Sunday, August 28, 2016

Meeting Challenges

Brave the hurricane
No matter where you try to publish anything in any genre, there are an army of challenges to face. A lot of them are in marketing, gaining an audience, and taking rejection. The greatest of all challenges however, are in yourself.

Completing projects are typically the number one hurdle to scale. If there's one thing we authors do well, it's procrastinate. But that's not the only factor to work with. Self doubt, writer's block, and changes in ideas are all common demons of any creative work. Challenging perceived norms is another hurdle, if that's something you do. I know I do because I write stories and apply my universe to board games as well. Some people seem to think that's like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters.

As if the natural layout and environment of challenges weren't enough, you have to challenge yourself. What do I mean by that? I mean you have to push yourself. Whether it's coming up with that new idea or just finishing an art piece of chapter. You have to give yourself deadlines and push for them any way you can. We all know, if we get to that plateau we dream about, the deadlines will be imposed on us. We have to ready ourselves. Practice those deadlines now.

And don't get too down on yourself when a deadline doesn't work. Don't succumb to self doubt.

"If you begin to doubt your power, you lend power to your doubt." Yes, I just quoted an old movie, Mystery Men. Laugh away, but you know he was right.

I have multiple projects on my desk all the time. I have challenges of time management, completion, and self imposed deadlines all over the place. How do I handle them? I put my head into the game and just keep forging forward. It's the only direction worth going in. Right now, as many of you know, I'm pushing work through on my first expansion set for my board game, but that's not all. There is a cool surprise coming right along with that. It's been an additional challenge to keep my mouth shut about it. Then Chessmen2 is in final edits.

I have the challenge of appealing to varied audiences (something I will get more into later on). Board game audiences and book audiences are very different. But if you are a game designer, this advice holds just as true to you as it does an author. You have a lot of work to do in components, rules, and theme. You have management in development and manufacturing depending on how you follow through and what sources you use.

Not unlike being burned alive
Our age of self publishing ability can actually lend to a dangerous level of laziness because it's so damn easy to just publish whatever you want. This means you have an additional challenge of surpassing an ocean of crappy work that's all around you. And all the audiences for all aspects can be not only critical but unforgiving.

There is a lot of wonderful advice out there on developing board games, writing books, and publishing all of the above. I think, the best advice possible, is to just DO the work. And keep doing it. You have to have a special love for this too or you won't be able to handle it when someone says you suck. Another challenge, bad criticism hits hard. But keep doing the work, even if you fall flat on  your face. Your refusal to give up will eventually speak in your favor.

Next time I'll delve into understanding audiences and how diverse they are while being very much the same. Keep creating!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

UPDATE: New card layout!

People are liking it and its official! You get to see it first right here! It's the new card layout for the Galaxy Zento Adventure game. And it's happening right in the first expansion set. All the symbols are the same and definitions are unchanged. Only arrangement of information is different. As you can see, the borderless art stands out even more and information is all in one simply location. I'm working feverishly on getting these done right now.

Click on images for a better look. If you are playing "good", finding this artifact could mean finding a new ally! That would be non other than the top hero of GZ himself!

Fighting him won't be easy and recruiting him isn't a snap either. If you do get him for an ally, the only drawback is that you can no longer evade your enemies. That's because KF never runs from a fight. If you want him as an ally, neither will you.

Let's look at a beast next. In this case, you may find yourself dragged under mid fight! If he rolls a natural 20 against you, your next attack is stuck being and escape roll. Meanwhile, it keeps using its turns to attack you further. Good thing evading it isn't too hard (unless your just having horrid dice rolls that day).

Traps will have the same zing as always. This one is one example of how expensive they can be. Who keep setting these traps anyway?

There are only a few new events in this set, but I guarantee they will shake up the whole table. This one will probably be considered the most drastic. These are adventures where reality itself can take a turn on a dime.

Don't forget powers. The handful of new powers in this set will redefine game play in cool ways. Now you can mess with your opponents or just give yourself a better chance on the draw.

Special art cards. A few, and only a few, will have this special arrangement of art and information. These cards will have action and bright color for added fun. Obviously I couldn't do this with all card art because it just wouldn't work for some of them. I hope the few that are there will give you pause for their special appearance.

I'm really excited about the new look and there are even more surprises still ahead. So stay tuned for the next update. It's not far away!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How Galaxy Zento got started

Galaxy Zento has been a long running project for me and the stories have been in my head for decades. Today I'm going to tell you how it all got started. It started as my "do it yourself" role playing game that I developed characters for. But it goes even deeper than that.

In my Junior High years art was my great escape and the one thing that actually made the bullies give me a break. It was the one thing I could do well that impressed others. I was also something of a cartoonist. Crazy Harry was my first character and he was a parody of Dirty Harry from the  movies. CH never used a gun, and he really is quite nuts. I gave him a superhero kind of vibe and made him a private detective. It used to be, when he went crazy, his hair would stand straight up on end, and that was how the bad guys knew it was all over for them.

Harry did things I wanted to do to get even with the world for my bullying. Harry was my outlet and no one ever realized it.

Years go by and as some people know, I ran away from home to escape abuse from my step mother. I really had no safe haven except for times when I was neither at home or school. While I nearly got myself killed, my running finally took root and I didn't have to go back. But then I had new problems that aren't for this entry. Eventually it all let to me going to Job Corps in Clearfield, Utah. Job Corps is a place for young people (mostly troubled) to learn a workable skill and grow up for lack of better terms. It wasn't a very nice place, but I did make friends. It was there, in 1987 that Galaxy Zento was born. I created a crew of heroes called PAC and started drawing mini comics of them.

There was a lot of DnD playing going on at the time and it was still in a controversial stage. I couldn't afford the books for DnD so I followed my Godfather's old advice from when I was a kid.

An OLD pic
"Make your own games."  And so I did. I started making a role playing game of my characters and the stories in my head. It wasn't called Galaxy Zento back then, though. It was called Galaxy Wars.

The immediate problem I had with the name was that everyone associated it with Star Wars. I didn't want that. I wanted my universe to stand on its own. Even though I had no idea what directions I would be going with it at just 17 years old. But there it was and I had some friends playing it with me regularly. Eventually I renamed it Galaxy Zento based on the Japanese word for "journey".

My friends enjoyed it enough that they wanted to play it quite often. There isn't a lot of exciting stuff to do during down time in Job Corps and it made for more colorful time spending. And it grew.

I really had no idea how to make a role playing game and my beginning stats were quite laughable. I actually made life points depend on what you had for weaponry in the very very beginning. That's not the case now, I assure you.

That's basically it, how the idea got started and eventually became the books and games it has now. There is more to the history of GZ and I'll be sharing more of those stories soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Late Summer Update!

It's amazing how easy it is to try too hard. Social media is a brilliant tool, but you sure can stumble it up. I know I do. Some people forgive it, others don't. Either way we can only go forward. That brings me to this update!

My awesome son is about to go back to school. While that may not excite him, it means more time out of the day for me to work on my schedule of cool stuff! Hey, it's not easy being an autistic parent raising an autistic child. Boy do I have stories! Sometimes we make for downright comical. Other times we trigger each other in just the wrong ways. My son has  renewed interest in Magic the Gathering. He's learning quick too. It's good to be a gaming family.

Ah, but I need to get on to what's going on GZ!

Several guest artists came forward about a month ago and they selected works off a list to put into the upcoming expansion set for the board game. They are going to be getting back to me around the end of this month (Aug). I'm still doing a  lot of work myself and the pics with this edition are works in progress. The new cards are going to allow you to rebuild the main deck with all sorts of fun and crazy stuff. I've already spoiled some awesome monsters. New spells are on the way now and sneak peeks are forthcoming.

I'm still working on the combat system in side time. It's a system that will allow for up to four (maybe six?) characters in combat with customized decks. That means you can build your deck for just one character (to take on a deck of another character) or form a team!

Also in design is the board for the next expansion: New York! The board is going to have various special effects on cards from the main deck depending on where you are. It will be based on the novel, Chaos Rising with amazing new character types and cursed artifacts.

Finally, I'm working on something else very very special. You won't be able to buy it. It will be a reward or prize. I call it the God Pack. It will be a special set of cards representing the gods of GZ. The special effects they have on the game will be like no other.

So, as you can see, there is a lot of busy work for creation. Gotta keep building and growing. Always more to come.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

I Don't Feint

Unlike with this guy, there is nothing
up my sleeve.
There is no doubt that, as an individual with autism, I don't see the world around me the same as the average person. This leads to misunderstandings and judgments that are not accurate of me as a person. These times frustrate me because, at times, they've been very costly to me in social circles. It happens on the internet the most because of the impersonal nature of posting or communicating on the net. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen in person too.

I never felt well understood in my youth. I would be referred to as "sneaky" or "shady" and usually "angry" when non of these were remotely true of my actual intentions or actions. Because I was different, I was inherently evil. There was some saving grace however with people in person. Those who took the time to actually get to know me after making such judgments, wound up apologizing to me. Sometimes it was years down the road after they met me, but it was always the same. Of course, this was all before I was diagnosed with Asperger's so I never understood why it happened.

But it still happens. In fact, I think the internet makes it worse in some ways. Mind you, there are just as many people who make a true effort to understand and just as many who live the same issues. I know I'm not alone.

One thing that happens with my internet posts a lot is the taking of one example and blowing it up into some that I did not intend it to be. It's like people lose the distinction between topic and example. My last blog post on here is a great example of this point. I really feel that internet hate is a broad and even serious problem. That was the main topic. I geared the post as an advice column (albeit rambled a bit), but that was still the main topic. Quite a few people took one example and treated it as if that was all I had to say (basically ignoring the fact that there were actually other examples or other words at all). They then formed their responses or opinions on only that example.

"That's not what your mad about and you know it." Was the accusation of one person in a Facebook forum that I'm not naming right now. (Note to person: congrats, you got quoted!). I responded that I was very specific and thus not interested (in his comment). Facts are; I wasn't mad at all. I was discussing and debating my position and trying to make my point. That was it. Nothing more and nothing less. Mind you this is an example and I will make another one to be fair.

But that person was 100% wrong about me. I don't feint, veil, or otherwise engage in such shadowy shenanigans. I do what I say, and do the best to say what I mean (and mean what I say). I only admit that I have a hard time getting my full message across. That is frustrating and has been pretty much my whole life. Oh, the other example to be fair:

This was a long time ago on another forum that I won't name. People on the forum were enacting a drive for donations for a legitimate non profit that was geared to board gaming. Great people, but for the sake of this article, I'm not naming them either because what I'm about to tell you hit me hard and deep. That means it really hurt and had a profound affect on me. One fine person, whom I respect greatly, was selling jewelry products advertised on the forum that normally wouldn't allow it and promised a percentage of proceeds to the non profit entity. I thought that was a great idea and had quite a bit of my own artwork I was willing to sell at low cost with the same offer. My post for that was taken down and I was penalized by a site moderator (of a lofty position even to this day) because said mod decided that I was running a scam to profit off the situation.

The mod wasn't the only one, rather part of a board clique of a few people who had decided they simply didn't like me as a person. Donations were to be brought to the non profit's booth at a convention that I attended. I won't deny feeling somewhat justified when I handed the check of the money I raised directly to the hand of one of the people who judged me (not the mod though). I saw that person swallow a hard lump in their throat as they took the check. That person had told me in direct message that I was untrustworthy. I was nice though. I just smiled, took my receipt and walked away. I did complain to a couple of people managing that forum above said mod, but the results were not good. They got together, called me out on public forum under the title of "manufactured drama" and proceeded on Facebook to mark everything I posted about anything as spam. But don't get lost on me here. The point remains that I was still misjudged, leading up the whole thing in the first place. In the end I blocked quite a few of them, including said mod, and walked away. I don't go to that forum any more.

I don't aim to manufacture anything of the sort. But it is common, if you ask enough of us autistics, to get accused of such, when it's really a simple misunderstanding. We aren't trying to cause any such thing, rather  make sense of the world around us. It's where the ideology of "wrong planet" comes from with us.

But I don't feint. I'm not sneaking anywhere. I'm not trying to rip people off. I do what I say I'm going to do and I really try to follow the group dynamic in what is allowed. My efforts are genuine.

Now I'm going to beat some to the punch, because I guarantee you some people out there are going to message me with:

"You just wanted to whine about these things. You are a whiner."

If that's all you get out of this, please don't bother commenting. I won't respond to you and you'll only be supporting my initial point. As a matter of fact I'm going to share this with other autistics I know and hopefully some of them will chime in with their own experiences. And being autistic isn't making excuses either. That's another rich one actually said to me.

"You're just full of excuses."

If that were true, I wouldn't have published 4 books and 2 games. My work ethic speaks for itself. So save your fingers the typing efforts. You will also, only prove my point.

What can you do to help? I would be remiss to fail in offering what you, the common person, can do to help us with this. Here is a minor list:

Don't rush to judgment. Stop and think and...

ASK... yes, ask us to clarify. It's not unheard of. It's okay to say, "hey, I don't understand what you are trying to say"

Be specific. As a rule of thumb, avoid too many "figures of speech" or slang terms. We are literal beings and sometimes words on a screen lose their intended context. I realize this goes the same for me or other autistics.

If you have autism and are reading this, please take the time to post your own advice on how people can be more helpful.

Here's hoping this reaches and understanding audience. That's all I really want, both for me and others with autism who know this struggle.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Handling Internet Hate on Projects

Fickle attitudes on the net
The internet is for hate. I remember an old comedic song that once claimed that the "internet is for porn" and if only that were still true. More and more, all the time, behavior of people who post is far more hate filled and usually about issues that just aren't worth it. It's bad enough with hate for politics, religions, sexual orientations,  and ethnic orientations, but it's gone to an all time high.

The new Ghost Buster's film, starring Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones has had so much vitriol and hatred fired at it, that there's been no room for anything positive. For that matter, like with many things, anything posted seems to draw the haters in droves before a single positive comment can be uttered.

Normally, the advice or general rule is not to respond to haters. Unfortunately, that no longer works. The behavior goes far beyond a simple "I don't like it". Leslie Jones was hounded off of Twitter with slurs on race and general appearance. Melissa McCarthy was fat shamed. Comments wishing death and dismemberment are the norm. It's so horrible and filled with stalking and bullying behavior that something has to be said. It's human nature to want to defend yourself and everyone has limits to how much sheer bullshit they are willing to (or are able to) shrug off. So I really don't blame any of the actors or producers for finally firing back. Especially over the victimization of the actors. But why do haters get the upper hand on the internet now?

There is a cartoon I saw once that depicted two friends talking about artists they liked:

Friend 1: I like that guy's work a lot!
Friend 2: So tell him.
Friend 1: That's not necessary. Oh, but look at that guy's work. I don't like it. HEY YOU! YOU SUCK AND I HATE YOU!

Why do we remain silent on work we like and further let it get overrun by negativity? It's hard to say but there is a lesson here that I shall further illustrate as follows:

Click on the image to see the actual comments. I took them from a page I frequent on board games. You can see the picture that's the subject of hatred, but I should give you a link to the game itself. So HERE.  

It's exactly the same as with movies. Any artistic representation is bound to met with hate before praise (with some bizarre and highly fickle exceptions). While it's not fun to have a line of 70 comments burning your hard work to the ground (and those who have followed me know I've personally dealt with exactly that); you can take solace in the fact that it's not just you. A couple of facts that I have learned.

1: You can't please or impress them. So don't bother trying. That's not to say 'don't do your best work' rather 'don't hinge it on their acceptance'. 

2: When it comes to art people are going to either love it or hate it. There is no apparent middle ground. 

3: It's still worth it to listen to constructive criticism, even though it seems to have become a mythical beast.

4: Don't give up because of them. It gives them far too much credit.

5: 99% of them have no idea or experience in what it takes to do your project or work with your budget.

I still post on one or two pages where my work was set upon like angry fire ants. Why? Because I've decided I don't give a damn what those specific people have to say anymore. That is exactly what you must be prepared to do. It doesn't matter what your artistic project consists of. You could be a writer, illustrator, or make Youtube videos. And if they decide that not being able to run you off makes them hate you personally (or if you tried to do what human nature dictates and defend yourself from being outnumbered and they hold that against you personally)... that is their problem, not yours. 

You see, haters are spoiled. They expect the highest possible quality in every single thing they see merely because the technology exists to make it that way. They don't care what your budget was or that different artists actually have different styles. So they undercut their own possible experiences. Then, they'll turn around to a totally different project that is arguably worse in production than their prior complaint and praise it to the mountain tops. You simple cannot depend on the criticism of the internet to be accurate and considerate. So you must filter it. 

In short, cast it aside, post your work where allowed and don't worry about haters. Let them hate. Do your best and keep doing that. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

What I used to be.

There is no doubt I always wanted to do my own stories, comics and games. I was taught by my Godfather to make my own games when I was about 7 years old. Ever since, it's always been a bright idea to me.

But then you grow up and have to become something else. You have to support yourself, work a job and take care of business in life. I did this by my other drive in life; helping people. I started out as a security guard and joined the Army. My unit was Military Police so I hoped to learn more from them as well. Every avenue I sought out. I wanted to be a detective even though I was told I would never make it. But then, one day I did. Just not the conventional way.

I became an Animal Control officer, yeah you might say "dog catcher". You might say "dog catcher" and laugh, but I guarantee you, the cases I worked were no laughing matter. I worked side by side with all forms of emergency services. I've been to the sites of house fires, murder scenes, suicide, drug busts, and all sorts of warrants served. I had no arrest powers myself, but I wrote real citations to court for animal cruelty and neglect as well as other infractions. I was recognized for my efforts to help others even before that job, but these are solid examples of my work.

This just shows a couple of general adventures and weird happenings. I had a lost bird that managed to tangle its head in the wiring of it's carrier. Fortunately, it didn't feel bitey at all as I helped it retreat. The weasel was loose at the airport and everyone thought it was someone's pet ferret. They had managed to scoop it up in a box before I got there. Imagine their surprise when I correctly identified the critter after getting my gloved hands on it. Poor thing was relocated to much better running grounds.

This woman fell in a city park and her trained dog wouldn't let any emergency personnel near her. Worse, she had fallen on the leash, making it nearly impossible to use it to get the dog away. Maybe it's because of all the hours we worked with animals, but we were able to calm him down and move him away. This clipping is from the local newspaper. The grateful daughter wrote in because, yes, we did take steps beyond the norm. We didn't impound her dog. We took the dog to her home with her keys and put him inside. The keys were returned by a city police officer. This was my job before health conditions caught up to me.

I was the reptile officer and no other officer minded that fact at all. When ever someone had a snake call, they offered it to me where ever I was at. I only needed help moving one once and that was because this guy weighed in around 200 lbs. No worries. He was docile. He had been left abandoned in a shut down stripper bar. Apparently the ladies would pole dance with it. He wasn't put down either. He made his way across the state for educational purposes.

Some guy was keeping this cayman in his bathtub and was going to throw it out in the snow because his girlfriend was sick of it. I convinced him that a ticket for an illegal animal was better than a ticket for animal cruelty plus abandonment. Save the little guy's life in the process. Nebraska winters can be brutal. It made it to someplace where it didn't have to be killed as well.

After I served for 6 and a half years I went through some very hard times and my work ability suffered for it. I still strove to help others. I was working as security for a bar and we had just closed. That's when we heard the shots. I looked out the front door and saw a man face down in the street. People were running all over. I ran out to him and administered first aid until the ambulance arrived. No, the shooter had not been located yet.

But now, I can't do any of those things anymore. Even today, I want to be as much help to others as I can in the ways I can. So I help online with autism and MS advice. And then there's my games. I want to help people through them as much as I can too. I know that sounds weird, but it drive me. It allows me to show my son that I can still do something. Life has changed so much and yet I strive to keep being me. We found homes for three kittens in the last year because old habits just don't die. I believe I would still "run" (yeah, I can't run anymore) out to someone hurt even under dangerous circumstances. But alas, I shall end this one before I ramble completely. I really just want people to understand.