Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Big in Japan, part 4: Comiket 80 Report

We had the honor of adding another page to the history of KS, attending the Summer Comiket and Comitia with the new KS illustration book titled "Fragments of Summer". This time the pics are all in full color for your eyes to enjoy. We sure made a serious jump in quality.

The book was made possible again by the KS devs along with the Shimmie regulars, plus 4 guest participants from Japan as well. This is a historical collaboration of KS fan artists around the globe.

- Himeno, a doujin artist who creates KS fan comics frequently. He has posted his works in the forum numerous times.
- Sukaponta, a doujin artist and an overseas cartoon enthusiast. He has been following KS development since its infancy.
- Yamada, who responded to our call for participation. You can find his arts in Pixiv.
- EEE boy, one of the translation team member, and shows very good skills in dot arts.

So the big day was August 13, the second day of Summer Comiket. We brought a few hundred copies of the new book and the remainders of the Act 1 CD / Players Guide combo from the previous Comitia.

This was how the desk looked like just before the event's opening.

The big surprise was that we sold out the Players Guide within the first hour. (The stock was low though.) The new illustration book was selling very fast. We almost saw lines forming in front of our desk. I've been doing doujin stuffs for about 10 years but I have never experienced anything like this in my life. It was astonishing. I never thought that KS became this popular in Japan.

In the end we sold more than 200 copies of the illustration book. A remarkable number. We saw lots of positive reactions afterwards on twitter.

On the following Sunday, August 21, we had another event which was Comitia 80, specializing in original doujin creations. We sold another 100 copies or so, proving the popularity of KS yet again. One person claiming he's from New York dropped by, and bought 10 copies in bulk so that he can distribute them back in US. It turns out that the person was Lansan1ty...hope he's doing ok.

We are aware that there are lots of requests for distributing the scanned data and all. We are seeking the possibility to fulfill these needs in one way or another. We appreciate if you can give some time for this.

We thank you for all the support from KS devs (especially Aura who coordinated the whole thing), the artists and all the fans out there in Japan and worldwide. There are new plans going on so please stay tuned to the dev blog for further development.


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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Five Stages of a KS Dev

Stage 1: Enthusiasm

Making KS is a blast. Seriously, it's pretty damn fun. Applying yourself to something with other people is a great pastime, and all the side effects of it, like the great community that's built around KS, or getting our work in events like Comiket are just frosting on the cake. I like the people in 4LS, and talking and theorizing and working with them. I think they like me too, most of the time at least. Sometimes, simply taking a step back and realizing "holy crap we are actually doing this" is a big motivation booster.

Stage 2: Frustration

Making KS is hard. We've had to climb over a whole bunch of totally unreasonable hurdles to get stuff done along the way. The goals we have set for ourselves are completely unrealistic, and it's taken way too long to get there. The amount of stuff we've scrapped from KS could be bigger than the amount of stuff that is in the final product. The ways things can go to hell have surprised us time and time again. These kinds of things wear people out horribly, but this still is just the beginning of the descent to madness that is visual novel development.

Stage 3: Desperation

Making KS is suffering. The dumb shit we've had to go through with this project is unimaginable, a whole bunch of it self-inflicted. We aren't a well-oiled machine by any means, and sometimes some cogs don't work well at all. Getting the 4LS engine to work properly is a constant uphill battle including surprises, fights, begging, threats and bribery. The people who have to fight that battle go to some pretty ridiculous lengths sometimes. You wouldn't believe me if I told you.

Stage 4: Scorn

Making KS is the worst thing ever. Everyone has a point where they just can't take it anymore. The final straw will land on your back, and it will snap. Everyone reacts to this kind of stress differently. A22 rolls on the floor, delta yells a lot, and so forth. However, because we are professionals, we usually get over this pretty quickly and move on to...

Stage 5: Acceptance

Making KS is worth it. Because if it wasn't, we'd have called it quits years ago. To hell with the questionable artistic merits or a cripple porn visual novel, the adoration and wrath of all our fans, the massive though untapped potential that our project has built up and all that. There is worth in simply being together in this for so long and trying to reach that elusive goal. Once you realize that, you feel awesome, at least until the project kicks you in the nuts or ovaries the next time. Because rest assured, it will.

And I guess the kicker here is that once you reach stage 5, you don't stay in that blissful state. Nope, you go back to stage one, and the cycle goes on from there, again and again and again.


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Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Skill Gap

First, as you can see there's not been much stuff on the blog lately, that's mostly because of me. Sorry. Nevertheless, it's not very nice to spam us just because I haven't been whining on the blog for a month or whatever. Keep calm and carry on, we are doing our best.

A perpetual problem with this blog is, I'm sometimes very unsure what I want it to be. Most of the posts I've written (in fact, most of the posts written period) are just sort of random musings with only nominal cohesion. The thing is, we do more than enough random musing on IRC already, so the drive to write on blog relies on the presumed willingness of someone wanting to read all those words. I am not all that convinced that we are doing this blogging thing right at all because the way we do it leads to very weird update schedule and topic spectrum. So a question to you, reader: what sort of stuff would you want to see on the blog? The obvious content, project progress, is out of bounds for reasons we've talked about before – unreliability and so forth.

Anyway, that's that.

What I actually wanted to talk about is in the post title. The skill gap is the difference between your outlook on what is "good creative work" and the quality of your actual output. The skill gap is always there, it's in the gnawing feeling that something in what you do is wrong, in the urge to throw out your hard work and start over, in the jealousness you might feel over someone more talented than yourself. If you are a creative person, you have to deal with it in one way or another.

The skill gap ebbs and flows as one evolves as a creator. The more you study, analyse and think, the more the top line rises, growing the gap. The more you practice, practice and practice, the more your output improves, shrinking the gap.

For me personally, acknowledging my skill gap leads to a very uncomfortable anxiety. Essentially, writing is about putting thoughts out into the real world, into words and phrases and idioms and references. Some are better at it than others, but I don't think anyone can match in writing what they have in their imagination. I certainly can't. None of you will ever read the real story I've imagined, of Rin and Hisao and all the things that happen between them, just the crude translation that I was able to vomit out onto my keyboard. I feel a little saddened by this realization. All things considered, my skill gap is wide, and the effect it has on me is equally vast. I tend to revise my text a lot, write iterations upon iterations, I'm prone to getting writer's blocks and so forth. Every word is a battle.

On the other end of the spectrum, delta has probably the narrowest skill gap in 4LS. He is not only extremely good at what he does, but the nature of his job allows him to stay very close to his potential. Whereas us writers and artists are limited only by our own capabilities, he has additional limits such as those of our engine and the quantity of assets our team can produce. Further, while there are millions of pieces of art and literature for us to compare to, there are not very many visual novels. The full extent of what delta could do might not even be a known factor here, but it shows that skill gap is not only an inner quality.

I'm not sure if there are better, or even any other ways to deal with the skill gap anxiety than trying to beat it into submission. You just have to keep trying to do your best every time you pick up your medium of choice, and not get discouraged by the fact that objectively, you are terrible. It's important especially when starting, but acknowledging your limits is always important. For any given work, you have to decide when it's pointless to try to improve it further. It's all right to tell yourself "this is enough". Don't be afraid to suck, because you always will suck, kind of (unless you are cheating yourself to believe unrealistic things). Acknowledging your shortcomings honestly and working hard to improve are the path to growing as a creator.

The final 4LS anecdote about this is about weee. Most people think she's pretty good at what she does, and she is. However, take a look at her older drawings. When we started out, she wasn't all that great. In fact she felt a bit disheartened at how much better especially moekki and kamifish were back then. But you know, she stuck with drawing, and with KS, and look where she's at just a couple of years later. Weee has shown true growth in what she does and along the way she's become a fantastic artist.

I think the bottom line here is that to be a good creative person, you have to understand yourself. If you can view yourself honestly (and not be discouraged by the truth about how bad you are), a whole ton of avenues for improvement open ahead of you.

- Aura

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Friday, September 16, 2011