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September 24, 2013

High-Level Housekeeping! (AKA the 401st Post)

First off, I want to use this space to officially thank you readers for sticking with this blog for as long as you have.  I couldn’t do it in the last post because I was “in character”, but I feel like I HAVE to take some time out to say thanks to anyone who’s even bothering to read this.  That big 400 isn’t exactly a number worth paying attention to, given that said number’s been inflated by content in one file being spread into two or three (or nine) posts, and of course tons of I Hraet You chapters, buuuuuuuuuuuut what I do value are the comments and readership of viewers like you.  So consider this milestone a celebration of all of you.

And in the same breath, a provocation of all of you. 

Yes, that’s right, the Spirit Showdown is back after a months-long hiatus.  Those of you who’ve seen the blog in the past…oh, roughly eight seconds might have noticed a tab over there labeled Spirit Showdown.  For the five of you who actually cared enough to look at it, it’s a bit of blog fiction -- for lack of a better term -- that puts the characters I’ve created over the years into a brand new scenario.  A story outside their stories, as a proving ground for their mettle, their potential, and of course their spirits. 

…At least, that would have been the case if it didn’t suck

Okay, maybe I’m being a little hard on myself.  I would assume that there are some people who spotted the posts and liked what they saw.  It was a proving ground for my characters and my concepts, so in theory it was something that could make people go “oooh” and “ahhh” -- which in itself is the objective of any given blog, even if it is a minor one.  Even so, the big issue that I have with the Showdown is that generally speaking, I wasn’t satisfied.  I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of it, I wasn’t having as much fun working on it as I expected, and putting up those posts week after week left me more drained than hyped.

Just imagine what that meant for me, the creator of all these characters.  Time after time I found myself going “Ugh, time to do another one of these posts.”  Ideally, I should have been excited every time I had even a minor opportunity to type something out.  But again, I wasn’t getting enough out of the “series”.  Why, I could make a few (probably accurate) guesses.  It was unrewarding effort, it didn’t move as fast as it needed to so it could reach the points it needed to, it was cumbersome, it took focus away from other cool stuff I wanted to work on, and worst of all huge percentages of it came off as me waving my hands and shouting “LOOK AT THIS GUY!  NOW LOOK AT THAT GUY!  AREN’T THESE GUYS AWESOME?  AREN’T I AWESOME?  NOW SIT THERE AND LET ME TELL YOU WHY THESE GUYS ARE AWESOME!” 

That wasn’t what I wanted out of the series.  For some, what I originally offered was more than enough -- and that’s great.  I appreciate those that gave it a look, and even enjoyed it.  But for me, looking back roughly a year after its creation, it’s not much more than self-aggrandizing garbage.  Only in the later installments did it actually start turning into something worthwhile, but by then the damage had been done.  So I pretty much had to shelve it.

And in honor of the 400th Cross-Up post, I think it’s high time to bring it back…with some major changes.  And stipulations.  And by "bring back with a swanky pseudo-animation" I mean "effectively make an announcement and not much else".

First of all, if you’re expecting a SS post every week, DON'T.  I’m not going to commit to a strict schedule right now, but I would say it’d be smart to expect one post a month.  Maybe tri-weekly, if we’re lucky, or bi-weekly if there’s a miracle.  That might seem a little extreme, but let me explain why.  First off, here’s the intro video from the 400th re-posted.

That video is barely over a minute long…and it took me days, if not a full week (or more) to prepare beforehand.  Drawing the outlines, filling in the outlines with color, making edits with the meager programs I have, stringing them together in Windows Movie Maker with some facsimile of skill -- I wouldn’t call it difficult, exactly, but it’s tedious as all hell.  I don’t intend to upload/do a lot of videos, but inevitably I’m going to end up doing more than two, at a bare minimum.  So I guess that’s something to look forward to.  (I’m certainly not; I can’t look at those things without pointing out every failing of my art/video editing “skills”.)

Even beyond that, the transformed nature of the SS means that there are going to be a lot more than just videos going up.  In theory, I’ve already done the lion’s share of the work well in advance; most of the stuff that comes after it SHOULD come easily for me thanks to a little bit of foresight.  Working smarter, not harder, as they say…for a given definition of “smarter”.  Hopefully this time, the series won’t implode -- and this time putting it together will actually be fun.  If nothing else, the effort I’ve put in to make it different will ALSO make it easier for me to put the posts together, as well as something actually worth reading.  Hopefully.  It shouldn't go wrong this time, right?

So.  Let’s go over a quick “change list” for the new and potentially improved Showdown.

--A commitment to an actual storyline from the get-go.
This was something that I’d always intended to include (and even in the earlier posts laid the groundwork for it), but it didn’t develop fast enough or thoroughly enough to justify it.  This time around, the plot will actually be the focus.  Things will be happening, and if I’m doing this right it’ll be something that people will actually want to read.  It’s more than a little meta, I’d wager; I’ll just have to figure out how to make the transition from in-character and out-of-character as smooth as possible.

--Allowing the characters to take center stage.
This is probably the biggest problem with the original Showdown, in that a good two-thirds of the series (at least) came out as extended profiles.  It was ideally supposed to be a way to get to know my characters better, but somewhere along the line -- blame my ability to not write anything in a reasonable length -- it turned into the biggest violation of “show, don’t tell” I’ve done to date.  Before long, I’ll have that completely fixed.  And that’ll be because of…

--A dramatically-altered format.
This is probably going to be they make-or-break factor.  I think I’ve got all the tools and assets I need to realize my vision (though given how my videos/art turn out, that’s definitely up for debate), and as such the Showdown is going to be a leaner, meaner product.  The original format just wasn’t working for the kind of series it needed to be, so I took it back to the drawing board to figure out how I could make it an easier and more enjoyable read.  And I think I’ve long since found the answer.  I’m hoping that my execution is enough to make it work -- and if it is, then you can expect posts that are faster to read, but more rewarding than even the most glowing Let’s Discuss post. 

But that said, the major difference is going to be…

--A boosted focus on reader interaction.
Consider this another failing of the original Showdown.  The intent was to make that the cornerstone of blogger-reader-other reader interaction, but…well, if you’ve read this far, you can probably guess why it didn’t work out.  So once again, I had to take it back to the drawing board -- and the answer I’ve come up with SHOULD make for a more exciting story and relationship.  Generally speaking, readers will have a chance to decide how key events and sequences play out.  How that’ll work is something I’ll have to get to when it comes up, but for now let’s just say it’s your story as much as it is mine.

--Bonus content.
There might not necessarily be a post that moves the story along on a regular basis, but just to keep the series and the cast fresh in people’s minds I plan to throw up a little filler post every now and then.  And if I can get a good rhythm going, you can expect to see nice little things in there every now and then.  I won’t build up your expectations too high right now, but if nothing else it should be enough to put a little smile on your face.  Likewise, I’ll see if I can sum up the characters and plot along the way super-duper fast.  Like I said, the characters are going to take center stage, so it’s important that there’s at least a basic understanding of the cast before they start gallivanting in earnest.

And I guess that’s about it for the Showdown.  Now then, since this is pretty much a housekeeping post, let’s go ahead and keep on chatting about changes and coming attractions to Cross-Up.

--Believe it or not, I STILL haven’t forgotten about RE: Kingdom Hearts up there.  But that only brings up a minor point: certain posts in the future are going to become part of the SS story arc.  Not a lot of them, mind, but at least two.  (The Majora’s Mask posts are notable examples; according to those, I’ve actually been dead since last December.)  And as you’d expect, the next post on Kingdom Hearts 2 is going to be one that has a minor story to it -- connected to SS, but not 100% required reading…much like SS itself.  So in a sense, you can think of that content to be something like Linkara’s Atop the Fourth Wall videos; the main content is there for those that want it, and everything that follows can be set aside…BUT those that want the extra story stuff can dive in at their leisure. 

--Beyond that, it’s worth noting that RE: Kingdom Hearts won’t be a tab that stays up there on the navbar forever.  Once I reach a certain point, it’s going to transform into something slightly different.  If you’ve seen the stuff on the blog before, you can probably guess what it is.  For now, though, I think I’ll just keep my cards close to the chest.  So look forward to that.

--Next, let’s chat about I Hraet You.  First off, I know I post chapters every Monday and Thursday, but in light of the 400th I decided to hold off.  So two chapters will pop up this Thursday, and something not-hraety will go up Friday.  Not that Lloyd is exactly wanting for attention…or sense.

--In any case, I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: I’m going to put IHY on the shelf for a little bit to build a nice, healthy buffer.  It won’t be gone for long, but I want to have a big bank of chapters to draw from without sputtering out.  That way, I can keep the chapters flowing in, but I won’t be pushing myself nightly to come up with chapters five minutes before I upload them.  Besides, considering where I am in the story and how excited I am to pump content out, IHY chapters are slowly but surely becoming second nature to me.  I have got some amazing stuff planned there, so I’m hoping that it’ll be something worth reading no and in the future.  In the meantime, though, expect some additional content -- an update on the Notes page is first in line, but I expect to add to the Cast page sometime soon. 

--I don’t intend to have any content slip too gravely in the coming months (or years, or whatever), so if you’re here exclusively for video game posts, that’s fine.  I should have you covered.  But there’s more that I can say, and I’ve already taken strides towards preparing new content for you.  Chances are you’re not going to see it coming, but it should be something relatively good.  I’ve got an ace up my sleeve that might go beyond anything you could have expected; again, I don’t want to build impossible-to-satisfy expectations, but if I pull this off, it could be something you’ll really be looking forward to between installments.

--Lastly, one minor announcement: I’ve made a Google Plus page.  Granted I don’t really know exactly how to get the most out of G+ just yet, but I’m committed to figuring it out.  I want Cross-Up to be a place where people can gather and discuss fiction -- and as the blog’s webmaster, I owe it to all of you to build a bigger community.  It’s my responsibility, and I intend to do so in the weeks that come…even if it is at a snail’s pace.  So give it a look and…do whatever it is you do with G+ pages.  Something about circles, or whatever.  Also, tell your friends.  That’d be pretty cool, too.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that’ll just about do it for now.  Again, I want to thank those of you that keep coming back to my blog (for whatever reason), and I want to stress that I’m going to keep doing what I can not only to turn Cross-Up into something bigger and better than ever, but something that’ll continue to put smiles on your faces.  I would hardly be able to call myself a webmaster if I didn’t.  So with all that in mind, thank you -- and here’s to a brand new day.

See you guys soon.  Hope you’re ready for more over-the-top posts.

…But seriously, I’ve been dead for the better part of a year.  That’s canon.  That’s totally canon.

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