All posts by Spud

State of the Spud 2019: And Knowing Is Half the Battle

It’s my 27th birthday. Let’s start with a good news recap of the last year:

  • Created 144 comic pages for Friendship is Dragons (not counting the 13 guest pages received and published in the last year)
  • Posted 93 videos to the Newbiespud YouTube channel, both video gaming and tabletop gaming
  • Finished the Tales of New Dunhaven tabletop podcast, the Dusk City Outlaws campaign
  • Started the Spudventures variety tabletop podcast series (and its sibling the X Presents video series)
  • Started The Interference HD ReMIX, a ground-up rewriting of my inaugural fanfic – haven’t gotten far into it, but I still consider it an important step as a writer that I no longer consider my original work and its narrative sacrosanct
  • Made significant progress on a little RPG Maker fangame side-project for the first time, my first gamedev project since dropping out of DigiPen that’s gotten off the ground
  • Slight overall production quality improvements to streams and podcasts
  • Acquired a Playstation VR headset, which is just pretty cool

All of that – and my general survival – has been possible thanks to all y’all supporting me via the ol’ Patreon. Adequate thanks can never be given.

On to the bad news. Don’t worry, there’s a hopeful arc to it.

In last year’s State of the Spud, I said that I was pursuing an online certificate in paralegal studies, something I was very excited about at the time. Earlier this year, I dropped out due to unbearable anxiety and depression and generally falling behind on my work.

I saw it coming from a mile away, too. I seemed to be caught in a multi-year cycle of inspiration, intense work, burnout, procrastination, stress, giving up, laying low, then getting inspired by something else all over again. I can see this pattern in so many places in my past. It was only during this latest iteration that I finally noticed.

So I decided: No more. Instead of bouncing off this wall and going into a dark hole to blame myself, I’m going to stick around at the edge of this abyss and face it head-on. I’m going to start pursuing counseling and therapy and investment in my own health, if only because it’s clear that I can’t move forward until I address these mental blocks.

It took a while to wrangle the first few counseling sessions due to, well, money. But I’ve finally been to a few and I feel like I’ve already uncovered a lot.

Because I’ve discovered that these mental issues are even more all-encompassing than I suspected, and it affects how I work on, well, everything, including the Patreon, I think it’s only fair that I be a little public about it.

When I was just starting high school, my little half-brother was born. My mother got a job working night shift at a call center. So it fell to me and my sister to help raise the infant, watching over his sleep in the night and keeping him from bothering our sleeping mother in the day. Except that my sister was receding into her shell due to multiple terrible events all in a row, some of which I didn’t even fully understand at the time. So I ended up with what felt like the lion’s share of the responsibility.

Early on, an idea was put into my head: If I don’t step up and do my part, we would be evicted. Out of a home. My inaction would lead to joblessness, homelessness, starvation, and the ruin of our family.

I was 13.

I had no choice but to take these responsibilities very seriously, even though I didn’t want them. No matter what else I was doing at home, I kept an ear out for the baby, ready to jump in at a moment’s notice. Always “on-call.” Any activity I did for myself felt like sneaking it in between babysitting, or stealing time from the rest of the family.

This was how I lived for more than four years, as I grew from a teenager to a young adult. I was already working up to high expectations as a straight-A student, a “smart young man,” pursuing an advanced diploma at that. And now hypervigilant at home. The first cycle of burnout hit in junior year.

Then I went to my dream college to pursue my dream career of being a video game designer. Woohoo. Only now I look back and realize that I never lost those habits. I was still hypervigilant at home, even though the baby brother was three hours away, and explicitly no longer my responsibility. I didn’t realize it at the time, and on top of that I was starting to battle sleep apnea without realizing it either.

Naturally, I burned out and eventually came back home. Back to the family role I had put myself in debt to escape. Back to keeping an ear out for the outgoing, quick-tempered toddler who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s before I left.

For years from high school until now, this was my normal. I blamed myself for being lazy, low stamina, and incapable of getting anything done at home. When I’m out and about, I can think more clearly, pretend to be a man, make all the promises and commitments in the world, but when I walk back in through that door I become a 13-year-old again, sitting at his computer and keeping an ear out for the next bomb to drop, like I’m in a warzone.

It’s only now, through the help of just a few visits with multiple counselors from several different organizations, including my current place of work, that I’ve finally started to see that this isn’t normal, and that this way of living has severely impacted just about every single aspect of my life.

When I’m at home, I can’t focus on anything for more than about 90 minutes. Games, writing, studying, work, everything. I always feel a need to back out and “reset,” check on the living room, on a toddler who’s already a rather self-sufficient (if even shorter-tempered) teenager. If I hear a shout or a bang through the walls, any at all, I stop everything and focus my entire attention outward. This has just been my normal. Even on a good day, these are the habits half a life of hypervigilance has baked into me. And never realizing, I always blamed myself when these habits got in the way, calling myself lazy, lazy, lazy.

This is something still affecting me today, right now. During my latest visit, when the counselor asked “On a scale of 1-10, how big of an impact would you say this issue has had on your life,” I surprised myself when I couldn’t honestly bring it any lower than a 9, leaning higher. This is everything, this is who I am. This is how I live, this is how I work. And all the ways I blamed and punished myself over the years, cultivating an implicit belief that I was destined for failure in all things and that my only role was to survive and support the family, did. not. help.

(Let’s all take a breather now.)

Coming to terms with all of this has been a huge step. Now I have an image of the massive tangle in my head of all these mental issues and problems stemming from way back when. Any desire, every initiative that I’ve ever had to improve has been and is currently blocked by this tangle of martyrdom and self-blame.

It’s hard to justify going back to school. It’s hard to want to diet and exercise. It’s hard to look for a better job. All of those things would take longer than 90 minutes.

Frankly, it’s amazing in retrospect that I’ve gotten anything done.

I don’t know what the next step is. This is just a few sessions in, a few months in on a process of untangling the last probably 14 years of my life, 14 years where there’s plenty of evidence of failure that I can berate myself with.

But hey. That G. I. Joe meme had a point.

State of the Spud June 2018: Picking Myself Up

There’s a lot I don’t like to share about my private non-internet life, both for some attempt at security and because there’s usually not a whole lot going on. But this month has seen some developments in the direction of my life that will affect how I spend my time.

I’m gonna try to be as succinct as possible.

  • I’ve been working as a thrift store sales floor associate since January. It’s been pretty hard on my legs.
  • Back in late March, I got a jury summons. I managed to land on a grand jury through the month of April. Grand juries don’t see just one trial, they see many per day and decide whether the state will indict and move forward towards a criminal trial. I actually enjoyed it a lot. It’s awakened an interest in working in the public sector, in a place where I get to see so many people’s stories.
  • After 10-odd years, I’m finally seeing doctors. I developed plantar fasciitis from all the new physical activity, and I’ve probably been dealing with moderate sleep apnea for most of my adult life, but I still need to undergo a sleep study to make sure. This ultimately means that medical bills are a new reason to beg for money.
  • Because of my newfound interest in the legal system, I’ve applied to take on an online paralegal studies certificate course. Being a paralegal or legal assistant is a potential way I can support my creative projects without so much of the crunch or dread of pursuing a volatile creative career, considering what I’ve heard and read of the game industry and whatnot.
  • Patreon-wise, I’m letting the players of the Dusk City Outlaws campaign openly plan their last ultra-long mega-heist across multiple sessions. Once that’s done, I’m probably gonna run another round of SpudShots to try out some more RPG systems before I start the next big project. I’m also floating an idea of making mini-campaigns a regular thing.

Those are the major points. This is all stuff that had been brewing for a few months now. Those of you who have been supporting me and rooting for me so far deserve to know what’s going on.

I still need a lot of help, to be honest, but I’m climbing out of the hole I’ve been wallowing in for more than three years. Slowly.

J’accuse Dreemurr Reborn

Yeah, just gonna update the blog outta nowhere like it ain’t no thing.

Go on this journey with me, will you? UNDERTALE. UNDERTALE spoilers (beware). UNDERTALE fan-comics and fanfiction. Tumblr character-driven ask-blogs. UNDERTALE Tumblr fan-ask-comic-blogs exploring a version of events after the ending. Congratulations, we have arrived at the headspace necessary to comprehend Dreemurr Reborn.

Dreemurr Reborn is a consistently high quality and high effort production, save for one thing that’s been nagging at me for a while now: There’s this weird undercurrent of author exceptionalism throughout the whole thing.

Again, UNDERTALE spoilers abound. Maybe at this point there’s been so much internet exposure it doesn’t matter anymore, but this random, aggressive blog post really ain’t worth reading if it’s gonna spoil you on the crucial details of an impactful RPG you might play someday. Continue reading J’accuse Dreemurr Reborn

Friendship is Dragons 596 – Extended Note

Yeah, just gonna update the long-dead blog like it ain’t no thing. Who knows? It might be happening more often…

This is the Author’s Note I had originally written for FiD #596 before I thought it might be too much, but here goes:

Jokes based on continuity are a weird thing. It’s different from jokes based on character, because the mental leap of a joke and the mental leap of character development tend to go hand in hand. With a continuity joke, I’m basically asking, “Hey, does anyone remember the joke from two and a half weeks ago, even though it was two and a half weeks ago? I hope so, because this critical line might be confusing otherwise!”

I’ve been burned before. In the last arc, even. Against all odds, #543 was the latest one to get passed around a bunch of forum threads (How do I know? Ego-surfing, son.), and everyone’s reaction was, “‘Welcome to the joke’? What the heck does that mean?” when the ghost of Nightmare Night past joke was something that had been brought up in passing and only Rarity and the DM had really understood… 43 pages and almost two months ago.

Alright, a few people in the comments section were confused too. I had really underestimated the time difference.

But then again, when you write a joke, you write it for the specific person who will get the joke and laugh at it. And today, that joke is for the person who loves to pay extra attention to the details and theorize their hearts out.

And also for the people who easily remember a joke from two and a half weeks ago.

Patreon in July: Milestone Updates

I can hardly believe that the Patreon experiment has been going as well as it has.

That said, I’ve been pretty slow to get around to those two milestone promises I made back when we got started. But there are reasons for that, as well as bonus complications to talk about, so I will elaborate upon them now.

Milestone #2: No Webcomic Ads

There are still ads on the Friendship is Dragons website! Why? Well, because I’m waiting for one last payout, so what little money I’ve earned doesn’t go to waste.

Yeah, simple as that.

Basically, Google Adsense doesn’t pay out until you earn over $100, and the banner ad on FiD generally earns me about $45 a month. So it takes three months for me to get a payout. A welcome payout for sure, but if I’m only getting one measly payout every three months, it starts to get annoying.

Thus, around the 22nd of this month, I’ll collect my payout and then remove the ads from Friendship is Dragons.

Milestone #1: Proper Podcast Hosting

This one’s a bit more complex, and is part of the reason I’m putting the word out today.

When we started Fallout is Dragons, well, I didn’t know much about podcasting. Since we passed this milestone, I’ve spent just about all month researching everything about podcasting – file sizes, formats, hosting services, best practices, sites to avoid, RSS feeds, iTunes policies, the whole nine yards.

To summarize what I’ve learned: One, just putting links on Dropbox is not RSS feed friendly and that means we have to rehost everything, and two, we have a very large podcast on our hands here.

Because we’re recording a tabletop game, our episodes tend to last 2.5-3 hours. Even at really low bitrates, each file averages about 80 MB an episode. Publishing three or four episodes a month means we’re asking for a lot in monthly storage space.

Fortunately, I think we’ve found a nice new home on libsyn. I’ve just started it up and you can even grab the first few episodes on there now. But I’ve already reached my sizeable monthly limit with just those first five files.

We don’t have to wait for it to play catch-up over the next several months, though. Libsyn does provide a migration service where they’ll approve and archive whatever you need for a one-time fee of $0.05 per MB. To get everything up to Session 16, that comes to about $61.

Sadly, this month’s Patreon funding (thanks for that, by the way) has already either been spent or preemptively allocated towards many other things. I’d rather not wait a whole month to get Fallout is Dragons up to speed in its new host, so the remaining option is to crowdfund it.

Sumarry/TL;DR: If you’ve got a few bucks to spare, consider donating to my Paypal (not my Patreon). If I can crowdfund at least $70 (adjusted for fees), I can get all of Fallout is Dragons up on libsyn as a legitimate podcast.

Otherwise, thanks for supporting me, either financially or just by looking at the stuff I make. Continuing to be creative is what keeps me sane these days, and your encouragement reassures me that I’m not wasting your time.

P.S. I’m open to suggestions when it comes to extra stuff to offer on the Patreon page (new Milestones or Rewards, or rather the Milestones-as-Rewards scheme I’ve been using so far). I’m still very new to this whole shebang.

State of the Spud May 2014: Not Good

As a general rule, I lurk and don’t keep contact with anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary. Part of that’s introversion and social anxiety, part of that’s a voyeuristic desire to see what people are saying when I’m not there, and part of that’s not trusting myself not to say something stupid or say too much when I make comments.

Makes keeping a blog up kind of a conflict of interests, but that’s a question for another day.

What little contact I’ve made has probably seemed especially distant and depressed of late, so I realize I owe people an explanation. Here’s what’s going on in my life right now:

After months of stress and stress and stress, I’ve been informed that I am not welcome to live in my current situation starting next month. I have to move out. I have to move back home.

This is the culmination of many, many months – in fact, basically a whole year – of a chaotic, uncertain life, barely scraping by on goodwill and lucky breaks. Luck and goodwill that has finally run out. Months of stressing over money has exploded into this climactic downer.

So right now, to summarize: I’m broke, being forced to move, soon to be between jobs, and generally feeling like I’ve failed at life.

On the plus side, I’ve gotten my food budget down to $20-$30 a week. I used to be terrible about that, you don’t even know.

 

Fallout is Dragons – Session 0 – Flametongue

It’s been a great while since I’ve been in the DM’s seat. This foray into the world of tabletop RPGs, using the Skype rules of the Pony Tales: Aspirations of Harmony system and set in the Fallout: Equestria universe, will be the first campaign I’ve actually started and run by myself, which is a scary thought. Still, it’s a special occasion, and this adventure promises to be so much fun that I just want to share it with the world.

So, living up to my namesake of trying new things, here’s the first (or zeroth) episode of Fallout is Dragons, a pony-themed tabletop campaign podcast.

MediaFire link
YouTube link

With any luck, this should become a weekly thing. This is where you’ll find the podcast links for now. The project now has its own tumblr, and the updates will go there now.

 

Pony Tales: Aspirations of Harmony

Friendship is Dragons comfortably fills a niche for bronies who love tabletop RPGs. Yet there are those who can’t seem to get enough of their pony RPG fix, and they remedy this by making their own homebrew pony-themed roleplaying game system. And thanks to the comic, it’s easier than ever for said systems to get exposure and attract potential players.

This now makes the second time this has happened, and this time it comes from a good friend of mine. He goes by the handle Stairc, and he made his own system called Pony Tales: Aspirations of Harmony. (Not to be confused with another Pony Tales, an Open D6 pony system. From this point on, when I say “Pony Tales,” I mean Stairc’s game. I haven’t played the other one.)

Stairc organized a game with a few of my regular readers, who’ve been great about sharing recaps of their adventures with the rest of the… Friendship is Dragons community- boy that’s weird to say. Earlier this week, I got invited to create a character and play a game with the established group to try out the system. And now I hope to be a regular player each week.

Suffice to say, I really like Pony Tales, but I feel I should really elaborate on how I feel about the game, if only to satisfy the game designer in my brain.

Continue reading Pony Tales: Aspirations of Harmony

Father’s Day 2012: Ducks and Ponies

I’ve been writing long enough and frequently enough to recognize my own style – but only just. In the past year, I’ve learned a lot about how I write comedy by doing the screencap comic Friendship is Dragons. It’s given me pause to think about what I find funny, and how I try to deliver that humor to others.

On reflection, there’s no escaping the fact that I owe a lot of my sense of humor to my dad. He’s the one I watched MST3K with, played games with, and shared jokes with. That’s not the only influence he’s had on me, of course – he shared his love of computers with me, as well as his taste in literature and music. We shared a home and a life together, in which I grew up to be very much like him in many respects. (Not ALL respects, naturally – I’m sure he’s glad I’m not a carbon copy of him.) I wouldn’t be the kind of writer I am today without his influence.

So this year, instead of just calling him up to say “Happy Father’s Day” like every other year, I’ve decided to make this Father’s Day special. Continue reading Father’s Day 2012: Ducks and Ponies