#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]
I’m pushing back release of Miniature Multiverse to January 2018.
This time, there’s no promise of [even more] additional content on release, just this:
I’m unable to fulfill my goals for Christmas 2017 unless I wait on Miniature Multiverse.
There are a few videos and some other things that I plan to show to my family over the holidays and wrapping those up will take some time in December, and even aside from that, there are other [slight] technical issues and delays I’ve had to deal with on Miniature Multiverse.
Those are resolved by now, but now I can’t see release happening any earlier than some time around Jan. 5-10, 2018. That is, early January 2018.
In other news, I’m pulling my holiday painting off of Etsy for the next seven days and auctioning it on eBay, so anybody who wants to get that original artwork, this is probably your last chance.
It’s a reminder of the ongoing issue with Etsy, that if nobody buys an item I’ve listed there after a while, it’ll be sold elsewhere instead, either locally or online. But Etsy listings won’t stay on Etsy forever. Favoriting an item is not enough; to actually be sure to have an item, you’ll need to buy it before it sells to someone else [there or elsewhere]. There was the kitten artwork, Southwest artwork, the NYC one, and now the winter one. That’s four items which had been listed on Etsy which are no longer there.
Incidentally, the art-supply listings went reasonably well, no issues there really. Some sold and some didn’t, but it’s all working out fine.
I’ve also sold 3/5 of the batches of vintage art books.
As for other things I’d promised in my last post:
-House Trek Ep. 6 will be online in December, a couple of weeks later than planned.
-The comics I’d promised are delayed further, simply because I don’t have time to finish them given the video situation, they’ll be wrapped up and put online in mid-January after Miniature Multiverse is launched.
-Articles section is likewise unlikely to be fully complete until then, but it’s already very close [all sections are finished except the game-dev section, and even that is partially done.]
And what of the things I’m prepping for the holidays?
Well… they include three videos with family and a few videos with friends in Houston. Like “Video Heist” which is now complete but which, like 90% of my finished videos, cannot yet be posted online [usually because of either copyrighted logos on clothing, or snippets of unlicensed audio or some talent release stuff not worked out]
But I can already show the video’s miniature fire effect that I posted as a .GIF earlier on Twitter:
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.
In answer to some valid questions about the Itch.IO release vs. free version vs. the benefits of being a member on this website, the plan looks like this:
Sept. 2017: Vyrsul, Pryme & Lokus, made available both to members on HornbostelProductions.com and also Itch.IO. I know I’d said the members would get access to new content before anyone else, but that’s mainly true with updates, not the initial release. As for free non-paying visitors, nothing released for them in 2017 as far as Miniature Multiverse goes except for some video content from the project and a few screenshots and maybe a limited demo only containing the world Lokus. Sorry!
Online stores, like mine, and Itch.IO, where people actually pay for the game, will get released content well before free players. When a new update is released, it’ll go to these stores first, and the paying players, then free players typically about a year later.
November 2017: Revised launch date. Six worlds available for buyers at a price of $1.50 that includes all future updates to the project.
December 2017: Stripped down demo containing only Lokus is posted for free.
January or February 2018: Additional batch of areas/worlds added, essentially doubling the project’s size and scope.
April-May 2018: Another additional set of worlds added, increasing the size of the project to 3x its intial scope.
September-October 2018: The last core update posted, meaning the central storyline in the game and all the essential puzzle material is complete, and the game is 4x the scope it had at first launch.
December 2018: New free version posted with all the November content.
January 2019: Another update for paying customers if things are still going well.
March 2019: First update made available for free.
April 2019: Another paid players’ update
..and so on, alternating months, as long as it’s viable.
The rate of production will be adjusted based on the success or lack of success of the project. If the project is failing horribly as a sale item, it might have to slow down and may get shut down at the end of 2018. If moderately popular, it’ll keep on going, and if it’s doing really well it may actually expand the rate of production to updates of more worlds per update after a while. I intend to have 23 or more worlds in ‘Miniature Multiverse’ by end of 2018. Whether it continues beyond that, that’s up to all of you.
There’s a possible growth spiral and I aspire to make that a reality, where the more updates, the better the product looks to people and the more sales it makes, thus funding more updates, and so on. If I can get things going in that way that would be awesome. This might actually run for half a decade or so in the best case scenarios.
A few quick notes on what had earlier been teased. Firstly, Miniature Multiverse, a project mostly stalled since 2011, has moved forward, as I’ve realized that I can now get it done – I have a new high end camera setup, better than what I had during the Kickstarter – and I’ve gotten much better assets and experience with Unity, so… all that was missing was some specialized miniature materials and a few additional weeks of work and I could get this out there. So that effort began in earnest a few weeks ago. And now I’m publicly discussing it.
MiniatureMultiverse.com. The site needs some work in the hours/days leading to actual launch. The Itch.IO page does too, but once the updates to those two pages start flowing faster, you’ll know release is likely just hours or minutes away.
I’ve changed my method of panoramic capture, but the good news is that the last-minute change will improve the visual quality of the tour – and it also means that I’m working through the process of photographing the tour and I’ve figured out the best available approach. Which in turn implies something is there to photograph… and in fact, all of the three worlds in the initial version of the tour have been assembled as extensive miniature environments. And by extensive, I mean usually about 4 or 5 feet from one end to the other, with a lot of varied detailing but in a small enough scale that I can get my arms out to my camera over any part of the miniature, and also big enough, that the camera can be carefully positioned in the various nooks/crannies of the landscapes. They look beautiful BTW, and I’ll post a lot of material related to the project shortly.
But for now, here are some key things to consider.
One, the tour has well over 50 nodes across only three worlds [Pryme, Lokus, and Vyrsul] BUT those worlds are restructured to be a bit bigger than had initially been envisioned, so there’s actually plenty to explore here, despite the fact that the first release only has three explorable locations.
Two, I’m selling this on Itch.IO for $1.75 (plus a tip if you’re so inclined) in hopes of covering the costs involved in expanding the tour to include new worlds, so that the project can grow over time. Those new worlds will, if funded, be released as free updates to the tour!
Third, it has no HTML5 release, only Windows / Mac OS X / Linux versions. I’ll package all those into the $1.75 download archive, so there won’t be any need to buy multiple copies for multiple platforms.
Four, as stated earlier, I am not using the single-shot capture method I started out with anymore, and this image explains why that was a flawed method and inadequate graphically in my view:
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!
Bad news: As stated in the previous post, the transcription work I have been depending on to pay the bulk of my bills, is going to dry up soon.
Good news: It’s still mostly around for the moment, and isn’t gone quite yet.
Bad news: The eBay shop is still losing money each week.
Good news: I made 8 sales there in the past 60 days, and that will hopefully push my ratings to 200+, perhaps leading to higher bidding totals and items breaking even or even being frequently profitable?
Bad news: I thought that’d happen at 100 positive ratings, or 150, so how will 200 be any different?
Good news: It’s different because the frequency of bids on my auctions IS increasing over time, and because traffic on my websites is climbing too.
Bad news: The large wave of bids is concurrent with a hurricane [Harvey] that will likely dump near 20 inches of rain on Houston, flooding everything and stalling all outbound mail.
Good news: I already notified customers that there may be unavoidable delays related to this, and they’ve so far all been okay with that.
Bad news: Two items will sell later this week, and those customers may be confused and frustrated if power goes out here and no communication is possible. They’ll be wondering ‘What is going on with this Matthew Lyles Hornbostel? Why is he not responding to my questions?’
Good news: Power is not that likely to go out, and I am in a great position to grab a bit of epic hurricane footage that could perhaps be used in my upcoming short art video ‘Storm 2’.
Bad news: This also delays recording of ‘The Annoying Magician!’ and some fragments of ‘Tinyville 2’ until a month from now.
Good news: Plenty of work to do before then anyway. I am posting the articles section pages a bit at a time on TriumphantArtists.com, plus am closer than ever to to launching a first batch of [fully legal and self-created] content on HornbostelVideos.com, plus the comic ‘Another Road Taken’ and some game/interactive media material is on the way too. Watch for the Spiral Skies update – showing some more of the small Unity 5.6.3 engine based adventure/puzzle game – to appear before long on SpiralSkiesGame.com, plus some largely empty fan art pages fixed and filled with content, and some even bigger updates regarding the church virtual tour program, as well as a little top-down racing game I’ve been debugging.
In case you are curious here’s a teaser for the historical preservation effort related to the Church of the Redeemer Episcopal in Houston, Texas – the entire building, which is largely demolished now, is being actively reassembled in a virtual realtime 3D form thanks to some $360+ in donations for that purpose from various church members, covering the entire cost of the project. Too bad the crowdfunding process that worked here, failed on the far more imaginative project ‘Miniature Multiverse’ years ago – but whatever.