Friday, March 7, 2014

Chapter 6, Milestone 1 reached!


Alright, the first milestone of Chapter 6 has been reached! The first 20% of the chapter are illustrated now and it took me a little bit less than three weeks to do that. That's lying within the timeframe I've expectated for a chapter as huge as this one.

It's such a good feeling to start once more into this adventure and to see the journey of Jonas and Raya unfold. I have to admit that it wasn't too easy for me to start my work on the first panel though. It's been nearly one full year since I've finished the last panel of Chapter 5 (on March 24th, 2013) and it felt a little bit unfamiliar at first. However, when the first panel was finished it all came back to me and I enjoyed this first 20% of this chapter enormously. Unfortunately I obviously can't talk much about what's happening in the chapter but it certainly is no secret that in the beginning Jonas and Raya are still on the transport ship. I loved to paint all the different people in the background and I even started to tell little stories with them that you most likely won't even see in the standard version of the graphic novel because a lot of it will be covered up by word balloons. However, I really enjoyed putting these little extras in there and I'm already looking forward to entering the big city of Kingspeak where even more people will be running around.

As always there's a sneak preview of this milestone for you:


 Aboard the transport ship, Jonas and Raya face an unpleasant surprise.
A NEW thing is that there now exists The Attic, a place where the most generous people on the planet gather, discover all sorts of exclusive material about the Wormworld Saga, and regularly support the project with a small subscription fee. To give you an additional incentive to join this group of fine people, from now on you'll find additional preview images with every milestone update in The Attic.

Ok, the next milestone will be delayed by at lest a week because once again I'm traveling to Graz, Austria to record new video trainings for Video2Brain. Although I'm generally not fond of delaying production, I'm really looking forward to that trip. And if you happen to be located in the vincinity of Linz, Austria, you might like to visit the Nextcomic Festival on which I will appear on Staturday, March 22nd to give a presentation about the Wormworld Saga on stage. I'd love to meet some fans from Austria and talk to them! And I'd be more than happy to sign anything you happen to bring with you.

Ok, on to the next milestone then!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chapter 6, Title Announcement


Man, every time I kick off the illustration phase of a new chapter - starting at 0% - I just can't believe the amount of work that's lying ahead of me. And this time this is especially true. As you can see in the milestone illustration above, Chapter 6 is going to be a MONSTER of a chapter. It's pretty much the size of Chapter 1 and 2 combined! It even makes the giant Chapter 5 look ridiculously small. And the beast has a name! The title of Chapter 6 of the Wormworld Saga is:

Chapter 6 - The Smoldering Doom

There you go. What a fitting title. Everything will go down. I will die trying to battle this beast.

Just kidding! In fact this chapter is so long for a very good reason. Since there also exists a book edition of the Wormworld Saga for some time now (in German and French as of this date) I started to wonder how many pages future books should have and how many chapters to put into each one of them. The first book contains the first three chapters which add up to 90 story pages which in fact is a very nice chunk to read. The second book is going to be a bit shorter containing Chapter 4 and 5. For the third book I'd love to have more pages to read again and so I decided to make Chapter 6 and 7 bigger, so that combined they will aproximately fill 100 pages.

The crazy thing is that although I intentionally gave me more room to "play" with this time I don't feel like I had more room that I needed. The different sequences in this chapter are still very concise and I often had to shorten things up in order to not run out of space. There are some more atmospheric shots in this chapter compared to the other ones and I even have some scenes in which there's no dialog at all. But from my point of view there's no "wasted" space in this chapter and I really think I wouldn't have been able to make it any shorter. Maybe it's true what they say: you'll always fill up the space that you're given.

Ok, so from now on there will be milestone updates again. With preview pictures! Man, I'm looking forward to that!

Stay tuned!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chapter 6 Production Starts!


It's February! I've finished my work on the game project I was talking about in my last few blog posts and now it's finally time to start the production of Chapter 6. First thing I had to do was to make some room for new chapters on the website. Our nice paper toys came in handy to temporarily fill some of the empty space on the new shelve. I have to make more chapters quickly in order to fill it up properly! :)

The Chapter 6 icon is going to reflect the milestones of the production so you will be able to check on my progress with a glance at the website. The main production steps will be:


Finishing the preliminary version

Our new baby kept us busy and I wasn't able to finish the preliminary version before the begin of production which was my original plan. Now that I can concentrate my time on the Wormworld Saga it should be finished soon though.

Title announcement and milestone steps

As soon as the preliminary version is finished I will present you the title of the new chapter and you will get the milestone update charts that you are used to. Every milestone update will come with preview images!

Editing

The translators and I will start to work on the different translations of the chapter as soon as possible (we can do it already with the prelim version) and when the illustrations are all finished I will do the word balloon layout and create the special content for Chapter 6.

Launch

My goal is to finish my work on Chapter 6 at the end of May. The closer we come to that date the more accurately will I be able to predict the actual launch date. With the preceding five chapters I've always launched as soon as possible. This time I want to make sure that the launch on the website will not happen before the launch in the app. I also have to coordinate the launch with the French website so there might be a little bit more waiting time than usual between the 100% milestone mark and the actual launch of the new chapter.

I'm really looking forward to the next few months. It's such a blessing that the budget for this chapters has been secured and I will work hard in order to make this a very special new chapter of the Wormworld Saga. I've been spinning it around in my head for over 9 months now and I'm eager to see it realized. I've got some pretty ambitious artwork lying in front of me and I have to admit that I'm a little bit nervous if everything will turn out the way I'm envisioning it. It's such a bizarre feeling to look at the long road and to imagine that at some point it will lie behind oneself. But then I'm looking at the existing 5 chapters and realize that it can be done. It's hard to believe but the evidence can't be ignored.

So, let's put on the walking shoes and go the distance!

Monday, January 13, 2014

2014 Kick-Off

Nicolás Lieske Costas, * 11th January 2014
Oops, my kick-off posting for this year is a bit late! I've been kind of occupied with preparations for the first big event of 2014 and this weekend it finally happened: our second son was born without complications and we all are very happy to welcome him to this world.

So, only two weeks in, one of the major goals of this year has already been accomplished (mostly by the mother though). Now it's my turn to reach for some additional goals and I'd like to inform you about what to expect from the Wormworld Saga this year.

Until the end of January I'm finishing up my freelance work on a game project that I had joined last year in July. I'm looking forward to share some of my artwork from that project but that won't happen before the release of the game which is scheduled for 2015.

In February I will finally start the production of Chapter 6 of the Wormworld Saga and I'm aiming at a release in May for that. As soon as production starts you'll receive milestone updates and preview images just like you're used to. And currently it looks like I'll be able to start with Chapter 7 right after the Chapter 6 relase so chances are that we will have at least two new chapters this year. And there's another thing I'm roughly planning for the middle of the year but more on that at a later point when those plans are a little bit more advanced.

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to the upcoming months. Chapter 6 has been building up in my head for more than 9 months now and I'm chomping at the bit to finally create it. It's going to be a huge chapter both in size and in relevance to the overall story. It will introduce new characters, hint at even more new characters and open up the scope of the story considerably. I'm really curious to find out how it will be received and of course this can only be accomplished by publishing it.

So, let's get busy!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

(click for larger version)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wormworld Saga lauches in France

wormworldsaga.fr is the new place to goe for French readers of the Wormworld Saga

I've already talked about the French edition of the Wormworld Saga here and there in older posts. Today can be regarded as the day on which the Wormworld Saga officially starts its adventurous journey into the Franco-Belgian market. Today the French version of the Wormworld Saga website has been launched:


So, now there are two Wormworld Saga websites which is quite an interesting development. Right from the beginning of the project my goal has been to reach an international audience with my story and to publish the Wormworld Saga in several different languages. With the amazing support from the fan translators and my volunteering layout assistant Ivan Berov (I can't praise him enough - by now I owe him at least one of my offsprings for all the chapter layouts he's already done...) this approach has branched out in ways I could never have imagined.
But of course there are limitation to how much content can be handled  in a reasonable amount of time by a small group of people. The Wormworld Saga website itself has always been in English and the special content of the Wormworld Saga App and The Attic only exists in English, too. There's not even a translation into my German mother language of these things. Everything - all the making of articles and author commentary - is created by me besides the graphic novel and it's just impossible for me to handle more than the English version of that content.

When Dupuis entered as the publisher of the French book edition of the Wormworld Saga we also talked about the digital version of the story and how we could develop it to support the printed version. I explained to them pretty much the things that I've written in the paragraph above: not even if they would provide translations for everything I wouldn't have the time to implement and maintain that content. That's when we decided that the only way to do it would be to branch of a French version of the Wormworld Saga website that would be completely maintained by Dupuis. And that's where we actually arrived today.

Louis-Antoine Dujardin and me at the French office of Dupuis in Paris
The new website brings some substancial advantages for the French readers of the Wormworld Saga. The most obvious one being that the whole website is in French language. More important, it features professionally edited versions of the French chapters. You won't believe the amount of typos and layout glitches that were fixed in the editing process! And the French readers can look forward to be able to access the special features of the Wormworld Saga in French language sometimes in the near future. The thing that I'm most happy about is the fact that Dupuis will keep access to the chapters free on the website. I actually hadn't expected that from a big publisher and I had already prepared to accept payed chapters as a compromise in exchange for the effort that is put into the website. But since the chapters remain free I can honestly say that this colaboration comes with absolutely no drawback for the fans.
As you can see, wormworldsaga.fr also comes with it's own design and feature set. When we first talked about the project I thought we might just copy the international website. But now that it received its own design, I'm loving the idea of a design competition between the two websites. I will have a close look at wormworldsaga.fr and I will definitely adopt ideas that work well for wormworldsaga.com (I really like that cover flow...).

Dupuis is on the children books fair in Montreuil now and is handing out the first info material about the upcoming book edition. I wish them a good time and hope that the Wormworld Saga has a great reception over there. I'm really looking forward to developing the French branch of the Wormworld Saga with the great team from Dupuis. Many thanks to Louis-Antoine, Laetitia, Mathias and all the other people involved.

And since wormworldsaga.fr has already revelead the covers of the first two French books I can share the cover illustration of book 1 with you! It's a custom version of one of the final panels of Chapter 3 and I really like how it turned out.



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Status Quo and Upcoming Chapters


Man, you haven't received a proper update from me for several months! I'm really sorry about that and I definitely owe you an explanation. The short version is, that the production of the Wormworld Saga currently is paused until the end of the year and before writing an update I wanted to gain some perspective on what happened and figure out how and when the project will continue. I have answers to these questions now and it's time to share them with you.

I've never told you much about the financial aspects of the Wormworld Saga. From the outside, financing the project must look like a pretty straightforward thing. I mean, everytime I've shared anything remotely related to money it normally incorporated a successful kickstarter campaign or a new potential revenue stream opening up. You've never heard about gaps in the cashflow or times when pure luck helped to continue the production. In other words: you've heard about the ups but never about the downs of this rollercoaster ride. If under the bottom line there was progress I figured that I just wouldn't need to bother you. Well, there's no way to give you a statisfying update now without shedding at least some light behind that curtain.

What happened

So, Chapter 5 was released in March. If you followed the production updates closely you've noticed that this was three months later than originally planned. Chapter 4 had been released in August 2012 and the reason for not starting the production of Chapter 5 right away were the launch preparations for the Wormworld Shop and the accompanying kickstarter campaign.
A proper shop had been on my wishlist for a long time and I figured that setting it up would be a good investment into the future of the project and that its launch would ultimately outweight the risk of delaying Chapter 5. However, chapter releases are my main source of income right at the moment. I receive payments from the publishing partners whenever a chapter is finished. Also sales in the app go up, as well as in the shop, due to increased traffic on the website. So it was a gamble - a new shop for a three months delay of the upcoming chapter.

When Chapter 5 was finally released at the end of March this year I had to realize that the money that remained in the budget would not have carried me through the whole production of Chapter 6. I had to think of yet another card to play. I researched that with a relatively small investment of time and money it was possible to offer the special content from the app directly on the website. My assumption was, that this feature had the potential to be embraced by the fans. A way to access the special features of the app without a tablet had often been requested. I spent four weeks and a couple of hundred dollars for a subscription software license to set up 'The Attic' and hoped that the initial signups would bridge the gap until the next chapter release.

This time I had gambled too high. The initial number of subscriptions stayed way below what I had hoped for. There was no substancial profit gained and the whole process had delayed the next chapter release for another four weeks. There remained a small chance though to get additional funds as the negotiations with the French publisher had advanced pretty far. However, for the time being I had no idea what they would pay and when.

I started the production of Chapter 6 and hoped for the cavalry to arrive in time but in late June I came to the point where I had to pull the plug and start to make some money through freelance work. I was pretty frustrated by the whole situation. The first time in two years I had to stop the full-time work on my project.

What's next

The good thing about low points like these is that from there things can only get better. In the meantime I have visited the Franco-Belgian comic publisher Dupuis in their Paris office. We had a great time forging plans for the French edition of the book and also the French digital version of the Wormworld Saga. Expect more info about that soon. Most importantly, we signed the long awaited contract and I was finally able to see what it will add to my production budget. Together with the German edition and my own digital revenue sources, over 60% of the production costs for another TWO chapters are secured. That's definitely enough to start with and I'm pretty confident that, once on the road, there will be ways to complete the budget. Chapter 6 and 7 are now scheduled for 2014 and are going to fill the third book.
 
So, the plan is now to produce the next two chapters in one big push. I will begin production as soon as possible which, due to my current freelance contract, will not be before January. In the meantime I'm going to spend some of my free time to finish the preliminary version of Chapter 6. I want to be ready to start right into the illustration work when the time comes. Needless to say that in my head I've constantly been working on the upcoming chapter and my feeling is that it will actually benefit from the additional time that I'm able to finetune it. I'm extremely looking forward to Chapter 6 as it will broaden the scope of the Wormworld and give the story a whole new twist. I can guarantee you that I'm doing everything I can to publish it as soon as possible. And now that we're all on the same page again there also will be updates more frequently.
 
In the last months I've received some emails from people asking if everything was ok. I honestly want to apologize for making people worry. Not communicating at all just wasn't a good idea. I had to figure out what this disruption meant for the project and I somehow stupidly thought that noone would bother if I kept silent for some time. I've often asked you for patience concerning my project but of course you can only be patient if you know what you are waiting for. I've learned this lesson now.

Thank you for your support!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lifesigns


After I've received a couple of emails in which people were asking if everything was alright with me I figured I should post at least a small update. Things indeed became mixed up quite a bit around here. It's too early to get into the details but I can definitely say that the production of Chapter 6 is delayed. There's going to be some important meetings in the next few weeks and after those I'll be able to make an estimation about the release of the next chapter. I'll also give a more detailed account of everything then. Right at the moment it's all a bit too complicated and there's also things that I just can't talk about yet.

I really appreciate that people care about my wellbeing and I'm really sorry that I can't write a more satisfying update just yet. I hope that everyone's enjoying the summer (at least in those regions where it's summer right now) and I'll do my best to prepare some excitement for the dark time of the year.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

RPC and Video Training News

Our cosy Wormworld Saga space at the RPC 2013
We've brought all products from the Wormworld Shop to the RPC
Note the little boy with the custom made 'Eyes of the Olynx' vest!
I made a drawing in each and every book that was sold!

The RPC Fantasy Award is the first big Award the Wormworld Saga  has won.

I thought I'd share some impressions from the 'Role Play Convention' in Cologne with you. It was a great event that was held in two large halls of the Cologne tradeshow center. My wife and I were invited by Tokyopop to join their booth with a small Wormworld Saga corner and we brought the full range of Wormworld Shop products with us. I signed books and had interesting talks with fans and other exhibitors. At Saturday night I attended the RPC Fantasy Awards stage show as the Wormworld Saga was nominated in the comics category. The book was awarded the first price which made me very happy because the price is voted by the audience. By Sunday noon we were sold out of all books the publisher had brought to the event which gave us a very good feeling when we traveled home in the afternoon.

In other news:

Video2Brain has published the first of the three new training courses that I recorded in April. The course is in German language. My English training videos have successfully migrated to Lynda.com and are available there from now on. Here are the links:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Welcome to The Attic!




Since mid-April I was working on a new section of the Wormworld Saga website and today I'm finally finished. I'm happy to announce to you:


I'm frequently asked if there is a possibility to access the special features from the Wormworld Saga App without owning a tablet device. Well, there hasn't been - until now. The video above gives you all the important facts about the new website and I've also setup an info page with more detail. Put in a nutshell, you get all the content from the app inside your browser only that you're not asked to pay a fixed sum per chapter but a yearly subscription fee instead.

I've been toying around with this idea for a long time now. Right after the release of the Wormworld Saga App I started to discuss a web version of the app with the developers because after a short time it was pretty evident that there were a lot of people who'd love to see the special content but just didn't own the neccessary tablet device to run the app. However, the additional investment wasn't something I could afford and I didn't want to start yet another kickstarter campaign for something like that.

It was in the end of last year that it dawned on me that it couldn't be such a big deal to bring the content from the app to the website myself. Exporting an Artwork and Prelim version was a straightforward thing and the author commentary popups weren't rocket science either (I found a free java script for that in mere minutes of online research). The artbook content was already formatted in HTML so it could directly be displayed in the browser. The biggest hurdle actually was to set up a system that would control the access to the special content on the website. I had really no idea how to do that.

And that's when I had my big breakthrough. I new how to bring all the content to the website and it was only the access management that was blocking my way. I'm running an online forum for over ten years now and a forum basically is nothing else than a system in which registered members can access a database to post comments. The forum software was a free script that I had installed back in the days and I figured that there also must be scripts out there that handle stuff like subscriptions, membership and limited access to content. And you BET there's scripts for that out there! The big problem actually is to find out which one of them is suitable for your needs.

I've spent weeks of research and nearly had settled on a solution when I stumbled over another system which ultimately became my script of choice. If anyone of you should be looking for a subscription system my recommendation would be amember from CGI-Central. It was easy to install, easy to configure (with very basic CSS knowledge and a little bit of trial and error that is), and the price of $170 (for the basic version) is really fair considering that you're getting a highly advanced system in which you can set up different products and maintain the user database (including payment processing, email messaging and everything). I'm really happy with the script and the costumer support (a part of the script caused an error on my server and a fix for that was provided within a few days).

Well, and now everything is up and (hopefully) running. Instead of having to make a big investment into a "web app" I only had to invest about 200€ and three weeks of coding to set everything up. I'm really curious to find out how many people will join The Attic. If you're already using the App there isn't a need to subscribe because you can get all the content inside the app for a fixed price and keep it for as long as you want. But for people that are interested in the content and don't have the means to download the app, The Attic is a great alternative. And it actually is a good deal because for the initial subscription fee of 9€ your're getting the special content of the current 5 chapters (which alone are worth 15€) and at least two more chapters that will be released within the next 365 days.

I'm also starting to think about stuff that would make The Attic even more interesting for fans but these things will have to wait. I've had enough of coding and scripting during the last three weeks and I'm happy to start my work on Chapter 6 now. God, I will have to create a TON of concept art for that chapter. Good for you to know that now there's a place to find it! :)