Reopening Etsy physical shipments?

I am considering reopening Etsy printing services during Spring 2023 after all the moving is complete, ie by May 2023.

Some caveats:

-Minimal promotion of the Etsy shop. My aim is less to aggressively expand to new buyers who may or may not be happy with my work, and instead to focus on continuing fulfilling orders for the 50 or so repeat buyers who have generally been happy with what I’ve done and are usually easy to work with. These people have asked me to return and I’m genuinely considering doing so.

I spent *hundreds* promoting my Etsy in 2022 and many of the people who were drawn in were upset with the outcome for various often finicky reasons, demanded refunds. So by limiting active promotion, I not only expect to have a higher proportion of happy customers, and fewer upset one off people, but less promotional cost as well. This all makes the shop more likely consistently profitable and well regarded even if its rate of growth is limited, for 2023.

-Other notes, I still have a Greek papercraft kit in development, and several potential paintings. So the reopened physical items are not just shipped prints, BTW, they include the papercraft and handmade art as well – and better still, other new products that may surprise everyone. The copy paper will soon have a 13*19 option, a new cutting system for arbitrary sizes of prints will soon exist, there may even be a precut option for papercraft kits* pre scored with a Cricut!

Longer term, sizes above 13*19 are also possible. That will take a while to happen though. I do have plans to someday acquire a printer capable of printing up to 24″ by 48″, among other pretty cool things.

In other news: Yes, Vivid Minigolf is moving forward, yes it will be released by end of May 2023 barring a surprise huge setback. And while I am starting off with Steam, Itch.IO, Gamejolt… I may be adding the Epic Games Store to that list. Epic’s storefront is pretty huge, they’re making entry easier for indies now, and they only take 12% of sales, vs. 30% on Steam. So they will be a serious option to look at.

Prior to any of that: March 17, that’s six days from now, is St. Patrick’s Day, and on that day, just for 24 hrs, I’ll be doing another giant bundle sale through Itch.IO. Check that out here.

That is also when something new and cool might happen – that day may yet see:

-a patch and update to the furniture collection of 3d assets. (very likely, near certain)

-some new imagery relating to Vivid Minigolf (very likely)

-maybe even the launch, finally, of a Vivid Minigolf Steam Page? (somewhat likely)

That particular sale event could be really big for a few reasons. But mainly the fact that I’ve backed it with a $20 ad campaign and also some free link building efforts – posts on social media, YouTube comments, forum signatures, etc.

There’s also a little page on this site that’s seen a hundred views to date, focused on this exact sale event:

So this could get interesting. I hope it goes well.

Ending Etsy Printing Services

The shippable items on Etsy are gone and I’m sure many of you noticed that.

At the moment only digital delivery products are still present there.

Maybe you are upset by this and want them back – I may offer them again at some point but no guarantees for now. If they do reappear that might be mostly on this site (the shop) instead of Etsy. That would mean similar pricing but more profitability as it would be outside of Etsy’s steadily rising fee structure.

Why would I ditch an Etsy product line that was taking off and proving highly successful? Well, there are three major reasons.

  1. Etsy printing services are not super creative and not what I most want to be doing. Cutting that off allows me to focus more of my time on other projects. For example, game dev stuff, and the imminent launch of a massively expanded HornbostelVideos website.
  2. Etsy wasn’t only time consuming, it was a bit stressful trying to ship batches of packages out on a daily basis. Other (digital) products are different in that I can step back from working on them when I’m getting upset/stressed instead of feeling like I have to keep working through the misery to get stuff out for the mail truck when it swings by.
  3. Final note there is the fact that this year I’ll be moving to a new house. It’s in Sewickley, PA. So that move is going to disrupt any possible work and shipping regardless for the next 2-3 months.
  4. I don’t need the Etsy money at this point, not really. I’ve gotten a mild boost in income in spots outside of Etsy so will likely be able to leverage THAT now instead of Etsy print sales and still make nearly the same amount. It’s enough cash saved or flowing in that I am in a good spot to complete things like Vivid Minigolf. That project, has two courses I still haven’t yet built or implemented, plus various remaining minor bugs across otherwise completed ones. But if I push on that now I can definitely still get it onto Steam by mid March 2023. For various reasons, I will ignore mainstream advice relating to Steam releases. There have been talks about how ‘optimal pricing’ for indie games is $15-20. Now in this case, I don’t care if the cash coming in is ‘optimal’. I mostly just want the game to be accessible and playable for people and I want players to have fun. I considered a $5.99 price point for a while but have shifted my views on this. Current price point at launch is now likely to be in the $3 range instead.

So basically:

Vivid Minigolf launch is early 2023, on Itch.IO and Steam at a price of $2.75. It will go on sale too with increasingly solid discounts as months pass, eventually dropping as much as 75-80% off which is to say, about 50 cents. Plus there will be DLC every once in a while, at no additional cost. There will also be a free version on the game’s official site which lags roughly a year behind the paid version in content terms. And it has a few ads spaced around it on the webpage. When the game first launches that free version will have one course included, so for the first year it’s essentially a demo. But at the end of year one, by that point the Steam version will have some free DLC and the free version will lag behind said DLC and just have the core seven courses. And so on. Eventually, by 2026 or 2027, DLC updates will likely be over and the free version will fully catch up with the paid one and at that point the ‘paid’ Steam game will go freeware. It’s up to you whether paying $2.75 at launch is worth it, or under $1 about nine months after that, or NOTHING AT ALL but you would need to wait four years.

Astounding Worlds (previously Panoramic Worlds) is now set up for status as an Itch.IO and exclusive, free plus optional tip on Itch.Io, and free with a few ads on the official site. That and the minigames like Spiral Skies, Easely, Eracer, and Vortex, all will go live in Summer 2023. The entire batch will be accessible for $1 on Itch (or) free with ads on the official game site in the case of Astounding Worlds.

Miniature Multiverse should be ready to launch by November 2023. It will be priced similarly to Vivid Minigolf.

After all that, who knows? I’m open to going heavily into reimagining other backburner projects from World Pinball to Isola, to a Troop 4 adventure and some fangame stuff.

But the bottom line on all of this is it’s all greenlit and moving forward faster now. I can afford to get all these projects done. Watch for exciting updates ahead!

December 2022

A quick note on what looks to be the year’s final Etsy sale.

  1. All printing services are going to be 25% off from Dec. 5 to Dec. 20.
  2. Everything else is going to be 60% off. So, paintings, papercraft kits, stock media packs… all the things people normally don’t buy. Like for example, those three widely-ignored ‘3d level / app creation’ listings where I make a 3d environment based on someone’s rough sketched layout or batch of still photos? The ones where I agree to work for just over ten hours doing that, at a pay rate of under $3 per hour for my work in texturing and 3d and gamedev level design? Yeah, it is going down to just under a single dollar per hour of my time working. I am still pretty sure nobody will pay $10 for it, because if the public still hasn’t done anything with these listings by now they likely never will. Even the cheapest one, the gallery one that takes me 4 hrs. work to do, and goes on sale for $2 or $3 now and then… I don’t think anyone will ever buy it. Please SOMEBODY prove me wrong and demonstrate that you actually realize how insanely good that pricing is given the work involved!
  3. I will post several new paintings on Etsy this month, They probably will sit there unpurchased for years. I know they’re kind of loose and impressionistic, I do get that, but at 60% off my paintings are about $1/hr pay for work involved on my part once materials are factored out. So again, ridiculous underpricing that nobody takes advantage of.
  4. I am likely to attempt jumping into some niches that are already present on Etsy because every time I attempt selling a thing that’s truly unique and exceptional value nobody wants it. So for some reason that includes paper flower stuff (at max. $8 per mini bouquet) and pop up cards (gift tags) and so on. Still, being me I couldn’t help wanting to push each category closer to realism. So the petals and leaves of my paper flowers have photorealistic printed textures on the paper, and the gift tag pop ups are going to look unexpectedly richly detailed.
  5. And a new niche that nobody has been messing with. 3d photos. I can take family photos and convert them into 3d extruded scenes using layer after layer of cut chipboard and printed photo material, to give the scene realistic depth. The depth extraction begins with AI depth map solver software and some common sense manual edits and refinements when needed, followed by a splitting of the grayscale map into roughly eight tonal sections, each with the corresponding portion of the photo separated using that depth mask. Then several hours printing, cutting, layering it all in a box. I will likely price each photo at about $8. You know the drill though, it is a thing nobody online will really ever realize is available, nobody understands it, probably nobody will ever buy it. That’s how this goes!
  6. Yes, I am going to add more papercraft kits soon, starting with a Coastal Greek kit. Think ‘Santorini’ plus a few modular ruins and you get the idea. Granted, papercraft kits have sold but my most profitable one to date has never actually turned a profit, it always costs more to promote it than the sales that result.
  7. Anything earned this December sale will be focused on setting up Christmas gifts for young children, family members that at this time I have no idea how to cover gifts for.
  8. Family and friends and scattered acquaintances in fairly large numbers may all be gifted something truly odd this year beyond typical gift items. As in: 80 or 85 % off coupons, one use only, applicable to any item on my Etsy shop ASIDE from the printing services. If that works out it could trigger a batch of sales in Jan. 2023 and perhaps some subsequent reviews, resulting in momentum finally (I hope?) for the sort of items that thousands look at, hundreds favorite, and nobody actually ever buys. Because – sometimes – the only path to getting something moving is when the price is dropped to the $1 range or lower.

I still only have six listings which are typically profitable. Six of the 50+ listings are what keep the shop viable at all. You might think with Star Seller and 275+ sales it is going well but it has the potential to expand and become popular far more broadly in 2023. And if that starts soon, it helps in other ways too. I would *love* to net $750 in sales this December to cap off the year. It would result in $200-250 in pay which would be enough not just to make the holidays better for the nephews and niece, but beyond that could push things to a stable enough start in ’23 that maybe, just maybe, you will find all those long delayed gamedev things completed and launched on Steam earlier than you now expect.

This is not over yet… indeed, I get the sense it has all barely started.

Bad news and good news despite it

I’ve been so swamped with Etsy orders some of them have been sent out pathetically late. So… of $600+ in sales this month, roughly $200 of that total will be refunded, more with orders that were over a day or two later than estimated.

This of course means all pay and profit for the month is now gone, in my attempts to resolve all the piled up complaints. The month has had well over 100 hours of Etsy work involved and I’ve earned nothing.

Upside: the buyers are generally all getting the items they ordered, even if later than is acceptable. And they get usually anywhere from 30-55% of their order value refunded in problem cases.

Downside: This consumed a lot of time and cash on my end so that now I cannot reasonably give family members a decent Christmas this year AND realistically release a debugged version of Vivid Minigolf in 2022, so that little indie game is being delayed. It is being pushed back to a projected release on Feb. 23, 2023. This lets me get that launch done right even if it is later than everyone was hoping.

I can still pledge this: and will be nicely overhauled before the end of 2022, among several other sites. And yes, I know, they were supposed to be ready in mid October. But the Etsy chaos has delayed a lot of things.

The weirdest note though here is that it seems the economy is tanking fast or something. I saw the sale activity was frenzied for the first 2/3 of October and after that just kind of… drop off a cliff the past week starting Oct. 23… which is very weird. Possibly ominous. Especially given that the Etsy shop is now set with everything 15% off or more, and yet I went full 180 from insanely overloaded with orders to suddenly wondering where everyone went as soon as the sale began.

And it isn’t like there have been a pile of bad reviews so far. I managed to resolve most complaints at least passably, and the total number of ratings has gone up 18% since the month began. They’ve been still all positive somehow.

I am really unsure what is going on here.

And if you’re wondering, delays were NOT just me overloaded with orders.

At one point the printer flat out stopped working for a while, and only printed the cyan and yellow. I tried a ton of easy, then increasingly weird long shot fixes until hitting on one that (thankfully) worked, involving temporarily dismantling some parts in the printer and using Q tips dipped in distilled water to scrub specific areas in the printer. That printer malfunction delayed a bunch of orders and is responsible for a substantial chunk of the current delays.

Otherwise, nothing extremely odd. Just a few shipping and packaging issues, including a damp package that had to be redone/reprinted at one point (got wet because USPS didn’t pick it up in a timely manner, it just sat there for hours on end and was damaged) occasional lag and freezes in Photoshop, and a ton of stress trying to clear out the (still partially present) backlog of orders.

Yes, I am pulling two all nighters this week and yes, I am finally almost caught up with every order that has been placed.

I’m really sorry about how all this has played out for everyone. I tried to handle this well but things did not work out in anything close to an ideal way and I apologize for all the terrible missteps I have made here.

Update – new art, new listings and a big sale boom from Thanksgiving through Dec. 20.

Thanksgiving to Christmas:

15-20% off all printing services

40-50% off papercraft and handmade art on canvas

60-70% off digital products.

PLUS – extra 10% off orders above $35 WITH free shipping included too!

Or if the order is over $50 in value, the extra 10% savings grows to 15% (!) making this the best pricing on large orders in a LONG time. 35% off big print orders potentially!

I’ve run through a few tough challenges in October, order pileups and scattered delays, refunds, even fully replacing my printer. But now things are finally running smoothly again and I am so excited about how the future looks here. 🙂

Etsy status in October 2022 + other notes

Another week, another Etsy sale. Most of the time *something* is on sale on Etsy even if not the most popular items (ie printing services) and that’s intentional, it’s a rotation of items on sale from week to week. Some weeks multiple categories are discounted and on holidays everything is discounted HEAVILY. This October has been an anomaly: more sales made the first half of October 2022 than the first half of the year 2021. A twelvefold increase in frequency of sales! That of course makes it something of a challenge to keep up. I try to get every order out on time of course but occasionally things do arrive late especially during sale events or when a HUGE order has been placed.

This month has seen $450 in sales and it hasn’t even hit the halfway mark!

So that is astounding, even if 67-72% of it is getting eaten up by materials and shipping supplies and so on. I even am releasing new print products now like (very cheap, my cheapest material) prints on copy paper and small print items like bookmarks!

The Halloween rush is going to be deranged in its level of activity. I’m pretty sure of that. I am of course setting a lot of other tasks aside to stay focused on fulfilling Etsy orders for the rest of October. A few things still get some attention though – one being the ongoing work on Vivid Minigolf. I aimed for a ‘late 2022’ release and still am hoping to get that done successfully.

Southwest desert course in Vivid Minigolf
Japanese Garden minigolf course (most of it visible, anyway – the image is cropped, not just resized)

Any success via Etsy will slow down the first release of the game slightly but will also give it a stronger shot at visibility when it does get released. Right now I’ve built courses, implemented features, am actively debugging the game… all the mini supply materials involved were covered months ago, the software side of things and the Steam fee are covered too. But that leaves me with a bit of a challenge in gaining publicity at time of release.

Should Halloween prove effective in generating sales activity, it will give me a bigger promotional budget to work with which in turn may have a multiplier effect if used well, in that this title might appear somewhere on the lists of popular releases. Ideally first page of Itch with no scrolling down the list, maybe a bit of scrolling on Steam but not too much? That kind of thing helps people notice that a game exists! I will be messaging a (fixed) list of Youtubers and game news sites with download keys, of course, and my policy is not to hand out keys to anyone not on that top-100 list. I know random people will claim to be a popular Youtuber, ask for free keys, and then resell them on the cesspool that is G2A, it’s a common tactic. I’m just not going along with that, in general.

Other than the PR kit, the key distribution / mailing effort… a better YouTube trailer and more and more gameplay clips by time of launch… and my ongoing manual commenting on minigolf related videos on YT (I think I’ve linked to the game project on something like a hundred of the more popular YouTube minigolf videos at this point) I will also run a massive $150+ ad campaign across Google/YouTube, several banner ad networks, Twitter ads, Facebook/Instagram, and Bing/Yahoo search. I have already fine tuned with the initial $25 – am confident I can make over 5 million (generally, relevant) people aware that this game exists when it launches. This is in terms of *impressions* of course and it will probably translate to at most 1% of that group clicking through, and probable 1-3% of that 1% buying the game. In theory, then, we’re talking 500-1500 sales over time which… anything in that range would be amazing if it pans out. We are talking $1000-3000 there, factoring in the reality that many of the buys will be during sales and that Valve gets a 30% cut.

If that happens though, great potential for free updates over that first year of release. The core seven courses only involved $500 in materials, $200 in Steam submission and software expenses specific to the project, $150 or more promoting the thing at launch. Not to mention hundreds of hours of work as an indie with no actual pay rate.

So if this goes well, great! The target of $1000 in sales pretty much means breaking even on this project, and every $1000 or so above that means maybe some new features added, and an extra 5-6 courses posted in a free update to all players who bought the game.

I have thoughts about revising the game features to include, for example, randomly mixed 18-hole courses. Either a front nine/ back nine selectable combo or just 18 completely randomly selected holes. That is one of those things which would involve a lot of reworking of code to implement (like online multiplayer functions, multiplayer beyond hotseat) but which I would like to do in an update in early 2023. I also want to port this to mobile devices, touchscreen UI and all that. And I want to build AI opponents somehow as an option, even though that is tricky to do well.

I get it, you would all prefer these features exist at the outset. But I am a solo indie game developer. It takes time and cash to add all of this. I don’t have immense resources going in and I am hoping you all understand this. A game with a dev budget below $1k and an unpaid solo dev, is not going to be the most impressive thing ever, but if there is an audience for this, if people buy it and are patient, I will take that support seriously and do what I can to build amazing things with it in the next year.

Links relating to all of this:

Thanks for everything!

Vivid Minigolf moving forward

More news and an updated site design will arrive soon, but for now just know that the project is making massive progress.

Vivid Minigolf – winter course, WIP
Main menu – Vivid Minigolf free version, feature limited [WIP]
Vivid Minigolf – first hole of the first [flower garden] course in the free demo.

In other news: The Etsy Labor Day sale is active. (Until the end of Sept. 10)

  • Everything 15+% off, some items up to 50% off!
  • Over 100 reviews of the shop now
  • Over 210 sales have been made to date
  • $2 of every $10 in sales go to worthwhile charitable causes during this sale in particular.
  • Anything somehow earned [despite] discounts and donations, will help get Vivid Minigolf launched successfully before the end of November 2022.

There’s also a sale on if you’d prefer that.

Promised web network overhaul begins now!

There were some domains still stuck in HostGator’s clutches, and they’re basically about to be lost completely over the next few months.

So here are the replacement domains: (replacing Panoramic Worlds, rebranding it over the next few days and setting its release as ‘Q1 2023’) (replacing the old Scout Troop 4 site) (new Church of the Redeemer related site, more focused on the virtual-tour project.) (replacement site for the old gamedev attempt ‘Isola’ which I might still rework someday as a realtime 3d game in Unity if things go well enough to make that happen.)

Some domains stay the same in domain-name terms. But a lot of them will be transformed and redesigned in surprising and ambitious ways… complete with updated content and design.

Noteworthy changes will begin with, and (which is now SSL secured and has an https but same domain otherwise) – both of which have extensively redesigned versions nearly ready to release to the world.

Also: There’s a new ad system built into a lot of these sites. Not all of them – some will remain entirely ad-free for IP/ownership reasons like the Troop 4 site, Redeemer site, & Myst series fansite, but most other sites like,, and might have some ad slots in places. Maybe at times that’s just links to stores where a game or product can be bought, but often banners are present randomly mixing links and previews of various sites in the network.

I’ve set up an entire banner rotation system, internally. It’ll randomly display links with images in a way that’s far less code-heavy than the old cumbersome method I sometimes chose.

I’ll also be including some third-party ads on a few sites. These are from, and mostly are other peoples’ comic/art/gaming related stuff.

Some third-party analysis measures the value of my sites as high as $900-1100 (in certain cases) ie. the market value of a successful and widely viewed domain I acquired for $12-15 originally like, say,, is likely worth close to a thousand dollars on the online auction market now. (The buyer, presumably, would just fill the domain with ads and run it into the ground and turn a profit even having spent $900+ buying it)… I don’t want to do that. I think – and maybe I’m a total idiot for thinking this – that burning an asset to the ground for one year of cash is idiotic, and I’d rather build a long-term business that generates small amounts of revenue every year for a decade or more. Short-term thinking is dumb. Long-term planning? Better.

The pursuit of immediate quarterly gains is what’s wrong with the world IMO. We are so fixated on ‘making money now’ that we miss the fact that we’re trashing the planet by doing so. Why can’t we accept slower growth that’s sustainable and humane long-term? Why does every business have to be about RIGHT NOW? Why, even, should the purpose of any business be to make money? Why can’t there be other types of business ventures where all the earnings are repurposed for good instead of just… hoarded? I’m the stupid one, maybe, but I just don’t get the logic in the way the world currently works. It seems all so damned inexplicable to me how we allow empathy-less monsters to always rise to the top of everything, and congratulate and reward their narcissism and greed.

But okay… my next big release is Vivid Minigolf. Not because it’s my best maybe or my most promising, but I think I can get it out there in the next three months, and do so fairly well.

I’m tossing this out there: Any purchases [of anything of mine] made during my Labor Day Sale on Etsy, will be at least 15% off usual price… plus for every $10 in sales made, $2 minimum will be donated to the Against Malaria Fund. This is a super effective charity that is well-regarded, efficient, basically saves at least one human life for every $200 allocated to it.

I’d love to see that Labor Day Sale (now set for Sept. 1-10, 2022) go huge… a lot of work for me and I’ll be earning maybe 25-50 cents per hour doing it, between the donations and the discounts, pretty much no net gain at that point but that kind of is the purpose of it. I want my work to matter. I want to make a statement that shops on the web can do more than earn money.

And when I mentioned Vivid Minigolf? Yeah, I’m giving away 25% of every purchase made. I’ll try to be transparent on this: the release plan includes a $100 Steam payment, $300+ in miniature crafting supplies, and at least three months of Construct 3 use at $20/month. Plus over 200 hours of my unpaid work… and $150 of my own earnings put into a launch promotional campaign.

Estimated cost of release, ignoring the work involved, is around $500. While I would love to make most of it back, I don’t expect to. That’s okay – it’s a good experience.

But if I did see it unexpectedly succeed… it could change the world in some modest ways.

Stock Media update – new VFX asset pack (and other big news!)

Yes, it’s ‘zero gravity’ pyro – dangling below a black backing, recorded from the ground with a mirror used to reflect the effect between the hanging-from-ceiling setup and the camera itself.

So, I’ve basically shot a batch of zero-G pyro elements, seen above, in a low-budget, smaller-scale form of the same methods used for classic Hollywood miniature effects like the Alderaan/Death Star explosions in ‘Star Wars’ or the destruction of Krypton in ‘Superman’ or any number of things gone boom in space, regardless of how illogical space fireballs actually are from a real-world physics standpoint.

Some such effects, like the Genesis explosion at the end of ‘Star Trek: Wrath of Khan’, are way bigger and shot at ludicrously high framerates. But the same core principles apply! They may have had a three-story hangar with a giant black coating on the ceiling, and multiple layers of thick reinforced industrial plate glass and metal between the camera and the explosion above it (instead of the obviously simpler option of a mirror and a telephoto lens so the camera can zoom into the mirror view from a safe distance) and yeah, they shot at something close to a thousand FPS… but still. This stuff’s only 60, 90 or 120 fps, which is about as good as you can do with a sub-$100 camera and the aim of 4k video. The 60fps is actual 4k, 90-120fps often is 2.7k or 1080p but upscaled with the best available AI solvers at the best possible quality settings. So not all the effects got shot 4k initially but they all look plausible at such a resolution.

The recording also got followed up with a bit of masking and digital compositing work, to remove reflections of the effects onto the [somewhat glossy, coated in fire retardant liquids] paper backdrops, basically everything was soaked in fire suppressing compounds, except for the incendiary material itself that needed to ignite. And of course plenty of safety fuse was set so I could get the hell back before the explosions actually occurred, holding the struck match in one hand, fire extinguishing canister in the other [to spray the space down and put it all out a few seconds after the explosion has happened.]

Mask [n95] worn at all times, high level of ventilation and open to the outdoors, so smoke wouldn’t just hang there but could dissipate well. I did this on days with moderate wind too so that helped.

Basically there was all of that plus gloves, glasses, fireproof blankets, every basic precaution as usual… but this stuff’s still super hazardous and not recommended even if all materials used and all actions taken with the fireworks were legal. Anything with fire is a safety risk. And I’m not going to do this anymore, I think. I had a roster of 40-odd clips I intended to capture and I stopped after less than half that.

Those bright blue sparks? That’s a tiny pinch of magnesium powder. And other additives like titanium, iron, cobalt, or copper can likewise affect color of sparks, as seen in a typical outdoor fireworks display or an unusually colored explosion like the Borg cube [green explosion] miniature effect in ‘Star Trek: First Contact’.

Yeah, I am something of a miniature and practical effects geek. I had a massive ‘Cinefex’ collection back in the day. I was making my own indie videos densely packed with VFX shots and I wanted to know everything related to that, from the practical effects to costumes, set design, makeup/prosthetics, prop assembly, various types of digital 3d animation, high-speed miniature effects, and of course compositing methods to blend all the different visual elements [real, mini or digital] together as needed in some way that looked halfway plausible.

But this is almost surely my last asset pack to use real-world effects of this particular type. Partly because of the risk involved, sure – but also the lack of control of the final effect, and the reality that digital methods are getting to the point of looking almost completely real, if done right.

I’ll be pivoting to digital pyro animation for the remaining effects in this pack. That’s not to say boring looking – there’s a tendency with CG pyro for it too be too perfect, too smoothly shaped, too ‘gas focused’ in the smoke and fire. I’m going to try a few things that may add realism to my future digital effects, as follows:

  1. Use a set of real-world flickering sparks (as a video component layered randomly onto spark particles, which can then be rendered in a way that makes at least that aspect look totally real as it drifts and falls around in the shot. Because I rarely ever see sparks done photorealistically digitally, they usually look like bright glowing dots which is what an animator often chooses because it’s easy -but it looks artificial. Give the sparks a bit of random misshapenness and flicker and use actual randomized video sprites and it can look better.
  2. Sparks and fire that are rendered with a highly realistic shader. The sparks should illuminate volumes of smoke. So should fire. It should all be realistic and messy and chaotic and *Real* looking.
  3. Debris to break up the explosion often, and fly around and physics interact accurately with the gas sim. So the pyro can be more hazardous, and less like ‘gas cloud’ because in real life the gas billowy explosions are rarely the way these things actually happen. There’s usually a thing that explodes, with chunks and bits of it tossed around. My ‘things’ will vary in scale and materials – photogrammetry based 3d scans of actual debris chunks that look photoreal. And they’ll be affected by the gam sim and affect it as well in a way that’s integrated, and there’ll also be smaller physics-sim ‘granular’ particles – sand, grit, dirt, etc. Tiny bits of mess and small pebbles and splinters of wood and larger debris chunks… all intended to be mixed together and to lend credibility and messiness to the whole visual element.
  4. I’ll be using a top-of-the-line desktop my dad got me. It’s sort of expensive but not as much as it seems like it’d be – we got a good deal on it. It’s rendering stuff about 25x as fast as the prior system I had, it has 128GB of RAM and four GPUs in an array and a bunch of blazing fast processors. All my 50+ TB of hard drive storage has already been connected to this new machine. Including a new SSD I plan to acquire soon for software installs. Like the new USB3 hubs, new cables and so on… lots of fresh electronic setups involved. It’s a sprawling mass of electronics crammed into and around a desk. So basically the fact that this machine is a powerful beast of a computer, will make it capable of rendering massive, highly detailed pyro-simulation setups. And integrating cloth/soft body dynamics, rigid objects, granular physics, particle fields and forces, the volumetric gaseous and fire sims, and liquids too – all together, all interacting with each other, all at a very high level of detail. It’ll be amazing, I think.

So where is all this amazing, explosive VFX awesomeness? The real pyro shoot is currently in the newest asset pack I launched on Itch.IO (here) and you can find at least 160 more [earlier] smoke, fire, water, debris, sparks, explosions, etc, clips and elements in previous packs as well if you haven’t gotten those yet.

The new pack is going to be updated every so often with new digital effects. I hope it is a massive success.

Of course, the itch profile I’ve got there is not just VFX video clips. There are also a TON of texture maps (thousands, literally thousands) seamless and photography-based PBR stuff – and a WHOLE LOT of 3d models of various useful things like landscape/outdoor details (trees, fallen branches, wildflowers, grasses, rocks, ferns, etc) and indoor stuff [furnishings and details for 3d indoor settings] and outdoor but urban items (fire hydrants, telephone poles, mailboxes, benches and picnic tables, and other street or park details]

My 3d assets – there are over 150 of them so far, and should be 300+ by end of 2022. They each come in .FBX and .OBJ format, UV-mapped with an associated texture (or multiple textures) and they look fairly real even if they’re usually super-efficient game-ready stuff with modest polycounts and efficient texture mapping (I could imagine even mobile games using these here and there without too much impact on performance).

And finally – of course – I have indie games in development, and my Etsy shop which has printing services and papercraft model designs and original handmade artworks on canvas and much more. I’m really excited about how this is all going.

I do hope it takes off, because I definitely want to shake things up in the world by making a ton of additional creative, low-priced collections and games and other cool things, and I want to make an impact with what I earn, not just pile up cash for myself like a boringly selfish jerk.

March 2022 update

Right now, my Etsy shop is facing a mess. There are so many people who have placed orders the last month that it reached a point where I was entirely unable to keep up.

The result? Many orders delayed and often partially or fully refunded as apology. By Mar. 20, 2022, the shop was closed, ‘on vacation’ and my message saying why was fairly blunt. It was mostly due to the overwhelming surge of sales that had finally hit a tipping point – I could not keep up even with repeated all nighters. The stress, sleep loss, etc, causing tears coming and going in waves and eventually, at a certain point, thoughts about suicide.

So the shop got shut down for a temporary span, which let me scramble to wrap up all the backlogged and often very delayed orders. When will this Etsy shop reopen? Maybe mid April roughly. The refunds to impatient buyers have erased all gains for March 2022. Hundreds of hours of effort and nothing earned, a pretty typical fail for me really historically. When the shop reopens, it will have prices that are typically 10-15% higher. That may make it sustainable, for a while longer, maybe. But the pricing has been increased 2-3% a month each month since November and still every month has more customers place orders there than the month before. 2022, the three months of madness so far, saw more sales on Etsy than the six preceding years of sales combined.

I will not meaningfully discount or set sales there again for some time.

Itch.Io, however, will be seeing a deep sale for Easter 2022. I hope that it goes well, certainly I have indications that itch is the next Etsy for me finally, just as Etsy promised to be my ‘next eBay’.

It is a recurring pattern, where I promote a shop and its stellar array of unique, labor intensive, and insanely underpriced products incessantly for years and have tens of thousands of visitors and not one buys a damn thing until at some point one person does and reviews what was purchased. Then another, then another. With rising frequency and fervor, this escalates extremely rapidly. I start steadily raising prices and it still continues exploding exponentially. At some point I become swamped and maybe, even have to shut the shop down or at least most of the listings to save my sanity, any shred of it still there.

I think eBay hit that crisis point at least a little slowly. Etsy it happened faster.

I have 410 positive ratings on eBay, 74 positive now on Etsy. Two now on No negative reviews anywhere on any of the shops I have run, aside from a single bad rating that changed following a full refund and apology.

eBay crashed and burned in early 2020, Etsy may still fall apart this year…

Itch hasn’t even exploded much quite yet. But it may very soon now that the first couple ratings are there, because usually on my shops that’s when things start escalating faster and faster. Some of you should seriously grab that stuff while the entire contents of the shop are on sale, all bundled for a single dollar, before I am possibly forced to begin raising the prices like what I did on Etsy… and eBay before that. Just pointing this out…

Visit the itch shop maybe during the next (Easter – April 14-17, 2022) sale when it is all still hitting over 90+% off discounts. There is an amazing bundle arriving soon.

Etsy breakthrough, vol. 2

My previous post noted that things were finally taking off for me on Etsy.

That was in November 2021. Since that time, in the past 50 days, the total sales count on my Etsy shop has more than doubled. Same with the number of customer reviews.

I am seeing, after years of zero activity, an average of 89% quarterly growth in sales volume each quarter the last two years. That is entirely insane. If it somehow kept up that growth curve it would mean I would be making about $4k on Etsy this year (2022) and $20k off Etsy in 2023.

Now, as of January, the standard prices of these products are being increased by around 4-6% across the board. That, in theory, raises profitability a bit, and allows me to justify a ramp up of various new products in popular product lines.

If the prospect of slightly increased prices bugs you, keep in mind that there is a year round discount code active as well for all you in the know, ’22FOR2022′ which allows 22% off everything on my Etsy shop for this entire year.

Custom printing products will soon include about a half dozen new listings, like T shirts, mousepads, and more paper weights and formats including heavy gloss cardstock, in large format, or large format but light weight, cheap copy paper prints.

The plans for mini papercraft will soon include an additional dozen listings with Greek and Venetian structures.

I’ll also add over a dozen new paintings in the next 40 days, plus new digital and print product lines that many of you haven’t considered but which I absolutely have. Sometimes a thing is not an obvious seller until it launches, but once it exists, people look at it, and if it was made well, may want it.

I am doing a bunch of things that are kind of like that. These include cheaply priced digital products (PDF artbooks, indie game projects) and poster designs of my own, among other concepts. I will also be selling a few of my digital things combined on data DVD for anyone who – for whatever reason – wants a hard copy of them.

I will note that this is hugely awesome news in MANY ways.

I have had so many things grinding along slowly due to technical obstacles, or lack of funding, or lack of time. The fact that something I am doing is finally successful means other failing tasks can be phased out (goodbye $2-3 per hour mTurk microtasks) and that I can focus on my own creative work full time pretty much. I can leverage this to get all my indie game projects done this year, maybe within nine months. I have a plan for wrapping three substantial game launches, four smaller ones, in nine months, game jam style. That ordinarily would be insane but all these projects are upwards of 50% done currently, and if I work really hard I actually can imagine having them all done well in six months. But I know that things rarely play out that efficiently or predictably, so I am estimating nine for wiggle room. The final three months of 2022 should see certain other long running non-commercial free games see release. This is essentially a thing that I would really love to see work out well.

Watch this space for some staggeringly cool announcements over the course of 2022…