Oh, The Beating Drum!

Every once in a long while comes a comic so profound, it changes all the rules.

This is probably that comic. Though, as the author, I might not be an objective opinion on this matter. Actually, this is the first page of that comic. There are two pages in total. You should probably subscribe to the magazine to see the other page. And the fourteen other pages I’ve made for this series, so far.

Click to re-biggen.

Oh, The Beating Drum!

As always, Oh, The Beating Drum! is financed in part by Worlds Without Master, a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and readers like you.

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, Oh, The Beating Drum! Or, at least the first page of it.

As always, you can read the entire thing by subscribing to Epidiah Ravachol’s magazine of sword & sorcery Worlds Without Master.

(Also, click to enlarge. Always click to enlarge.)

Oh, The Beating Drum! #5

Mindful Filter Comic

I recently made a comic for work. We’re doing this new social media experiment called Mindful Filter; to explain it to people, I drew it out in four-color splendor.

If you’re curious, check it out at morethansound.net/mindfulfilter

Click to enlarge!

MindfulFilter: How It Works


I also created a simpler, black and white version too, using the same sketches (though not the same inks).

MindfulFilter Onesheet

A second issue of Worlds Without Master has been published, which means that a second episode of Oh, The Beating Drum! has been published! It’s like serendipity, except planned.

Here’s are the first two pages (of three), featuring Unnamed Swordswoman #1 and Unnamed Sorceress #1.Oh, The Beating Drum! #2, Page 1Oh, The Beating Drum! #2 Page 2

Those wishing to buy this issue, may do so for the low, low price of $3.99 by clicking this button.

Those wishing to support the project on a long term basis, should consider backing Worlds Without Master on Patreon!

Oh, The Beating Drum!

The first issue of Epidiah Ravachol’s new magazine of sword and sorcery, Worlds Without Master, just came out. I have a two-page comic in it, titled Oh, The Beating Drum!  Here’s the first page:

Oh, The Beating Drum!

It’s $3.99, and includes fiction from Vincent Baker (designer of Apocalypse World and Dogs in the Vineyard) and Epidiah Ravachol (designer of Dread and Time & Temp), a complete sword and sorcery role-playing game and illustrations! It’ll help support the endeavor, and also help keep me making more of these!

You can also support the project over the long-term by visiting the project’s Patreon page and pledging there.

Teaching Baby Paranoia: Payola Dentata

(Click here to see the larger version!)

Footnotes: Payola Dentata

1: It was an October just like any other October. Minus the 180 pounds of Soviet metal leering down upon the United States like the unlidded eye of some supernatural villain.

2: Sputnik was launched on October 4, 1957 into an elliptical orbit some 139 miles (at its closest; 900 miles at its furthest) above earth. For three short months, it mesmerized us with its beeping and… uh… slight sky-traversing dottedness. On January 4th, 1958, it returned to earth, retiring to a government farm in Kazakhstan.

3: The American Dental Association was created in the 19th century to provide an institutional repository of dental knowledge. And also to house one of the strategic reserves of inexpensive lollipops.

4: The launch of Sputnik created the space-race, a wholly owned subsidiary of the arms-race (itself a wholly owned subsidiary of the Cold War). The Department of Defense oversaw all matters related to said Cold War, up to and including mysterious transmissions emanating from America’s dental appliances. Careful analysis of nearly 300 broadcasts determined that the dental transmissions coinciding with the launch of Sputnik were not a matter of National Security.

5: The Federal Communications Commission (herein referred to as the FCC) is mandated with shepherding the public radio, television, wireless and broadband spectra. In the 1950s, they prosecuted a number of radio disk-jockeys (so-called for their diminutive statures and colorful haberdashery) for what came to be known as the Payola Scandal. It turns out, where there’s the capacity to screw-over one’s fellow man to make a buck, there’s always the will: Disc-jockeys were accepting money to play particular records on their radiola programs in violation of radio spectrum licensing agreements. When caught they shifted to slightly less overt methods (radio stations owned by record companies; radio programs that are actually hour-long advertizements; third-party record-promoters…) that continue today.

6: The Department of Defense noted that the 300 recorded dental transmissions contained a certain pattern, unusual in clandestine Soviet radio chatter: 4/4 time.

Red Dead Redemption(I created the above illustration for an essay on crunch time. It sort of fits the themes of this little essay/review and since I’m too lazy/busy to do a new illustration specifically for this, I’m just re appropriating it. I’m very post modern.)

I finally got around to watching Indie Game: The Movie last night. It’s a documentary that follows the development of three big indie titles: Braid, Super Meat Boy and Fez (all three of which were sold on the Xbox Live Arcade). Super Meat Boy and Fez were both still in development during production of the film; Braid had been completed (and really served as the point of reference for the other two projects).

It’s a really fascinating documentary, one I highly recommend watching if you’re at all interested in game development (from either the video or tabletop sides of the spectrum). Oh yeah, it’s on Netflix Watch Instantly.

The movie was simultaneously inspiring and devastating. I found myself at various points in time with the urge to jump right back into games development and at other times thankful that I’m out.

At one point in the movie, one of the on-air interviewees (and I can’t recall who) posits that the turning point in the current state of the industry came when Valve (developers of the Half-Life games, the Portal games and the Team Fortress games [mods?]) debuted their digital distribution hub Steam. According to the interviewee, Valve claimed no allegiance to the traditional physical distribution hubs and with a big “fuck it” created Steam.

Personally, I’d argue that the turning point was subscription based MMOs. Once the consumer became comfortable with a game being an intangible (EverQuest and World of Warcraft were both games that were much, much bigger than the data you’d buy at the store), the other pieces fell into place.

What depressed me most about this movie is what sort of depressed me about the games industry in the ’90s and ’00s: the relentless grind of making games.

If there’s one issue that most defines videogame development it’s crunch time; the tectonic clash of time versus money. Videogames are developed along certain timelines dictated by market pressures (basically, most videogame titles are developed with schedules designed to fill holes in the publishers’ calendars; those calendars are written to accomodate certain patterns in consumer behavior [e.g. holiday shopping…]). To meet these often arbitrary timelines, developers are [often? usually?] forced to work long hours to complete projects. Unless they happen to be independently wealthy (or have unusually long leashes, given to them by past performance), developers are more-or-less obliged to do the bidding of publishers… they hold the purse strings!

What indie game development promised was a divorce from [what I consider] the dysfunctional relationship between development and external market pressure as imposed by a publisher. Divorced from the whims of physical retail and the expectations of ever-growing budgets, indie game development promised true artistic creativity! Arcadia!

After watching Indie Game: The Movie, that’s obviously not the case.

All of the developers featured in Indie Game: The Movie worked long, long thankless hours on their titles. All of them dealt with stress and depression. Instead of a dysfunctional relationship between development and external market pressure as imposed by a publisher, indie game development has created a dysfunctional relationship between development and external market pressure as imposed by lots and lots of micro-financiers.

And I’m not sure that’s any better.

I read today that roughly 84% of Kickstarter projects shipped late.

In order to secure the funding to make indie games, we’re forcing developers to scramble about and find many smaller backers. (Either through micro finance sites like Kickstarter and Indie Go Go, or though traditional methods.) Developers are using social media to create buzz around their projects. In doing so, they’re also building up expectation, and if things go poorly, entitlement and disgruntledness. (Underline away, Chrome. That’s totally a word!)

I don’t know what a solution to this problem looks like. Federally funded arts grants? We have them for film and other countries have them for game development. Even that invites pressure. Imagine having to justify your creative endeavor to a leathery congressman worked up into a lather about looming cliffs of fiscality. Doesn’t sound too appealing to me.

So, go see Indie Game: The Movie. And add your voice to the discussion.


Addendum: I think Braid is genuinely beautiful and certainly worthy of all its praise. Super Meat Boy and Fez both look excellent (I haven’t played either yet, though I have SMB). My argument isn’t that the current state of indie game development can’t yield true artistry (it can! it has!) it’s that the model is unsustainable. Eventually those involved in the process will burn out and leave and games will be poorer for it.


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