The 10,000 Update Special
A little bit more than arbitrary
10,000 UPDATES on this here 2016-10-17 - nearly five months after the start of this blog, and the success given that time has been radical. I would say I owe it to my constant update schedule (which has been broken on that date - guess nobody's talking to me anymore), my unique writing ability which is inspirational in its criticisms, with a flair for finding the simplest way to talk about complicated subjects, and with no patience at all for things which waste my time, as well as my no-hassle, no stress design that makes it easy to view all your favourite articles. I would say I owe it all, but the reality is that nobody knows anything, so I could have been throwing shit at the wall and have gotten the same result.
I set out to make this website with the "purple cow" philosophy - create something so totally unique and remarkable that people can't help but feel special, and so they keep talking about it and coming back for more. It's what Yahtzee or Maddox did way back when, creating their own brutally opinionated, aesthetically unique web series which people came back, not out of any addiction, but because they really are interested in the work. This is not to say I made this as a blatant popularity grab - all I needed to do was add in some memes or whatever and the sheep will flock. I made this because I knew that my work needed to be spread among the people who need it most - people like me who will always second-guess their place in the world and what they do, and who need the reassurance that making art is really, really tough. But there is beauty in the thing, too.
The original purpose of this blog, a computer security portal, seems outdated compared to what it ended up being - a blog focusing on the arts and not the computer sciences. I made the former as an opportunity to express myself in an industry that is typically as bland as IBM lets it be, like the little chile pepper in an otherwise unremarkable swiss cheese, and I think the work I did in simplifying tough subjects to the point of idiot-proofing was as worthwhile as the work I'm doing now, which is why I still talk about tech sometimes in the BUAFYs.
I realised that, at the heart of security, it's the same principles over and over again, and there's only so much you can talk about before you get into the really deep, gritty, and boring stuff. Stuff that not even I, with a sense of humour that a lot of people would call retarded, though I call the zeitgest of 2015 and beyond, could make interesting. Yeah, I'm talking a lot about myself. But then considering how little I do talk about the way I write things, I feel bad for not taking more liberal opportunities to.
So then I made a few experiments with reviews of a shitty game (Yandere Sim) and a visual novel that I found so endearing that I'm still consciously thinking about it three months later (The Cherry Tree High Duo Reviews), and then I cut the Scavenge from the Torrent Wasteland abruptly due to a lack of stuff to talk about. I then realised, during the course of writing that article, that my future did not reply in sarcastically talking about things which people already knew about, but instead for covering angles that nobody could look up with a simple Google search - and I sure bitched about Google in those days. Still do, eh?
My future then relied on reviews. On opinions. Not opinions about big companies and how a lot of them fuck the world up, nor opinions on why piracy is a brilliant, brilliant thing we must preserve for future generations. Those still come up, and I am still of those opinions even if I do not carry them on a masthead. I instead went away from the same old opinions and went into shiny new ones, with the wide world of the arts - video games and books and visual novels and anime and cartoons, oh, what a great world it is!
The funny thing is, I still do parade those convictions, in the same spot as they have always been paraded - at the very bottom of the blog, the Kopimi symbol and the CC0 license. The former says "Copy this as much as you can" and the latter gives you permission to do that with no restrictions at all. The reason I put those up were simple: I knew that, within my lifetime, I will be doing a lot of good work. A lot. Judging by my word counts, I'm doing a novel's worth of good work a month - at least 45,000 words each. So I decided that, when I do die and all that is left of my material goods but what I have contributed to the world, that everybody deserves the opportunity to view what I wrote, all of it, without restriction. I'll lose out on money, but what does that buy me beyond the privilege to spread my influence?
Bringing up the past:
Is it tough to review works? Well, you have to understand, this isn't my first time. Before I made this blog, I tried to get freelanced on some other blogs - the great circle of life being you're either a blogging or trying to blog, and by the end of this article I am sure you will be sick of the word blog which lies at the bottom of the sea and eats rocks. So I wrote articles and reviews about what I thought the websites would be interested in - game design shit and the like - and sent them in to be published. All of that failed, because as it turns out, you will almost never find a website that accepts unsolicited work, and those that do have server owners as evasive as a crow when you walk up to it. I can understand why - most of it is garbage. But even as an inexperienced writer, I knew that my work wasn't garbage - and having always had a high standard of quality ever since I was an adolescent (thanks, TVTropes), I could judge that accurately.
But actually, I don't need to rely on memory. Because I had the good fortune to keep some of the articles I salvaged from Google Drive, back when I was ignorant of the botnet (more accurately called the Spynet), I can check out - with 90% of the work sadly being lost during my nihilist years (this must be how archaeologists feel when their ancient vases get destroyed for storage space) - the three articles that I saved, along with some scraps of ideas and drafts. I even had a list of ideas that popped into my head over the weeks, including "Game addiction, and how to stop it", the magnificent bastard predicting my biggest gaming gripe years down the line. Other gems include "Art games that try too hard and fail", "The rise of the ironic meme montage", "Give Flash a Chance: When webgames are good", and this was before everybody knew that Flash was a fantastic pile of shit, "Games that make their own games", "The art of griefing", and "How to become a gaming journalist". I don't know what I was smoking (protip: nothing), but whatever it was (still nothing), it was some good shit. I don't need to explain I sort of am a gaming journalist now, even if it's unpaid and along the way I like talking about anime and furries and all that ishiii.
It's actually kind of cute, seeing how I remember a 3,000 word article taking me at least two weeks to make, when I can bang that shit out on a Saturday, and I consider it a bad weekday if I don't have at least 2,000 words with every update. I also remember thinking "Wow, nobody is going to read this if it's that long", when I end up reading my own work within ten minutes between bus stops. It really shows my growth as an artist. From the initial inhibitions and the worry about "what if this isn't good enough to publish?", to seeing me now end up publishing my very first draft for the world to see, all the time, every day, with months worth of first drafts to stare at, shows the power in, not to ape your English teacher or anything, finding your voice and running with it until you physically cannot write anymore. It's a magical thing, that voice.
It also shows my physical development as an artist, too, when I remember thinking that getting up to 1000 words an hour would be an impossible task, just because of how much I meticulously edited, pared down, and struggled to continue sentences because I was worried they wouldn't turn out well. I can now say that, having been gifted with the privilege to have fingers as fast as my brain and with a brain so clever as to come up with things instinctually and with a natural flow that does not disturb the concentration of writing - a process like an amateur pianist coming up with symphonies for ten minutes before stopping, and unlike a professional able to improvise for well over an hour -, my ability to create and publish work has been blessed by this natural consequence of experience. If this is the ability I have when given only two years of serious writing experience... well, I am very optimistic and very excited to see what my insights and abilities will be like another two years down the line. After a decade? I pray that I remain just as humble and compassionate as I am now - but with the privilege to shitpost whenever I want. Yes, this is sincere.
If you don't believe my work is good, because I didn't, and I sure as shit wouldn't agree with anybody else if they said their work from two years ago was good, then here's a snippet of an article that I have no intentions of finishing, as with the other articles. You see, issues that were important at the time tend to give way to issues that are important now, so the pessimistic predictions as to whether "Yooka-Laylee" (who? you may ask, and you may keep asking) was a massive waste of Kickstarter money, is now beyond me. My newfound experience tells me that the game is in the hands of people who know what the fuck they're doing, so their ability to create a perfectly functional, yet generic game in a dead collect-a-thon genre, seems to me as something only good to watch the inevitable Zero Punctuation review of, or at the very least find porn of.
Anyway, here's four paragraphs of Yooka Laylee from some time in 2014:
Four paragraphs of blather blip:
Yooka-Laylee, the brand new tech demo from acclaimed one-room development team Playtonic games (actually six guys from Rareware and the token “fresh set of eyes”), promises to be one of the most stellar three-dimensional collectable platforming games of this generation, in the way that it aims to be one of a handful of such games in the modern world while mumbling something else about character design under their breath. Set up on Kickstarter with the reasonable estimate of 175,000 pounds (a few grand short of 300,000 dollars), it quickly broke into a festival of how much money you could possibly throw at a group of people at once – close to two million dollars in just shy of two days.
The story goes that a whole bunch of former Rare employees were tired of working the most depressing job in the world and started to get into talks of taking all their well-earned years of experience and doing something with it beyond making Kinect games. I know they're not outright saying that's happened, but you have to lacking a sense of accomplishment in your life going from Goldeneye 007 to Kinect Sports. Not saying that they didn't do an okay job of the latter, but it's pretty much comparing Wii Sports Resort to Skyward Sword. Long story short, a few years of empty conversation finally culminated in the game's composer Grant Kirkhope confirming the project was dead. Two months later the team has more money than they could have possibly asked for.
So it's due to the apparent necessity of creating a video game in a genre that's been dead for close to a decade that they come up with a charming new demo titled Yooka-Laylee, who are also the apparent protagonists of a game with a title that has been downgraded from having two squeaky instruments in its name to just one. In case it wasn't obvious from the typeface, levels, character design, music, and almost outright saying it in the first sentence of their Kickstarter, this game is a spiritual successor (industry slang for “not quite copyright infringement”) to the Banjo Kazooie series. If you're resurrecting the dead, might as well start with a dead franchise to make the warlock's job a little bit easier on the stomach.
Pretty much #1 on a game designer's “list of things to not mess up”, beyond making the game functional at the least, is creating a sense of originality and uniqueness that makes their game stand out. This is what every single piece of media in the world thrives on – even if you completely ripped off another franchise, you can still add enough new elements to it to stave off any plagiarism claims. It's pretty much a standard joke nowadays that the Call of Duty series is nothing more than staring down a new pair of iron sights with each installment, because that's all you've been doing for the past decade. Yes they added in some new content, but this is like the Wiiware port of Cave Story where all they did was add in newer textures and music. Not even Nintendo of all companies had the audacity to call it a brand-new game.
Back to the now:
There are two sentences that are appropriate to end this section with: 1. And that is how you add 500 more words to an article without doing any work at all: you resurrect a post from the depths of Hell. 2. Damn, I wish I kept some of that bud for my grow-op. 3. Like I said, I was still pretty good back then, but there are stil some facets of ignorance which breaks down some of the flow, such as some sentences referencing things that nobody knows what the hell is on about, jokes that are funny in more of the "uh-huh" way and not in the "HOLY SHIT DID HE SAY THAT?" way, a focus on game design and obvious targets that borders on Phil Fish levels of head-up-assery, and a writing style that is aggressive and untoward without saying anything that deserves or earns that aggression. Long sentence, I know.
If I had to review my writing today, and I'm not just saying this to make my ego feel good about what was essentially an entirely different person living in the same body as me two years ago when I can't even remember what I did two days ago, I would say that the bloke has a prose that sounds like discount Zero Punctuation, cribbing heavily off the criticisms that the show often throws at companies without understand the subtle facets of humour and truth that Yahtzee uses in the show. It's not that he's too blunt, it's that he's too subtle, saying a lot of things that connect to each other but doesn't provide any reason for us to care.
This is not to say it's bad writing, or even unoriginal writing. Think of it this way - when you've been drinking Coca-Cola your entire life, picking up a Jones Soda is an entirely new experience, but despite the upgrade, the flavour is nothing you would rave to your wife and kids about. This is the quality of the prose I'm getting from this bloke: it's above the bog-standard games journalism, and even above some of the better quality reviewers, but he still doesn't have the experience or depth of character to make me really care about his opinions.
But bless the bloke's heart for taking inspiration from the greats and clumsily mimicking them, like a stunt double who looks nothing like the original actor but tries their best to look good regardless. The key to getting better at a thing is to surround yourself with people who are better than you and looking up to them, and that's the vibe I'm getting from him - he's trying to write in the way that the men before him do, and though he's not quite there yet, he has potential. It's a unique type of potential where you don't use it to disappoint, because I had no expectations for the bloke, nor was I asking the monitor "Are you fucking kidding me?" when reading this (short) piece. It's a rare type of work you find that isn't poor because it's of low-quality, but instead poor because, compared to everything else it's trying to be, it can't stand up to the pressure and has to bow its head down and let the big boys take over.
I get the vibe here about somebody knowledgeable about gaming culture, even if it's just the basics like "Rare is good, COD is bad", which is the type of knowledge I had when I was a youngblood [froge note: this review is getting too fucking meta]. Given that they're bothering to include it in at all, I wonder if they're going to get any better at integrating history and opinions, using examples to persuade as so many great writers do? Given his arbitrary opinions on creative integrity, I assume that they'll grow to realise the quality of good work later on, and use that in their future writing - assuming they don't crash and burn like so many amatuers before.
In sum, an unremarkable though decent blogger that stands above the rest but with nothing exceptional guiding them. If they're going to be something worth shitting yourself over later on, I'll probably hear about it, but as of now there's not a chance I'll be reading. Yes, I've thrown people under the bus in far worse ways for creating far worse work, and I'm not exactly singing any praises, so I guess this review is the equivalent of their writing - a middle-of-the-ground work that is neither worthy of scorn nor praise, except for the hope that they'll improve, and the 90% chance that they'll abandon the entire effort in a few years like the rest of the lazy cunts.
It did get too meta:
It just goes to show that in the span of a few years, there is a great potential for change - work that you do now may be seen as functional, yet unexceptional, and we must always strive for the latter. To break away from the subject matter, I assure that, despite the organisation of this post, I have a great deal I wish to talk about and all the time in the world to talk about it, though I do not want this post to be muddled up with all my excitement. I could talk about my workflow, or my history as a furry, or all the things as a child that made me who I am, why I care so much about making this blog, the artists who inspired me to, and everything I did before that led up to it... but all of that is history, right? History that can be better explained with more conscious thought and a better template to write into, and nothing appropriate to write about today.
So while I can talk to you about the origins of Froghand, it seems like that would be more appropriate for another time. Five month anniversary? Six month? Whatever - it all gets better with age, except for when it doesn't, as I have demonstrated. I would say there is a lot to talk about, but there really isn't. All of my motivations were simple, and all I can do is reflect on them. To give them all away in short sentences is to ruin the special sauce of learning a once-in-a-lifetime thing like the founding of a blog. It's what I want my followers and my subscribers and my bookmarkers and my lurkers and the people who, despite never talking to me, read my blog every day just to see what I have to say. They're precious to me. I don't want an asshole to take their place by reading an about page and thinking they know me like you do.
So to answer Suyu's question, "as i checked more stuff on your site, dude, how do you write all of this?"... all it takes to make magic is spending more time on something than anybody else. I spent the time to learn how to write, and a few years later, here I am, able to make two thousand words in two hours on a whim just like that. I learned how to build a website one time, so I built a website, a skill which ended up invaluable in creating a design - graphic design skills I learned from looking at websites I liked, like Neopets and Stallman's site, and seeing how they did things back in the old days so as to make things as clean and efficient as possible for the viewer. I developed an affinity for data compression and maximising performance out of machines by reading examples of "Genius Programming", all of which showed me that in order to make a really good product, all it takes is to learn a lot and to work a lot.
So I took what I knew and made a website that lets me write things really fast - in fact, the only two non-formatting tags I use are "p id=g" and "p id=s", my header and paragraph tags respectively. I copy and paste them in order to make writing into the tags easier, and I use id instead of class (standards be damned) so that if I have to manually type something out, it takes less keystrokes. It also saves data, incidentally - hundreds of bytes a page. I write everything out on a default text editor formatted for HTML, and when I'm done I indent it twice. When I make a new Neocities page, I copy and paste another one and then change the titles and dates and whatever - this standardises everything and makes it dead easy to update. I then paste in the content, and poof: new blog post. It's a streamlined, very easy to work with process with room to expand, being dead simple and giving me all the room in the world to stop focusing on stupid formatting and just write. And if I'm feeling bold or particularily inspired, I'll write directly into the Neocities editor, like I did with this post.
And you'll learn that it takes a lot of time to get good at anything, and that it's actually really easy to learn things if you just take the time to carefully mull over it. It does take physical time to write a blog every day - two to three hours writing a post, an hour to update Neocities and the BUAFYS, and the rest I spend trying to learn new skills or playing things I'm supposed to be reviewing. It's a very busy schedule, and on the weekdays I have no time to slack off. I would compare my work to that of a mangaka, but a mangaka has a schedule more comparable to a pack mule than a human being. At least I have the liberty of being flexible, as opposed to the Japanese way of life that
encourages tolerates working until you die of exhaustion.
But the time I do spend learning new skills or reading or what have you is also important, because you're learning how people who are better than you do better things than you can do, and you are then inspired to be better because of it. When you read great work at the same time that you resolve and set out to practice to the point where you can do great work, it greatly expediates the learning process. If you spent your entire life reading novels, then when you eventually do make a novel, the process is much easier than if you spent it doing something else. While serious study does expediate the process, you need to develop a sincere appreciation for the work you want to do before you do it, otherwise all your efforts will be wasted because you won't care about what you do. It's called learning by example. I almost never do art except for when I need to edit a picture or doodle on somebody's paper, but given that I spent the past four years looking at works of visual art every day (even if it was all furry art and graphic novels), when it comes time for me to draw, I have enough imagination to make up for my non-existent technically skills so I can develop, at the very least, some sort of distinct style, like my little pixel art icons I use around the website (I plan to have 100% of the assets created by me - my Froge favicon was all me, too).
The reason I know so much about security and writing and games and computers and cartoons and visual art - and even subjects I don't know much about, like graphic novels and visual novels and anime and world culture and history and business and hip-hop and other music, I can still hold a decent conversation in, because I spent the time to learn about these disciplines. For security, I was super into security, so I spent a whole month, ever day, looking around websites, reading textbooks, and setting up my system to learn as much about the fundamentals of a secure computer setup as I possibly good. Was it a chore? No - it wasn't a chore because I was totally 100% into that, and I enjoyed it every step of the way, just like when I'm trying to learn about hip-hop and I read about hip-hop for hours on end. I actually really like the subject, so whenever I decide to learn about it, it is never a chore - and this is similar to what you like too.
If you really want to learn something or do something, then you'll have probably already done it. If you haven't and you have every opportunity in the world to, then it's probably because you don't want to at all. Granted, there are factors, such as the way you learn being boring as hell, and a bad experience putting you off from what you want to learn. I want to learn French, but going on Duolingo (that proprietary snooping fuck) is a chore because the learning is so boring. When I pick up a French comic book or a novel, I actually want to learn what's being said, and that's why I want to learn French - to understand the artistic culture (and to make Quebec feel good). If you want to learn something, and your current methods aren't working, understand why you wanted to learn it in the first place and then focus intently on that.
So how do I write? I just spent a lot of time learning a lot of things I really liked, and then all of those things helped me become a better writer. I write a lot, not because I like writing. To be honest, writing is a gigantic, time-consuming, chore, to the point where it's less a hobby or a job that it is so ingrained in your being that to do anything else but spend three hours of your life every day sitting down and write, is so unthinkable that whenever you take a break, you feel like shit. It's like the world's most powerful addiction, simply. Is it a bad one? No - there are few things more useful in this world than to use the right words at the right time, being able to communicate with anybody about anything. But it does take a lot of time to write.
When you see, for instance, me write 3,000 words in a single update, or write a massive BUAFY, or write 14 reviews of an anime over two weeks, then know that it isn't because of some magical otherworldly thing. It's all very human and very simple. I simply spend the time to do the thing, and so I do it. I get past all the negatives, I get past all the "what if I'm not good enough?" (which I haven't had in over six months), and I get past every fibre in my body that wants me to be a lazy shit and take a break and give up... and the net result is that I get a blog that just so happens to write more words than any other thing I have ever written. Isaac Asimov described writing is hell (I BELIEVE). I'll describe it as the culmination of your entire human life. To be able to describe things to people in ways that literally nobody else on Earth can is a skill worth striving for - becoming a wizard means you're extremely powerful.
No, I won't tell you how to write, beyond "practice once in a fucking while", and also "ignore everything in your body that tells you not to practice, everything, and practice once in a fucking while", because that's pretty much all it is. Practice and practice and while you're practicing you also set up a blog and then write on it and publish it every day and eventually you get something monolithic that people enjoy and as a result of which you become a more fulfilled person that anybody else that you've ever known. I will say that how not to write is to expect that you can do what I'm doing at the outset. My very first articles were very small, updated only a thousand words a day or so. Yours will be a fucking lot smaller if you don't have the experience. It just grew to where it is today because of the time. I iterate again: practice once in a fucking while, and ignore EVERYTHING that says otherwise.
How do I write all of these? I got a life, and I lived it, and I wrote about what I learned. Nothing much more to say.
And it continues - Froghand.
Today's page was updated on October 17, 2016!
There actually is a lot to say. A lot.