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.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

WIP Wednesday - 2017 - Volume 16

More amigurumi this week. It will probably be beyond the first of the year before I have this set and their tags ready, but I'm taking a short break from that series to make some special holiday plushies. They will be available in white, red, dark green, and green/red/white variegated with tinsel, as well as a combination of related colors. The cats and bunnies will have either red, green, white, or black eyes. My problem is that there is so many combinations and choices that I'm not sure how to put together the listings for these. I think I'll be grouping them by color type -- like single color (not variegated), two colors (not variegated), single color variegated, and two color variegated. The variegated is separate from the plain colors because that yarn costs more. But yeah. So I'm working on a set of samples to photograph for each combination. Unfortunately at this stage, I don't have much to photograph, and what I do have I left at home and I'm at work right now. Oops. So, no pictures this week, but this is what I'm working on. =)

Monday, October 30, 2017

Episode 6 -- Road of Hope

At this point, the number of overlapping episodes and scenes are diminishing, so I will hopefully stop comparing to the '03 anime. I've found it really difficult to not compare, especially with these early episodes. I really think the two versions are very different beasts. I do prefer Brotherhood because I found the plot to be more robust, and the characters were over all better developed, especially the characters outside of Ed and Al. But, that doesn't mean I don't like the '03 anime. There was a lot I liked about that one as well, but where they do overlap, I do tend to prefer how Brotherhood handled the situations. Anyways... moving onward to Episode 6.

 Poor Al. At least they didn't forget him this time...

 Drop by next time... The feels because ... you know... there won't be a next time. T_T Since I am generally unfamiliar with the manga, the first time I watched through Brotherhood, I did hold out on a slim hope that he might not die.

 Poor Ed with his left armed salute, not realizing that this is his final good bye to his friend. T_T Okay... enough of that. Moving on.

 There will always be screenshots of Armstrong and his shenanigans because I love him so much, especially all the things that have been passed down the Armstrong line for generations.

 Perfect example of the use of the Improvised Weapon feat (reference most versions of D&D and Pathfinder).
 Hey look: it's the thing you're questing for. If the Elrics didn't have ethics, they could have walked off with this and we could have ended the show here. But, I guess that would have been a bit anti-climactic.

 The one thing I did find strange about this scene, and I didn't notice it until one of my later viewings of Brotherhood, is that Al doesn't speak. At all. Especially since he's the topic of conversation for part of it.

 And Al's no longer luggage. I wonder if anyone else riding on the train thought it was weird that a dis-assembled suit of armor was talking.

This is one of those places where my memory is a bit fuzzy for the '03 anime. I want to say Marco died here in the first anime. I certainly expected him to be dead in this version. At this point in the story, he'd served his relative purpose, which is to direct the Elrics toward discovering how to make a philosopher's stone.

 Pinako Rockbell vs. Edward Elric. Pinako wins every time (my opinion).

 Given how smug and casual Ed looks here I'd be pissed too if I was Winry. "It's basically the same, just in smaller pieces."

 Yeah. He deserved that...

 More backstory. I find it interesting that they go to significant effort to make sure we don't see the father's face. This is also another place I'm fuzzy on the '03 anime: were Pinako and Hohenheim drinking buddies in the '03 anime? I can't remember. It wasn't a major point if they were. Pinako is one of many characters that got more TLC in Brotherhood. She's allowed more of a role, more personality, and more depth to her character (although we don't really see that yet).

 Just get used to it...

 Such poise. Such emotion.

 Hey... Poke. Does this bother you?

 Hey. Poke. How about now?

Hey. Look at this face I can make. (What the heck kind of face is that anyways?)

 How about now? Does this bother you now?

 And this is why I think Ed is obnoxious, and I cried tears of joy over Brotherhood and the fact that he did not completely run the show. I also think Winry is a saint for tolerating him. This is possibly an unpopular opinion, but at this stage in the story, he's not particularly endearing to me.

I'm also a huge fan of canon pairings for most series, and this one is no exception. She's an angel, and he's the devil. Just saying.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Month In Review - October 2017

October is drawing to a close. This is a sad thing as October is one of my favorite months. The weather has finally started to get cooler... as in it's finally under 90 degrees. >_< I admit I really can't wait to find an excuse to move away from this area, and that has been a big part of what we've done during this month. We are slowly solidifying plans to move away, preferably back to mountains. This plan will probably take at least a couple years to get us to a place where we can pull off the move. It's a work in progress, but it's a huge thing for me. Although I love the people we've met here and the fact that I live and now work with one of my best friends, it is not where I really want to be. So, Shaun and I are working on moving. We're taking our time and finishing up a few things we want to see done before making a move--like finishing school for midwifery and getting my Etsy shop back up and running. October also has Halloween, which has always been a favorite Holiday of mine. Because I always need excuses to put on a costume.

So how has October been? It's certainly had it's ups and downs, and right now I'm fighting a sinus infection that is threatening to strike and make a mess of my plans for Halloween weekend. We are looking forward to a fun weekend. Last night my kids and husband went to our church's Reformation Day celebration. I had to miss it because I was working. Tonight, we're going to a corn maze with some good friends, which will be followed by s'mores at a bonfire. Saturday afternoon and evening will be our annual Halloween Party. It's a kid-friendly even, so we don't allow alcohol, but it is always an evening of fun. We run a costume contest, and sometimes the prize we give out is something decent. We usually run a murder mystery or some other role-playing game. This year's theme is Disney, and if we can finish it, the mystery will be "Who Killed Elsa?" and the playable characters will be a selection of the more fun Disney villains. I have to work Halloween night, but we're allowed to dress up at work, so I'm thinking I might wear my Princess Buttercup costume because it's super comfy, which is good for a 12 hour shift. I'm loving how our Halloween-ish activities are spreading out over almost a week this year.

In other news, we have a new cat in our family. She's named Lana, and I will probably put up a post in November or December all about her, otherwise she might completely take over this post. =P We've been making slow progress on all of our art projects. A lot of this month has been spent re-focusing. We had made plans back in August for what we wanted to see done this fall. I think we over-estimated what we would be able to do, since Shaun is back in school as well now (he teaches) and that stuff always ends up taking more time than we think it will when the semester is just starting. So, we re-evaluated our plans. This may sound like a little thing, but it's a big thing for me because in the past, I would just continue to try and plow through everything, getting increasingly more stressed, going without sleep, and otherwise killing my immune system.

So, anyways... November is another month I like. I'm going to have to work on Thanksgiving, so I'll have to miss out on the family festivities there, but I'll live. We're working on coming up with some things to make work that night more fun. I'm going to continue working on our projects based on our re-focusing discussions. One of my big goals is to finish cleaning out the garage enough to get a space set up to store all my inventory and set up a space for shipping things. Ideally I'd like this ready by mid-November. That might be a bit optimistic, but I'd like it done enough to have my Etsy up with some new products before the end of the year. So we'll see how this goes.