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.

Monday, July 18, 2016

When you have to do it yourself

I want to talk today about the realities of tackling huge projects by yourself. I'm going to compare to some professional advice in my talking points. The general consensus is that you should never do it all yourself. You should employ other professionals who have the skills where you don't (if you don't) to make your project (board game, novel, comic) the best shining example it can be. This is solid advice because the environment you are trying to enter is a no holds barred battlefield of very high expectations.

Now, truth be told, I'm not alone. I never have been. But in getting started, I was the only one to do all the writing, planning, and art. I'm a rare example that I do have artistic skill to tap into on top of my writing abilities. Not many people can be a one man band. There are factors to take into consideration here as well. Factors that most people don't think about.What I do also requires a solid work ethic and never give up attitude.

Why go solo in the first place? It's a fair question. Who in their right mind would want to do all this work on their own? That includes facing the critics of that work. Remember, this is the internet and critics aren't known for playing nice. You will feel like you've been ganged up on in the parking lot. We'll get to dealing with that later. For now, why go solo? The answer is deceptively simple:

Life. The issues of your life may prod you forward or make you decide it's just not worth it. What if you have a dream you want to make reality, but your life has become a ticking clock? Maybe you have terminal cancer? Maybe you have the onset of Alzheimer's? Or maybe, yes maybe, you have multiple sclerosis. My critics don't think MS is very serious. But then, they don't have to struggle with esophageal spasms that make it hard to talk, swallow, or breath. They can walk and will likely still be able to walk tomorrow. MS is a disease that destroys your nervous system. It's definitely a ticking clock. Over 400,000 people have MS in the US alone and it is robbing people of their life skills and indeed their very lives. See life expectancy results HERE.

So what do you do? In board games the experts say not to release your game to the public until it has the very top of the line graphic art and the structure is as perfect as you can make it. It even comes down to a money thing. If you didn't spend thousands on your artwork, you shouldn't release your game. But your own artwork is not stick figures. In fact you've been recognized for your work in the past and you can make a pretty passable product. Maybe not the Picasso of graphic art, but there's another plan for that. What do you do? Just give up and never bother because you can't cough up the funds they expect? Your life is not like theirs. You are on a ticking clock that may well mean you can't get all of your story out.

Turned up noses are frustrating, but you can't let that stop you.

My advice? Build it anyway. That's the path that will require the most courage and guts for sure. Not everyone can do it the way the critics expect or the way that the professionals suggest. Their's is not the only way. That's what I did. I did the very best I was capable of and made the game available. Why? Because at least I did it. It's my accomplishment, not theirs. If MS takes me out next year, I made an accomplishment. I beat MS to the punch. It wasn't about making a million dollars on my games. It was about putting out something fun, and doing it against the clock I have to live with. I would challenge any of my critics to live with what I live with and still manage to publish four books (soon to be five) and two games.

Granted, I've tried a lot of things that just didn't work. But doesn't everyone? The point you have to remember is that it's your accomplishment if your life has the same kind of issues in play. You can try to wait until you can pay your way in, or forge your own path while you still can. Under the circumstances, which way sounds better to you?

Another factor to how I have forged ahead, is that I have a product I can show in much fuller form to those who I may enlist to make it even better in the future. Here's an actual quote I received:

"If your project is so great, you should have no problems getting artists to jump all over it."

Spoken like someone who has never tried it. Don't listen to comments like this.

Everyone has to start somewhere and everyone has to take the factors of their actual lives into consideration. That's whether you dump your life savings into it or just your life. If everyone restricted themselves to only what is the most perfect of perfection to make the critics happy (can't be done), no one would succeed at anything. History proves that. The best of the best, forged their own paths even when told they would fail by onlookers and the "gurus who knew all". There is no reason that you can't do the same if you refuse to give up. That's when you just have to take it on yourself.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Another awesome game preview!

Today I'm going to answer a question that a few have been guessing at and show you some more of what is coming to the expansion set for Galaxy Zento the board game. First, lets start with that question.

Folks have tried to guess what the art meant for this goal and now you can see for yourself. That's right, the goal is to get your character killed twice. That means collecting five damage (or getting assassinated) twice in a row. You see, getting killed in GZ doesn't mean you're out of the game (unless you opt out). It only means you have to start all over again. With all other goals, dying removes all your progress, but not with this one. Playing out this goal will allow you to be the craziest player on the board, bar none.

With the addition of monsters, there are some new effects that may help that goal along! Take the Acid Slime for example. Normal combats only deal one damage to you at the end of combat. Not so with this monster. You get a damage token every time it hits you and then get one for losing the combat (if you lose). It's possible to rack up 4 damage facing this creature and that could kill most players. A definite threat.

The Wraith isn't as thorny a foe as the Acid Slime, but losing a combat with it can still be costly. Powers and artifacts are some of the best character support in the game. Taking an additional damage from combat if you can't pay up with one of them may be expensive.

The instant kill possibilities don't end there when you can play as the Assassin. If your first attack in any combat is a natural 20, you win. If it's against a player, you just killed them. Watch out if you get into a combat with the person playing Glutton for Punishment though. You might inadvertently help them win the game!

With 16 new player character cards there will be lots of possibilities for cool character play. I'll be back with more info soon. Till then, keep up the good fight and game on!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Homage to MORE guest artists!

Today I want to talk about artists, very particular artists who have agreed to jump in and lend their talent to GZ. Mind you, this is even if they don't have work that's in the set for any reason, they either offered or said yes when I approached them. These are artists you need to know. I'm writing this because I'm grateful beyond words either way.

Big Rob Beltran: This is the man who made my hat. A hat that has lasted for a good 3 years through hot sun and rain storms. It's as awesome as the day I paid 40 bucks for it. This guy will put anything you want on a shirt, hat, shoes and even a bicycle! Check out his Deviant Art page HERE. He's well known in his area conventions and heralds his own special artistic style. People know me better for my hat than without it. That's thanks to this guy.

Dave Bain: Keeping the hits rolling, you get the amazing styles of this artist who is also on his own convention routes. I got to meet him at Southern Geekfest and hope to do so again. He has a sharp line style that's hard to miss. Check out his work HERE. I can tell you he already picked what he wants to do from the card list, but I'm not going to reveal that today. You'll just have to be surprised.

Gavin Michelli: Another of my good friends with Southern Geek who I met at the convention and every bit as talented as anyone on this list. Check out his amazing TMNT work right HERE. The colors will blow you away.

Ken Davis: Rounding out a trio from Southern Geek (they are an awesome bunch of people check them out), is this man. He's already contributed and at both cards have been shown off online so far. If you missed them, just check past blog articles or visit the Facebook page via links upper right. Ken also has his own signature style and some bookwork under his belt that you can check out HERE.

Billy Barnette: He was the first to jump in and offer assistance in the art and he's been a great help. He also has his own distinct style and a few of the cards he's helped with have been posted! His work has been freelance of late, but I did do a guest artist spot on him some time ago and his work could be seen HERE.

Kevin Woolfork: Speaking of prior articles, I wrote on on this man too. He did the gridwork for the first game board and now he's back! Just look at what he did for my character, Major Xeroh! And of course you can see his work HERE.  What he's going to do for the game cards coming up; well, you'll see. Kevin is well versed in photoshop and great with his colors too.

Jay Morgan: I've mentioned my fellow local author before and I'll mention him again. Examples of his art will show strong colors. For now, I can only send you to his authors page HERE. But you can be sure he's going to fit on this list just as well as the rest.

Ali Lamkin: Last but not least and newest is this man. He's a great form artist with talents he hasn't shown us yet, but just look. The pic is drawn by him and colored by Kevin Woolfork.

Some people may wonder what I'm doing. Well, over half the art is still being done by yours truly with some new twists and tricks. I'm working hard to get this together so that Galaxy Zento the board game will be as truly customizable as it's meant to be. You can bet there is going to be so much more to show and very soon.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Galaxy Zento Expansion Preview!

Galaxy Zento Expansion Preview!

Now that I’m hard at work on the finishing artwork for the very first expansion set for the Galaxy Zento board game, it’s only fitting that I give you a taste of what’s to come! New goals, beasts, artifacts, traps, and even spells are coming to enhance your gameplay. A new card type is coming as well; monsters! As if all that just weren’t enough, you’ll get 16 new player characters with abilities you have to see to believe. Let’s start with a look at them. *Remember to click on images for better view.

The Superhuman: Player characters represent you on the board and this is a great one for that. When you get him, you get to reveal cards from the main deck until a power is revealed. Then you get to use that power for the whole game. The best part is that you can’t lose that power unless you stop being the superhuman. Better yet, this power doesn’t count for your power limit of three, so you actually could build up to four powers! His stats aren’t too shabby either!

The Minotaur: Several mythical beings are going to be available and the Minotaur might just be the coolest of them. He’s a little clumsy when it comes to things like traps and magic but his charging attack makes him useful in other ways. Could it be fun to run up and slam into your opponents? Yes, yes it could.

But what about those goals? As you might remember a goal is your randomly given mission to win the game. Well, there will be at least 4 new goals to shuffle into your goal deck. That includes:

Ultimate Warrior: Win five combats of any kind. That’s right, attack other players or just keep it to what jumps out of the deck. If your character is strong enough, you’ll be a real threat to take the win on this goal. It still won’t be as easy as it sounds as nothing in this game is.

The Combo Goal: This could be one of the most challenging goals. Or the easiest depending on your luck of the draw. You complete one of each challenge on the list to win the game. It’s only four challenges but note the extra ruling on the card. Since it’s possible to wipe out the game at a focal point because you reveal three cards, you can’t count anything at a focal point for the other three challenges. Otherwise, this would become the most broken goal of them all.

Let’s look at a couple monsters next. Of course there is a monster slaying goal to go with them. That’s too easy to guess.

The Mud Man: He’s ooey and gooey and wants to eat your character! He’s pretty average in combat unless you try to sneak away from him and fail. Items don’t count against him because he’s made of mud. Use powers and magic, especially fire to take him down. Of course you can just beat him into splattery submission.

The Werewolf: Now here’s a monster that can alter the pace of the game. If you lose the combat with this guy, you get to be the next werewolf. If that happens, you forsake your current goal in order to attack other players. If you win a combat against a player, they become the next werewolf and you are cured. The only other way for your character to be cured is to get killed. There are a couple of goals that will count if you are the werewolf. Those are a goal where you have to attack other players and a new one where you actually have to get killed. More on that second one later.

For the last peek of the day we have an item that you have to obtain as if it were an artifact:

Cyber Implants: Of the new items, this is the first one you have to roll dice to get. It’s only fitting with all of that this does for you. Not only does it boost a couple of your stats and your movement; it gives you the ability to peek at the top card of the deck. That’s a strong advantage when you need certain cards to come out for your goal.

That’s all the preview you get for now. Don’t forget to visit the links in the upper right if want to get your hands on the board game or books. Follow the fun on Twitter and Facebook!