Monday, February 26, 2018

Developer's Notes - 4

So, Ekoja was going to post this week, but he's been down and out for the last several days with the flu, so you've got me again. =P I'm writing this now on severe sleep deprivation, so prepare for a lot of rambling and possible incoherence. 

Ekoja is still working on his mystery podcast, although progress has been slowed by illness. I'm drawing... all the things. Follow my instagram for WIP pictures. I'm still working on getting into a good groove for posting on there, but that is where I'm posting most of my progress pictures and finished pictures. And also cats. And occasionally some other more personal things, mostly fun shenanigans, like the 2 headed snowman my kids built when it actually snowed here or Sophie's hair when I put it up in a Rapunzel-inspired braid. But it will mostly be WIP and cats. 

I'm almost finished with the next chibigurumi plushie, and I look forward to sharing that with early in March.  I might link that from here. I will definitely share it from my Facebook page. You can see the Pikachu I finished for this month on my Etsy

Since we design games, we also play a lot of games. We meet with friends once a month to play some kind of tabletop role-playing game. Usually it's D&D or Pathfinder. This month we started a Starfinder campaign. I'm not super-hyped on the setting, but then I'm not really into sci-fi in general so it's nothing personal. I do, however, love my character. I'm playing an Android Envoy. I'm playing her like a bard, so think Vocaloid. Her name is Muse. I really appreciate that our current GM is flexible with how we play our characters and what we can do with them. Even if we're following a set adventure, it doesn't feel like we're being led along or shoe-horned into a particular course of action. Needless to say, I had fun. Most of our group seems pretty pleased with the Starfinder system. My participation was limited to primarily skill checks (by choice because that's how I'm playing this character) so I can't speak personally, but by the overall positive response from the others, it seems like it's a pretty solid system. 

I've also been watching things. I'm slowly working my way though a bunch of things, like only watching one episode or so at a time over a longer period of time. So, if I watch 3 episodes in one evening, they're from 3 different shows. Right now I'm watching Shannara, The Irregular at Magic High School, and Your Lie in April. The Shannara series appeals to me because I read and loved the books when I was younger, and although the series follows one of my least favorite books from the series (The Elfstones of Shannara) it's not horrible (actually I'm kind of enjoying it, although I wish the main characters behaved a little less like teenagers). I'm still undecided on The Irregular at Magic High School. I'm going to give it a fair chance, but I do find the way the sister flirts with her brother a little creepy personally. I'm waiting for the plot, as I've only watched the first episode or two where they're introducing characters and setting. However, I am loving Your Lie in April. I think it probably appeals to me because of the music theme. I used to play music when I was in middle school and high school, and even a little in college. I have not played in a very long time. Sometimes I miss it too. I'm going to watch an episode of this when I take my break at work tonight to eat my dinner/breakfast meal thing. On this note, I'm feeling inspired to add Lord of the Rings and Shannara (based on books not so much the series on Netflix). I'm also considering doing some bookmarks for some of the Pern books as well. Because the world always needs more bookmarks for people like me who just cannot transition to digital books.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Developer's Notes - 3

It's been a busy 2 weeks. Ekoja and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary last week. I finally got to see Thor: Ragnarok. I absolutely loved it, but I will avoid gushing about that here. I also got to see the MLP movie, which was also pretty decent. I found the animation to be a little oversaturated color-wise and a little overstimulating, especially at the beginning. I still enjoyed it though. I've been busy drawing. Since I'm coming back from a 2-3 year hiatus, I have a lot of work to do to freshen up my table. I have retired most of my old prints and badges--you can purchase any old designs from my Etsy at significant discount if you are interested. I am keeping some designs, mostly for those sets I plan on adding to, like the Movie Poster prints and What Would prints. Given that I have retired almost everything, though, that means I have to create a lot of new stuff now. This year's focus is going to be on creation. I will be applying to some tables, but it won't be as strong a focus as straight up creating new things for my table. 

Speaking of tables, I will be attending the Asheville Anime Regional Convention at the Asheville Civic Center--which is called something else now, because people like to change names of things just to confuse old people like me. I'm excited about getting into this con. It's small, but it's in one of my favorite cities in the United States. Anyways, if you will be at the AARC, stop by my table and say hi.

So, what am I working on? I have about 9 different print series that I am actively attempting to make progress on. A good number of these will be original designs, but there will be some fanart. Most of it will be in the form of parodies, like the What Would prints and Movie Poster prints. I am starting a new version of the Anime Tarot deck, although I think I will need to call it something else because it's going to feature characters beyond anime and video games. Would it be too awkward just to call it The Tarot Deck of Things Panda Likes? I am putting a lot of effort into the design for the new deck. The original deck was intended to be funny, but some of the cards communicated this intention better than others.  I'd like the design for the new set to more clearly communicate that focus. 

I have several series of original prints that I am working on. Some will be funny, and others will be more designed to be pretty. There will be several print series based around the Character Archetype badge series. I also want to do an original character series (loosely) inspired by traditional Japanese landscape painting and the fruits of the spirit from the book of Galatians in the Bible. I've found the challenge of creating characters to match different virtues both fun and frustrating. This is an idea I've had for years, but I've only recently come up with a design that I am pleased with. We won't talk about how many designs for this project I've thrown out over the years. I also have lots of designs that I like but don't think fit this project. I'm not sure what I'll do with those... I'm also doing a set of mermaids in a similar style as the fruits prints ... because, no reason other than I want to. =P I will also be revisiting the Western Zodiac designs. 

Beyond prints, we are redoing all of our badges. I am changing the format in which I make these. Ideally they will be easier for me to create, but the real motivation to make the change is that (assuming everything goes as planned) will open up all kinds of creative options for them that were not practical before.

We are also continuing to add to our button and bookmark series. For buttons, I will be expanding my Final Fantasy series, because who doesn't need more Final Fantasy? I will also be adding a few other series, including Guardians of the Galaxy (unusual, but I was inspired...) and maybe Bravely Second. I'll be adding a 4th set of Sailor Moon bookmarks, as well as a few other bookmark sets, including Dragonlance, Firefly, and Love Live sets. 

And last, but not least, I am also working on art for the newest game from Team Sidequest, Texas Zombie Massacre. This has been a huge challenge, not just for the sheer number of cards to draw, but drawing cartoonish zombies is not something I'm super comfortable with drawing. So far, though, I'm pretty pleased with the progress. 

I am doing a few other things that aren't related to drawing, but I think I'll leave those for another post. I'll go into more detail on some of these projects later as well. This post is meant to be a quick overview of what drawing stuff I am planning this year. There's a lot here, and that's pretty typical of how I work. I do not focus well. I never have. If I don't have a million projects going at the same time, I start having panic attacks. Of course, so many projects does run the risk of becoming overwhelming, so it'll be an interesting balancing act. 

If you're interested in seeing WIP pictures, I post those at random on my Instagram account now rather than sharing them here. I find it easier to update there on a less static schedule than here weekly. For instance, I find it simpler to just snap a picture and share a finished sketch there rather than waiting to try and collect all the things I've worked on each week. My work schedule is very variable, so posting here consistently has proven challenging. So, anyways, follow Instagram for WIP updates, and also cats and other random things from my life. There's not much of that though. It's mostly WIP pics and cats.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Developer's Notes - 2

I want to tell you a little bit about the projects I’m working on this week. There are two that are really exciting to me.

First, I want you to imagine a city. It’s a sprawling metropolis. Skyscrapers peer down onto a concrete jungle where thousands of people conduct business, fall in love, and commit crimes. Welcome to Freedom City. It’s the setting of a new podcast series I am creating called “Manic Mysteries.” We follow the adventures of two private detectives, Robert Stone and his partner Styx. Robert is styled after the hard-boiled detective novels of Dashiell Hammett. Think Sam Spade. Styx is a geek and treats most of life like a role-playing game. I swear he’s only slightly autobiographical. Freedom City has elements of steam punk. There’s 1950s machinery, cabs, and railcars with a dash of magic. There are werewolves, elementals, and demon-summoning accountants. Each episode features a new mystery.

My goal is write, record and publish six episodes this year. So far I have written two and I one more in the works. I’ve done some preliminary voice acting tests. Yes, I’m wrangling some friends into doing this for me. I’m also looking at good delivery tools. If nothing else, I hope to put it on the Team Sidequest website. I plan on releasing them for free. I enjoy writing, I make killer murder mysteries, and this is a creative outlet for me.

The second project is our first game: “Texas Zombie Massacre.” There are a lot of great and bad zombie games out there but most of them focus on survival. We decided to mix things up. Instead of survival, the goal is to rack up points, which are earned by the shooting zombies. It’s a card game with a touch of tower defense mechanics. You kill zombies with guns, tanks, and lawn mowers while knocking back moonshine in place of green herbs.

The game has been in the works for a while. We’re happy with the general mechanics so the goal now is to refine them and create the artwork. I am assisting Gothic Panda on this task. As with most of our creative projects, the game is filled with our strange sense of humor. There’s the gluten free zombie, Rob the zombie, and a Texas speedbump (AKA: a zombie armadillo) just to name a few of the cards.

Okay. I don’t want to give away too much at this point but I will leave you with a teaser from the first episode of Manic Mysteries.

STYX: So why are we here again?
ROBERT: Well, it might have something to do with the corpse.
STYX: That’s a dead guy?
ROBERT: He has a dagger protruding from his back.
STYX: I thought it might be a throw rug. You know. A new fad. Kind of like those sleeping kittens.
ROBERT: Who would use a fake, dead body as a living room decoration?
STYX: We’re in rich-side. Nobody really understands these people. You’ve heard the expression, “Those with too much money and time are likely to waste both.”
ROBERT: Too true, Styx, but I think presence of blood and police officers suggest that we have foul play on our hands.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Developers Notes - 1

It's 2018. It's a new year. It's a time for new things, right?

Well there are new things coming to my blog here. The biggest change is what I'm posting here and how often I'm posting. This is going to turn more into a journal of what we're doing that will be posted in weekly digests on Mondays (ideally). For more WIP pictures and slice of life randomness then find me on either Instagram or Facebook under the name GothicPandaArt. I will be sharing the writing for this with Ekoja (my husband). Most posts will be either one of us or the other, but some may be both.

On that note, onward to our first post in 2018...

If you don't already know me, I am Gothic Panda and the artist behind most everything you see in Gothic Panda Studios. I currently work full time at a 911 emergency call center at night and attempt to homeschool my 4 kids by day, and sometimes everything works, but usually it's chaos. Right now, true to my normal style, I'm working on all the projects. This includes some games, lots of prints, some buttons, some bookmarks, lots of badges, some plushies... you get the idea. I tend to be slow finishing things because I have trouble keeping my attention on any one project for any length of time. I have so many ideas and things I want to work on and I'm not good at simply picking one project and finishing it...or even picking 10 projects and finishing them. It's not too bad, though, as long as I work on things consistently. That's going to be my personal goal/resolution/thing for this year. 

Anyways...(I wasn't going to post an intro like that, but since Ekoja did, I feel like I have to too. XD And, yeah, we totally did not coordinate writing this joint post very well.)

2018 has started out with a bang. We attended MAGFest in National Harbor, MD over the first weekend in January. I gave my first ever panel with Ekoja. It was good experience. Giving a panel was definitely way outside my comfort zone. It didn't help that Ekoja teaches public speaking is pretty good at it, so next to him I feel like I must have looked extra... inexperienced. However, everyone we spoke to said they liked it and said I did fine (although I still have my doubts). Anyways. If anyone reading this happened to have attended MAGFest, then it was the panel on Thursday afternoon on Relationships and Gaming on playing together with your significant other. Otherwise, Ekoja participated in a couple of other MAGES panels there on Saturday. I attended a lot of panels throughout the weekend. I played lots of games. I bought stuff, including 2 more sets of dice. Did I really need more? Yes, yes I did. This should never be a question. I got some adorable chibi stickers that are now adorning my computer. Overall, I had an amazing time, and I cannot wait for next year. Secretly, I hope to be waitlisted again for this convention. =P

MAGFest has definitely taken up a big part of our attention over the last 2 weeks, but there's nothing like a convention for a motivational boost to really start digging into things for the new year. More on some of our in progress projects will be coming next week. ^_^

Hi. I go by the nickname “Ekoja” or “Eko” for short because it is such a long name. I’m married to Gothic Panda. This is my side of the blog. I teach for a living, love to write and I’m a fan of most things geeky. Lately, I’ve been working on scripts for a podcast mystery series. I’ll talk more about that some other time. The topic for today is our recent trip to the gaming convention, Magfest.

I was invited to speak at the convention about seven years ago by a former student and I’m a regular panelist in their MAGES group, which is a bunch of academic and professional speakers who talk about games from game design and study perspectives. This year I was part of three panels.

The first panel was with Gothic Panda called “Gaming Together: Do Couples that Play Together Stay Together?” It was an interesting discussion that boiled down to it can and there are ways to help it. The panel went well for a Thursday event, which are usually quite small. In fact, I would say there were more people at that panel than any of the others I gave and I received more comments and questions from it too. Overall, a successful presentation. I laughed. I cried. I didn’t stick my foot too far in my mouth, and Gothic Panda was still speaking to me afterwards. I consider that an incredible success. If you get to know me, I tend to speak before thinking a lot and it gets me in trouble.

The second panel was about the mechanics of love and the third involved encouraging kinder interactions from players. This was the feel-good year of panels. They were both fun and I enjoyed the conversations with the other panelists. We attended a few fun events too including one-man performance of “Empire Strikes Back” and some Tabletop gameplay.

Gothic Panda and I also listened to a number of panels on game design and running a successful Kickstarter. They were very motivating for us to really push forward on more of our creative projects. I really want to make stuff this year. This blog is just the first step. We’ve got some great projects in the works. Hope you enjoyed our first post. Talk to you later.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Missing Again

Wanted to share an update. I'm not disappearing again. I've just been sick. Seasonal weather changes plus allergies has turned into a nasty sinus thing, which has completely knocked me out for the last week or so. Anyways, I'm taking a short break from blog writing while I recover my health. I am still working on some stuff to share later. It's all about priorities. I'm focusing on getting better, but not stressing about keeping up with everything until then. Looking forward to being over this and having some good stuff coming after this short break. See you on the other side!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Episode 7 -- Hidden Truths

Burn down the library to keep the Elrics away from the truth rather than a fight with Scar accidentally burning it down makes more sense to me. Gluttony aside, I feel like the homunculi are presented as clever adversaries, not opposed to destruction, but definitely aware of their resources and interested in using those resources only when needed.

Scar vs. Lust and Gluttony. He's clearly overpowered. Gluttony by himself might have been a fair fight at this point, but the two ganging up on him is not going to end well for Scar. But seeing the outcome now would be too kind.

Mustang's ambition. Clearly stated, and fairly early in the story. He's still just pushing paper at a desk, which is not super interesting, but his subplot is moving forward. The main story is clearly focused on the homunculi and the trouble they are causing, but I like that we have several subplots aside from just the Elrics trying to restore their bodies. I guess that's a bit of a small spoiler because at this stage there is no indication that Mustang's story is going to progress beyond paper-pushing.

No body and a bloody jacket. He's lost a lot of blood, but it would be too easy for Scar to be dead already. Clearly Mustang feels the same way. Scar is another fairly major character, so we wouldn't expect him to kick the bucket so soon in the story. Although several other players have been removed at this point, so anything is possible.

And Lust clears up that little question. I guess they're not going to drag that one out.

New babysitters, and another pair of side characters. I liked these two.

<3 <3 Sheska.

I find this image super funny for some reason. I have no idea why.

Mixed blessing? As much as I like Hughes, I do not think I'd like to work for him. I love Hughes' laugh as he's leaving.

Big reveal of the secret behind the philosopher's stone. Also early in the story. I definitely like the faster pace for Brotherhood.

Lololol. Armstrong passed his Intimidation check.

God's special way of torturing those who have committed tabboos. Why is this such a common theme in the way people think? That when bad things happen it must be because you've done something wrong. It's illogical, but very accurate.

It's not our fault he rolled super well on his Intimidate check.

Why do I have a feeling that I'm getting involved in something really dangerous? ... Foreshadowing. To use Hughes' words. This is a "special kind of freak show." It's really not good for normal people.

 Intimidate check. Didn't do as well. The steam from the nostrils is a nice touch, but he left his shirt on. I'm pretty sure that significantly reduced his bonus to Intimidation.

Poor Al. All by himself outside. A good group would have tried to stay together because bad things always happen when people get separated. This has become a fairly solid rule in our games because more player deaths have happened because the group split and one part of it found an encounter designed for the entire group.

 Hey look, it's bad things that are about to happen.  XD 

Next episode will start the Lab 5 episodes, my least favorite after the Liore episodes. Spoiler Lab 5 doesn't take as long in Brotherhood, which was a huge huge huge plus for me. 

Friday, November 3, 2017


This cat was an early birthday gift for Luke, my 14-yo son. It's a little bit like a therapy pet for him. He's been volunteering at a local no-kill all cat shelter that specializes in older cats. The shelter is filled to the brim with cats. Each room contains at least a dozen cats. Most cats are not kept in cages, and those that are in cages are usually for reasons like sickness (quarantine) or new arrivals.  Lana is a 4.5 yo white and grayish brown tabby. She's super sweet, but very skittish. We don't know a lot about her background, but we think she may have been abused as a kitten based on her behavior. We have also wondered if perhaps she was left in a bag somewhere and found as a kitten because she exhibits some of the same claustrophobic behaviors our older cat Ferret did, and he had been found in a bag on the side of the road.

She's been with us for about 3 weeks, and she's been growing on me. If it had been me picking out a new cat, it would not have been this one. I've got my eye on a particularly scruffy black and white cat with gorgeous eyes. But, since this cat was for Luke, and not for me, we got Lana. She was named Ida at the shelter, and Luke would always be in her room when we'd go to pick him up. He would enjoy and spend time with all the cats in the room, but she was the one he'd always go back to. He talked about her at home (which is a huge thing because he hardly ever says anything at all unless it's to talk about a new LEGO set he wants). Shaun and I spent a lot of time talking about whether we'd do this since we'd be breaking our own long-standing rule of no pets for the kids--we would have family pets, but nothing that would be specifically for one particular kid. We eventually came to the decision we did want to get the cat for Luke for his birthday, which is coming up in December. Once we made the decision, we immediately went and signed the adoption papers for the cat even though it's only October, because, you know, it would have really sucked to have waited till December to get her on his birthday, but then have her be adopted by another family in, say, November.

Lana is already becoming part of the family. Badger and Kisa, our two family cats, are getting used to having Lana around. Lana isn't bothered by our cats; I think that can be credited to her time at the shelter where she shared a room with about a dozen other cats. I like that even though she is skittish around people, she doesn't take crap from other cats, especially Badger who can be a bit of a bully to other cats.