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Warcraft Resources for D&D 5e

Man, this is one of those projects I just look at and think "Did I really do all of this?" I've definitely got lost in this do...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Relic Short Story: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears

I found this in a tablet box today. I wrote it in sixth grade—the assignment was to write a myth or legend, and since I couldn't think of anything better, I decided to piggyback off of a title I had seen in the children's section of the library: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears. I figured since I didn't know anything about the storyline, it wouldn't be plagiarism, and if the teacher asked I would just play dumb. She did, and actually had a copy in her classroom library, but was impressed with the story overall. It's not bad for an eleven-year-old's work, but I still wonder why the drum was stolen in the first place, and why the three animals who are in on the heist are so adamantly against the justice that should be served them. I guess the moral is "no one likes a tattletale."

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears
By Austin Ballard

          One day, Mosquito heard that someone had stolen Sky God’s drum. Sky God had offered a reward for anyone who found out who had stolen it. Mosquito wanted to find out who did it, so he went off to find out.
          After a while he found Gopher. “Gopher, Gopher,” he said, “Have you stolen Sky God’s drum?”
“No, no, Mosquito, I have not Sky God’s drum.” Gopher replied, but Mosquito saw the drum behind Gopher’s back.
“Gopher! You have stolen Sky God’s drum! I shall tell Sky God about this!” And he flew up to Sky God.
“Sky God, Gopher has stolen your drum!” He exclaimed. Sky God was so mad he created a bolt of lightning and flung it at Gopher. Gopher threw the drum to Fox, and Fox ran away. The lightning bolt hit Gopher and he screamed in pain and fell into a hole. That’s why gophers today are ground animals.
          Sky God commanded Mosquito to find out who now had the drum, and Mosquito flew off.
          Mosquito found Fox laying by a river. “Fox, Fox,” he said, “Do you have Sky God’s drum?”
“No, no, Mosquito, I have not Sky God’s drum.” Fox replied, but Mosquito spotted the drum behind Fox’s back.
“Fox! You have Sky God’s drum! I shall tell Sky God about this!” And he flew up to Sky God.
“Sky God, Fox has your drum!” He exclaimed. Sky God was so mad he created a ball of fire and flung it at Fox. Fox threw the drum to Fish, and Fish swam away. The fireball hit Fox’s tail and he screamed in pain. The fireball was so hot it scorched Fox’s tail tip so that it turned white. And that’s why foxes have white tips on the ends of their tails even today.
          Sky God commanded Mosquito to find out who now had the drum, and Mosquito flew off.
          Mosquito found fish in his favorite pond. “Fish, Fish,” He said, “Do you have Sky God’s drum?”
“Yes, Mosquito, I have the drum,” said Fish. “But you shall never tell him! I shall never have the same fate as Gopher and Fox!” And fish splashed some magic on Mosquito. Mosquito started to change.
          First, his eyesight went blurry.
          Then, his voice disappeared. Instead, all he could do is buzz.
          Mosquito was furious. He flew out in search of Sky God. To this day, Mosquito can’t tell if someone is Sky God or not, so he flies up their ear and tries to whisper, “Fish has your drum!” But all that comes out is “Bzzz bz bzz bzzzzt!” And that’s why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears!


The End

Friday, December 26, 2014

Never-Ending Comic Hearthstone Cards

I've really enjoyed Hearthstone for the past year that I've played it, and since it came out with its latest expansion, Goblins vs. Gnomes, I've been thinking a lot about the game's mechanics. After finding the Hearthstone Card Generator online, I got the idea to make cards based on the Never-Ending Comic. My goal while making these was to both do justice to the comic and create mechanics, minions, spells, and hero powers that I wouldn't mind seeing in Hearthstone someday. I didn't worry too much about balance—the majority of the cards are Epics, for example—but it was interesting to think about how these cards would work in a real game of Hearthstone. I wish the game had a game editor like all of Blizzard's other games.

One thing I thought was interesting while making these cards was that comics seem to be very similar to cards in a card game. I was able to find dynamic and useful pictures for most minions and especially each spell, because the characters in the comic would actually use the ability. The cards easily capture the abilities in action.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

10 of My Quirks

Here are some interesting quirks of mine that I've identified in myself. Some of them are really weird, and others I have in common with members of my immediate family. It makes me wonder what quirks other people have. If you're comfortable sharing, post some of yours in the comments, or tell me which ones resonate with you!

  1. I have sensory issues. I hate touching slimy and smelly substances, such as lotion, dough, raw hamburger, oobleck (cornstarch and water), gooey soap, chapstick, and toothpaste.
  2. I hate words relating to smells and hygiene. They make me cringe just writing, hearing, or saying them. Examples are cream, perfume, breath, cologne, deodorant, lotion, paste, chapstick, lipstick, fresh, fragrance, lip gloss, scent, smell, odor, spray, spritz, sniff, whiff—If I don’t stop there I’m gonna throw up. You'll be really hard pressed to hear me say these words out loud unless I absolutely have to.
  3. I really like being in a dark room where outside there’s a light on, so there’s a rim of light around the door. It's especially comforting to fall asleep in this setting.
  4. I like seeing the sun shining on a white wall. Any enclosed sunlit areas that are secluded and quiet are very soothing places for me to be. I like to call the fung shui of these areas “majesty” (e.g. "That place has a lot of majesty.")
  5. On Sundays, I am always significantly more nostalgic and sentimental. Often on Sundays I will write in my journal, read old journals, look at old drawings and projects, and think about my childhood.
  6. Some of my nervous/bored ticks include sucking on pens, popping my ankle, stroking my mid-digit hair on my lips, stroking my bushy bushy eyebrows, snapping three fingers at once, licking and stroking my mustache, and curling my sideburn hair between my fingers (when it’s long enough).
  7. I often obsess about how I eat my food to get the most enjoyment out of it. In high school, I would eat the worst food first, then alternate bites from least favorite to favorite foods, saving the best bite of the best food for very last.
  8. I often have sympathetic, pitying reactions to certain things that haunt me for long periods of time. Examples are people wincing or being surprised while their mouth’s full or obstructed, little kids hanging their heads, innocent misunderstandings, and great anticipation followed by disappointment.
  9. When I flip the light switch off, I close my eyes at the same time and then open them slowly, to simulate a fade filter.
  10. I can concentrate much, much better on what something (say, a TV show, a lecturer, a professor, etc.) is saying if I'm doodling or working on some sort of art at the same time. Sometimes I pay attention so well, the art reminds me of the presentation whenever I see it afterward.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Battle Card 2.0: Black Magus

Hurray for graphic art! I got the idea to remake a few of my old Battle Cards, and while at it I decided to experiment with a new art style: overlaying textures over each color. I think this one turned out pretty well, and I'm excited to make four or five more to present to you!



The old version of the card looked a lot more like a Black Mage from the Final Fantasy series, so I added my own twist to his look. I also took some liberty in making the description a lot more interesting.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Word Lore

This has been an interesting year for projects. Even though I feel like I haven't given Pretzel Lectern as much attention as I would like, I've been busy working on projects like Knight Guy and some long-term projects like my autobiography.

This project was one I started a month ago on Facebook: Word Lore!


I came up with the idea for Word Lore last January, which means it's been stewing in my mind for almost a year. My idea was to make YouTube videos in the same style of shows like Vsauce, only talking about etymology. I even wrote up a couple of scripts, but I just couldn't find a good-looking setting to film myself in. My house is pretty small, and I don't have a green screen or anything, so I couldn't bring myself to make actual videos. I did reserve the YouTube channel name though, if it ever comes to that.

Instead, last month I decided to make a Facebook page. Since my Knight Guy page was going so well with a simple Facebook ad, I decided to reach out to a more scholarly audience and make a daily etymology page. As of today, it has over 1,500 likes and an active audience! It's been fun for me to present one of my passions, language, with over a thousand people around the world. And since there are so many different words to use, I'll be able to keep this up as a daily gig for the foreseeable future! I can even set a theme for each month. Last month was Halloween terms, and this month is foods.

If you're interested in etymology (and who isn't, really?), tell your friends about Word Lore. It's a lot of fun and every like and share helps me stay motivated.

It's a fun year for projects. 2014 really set the stage for the next few years as I write an entire comic storyline and provide daily word ditties!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween from Knight Guy!

And sorry this month was so sparse with updates! I've been updating Knight Guy once a week, trying to work on editing Alfred's Story, doing extensive research for my Personal History, and setting up a writing group!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Recipe #6: Crunchy Punk1n S33dz

This recipe may be plagiarized from somewhere else, but I can't remember since I can't find the original. So I'm just going off the assumption that, like many other recipes I've made over the years, it's probably a mixture of a couple of recipes I found. Which makes it original! (Please don't sue me)

Crunchy Punk1n S33dz
"Made with 0% olive oil! (Cuz olive oil's gross)"


 Ingredients
  • 1 or more pumpkins
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Cracked pepper
  • Paprika
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Oh wait. Don't do that yet. They're not ready to cook.
  2. Disembowel the pumpkins by cutting a hole in the top or bottom and scraping out everything inside. Set the seeds aside, discard the guts, and carve/sculpt the pumpkin and put it out on your front porch with a candle inside it.
  3. Wash the seeds to remove as much of the pumpkin intestine as possible. This can easily be done just by swishing them around in a bowl of water. Drain as needed.
  4. Put the pumpkin seeds in a large bowl with enough water to cover the seeds (they'll probably float, but that's okay). Add 1½ tsp. of salt to every cup of water in the bowl. Let it sit overnight.
  5. In the morning before work, drain 'n' strain the seeds. Put the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil. Sprinkle with more salt, cracked pepper, and paprika. This is when you could add other ingredients for other flavors; for example, garlic salt, cinnamon and sugar, chipotle seasoning, I dunno.
  6. Now heat up the oven to 400°F and put the sheet in. Let it cook for 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the seeds from the oven and sift and turn them over on the sheet with a wooden spoon. Return to the oven for 8 more minutes.
  8. Done! Let them cool and then feel free to enjoy. These are the crunchy variety of pumpkin seeds, not the chewy, oily kind. They'll be a great high-magnesium snack for you during your work day!
YIELD: 1 mess of pumpkin seeds per pumpkin used.
____

Washes down well with...  Water. Them's pretty salty, so you'll probably want to keep on washing 'em down.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sculpture?

I don't know why, but until this year I've never tried to actually "sculpt" a pumpkin before. Unlike most art projects, I never really took pride in carving a pumpkin. I would just cut a scary face or an outline of Trogdor the Burninator in it and call it good for the year. But I've been missing out!


This year I tried actually making a pumpkin sculpture, varying thickness to make different brightness levels in the pumpkin when it's lit. It was surprisingly soft to carve, even though all I had was a cook's knife, a teaspoon, and a cutting saw from a pumpkin carving kit. Next year I'll hopefully have access to better tools so I can more easily transmit my imagination to the "canvas," as it were.

Not my best work, but it is my first work! I'm looking forward to a new tradition!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

World of WarCraft login screen

I've been really in to WarCraft III lately, which happens once every year or so. It's my favorite game of all time, and the map editor in particular never gets old. Indeed, it only gets funner as I get more ideas and time goes by. While playing the Frozen Throne campaign again, I realized the game had just the right materials to make a remake of the original login screen for World of Warcraft. It didn't take long to make, but I like how it turned out. Listening to the music brings back good memories of the original game that no longer exists. Rest in peace, Vanilla WoW and BC.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

How far I've come indeed...

I found this while looking through the Ark the other day. I had almost forgotten all about it. As far as I remember I drew it in the same manner as I draw the Knight Guy comics today, but it's surprising how much my drawing skills (or perhaps just dedication) has improved since then. What's really funny is that I actually submitted it to Blizzard in their comic contest, hoping it would show up. Not only did Blizzard not accept it (and frankly, I'm surprised that I expected them to), but there was another comic that I saw a few months later that told basically the same joke, only better.



As a side note, the reward for that class is the choice of a weapon, not 30 copper.
I kinda like that imp though.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Avatar: The Last Hamburger

Cheese... Veggie... Bacon... Ham. One evening when I was preparing to grill dinner, my daughter called lighter fluid 'water' and charcoal 'rocks,' and the idea for this video came as a result. 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nadrian Diplomacy: Argae's Ancient Precursor

The other day I was backing up stuff to my external hard drive, The Ark, when I stumbled upon my original profile folder for my old computer when I was a kid. Back then, every person in the family didn't have his or her own laptop, so we all shared one home PC. We sometimes had our own computer accounts, with passwords and everything, but mostly we just shared one profile for simplicity's sake, and had our own folders. Mine, "Austin's Folder" has been virtually preserved from its original state when it was uploaded to an external hard drive back in 2004.
As I looked through the folder, I was surprised and interested to see a folder labeled "Nadrian Diplomacy." It was an unfinished web-based game I had started a decade ago, and the pictures, compiled web pages, and forms in the folder brought back a lot of memories. It was fun to see the broken remnants of a project I had never finished, yet had reincarnated into a large universe in the form of Argaenothruzil years later. It was interesting to see the seeds that had planted such big projects.
So without further reminiscing, here is an overview of the RPG that never was,

Nadrian Diplomacy:
The War Has Begun

The name itself seems to be an oxymoron—diplomacy and war? But I didn't think of such things back then. I just wanted to make something cool. I had just seen the forum RPG Hyrulian War online, and wanted to make my own version. To come up with the name of the game's land, Nadria, I combined the first letters of the first names of me and my two best friends, Dustin and Nathan.
Though I'm not sure how the site was supposed to be organized pagewise, this appears to be the title screen I designed:

The broken GIFs to the sides of the title were apparently animated flames whose files I have lost, judging by their filenames, and the image below the poorly-Photostudio'd embossed rune may have been a hit counter. I still can't figure out whether I had figured out a means of actually playing the game, because the image to the right is all that showed up when Play Now was clicked. I'm guessing that the Nadrian Diplomacy "flag" led to a Bravenet forum, but there's also a weird blank web page in the folder that simply reads "GO! Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III" on it. So maybe the actual means of playing the game wasn't too important to me at the time, or maybe I had just been having trouble figuring out some bugs. At any rate, there does happen to be a Notepad file containing the rules on the "rules scroll" link on the page, which read

NADRIAN DIPLOMACY RULES
~N~D~
How to Play:
You play the game by posting pages in your journal on the Forum page. (You cannot post or have a journal if you don't have a character. Make a character by going to the Nadrian Diplomacy homepage and clicking 'Make your character.') Please do not post in other peoples' journals. These will be deleted promptly.
These journals record your plans for the game. These plans will actually begin to happen within the 'The Story' forum, and any battles you plan in your journal will be carried out and played. You may use any items you own in your plans.
You post in your journal by clicking on it, then filling in the following information.
HERO NAME: Your name as appears in NadriaRACE: Your race, as of NadriaHOMELAND: The webmaster will tell you your homeland when you create your character.HERO LEVEL: If you're not sure what your level is, check the Heroes' Guild.SUBJECT: A brief idea of your plans for the post.
If you're confused on how you should post, check AbelHawk's journal for examples.

~N~D~
Gameplay
Each day in real life is a month in Nadria, so the course of a Nadrian year is about 2 weeks, taking off from the Sundays, which aren't update days.

Interesting indeed. It was very much like Hyrulian War, with real time representing time passing in the game. I also even used Abelhawk as a guide for my friends, just like I did in Argaenothruzil later. I still can't seem to visualize it much, but it does help to know that I was the moderator that would weave the stories together based on my friends' "journal plans." This is an interesting mechanic I wish I could explore.

As the rules mention, and as seen above, one of the pages was a character creation form. This is kind of a fun memory, because I thought it was the coolest thing in the world when I figured out how to do forms on WordPerfect. To me, it was amazing and sublime to be able to create a dropdown menu and put in my own responses for the person to choose from. Since I can't link the original .HTM page, I just decided to recreate it in Google Forms. You can view a surprisingly similar replica here:


 I found it interesting when looking at this that I had thought of Civil Elves all the way back then, because they later became a key race in Argaenothruzil. I have no idea what a Rheu'kinah is, but it must have been a pretty awesome race if you had to be a "member" to be one. That's another really funny thing—membership in my game. Looking back, I had no idea why games like Runescape charged for membership. Now it makes sense from an adult, businessperson perspective, but to me it was just a simple rule: you pay for cool stuff. So I think to me I was going to have my friends pay me a dollar or something if they wanted to be a member. I think Nathan actually may have given me a dollar so he could be a Rheu'kinah! If I ever see him again, I may owe him a buck.

"Zusna City" (The word "zusna" is the name of my favorite Norse rune, Ansuz, backwards). Each of the buildings was a link to a new page with information on the game, and other textures in the folder suggest that I had planned to change the pages' weather depending on the season (I had winter tiles, for example) There were similar web pages on the web at the time. I'm pretty sure I got the idea from one of them. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to position them in that way. I never had a great web-page making program besides Homestead.com, or Corel WordPerfect. So the only pages I was able to make were some internal ones: the Merchant, the Heroes' Guild, the Library, and within the library, a "Book of Downloads" with links to fonts that were needed to view Nadrian Diplomacy in its intended styles.

The way these pages work is intriguing. I clearly intended to just draw all the items (with those terrible gradients) in Photostudio, and have a massive illustrated shop for my players to choose from and add to their inventories. As seen in the Heroes' Guild shot, each person would have their own customized portrait, their information that they chose in the Character Creation form, and actual graphical representations of inventory slots.
It bears mentioning, after looking at some of the items, that I have always been fascinated in tables. I still am. So I remember coming up with a ton of different materials for crafting items, such as wool, metal, wax, clay, etc. I also came up with, as you can see in Mandrake the Mage's offered skills, lots of different weapon augmentations. There were three types of enchantments (as seen in the shot), as well as sharpening, counterweighting, gem-studding, diamond-edging, etc. It was all integral to the game's system of attributes like charisma, reputation, agility, strength, and so forth.

As you can see from these screenshots, I really liked that background, and changed the color of it for each page. I was pretty handy at the time, even with a sub-par graphic editing software like Photostudio. On the Heroes' Guild page I even thought to invert the picture's black and white values before coloring it so that it looked more yellow than gold.

Each website came with its own MIDI-file ambient music, almost all from Zelda games, except for the Heroes' Guild, which had a Kirby music track.

Well, that's Nadrian Diplomacy for you. It's interesting to see the roots of Argaenothruzil, which I almost forgot wasn't original in its form. It took Nadrian Diplomacy to teach me how a game could (or could not) be organized, then Argaenothruzil Classic to teach me that there are better forums out there, and it wasn't until I nearly lost Argaenothruzil that I realized that I had moved on from Tolkienesque races and lore and wanted to make a truly unique forum RPG in Shaarzahn. It's interesting how in each step it has moved past being gamelike and has gone to be more like just writing exercises in a dynamic world.

I planned to make Nadrian Diplomacy into an actual website, hosted on my uncle's Bratsman.com server, but for some reason it never stuck. Perhaps I got too busy, or perhaps I simply didn't have enough time to manage everything, or perhaps my friends lost interest. Either way, it's always a blast to dig up old projects and analyze them. It's like an archaelogical expedition into my memories. Hope you enjoyed reading!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

New Feature Unlocked!


I finally figured out how to make GIFs work! But seriously folks, check out the Knight Guy Facebook page and click 'Like' on it today!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Knight Guy comic speed color!

I finally got around to doing this, though the quality of the screen recorder wasn't nearly as good as I had hoped. If I can find a better way to do it in the future, I'll also include a timelapse of me actually doing the sketch. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy it! And please check out Knight Guy!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Haiku #1

This is a haiku I wrote while in Seventh Grade. I still like it a lot.

Dessert
by Austin Ballard

Whipped cream, lots piled high
over fruitéd Jell-O looms,
and is eaten soon.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Abelhawk's Top 10 Most Nostalgic Computer Game Songs of All Time: Honorable Mentions

Well, I've officially moved on into adulthood, and with it comes less free time than I've ever had before. I've felt bad for how seldom I update Pretzel Lectern. It's definitely not out of boredom. There are several posts I've been meaning to make, but I just haven't had the energy. At least I've been mostly keeping up to date with Knight Guy and my Personal History. Until I get the time to make a decent post, here's a slight cop-out. For the original lists, click here and here.

Honorable Mention #1: KQVI - The Castle of the Crown


My uncles had Kings Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow at their house, and my brother and I were always fascinated with it. To our little minds, we couldn't imagine that there were limits in the game. In the impassible level Chessboard Land, we were certain that somehow, some way, you could get into the lands beyond. We just didn't know how. Some of my earliest memorable dreams involved Alexander finally finding the shield to get past the gargoyle. Anyway, this particular song is the most memorable to me, since it was close to the beginning and I always wished I could figure out a way into the castle. Eventually, of course, I did beat the game, but not as a kid. To me, this game (which I believe is the greatest of all the Kings Quest series) still has with it a sense of childhood wonder, and this song definitely embodies that to this day.

Honorable Mention #2: Lode Runner - Moss Caverns


Lode Runner is yet another game my uncles had, and like most games at the time, I was fascinated with it. I was intrigued by its odd genre and storyline: who was Lode Runner? Who were the cannibalistic monks chasing him? Why did he want gold so much? What are the strange tools he uses to escape? Another factor that made me like it was the built-in map editor, in which I could make my own adventures. This song sticks out to me the most because it is the most memorable of the tracks, and the theme of the earliest levels. It definitely fits the idea of a treasure hunter sneaking through the jungle and somehow shooting holes in the ground with a pistol.

Honorable Mention #3: WarCraft 2 - Human 1


No video game list would be complete without a WarCraft game. WarCraft seems to have always been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. Right now, for example, I've been avidly playing Hearthstone and WarCraft III, and when I was a little boy of only six or seven years old, I was obsessed with WarCraft 2. I made my own fanfiction story revolving around it, and my brother and I mastered the limited three-level demo, even going so far as to chop every single tree down on one of the maps, just for the achievement factor we felt it brought us. This may be cheating by having technically two different songs, but they're my two favorite songs in the game. On the first track, I thought the noble fanfare sounded so cool, I wanted it to be my national anthem if I ever had my own
country.

Honorable Mention #4: Lost Vikings - Egyptian Groove

 

Yet another game given us by my uncles. We were very proud to be able to beat this game all the way through as kids, which is no easy feat when you're six. This is a challenging, fun, and funny puzzle game, and this music was probably the most memorable. I love how the song, like the theme song of the Lost Vikings, starts out as something ancient and old-fashioned sounding, and then immediately dips into a groove. I always liked Eric the Swift the best because I was proud of my running speed as a kid, and my brother favored Baleog the Fierce.

Honorable Mention #5: Jazz Jackrabbit - Candion


I was going to put something from the old Busytown game on here, but I can't find any decent recordings of my favorite one, Captain Salty's Ship. So this one will have to do, which is still very nostalgic for me. I loved Jazz Jackrabbit. It was like Sonic the Hedgehog with a gun, and the music was amazing. Since the game we had was called Holiday Hare, the music was all remixed Christmas carols, and this one had a serious, dark feel that made the game sound really intense. We had a lot of fun with this game, and it's still one of my favorite memories of the time period of DOS games, right next to Xargon and Jill of the Jungle.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

WCAnimate video

Yesterday was my last day working at the BYU campus Writing Center, and in one week my coworker Ashlyn and I were able to make this video. It was a fun and simple style for a video, so it was really easy to make for the most part. I did learn a lot, though. For example, before filming, figure out a way to turn off the auto-focus on the camera lens, or the constant brightness adjustments will make the drawing look like a timelapse of clouds. And if you want to animate something, don't actually draw it, just pretend to draw it. That way you have a moveable image to work with without anything beneath it interfering. Either way, I'm glad I could end my employment there with a fun project like this.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Update '14

Hey there! I don't always like to give out news because it gets dated easily, but I just thought I'd give you an update because this is a particularly busy time with projects now that I'm back from Independence Day break.

Knight Guy
I just got my first full-time job now that I graduated from college, which is super exciting! Unfortunately, I have no idea how my webcomic will suffer as a result. It takes me an hour or sometimes two to color one strip, depending on the complexity of the comic, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to handle that with my new schedule. The good news is, the storyline is (as yet) still going strong, so I definitely am not losing steam over this. I may, however, have to start releasing monochrome strips and only coloring them every once in a while. I'm afraid to do that for fear of never actually finishing coloring all of them, but I don't see any other alternative besides hiring a colorist to do it for me.
Also, should I make a Facebook page for Knight Guy?

Alfred and the Cavern of Time
My colleague Robert sent me one of the semifinal drafts of Alfred about a week ago, and I'm trying to make headway in doing a second-to-last edit on it. It's coming along quite nicely! I still don't think it's the best book, and I doubt anyone would want to purchase it for how confusing it may be to those not familiar with Argaenothruzil; still though, the original story has come a LONG way, and it'll be fun to have edited an entire book. We've already filled in some of the biggest plot holes, and we should only need to have one more read-through before it's ready to be printed.

Autobiography
I started a new, huge project recently that will help me practice my print publishing, writing, and editing skills; fuel my nostalgia; and give me release for a lot of my writing needs. I'm writing my own personal history. A title is in the works, but I was thinking something like All My Memories or Ego Laetus Sum. Basically it'll be a compilation of all of my most memorable memories for my descendants. It will be divided into the sections of Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood, and Parenthood, and contain everything I can remember about my best friends, school, work, projects, and everything else I can think of. I'm even doing extensive research of my old journals, family videos, and scrapbooks. I wonder if anyone else in the world is as sentimental as I am?

Videos
I want to do one or two timelapse videos of my drawing and coloring Knight Guy strips, and I should be able to as soon as I figure out a couple of logistics issues.

- - -

Those are all the things I'm working on currently. I'm sad that I haven't thought of any more blog posts to write about. I really need to just make sure to make one or two posts per week, no matter what they are—WarCraft 3 map movies, dreams, random graphic art... there's a couple of really interesting short stories I want to write based on dreams, but writing full works with a beginning, middle, and end intimidate me. Anyway, we'll see.

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 27, 2014

ChaCha's Guide to Monster Slaying

I don't use ChaCha much anymore because I have a smartphone, but it was useful (about 40% of the time) when I just had your standard Nokia brick to have quick answers to questions through texting. I compiled this list a couple of years ago after asking ChaCha how to kill certain beasts. The results, and helpfulness, of the responses varied, but here it is published for the first time.

ChaCha's Guide to Monster Slaying

Q: How do you kill a . . .

Zombie?
  A: Generally speaking, to kill a zombie you have to destroy the brain. Once you manage to kill the zombie it is also recommended that you burn the body.
  Comments: What about headless zombies like on ESIV: Oblivion?
Ninja?
   A: Killing a ninja is like wearing a blindfold and picking a needle out of a haystack. It won’t happen! They are ninjas!!
   Comments: A well-given answer. See www.askaninja.com.
Pirate?
   A: Sorry there is no published information on how to kill a pirate. I thing [sic] the answer should be maybe throwing him over board.
   Comments: Worst. Answer. Ever. Who hired that guy to work at ChaCha?
Gargoyle?
   A: Please don’t kill the gargoyles! They’re just there to protect you, they mean you no harm!
   Comments: That makes sense, but it was good to know just in case.
Goblin?
   A: One would kill a goblin in the same way you’d kill anything else.
   Comments: In other words, goblins do not have any special abilities or defenses.
Troll?
   A: It has been said that trolls can be driven or destroyed by the mention of the name of Christ or by the symbol of the cross.
   Comments: It’s a good thing World of WarCraft takes place in Azeroth, or my main 68 Troll Mage would be easy prey against priests.
Alien?
A: Killing an alien depends on the type of alien. Those in War of the Worlds were killed by the common cold germ.
Comments: Other ways are water, as in Signs, and of course artillery and lasers (everything else).
Ghost?
   A: You cannot kill a ghost.
  Comments: Fair enough.
Witch?
   A: Tossing a bottle with a witch’s nail or hair in the fireplace will kill the witch.
  Comments: Very helpful information, though I’m not certain why the bottle is necessary.
Warlock?
   A: The trick is to kill them and kill them fast. Start off with an intercept to close distance and hamstring to prevent them
   Comments: Inconclusive and incomplete. Requires further investigation.
Werewolf?
   A: Obtain pure silver or mercury and forge it into a weapon. Use weapon to attack the werewolf. When it’s disabled, remove the heart.
   Comments: I assume the last precaution is to prevent reincarnation, which I was not aware of in werewolves.
Vampire?
   A: There are many ways to kill a vampire. Here are a few. Put a stake to his heart. Break his neck or behead him.
  Comments: I find it interesting sunlight wasn’t mentioned. Probably obvious enough.
Mummy?
   A: According to Egyptian myth you would need to erase the mummies [sic] name from all history to kill it.
  Comments: A very interesting method, though I doubt there were mummies in Egyptian myth, since they were mostly just their buried kings at the time.
Ogre?
   A: You can kill an ogre with a sword, gun or any other type of weapon that can inflict mortal wounds.
   Comments: See Goblin.
Gremlin?
  A: It is said that sunlight is the only thing that can kill a gremlin.
   Comments: Bright light! Bright light!
Dragon?
   A: Make a mixture of pitch, fat, and other flammable materials, stuff it into a calf’s skin, and offer the calf to the dragon.
   Comments: I tend to wonder exactly what this would do… A bomb would make sense, exploding the dragon from the inside out, but lighting its already burning stomach?
Demon?
   A: The first step would be to perform an exorcism. If that doesn’t work try using a vacuum to suck it in.
   Comments: In other words, banishment may be the only answer. See Ghost.
Gryphon?
   A: Slow down the time and keep attacking his legs. Keep using combos[.] By doing this, a large chunk of his life will be gone.
   Comments: And if you actually have to kill a real one? Do you think this is some kind of game??
Bigfoot?
   A: Not in Skamania County, Washington! It is illegal to kill Bigfoot punishable by a $1000 fine and up to 5 years in jail.
   Comments: After researching this, I found that the law was actually amended and it is now only a 1 year jail sentence. The means of killing one, in Skamania County or elsewhere, remains unknown.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pretzel Lectern Essays, vol. 1

About six months ago, I designed and laid out this book for my print design course in college. I was going to get it printed professionally, but I got lazy and never got around to it. So instead, when my wife got some free Shutterfly book codes, I made it using their website. Worst. Site. Ever. I understand they're meant to make photo books and not text-based books like I wanted, but some of their features (or lack thereof) were inexcusable—no text styles, no automated page numbers . . . oh well.
At any rate, it was fun to practice laying out books. I got an old version of InDesign, so it'll be fun to be able to know how to lay out my own personal publications in the future, such as Alfred and the Cavern of Time (coming hopefully within a year from now, and it'll actually be purchasable, print on demand), my personal history (I'm going to start working on it soon), and perhaps transcriptions of my journals, old writing projects, or other texts for posterity.
The back cover's color scheme got really jacked up, and of course the spine ended up looking crappy. Oh well.


Even though I own the only copy of this book, I simply chose my favorite essays here on Pretzel Lectern as the main text inside. The essays included are

  • The Year
  • The Tale of the Phoenix Suns Coat
  • Creative Writing Inspiration
  • A Mowing Veteran Retires
  • The Final Age
  • The Magic of Disney (renamed "What Makes Disney So Incredible")

I originally had Quite Small Tales and The Planet "Dirt" included, but they didn't fit in the finished product. It did have a Foreword written by Robert Strobel, my cousin who is co-writing Alfred and the Cavern of Time and whose blog, The Whited Wall, is featured in the Affiliates section at your bottom right.

Anyway, good practice for publishing and laying out books, which is what I'll be doing professionally once I find a job and start building a résumé. It's that time of life.

Thanks for visiting Pretzel Lectern! If you want your own copy of this book (indeed, a better copy, since it was the original layout without Shutterfly's madness), here, have a free PDF.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Letter to Past Self

I did this just for the fun of it, but it made an interesting writing prompt. What would you write if you could send a one-page letter back in time to when you were eight? For mine, I made sure not to be too specific and ruin future events for me. I tried to stay vague on the details while still giving useful advice. I even made it unclear how many future siblings I would have. Anyway, I think a letter like this can say a lot about your personality, as well as your current situation and the events of your life in between.

* * *

To:     Austin Ballard         From:   Austin Ballard
        June 22, AD 1997             June 22, AD 2014

Dear Past Austin,
            How are you? I love you and miss you. I miss your innocence, your playfulness, and your creativity. I miss the world you live in, the people, the different cares and worries.
            Life is good for me right now. I just graduated from college in a degree that I will love to use for the rest of my life. I am married to a wonderful, beautiful woman. I know you don’t need to worry about this now, but this letter will give you solace a decade from now. At this time I also have two children—One a daughter who looks just like you.
            I want to thank you, Austin, for all that you do. Thank you for having fun, for making time to be creative and make good memories. Thank you for drawing and writing, and keeping the things you have created safe. Please continue to keep all of the things you write or make secure, in a box with a label on it warning others to keep it safe. Make sure if you move from that house that you don’t misplace a single tablet or drawing. This is even more important: Make sure that you don’t misplace digital files—sound files, maps you make, Word documents. Your littlest brother will be interested in games too, and he will inadvertently delete some files. Make a safe folder now and keep backups of everything. When you switch computers, transfer the files over. If you have issues, ask Scott or Dayne for help. Keep a personal journal whenever you get a chance, and write about experiences you have.
            Continue to play computer games. Play them together with your brother, side by side. This won’t last forever and you will miss it in future years. But don’t play too much. Stick to the time allotted you by your parents, and when your time is up, go play outside with your siblings. Cherish your time with them, all of them. Treat them nicely, especially your sister. There is no honor in teasing to the point of tears.
            Always choose the right. When you are in junior high school, you may be tempted by many things. Don’t give in. Never give in. Fight the temptations. Keep the friends you have now. Do not let popularity tear you away from them. Junior high is a dark phase that will end in only two short years. In high school, popularity ends and everyone is friends. Push forward and make it to that point and beyond.
            Don’t be jealous of others. You have much to be grateful for. Know that drawing is a choice gift for you and few others have it. Draw together with your brother and your other siblings. Draw comics and stories and ideas for computer games. Write ideas you have for stories down, and I promise to make use of them someday.
            Above all, know that you are precious. You are significant. You are destined for great works. Never forget this. There is much in store for you. Lastly, cherish the simpler times. Times are coming when networks , cell phones, and the internet will take over people’s lives, even the ones of those you love. Form relationships with them now so they can remain strong.
            Everything will turn out right. No matter how hard—or wonderful—experiences are, they will soon be over. Enjoy them. Hold them close as choice experiences that you will relate to years later. Stay strong. Have honor. Cherish your time as a child. When you grow up, take risks. Some will be mistakes, but others will give you priceless experience.
            Yours wistfully,
                        Future Austin
____________

P.S. Tell Mom to buy twelve bottles of Sprite Remix and bury them in a box in the backyard. Mark the spot on a map and keep it safe in the box I mentioned earlier.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Comic: Fatherhood

In honor of Father's Day, I present to you a comic. 

***
I personally believe that God is literally our father, and such a knowledge can help us trust in Him even though He may not make sense sometimes. It can also give us insight on how to be good parents ourselves—God is neither too lenient nor too strict for us. His only interest is in teaching us the correct way, letting us choose for ourselves, and honoring our choice with relevant consequences.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

WarCraft III Map Movie #7: The Odyssey

I really wish I could be posting more varied projects. I'm working fairly consistently on Knight Guy, but I'm hoping another project will come up to work on soon.
Anyway, I made this particular map movie for a school project in my junior high Mythology class. I'm really embarrassed at how awful and lazy I was on the scenery, but of course the whole class was amazed at how I did it and stuff. Good times.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Minecraft Corridor Tour

My brothers and I were able to fit in a game of Corridor during our Memorial Day break, and after we had rendered the dungeon I wanted to see what it would look like from a first-person perspective. I constructed the dungeon in Minecraft with embellishments to see what it would have looked like, and even though the Master's Lair turned out to be stupid and the Treasury a bit cramped, I was still pretty impressed.
One thing I forgot until now was the matter of perspective of the dungeon. On this version (and in the storyline of the board game) the adventurer chooses to descend into the dungeon, fighting each level's Master and descending deeper until he beats the final boss at the bottom. In the older versions, however, the hero was thrown into the deepest level of the dungeon, and had to climb his way out, level by level, until he fought the final boss who had defeated him in the first place.
It's a very interesting change in the plot element of the game, and it's hard to decide which I should stick with for this game. It's mostly flipped because of the class system, where each class has a different motivation for entering the dungeon (see the descriptions on the Corridor Class Pictures sets).

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

WarCraft III Map-movie #6: Morrowind

This next WarCraft Cinem was one of my favorites, but looking at it now I'm a bit disappointed at how it turned out. I could never get the stupid camera to work correctly, and the decor left something to be desired. I do like the comedic choices I put though, and I think I captured the overall feel of that memorable beginning to the game. 



Saturday, May 17, 2014

Golden Corridor Card: Healing

I got this idea from golden cards on Hearthstone. Obviously the final product will be hand-drawn, but it was fun to embellish a live-action picture of myself. And myself.



Easter Egg: The text revolving around the Healing Circle is a latin translation of the Hippocratic Oath, flipped horizontally.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Recipe #5: Pizza Omelet

When cooking, I really like to mix up genres. I think it would be so fun to make a list of different burgers to make, for example, and see how many different twists I could put on them—nacho burger, Chinese burger, Italian burger, etc. This idea came when I wanted to put a twist on the common breakfast omelet. I was partially inspired by a pizza-flavored pastel I had in Brazil that was really good.

Pizza Omelet
"É la prima colazione, il modo italiano!"


 Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. green pepper, diced
  • ⅓ beef hot dog, sliced (or Italian sausage, if you can actually buy that)
  • 3 slices turkey pepperoni, ripped in half
  • A few sliced olives if you want
  • 1 dash Italian seasoning, and/or pizza seasoning, and/or oregano
  • ~2 Tbsp. marinara or spaghetti sauce
  • Grated mozzarella or parmesan cheese
Directions
  1. Grease the pan in oil (oo, you could even use actual olive oil to keep with the Italian motif) and sauté the onions and green peppers until sautéed.
  2. Beat the eggs and pour them over the vegetables. Use a spatula to pull the cooked egg sections toward the center, rolling the pan to continue distributing the uncooked egg.
  3. When the eggs are stablilized, sprinkle white cheese over the omelet and let it melt a bit. Then pour the marinara sauce over it all. Dust with your favorite Italian spices.
  4. Flip one edge of the omelet to the other, making a fold. Some sauce might squirt out, but oh well. Remove from heat.
  5. Serve with or on top of buttered toast sprinkled with garlic powder. Feel free to garnish with red pepper flakes, powdered parmesan cheese, and maybe like a sprig of parsley or something. 
YIELD: 1 omelet.
____

Washes down well with...  A nice, medium-bodied dry white grape juice, or a sweet, full-bodied red grape juice. Or milk.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Farewell


Today marks three weeks that my son, Carver, died. I had never had someone that close to me die before. I've lost both of my paternal grandparents, but I was a naïve teenager when my grandma passed away, and my grandpa had basically been gone due to Alzheimer's for years. A couple of classmates also died in high school, but I didn't know them that well. But this... not only was I present during his first and last minutes of his life, but he was my offspring—my very flesh and blood. I learned a lot from this ordeal. I would never wish the emotions of loss and sadness I experienced on April 21, 2014 on anyone, but since I was chosen to experience it, I figured you may as well benefit from hearing Carver's story, and the things I learned about life, family, and God.


The Human Body is so Precise and Delicate
When Karen and I went into the doctor's office in December to find out the gender of our baby, we didn't expect to find out the worrisome (to say the least) news that our boy had a diaphragmatic hernia. You can look it up for more details, but suffice it to say for simplicity's sake that he had a hole in his diaphragm and he was in danger of having his organs and bowels float up and crowd his heart and lungs. It was a complete wild-card sort of birth defect—no genetic cause, no relevant statistics of survival... we were basically in the dark for the rest of the pregnancy. Even when MRI results showed things were getting worse we just pulled the "wild card" and said they could be wrong, and his lungs would probably be fine. We mustered all the hope and optimism we had for the remaining four months till he would be born.

Hope and Optimism Keep You Going
The day finally came when we could stop worrying and finally just see what would happen. After a much harder pregnancy than Karen had had with our first daughter, Arlee, Carver came into the world. He looked just like his older sister had when she was born. They cut his cord and whisked his tiny form through a window in the wall to the NICU, where they could stabilize him and prepare him for surgery in a day or two, all the while Carver having a typical angry newborn expression on his face, not making a sound. They let us know soon afterward that he had been successfully stabilized, and we breathed yet another sigh of relief. We felt, as we had for months, that he would be a fighter and would get through this. My family came in to congratulate and combine their hope with ours. After a time, the NICU doctor came in and told us things did not look good. They had Carver on a breathing machine that was giving him 100% oxygen (we only need 20%), and he was still not getting enough and getting too much carbon dioxide. In so many words, the doctor said that Carver just didn't have a chance of survival, even if they put him on ECMO, the lung and heart bypass machine that was usually a last resort for diaphragmatic hernia babies. Our little boy was perfect—he just didn't have any lungs at all.

Miracles Don't Always Happen
We told the doctor that we were Latter-day Saints, and asked if we could give our boy a blessing. He told us we absolutely could, and in a blur that was the longest walk of my life, we were all there in the NICU together. On a little bed, hooked up to IVs and tubes and hoses, was our little baby son. He was unconscious with relaxing morphine, his stomach was vibrating with rapid breaths of pure oxygen from the machine, and his chest was swollen with all of the organs that shouldn't be up there, above his tiny belly. He looked like a miniature body builder. My wife had done her job as a mom, had suffered so that this bundle of joy could come into the world, and now it was my turn as the father to give him a priesthood blessing. What would I say? Would I rebuke his hernia and command him to be healed in the name of Jesus Christ? Would he gasp and suddenly start breathing on his own, to the amazement of everyone around? Carver's two grandfathers, my dad and father-in-law, stood with me as we placed our fingers on Carver's head. I began the blessing, giving him a name, and then blessing him. As tears streamed down my face I proclaimed him too pure to live in this horrible world, and blessed him to be safe and warm in his final hours on earth, to know how much we loved him and would miss him. The nurses tried one more medication on him to try and get his lungs to expand, but it didn't do anything. The doctor showed me an X-ray, pointing out the positions of various organs and whatnot, but all I saw was an image of ribs and a breathing tube.

The Spirit is Distinctly Separate from the Body
For the next three hours, we got to hold Carver while he was still hooked up to his tubes, and let Carver's grandparents and uncles and aunt say goodbye. We sang to him, telling him how much we would miss doing things with him and showing him all the beautiful things on earth. Karen talked to him a lot, but I said little. I just couldn't stop looking at his ears—they were pointy, just like mine. It was a stark and painful reminder that he was my literal son. He even opened his eyes for us a couple of times, and held our fingers. It was incredible how just one tiny error, one miniscule miscalculation in his genetic code had caused such a fatal state in such a handsome, perfect little baby. We wanted to hold his little body forever, but our own mortal bodies were backed up on sleep, exhausted and hungry, and soon it was time to say our final goodbye. The nurses gave him one last dose of morphine to ease his nerves and body, we took his tubes and hoses out, and held him in our arms as the life and warmth slowly faded from his little frame. He looked so handsome, so perfect without the bothersome tube down his throat. His face looked like an angel's, deep in sleep. We promised him we would do whatever it took to be with him again someday, and raise him as our own when his body and spirit were reunited. I have never wept so freely in my entire life.
In time, it didn't feel like we were holding a human being anymore. His skin looked different. It was as if a glow had faded from his body. His spirit had moved on, leaving behind this little mortal body. The doctor measured his heartbeat with a stethoscope and said his heartbeat was still there but faint, but I think in a spiritual sense he was already gone.

People Grieve in Different Ways
Carver only lived for six and a half hours. He only experienced life in two rooms. He never saw the outdoors, he never got to taste food or drink, or feel the wind or rain or sun on his face. As far as he knew, life was floating inside a womb, and then it was a moment of horrible, dry, bright coldness, and then it was a warm dream that lasted only a few hours more. That first day was the longest day of my life, but when it was finally over I felt peace. It wasn't hard for me to see Carver's body later at the mortuary, the viewing, and the funeral. To me, that wasn't him. He didn't look the same. His face wasn't how I remembered it during those heart-wrenching hours in the hospital. I knew Carver was in a better place, and I felt like I could move on. Karen, of course, had and is still having a much harder time. After all, she carried him for nine months, felt him kick her in the ribs and bladder, and gave birth to him. Such a tiny amount of time in the hospital was probably not long enough for me to properly bond with him. This is probably lucky, since Karen needs my support and love more than any other time. We both know that we'll have more children, and the odds that another child will have a diaphragmatic hernia are next to nil; but that doesn't make it easier for Karen, and I completely understand that. That's why, I think, God designed the family to have a nurturing mother and a supportive, protective father. We complete each other. We're opposite and equal, like two wings on a plane. It may take her years, or decades, to completely grieve for Carver, but that's all right. With something like this, that no one could ever prepare for in a million years, that seems a reasonable price to pay.

We Have So Much to Be Grateful For
We are so grateful that this did not happen to our first child. Our daughter Arlee was and is the biggest light in this dark time we could have asked for. Our heart reaches out to less fortunate couples who have lost their first child and now live in uncertainty. We are so grateful that we could have given birth to Carver in the most well-organized and professional children's hospital in the US. Carver couldn't have had a better chance anywhere else, and the nurses did absolutely everything to help us through it, from breaking the rules on how many family members are allowed in the NICU at a time to making prints of his hands and feet for us.
We are grateful that we no longer need to worry about Carver. Whereas every new step of life brings new worries to our mind concerning Arlee's safety, health, and well-being, Carver is safe. He is happy,
and will be forever. Yes, he never experienced life as we know it, but he never tasted temptation either, or pain, or sickness, or heartache.
We are grateful for the countless bouquets we recieved, the cards, the condolences, the money donations for Carver's headstone. We have been overwhelmed by the kindheartedness of our family and friends, and even people we do not know. It's times like this when you truly see the light side of humanity and are grateful for it.
We are grateful that we can now mourn with others who go through similar trials in days to come. Though we do not look forward to those times, we know that our experience can help others feel peace.
Things could be so much worse. They are worse for so many other parents out there, and we pray for them. Most of all, I'm grateful to know that, because Karen and I were sealed in the temple of God by one who has priesthood authority, we will see Carver again.

We Like to Talk about Carver!
Carver's Tree, planted three days after his funeral. It is a type of tree
that will blossom white every spring around his birthday.
This is perhaps the most interesting thing I learned: People who lose loved ones do not want to forget about them! Of course you must give families sufficient time to mourn, but after a reasonable time, bring up their loved one! Ask them how they are feeling. Don't just ignore the issue and pretend it didn't happen. It did happen, and it was hard at the time, but life moves on, and as it does we always want to remember the good things about the past. It was interesting to be on the other side of tragedy and learn this. It's something I may have never understood without experiencing something like this first-hand, but it's true. Bring up the ones who have been lost. The person may still be grieving. They may weep as they talk about who they miss so dearly. But they will also feel joy as they release feelings and feel your support.
I'll never forget Carver. As far as I'm concerned, I have two beautiful children. One of them is just somewhere else right now, but I can't wait till the day when I can introduce him to you and show you his little elf ears that are just like his dad's.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

WarCraft III Map-movie #5: RPG

This was mainly a simulation of what I wanted to make as a game. I knew how to script and program movies on WarCraft, so it was easy to stage things. I'd still like to try actually programming one sometime though.


Friday, April 18, 2014

WarCraft 3 Map-movie #3 and #4

A two-for one sale today! I wish I could release these more sporatically, as in, between posts about other stuff. Projects have been hard lately with a baby on the way (Monday!) and finishing up finals. I haven't even touched Knight Guy for a week. Hopefully I can get back in the swing and have a summer full of projects! 


This first one, Salem Witch Trials, is not a very impressive one by any means. No dynamic camera, boring landscaping, errors in animation... but I was pretty proud of it when I was 13.



Here's another old one I was proud of, mostly because I thought it was hilarious. Though I am impressed that I could pull off the animation trick well (If you knew how World Editor worked you might be too), it was mostly just for the fun of it. Back then I tended to make lots of little ditties like these, rather than working on bigger cinematics like Apotheosis.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

WarCraft 3 Map-movie #2: Apotheosis

This is probably the longest cinematic I've made. I have no idea where the concept came from, but I'm glad I can show it to you via FRAPS, because when I tried to share it on the internet in high school, its size was so big due to the many imported songs that few even bothered to try downloading it.



Friday, April 11, 2014

WarCraft 3 Map-movie #1: He's Flying!

I got FRAPS for my birthday! Now I can make some gameplay videos. It'll take a bit of time for me to get the hang of it (mostly just utilizing hard drive space and making the most of the video sizes) but in the meantime, I'm going to start showcasing my old WarCraft 3 maps for your viewing pleasure! These are probably only going to be interesting if you've ever played WarCraft 3, but it's fun for me because I made these when I was thirteen, and hey! another project type to start adding to Pretzel Lectern.

This one is called He's Flying!. A music video I made based on the lost episode of SpongeBob Squarepants. To this day, that episode's every line reminds me of the summer of 2002, which was a really fun summer vacation. It was in the prime window of time when I was both old enough to appreciate summer vacation yet young enough to not have to work (or feel guilty about not working).

Enjoy this filmlet, and there will be several more to come in the coming weeks!
(Probably more other projects too, as soon as I'm done with wretched finals)


Monday, April 7, 2014

Lost Projects Vol. 1

Lost Projects Vol. 1

You all know I love projects, that I'm sentimental and nostalgic, and that I like creating things. Unfortunately, I have not always been as careful as I should have when preserving projects. I have silly audio files from when I was a Fourth Grader, and tablet drawings from much earlier that I've saved all these years, but there are some projects in between now and then that have slipped between my fingers and into the unknown... forever. My purpose with this post is to at least preserve their memory, and wistfully wish that I could have them to showcase for you today.

1. Storybook Weaver Stories



When I was a kid, we had a game called Storybook Weaver. It was made mainly for making your own stories, which you could write, illustrate, and print out and such. But my brother and I, as with so many other programs we had, found funner ways to use it. We made our own RPG-style game with Storybook Weaver, where we took two characters, changed their clothes to be different colors, and roleplayed as them throughout the game's settings. The only thing I really remember is that we began in a locked room, and in order to get out we had to break through a barred door. To do that, there were different sized rocks in the room, and we had to work out with some dumbbells in order to be strong enough to hurl a boulder at the door, breaking it and securing our escape.

Another thing we would do is make flipbooks. These are some of the things I wish we would have saved the most. The one I remember most is a flipbook of a dragon flying over a village, burning each hut in turn. There was also one of an animated fight between a prince and a dragon.

We would also make illustrated versions of some of our computer games, such as Warcraft 1, and I recall once we made an illustrated chessboard.

The last thing I can recall, besides making a very long flipbook about flying turtles called Turtle World, was making a Choose Your Own Adventure book about being a dragon. I really liked dragons back then.

I really wish I hadn't let these fade away. These are among the most common Lost Projects that I think about and wish I could look at again. Some of them had interesting ideas that would have been fun to resurrect. But alas, I was not careful enough with those .SWD files, and will never see them again.

2. WarCraft II Maps


WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness was my first love when it comes to map editors and programming. One of my earliest memories of elementary school was looking forward to the next time I would be at my grandma and uncles' house so that I could make a WarCraft II map. I sketched out plans, drew ideas down... I even drew up a manual for a campaign I would make on WarCraft 2 called "The Hard Lands." Eventually I got the WarCraft Battle Chest for my eighth birthday and was able to make levels all I wanted, but unfortunately I did not save the maps that I made.

This is actually not extremely sad for me, because back then I did not know how to make a map very well anyway. But I would have loved to at least have that original Hard Lands campaign so that I could remake it on WarCraft III.

3. The Cube

I have no image for this project because it's perhaps one of the oddest things I have ever made. When I was about eight or nine, I discovered PowerPoint. Again, rather than using it for its intended use—presentations—I made a game out of it. I used the game's transitions to simulate a map, moving from one square to another, picking up items (represented by making the image disappear and reappear), and fulfilling little 'quests.' I imagined the game taking place on a cube, so I calculated the slides to make sure that going from one side to the other always came back to the "same" area on the game. When one layer of the cube was completed, the "player" (who obviously was just clicking and watching the game play itself) would unlock the next layer and do it again with different colored slides (the layer being unlocked was shown by a different transition). This was definitely a weird project, and I'm not surprised that it got lost. I remember trying to email it to my uncle to show him, but it was too big a file. So most likely, my mom was the only one who really saw it anyway. I wonder if she even remembers The Cube?

4. Quest TM

Another really weird project I made was called Quest TM (That's kwest tee-emm). It was essentially a Choose Your Own Adventure game I made with the only tools I had available: nothing. I made this game on a computer with folders and text files. The folder would be named after the option you could choose, and inside the folder was a .TXT file that described your situation. As far as I can remember, the game took place inside a dungeon of some sort, but the details are very hard to recall. I remember trying to program the folder's background (back when you could do that on Windows 95) to show the text to make it easier for the "player" to read the description before seeing the options, but it didn't work too well. I even wanted to make the game on HyperStudio (an old presentation program of some sort). I didn't even get very far with this project, but it is something I would have liked to have kept for old time's sake.

5. Heroes III Runescape Map


I am really bummed about losing this project, and I still cannot figure out how the map slipped through my fingers. Ever since my little brother Keaton would create nonsensical Heroes of Might and Magic III maps on the computer and accidentally save over our games, I have been keeping a strict backup system of my game maps. And this one in particular was made very late into my adolescence, when I coudl actually make good maps. I'm baffled and very sad that this map disappeared.

This map combined my knowledge of Heroes 3 mapmaking with my love for Runescape, the popular online MMORPG that has since jumped the shark. I copied the game's map intricately, inserted inside jokes from Runescape into the game (as seen above, "Some noob's been leveling up their Firemaking skill"), painstakingly programmed almost all of the game's quests, and made the main heroes of the game my friends and me, named by our gamertags. The map was incredible well made, from Al Kharid to Falador, from Varrock to Edgeville. As far as I can remember I even made the Wilderness.

I know you probably have to be a very specific type of person who would appreciate a work like this, but trust me—it was a masterpiece. I wish so bad I could find this map somewhere, tucked away in a hidden corner of my parents' external hard drive. Perhaps it's out there somewhere, and it will be a happy day when I find it.


6. Austin's Lair

Austin's Lair was my first and only personal website. I made it when I was 13, which was in the early 2000s when websites all looked horrible. And mine was no exception. I remember before I created my website, I read a book all about web design, and I kid you not, the book actually had sections encouraging you to use emoticons and animated GIFs. It even gave an address to www.gifworld.com, which no longer exists, where you could start stocking up on animated GIFs for your website. It was as if it were a necessary part of web culture back then.
So my site was littered with animated revolving skulls, flames, and frowny faces, and had headings that said things like "Welcome to Austin's Lair, mortal." I made the site through Homestead.com, which had a pretty user-friendly interface for making a website. It also had built-in features like animated and scrolling text, potwice in mine, saying how proud of me she was for making my own website. I remember being irritated that here I was trying to look all hardcore, and here was my grandma making me look like an infant.
lls, quizzes, and—you younger whippersnappers won't believe this—a guest book. Yes, back then we had guest books on our websites where you could sign in and... that's about it. State your name and say "Love your site!" or whatever. I remember my grandma posted
The URL for my site was something like gabumons_inn.homestead.com. This was because at the time I had been frequenting my favorite Digimon site and was thinking of making my own. I think I must have gotten carried away with all of the
fascinatingly evil GIFs and stuff.
Anyway, I remember after about six to eight months of having my own site, and even having an obscure "prize" system where if someone got all of the questions on my Digimon quiz correct I would give them a free Digimon image (I just got it off of Google Images), Homestead announced that they would be charging for their services. I filled out everything on their survey as negatively as possible to try and force them to reconsider, but to no avail. My site dropped off the web, as did almost every other Homestead site I had gone to often.
I wish I would have at least saved a screenshot or something to show you, but these animated GIFs basically sum up its appearance quite soundly. It was a pretty pathetic website, but more than that, it was a token of the late 90s style of web pages.