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A* movies ending, comics improving 
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Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:18 pm
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This is difficult to write because I think it will come as something of a disappointment to my best and oldest fans, but after having watched how A* and its audience has developed over nearly a year now, I think it's a change that has to be made. Namely, the current episode, 7, will be the last A* episode to have an animated movie version.

As the old-timers here know, A* started out as just animated episodes--no comics--and existed that way until episode 5, when I started converting my daily animation work into comics over the course of each episode's development, so people would have something to see during the months that it takes me to get an animated episode together. At that point I also went back and retroactively converted episodes 1-4 into comic form.

I think the quality of the comics and the movies has been improving steadily, but while the audience for the comics has continued to increase over the nearly six months they've been around, the movies have not seen a similar increase in popularity; in fact, as you can see from the viewing numbers, you'd be hard-pressed to find movies on YouTube that are less popular than mine. A little while back I added a set of big, button movie links to all the daily comic pages, but the bump in movie viewing rates that they produced was pretty short-lived, and they don't seem to be mind-blowing enough to generate traffic through word of mouth. There may be a decent-sized audience out there that would like them, but I haven't been able to find it; the vast majority of the thousands of people who visit the A* site each day, and pore through the comics, have never been interested enough to view even one of the movies.

If relative unpopularity were the only problem with the movies, I might continue making them anyway, because, well, I like them, my family and friends like them (or at least say they do :D), and some of my favorite fans appear to like them. But producing the comic for animation has definite drawbacks that have been bothering me more and more of late.

One problem is that all the additional drawing--and then the animation, voice work, and so forth--that goes into animating an episode makes each episode take two to three times as long to get to you as it would otherwise; if I wasn't trying to animate things, I could get the A* story to you a good deal faster, and I think that would make it a lot easier to follow, and thus more engaging.

The other problem is that while I feel much more comfortable with drawing many more things in the A* style now, the number of things I can animate well has not increased nearly as much, so I've been having to sort of dumb down the drawing into things I can animate. This has become particularly frustrating in this episode, since it has more action than the last one, and I just know that I could make the drawings much better if I wasn't constrained by having to make them in ways that I can animate later; there are just too many that are hard to make out, or that are laid out in very (to me, anyway) dull side views or straight-on views, which are about the only two perspectives I can hope to animate reliably; and so I've gotten myself into the ironic situation where the scenes that are supposed to be the most dynamic in action are also the most stiff and stodgy in drawing, and I'm just not getting the story across to what I think is the best of my ability. If I was a better--or at least more patient--animator this might not be a problem, but I'm not, and it is. If you compare the A* comics with my Princess and the Giant comics, I think you'll get an idea of what I mean: the Princess isn't drawn for animation, and its images are much more dynamic and easier to follow than A*'s. I want to bring A* up to that level of visual quality.

So that's about the size of it. Episode 8 and beyond won't end up as animated versions, but their drawings should start to get much more interesting to look at, and they'll come out faster, to boot.

I owe, and am hereby declaring, a big, big thanks to the guys who've put a great deal of time, effort, and ingenuity into supporting my animation efforts by giving me a lot of feedback on the movies, and even producing A* movies of their own: thank you very, very much Starschwar, SEPET, Vitruv, and Neo87; you guys own. Thank you also to the two guys who've supported and sponsored multiple A* episodes: thank you SEPET (again!), and Steven Baughman. You guys have helped keep me going in more ways than one.

A* will continue, and will, I think, get better than ever. There will be an episode 7 movie, and I will be animating it up to the best of my ability. The episodes after 7 won't have official movies, but if any of you want to take the comic artwork and make your own movies out of it, well, as long as you give me credit and a smbhax.com link for the art part of it, and don't turn it into something shall we say too "mature," then you will have my blessing, although you won't really need it because you are already awesome for being here.

Oh and if you want to tell me why this is a foolish move, please feel free. It will be kind of weird if everybody's all happy about the movies going away. I mean, I'm not, but that's supposedly life or something?


Sat Jan 23, 2010 3:06 am
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Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2009 1:59 pm
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For what its worth, I've found the quality of the animation to be downright great in the last few episodes. They never seemed limited in the slightest bit to me. I'm sorry to see them go.


Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:19 pm
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Thanks man.

I think they've come out pretty well, too; I went and watched episode 6 again last night, and it still keeps me watching through the whole thing, even though I see things here and there that didn't come out quite like I'd wanted, maybe. A lot of the trick is choosing what not to do--avoiding things that I wouldn't be able to present very well, I mean.


Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:13 pm
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Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2009 1:59 pm
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Now go back and watch the first episode. Or, heck, even your old mxo stuff. You've come a long way in terms of both art and animation. I imagine that you could get over whatever difficulties you're having in time as well.


Mon Jan 25, 2010 7:45 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:21 pm
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Your work has indeed come a long way since your MXO movies. In the end, what counts is to follow your passion.
If you really like doing the movies, then continue doing them.
If your heart is mostly in the comics, then, well, you have already arrived at the right decision for yourself.


Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:29 pm
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Ooh, another person who remembers those, heh. Thanks for stopping by. :)

There are things I like doing in animation that I can't do with static drawings. Thinking of how you put the dilemma, it occurred to me that if I were doing say good ol' draw-every-frame-from-scratch type of Golden Age animation, I wouldn't have to resort to most of the technical trickery that takes so much time away from the simple joy of drawing in A*. It would also take me like two years to produce an episode so I guess that isn't feasible. :P Aside from the fact that I'd run out of patience way before then, I mean. ;)


Tue Jan 26, 2010 3:01 am
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Thinking about taking the comics up to a larger size, too--it'd be easier for me to draw small details if I had a bit more room. Maybe 30% bigger, from 717x300 to 956x400.


Wed Jan 27, 2010 2:28 am
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Joined: Mon Nov 02, 2009 9:32 am
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BC wrote:
Ooh, another person who remembers those, heh.
....

If by that you meant the MxO animations.....I can't tell you how much we liked and appreciated them! (us = my faction in MxO)
I was so psyched when we started getting them, they were a glimmer of hope, and re-kindled many of our interest in that game.

As for here and now, Ive only ever looked at the comics - so now of course Ill have to go watch some of the episodes.


Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:04 pm
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Heh yeah go check 'em out! No big rush though, I'm not going to take them down or anything.


Sun Jan 31, 2010 5:20 am
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Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2009 6:15 pm
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Ah so that's why I was staring at the same image for well over an hour. Thought maybe it was perhaps the worlds most incredibly long title sequence ever!

(either that or you'd flipped and gone all Andy Warhol on us O.o)


Sun May 30, 2010 2:47 pm
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