#1) Miniature Multiverse is being pushed back. I have discussed launching it by end of May but that is looking impractical, largely due to the losses sustained on eBay recently [see previous post] and while I think it’s conceivable that the game could be finished if concept art sales were to go well, it would not be done as well as it should be, on the tight budget resulting from that. I would prefer to wrap the game up with a budget of $450 more and a span of another 5 months, not $250 and one month – that $450 figure is for another $250 in miniature supplies, $120 in sound design assets [licensed sound effects, music] and an $80 ad campaign at launch to give it a decent shot at success out of the gate. Any attempt to get this done on a $200ish budget means shoddier looking miniature elements on later parts of the game, and sparse, lower-quality sound, as well as a minimal or no promotion for the project which would mean a higher probability of failure. And, I want this to succeed if there’s any chance of that.
#2) I might pivot back to projects that require limited resources in physical-supply terms, during May; just in an attempt to keep everyone from getting utterly bored around here. Projects that might potentially be selected to benefit from this shift include ‘Spiral Skies’, ‘Panoramic Worlds’, the Redeemer tour, ‘Vortex’, and a couple of other minigames/games with limited scope… basically things that involve digital 3d assets, not miniature, art assets. Aside from that, the missing articles pages will be filled in soon, as well as some pages of Another Road Taken and Troop 4 comics stuff. I’m also planning on wrapping up release of the old House Trek videos not yet released on HornbostelVideos.com, plus Send in the Clones 1, and some other stuff. [Superstorm FTW!]
#3) I have also ALREADY coded a dynamic banner ad for the base of some sites’ main pages which may be implemented in more places over time. The banner ad i question uses a weighted probability system to display different chunks of content at different frequencies; there’s ad material for a wide range of websites I run, but also once in a while [less than 5% of the time] a message informing viewers that there are a batch of coupon codes in the banner that could appear but only rarely. Such codes are usable only once, first person to find a code and use it will be the only one to benefit from it… so if you find one, definitely type it down, take a screenshot, take note of it. Because these codes are for the HornbostelProductions.com shop and they grant a stunning 50%-90% off an order [up to $99 order value in the case of the 90% off code] which means, for example, with the 90% off code… you might be able to place an order for something like a gigantic 3 foot by 4 foot [36”x48”] custom painting for only $6 via PayPal, not the normal $60. And free shipping too! That’s useful for you all as a few of you would get an astounding deal, but it’s also helpful for me even with the money lost, as it’d gain me my first few sales on that shop and, ideally, a few ratings too from customers, which is pretty crucial at this point because I think that lack of ‘social proof’ is why the store has yet to take off.
Despite a strongly positive reputation on eBay specifically, I do struggle with some notoriety for being ‘unreliable’ in the timing of new releases.
This has been the case for years, even before I had any websites allowing a wider audience to notice my work. Why do I keep falling behind on my scheduled releases? Why do I so frequently disappoint everyone on the web with how slow my work goes?
It is largely due to the amount of my time dedicated to earning money to make content… and the generally abysmal rate at which that money is earned. We’re talking $5.50 per hour in the best cases, and often no more than $2 or $3/hour.
When the total list of videos and video games I want to release [in the near future] looks like it’ll cost at least $10,000 more to complete everything I want to complete – between hardware, equipment, art supplies, miniature elements, and other costs – well, that’s a problem. That’s about 3000 hours of work just to finance everything and probably another 3600-4500 to actually make the content once it’s paid for even if no setbacks or major problems occur. So let’s say I average 11 hours a day on this, it’s still about 600 more days to get all these things done. And as usual, nothing ever goes as smoothly as I’d want it to.
Now, I’ve had a tendency to drift focus a lot in a rotation, from project to project, making incremental progress on things in a sort of loop, but quite frankly I’m getting tired of the perception that nothing’s happening and I want to upend that.
In the last two weeks, I have made – saved up – a decent amount of money and also upgraded a few critical toolsets. That’s great. But now I’m looking at the mind-numbingly tedious sub-minimum-wage gigs I have been doing all the freaking time to cover the bills and the eBay auctions of artworks for customers that I make no more than $2/hour on or so, at best, and thinking “Why can’t I try to pare this back? Do I really think this is the best use of my time? Is this what most of my audience actually wants to see me doing?”
And the answer’s definitively a NO.
The audience here wants:
-Games, Videos, Comics, Artworks, and assorted creative stuff available to everyone, either dirt cheap or ideally completely free, and they want that stuff soon, they don’t want to wait forever for the content to materialize.
Now, there’s actually a way to make that happen. It’s a simple well-worn concept that underlies a ton of things from broadcast TV networks, to Google, Facebook, Twitter, to the various blogs you see across the web.
The problem with ads on a website is that for them to be viable, you need a LARGE and LOYAL audience – a lot of people visiting regularly.
I’m only currently at 1% of the level needed for the ad revenue to be substantial enough to replace my need to sell products or work on freelance gigs [transcription & such].
At the threshold of 100x as many visitors as I’m getting now, advertising covers everything on my network.
At or above that threshold, none of the products [videos, games] I release need to be anything other than freeware.
All the games – free, 100%, and production would double in speed across the board… on everything I’m doing.
I WON’T BLUDGEON YOU WITH REQUESTS TO VISIT MORE OFTEN OR RECRUIT A BUNCH OF FRIENDS SIMPLY FOR THIS REASON.
I want to instead entice you to do that with some cool stuff that’ll make you WANT to come back often and which will make this network EASY to recommend to friends.
So here’s my idea. The last two weeks I earned a fair amount of cash.
The next 3 weeks, I’ll work on wrapping up some exciting things, actually finishing or at least getting to a point of viability, on a few new items you’re all getting tired of waiting for.
Then the final week of February, if all goes well:
-a large but finely tuned ad campaign will draw a few thousand new visitors to my web network.
-systematic restructure of my web network, new content appearing in various places.
-New video material, all the House Trek stuff and a couple of other things too, posted on HornbostelVideos.com, with a higher-quality disc version [with animated menus and special feature stuff] available on this website’s shop for $2.99 download or $11.99 DVD / 14.99 BluRay.
-Some added comics stuff and completion of the several articles sub-sections that are still vacant.
-A new batch of pyrotechnics elements, both real video content and some clips done with advanced gas/fluid simulation, in the stock media section.
The material’s all shot or simulated at 120fps, and slowed down to 24fps and 30fps variants. The free video files will be reduced-resolution 960×540, the paid versions 1920×1080. [full HD!] and the paid versions will show up on HornbostelProductions.com for $5.99 as downloadable content on HornbostelProductions.com, $14.99 on DVD on HornbostelProductions.com, or $16.99 shipped on a data DVD through eBay. (I was considering a $14.99 price on eBay too, but given the typical fees I have to pay there, which come close to 20%, $16.99 is basically As low as I can justify.)
I’ve ordered two new additional high-speed cameras, and will be setting up some black backing, reflective mirrors [really it’s a nice clean thick cardstock type material with a very reflective mirror-like coating on one side sort of like aluminum foil without wrinkles.] set at 45-degree angles, telephoto lenses, fireproofing supplies, etc, for the recording of the real-world pyrotechnic elements. All the equipment required is en route, and I’ll try my best to make the recorded material look amazing. The idea with the mirrors is to minimize risk to the camera. These are old-school Hollywood methods basically, you can set the mirror above or below the effect and align the camera to focus on the mirror, so you get the explosion billowing towards the camera in some interesting ways without actually endangering the camera. As for shooting at 120fps, that makes the effect look bigger and more impressive [and makes it last 4x longer when reduced to 30fps or 5x longer at 24fps] than the limited-scale effect it actually is. Recording at such high speed allows a miniature to move physics-wise as though it were 16 times bigger than it actually is, giving the illusion of immense scale and mass. The effects in question will only be four or five feet or so in size at most, in reality and will dissipate within two seconds. But they’ll seem far bigger as recorded, gigantic even, and the effects elements could each last up to 8-10 seconds when played back at a typical speed.
-New game content. I’ve had some frustration with WebGL releases from Unity as they were tricky to debug at times, and WebGL apps require that the game files AND the RAM usage fit within a 1GB limit, to run in a web browser. That said, I am now realizing that these limitations aren’t so bad if used for a lower-res demo version of an ambitious game and not a full-res one. So my plan is to release some of my game content in WebGL form, but with quarter-res graphics. That is, all textures switched on export to half the vertical and half the horizontal pixel count they’d ordinarily use. That reduces file size and memory use on all these projects from around 2-4 GB to under 1GB as far as web-embedded release goes.
So I’m aiming to launch a lower-res ‘Miniature Multiverse’ demo and a bit of other stuff like an early ‘Vivid Minigolf’ reworking posted in HTML5 WebGL form near the end of Feb. 2018, barring an unplanned complication. Neither is the full game feature wise or content wise, they’re both early beta releases with a lot of the content not yet included, and lower-res textures. They will, however, be freeware, and playable on my web network [embedded in the page, with a bit of ad stuff underneath.]
The idea on most of the games, videos, everything, is it is all going to be accessible free in some form, either the full, entire version for free, as with the comics, or some sort of reduced-resolution form, but otherwise as functional as the full version in the case of video and video game content.
If this succeeds, that’d be great. I’m hoping ongoing traffic levels have climbed 10-fold by end of February, covering a full 10% of my production costs, and that most of the other 90% of my costs in running this network can be covered by sales of high-value products that have better profit margins than before either because they don’t involve shipping [downloadables] or because they’re high quality enough and widely viewed enough that they end up selling for a bit more than they would have before.
Update: There’s been an extensive ad campaign ramping up – and fortunately 200+ people have viewed the stock media section of TriumphantArtists.com just in the past 72 hours.
By the time of launch, I think that figure will be more like 1200-1500, and I’m optimistic that the new pyrotechnic stock media / stock footage collection, which will have cost me a bit over $250 in incendiary materials, other materials and camera gear, will ultimately result in an explosion of sales. [Pun intended]
About $120 worth of brand new, unused art supply items, are going to be listed at prices that are only 55-65% of the amount I paid for the items, and with free shipping.
I’m trying to get my eBay shop to new heights, and most of my recent ratings are as a buyer, not as a seller. I’ve got over 200 ratings by now on eBay, 100% of them positive, but only about a third of them have been as an actual vendor/seller. I’m hoping to draw in about a dozen new ratings on eBay *as a seller* this week and ideally also one or two on Etsy soon as well.
To that end, I’ll be advertising heavily, for both my art shops and my near-release game ‘Miniature Multiverse‘ and I’m expecting a torrent of web traffic during the next 12 days as I post:
-a bunch of art-supply listings at excellently low prices.
-a handful of auctions for substantial original made-to-order personalized artworks.
-a couple of new artworks on Etsy as well.
-a final batch of articles filling the ‘articles page’ on TriumphantArtists.com – the last incomplete section is currently being written, that is, the one on ‘game design/development’.
-Chapter One of ‘Another Road Taken’ as well as early parts of the ‘Troop 4Uncensored, pt. 4’ comic book, filling out the fairly weak comics section of TriumphantArtists.com and in the process also further improving the Troop 4 site.
-House Trek episode 6 posted on HornbostelVideos.com, and also a Miniature Multiverse video trailer shortly before launch.
Good news though: The project, once released, will be far better value.
The program will be priced at $1.50, with six worlds at launch, not three. I.e. I’m essentially doubling the scope of the project and also trimming the price by $0.25. All updates will still be free.
Obviously, adding an additional room to Lokus and two entirely new worlds (Cliak and Sedest) plus another sixth world, will be the focus of much of my time the next two weeks. But once that effort is complete, the launch may be far better for it. Bonus: I plan to launch on Steam and the Humble Store as well – I’ve done a bit of market research (thanks, SteamSpy!) and reached the conclusion that a Steam release will be worth the additional cost and effort. Maybe the project will be trashed by Steam buyers, but hey, if you don’t like it, just refund it [Steam has a refund policy that allows games to be refunded as long as you’ve spent less than 2 hrs. running them)… and in this case, that refund policy means you can see pretty much everything in this initial launch for free. And if you decide you want to hold on to your copy of ‘Miniature Multiverse’ for later updates [there’ll be a lot of free updates over time for buyers] that’s great.
That said – I’d encourage people to go the Itch.IO route. Their review process for indies is leaner and faster and less backlogged so despite the fact that I’m submitting to Steam first, there’s a high likelihood that the Steam version won’t go live until nearly the end of the year. It’s also possible Valve will find some nitpicky reason to reject my project – the HornbostelProductions.com shop release is 100% certain, the Itch.IO release I’d say is 95% likely to work out, Humble Store 80%, Steam 75%. These are just my best guesses at this time though given the available information.
In other news, my video site HornbostelVideos.com is live now! There’s not a lot there yet – basically just YouTube vlog entries and revised House Trek episodes – but more will be added over time. Well worth a look.
For those who don’t know about this, it was a concept that I ran a Kickstarter campaign for in 2011, and the campaign was poorly promoted and weakly managed and failed to raise any real funding. That said, the concept was sound and Kickstarter staff gave the project a ‘Projects we Love’ designation. I still get occasional messages and emails from people who only discovered the KS years after it failed but still want it to happen.
Well… I have gained a lot of experience using Unity as an engine since 2011, and have acquired a lot of good assets and tools connected to it. I have a better camera than what I had in 2011, a Sony camera with 20.1 megapixel photo capability, and I’ve figured out a great camera rig setup that is suitable for this project. I also have a lot of miniature supplies now and am actively and rapidly scratchbuilding the baseline content I aimed for in crowdfunding, now quite efficiently on my own dime. It also helps that I have no physical backer rewards to worry about shipping! And I have a strategy to launch both the HT:TOS DVD and the Miniature Multiverse first three worlds, by September 20th, in just fourteen days. Two. Weeks. From. Now. And that is also when I post online chapter one of Another Road Taken and the first limited set of video stuff is posted on HornbostelVideos.com. Nearly all of this is already completed and in position now and all that really still needs to be done is a few final changes and then uploading those things.
And yes, I know I’ve drastically miscalculated timing on projects before – but I think this is so close to ready that even if I miss the mark it won’t be by much.
One catch: I want to build more worlds. Miniature Multiverse was always intended as an ongoing thing. So is the [similar type of project] ‘Panoramic Worlds‘.
There are even other things going on beyond all of that that involve making 3D worlds, including one-off 3D game productions such as Spiral Skies, Isola, and the church project that some of the Redeemer church people fully funded, and a few larger long term things I can’t discuss easily but they’ll involve fan art and more info on that will be known on Sept. 24.
But to make worlds – a lot of them – for everyone to explore, sometimes means funding is necessary [in the case of Miniature Multiverse] or at least helpful in getting things done a bit better and faster. Now, not a lot of funding is needed, but if I had, say, at least fifty or sixty subscribers as members supporting my work consistently while also benefiting from it enormously through exclusive content and deep discounts across my shops? That’d enable me to get a new world built for Miniature Multiverse every month or two, ongoing. That’d be pretty awesome, no?
Members would have access to the newest builds of Miniature Multiverse – months ahead of everyone else. So subscribing premium members and shop buyers will be able to see some things sooner than the general public. Same with videos.
And while the House Trek DVD is going to be available for purchase, to non members, it’s free [digitally] to members. Members will get things cheaper or earlier than everyone else. And if you’re a member, you provide a degree of momentum here that is exciting – every member makes things move forward faster across the board for a variety of reasons. So if you want to help, remember to become a member!
Why is next Monday, April 10 – and every Monday after that for the next 15 weeks – going to be epic? Here’s why:
Comics. New T4 content – the Troop 4 Uncensored, pt 4 comic book [divided into 10-12 parts] -and the first portions of Another Road Taken, which have been delayed way, way too long, will be posted during this span. Not that anyone has complained. Most of you either don’t know what I’m even referring to – or do know but have been really patient with me.
Game news. Spiral Skies sees actual up-to-date media content [new stuff to see on a new website specifically chosen for the project – SpiralSkiesGame.com – posted on one of these Mondays. This is something that actually has gotten a bit of response which is great… though at this time nothing is visible on the new domain, just on PanoramicWorlds.com.
The video channel. It’ll be on TriumphantArtists.com. I’ve put some substantial effort into this launch but my friends/actors mostly have yet to sign a digital document I sent them, which, in effect, stalls almost every video I really strongly want online from actually being placed online. When they ask about the videos not being online, I turn the question around and ask them why they have been unwilling to sign the documents I sent them. I tell them that THEY are holding back said releases. Most of them seem genuinely surprised by this. Perhaps once I am pulling in thousands of viewers these holdouts will actually notice, and respond to, the messages I sent.
More artworks on Etsy in the lead up to the mid-April launches. This is the only way that some of the launch content can actually [realistically] materialize faster. If you audience members like the items I list on Etsy then buy them, knowing that those sales [if made in the next few weeks] will finance completion of more videos, etc. So once again, please take a look at my Etsy shop.
Here are the different videos [definitely] making it online in the next 15 weeks. Longer projects are often split into multiple webisodes and I currently estimate between 24 and 36 videos being on the channel by the last of the 15 weeks. 24 is the likely outcome if nobody signs off on the legal documents in the next few weeks. 36, potentially, if a bunch of the signatures are collected soon.
DEFINITELY RELEASED IN NEXT 15 weeks:
–House Trek: The Original Series – this is a reworking of an old video series from 2001-2004 that had a very silly take on space travel, badly going where much better sci fi series had already been before. The fifth episode, the longest one, is now a two parter, and there’s also a short new episode tacked on to the end of the series to bridge the gap between this and the upcoming House Trek: The Next Generation.
–Storm – an old 2003 art video short depicting a rainstorm.
–Storm 2 – new short video two-parter in which I find myself alone in the house unprepared during a severe hurricane.
–Relativity – Escheresque 2004 art video with cool [and recently somewhat reworked] imagery that messes with your perceptions.
–Send in The Clones 1, remastered The brief first  video in the aging ‘Clones’ video series.
–Creativity – 2005 art video short.
–Awakening – new eerie short video in which I find myself struggling with persistently trippy and creepy nightmares which affect my judgement and sanity even when I’m awake.
–Refuge – new 3-episode sci-fi short with some freaky horror-ish surprises. It’s the year 2202, Earth is a poisoned wasteland and the surviving humans have traveled to another world to keep going. But now people are going missing at an alarming rate!
–Sheol – psychological horror/mind bender. Brand new short. After an internet troll interrupts a video chat, and threatens to kill me, I wake up the next morning imprisoned in a horrific death trap.
MAYBE RELEASED IN NEXT 15 weeks:
“Matthew’s Portal” (2005) a classic family mind-bender with a fun and clever story.
“Send in The Clones 2” (2002) My clones rapidly transition from laziness to rebellion.
“Duel 2030” – Recorded in 2007-2008, it’s a dark post-apocalyptic action mini-epic.
“Snow Siege” – The first of the videos I recorded with my cousins, in 2003. A kid-friendly holiday classic.
“Tinyville Disaster” (2003) – A classic comedy made with stop-motion animation.
“Fortress Siege” – a 2009 medieval comedy that is equal parts visually impressive and wackily absurd.
Recapping the recent events of February 2017, just the last month, to remind everyone that despite appearances, a lot of updates do actually happen on my web network if you keep looking:
-eBay auctions with low starting bids continue. Look at these three in particular, especially the top two as they’ve gotten relatively few views so far compared to the third but are nonetheless impressive value:
-The new batch of polls continue to go largely ignored by website visitors. I’ve gotten *hundreds* of visitors to my websites in the past week, over 700 actually, but the polling page seems to be a bit hard for them to find for whatever reason. It’s a shame, too, given the amazing opportunity for the few who actually take a look at that page.
-Membership options just launched. There are some stupendous perks to being a subscriber and signing up for a Premium Membership status here.
The most obvious is free shipping while a member and 15% or more off all HornbostelProductions.com store items. You could get some great bargains on handmade art doing that right now. $4.99/year for 15% or more off everything, and a list of other extras. Really reasonable.
-Ground work laid for some big stuff updated in the next 30 days. As in, major news related to ‘Spiral Skies’, release of House Trek content, and a new batch of HD stock footage, as well as more comics stuff, finally a new vlog entry, and continued expansion of the articles section with even more valuable information. There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes and it’ll be publically revealed over time.
-That goofball auction of five hours of my time. Nobody bid, but I am not really surprised given the brevity of the auction. It was kind of an experiment and it failed. Time to move on. Maybe I’ll try that idea again later on with a longer build up beforehand.
-The Vineyard Video Leisure Group is now moving closer to fruition. I posted a teaser image for it just this evening. [See previous post]
This – the impending redesign and rerelease of the old House Trek videos I made in 2001-2004, marks the early stages of a lot of my movies from the past sixteen years, even a lot of fairly embarrassingly bad ones, winding up overhauled, and put on the internet. If you acted in any of my videos, please contact me via the contact page on TriumphantArtists.com! I will need contact info for all the past cast members on old projects, who haven’t already signed talent release forms. A talent release form, by the way, is basically a form in which the actor agrees that their image/voice/likeness as recorded by me in a video work, can be placed online. My version of the talent release form is distributed by ESignGenie, which lets you sign it digitally, via email, which is still legally valid. My version of the form is longer than a standard-issue release form, as it also defines terms of compensation for actors, and applies to video games, still art, and interactive media, not merely video. Some of you have already given contact info and agreed to my broad terms but there are a number of holdouts or people I have proven so far unable to reach. If that is you, please email me, again using the contact info page on TriumphantArtists.com.
ONE OF THE THINGS I’VE BEEN QUIETLY WORKING ON, IS READYING MY MASSIVE TROVE OF OLD VIDEOS FOR INTERNET RELEASE. THAT INCLUDES THE OLD ‘HOUSE TREK’ VIDEOS I MADE OVER A DECADE AGO (2001-2004)
House Trek old sci-fi videos, House Trek, remastered.
To be clear – the closest this comes to a fan film is the word ‘Trek’ and the fact that it’s in outer space. While I drew inspiration from a certain TV show, there is a major effort in the online release to avoid anything remotely resembling copyright infringement. I’m also often asked if Chris Van Allsburg’s work inspired this silliness. No, no it didn’t. This was inspired by my love of sci-fi as a young teen and I thinkthe reason I shot the videos inside my home was because I had no budget for a sci-fi set and I couldn’t really drive anywhere else. (Like the original ‘Send in the Clones’, It’s all in my house and I’m the only actor because my sisters wouldn’t be caught dead in my early videos, and nobody else wanted to be in them either.) So part of the goofball charm of the old videos is the way I childishly disregard science with sounds in space, no spacesuit on spacewalks, no obvious visible source of propulsion, and of course I’m using old computers from the early 2000s as my navigation system, and wearing sweatpants and walking around barefoot. It’s incredibly dumb and the fact that I’m redoing about half the VFX and almost all the audio doesn’t change that.
So this blog entry is the start of a series of occasional blog entries about my adventures in indie video production. The first three House Trek videos and Send in The Clones 1, were all made in 2001, shot on crappy tape-based camcorders, and marked the start of my infamy as a video/vfx nut. Back then I was using Bryce 3d and AlamDV2 as my VFX tools. Now I use Lightwave & After Effects, among other high-end programs, and can do far better work. So for online release I’m enhancing or replacing over 60 VFX shots in the six House Trek videos, creating a 9-second intro title sequence that kicks off each video, and restructuring the audio completely. The stock audio is the main cost here. I used some sci-fi movie soundtracks originally but clearly I can’t license any of that for online release without getting sued so I’ve swapped out all the music.
The new stuff is actually pretty good and licensing the stock music/SFX I needed was only around $30. Obviously this is only a tiny piece of a very long list of 80-odd videos made in the past 15 years so the process of getting them all recut, or as Minhthien says, “George Lucas-ing them” will cost hundreds of dollars. That doesn’t even consider the cost of the new video projects (which include a follow-up to this old series, “House Trek: The Next Generation”) or my video game projects.
It also doesn’t consider the time involved. I wish this blog were a huge hit, and the shop too, because then I’d be able to finish all the stuff I’d like to finish. There have been a hundred or so viewers here since I launched it just 3 days ago, which is great, but I would like to see this go even bigger. I want this blog to go viral, but it won’t happen without great content, and the great content won’t happen at a fast enough pace without an audience of roughly 12,000 regular viewers to support it, and what I have is a rotating batch of maybe 5000 regular viewers, who get bored and drift away as fast as new ones arrive. So we’re kind of stuck here in a slow-moving rut. I’m hopeful that things will improve, though, after the release of Spiral Skies. Which, sadly, is taking far longer than I’d like.