In Retrospect: The Good, The Bad, The Improvements

Jul 1, 2016, 12:00:25 PM


Here's the core of this retrospective.

Or as we like to call it in the game industry, a post-mortem.

Here's The Good, The Bad, and The Improvements that need to be made...

This is how I began the retrospective in my notes. I started to bullet list what I thought was good and bad, and where I needed to improve as I go forward making the next episode of This Mortal Coil.

What you see in the infographic is my attempt to slim down the noise to what I think are lessons learned, but I'll also throw in my raw notes. The raw data is everything that went good or bad. The most minute thing. Anything goes.

At my old company we would do this in our smaller team meetings so we could better understand where we succeeded and where we could improve upon in our process. We could also air grievances with impunity to get broken processes fixed.

The Good, In Summary

I did it! I made a comic! From start to end! Not many people can say that. Is the comic perfect? Nope. Not even close, but I did it. It's done.

I learned a ton of new skills:

  • Improved illustrating, painting, and perspective skills
  • Improved 3D modeling skills
  • Social Media for Twitter, Instagram, FB, etc.
  • Web design
  • typography
  • the value of rewriting a draft
  • storyboarding
  • wrangling Wordpress
  • making Youtube videos
  • Animating
  • Coding in Javascript and PHP

I built something unique. I chipped away at it day by day and after 886 days of work, I have this thing. I know in my heart of hearts that it's mine till the end of time. You can physically take it away or you could pirate it (it's free, so... share away), but I know who made this thing, and I'll never shut up about it.

The Good, Raw Data

  • I finished the webcomic!
  • Scripting the story up front helped me bring it to an end. There was no question where it was going and made production easier.
  • Rewriting. It helped cut down the work by making it non-existent. I like that I came up with this and I think it helped make the story better by cutting out unnecessary parts.
  • I didn't get caught up with perfection. I was able to release pages.
  • The high contrast was great and got better as it went along.
  • Manga studio brushes helped do foilage and other effects really well
  • I got faster at doing the inking
  • I was able to come up with a folder system to organize the work as I went along.
  • I made the pages in 600dpi which should be good enough for print quality.
  • Lots of reads -- I know this because Google Analytics shows that the comic was binge read by someone.
  • At the end on Tapastic I was getting more comments, but by then it was too late, I was ending the story.
  • The video I did for animation. It's gotten over 1600 views on Youtube. That's not bad for a video I made. The "how to animate in Manga Studio" post also generates a lot of hits (relatively speaking) and is something to try and emulate and build on.
  • Making Manga Studio brushes is the second most viewed blog post.
  • My blogging has gotten better overall. I've gotten better with it and faster at doing it.
  • The Lolita turntable is great!
  • The AJAX comic reader. It has issues but it all works!
  • The Shrine is a neat coding project and toy and filled in that hole of trying to do something innovative and different on the web even if it hasn't gained a lot of traction itself.
  • The technology I use to make the comic: I use the Surface Pro 3 and Clip Paint Studio
  • The code I wrote for compiling animations was really useful in the end. One of the few times I've coded myself a utility where it actually wasn't just a one off since I use it for animated gifs.
  • I never gave it up and I saw this project through to the end. I believed in it to the end too. I still believe in it and I will continue it. It's inside my head and my blood now. Who can say they've done that, especially after 4 years of work?
  • Kamiko's identity got stronger in my head as time went on.
  • Wednesdays were slightly better when launching
  • Tapastic got me more comments and an extra boost of readership each week.
  • Twitter got better. I started to get more favs and likes. It was fun chatting with strangers. That's something you don't quite get on Facebook.
  • I met someone who does papercutting in Japan who liked Kamiko and shared it.
  • I didn't sacrifice my friends for this. I still hung out with them. I still went to game nights and movie nights. I had people over.
  • My logline for Mortal Coil got better as I went along.

The Bad, In Summary

4 years and 4 months is a long time. Infants become toddlers, nay kids, in that time. Lives change in that time. A president gets elected and takes office in that time.

Was The Rabbit and the Moon worth that time?

No.

Not even close.

But it is what it is. That's how long it took to complete and if I didn't cut chapters it would take even longer -- about 14 months longer. Yes, I wasn't working on the comic the entire time, but I include everything I did as apart of the time I spent creating the first comic.

Was this the right story?

Here was my thinking on it: I think of This Mortal Coil as an episodic TV show. This is a stand alone adventure, something that's an episode 4 or 5. You know, after we've established who the players are. I'll table the origin story for later. Maybe.

I'm going to throw you, dear reader, into the deep end and we're going on a fun adventure to save the Lady of the Moon and her pet rabbit. The rest of it, you figure it out on your own. That's the fun, right?

That was my original idea, anyway.

And it's probably not as clever as I think it is or work as well as I think it should...

In the end, this obtuse story might have hampered attracting attention. Yes, my lack of weekly schedules are strike one, non-existent shareability and social media chops are strike two, and three would be an obtuse story.

Oh, Another Kind of Bad...

I didn't add this to the infographic, because I think it's a dark spot. Like, a really dark spot. Above are the bad things that I can fix like an obtuse story. These bad things are feelings that come up with the loss of morale.

Working alone on a project like this can lead a person to wonder: Why?

I share something and it gets no response. No hearts or likes. No comments. No answer to my call. It's like screaming into the void.

It makes me think: Maybe it's time to cut and run. It was a stupid idea from the get go. I'm throwing my time away. Give up, double-down at working hard in your office cube. Folks will like your Facebook posts on getting that new cubical gig over making a piece of art.

See, it gets pretty dark if you begin to think like this. When you see your work placed within the trappings of other people.

It was a near constant thing I woke up with. A hot shower or good walk cured it. Eventually I was always able to remind myself why I bothered: I like to make art. I want to see this thing exist in the world and bring it into it while defying all others. A lot of folks dream of doing big things, but I'm not a dreamer, I'm a creator. I make the shit real and you can't take that away from me.

Even if nobody answered the call, I should do it for myself.

The Bad - Raw Data

Same deal as the raw data for the good. This is everything bad I felt about the project and yeah it gets pretty raw and dark. I didn't ever say doing a thing on your own was some happy funtime land. It's hard work and at times you can loose faith.

  • No SEO -- I'm not sure how much it would have helped but parts of the site didn't have good SEO and thus wasn't as searchable
  • The comic doesn't really show up when you look for This Mortal Coil or words like "Lolita Fashion." Brand identity is still really crappy.
  • The more I worked on it, the more I wondered if this was the right story to start with. It's not an origin story.
  • The story didn't start with Kamiko. We didn't meet her until much later.
  • The artwork got better
  • Lack of buffer at times -- pages are too time consuming to make and occassional burn out makes it hard to keep it going at a steady pace.
  • Sometimes the high contrast didn't look great because it's black on black.
  • Hardly any comments
  • Early on I wasted a lot of time trying out different technologies when Wordpress was more than adequate for the job.
  • There's still no interest meaning it's a hard uphill climb, so it would seem.
  • I don't know how to get traction within the communities I would love to share this work with.
  • Tumblr and instagram seem like failures for this. My main product is the comic, and yet I resort to doing extra things to push people towards my main product. If my main product can't generate interest on these platforms, then there is a problem and I need to figure out how to resolve it.
  • Dialogue in the beginning feels clunky but I was learning as I went.
  • I kinda don't like the Turntable pose, but oh well
  • Art page, cast page, blog page look less than stellar.
  • This Mortal Coil doesn't have a logo or identity yet.
  • The Patreon is DOA and what do I do with it now? It needs a video and better copy text and images, etc.
  • I suck at selling anything. I've done a lot of work and barely made a dime. This Mortal Coil is a glorified hobby (which isn't bad) but if I wanted to turn it into something more it hasn't materialized. I'm a terrible business person and salesperson in that regard.
  • I never celebrated the end of the comic. I should do that somehow.
  • The Shrine might be a big distraction in some sense.
  • Doing a graphic novel like This Mortal Coil took way too long. 4 years! That's a long time for one story and as much as I believe in the concept, I didn't believe that strongly in the story. I don't think Rabbit and the Moon was worth 4 years.
  • It was often lonely working on this project knowing that nobody really supported me on this or cared. It felt like everyone just shrugged it off.
  • It sucked to feel shitty about this thing I was doing for most of the time. I could eventually pull myself out of it and it never hindered my work since I was steadfast about doing it, but it sucked to feel practically ignored and isolated in your own island. Is it worth going off and doing something like this? What's the point in building something of your own? Nobody else asked for this thing. Nobody else wanted it.
  • Launching on Saturdays didn't seem to really help.
  • Tumblr was no good for the comic. It was fine for the Lolita Turntable and maybe 1 post went viral on there.
  • I was never able to grow Mortal Coil too any great height on Tapastic. Is mirroring on that platform worth while?
  • Instagram was a waste of time for posting the comic and my number of hits on there seems really low.
  • You end up sacrificing a lot of sleep to do this, but I'd probably be up wasting that time, so it at least made it useful and I got something out of it.
  • I never fully mastered drawing animals

Improvements

Improving my art is a given. That comes with more practice and experimenting with my high contrast format. You'll be seeing more of that over the summer and fall.

I've got some new ideas on how to write stories now, which I think will allow me to try out ideas faster and come up with stories that are more streamlined from the get go. It's not surefire, but a new experiment that I think will pan out for me on my creative journey.

I talk a lot about getting better at social media, and it's just a thing I need to make apart of my creative life. My weapons of choice are Twitter and Instagram. It seems like posting daily, commenting on other folks' work will help grow my presence there.

SEO is another thing to crack. Writing blog posts for each Retrospective is one way to go. I've thought about making more videos and doing some really useful blog posts for folks. So look for that in the coming weeks.

I have learned a lot and I want to share it with you.

Improvement - Raw Data

  • Some of the paneling felt rushed
  • Social Media?
  • SEO -- the site could be better searchable so it can rank higher
  • Better cinematography and framing. The panels were frames fairly pedistrian. I didn't try to do much overlapping or unique framing. That's a skill I need to learn.
  • The mannequin could be better. It's too skinny and the shoulders and head don't feel right. The point was to use it as a stand in, but it would be a lot nicer if the proportions were adjusted to be correct.
  • Could handle analytics better
  • The Shrine doesn't really live up to what it should be. It's still just a prototype.
  • Typography for the comic -- The Ferrywoman's font, the website's font -- need a better library of font.
  • The website is still not the magazine look that I want. It needs to be better visualized.
  • Mingling with the community more. Starting my own topics and trying to build an audience that way
  • My blogging got faster and a little bit terse.
  • I need to do a story with a setting that isn't just the forest. I need to see the high contrast in another context.
  • The next story cannot take 4 years. It has to be done within 1 to 2 years.
  • Explore other ways to tell stories.
  • Anatomy and art needs to improve in general.
  • Perspective needs to improve. I can't do it without the crutch of Blender and it still doesn't look right. Doing a comic in a city or in a house could help me improve that greatly.
  • Diversity of characters -- they're mostly girls and animals.

There you have it, the good, the bad, and the improvements to implement next time for This Mortal Coil. It won't make this thing perfect if I check all these boxes off. I'm sure there will be new challenges to face.

We have one more page to wrap this up and I'll talk about the future of This Mortal Coil.