I started a lot of things four years ago...
I started a lot of things four years ago, not the least of which was creating this Newgrounds account. I started community college four years ago right out of high school because my guidance counselor foolishly told me that "animation wasn't a real major" where now I'm attending SCAD as a Junior in the Animation Major. I decided to take art seriously four years ago and attended my first art class where I met my now college-roommate Kevin who made me realize I didn't have to live with people I don't like. I started making games four years ago, in the littlest of ways, after shouting at a friend of a friend from a mountain top that his game was ugly and when he asked if I could do better I said an unwavering yet inaccurate "YES". Now we work together almost every day on making games and After Effects animations/titlecards/scripts. Four years ago I began what would be my final Let's Play series, following the reverse footsteps of Egoraptor and OneyNG who instead left animation for YouTube gameplay videos. Way back in time(and yet surprisingly four years ago) I attended my first PAX East where I met online friends for the first time, discovered my new love for cons and cosplay and indie game showcases and panels where I'd now attend in a somewhat professional capacity as an indie dev myself and filming interviews with my peers between constant panel-hopping with my best friends.
Four years ago I decided I was okay with the idea of being alone the rest of my life if it had to come to that: I lost a baker's dozen of my closest friends in my senior year of high school and to this day no one has told me why. I saw a trend of losing a friend after being together for only a year. Through much of my life and thought that that was my discouragingly tiny limit. Four years ago I broke my own heart by pushing a girl away with the twisted thought that it was the only way I could make sure she was happy; spend the rest of her life without me in it. Today I'm sitting at the airport, waiting for a plane, on my way to start another semester in Savannah, I'm going to be picked up by an incredibly supportive girlfriend who I tricked into making a Newgrounds account(@elliephunt). I've been opposed to dating anyone for a long time, I'm a lazy person and maintaining a relationship felt unnecessary and difficult and scary(without factoring in previous experience), but I caved and she was the one that made me and she makes it all so easy. We properly met in the Spring during our 2D Animation Principles class, we both spent the most time in the studio when compared to anyone else in any of the classes. We spent consistently 8-12 hours a day together, every day, for eight weeks and I wasn't sick of her for a second. I guess she felt the same because shortly after she confessed to me and like everybody else before her I rejected her. Incidentally and without even trying we talked every single day that summer and when we reunited I decided to ask her out and she had her moment to reject me... eight times. Anyway happy ending, we're together now(as of yesterday my longest romantic relationship) and will be physically in just a couple hours(I'm at the airport, remember).
When I say four years ago I pretty much mean sometime in late 2015 or early 2016 but you get the idea. Four years ago I made a Newgrounds account after a childhood of just watching the movies and playing the games on here. I've made friends, I've made content, and this year I was astounded to be invited to Pico Day. It's funny, I was probably one of the first invited when @ivanalmighty was still roughly planning out the revival of the legendary-status event, he shot me a PM about whether or not I'd be in town in May 2019 back in November 2018, but I said I'd be in school so I'd probably have to miss out on the fun and accidentally got myself stricken from the list marked as "not coming". Luckily after @ninjamuffin99 and @cymbourine taunted me enough with their own invites they were able to get me back on the list. The party and the whole trip was wild, squeezing it between animation assignments I had to hand in, on paper, the day after I got back. And to show my appreciation for Cameron's friendship and cheer up the guy(since he couldn't attend) I hit up Ivan to bring along an extra tankman figure so I could get the whole gang to sign it and say that we missed him at the event when he couldn't show up(apparently he loves that thing or something, nerd). It was really cool seeing people add to it while at the sketchbook sharing table, just out of view of the livestream webcam(huehuehue). I could go on for pages about Pico Day(except Newgrounds uses infinite scrolling so I literally can't), but in summation every 30 seconds something incredibly memorable happened and the people I was privileged enough to interact and friends I got to meet in person were/are/will be big influences on my life and work in some way. Not the grandest moment, but I got to meet @brewster whose student film “Crust” was the reason I decided to go to school for animation. Also @TomFulp handed me a beer(I don't drink), thanks to @goodboyethan goading him, that tasted like chicken francaise.
Let's get on with this year...
Four years has been crazy, but having just read ninjamuffin's yearly review(which I think started around the same time as mine, new era NG bois) I might as well glide through my 2019 super-quick and go on, probably, not as long as all my previous yearly wrap-ups. Plane's taking off so I'll take a nap(running on 4 hours of sleep) with a podcast tucked away in my ear and jot down the rest before I go to bed.
The year began riding the Newgrounds Family high off the 2018 Christmas ADVENTure which then led to my new semester back in Savannah and juggling my time working on cool new after effects work and school. Just as I was settling in one of my roommates, Mike, proposed I join their team for the Global Game Jam which sounded pretty fun, but I wanted to take a backseat on the project(a passive member with little responsibility) and made that very clear. A few days later I'm waking up from a well deserved nap following a back-to-back all-nighter and my roommate is shouting that he got the start time wrong for the event and we were two hours behind everyone else(4 hours of sleep). I slid out of bed with some sticky notes in hand end up leading the project, directing everyone's input in a cohesive way and ended up staying up for another 48 hours, followed by 4 more hours of sleep before two additional all-nighters cleaning up the code and bugtesting A Happy Home for submission on NG. This unintentional involvement was partly due to my random obsessive nature and the fact I was the only member of the 5 man team that had completed ANY form of video game. We had two game design majors, a sound design major, and two of us in animation yet I was the only one who knew even a lick of programming. I love teaching, it's thrilling to me, so I spent most of my time directing and teaching two of the projects members how to code from nothing. I chose to use Construct 3 because the license was free for the event, the game aesthetics was decided to be pixel art(which it handles really well) and it'd be easier to pick up for newbies so I wouldn't be totally alone in programming. Mason handled getting all the sound working, Kelly pumped out crazy-accurate-to-life sound effect by pushing magic buttons on his keyboard and using synths while Joe and I coded gameplay and all the visuals in that Mike would be creating. We sat in a row of 5 with my hands outstretched like a long-armed parent making sure they were getting the work done. All in all the game was finished, it ran pretty well and some people got the point(the slow text scroll is meant to frustrate you and eat up your limited time per attempt) and some didn't. Play it yourself if you like games like Minit(recently got around to trying that game and some of the time-waster mechanics are similar to what we used to drive gameplay).
Sometime in February I received an email from someone at Nintendo about publishing The Story Goes On on Switch. Somehow i managed to sneak us onto the platform and surprising all of us at Scarecrow Arts, we got listed as a Nintendo Switch Publisher. This wasn't a one time gig, we could now publish any of our games onto Switch with full access to the backend(thanks to Sandra, my mysterious contact at Nintendo I still believe made a mistake). Receiving this new power-up we chose to self-publish the game on Switch, buy devkits with the money we earned from initial launch and the AE Templates we created. I started bullshitting around at first, getting used to working on porting to the devkit by trying to put Monster Mashing on Switch. It was a neat little test project that Cam was excited to assist me with for that sweet sweet knowledge and look behind the curtain. Plus he was in an editing mood with that game due to our Valentine's Day release that just happened on Nutaku(NSFW). Hooray, my first horny game to be sold in digital stores. It took awhile for the three of us working on that game to get paid via Nutaku and Itch sales due to huge publisher cuts and a payout minimum of $500 USD, but I can't complain about a passive income we were able to split every few months. Maybe would've gotten a lot more if Steam hadn't banned us, you can read more about it on Cam's old newspost.
Some time later Spring Break came along and I crashed at my friend's house in town while he was out of state, it was perfectly quiet for me to get some work done on several projects including the ChutneyGlaze finale(which is still not out yet). It was a 5 minute walk to Kroger and I spent the 10 days cooking food while drawing in the kitchen and listening to banging tunes by No More Kings and Weezer via the home sound system. A big reason I spent the week like this was because I didn't have $300 to spend with some friends who were going to Disney World, however I did end up spending that money anyway on an uber ride to the dentist an hour away, the co-pay, and the uber ride back to the house because I chipped my front tooth on a piece of lightly toasted toast slathered in strawberry jam on a date I didn't even know was a date(she laughed at me when it happened, bad date). Despite that I had a good break and invited a couple friends over for a mac'n'cheese night(the only thing I could eat in the meantime) for some much needed social interaction in the middle of my work-filled isolation. Now that Spring Break was over I had to email all of the professors teaching my new classes in the third semester why I would be missing their classes within the first week to instead attend PAX East!
So PAX came along and did a few interesting things, first of all I did another round of Dev Talks interviews with fellow indies(probably won't be doing it again this year) and got to meet up with @ryanstorm and @heyopc for some pizza and short tour of Boston before ending the night at a Mega64 panel. Ryan reached out to me on Twitter because we were both invited to Pico Day. Similarly one of my Dev Talks videos was with @squidly who I met through a private haxeflixel slack channel and the pico day discord. It's always cool meeting up with people from NG(also hung out with @snailpirate for a short while during that trip). I flew back to school on Sunday night and stayed up grinding out my assignment for 2D Principles of Animation. My slacker ass ended up interacting with my girlfriend Ellie for the first time because she was nice enough to give me her contact info on day one and showed me how to fill out an X-sheet when I got back. As I said earlier most of my nights were spent in the studio so my work was pretty focused on animating for class, playing DnD and going for runs on the weekend and the semester ended with tough week of emotions with a lot of my friends as I was trying to work on my final. Ended up spending a third of the total time I wanted to on it, but its a small sacrifice for getting on the same page with the people in my life. Despite the setback I did decent on my final with Troy(an ex-disney effects animator), he had a tough give-no-shits attitude and demanded effort. I vastly improved in drawing as a result and even got a perfect score on one of his most notoriously rigorous projects. Most days I'd finish an hour before deadline and take a nap(sleeping through critique) or fall asleep while standing until my name is called on. I have trouble staying awake in class and falling asleep at night, but I do very well in my work and my professors usually respond well to it.
During this semester of course was the trip to Philly for Pico Day in the middle of two big overlapping assignments. I flew with @cymbourine, roomed with @fushark and @loganphresh hung out with @64bitsanimation met @krinkles @srpelo @twistedgrim @el-cid @flashgitz and many others and wasted several disposable cameras worth of film that @ivanalmighty bought and got a chance to play a build of Nightmare Cops in the office. Seeing the incomplete animations insert themselves during boss fights was fun to dissect and talk to Corey and Tom about.
Summer came, my buddy @mootthenoot celebrated his graduation and landing an internship straight out of school making my frist day back a kickin' party. Then came the boredom that led to me learning how to deepfake, inspired by a Corridor Digital video on the topic of actor replacement. I did a couple Tom fakes but only recently managed to get something believable with a new graphics card I practically stole from a low ebay bid. I got into machine learning and photogrammetry with this new hardware and knowledge and finally figured out Blender Sculpting on the release of version 2.8. Here's a photoscan of a tiny voodoo doll Ellie made that I digitized and re-meshed and sculpted before 3D printing in full color. It was an interesting experiment and turns out I liked sculpting a bunch and plan to do more in the future as well as try out Blender's exciting 2D animation tools. Just another 3D software to toss under my belt with the dozens of others(3ds max, maya, c4d, e3d, sculptris, mmd, sfm, etc.). Summer wasn't entirely me bullshitting around out of boredom, my swedish programmer Anton and I had begun work on our Switch port of TSGO with couch co-op and plenty of bugfixes which I mentioned early took 5 months to get approved by Nintendo. Additionally one sleepy night @nickconter pitched a game concept to me and I offered to teach Nick how to code it himself. This was how NEAR DEADline got started.
Holy shit, you reading this in the future wouldn't know it but it's taken me 4 days to get to this point in the writing here. It's relevant to the journal because early in November after years of ignoring it I decided to visit a psychiatrist and got officially tested; diagnosed with ADD. I've dealt with my extreme boredom and attention problems for about a decade and now they got me on Adderall in the morning, but I've run low and skipped the last few days, oops.
NEAR DEADline was the biggest small game I've worked on thus far. It didn't start out that way since I wanted Nick to do all the work and me just show him the ropes, but since we decided to use Construct 3(which I had previous experience teaching in) we quickly hit a wall with the 50 event limit for free users. We decided to go all in after a week and purchased 2 licenses for one month of premium(hence the 37 day dev cycle; we made a bunch of fun facts and stats in the game description). Now I was programming the remainder almost completely and Nick was in voice call with me every single day from morning to night pumping out pixel sprites for me to overly-critique. Doing this kind of dedicated jam is what I live for, it's when I'm the happiest and having then most fun with my work even when I may not seem like it. Nick felt pretty similarly so we clicked. Nick had a lot of ideas for the game and I taught him principle game design and concepts to reinforce his ideas and toss the ones that were crap or we could label "un-fun". It was cool being able to walk Nick through the scenarios where we build ideas in our heads and play them out to see what we like or how we can translate the idea into code. I really do love teaching! Nick asked @carmet to hop on for music and he did a killer job; the game over music is still one of my favorite tunes on NG. It was neat working closer to a musician for this game, music was a big factor and it was nice to be in constant communication with each iteration, the game really feels like a complete product. Due to my boredom at some point I juggled the idea of making a drawing program for the main menu because nick wanted the main menu design to be like the ToonBoom Harmony interface and I went ahead and surprised him with a rudimentary system to draw black dots and erase them; inspired by Cameron's old prototype using velocity to control the line width. This was actually the most complex portion of the game to create so the main gameplay was shelved for 2 weeks to refine and iterate on the system. After we got a color selection tool, clear button, and closed the gap more between each drawn dot I created a screenshot button for users to post to twitter with the hashtag #NEARDEADline and proposed an art contest to Tom to boost our launch visibility(and give reason for all that work). After just a few hours our friends made submissions and we started seeing some crazy complex results from people fighting the weaknesses of the dumbed-down application and try creative solutions for their visions! We got 70+ entries to the contest and announced the winners in this newspost. We got a stellar reception on the game and kept it an NG exclusive as a thanks to Tom for sponsoring the contest winners with a year supporter status, however, we have talked about expanding the game for a larger release but we'll see how the Indie Megabooth panel of judges responds to it in our GDC submission. We also released the game for free as an Android app on Google Play and much more recently(for Nick's birthday) with the help of Cameron I got medals and a leaderboard working in-game on NG. That's enough of that for awhile, doing a full post-mordem might just kill me(you've seen how long I write).
A big part of summer unexpectedly went to the game so for the last couple weeks of August were spent hanging out with friends before the fall semester. I also visited Philly again at one point over the summer to hang out with Krinkles for Short Short Fest, watched a decent comedy routine and some awesome shorts over a philly cheeseteak in a dark but heavily decorated pub via projector. So many cool shorts from local Philly artists were shown and my favorite contribution was a mix of live-action in a short by Brewster. It was nice running into @dreaminerryday and @barnhouse who I both met back at the 2017 Ambler Screening and then later spent the night talking sketchbook stuff over pizza with @evanimations and @luis in their home, adventure haus. I really feel embedded in this wonderful community :D
The Fall semester I took two rad animation courses with two amazing professors. I did a lot of traditional work with an ex-Disney character animator who really likes me and showed us some fantastic drawing work by other disney animators. That semester I worked hard to complete my first actual sketchbook(had plenty of fun while failing to do so). There was also professor Greg, a cool dood with credits on stuff like foster's home at cartoon network and produced dozens of great senior films at my school with his students. He showed us some amazing flash files of classic shows(foster's was done in flash) and we had some great conversations about animation and work ethic. At one point during the SCAD Film Fest Greg invited the director on Bojack Horseman, Mike Hollingsworth, and his wife(also a director on shows like unikitty) to come by and give a talk on the animation industry. Mike Hollingsworth showed us the Bojack animation bible and some of the rigs(amazingly done in adobe animate as well) which was incredibly informative. After the talk we chatted briefly about newgrounds, apparently his first films are up on the site and he got one into Annecy! He's not on the site much anymore but being co-workers and friends with @aalong64 he is a fan of Sublo & Tangy Mustard and loves how much support it gets. Like I said earlier I got diagnosed with ADD, during finals, and wrapped up the semester with a beach day with my girlfriend before flying home to reunite with my dog, Bandit.
November ended with some experimentation in Illustrator using some new interesting tools that make me like it again. I also shipped off my laptop to HP to get repaired, the battery killed itself and the screen flickered green and magenta like a bitch and sometimes wouldn't even turn on, $200 later and 6 weeks of phone call I got it back with a stronger battery and a waaay better screen(goodbye washed out colors). It was tough to deal with the broken laptop during the semester(it broke literally the first day), but being home I could lose it for a few weeks with little consequence. Several days before December started @geokureli brought up the idea of reviving the Newgrounds Christmas Advent Calendar that Cameron and I worked so hard on last year and I'd be damned if I didn't pitch in again! With even less days for planning than last year, but some base code and spritework to start with thanks to nature of open source projects, Christmas ADVENture 2019 was born with a frontpage banner .gif that lasted the WHOLE event(Tom is an angel. Wow, the support was crazy and we got double the views in half the time! Working with george was fun, but I definitely asked for a lot when it came to random ideas to get the daily content additions more lively. Sometimes the game was delayed for half a day as george implemented a murder mystery into the game or the entire cabin burning down for the credits. Sometimes as the programmer it can feel like any decision made by the artist is purely ancillary and can be thrown out, but having worked as both programmer and artist and swapping between the roles on several collaborative projects in the past I feel at an advantage in being the bottom bitch programmer to artistic vision. Even when it's difficult and you feel it adds very little the tiny details can actual make the experience that much more special. This is a reason I believe that NEAR DEADline was able to succeed(Nick asked for a lot). George did a great job organizing it and he wrote a little newspost about the positive reception and his skyrocket from 30 to 100+ fans; it really was a fabulous event and I hope to do it again next year.
Christmas came and went and I gave Scarecrow Arts a little logo makeover, website re-deisgn, and a flashy new demo reel(music by @heyopc)! It's interesting for me to look back and compare our growth, so here's the demo reel we put out only a month after I hopped on the team(four years ago). Between @malcolmsith the new Scarecrow Arts newgrounds account and myself, as a company we give a minimum of $75 a year to help keep the Newgrounds servers running. I highly encourage you to be a supporter on the site, but I also completely get every reason why you wouldn't or cannot afford to. I did very little animation work to show on Newgrounds outside of The Bartman Reanimate Collab and the Rawest Forest Reanimated. I also participated in a Sublo and Tangy Mustard episode with this entry and there’s a few leftover projects from my Fall semester I intend to clean up and slap on the site, but overall 80% of the work I did wasn’t worth showing and just good practice. Here's a few entries I have posted so far: snooty bish, sunny boi eats shit and dies, ember rocksand, and a dragon's lair rough I hope bluth-senpai notices.
My final days of the year were spent with friends, had a day out with my best friend, Kirk, just sitting back and playing games. It's been awhile since I've been able to sit down and enjoy myself playing games instead of making them(also just completed A Short Hike, highly recommend it). I think I like where I'm headed but I also like where I've been. I'm a firm believer that I live in the best possible version of my reality because it's impossible to prove otherwise. A less philosophical reason is because every so often I hop on my old YouTube videos and check out what I was up to, where I was at and laugh at myself making bad jokes with no one around in those old and even older let's play videos :)