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Short Book Review: Big Magic

Being an artist is hard.

Hell, sometimes even just calling yourself an artist is damn near impossible without a cacophony of voices in your head proclaiming you’re wrong, unworthy, delusional, too old, too young, too happy and so on and so forth ad-nauseam. All those little fears are all of a sudden more than happy to tell you why you don’t deserve to use that word.

This book is, in part, about those fears and giving them a nice pat on the head and telling them “Thanks for your opinion, you’re wrong, now shut the fuck up and let me get back to work.”

Now before I go on, I want to say. This book was written by someone who had another book that was ridiculously successful. So much so that I almost decided to not read this book. Which, when you think about it, is an absolutely terrible way to look at things, but the gut reaction of, “oh shit that’s popular, it must be terrible.” seems to be SO ingrained in our collective psyche. (Do you know who put that thought in there? Marketing departments for other things who want that same success. Think about that for a second.)

That got me thinking, can you imagine doing something so incredible that one of your works becomes practically a household name? How do you do ANYTHING after that, let alone take a risk and write a book about fear? I’ve got fears and doubts piled high around me, but Elizabeth Gilbert’s fear and uncertainty must be the size of a mountain. So she wrote a book where she skis on that mountain and talks about falling/failing/fearing and dealing with it.

OK, on to the book itself.

Big Magic

It’s well researched, written like a nice friendly chat with an old friend who just popped around for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake and decided to have a chat about fear,creativity and the secret lives of ideas. Is it ‘Great Literature’? Will it shake the foundations of society? Will it help you make art? The answers are, I don’t know; doubtfully, but it might help you change the world; and no it won’t help you make art.

It will, however, help you to get the hell out of your own way so you can make art. That’s Big Magic in my book.

And in my opinion, that’s something we don’t talk about enough.

The book is broken down into several different sections each dealing with a step or hurdle in the creative process. Some sections I agree with more than others, and a couple times I simply had to put the book down and have an argument with myself about who was right. Even if I don’t embrace all the ideas, they have all have proven worthwhile to just stop and think about for a while. If nothing else, after reading this and arguing with my own notions, I have a much better realized version of what MY creative process means to me and how it fits into my life.

Here’s some of the little nuggets of wisdom that really resonated with me. There were plenty more in there, but these are some of the ones I can’t stop thinking about.

The only thing you have absolutely no control over is how people react to your work.

We’re so preoccupied with trying to make things that will get us ‘likes’ or some sort of external validation that we let it impact our creative choices. If you were to paint the Sistine chapel today, you’d still get people who hate it for being garish, too much nudity, and so on and so forth. Doing something that you want and being ok with people not liking it is hard on the ego, pride and spirit. I’m finding that it’s been very helpful just to simply just stare at those words and remind myself that it’s the same for all artists.

You don’t need to do autopsies of your disasters.

Tying into the previous idea of not being able to control how people react to my work is the incessant need for me to deconstruct my work once it’s complete to try and find out why people didn’t react the way I want them to. Because the endorphin rush of the phone going ‘ding’ when you get a like really is training us to have a Pavlovian response. And there’s no way that can be healthy for creativity. So how do we recognizing that, and yet still balancing it with the actual need to work on a social media presence … well if you find out the magical balance there please let me know.

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Sheep benchmark

Time for a little progress update, eh?

Ok so some more sheep have been done but it’s time to assess the situation and get a firm grasp of where exactly I stand.   But first a picture of the prototype tuckbox that the game will be shipping with (some assembly  required)


Why Include something as silly as a tuckbox, when it will surely impact the bottom line One might ask.  Well the answer is simple,  with the last couple playtests it’s become obvious that the system of green tokens to track the value of the current place is massively cumbersome.  So I decided to put in a little track sheet that you can just put a couple counters on to track the value of the current place as it is eaten.  And the price difference between a 4×4 board and a board big enough to have a tuckbox to be cut out is negligible. So the tuck box is almost free.

But anyway… back to the current state of the game development process.    So it turns out that 85% of the time it’s taking is art.  That’s right.  It’s taking much much longer to draw silly sheep than it is to creating the game and the cards and exporting them and uploading them and writing / editing the rules etc. etc.

Crazy eh?

As of RIGHT NOW, I have Drawn and Painted 60 of 125 sheep.  Of those 50 have been placed into their final art location in the inDesign files that are the decks.

I have 65 sheep left to Draw, ink, and paint.   A happy estimate would be that if I totally buckle down I can probably do a sheep every 2 hours, maybe a bit more.  So let’s call it 90 min.  So that’s just a hair short of 100hrs of ART work left to do.  Not too terribly bad.

Other than that I probably have 6 hours of editing and tweaking on the cards’ text to make sure they’re clear and are easier to understand.

Then toss in the other little things like re-writing the rules and finalizing the web and packaging art, realistically it’s probably closer to 120 hrs of work.

That’s some really long weekends in my immediate future if I’m to hit my goal of having it launched by my birthday.

Time to buckle up, it’s gonna be one helluva ride to see if I can do this.

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Mutant Sheep Balanced on a Razor’s Edge

Well as promised, here’s a recap of the weekend’s playtesting. It’s gona be a long one.

The good:

It was amazingly fun.  A bit unlike other games, the going strategy seems to be hording your cards in your hand until you can twist the game in your favor, which seems a bit of a hard concept for Parker to grasp.   Really, even the two player game was a lot of fun and not totally skewed which was one of my big concerns.  It was fun for all of us and the base mechanics and strategy work exactly as I imagined they would.

There was a slight issue with the print of my cards, but the super responsive guys (JT) at explained the issue and how they were going to have the issue rectified well before I finish up for launch.   So no worries on that front.

The colors looked great and the quality of the cardstock is very nice and they shuffle well.


The ok:

Lots of typos and little phrases that need to be tweaked and made into english.  I got some great feedback on the rules on the little bits and pieces that I assumed the player would know.  During the games we played over the weekend I got a dozen or so cards whos’ verbiage either needs to change or simply be clarified as the ability didn’t make as much sense as I hoped.

The instructions need to mention a couple things about adding Event location points to the size of the current area, but that’s minor.

The eh:

This is probably the biggest list of issues that came up, and the good thing is that they are all fairly easily correctible.

The timing of when you can use side effects and sheep special abilities is not clear and some cards contradict each other.  The usage of Blue (sheep is stunned/busy/incapacitated) tokens was not consistent.  These are essentially just going through and making all the cards agree and putting it in the rules.

Keeping track of mutation abilites  and side effects can become a bit of a slog.  Cleaning up the timing and usage of abilites will make it easier.  Additionally I’ve decided to add a card case which will leave me with a board with some spare space where I can print out some tokens for things like keeping track of the Hairless sheep (yes, its a serious issue when the blizzard shows up)

The massive number of tokens for large events (we easily had some places in the mid forties ) makes it hard to see exactly how much landmass is remaining in the location to be eaten (which is how you get victory points).  This makes planning things 2 or 3 turns ahead extremely difficult.   This will be remedied by cardboard tokens with numbers on em.

There need to be more side effects with a variable range so you can tweak the total amount eaten by your (and other player’s) sheep a bit more easily.

The Uggh:

Late game balance is a bit out of whack.  Not in the sense that it’s once sided or anything, just that once each player gets 5 or 6 sheep out and a couple mutations on them there’s not much you can do to stop them from devouring a whole location per turn.  So the amount of luck to winning goes up as the game goes up.   The good part is that this is easily fixable by a combination of minor tweaks to the game.  We’ve got three major tweaks that we’re going to be testing indiviually and in combination.  1. Make Side-Effects permanent.  This would let you permanently alter yours and other player’s sheeps appetites.  2. Increase the size of the smaller locations so they last longer.  This would potentially slow the point acquisition of the early game but make the endgame less luck driven.  3. Increase the bonus/penalty that Side effects give.

The Yay!

That’s it.  The game was fun, and with a bit more testing I’m sure we can get the balance of endgame to luck worked out and then it’ll be awesome!

Ok that’s it for now.  Further updates to follow but for now I’m just painting sheep like mad!

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Springtime doldrums and overthought thinkings

So, I’ve been running around in the total overwhelmed mode for a while and it’s time to steer the frantic caffinated ADD besotted herd of cats that is my attention span back onto track.

Some basic concept art got created, and then I wandered off the project to illustrationland and then got mired down in EPIC project full of GRAND ideas etc etc and just essentially spent some time thinking myself to exhaustion.  Time to think less and do more.

I’ve made a list damnit!  With a great big list of bite size (a week or 2) tasks to do. I’m going to pick one and just do it and then simply rinse and repeat.   Theory being that this will decrease the amount of time spent bashing head on desk/wall/art table/sidewalk by not getting overwhelmed by any one thing or medium. 

Updates to follow.