A New Computer

I recently built what is my most powerful (and most expensive >.<) computer to date. My last computer was built in early 2016. Since then I only upgraded the graphics card and added more ram. It’s still a decent computer to this day, but as I mentioned in my last Desk Diary, due to my new job and such it felt like a good time to get a better one.

My goal was to build a computer that would be good for gaming (of course), my graphics work, and 3D rendering in Blender for my never-ending dream to create a animated series. As I usually do with things like this, I spent a good while doing research. I was surprised to find that AMD has really moved up in the CPU world, so I was quickly drawn to those processors. I had 32GB of ram in my current computer, so I thought going up to 64GB this time would be a good place to be. Getting an nvidia RTX 2080 Ti was a forgone conclusion. I never had a Ti graphics card, which, of course, is great for games, but it’s also really good for Blender, especially with Optix!

After bouncing back and forth of different choices for AMD CPUs, I eventually settled on a 3950X—a 16 core processor! It might be a little bit of overkill, but it was certainly more reasonable than a Threadripper.

Another thing I wanted was to strive for a certain look. I was pretty set on a black and white theme early on. However, this caused some issues. Due to a certain pandemic, supplies were a bit short. Getting items of certain colors was pretty difficult. I had a couple orders cancelled on me due to things going out of stock.

Eventually, though, I managed to get all the things I wanted to start the build.

What I ended up with was truly a dream computer:

  • AMD  Ryzen 9 – 3950X 16 core processor
  • Asus Prime X570-PRO motherboard
  • Corsair 64GB Vengeance RGB Pro 3200MHz  DDR4 Ram
  • Asus GeForce RTX 2080 Ti OC 11GB
  • 2x Samsung 970 EVO Plus 2TB M.2 NVMe SSDs
  • Western Digital 1TB SSD (for Projects)
  • Western Digital 1TB HDD (for Backup)
  • Corsair H100i RGB Platinum SE AIO water cooler
  • Corsair HX 1000 power supply
  • NZXT H510 Elite case

Even though I’ve built many computers by this point, there were a lot of new things for me to tackle this time. I never had M.2 SSDs before or installed an AIO water cooler.

Once I had the processor, ram, and M.2 drives installed, which were easy enough, it was time to tackle the AIO water cooler. Getting this installed in my NZXT case was a bit of a challenge. I wanted to keep the large 140mm fans on the front of the case since they really give the case its personality, but my water cooler was for 120mm fans. It took some doing but I managed to get them both on the front fan bracket.

Mounting the water pump was a bit nerve-wracking. AM4 sockets have hooks on the top and bottom. To attach the water pump I had to use these rings and tighten thumb-screws over a bracket that essential is designed to bend, putting the thumb-screws at an angle in the end. It looks and feels a bit sketchy, but that’s how it’s supposed to be done.

Next was the tedious amount of cables to be sorted and managed. This case has some nice channels and Velcro straps to keep things pretty tidy. I did the best I could.

After that, the rest went rather smoothly. I installed Windows 10 with a thumb drive and was up and running in no time. Hoooowever… moving all my files from my old computer to the new one… took about a week. During that week I also got some nice white braided cables for the motherboard and graphics card. I think they really finalize the look.

So far it’s been a good computer. I had a couple little glitches, but nothing really major. I did some testing and the results are pretty nice.

I’m really happy and proud of how it turned out. I can’t wait to get to really take advantage of it. So far, though, I’ve been rather busy with several things. Gaming and Blender have taken a bit of a back seat, but eventually, right?

Anyway, thanks for reading. See you next time!

 

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Toy Collection

As a child of the 80s toys and later console gaming were a big part of my childhood and it’s something that never really went away for me. Till this day I still enjoy collecting toys and playing video games. I’m forever a “Toys R Us kid.” If you’ve read any of my posts on this site I’m sure that you will already know this. For the most part, though, for toys, it’s been mostly “anime” based toys from large two foot tall Dollfies to small figmas and the occasional Transformer, but more recently I’ve started to dabble in collecting old-school loves like Lego. Over the last couple years I picked up several sets from the Lego movies, which have been a lot of fun. My favorite sets are probably the Destiny’s Bounty and City set from the Ninjago movie.

Beyond that, though, what you might not know is that I still have a small collection of my old 80s toys from my childhood as well as a few old consoles and a medium-sized collection of comics. However, for the longest time they’ve been boxed up and in the closet.

It was always a little dream of mine to dig them out and put them on display, even if just for myself. It has become even more of a desire now that the 80s and toy collecting have become popular recently and many modern toy companies are producing amazing high-quality toys based on the characters I loved as a kid.

Thanks to my new work that started early this year I’ve been able to start collecting some of these modern takes on old classics and relive a bit of that childhood. A month ago I finally pushed myself to open my closet and pull out my old collection. I spent a good week organizing and cleaning my old toys, gathering my old consoles and their boxes, and rummaging through my comic book collection.

I picked up a few cheap bookcases and got started. Now this isn’t the best display setup, but it’s certainly a start for me and it’s been a lot of fun so far. Even with all this I STILL have several old toys I didn’t have room to put on these shelves so there is still room for growth whenever I figure out  how to fit more shelves.

For now this is what I have setup:

In my old shelves I still have my video game collection, mostly filled with large MMO collector’s edition boxes. I also have some DVDs, Blu-Rays, Anime, and consoles games. I moved things around a bit and added a couple related collectibles and gaming statues.

On the side of these shelves I have this little unit with most of my figmas and some of my manga.

Next are the newest shelves nearly stuffed with toys. I took a while to set everything up neatly. I left a little bit of room here and there for some incoming new additions, but as they are they are pretty much full. These photos are actually already out of date since I’ve been getting new stuff regularly. I’m sure I’ll share those additions later on.

On the first two shelving units you can see some of my Lego sets on the top. In the first set of shelves I have some modern mainstream Transformers from the Siege and Earthrise series and a very awesome (and silly expensive) Masterpiece Optimus Prime with a repro G1 Soundwave and some of my original remaining Transformers from my childhood. Next is some characters from Star Wars and Star Trek, many comic book heroes across many eras and two shelves of about a two-thirds of my comic book collection.

On the next set of shelves I have a mostly empty shelf, but below that are most of my Dollfies currently protected in bags, a repro Voltron, an old Sailor Moon doll, and some random Micro Machines. Below that is my collection of portable gaming consoles, something I’ve loved since the Lynx/Gameboy era. Then finally is a stack of my old gaming consoles. I mostly missed out on the original Nintendo/Super Nintendo and Genesis days, but I have several consoles from since then still.

Finally on the last two shelves are a lot of older items. In the little shelf I have my growing collection of old 80s cartoon DVDs and some books from Star Wars/Trek to Lego and Transformers. On the big shelf I have more Lego Ninjago Lego sets and then my remaining Mask toys from my childhood. Then there are two shelves of my StarCom toys, a rather obscure series, but one I loved as a kid and probably sparked my interest in space. Then I have what’s left of my collection of Dino-Riders. And last there are boxed Star Trek toy sets and an original K.I.T.T. car.

You may have noticed that the bottom shelves for all of these are mostly big items and not toys. That’s due to my two new kittens that would play with anything that was at their eye level.

This is just a “quick” rundown of my current setup, of which has grown since even these photos.

I’ve recently picked up several more Masterpiece Transformers, some modern day He-Man figures, and I’ve started to collect a couple Playmobil sets based on Ghostbusters and Back to the Future, which are really neat.

I really love a lot of the modern toys based on the originals. For one I have an example of a G1 Transformer with his modern-day Masterpiece equivalent. I can only imagine what my younger self would have thought of this stark difference. Heck, many of the old G1 Transformers couldn’t even bend their legs and now these new ones are so possible, even the mainstream ones like Siege and Earthrise. Then you have things like the modern He-Man figures. Like some of the Masterpiece Transformers, these are much closer to what you saw in the cartoons compared to the toys back then—I mean, where the heck was Man-At-Arms mustache!

I have a few more items still on the way and a couple more plans for the shelves, so I will hopefully post more as they come and things change.

Thanks for checking out my post and see you then!

 

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Desk Diary 6-13-2020

Whelp! It’s about time for another Desk Diary—four years from my last Desk Diary (sorry)—It’s 2020! Annnnd the world has gone crazy town. But I’m not interested in focusing on all that. Despite what has been going on—as terrible as it is—things have actually turned around for me in the last several months. A lot of that is due to a new decent paying job, after a decade of “self-employment.” I’ll go into more current happenings towards the end of this post.

One of the main reasons for my lack of posts has been due to learning that I have a hereditary hearing loss condition called Otosclerosis. My ability to hear is slowly (over many years) getting worse and is accompanied by very loud whistles (tinnitus). This started to become noticeable in the middle of 2016, right after my last Desk Diary post. I went to many doctors that year. At first I thought it was just a build up of wax, but when I finally found out the real reason it destroyed me emotionally for some time. Eventually I was put on an anti-depressant. And over time I started to get as used to it as one can.

These days I just pop my wireless headphones on and listen to music or watch Youtube and that helps, along with the meds, but my mood to post anything or even be super social dipped quite a lot and remained that way for a couple years, which is why I didn’t really post anything new. Working and gaming was pretty much all I could manage.

Continuing from the last Desk Diary, here’s a quick recap of the last four year.


2017

Darkborn took up a lot of my spare time in 2017. I setup the site and Patreon and consistently put out a comic page each week.

When I wasn’t working I did hop into an MMO when I could. I returned to FFXIV for the Stormblood expansion. I also bounced between MMOs like Black Desert and Elder Scrolls Online.

For loot, the biggest item I got this year was a graphics card upgrade. I went from my Nvidia GTX 770 to a GTX 1070, which was a much needed upgrade after getting my LG Ultrawide monitor.

Towards the end of this year I really started to regain an old love for Lego, which is likely due to the expanding Lego movie universe with the release of the Ninjago movie around that time. I had to do a lot of extra side work to feed this new addiction.


2018

Around this time my desk was getting rather cluttered with all the new Lego sets and my Dollfie collection. Towards the middle of this year I wasn’t really feeling Darkborn’s progress was going where I wanted, so I put it on a hiatus.

For loot I got my hands on a Nintendo Switch with some games. It was my first new Nintendo console since the Gamecube (not counting my 3DS).

My gaming didn’t stop there. I stepped a bit back in MMO history and played the Battle for Azeroth World of Warcraft expansion, which I didn’t think was as bad as many people claimed.

Towards the end of the year I had reorganized my desk. I was getting more interested in my gaming consoles, so I put them all together with a custom made little shelf my father made for me and added my old TV to the mix.

Not to forget my Dollfie collection, I actually pre-ordered a Dollfie at the end of this year. She would be my first new one since 2013/14. However I had a year to wait for her release.


2019

Darkborn returned in the beginning of 2019 and continues to update till this day. However, my aspirations for creating stories wasn’t completely satiated, so I started to think up ideas for a possible animation project… yet again.

Which leads into my loot choices this year. In the middle of the year I managed to save up enough from extra work to get a new laptop. I hadn’t had a nice laptop for many-a-years. This one is a Thinkpad with a Ryzen 7 processor. It has a full keyboard, with numpad, and a nice big screen. My plan was/is to use this to write my story ideas away from my desk and maybe even work on some animations on it.

However, I really wanted a digital sketchpad for my creative endeavors, so towards the end of that year, with more extra work, I picked up a new Apple iPad Air. Based on the first generation iPad Pro, this one had the ability to use the Apple Pencil. A digital sketchpad with nearly instant on (unlike my Surface Pro), was very appealing to me. For Christmas I also got the overpriced, but still very nice, Apple Keyboard to add to it… giving me two options for writing stories away from my desk… cause options.

Due to a typhoon in Japan that Dollfie pre-order was delayed till 2020.


2020

And here we are! The year of doom… apparently. All the crazy real world happenings aside, towards the end of 2019 I started working for a company doing logo designs and book layouts. A close friend, that was already working with them, helped get me in the door. Since then they’ve been keeping me pretty busy to the point that I haven’t had much time to even touch an MMO or any game. But I’m no longer barely making ends meet, and that’s a pleasant and appreciated change. Something I haven’t had for over a decade. It really helps raise your mood when you can finally afford things you were only able to “window-shop” for years and aren’t struggling week by week.

Though, not everything has been great for me so far this year. During the first several month my dear 14 year old cat became very sick. I had to readjust my sleep schedule (I’m a super night-owl) to get him his meds on time. It was an exciting, but also somber, and grueling first few months of the year between the new work and an ailing cat. He did eventually pass, which was very hard for me to deal with.

However, I eventually adopted a couple (yes, two) new feline friends. I found these brothers online and knew they would be a fun pair to befriend. They are very active, and love to jump around and explore everything, but they’ve brought much needed liveliness to the home. One is very social and cuddly while the other is more aloof.

Oh, and that Dollfie… she did finally ship… eighteen months later. It’s 2B from Nier Automata. She was well worth the wait. I’ll try to make a separate post about her when I get time to take better photos.

So for me personally, things are very much looking up for the most part. Due to my new work I’m able to start getting many of the things I’ve had on my wishlist for some time. For one, I’ve been adding to my collection of toys at a rapid pace. Which is something I’ll write about in its own post soon. I’m also starting to gather funds for a new computer… a rather powerful one. I still haven’t given up on my dream to create an animation of some sort. I may never get to it, but I’ll keep trying. And with things like my iPad, laptop, and, soon™, new computer… my excuses will certainly not be technical ones, only ideas, time, and skill. Besides all that I have many other plans for my workspace and projects, which I hope to write about on this site as they progress.

So this is where things are for now. While my ear issues put a pretty big damper on my mood for a few years, now I’m working, updating Darkborn every week, trying to plan out an animation project, having fun with my new kittens and getting a lot of things I’ve wanted for a long time. I’ll try to post more often, but if current year has taught us anything, things can change rather quickly… and drastically. Here’s hoping it gets better for all of us soon.

 

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A Year After

So it's been a little over a year since I started Darkborn. I've been so busy that I haven't been able to post anything here. I can't believe it's been a year already. Those that may have been following might have noticed a lack of updates to Darkborn in the last couple of weeks. I wanted to make a little post explaining why that is and what the plan is from here on out.

One of the reasons it took me so long to even get Darkborn going in the first place was that I really wanted to plan the story out. My previous webcomics really lacked in that department. Due to an extended bout of procrastination (shakes fist at MMORPGs) it took me about a decade to really get going. The drive was never gone, it's just -really- hard to get yourself to work on something when all you want to do is draw... or play a game. Planning isn't that fun. Despite all that, and many dead-end ideas in-between, I finally got to a point with Darkborn I was happy with.

When Darkborn launched I was really proud and happy to finally have an ongoing project again. However, several months in I started to notice a few issues and there was this nagging bit of doubt growing in the back of my head. I kept producing a page each week hoping I'd get over the hump or figure something out.

At this point, though, I feel that some facts have come to light.

  • First thing I realized was that the story was moving very slowly. I may have taken the "show don't tell" mantra too literally. In my attempt to provide information about the world of Darkborn I ended up jumping all over the place to "show" these things. I also really didn't want to show too many of the "secrets" too soon. But I think this caused me to drag the story out too much in some ways. With a weekly update this was just too slow.
  • I feel that Azia's primary goal of searching for her parents was too much of a focus and not really a great hook in the end. A big portion of the story was based on this and I feel that it just made things drag on. It wasn't really interesting.
  • The really big one for me was the format itself. I started to become really frustrated with trying to convey these scenes I had in my mind in still frames. To me I saw things a lot differently in my head than I was able to put to the page. I think in time that caused me to get a little bored and frustrated. It also didn't help the slowness of the story as I would try to add more frames to show what was going on, sometimes with very little text.
  • Finally the time involved. A page could take me twenty hours (give or take). That's basically a part time job. Any other projects I wanted to work on had to take a backseat. It was becoming rather draining.

With a weekly update all these things just made the story seem to crawl and if I'm honest, I think the lack of readership showed that. If I could create more than one page a week maybe it would have been better, but that's simply impossible. Now I don't want to sound like I'm whining due to hard work or anything. I enjoyed producing Darkborn, but I just felt the benefits weren't adding up. In this era of streaming video content, I think a webcomic is a hard "sell" as it is. Even I would rather just watch something online than read my own webcomic.

All that said, what is to become of Darkborn? Well, I feel it's best if I take a break. I've already started to work on other ideas. While I sort of burned out on Darkborn my drive to make stories hasn't gone away. If anything this was a good learning experience. I think for me I need to pursue the one thing that I always dreamed about and thats animation.

I've already invested in Moho and Lightwave 3D. I recently bought a few training series for animating characters (it's fifty hours long... @_@) I have several new ideas on the table and I have been testing out visual ideas.

There is a lot of planning, experimenting, and learning that I need to do. Maybe nothing will come of it and in another decade I'll be in the same spot, but I'm not going to give up.

I want to post my progress when I get to a point I feel I'm getting somewhere. So I hope that you continue to keep an eye out and see what comes about.

Till then, see you soon!
 

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Darkborn

I started this blog several years ago because I was inspired to get back into creating stories and drawing. Ultimately, I wanted to create a new comic. As some of you may know, many moons ago I had two comics online, but when I finished them... I just stopped. I didn't start another one. A lot of that was due to life things and spending way too much time gaming, but the other issue was that I felt my last two attempts severely fell short due to poor story planning. I wanted my next comic story to be fully thought out and created properly. That, however, caused me to over-examine everything I came up with... so time dragged on and on. But, finally, many many years, ideas, games, and more life issues later, I think I finally managed to create a story I feel confident with, and I'm excited to get it started. It took a while, but some things can't be helped. It's not a work of art by any means, but it will hopefully be a fun little comic.

Darkborn

As the title states, the new comic is called Darkborn. It takes place in an average town and follows a teen girl named Azilina Cross. What most don't know is that she comes from a long lineage of monster hunters that are part of the mysterious Venatores Council. However, Azia's parents disappeared five years ago during one of their monster hunts. Azia didn't have much time to adjust before she was thrusted into a foster home. Azia's life was fairly dark for several years with her family familiar, Jax, as her only real friend. But she recently began to train to hunt monsters with the help of Jax. Through her training and hunting monsters Azia really hopes to find her parents... or at least learn what happened to them, which leads her on an adventure she never could have imagined. It's a dark world filled with monsters at every corner and it is the job of Hunters to find and kill them. Will Azia succeed and find her parents or will she become some monster's next meal?

The story took me a few months to plan, but much of it was based off older story ideas that I cobbled together to create this one. It quickly took on a life of its own. I plan to explain the process I used in more detail down the road, but I found that using a mind-mapping program really helped me to quickly plan the story out. From there I used Scrivener to start scripting the individual comic pages.

I'm currently working on the initial comic pages that will launch with the Darkborn website. Many are already sketched out and I'll be inking and coloring them soon. The website itself is mostly ready to go, it just needs some more polish and information about the comic.

Things are coming together. The Darkborn website should launch in the coming weeks. I'll do my best to post updates on my tumblr and twitter, so please follow so you can keep up to date on its progress. I'll see you all then!

 

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Desk Diary 4-9-2016

Annnd... I'm back! So! I had a bit of a long "pause." A... three year pause, in fact. It's amazing how much can change in a couple years, but also how fast time flies by! I'm still working on my next webcomic, but for now here's a little update on some things that happened since my last post.

Over the last couple months I've been redesigning this site, updating it with a new look. I even added a couple new posts and updated some old ones. This is my first new Desk Diary to "officially" kick off the site's reboot. But it wouldn't be a proper "Desk Diary" without some new loot, gadgets and news. I've received a lot things since my last Desk Diary. So let's get to it!

First up is some computer add-ons. During my time in Final Fantasy XIV I really needed to upgrade my graphics card, and so I got a very nice NVidia 770 GTX. It's been a great card ever since. Then, as things go with me it seems, I had to replace yet another monitor. I now have a large 27" LG IPS LED display. I was not super eager to get an LED, but they are pretty much the only choice these days. My past experience with LED displays has left me wanting, especially in the color department. Thankfully times have changed and IPS is much more affordable. IPS LED displays produce much much better colors than the older LED displays. I'm very happy with this one. I also got my Corsair RGB K70 keyboard, which I made a post about.

As I started to become more confident that my webcomic was getting off the ground, one thing I wanted to help me along was a tablet that I could draw on. I have tried to do this on my iPad, but I was never fully happy with the results. I've had my eyes on the new Microsoft Surface Pro for a while and was able to get a refurbished one several months ago. It's a full computer with an i5 processor. I am able to run all my creative programs on it, and with Dropbox, I can work on files between both of my computers. Best of all it also has a Wacom digitizer in it, so I am able to draw on it just about as well as on my Cintiq. I really like this little thing. If I had one complaint it's that I'm very used to the "instant on" of my iPad as well as the long battery life, both things the Surface is lacking in. Who knows though... those iPad Pros are looking pretty interesting.

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Last year my computer was starting to die on me. I rarely have had my computers simply just fritz out on me to this extent. The best I can tell is that my motherboard's internal overclocking protection feature was freaking out. I never overclocked my computer, but it kept warning me when I booted up that something was wrong with my overclocking! For a time I was able to bypass it with a little trick and as long as I kept the computer on it was fine. However, every time I had to reboot it was a gamble. Eventually it got to the point it would just refuse to boot almost at all. It was time for a new computer.

With so much thanks to a dear friend, I was able to get a new computer and it's a really nice one. It has an Intel i7 4790K CPU running at 4GHz, 16GB of ram, a 500GB Samsung EVO SSD, and it's all running on an Asus H97 Pro motherboard inside a Corsair Graphite 230T case. Whew! That's a mouthful! I also upgraded to Windows 10. Point is, it's a nice computer and has been running great since I built it!

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No new computer is complete without some new software. I wanted to set myself up with the creative programs that I'll use for my webcomic and websites. First thing I installed is the creative staple, PhotoShop. Thankfully, for the not-so-rich like me, Adobe has a nice subscription plan on their Creative Cloud that lets you have the latest Photoshop as well as Lightroom for $10 a month. This is the perfect pair of programs for my needs. I use PhotoShop for most of my design work and Lightroom is great for adjusting my photos for this blog.

Next up is a program I hope to learn and use for my webcomic called Manga Studio EX5. It is a paint program specifically designed for making comics. So far it seems very competent. EX is the "pro" version of Manga Studio that features a way to have all your comic pages in one window so that you can switch between them. This is great for the planning stages and thumbnailing all the pages for a given chapter. I've already started to use this feature to thumbnail my webcomic. It also has a variety of rulers for drawing in perspective. It has nice tools for creating frames to keep your layers organized. Of course, it also has extensive tools for word balloons.

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Finally, some time ago I picked up a writing program to help me organize and work on my story ideas, and I can't say enough about how nice it is to have a tool like this. It's called Scriviner and it's a program that is, really, an idea organization tool. It has many ways to add and view data, mainly text and images. You can have a folder for ideas and put images and text in that. You can then organize your story ideas using virtual index cards so that you can move them around. This part alone is wonderful for working out story ideas. When you're ready you can start writing out scenes. It is great for working from big, general, ideas down to more detailed ideas. I've been using this program for some time and it's been a great help!

I'm really excited to get my webcomic going! It's taken me a long time and a lot of fighting with myself, but I'm getting closer!

It's a new year and a I'm ready to get going with all these new tools and plans. I hope you'll join me! Now I just hope I don't get sidetracked again or lost in the abyss of another game. >.<

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In My Spare Spare Time

When I’m not spending my spare time working on a creative project, I spend some more spare time on one of my many hobbies. Like most people, I love music and movies. I can't work without some sort of music playing. I pretty much like all styles of music, but typically my favorites range from dance, industrial, pop, rock, and 70s/80s/90s classics with a little bit of metal on the side. I also enjoy cartoons, anime, and movies, but rarely have time to watch them. Comics have been a part of my life since I was fairly young. Today I typically buy digital comics and the occasional trade paperback, but I have my small collection of comics that I like to look at for inspiration, as well.

Beyond those fairly average interests, I have two other hobbies, one a little more uncommon than the other.

Where I tend to waste most of my spare spare time, and the one hobby I'm probably most obsessed with, is gaming (video games), primarily MMORPGs. I started playing video games back with the Sega Master System in the late '80s. Today I don't play many console games, but I do own an Xbox One, PS3, and 3DS. My primary gaming system of choice is the PC. I really love games that provide me with a vast world that I can freely explore. For single-player games I gravitate to open-world games such as Oblivion, Skyrim, GTA, Saints Row, and the likes. I may enjoy a good RPG now and then as well like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Persona, and Final Fantasy. Also, going all the way to my first computer game on the Amiga, Test Drive, I always love a good racing game. My favorites include Test Drive Unlimited, Forza Horizon and The Crew.

However, like I said, my biggest gaming addiction is MMORPGs—online role-playing games. Not because they are online, mind you, but because they tend to provide an ever expanding world (with regular updates) that I can explore and that feel alive. This obsession was started with an innocent little invite to play Anarchy Online with some friends. Since then I've played nearly every major MMO released as well as amassing several collector's edition game boxes. Most recently I've played/been playing Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft, and Final Fantasy XIV. While I tend to dabble in almost every MMO, I have spent most of my play time in those three.

Guild Wars 2 is an MMO that tried to break the standard MMO formula. I think one of the highlight of this game is the sense of camaraderie you get when it's essential that other players you are not even grouped with help each other out to defeat an enemy. They made quests into events that happen in real-time in the world and they removed the typical trinity of class roles. In many ways it's a breath of fresh air, but sometimes there is something to be said that when it's not broke there is no need to fix it.

World of Warcraft is, for many, the staple of the genre. While it is getting on in years now, it has continued to be the elephant in the room for a decade now. Almost no other game provides worlds as large and varied as WoW. WoW is simply MASSIVE! There is so much to explore! I don't think any other game feels as close to a real world as WoW does just by the sheer size of it alone. Add to that the deep and still growing lore with solid, tried and true, features and mechanics and you really can't deny the strength of this game.

Then you have the new kid on the block, Final Fantasy XIV, the little MMO that could. This game broke history when it "failed" with its original release and was then rebuilt into a new game that has since been a success in its own right. Final Fantasy XIV has taken cues from many other games and made a polished and solid MMO. It is closest to WoW in mechanics and features, but they took each of those and made them new and modern. It has a friendly community due to the fact that a single character can be all jobs and roles. It isn't uncommon to really feel like you're part of a community when you see the same faces for years on end.

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Finally my second, and somewhat uncommon, hobby is Ball-Jointed Dolls, or BJDs. These are a class of doll made typically out of resin plastic or a type of rubber and are put together utilizing ball joints to allow movement. They greatly range in style and size and are typically made to order or sold as limited editions.

Many collect BJDs because they can be completely customized and are a great beautiful form for photography. Some BJDs can truly be considered works of art. Personally, the best thing about them for me is the customization. It allows you to create your own characters in a physical form. When I learned about these dolls I became really intrigued. There is a large community built around them along with a large variety of little items that are, in themselves, amazing. I currently own two BJDs and several Dollfie Dreams. They are all SD sized, which is about 2 feet tall.

So that about sums up my hobbies. Some are fairly average, while others are a bit unique. I think hobbies really say a lot about a person. What are some of your unique hobbies?

 

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When I Grow Up

Like many artists, when asked about my creative background I usually start by saying something like, "I've been drawing for as long as I can remember." However, was this always what I wanted to do? How did I actually get started down this path?

Old Drawing As far as I can remember I was never one of those kids that wanted to be a fireman or a doctor. As a child of the '80s I fell in love with all the great cartoons and comics of the time. They really helped introduce me to a variety of imaginative worlds. When I was very young I remember asking my father to draw characters for me and I was so amazed at watching him draw. My father wasn't an artist, but he did well enough that I would ask him to draw many things. This lead me to try and draw on my own.

During grade school my friends and I were all big fans of Transformers. We would spend our lunch break drawing our own Transformers. I built up a whole collection of images. Drawing big robots actually helped me learn about perspective, especially when I tried to draw them so they looked tall and towering.

I didn't stop there, though. So enthralled to create my own robots I actually made my own out of poster board, in full three dimension, even with the ability to transform. I was creating my own "paper craft" without even knowing that was a thing.

During my years in middle school I was exposed to many new creative avenues. I think this time was the most pivotal for me. Around this time I was very much into superhero comic books. My free time was often spent drawing new characters and coming up with my own superheroes. A friend of mine actually paid me to draw him superhero images. These were my first commissions. Soon I found myself being approached by a variety of girls in the school asking for a portrait sketch from their own class photos. Imagine my eagerness to please my new clients.

waxaAround this time I had a crush on a little mermaid, which spurred a great interest in animation. I started to read books about animation and its history and dreamt up my own animated cartoons.

But most importantly, also around this time, my father was working for a local TV station, which was eventually sold to another network. During the transition he had the station mostly to himself. I spent a lot of time there learning and playing with all the expensive equipment. We even had some fun making our own skits à la SNL. It wasn't all fun and games. He had to produce local commercials and I would often help him out. Our home always had a bevy of electronics since my father was a technician by trade, so I was no stranger to camcorders and the like.

My experience at the TV station lead me to one piece of equipment that I believe greatly changed the course of my future. It was a little known computer called the Amiga. At the station it was used to create a variety of graphics—usually titles. I spent a lot of time playing with that machine, especially in my first paint program, Deluxe Paint. With this I created my first digital images and even animations. Some of my animations were even used in commercials my father produced.

rivaBy the time I started high school I had a fair amount of experience under my belt with drawing and computer graphics, but I didn't stop there. I took classes in photography, print, art, and video production. I even tired my hand in airbrushing on the side. Image Comics was an obsession of mine around this time and my desire to draw comics was stronger than ever. I even teamed up with a friend to draw our own as a team, much to the disdain of our art teacher.

Windows-based computers were becoming much more powerful around this time and the internet was starting to take shape. I was beginning to learn 3D graphics with Imagine 3D at home and in school I was learning Photoshop on our Macintosh computers—coloring in my comic drawings.

Our high school had a pretty extensive video production class. We made our own morning news show for the whole school. There they had a little marvel of a computer called the Video Toaster by Newtek, which just happened to be bundled with a 3D animation program called Lightwave. No one in the class knew how to use it, not even the teachers. I spent many hours after school hunkered over the large manual learning the program on my own. I was eventually producing 3D animated titles for the variety of shows we produced for the school. It was a really exciting time for me.

By the mid 90's Toy Story had hit the theaters, anime was exploding on US TV, and Netscape was the browser of choice. My love of 3D had kept growing and Pixar certainly helped motivate me even more. Lightwave became a standalone program and I was eager to use it on my personal computer at home. I was working in several creative odd jobs as well, such as a local print TV guide and a clothing embroidery shop. With the fast-paced growth of the internet I became intrigued to create my own website. I printed out a large "how-to" for coding your own website in HTML and got to work with a text editor and a paint program.

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xamraI found myself working in web design not long after. At the time web designers were in short supply, so work was easy to come by in my local town.

By the end of high school I was looking at various colleges. My life up to that point was filled with creative endeavors. It was clear that I needed a school that catered to that. I was set on becoming a creative professional. I eventually attended Full Sail University in Florida. I went to Full Sail mainly to start a career in 3D animation. Unfortunately, that never came to pass.

When I graduated with my associates it was much easier to find work for web design than break into 3D animation. And that is what I ended up doing for many years. That didn't stop me from continuing to create my characters and stories in my free time. After work I would spend time developing new stories, which lead me to create a couple online comics for a few years.

The rest is pretty much history. I had found my love of creating characters and worlds from a pretty young age. Growing up in the '80s with amazing cartoons and comics certainly seemed to help enchant my creative young mind to learn to draw. My early exposure to computer graphics and later 3D and web design seemed to really help me hit my creative stride to where I am today.

What will happen next? Hopefully this fresh new site will help answer that. It has been several years since my last personal creative project. There are still many characters and worlds I'd like to explore and share. Hopefully I can finally get some of them off the ground. Who knows were it may lead.

To be continued.

 

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Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV. The game that did what no other has before it. When Final Fantasy XIV launched in late 2010 it received poor reviews. As someone that always respected Square Enix from all the way back to when they were Squaresoft and having spent a fair amount of time in Final Fantasy XI, I was really looking forward to this new MMORPG. At this point I was sick of all the free to play MMOs out there and tired of being burned when an MMO I liked switched to free to play (Tera!). I wanted this game to succeed. I wanted a game with developers that made actual content and expansions instead of items to sell in a cash shop.

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I wasn't as negative about the game as many others were, but soon after it launched most of my friends stopped playing. I tried to continue on my own and I played off and on, but eventually I stopped playing as well. As did many people. The game was doing so bad that the company suspended subscriptions and a new development team took over led by an unknown Naoki Yoshida.

After some patches here and there they announced they would be re-releasing the game with a new engine, content and revamped gameplay. This was unheard of in the industry. Most games in this state would have just switched to free to play. However, due to the fact that "Final Fantasy" is a brand, Square Enix couldn't let this happen.

I was really happy to hear they were going to re-launch the game. I eagerly waited for it to come out. I can safely say this game is one of the main reasons I disappeared for almost three years.

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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was launched in August 2013. I played the beta, bought the new Collectors Edition, and I also was a "Legacy" account since I subscribed to the original version during the time they were developing the revamp. I was very excited to play this and it was all well worth the wait. The new version (2.0) was polished and filled with all new content. They didn't only add to the game, they completely remade it! It had all new zones, all new quests, a new user interface, and more. Every aspect of the game was reworked all the way down to the animations. About the only things that remained from the old version were the races, classes, main cities, and the lore of the game world.

They did it! They rebuilt a "failed" game... and it was a success.

During beta I joined a free company—a guild. I was making new friends, everyone was enjoying the game, and I even did a little role-playing. Things were great! My first class of choice to level was the newly added Summoner. The game was eating my time like nothing else, and I loved every minute of it.

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During my journey I tried out other classes. I was a Black Mage for a time and I also tried Scholar—the healing counterpart to Summoner. I found that I really enjoyed healing, but I was not a good Scholar, so I started to level a White Mage. I played a White Mage in Final Fantasy XI and it was the last time I played a healing class since they are typically, at least in my experience, not treated too well by other players. Here, however, surrounded by a great group of new friends, I was eager to heal again and help out in our group content.

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I became pretty good friends with one person, the leader of our guild, whom, after some months, left the game for personal reasons. This was pretty upsetting. Our little guild fell apart after that. I had become rather close to many of them. It was a heartbreaking situation. For a while I played some other MMOs as my heart wasn't in FFXIV after all that.

After a couple months, however, I returned to FFXIV with a couple friends from the original guild and I started a new guild for us. Together we saved up and bought a house. Little by little many of the old members joined us. I tried very hard to keep things going as they used to when we were the old group, but I couldn't really replace our old leader.

As these things go sometimes, drama happened. I had some troubles with one close friend of the group. I tried to deal with the situation and also keep things from escalate to the rest of the group, but it affected me and people could tell. To them I appeared to have lost interest. Around this time I fell in with a static raiding group. I had raided a little in WoW, but typically this was a part of MMOs that I didn't get involved with.

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Between raiding and trying to avoid causing issues with my guild and that one person, I was under lot of stress. I was also the White Mage for this new raiding group I was in, which was a new kind of stress and responsibility. I started to close off a little... a lot. I was getting worn out from it all. People started to drift from the guild and a lot of my play time was spent raiding or leveling and getting better gear for raiding.

Juggling the two things became impossible, and I became depressed, but I kept playing. For a long while this is how things continued. My guild eventually settled, but in a much quieter and smaller state. I met some new friends and lost some others. The old guild leader even returned off and on. My raiding group cleared all the raid content and I slowly became a competent healer. My character even got married! A lot happened and a lot of my life was wrapped up in this game and the people I played with. Yes, it was just a game, but the people I met there became a part of my life even outside of the game. We became a family of sorts... a somewhat dysfunctional one, but it was what it was.

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Then the first expansion came around—Heavensward. I was so glad to finally be playing an MMO that had a proper expansion. I was excited for all the new content. My raiding group, which by this point had been farming all the old raid content, was eager for the new challenges. We ate up the new content like locust, but it was great. The story was interesting, the new classes were... unique and flashy, and the new race was actually really cool. The new race was so cool that I changed my main character to it. By this point, and with everything that had happened, I was in desperate need for a change. Since I did role-play a little this caused some issues, but by this point the role-play in our group had been pretty scarce.

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I also tried the new healing class, the Astrologian. This was a pretty neat class. It had a lot of the skills and playstyle of a White Mage but with an added random card mechanic. It made playing a healer all the more engaging. Sadly when my raid group started on the new raid content, the Astrologian just was not tuned enough to handle the healing load at the time, so I went back to my White Mage.

I liked the expansion. It kept me playing for several more months, but by this point things with many of the people I had met in the game were strained. We had so much history that it almost felt like walking on ice in some cases. I would log in just expecting some issue to arise. I tried to keep my head low and play with the few that I had fun with, but there was always something looming. Why I had kept playing for this long started to become a thought in my mind. I loved the game, but the social aspect with some of the people I met and the issues that arose from it really killed the enjoyment of the game. I'm not the type of person to burn bridges. At the very least I try very hard not to. So I stayed in this... sort of mentally abusive relationship.

Eventually things started to come to a head. The raid content was extremely punishing. As a group we managed to defeat everything we came in contact with. We were a pretty tight little group. We knew each other's strengths and weaknesses. We managed to defeat the first two bosses of four of the new raid content, but the third was proving to be trouble for us. We spent weeks and weeks beating our heads against it. The mood around the game was low all around. Many other groups were falling apart. Some even gave up on the last two bosses and just farmed the first two.

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Morale was low. Eventually, after talking to others in our group, me and a couple others decided it was time to call it quits. We had been raiding for over a year and we were just not enjoying it anymore. I was so worn out from all the stress over the year that I needed a break.

With that, sadly, the raid group fell apart. The others seemed to feel the same. Many stopped playing altogether. Me and a couple others kept playing for a month or so, but eventually even we were getting to a point that it just wasn't in us anymore. That spark was gone.

As I write this it's been a few weeks since I last logged into Final Fantasy XIV. I have many fond memories of this game. I really did put my all into it. I met a lot of interesting people, made some great friends, learned a lot about myself, role-played, ran a guild, raided and played nearly all the content the game had to offer, and much more. I played this MMO for longer and more consistently than I have any other in my gaming history. Something that I think won't be soon replicated.

It was a good run... a great run! While I was often stressed, I will miss the good parts. It was my life for a long time. Some things I would not change for the world. Who knows... I may poke my head in Eorzea again someday and see how the world has changed, but for now it's time to explore new realms and also to work on personal projects again.

Final Fantasy XIV will always have a special place in my heart. I'll never forget. ♥

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Star Citizen - Constellation

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Have you ever wished you could captain your own starship—sit in the cockpit and fly from a station to a planet and maybe meet some friends in a local bar? Maybe you'd like to be a space pirate, living on the edge, or an explorer going to some unknown corners of space.

Ever since I was young I loved space and spaceships. I grew up on shows like Star Trek and cartoons such as Robotech. Soon we'll all be able to live out these fantasies in an upcoming game called Star Citizen. Star Citizen is currently the largest crowd-funded game in existence. To date it has raised over $102,000,000 from backers—average gamers that believe in the game—and I'm one of them.

Today a lot of gaming companies believe that the PC is a dead platform for gaming. Many companies have moved to developing games for smartphones and consoles. So when the creators of Star Citizen said that they wanted to make a PC game that pushes the envelope, PC gamers took notice and they took notice in a big way. The backers of Star Citizen are showing the big companies that we are here and we love PC gaming. Where else can you get state-of-the-art graphics and peripherals?

Star Citizen is a PC space simulator game unlike any other to date. It will be essentially two games in one. There will be a mostly single-player story called Squadron 42 and an online open-world universe. The story will be fully voiced and acted out by top-name actors such as Mark Hamill, Gary Oldman, Gillian Anderson, and John Rhys Davies, to name a few. It will be a story with choices and consequences, space battles and battleships with a "living" crew.

The open universe side takes place some time after the story. Here you are free to do just about anything you want in a nearly fully fleshed out sector of space containing 100s of star systems. You'll be able to explore space stations, fly around and land on planets, go down to a city and shop or hang around the bar, trade, mine, explore, fight, and much more.

Each spaceship is built out like any real machine. It has physical systems for power, life-support etc. You can modify the ship to fit any need you want. You can be a pirate, trader, explorer, miner, news reporter, salvager, racer... the list goes on and on.

I'm hardly doing the game justice with my simple descriptions. Some things you just have to see to believe. I've been a backer and following this game since 2013. Since then I've seen the game and community grow and grow. This game is making history.

When you back the game you pledge for a ship that you will receive in the game and access to the in-development modules of the game as they build them. It's an incentive to get more money into the game and to get your favorite ship with some other perks. When I initially backed the game in 2013 I was cautious, so I got a small package with a single-seater ship. Since then my faith in the game has grown, as well as my excitement. When they released their alpha 2.0, the first time you could see many elements of the game come together, I wanted to invest in the game even more.

And I did...

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I now am a proud owner of a Constellation Andromeda starship. It is a beautiful ship, one of the most iconic in the game. It is a large multi-purpose ship. It is also a multi-crew ship. One of the special features of Star Citizen is that you can fly a ship that is controlled by a crew. The Constellation has two turrets, a living area, a sizable cargo bay, and even a detachable fighter ship.

The ship is very detailed. No corner is without some paneling, wire or little LED light. Throughout you will see placeholders for the different components that allow the ship to function. Eventually these will be something you can open to access or replace with other, better, components. The front of the ship has three seats. The central one is for the pilot/captain. From there he can control most of the ships systems by himself. On either side are other seats that have their own consoles. From those one can control the shields or power at a finer level.

Behind those seats are the two turrets. Something right out of Star Wars, you can call a chair for the top or bottom turret and fire away at enemy ships. Behind that is a bulkhead with sliding doors that leads to the living cabin. Here you have an all-in-one bathroom, lockers, a bench and table, and some sleeping bunks that also double as escape pods. Also in this section is a hatch and the platform/airlock that allows you to leave and enter the ship.

Behind the living cabin, and another bulkhead door, you have the largest section of the ship, the cargo bay. Here a catwalk wraps around a large platform that can be lowered to place cargo. On either side are more hatches as well as the missile holding bays.

Finally, behind another bulkhead door is the little room that house the ship's power unit and sticking up from the floor is the cockpit for the detachable fighter ship, the P-52 Merlin. This little ship is a beautiful, aluminum-looking, ship that you would think was designed by Apple.

As someone that has done a fair share of 3D modeling, I can say this is a well made model. They put a lot of love and care into it. It took them 8 months, and you can tell.

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I can already imagine the adventures this ship and I will have. I can trade, explore, maybe even mine. I can tweak and upgrade her systems to make her even more powerful. Supply her with bigger guns and special missiles. Ships in Star Citizen will get dirty over time, they will pick up odd quirks. Caring for your ship will just make it feel all the more real and make you more attached and proud when she pulls through a sketchy situation.

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Star Citizen is still in development, but it is well on its way. I look forward to exploring the immersive universe they are creating on my Constellation in the near future. Be sure to check out their website. They have a lot of articles that explain the game systems in more detail and they have weekly videos that update you on the game's progress.

Maybe I'll see you in the verse!

 

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