 thousand folks watching at home via Twitch. I cannot believe this is my job! 

If you missed it you can watch the entire show right here.

The rest of the show was awesome too. The Thornwatch panel was the largest we’ve done yet with a packed theater. The play tests that I was so worried about also went incredibly well. There were a few issues with rules and we found some stuff we need to word better but everyone had a great time. Our spirit animal Mike Selinker dropped some wisdom on us before we left for the show. He said “remember, if they had fun, they didn’t play the game wrong”. With that in mind I would describe the weekend as a huge success for Thornwatch.

It was a busy week and I didn’t have much time to sketch but I do have some stuff to show you. First of all I’ve got the sketches from today’s comic strip:

Then I also have a sketch that I actually did on stage during the make a strip panel. Normally I have barley enough time to knock out a comic strip but this time was different. I think all my sketching has really helped because I finished the comic in about half the time. After that was done I just started sketching Trill:

If you missed it you can watch the entire Make a Strip panel right here thanks again to Twitch.

I’ve seen some awesome Trill fan art already popping up on Twitter and tons of folks came up to me at the show to express their love for the Eyrewood. I’ve also seen a handful of comments lamenting another extended journey into the world of the Daughters and the Lookouts. If you don’t like these little side stories I apologize, but know that they are integral in Tycho and I maintaining our sanity. We’ve been drawing Penny Arcade for 16 years now and I think the reason we’ve been able to keep going is because we take breaks for these side stories.

PAX is my constant reminder that the gaming community is actually full of cool people who just love games and want to hang out and have fun. When the internet bullshit gets to be too much and I start to think it’s all going to shit I go to PAX and see the actual gaming community instead of simply seeing the loudest voices online and I am reinvigorated. These are the people we make PAX for, that we make Penny Arcade for. They are the vast silent majority and they are the ones that remind me why I am still so proud to be a gamer.

-Gabe out

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