Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Epic Proxies for 40K

(Image:  An Unending Crusade by 

I've use to see Epic 40K figures in game stores for years.  Even though I love sci-fi gaming and micro-scale figures, I never bought the rules, or any of the miniatures.

Despite being classified as 6mm, the figures always looked much bigger than the miniatures from other manufacturers, like GHQ, C in C and Ground Zero Games.

Now that I've been dabbling in WH40K, I almost regret not purchasing any Epic figures, especially since it is no longer published and supported by Games Workshop.

This is where proxies come in handy.  That is, different figures used in place of the originals.  Although according to this WH40K forum, a proxy is a temporary measure, where a "counts as," (CA) is permanent.

In my case, I'm using M-113 armored personnel carriers (APCs) and M-113 medium reconnaissance vehicles (MRVs), to count as Rhinos and Predators used primarily by the Space Marines.

Starting with six M-113s and five MRVs, I divided them up to match the color schemes of my other sci-fi micro miniatures.

Staged Photos

I used my terrain board and a backdrop to illustrate these new figures, and provided some examples of well-known Space Marine Chapters:

The White Scars make a quick strike against a suspected enemy position. 

The Adepta Sororitas searching for heretics. 

Space Wolves on the prowl. 

Blood Angel Predator on patrol. 

Dark Angel Predator  covering the same ground. 

Of course, there are the master craftsmen, like this guy...

(Image from Felix's Miniatures Gallery)

...or serious collectors, like this...

(Image from Steve Milford's Hobby Blog

...along with other "eye candy" you can find on the internet. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Movie Review: 13 Going on 30

I haven't seen a made-for-the-big-screen romantic comedy in years.  For the past few months, any time we're trying to decide what to watch for an evening in, my wife would suggest 13 Going on 30 (IMDB)  I, of course would recommend something else, and we'd watch that.

This worked--until I ran out of alternatives. 

We finally watched the movie shortly before the Holiday Season and I'm glad we did.

While not a Christmas movie, 13 Going on 30 (Wikipedia) is an endearing, but cautionary tale, of wish-fulfillment. 

Jenna Rink is humiliated by a pack of popular girls at her 13th birthday party, and she wishes to be "thirty, flirty and thriving."  She wakes up to find her life has been fast-forwarded 17 years, and she has everything she's ever dreamed of.

Or so it would seem.

But, as everyone could probably guess, things aren't what they appear to be.  Because Jenna has no knowledge of the intervening years, she's slow to realize her life isn't what she appears to be.  She isn't who she thinks she is.  Jenna is no longer the adorable girl-next-door, but a vindictive, avaricious, "witch." 

She tries to make things right, and even win back the boy-next-door (when they were 13)--and fails on all counts.

When all seems lost, she's granted another wish, this time to be 13 again.  She wakes up in the midst of her 13th birthday party and gets to a do-over.

While I've know of Jennifer Garner and the show Alias, but I've never actually seen either the actress or the show.  I thought Miss Garner did a charming job of portraying a 13 year-old in a 30 year old body. 

I give this movie a 4-star rating.  In fact, I liked it better than Big, to which it's compared to. While 13 Going on 30 is predictable, it's a sweet 98-minute experience for you, your partner and your family--if your children are 13 years, or older.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

College Humor Presents: The Six Christmas Movies You Live Through

While College Humor's humor tends to be risque and guy-centric, some of their videos have their endearing moments, like this one.

Best wishes to you in whatever "Christmas Movie" you're currently living through.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: How to Make Webcomics

My quest to change the format of my webcomic, Breakout from Bongolaan has begun.

A couple months ago, I attended the How To Be A Nerd For A Living panel discussion at Geek Girl Con.  Afterwards, I had a nice and informative chat with Rebecca Hicks (author of Little Vampires) about formatting webcomics.

She recommended the book How to Make Webcomics.

I took her up on her advice, ordered the book and have finally finished it.

How to Make Webcomics is a collaborative how-to manual written by four webcartoonists--

--Brad Guigar, author of Evil Inc. and editor-in-chief of;

--Dave Kellett, author of Sheldon;

--Scott Kurtz, author of pVp; and

--Kris Straub, author of Starslip.

I found How to Make Webcomics informative and entertaining, which made it enjoyable to read.  Especially since the term "enjoyable" is something I normally don't associate with how-to manuals.

The book is divided into 13 chapters covering:  Your webcomic, your characters, formatting, image preparation, writing, website design, branding & building, interacting with audiences, monetizing your webcomic, books (print versions of your webcomic), conventions, next steps (once your webcomic is up & running), and final thoughts (on making your webcomic work).

Past the final chapter is a section on Scott Kurtz's studio, to illustrate what a successful webcartoonist's work area looks like.  The Additional Resources section contains two pages of reference material listed under the sub-categories of:  Cartooning, artistic inspiration, web design and maintenance, and small business.

Even though I've been writing Breakout from Bongolaan, at glacial speed, since 2008, I still consider myself a newbie when it comes to webcomics.  Probably because Breakout's blog-style format isn't like typical webcomics.

So reading How to Make Webcomics was fun and new to me, and therefore easy for me to give it a 5-star rating.  The book has earned a 4.4 out of 5-star rating on Amazon.  An overwhelming number of reviewers loved the book (39 x 5-stars, 9 x 4-stars).

Five raters, some claiming to be experienced in business or art, thought How to Make Webcomics was okay (3-star ratings), but consider various aspects of the book to be vague.  Another feels this was too focused on 4-panel humor strips.

The 2-star rater doesn't think webcomics to be true art forms and being self published means one isn't a serious writer.

Of the 2 x 1-star ratings, one can be considered a throw-away.  Mr. Throw-away claims he can't rate the book because he gave it to his brother.  This begs the question:  Why post anything at all?

There are some who try to torpedo a book's rating with a bad review.  The lower a book's rating becomes, the less visibility it gets, based on Amazon's algorithms.  (And thereby maybe elevating their own book?).

I certainly don't know what the motivation behind this low rating is, but no other reason makes sense to me.

The second 1-star rating is more extensive and generated four comments, along with 28 out of 47 browsers who found his (her?) review helpful.  In a nutshell he considers the authors' business model to be "...unprofessional and unreliable...," backed up by "...shaky, or non-existent "...key data."  Apparently, this person has also has exchanged some virtual volleys with the authors, and consider them the "...most pugnacious authors since Norman Mailer was throwing punches at cocktail parties."

Now, I'm no sketch artist, and my business acumen equals the square root of zero.  But I love comics, both print and web variety, so I don't care whether they're "true art" or not.

I'm sticking with my 5-star rating. 

I enjoyed the book and didn't think their business advice to be pie-in-the-sky.  Not even a slice.  In fact, the authors warn that if you want to get rich, then find something else to do.  I've heard similar recommendations in all the writing workshops I've attended.  Basically:  Don't quit your day job, until the income from your writing meets, or better yet, exceeds that of your current salary.

In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about webcomics, be sure to save $14.99 (currently $11.18 on Amazon) for a copy of How to Make Webcomics.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Book Reviews: When The Tide Rises

It's been over three years since I read and did a review on a "RCN Series" book by David Drake

I've been focusing on webcomics and graphic novels for so long, I figured I'd better get back into reading a print-only book.

So I decided to see what misadventures Commander Daniel Leary and his signal officer/spy/librarian friend, Adele Mundy, get entangled with in When the Tide Rises (book #6 in the RCN Series).

In this story, David Drake borrowed from Lord Cochrane's exploits while serving in the Chilean Navy.

Leary and his ship, the Princess Cecil, are ordered to the frontier system of Bagaria, which just revolted against Cinnabar's enemy, The Alliance. The purpose of the mission is to relieve pressure from an important star system besieged by Alliance forces--and to get the well-connected and upstart Leary as far away from Cinnabar as possible. 

But Daniel, with the help of his fellow "Sissies" (as the crew of the Princess Cecil call themselves), manage to inject some esprit de corps into the Bagarian "navy," foil a mutiny, uncover treachery among the Bagarian oligarchs, and finally take the fight to the Alliance.

When the Tide Rises has earned an average 4.2 stars out of 5 on (25 x 5-stars and 12 x 4-stars).  Two common themes among the less-than-5-star-raters are: 

1. The characters aren't as fleshed-out as some readers would like them to be.

2. The story arc seems repetitive.  That is:  The hero is given an impossible task (and even expected to fail), but manages to pull off a stunning victory, with awards--and more importantly, prize money--showered upon the heroes.

Yeah, when reading a series of any sort, a certain repetitiveness and character arc flat-lining may creep in.  But I still enjoyed When the Tide Rises and give a 4-star rating.  I still find the age-of-sail method of space travel to be fascinating and well thought out.  I think by not binge-reading this, or any series, may help lessen the feelings of deja vu.

 Since this book is just over the half-way point of a series, my words of caution would be: Read books #1-5 first, before diving into When the Tide Rises

Currently, there are four more books after this one, so as long as most readers enjoy David Drake's work, the RCN Series tide will continue to rise.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Movie Review: Fury

If I had to limit my movie reviews to six words or less, I'd say this about Fury

It lives up to it's trailer

The story follows the crew of a Sherman Tank (an M4A3E8) during the allied offensive into Germany.  (A plot synopsis (with spoilers) can be read here).

If I had only two words to describe the film, they'd be:  Gritty and graphic.

The combat scenes are some of the most realistic--and graphic--I've ever watched in a movie. 

I had a couple quibbles on how the American tanks always seemed to be too bunched up, and about the mad-dash assault on the town, with the tanks in the lead.  But my friend Tim pointed out in an e-mail exchange that; terrain, weapon capabilities, operational imperatives, and inexperience often resulted in actions that were less than "field manual" affairs.

And this is a movie after all.  As is often the case, historical accuracy takes a back seat in favor of what looks good cinematography-wise.  But in Fury's case, it's great cinematography.

The American GI's are portrayed as "rough around the edges," to say the least.  Some are rough naturally, while others become so after "...fighting Germans in North Africa..." and are " fighting Germans in Germany."  The GI's harbor a special hatred for the S.S. (Schutzstaffel), which is understandable given the S.S.'s reputation for brutality.

But not every German is a Nazi Party member.  Fury portrays the Germans as a mixed lot:  From civilians desperate to see the war end, to die-hards, who are willing to kill their own people for not maintaining their loyalty to the crumbling "Thousand Year Reich."

Fury has earned 8 out of 10 stars on IMDb's rating system, and 4 out of 5 on the traditional system. 

I certainly agree with both ratings. 

Fury is a must-see-on-the-big-screen film and will be a must-own DVD, when it comes out.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hill Fort Acquisition

(A front gate view of my new hill fort)

Several months ago, I purchased a set of Dark Ages Welsh figures from my friend Dan.  

This motivated me to raise a warband, so I could compete in this year's SAGA Tournament at Enfilade.  And thus, the contemptible actions legendary exploits of my warlord became known to all who read the The Chronicles of Culhwch y Drewllyd.  

All has been quiet on the Dark Ages front since the sad business valiant stand against the Viking raiders.

Then, a couple weeks ago, Mike posted on NHMGS's Facebook page that he was selling a 28 mm (millimeter)-scaled hill fort.

I thought this would be perfect for Culhwch and his warband, so I put in an immediate offer to buy it.

Since the fort was too big to ship, I met Mike for the first time at a strip mall half-way between our residences.  After getting the hill fort into my Jeep before it rained, we chatting for a bit about gaming, painting, and some mutual gamer friends, before parting company.

With just two days before Thanksgiving, and before I went back to work, I managed to snap some photos:

(A front gate view with Culhwch's entire warband manning the fort)

(A view facing the left wall)

(A view of the rear gate)

(A view facing the right wall)

Now, what to call the place?

Well, since Culhwch is the lord of Biswail Swp Tyno (Dung Heap Dale), I figured his new fort should be similarly named.

Using the University of Wales' English-to-Welsh on-line translator, I came up with two Welsh words for castle:  Caer and castell (or cestyll).  

Yes calling a hill fort a castle will fit-in with Culhwch's delusions of mediocrity.  I'm rather partial to "caer," unless anyone fluent in Welsh has a better suggestion.

So now Culhwch can boast that his fiefdom's new bastion of power is:  

Biswail Swp Caer (Dung Heap Castle). 

(The Biswail Swp Caer's "PR Tapestry")

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Micro-Terraforming 2/3rds Complete

(Anyone remember this at "American Eagles," Tacoma, WA?)

I've resumed a project I started--gads!--four years ago.

Back then, my friend Adrian gave me a great deal on the micro scale terrain board.  He acquired it from a silent auction when the game store American Eagles went out of business.  Apparently, this board was a fixture in the store's upstairs game room for as long as most gamers remember.

The board is divided into six sections.  Just before my divorce from my second ex-wife, I managed to finish "terraforming" the first two sections.

After the divorce, I moved, met my new bride, and then moved again.  The terrain board moved with me and now resides in the backyard shed.  In the interim years I didn't have the space in my interim house to do anything constructive with any part of the board.

Finally, this year in the late spring, I began work on the two middle sections, Boards # 3 &  4.  I finished the flocking just before our first cold snap.  Now all I have to do is cut out some appropriate cloth to make "river fillers" in case I want to set up a game without a waterway running through it.

Here's the results so far:

(A full view of Board #3)

I painted and flocked Boards # 3 & 4 in the same "alpine valley scheme" as I did the first two boards.  

(A close-up of the river on Board #3)

Before I started I had to obtain more flocking material. 

(Board #3's cross roads)

This set me on a quest.  When I first started this project, I purchased a bunch of terrain stuff from The Game Matrix.

(A full view of Board #4)

However, they no longer carry the flocking in same brand, nor in the bulk quantity I needed.  

(The plains of Board #4)

The cashier on-duty was very helpful and recommended Hobby Lobby.  But during my phone call to them, I was referred to Tacoma Trains & Hobbies.  

(Board #4's snowy ridge line)

Fortunately this was the last leg of my local voyage of discovery.  Not only did I find a new hobby store, but I bought the flocking I needed, along with additional terrain material as well.  (Gamers always walk out of a game store with more than they intended to buy--or even budget for).

During these winter months, I'll finish cutting out cloth, "river filler" pieces, in the warmth of my home.  My "cunning plan" then, is to resume work on the final boards when Spring returns to the Pacific Northwest.

Board #6 contains the large mountain piece and promises to be the most challenging terraforming project yet.  
Hopefully, it won't take another four years to finish, especially since I have have plenty of other unfinished projects--like painting figures...

(An aerial view of a German armored car section)
(A ground's-eye view of German armored cars)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Webcomic Chapter 9 Posted

Breakout from Bongolaan's Chapter 9 is available for viewing (pages 243-273).

While looking for a suitable Soundtrack Interlude for this chapter, I stumbled across the impressive music from Two Steps from Hell.

I felt their song Juggernaut best expresses the relentless advance of the battle droids.

As I start my work on Chapter 10, I'll be exploring new format options for this webcomic.  I've been getting the feeling that using a blog format for this webcomic is becoming unwieldy, if it isn't already.

Normally, webcomics are formatted like Christopher Mills and Gene Gonzales' Perils on Planet X, with the most recent page displayed and an archive section, along with a cast of characters and other interesting side-sections.

I'd like to reformat Breakout from Bongolaan in this way, but I want to do it right--and only once.  So for now, I'll be researching webcomic set-ups and templates.

Webcomic writers usually post 1-3 new pages per week.  Due to the nature of my job, with its rotating shift, I won't  be able to duplicate this kind of schedule.  I'd rather continue my updates in chapter-sized chunks.

Your patience is appreciated and I hope you enjoy the story.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Breakout from Bongolaan Book Trailer II

For the past several weeks I've been working on Chapter 9 of my webcomic Breakout from Bongolaan, which I hope to post within the next couple of weeks.

During this time I also took a look at Breakout from Bongolaan's "book trailer," and decided some renovation was in order.

After spending more time tweaking it than I originally planned to, I posted it on my YouTube Channel.

Thank you for watching.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Review: Alan Moore's Writing for Comics

I can't recall reading stories by Alan Moore, one of the leading writers in the comic book industry. 

So I must confess that I picked up his 48-page booklet, Writing for Comics, because it was an inexpensive addition to my order. 

Hey, I've spent $5.95 on worse things. 

It's not that I think I wasted my money--but the booklet didn't exactly wow me either.  I guess my review will fit in with the eight other 3-star ratings other readers gave it.

The chapter titles make it sound like the aspiring comic book writer will be treated to detailed instructions on how to create a successful comic.  Instead, what you get are generic narratives that go off on tangents about the tepid state of the comic book industry. 

Chapter Four is an exception.  In this section, Alan Moore discusses at-length how he fit a Superman story into a 40 page comic. 

But then there's the Afterwards, written 18 years after the original articles.  This parting shot pretty much says:  Forget-everything-I-wrote-earlier-on-this-subject-and-write-whatever-you-want-any-way-you-want.


Anyway, the cover art, along with the 22 black and white illustrations by Jacen Burrows, are top-notch and eye-catching.  Unfortunately, they're not enough in quantity to elevate the booklet--originally articles published in a British fanzine--from decent to great.

Keep in mind, my feelings about Writing for Comic is in the minority.  Out of the 42 other reviewers commenting on, 28 of them rate the booklet 4-stars or higher.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Author Appearance: Patricia Cornwell

If you're a fan of crime fiction in general, and Patricia Cornwell in particular, and you happen to be in the Seattle area tomorrow (Friday, 14 November), then you're in luck.

She'll be appearing at the University Bookstore to give a reading from her latest book, Flesh and Blood, followed by a book signing afterwards.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

New Title Page for Webcomic

After attending the How to Be A Nerd for a Living panel discussion at last month's GeekGirlCon, and my chat with Rebecca Hicks about webcomics, I'm exploring the idea of changing Breakout from Bongolaan's format.  

While I like Blogspot/Blogger, I think this template is becoming too unwieldy for a "space opera-sized" story of 242 pages--and counting.  

At this point I'm in the Research Phase, because I want any changes I make to be long lasting.

In the meantime, I'm making some minor improvements, like replacing the old title page with a better picture and font.  Since I have a stock of better pictures, another improvement I'm working on is revamping Breakout from Bongolaan's webcomic trailer.

These adjustments are being made while I continue working on the story itself.  Right now I'm in the process of arranging photos for Chapter 9.

More improvements and content to follow, so stay tuned! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book Review--Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight

Last year, I acquired a taste for noir fiction after reading The Maltese Falcon, The Tough Guys and Femme Noir--The Dark City Diaries.  Then everal months ago, I stumbled across Michael Reaves' Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight at a book store and was intrigued enough to buy it.  I finally took it down from my bookshelf and read it.

This tale takes place shortly after Palpatine's coup and the Great Jedi Purge.  One of the survivors, Jax Pavan, has been eking out a living among the denizens of Coruscant's underworld.  That is, until a dying wish from his former Jedi Master sends him on an urban quest to aid the budding rebellion against the new Galactic Empire.

The story involves a MacGuffin that Rebellion leaders and various crime bosses are scrambling to find.  Meanwhile, apparently above it all, Darth Vader has taken an interest in finding Jax Pavan.

I enjoyed reading the book, the first in a trilogy, but give it a solid 3-stars, instead of the average 4-star rating on  Out of the 49 reviews so far, 37 readers gave Jedi Twilight either four, or five star ratings. 

The less-than-four-star raters complained about continuity glitches, a boring plot, wordiness in the narrative and stilted dialogue.  I didn't notice any of these specific problems--maybe because I do all my leisure reading while on a cardio machine, so I'm always appreciative of the diversion.

Seriously though, I thought Jedi Twilight was a noble endeavor to create a "Star Wars noir," but it fell short in evoking a noir mood.  I don't think this is entirely the author's fault.  Michael Reaves attempted to meld a noir story into the most famous space opera in science fiction.  And despite the detailed descriptions of Imperial Capital's crumbling foundation, the space opera mood prevailed.

Jedi Twilight also reminded me of what I like and dislike about reading a novel series based on movies and/or TV shows.  (I read a lot of Star Trek novels during my tween and teen years, but then only a handful of Star Wars books). 

There are a couple things I like about stories set in pre-established worlds.

First, we're introduced to new characters beyond what we see on the big or small screen. 

And second, there's a lot less exposition in a familiar series.  That is, the author doesn't have to explain what a Wookie, stormtrooper, Klingon, Romulan, or whatever are.  On the flip side though, the target audience for such books are the fans, or at least folks who are familiar with the original movies/TV shows.  Anyone unfamiliar with the setting could feel lost faster than the Millennium Falcon could make the Kessel Run.

Which brings me to what I don't care about expanded universe stories.

First, there's redundant references to the original show.  I swear every Star Wars book I read involving Han Solo and Princess Leia, they'd allude to their I love you/I know moment in every story.  It was an awkward scene to begin with in an otherwise great movie.  Some of us would like to issue a cease and desist order against beating dead tauntauns.

Even if the story isn't centered around one of the main characters in the original works, there seems to be a requirement that one of them has to be involved, even if only in a Six Degrees of Separation sort of way. In Jedi Twilight, Darth Vader's hunt for Jax Pavan is what keeps the tale firmly within the space opera realm.

I admit, these are my personal biases.  Other readers may feel differently. 

But biases aside, I enjoyed Jedi Twilight enough that I may consider picking up the sequels Street of Shadows and Patterns of Force

(Image from:  Wookiepedia)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

GeekGirlCon 2014 Panel Discussion #4: Ethics in Comics

(Image:  GGC Logo)
We now come to the last panel discussion I attended at this year's GeekGirlCon (GGC).  
Ethics in Comics was hosted by:
While the term ethics is often described as "moral principles that govern a person's or group's behavior," Reece referred to ethics as "the space between people."
That the differences between individuals will get in the way of respect.
(Image:  Reece, Rebeca, Tanya and Walter)
Comics are escapist entertainment, but there are few stories of heroines for little girls.

Which leads to what the panelists refer to as the Twelve Questions of Ethics, the first one being the concept of "skin."

The skinny on skin was led by Rebeca--

--Women's clothing looks like it's painted on.
--A female superhero's powers are related to her femininity.  Power Girl and Wonder Woman are prime examples of this...

(Image by James Denton)
(Image by Dan Oliveira)
--Women are drawn in poses that highlight the contours of their body, even when in combat.
--The orientation of a woman's image is based on the "male gaze." 
In case you're wondering, here's a reminder of a proper gaze when encountering women cosplayers at conventions, like GGC:
(Image by Alexas Rosa)
Now let's turn our gaze back to the Twelve Questions of Ethics, moving on to #2, the market. 

Walter, led the discussion on this--

--Most authentic are is like lightning, that is, it's fleeting and people try to tap into it.
--People will consume products, even art for the namesake, or brand loyalty.
--The market panders to an audience.
--However, artists can't make a living as artists without the market.
--Therefore, one must find a balance between creating art that's authentic, and art that's marketable.

Then the discussion veered off a bit into some tangential, but relevant subjects.  While we didn't get to the other 10 Questions of Ethics, here are snippets, which I'm sure relate to them--

--We tell stories to tell us who we are.
--Readers become invested in stories because they see a little of themselves in it.
--Pandering makes an audience feel betrayed.
--Try to find more than a single story for a character, otherwise you could be stereotyping.
--Art gets through people's psychological and emotional defenses.
--Art becomes a legacy that pushes the boundary of established perimeters.
--Art can assign values to life.
--You can't talk about an issue unless you acknowledge, or display the issue.
--When people become a symbol for a cause, then they stop being a person, even when they're a fictional character.  (Apparently, Batwoman caused a stir for being a lesbian who proposed marriage to her partner, only to have DC Comics put the kibosh on the wedding).

There was only time for a couple of questions at the end.

The first woman asked how the panelists could talk about race relations, when they're all Caucasian.  She was also irked that one of the panelists made a joke which she thought was sexist.  (I couldn't remember the joke/comment).

The panelist apologized and said the topic of ethics is something that is in a constant state of trying to improve itself.

Reece had a good response, in that as artists there will be people who will love your work, while there will be others who will hate it.  The question is:  What ethical choices will you make on what you create and can you live with those choices?

The second woman was also irked and asked:  But what if a woman artist wants to portray heroines in a sexy, alluring manner?  Not to mention the women cosplayers who dress this way.  She felt women "couldn't win" the Ethics Wars.

Before the panel could come up with an answer we ran out of time.

As you can see, we didn't solve any issues, such as racism or sexism in comics, within 50 minutes.  We probably couldn't if we were given 50 years.  But most the panelist have hosted ethical discussions in the past and plan on continuing their work.

This ends my GGC coverage.  I hope to make next year's con.  See you then!

Friday, October 24, 2014

GeekGirlCon 2014 Panel Discussion #3: If You Can Write, You Can Make Games

(GGC Logo)
Text adventures, or interacive fiction "...are one of the oldest types of computer games..." that are still being played. 
Jacqueline Ashwell's one-woman panel discussion during GeekGirlCon demonstrated that (and borrowing from her title) "if you can write, you can make games."
(Image:  Jacqueline Ashwell)
This is thanks, in a large part, to programming languages becoming more accessible.

Are you going to concoct an AAA+ game single-handedly?

No, because the "Gold Standard" studios have multiple teams writing code for their games.

But you can write a computer/text version of Choose Your Own Adventure.  You can find thousands of such games on Interactive Fiction Database

One of the simplest programs is Twine.  Since we only had 50 minutes, Jacqueline presented a short Twine game she created for her GGC, Walk in the Park. 

For more detailed instructions on creating a Twine game, see Auntie Pixelante

Other "Twine-like" code languages are available, such as:  Inkle, Choice Script and Lindum.  Then there's languages like:  Adrift, Quest, Hugo and JADS.

While these games are narrative in nature, as you become more skilled, you can incorporate images and music.  However, with Twine at least, players can't save their games.

If you're wondering who will play your game, that depends on how thoroughly its been beta tested.


--Plan more time than you originally thought you'd need to develop the game.
--Try to cover all the choices a player could make.
--Get friends to check it out.

Some additional resources available that can help get you started or improve your game:

Jacqueline Ashwell's website

The Interactive Fiction Forum

You can even enter your game in any of these contests:


The Interactive Fiction Competition

Spring Thing

The XYZZY Awards

and Shuffle Comp

Good luck!

(Image by Robinson Wheeler)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

GeekGirlCon 2014 Panel Discussion #2: How to Be A Nerd for a Living

(GGC Logo)

My last GeekGirlCon blogpost dealt with getting a job with a gaming studio.  The second panel discussion, How to Be a "Nerd for a Living," was an interview with the five panelists on how they succeeded in the nerdy careers.

The panelists who made their nerdy dreams come true were:

Heidi Gaertner, Technology Director at Big Fish Games.
Jamie Cordero, CEO and "Glitter Jedi" at Espionage Cosmetics.
Jina Heaverly, Vice President and General Manager of PC, Mac and Cloud for Big Fish Games. 
Rebecca Hicks, Creator and Illustrator for the webcomic Little Vampires.
Susan Eisenberg, voice-over actress, best known as Wonder Woman.
Wendy Buske, Panel Moderator, Co-Founder and Marketing Director for Nerd For A Living.

(Image from left to right:  Heidi, Rebecca, Jamie, Jina and Susan, with Wendy at the podium)
Since there was only 50 minutes to discuss the panelists' career paths, the session focused on two main questions. 

How did you get started (in your nerd career)? 

I studied acting, but felt better in front of a microphone than a camera.
I graduated with a finance degree, but didn't want to be an accountant.
I went to school as a professional make-up artist.
I loved comics and literature, then became a fan of comic strips and webcomics.  I self published a comic book in 2006.
I studied architecture in college, but diverted to engineering.  I've been in the gaming industry since 1996.

Some notable quotes from this question:

"No experience is wasted"--Rebecca.
"I got fired from every crappy retail job I had"--Jaimie.
"Retail is worse than fetching coffee for people"--Jamie.
"If your job is close to what you want to do in Life, you're probably in a good spot"--Heidi.

How do you get a nerd-type job?
Take classes in the subjects you are interested in.
There are voice-over jobs available in every city.  Get a demo tape and an agent.
The Customer Service Department is a good foot-in-the-door position.
Shadow someone.  There's a high up-front cost to being a make-up artist--$10,000 for your kit.
The barrier for entry into webcomics is very low.  

Notable quote

"Follow your heart, but take your brain with you"--Jaimie

Notable Recommendation

Personal Notes and Observations

Sometime after the panel discussion I found Rebecca's booth and sought her advice on webcomics.  
I'm concerned that my main webcomic, Breakout from Bongolaan, is becoming unwieldy using Blogspot's template--if it isn't already.  Rebecca and her husband recommended a Word Press plug-in by Phil Hester called Comic Press, which I think means this product.

Anyway, I plan on doing a bit more research before I change Breakout from Bongolaan's format.  But my chat with Rebecca Hicks made the trip to GeekGirlCon totally worth my while.

By the way, I didn't get a good picture of Susan Eisenberg, because a cosplayer's Galactus helmet was in the way.

So here's another photo of the panel with a bit of fanboy fawning thrown in: