The Collapse

July 14, 2006

I almost died. Pulmonary Embolism. Blood clots n the lungs. A week in the hospital.That was rough. I collapsed at home around 10pm on June 29th. I was rushed to the hospital by my housmates who found me unconscious on the floor. I was released on the 4th of July, diagnosed with a medical condition that will keep me on medication and weekly doctor visits for the rest of my life.

When I collapsed I was rushing to meet a June 30th deadline. The project was called (and I hadn’t even recognized the fucked up strangeness of this till now) The Collapse. The job was for 36 illustrations to be completed by June 30th. This was a studio job through Empty Room Studio. Jer Mohler from ERS had done the cover for this project and he gave me the job after I assured him I could complete it on time. I started work on the first of June. What kills me about this is I would have hit the deadline if not for my collapse. As it stands my medical problems have kept me from working much since I was released from the hospital. I’m recovering, and I hope to be up to speed soon, but it’s been a frustrating few weeks. Below is one of the 36 illustrations from Collapse. I’m currently inking the last 2 and plan to turn the project in on Sunday. Only 17 days late.

The Collapse

My medical problems put delayed more then just one project. Here’s the full list:

The CrossRoads of Eternity Omnibus #2 was supposed to be released in April. I wrote about half the issue and had already completed the cover by that point. April slipped by and so did May, with me only completing half a dozen illustrations. While I still hope to complete about 4 more illustrations for this project, CrossRoads headman Travis Brown has stepped up to take on the other half of the art. So hopefully Omnibus #2 will go to press by the end of July. Cross your fingers. below is one of the werewolf illustrations I did for the issue.

Werewolf
Cycle: Avalanche: Otherwise known as the French Job Part 2. I started this project back in May (just like I said I would) but I just know I’m going to blow the end of July deadline. luckily Sebastien has been incredibly understanding and given me an extension. I don’t currently have any of the new stuff scanned, but when I do I’ll post it here.

Verge: Adam Dray hired me to do the cover for his new Cyberpunk RPG Verge. he payed me back in March and then I completely forgot about him for over a month. But once I got to work on Adams concept the cover really came together. You can see the cover and learn more about the process that went into designing it and the game itself here http://adamdray.livejournal.com/tag/verge.

Monster Fight: Nate Peterson has hired me to do the art for his Pokemonish monster battle game (I’ve forgotten what it’s called). My hatred for Pokemon is very near and dear to me, so I’m very excited about this game. Plan on starting work on this as soon as I wrap The Collapse. This also ties in well with my Pokemonish comic Perfect Drug. I recently finished drawing the first issue of Perfect Drug. I had planned to publish the comic online but I recently received an offer from a small publisher who wants to publish the series. We’ll see what happens. the picture below is from Perfect Drug and not Nates game. I’ll put art from that up as soon as I have it.

Perfect Drug

Space Dwarves: I’m doing some Space dwarves for Mike over at Rebel Minis.I’ve worked with Mike on on Six-Gun Assassins and Modern Havoc and I feel we have a good track record together. When he said Space Dwarves I almost said no thanks. But the chance to design miniatures was too good to pass up, and the chance to actually do something cool with space dwarves was even better. This is another project I’ll be moving onto as soon as The Collapse wraps up.

Panty Explosion: Panty Explosion is done. I finished the layout this last night and I’m sending it off to the printer later today. The book clocks in at 96 pages. I’m pretty happy with it. Special thanks to all the people that downloaded the test rules and sent feedback. I think you’ll really like the final version. The Panty Eplosion website (www.atarashi.com) will do live late this month. You’ll be able to buy a hardcopy of Panty Explosion off our site by mid August and it should show up in stores in by October. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime you can check out the cover art below. This is a style I’ve used before, but this was the first time I’ve ever tried applying color to it. i’m pretty happy with it. I’ll be posting about the process I used later.

Panty Explosion
Fall of Pilaeus: My Baeg Tobar webcomic has gotten off to a rocky start. I’m only 5 pages in and already hopelessly behind schedule. Jer Mohler offered me an out but I plan to stick with it and try to catch up. Luckily the site relaunch has been delayed, giving me a bit of time.

Thats it for now. i’ll post again soon with more art and more stories about how some clients took advantage of my illness to screw me over and how much it sucks to be freelancer and not have medical insurance. I also want to say thank you to everyone who took the time to email me and inquire about my health. I appreciate it.

-Jake

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PANTY EXPLOSION!!!

May 22, 2006

Finally!

A year ago I was still working a real job. At a motel here in Portland called the Cabana. The Cabana is a horrible place. While working there I was bitten, kicked, stabbed, punched, spit on and threatened at knife point. Shortly before I stopped working there Sony announced the Playstation 3. Both my friend Matt Schlotte and I were pretty exciteda bout this (both being avid PS2 owners) and we both immediatly decided we wanted one. Even though the release was still some way off (and actually still is some way off even now) we both came to the conclusion that putting aside money for the new system would be pointless. I’m not a saver. What we needed was a sure fire way to generate a lot of money fairly fast. Our solution? cash in on the lucrative indy game craze.

Seriously.

I had just released the CrossRoads of Eternity RPG with Travis Brown so I felt like I kind of knew what went into making a new game. The problem is we did’nt know what game to make. The classic advice is to just make the game you want to play. We went the other way. We spent a few days brainstorming over what kind of game we thought would sell (during this time Matt would call me at the motel and we would engage in the 2-3 hour phone calls that eventually cost me my job. No great loss). We settled on psychic Japanese schoolgirls as the focus of our game, figuring that even if the subject didn’t appeal to everyoneit was still a pretty safe bet. Shortly after that I lost my job and started working freelance full time. Panty Explosion kinda stagnated for awhile.

Panty Explosion

We got back to work in September with a goal of finishing the game before the new year. But that date came and passed. I hoped we could wrap it up so I could take copies with me to the GAmA Trade show in March of this year, but we missed that deadline as well. But slowly the game ground itself out, and finally after 9 months of… development…. we have a working draft of the game! This is exciting!

So what is it? Panty Explosion is an adventure roleplaying game where you and a few friends assume the roles of a group of Japanese highschool girls, one or more of whom are psychic. The game features simple and easy to learn mechanics that encourage participation from every player and encourage creativity and player interaction.

If you’d like to take a look at Panty Explosion or even try playing a game you can download the PDF here:Panty Explosion V1

Matt and I are working hard to have the finished version of Panty Explosion available this July. Any comments or feedbackyou could give us would be greatly appreciated.

I’m planning 20 illustrations for Panty Explosion, including the front and rear cover. You can see 2 of the first few here.This is a style I don’t get to use very often, and honestly it’s kind of a pain in the ass to do. But I think it looks good, and I think it will give the game a unique look. This will be the first book I’ve designed from the ground up so I’m pretty excited about it.

At some point Panty Explosion will have it’s own dedicated site, but in the meantime I’ll post information about the games development here.

Anyway, I really hope you take a look. It’s a fun game and I think you’ll like it.

Jake

Panty Explosion Student

Girl Manga

April 28, 2006

Tony Irwin needed a cover for his new game Shoujo Story.

I don't actually know Tony, but the weird thing is I thought I did. About a year ago I sent Tony an email about something or other thinking he was someone else. We've shared a few emails since then. I see Tony as a potential ally, since both his game Shoujo Story and my game Panty Explosion both have their roots in Japanese manga and animation. I figured if I kept tabs on Tony that when it came time to release Panty Explosion (I know I haven't actually talked about PE here yet, but I will soon) that Tony would be a good person to know.

Cover sketch

So anyway, a few weeks ago Tony started a topic on The Forge asking for feedback and suggestions concerning the cover he had made for his game. you can see the topic here http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19455.msg204332. Tonys not an artist, but he had decided that he wanted to do all the art for his game himself. This is, to me, pretty admirable and says a lot about the kind of guy Tony is. He got a lot of flak (and a fair amount of constructive criticism) from the guys on The Forge over his cover (which you can see by going to the above link). I felt kinda bad, because I did (and do) admire Tony for doing all the art on his project himself, and while his cover kinda sucked (I'm sorry Tony) it was still better then several I'd seen. And as Tony himself said "For my little hobby game I think what I've done is adequate."

Cover Inks

I decided to offer Tony my services. i sent him an email reintroducing myself and offering to do the cover for free or cheap. Tony's response was quick and sensible: "I should have emphasised in my thread I'm not looking at this as a commercial endeavour, more a hobbyist thing, but I do want to make a print version available through Lulu. Part of the fun of this has been learning how to draw in order to illustrate my own game". So how could I argue with that, right? I wouldn't want someone else horning in on my game either.

 A few days later I decided to bug Tony again. I restated my offer and made the argument that it would be a shame if anyone passed up his game because they didn't like the cover. Yes, it was a completely ass-hole thing to say. I said it anyway. At this point I had kind of sold myself on the idea of doing the cover, and I was disappointed when Tony turned me down. i figured I'd take one more shot at it, even if it meant being a complete ass. Tony didn't respond, and I figured that was that.

 A few days ago I got another email from Tony. He had changed his mind. Didn't say why, and I didn't ask. He gave me the job description and asked how much I would charge. That was nice. I had made the offer to do the job for free and Tony could have easily taken me up on that but being the kind of guy he is Tony insisted on paying for my services. I really appreciate that, and I think that also really says a lot about the kind of guy Tony is.

Cover Green

I had Tony's description, and I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do, but I figured I should spend a day doing research. Shoujo Manga are Japanese comics for girls. That's probably an over-simplification, but there you go. Anyway, I luckily had a nice thick 800+ page volume of Shoujo Manga that my Japanese instructor had loaned me (and I had never returned). I also pulled out my Clamp books and my housemate Barry's Ranma and Sailor Moon books and spent the afternoon making notes and sketches. I had figured I'd use a style similar to the one I use on my Pokemon parody comic Perfect Drug (yeah, that's something else I'll talk about later) but a quick look thru the available material made it obvious that the Perfect Drug style was not a good fit. I settled on  a mix between a few different artists and went to work sketching.

Cover Pink

Now the only change (so far) that Tony requested was the rear girls hand. In the sketch and finished version you'll notice she has a closed fist, while in the inked version she's making a peace or victory or whatever sign. I thought that would be more playful and cute, but Tony asked me to change it back and I think he was absolutely right. The raised fist gives the 3rd girl a lot more energy.

Anyway, the illustrations you see here represent the process of creating the cover. I ended up with 4 different versions of the finished cover, with  white, green, pink and blue backgrounds. It'll be up to Tony to choose, but I think I prefer the pink.

Cover Blue

The neat thing about doing a project like this, and the reason I wanted to do it in the first place is the chance to draw something I never get to draw. After a year of dragons and zombies and cowboys and fantasy warrior shit doing a trio of Shoujo school girls is like a vacation.

And the other half of that is getting to work with someone who you respect. Tony has a great game here, and I think it's going to do real well. And I'm really glad I could be a part of that.

Avalanche Complete!

April 27, 2006

So I finished my commitment to the first part of the Avalanche project (what I was referring to as the French Job) back on the 15th or so. That was nice to get out from under. Got paid on time and everything, so good for me and good for Sebastien.

A few days later Sebastien sends me the PDF of Avalanche. Looks pretty damn good, I think. Of course this isn't a finished version. He's made several changes to the PDF recently. But this is close to what it will look like when it's done. You can check it out here http://www.cycles-rpg.com/teaser/AvalancheTeaser_S1F3.pdf.

It's stupid and unrealistic to expect every job you take to be worthwhile, or to expect to learn something valuable from every one of those jobs. But when I do a job that turns out to be difficult (for whatever reason) I like to try to figure out what went wrong and (if I can) learn from it. Avalanche is the first really big (as in number of illustrations) paid job that I've done, and the biggest problem I faced in it's three and a half months of work was… not actually being able to work.  Two separate bouts of illness (a bad cold and my previously documented pneumonia), a trip to Vegas for the GAMA Trade Show, a few other jobs I tried to get out of the way and various other distractions that seemed important at the time but escape my memory in the present.

The truth of the situation is that I should have started this job much sooner, and I should have continued to work on it consistently. I didn't get a rel start on Avalanche till mid Feb, and when the April 1st deadline rolled around I still had a fair amount of the coloring and grey scale work to do. So lesson learned. Going into the second part of this project (which I've already started) I've decided to do 4 illustrations a week (about 2 days worth of drawing), letting me complete the job by the end of June.

That's the plan.

If you're interested you can also check out Sebastien's ongoing attempt to try to explain the idea behind Avalanche on The Forge. For those of you that don't know The Forge is a site dedicated to discussing (and often tearing apart) small games and game ideas. You can find Sebastien's most recent topic here http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=19572.0, which includes links to his older Avalanche topics. It's interesting reading.

Full Cycle

April 12, 2006

Sebastien emailed me this morning. Up until then I had wondered if anybody read this stuff. Turns out Sebastien does, and that's important, because he's the man behind what I've been referring to as the "French Job".

 White Dragon

So Sebastien found his way here, and was good enough to drop me an email and tell me the name of the project. Which is good because, as I said earlier, I had forgotten and was way to embarrassed to ask. That's one of the weird things (for me) about working freelance. I tend to associate a project with the name of the person who I have direct contact with. When I was working on "6 Gun Assassins" for Rebel Miniatures a few months ago the job very quickly became "Cowboys for Mike", Michael being my contact on the job. In this case the project became "The French Job", and I promptly pushed all the other information about it out of my head. I think what I have is a tendency to over simplify the aspects of my work that don't directly connect to the creative process.

So what's the project called? Well, the whole thing bears the name "Cycle". The part I'm working on is "Avalanche". So in my head it's now become "Cycle:Avalanche", which I think sounds pretty cool.

Anyway, the illustration above is one of the early ones I completed for the project. I'm close (so close) to being done with this initial story, and the idea is that I'll continue on to do illustrations for more"cycles'. Sebastien told me that shortly (I think he said shortly) after I turn this in the teaser (or preview or sample?) story will be available for people to check out (I presume off their website, since I believe the whole project is internet based. Sebastien, feel free to post and correct me on any of this). So what I'll do is post links as soon as I have them, and everybody who reads this can go check that out.

Of course as far as I know Sebastien is the only person who reads this, so…

The French Job

April 9, 2006

Well, I turned in the first half of the French job yesterday morning. That was the color half. the hard half.

 French sample 1

I took the French Job back in January with the goal of wrapping it up in late February, even though it wasn't due till the end of March. Well, I still haven't finished it. I call it the French Job because I don't know the name of the company or the game (they told me at one point, but I forgot and now I'm way to embarrassed  to ask).

 French sample 2

Anyway, the second half, the grey-scale half, is going well and should be done soon. Here's 2 of the 30 illustrations chosen at random. As you can see I took a kind of sketch approach to these. i wanted them to look more like a rough draft then a finished piece. Is that half assed of me? maybe. The client likes it though, so who cares.

I got paid!

April 9, 2006

The check came today. This was from the work I did for Goodman Games E game. Not exactly on time, but not late enough to complain about. Big thanks to Rick Hershey and Jer Molher at ERS for both getting me this gig and for going to bat and making sure Goodman Games paid on time. Thanks guys.

I'm not sure what the books release date is, but I'm pretty excited about it. The concept stuff they gave to me while I was working on the project was great, and the books art is really sharp (I don't just mean the stuff I did either). It should be a really cool book, and a handsome one too.

Oh hey, I just looked, and it looks like the books available now. here's the link:

http://www.goodmangames.com/17621preview.php

It's caller "Etherscope: The Great Metropolis". There's a piece of my art on the preview page I linked to. You can tell which one it is because it's the least impressive looking one of the bunch. Which sucks. Oh well. Of the half dozen pieces I did for them That's definitely the weakest (and the smallest).

Can't wait to see the book though. I'm guessing they won't comp me a copy, so I'll have to check it out at the local game store.

The titles a joke!

April 4, 2006

I forgot to mention it. Work in Progress is a joke, right? The title i mean. Because I spend my time working on everybody elses stuff, I never have time to work on my own stuff. People say “how’s Panty Explosion coming?” or “how are you doing on that comic you’ve been working on for, like, ever”? And I say “well, it’s a work in progress”.

See?

Nobody pays on time. This is huge. This is such a huge problem. What other industry is like that? Where you do a job and then the client waits and doesn't pay you until 3 months later, or 6 months later or a year later. Or they never pay you at all. Where the client promises you a paycheck on October 15th,but you don't actually see it till January 20th.

Goodman Games. they make a game called Etherscope. I'm not going to bad mouth Goodman Games. But this is a good example I think. I took a job from Goodman Games back in December. The deal was for 6 illustration for their Etherscope game. Payment exactly three months (90 days) after the jobs completion. Job was due by December 31st. I turned it in on the 22nd. Payment was to be delivered via my paypal account on the 25th of March. Three months is a long time to wait to get paid.  I was hesitant about taking the job. I was already slammed with work in December, and setting aside 2 weeks for a job that wouldnt pay for 3 months was kind of a pain in the ass. But I wanted to work on the project so I took the job. I turned in the work on time (early actually) and I moved on to other things.

3 months later I'm sick with Pneumonia, dead broke and really happy that I took the job in December, because rents due (late actually). The 25th roles around. No payment. I wait a day or two. Still nothing. I send an email thru my handler at Empty Room Studios (ERS is kind of a production house/agency for RPG freelancers. Jer Mohler of ERS was the one who fed me the Etherscope job, and so he was the one I emailed when I hadn't gotten paid). Jer said he'd look into it, and got back to me the next day saying that Goodman Games planned to cut the check on the 15th of April.

Fuck! The 15th of April?

Rent is due. i have no money. I'm coughing up blood and green slime. I told Jer I needed that money fast. He got back to Goodman and Goodman agreed to send the money out (via check to ERS then thru Paypal to me) immediately. I was pleasantly surprised. Almost every job I've had has involved a series of delays in payment on the part of the client. I was hoping (really, really hoping) that Goodman games would pay on time, especially since I had already waited three months. In the back of my head I was prepared for a long, drawn out struggle to get paid. Not really prepared, because I was sick and had no money, but mentally prepared to write angry emails and give Barry (my landlord) weak excuses as to why I had no rent money.

So yeah, Goodman realised they needed to pay me, and instead of making an excuse they put a check in the mail. Thats good stuff. It's a nice story. It makes me want to work for them again.

Of course I haven't actually received payment yet. I assume its on the way (its only been a few days after all) and that I'll have it any day now. I'll post when it come in.

Okay, so why does Goodman Games wait three months to pay their freelancers? I know it's all their freelancers and not just me, because some of the other ERS guys have done work for them as well. So why the wait? I have no idea. I speculated that they wait three months until they receive payment for the books sold, but I have no proof of that. And as far as I know the books not out yet anyway. plus that would be really irresponsible of them, promising payment for a book that might not sell well enough to actually bring in the money to make that payment. Of course I've been victim to that before, but I'd like to believe that Goodmans a better and smarter company then that.

My name is Jake Richmond. I pay my bills as a freelance artist (and sometimes writer) for Role Playing Games. My goal here is to have a place to talk about my life freelancing. To talk about the jobs I’m working on, the art I’m trying to produce and the personal projects I’m trying to see thru. And to talk about what it’s like to work as an RPG illustrator. Here’s what i have on my plate right now:

The French Job-30 color illustrations for a french RPG. Due April 1st. I’m running really fucking late with this. I got smacked with Pneumonia and now I’m not close to being done. The client gave me an extension, so now I’m working 16 hour days to get this done.

The Dyson Project-Dogsoul Publishing hired me to write one of the source books for their new sci-fi game. I bluffed my way into this job, I don’t know how to write a book. I’m doing the best I can and I’m pretty happy with the results, but being sick has put me behind on this one as well.

Six Gun Assassins- I did a bunch of illustrations for this game, and I just recently finished the cover. I’m pretty happy with it, and I cant wait to see the book. Here’s the cover:

6 Gun assassins Cover

The CrossRoads of Eternity-Arcadiam Games publishes this game, and not only am I the co-owner of that company, but I’m also the art director and a contributing writer. Which means I do a lot of work on this game and I dont get paid. We have 2 books out so far, and we’re about to start work on a third.

The Fall of Pileaus-This is a web comic I’m doing for Jer Mohler over at Baeg Tobar. I just commited to a year starting in May. A lot of work, but it should be fun.

Panty Explosion-My Psychic Japanese Schoolgirl RPG I’m developing with Matt Schlotte. We’re e to having a playable version ready.

Here’s something I learned real quick about freelancing: You’re always broke. Always. No one ever pays you on time. Everybody wants you to work for free. You never know where the next paycheck is coming from. You’re rent is always late. I live a Monk Like Existence. This is not by choice. I make, on average, about $500 a month. That’s American currancy. I’ll give you a moment to think about that.

Cool? okay. $500 a month. Sometimes less. Sometimes more. But that’s the average. my living expenses come out to $450 a month. That’s basic (food/rent/internet/bus) living expenses, nothing fancy. At my last job I worked minimum wage and made almost twice that. So I live a Monk Like Existence. I work, I eat, I take advantage of available entertainments. I don’t go to movies anymore. I rarely go out to eat. i get to live a simple (or consumer deprived life) because I’ve chosen to draw zombies and dwarfs and zombie dwarfs for a living. This is the reality of freelance. For me.

Oh wait, I’m going to write more. Just a sec…