Time for me to get a job

The time is nigh and my little sabbatical since April is coming to a close. The signs are manifest. Money is dwindling in my bank account and I’m running out of classic games to sell on eBay. There is a large cherry tree in my parents’ backyard with all but a few yellowed leaves fallen. Yup, that’s the universe again, talking through metaphor.

Something tells me that I won’t be needing to apply for that job in the health food store deli, stocking the buffet with my expertise in that area of food service. As much as I enjoy having a such a humble occupation and existence, I’m feeling increasingly inspired for something that capitalizes on my other potentialities.

As a newly self-identified “Stirlingite”, or fan of Lindsey Stirling’s YouTube channel, and seeing what I saw on the finals of Dancing With The Stars (did that freestyle with the violin really happen?!), I say to myself, Gosh, look at that. Total redemption and victory on so many levels! They once told her “no”, yet she did it anyway, and achieved perfection. And at the astonishment of even the hosts!

Seeing this story play out has been very inspiring. What can I learn from this that can be put into action in my own life? I have already mastered the occupation of the vegan sous chef. What avenues are there from which I can pursue with others that continues to develop my creative potential? What does that next step entail?

In my previous job stints, I have usually assumed the role of the “expert assistant”, as my previous employer called me. In my favorite books by Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work!, his advice is to “stand next to the talent in the room.” If there was a dream job, it would be standing next to Lindsey to watch what she does and do what she tells me to do. Heck, I’d even move to LA and drive the tour bus!

It’s too bad those Seattle L.S. tickets for Dec. 16 went so fast! I’d go there and hand her a resume. I guess one can only dream at this point, but sometimes the universe opens the door.

Thank you

I just want to say that I’m extremely honored to have been a part of your creative process. What wonder at how connected we all are!

And don’t worry– no “analysis” posts or videos from me. My lips are sealed! And I hope you two can mend your friendship.

To cement a tradition of awkward gift-giving from a fan, I would like to offer you a gift for Christmas! It’s only two of a kind: I made both of them ten years ago in June. Gave one to someone and kept a copy for myself. It was well-received! I’d be honored to give it to you someday. For what it’s worth.

Again, thank you so much (everyone!) for this experience!

So much love!
-Arc

I am JEALOUS.

Five years ago, in 2012, I brought home my first smartphone and before I really got to play with it, I remember my roommate inviting me over to Bluebeard coffee in Tacoma where he was studying, which was down the street from our South 15th street apartment. He really loved that place, even though he is not a coffee drinker. He even bought a logo T-shirt a painting off the wall!

I sat there at the window seating, staring at my touchscreen blankly, fingers hovering over motionless, wondering what to do with it first. I’ll need music, of course, so let’s get an app for that! I discovered Pandora, and thought it a good idea to add a station that played video game music, also of course. In between songs from the soundtrack, a violinist to dubstep music came on. It was one of those, okay, what is this moments that compelled me to look at the screen and hit that thumbs up button. That was the moment that Lindsey Stirling would forever be my go-to Pandora station for all upbeat music needs, whether during exercise or driving, doing dishes or visualizing a story in the dark in my mostly empty room. I watched one of her music videos, Crystallize, and thought it was very cool how she had so many talents on display with her YouTube channel.

Flash forward to present. Last week, I’m listening again, and another one of those songs comes on that just stops me in my tracks. Okay, Lindsey, what have you come up with this time is my thought as I hit that replay button (the song was “The Arena”, by the way). I got tired of hitting the replay button and bought the whole dang album. Then I realized, I haven’t visited her YouTube page in almost five years. What?!

Now I wish I hadn’t, because now I’m JEALOUS!

It happened when I saw this:

Why am I jealous? Because I wanted to make music videos like this animated one! With the simple stylized graphics and visual storytelling and all, and nine million views? She is living the dream (need I shamelessly plug my Dragon Warrior music video previsualization again?).

What’s more is that there seems to be a treasure-trove of hidden gems in the form of symbols and metaphor laden throughout this as well as her other amazing and best-ever music videos. Why haven’t I noticed this before?

And why haven’t I noticed Dia Frampton before? I should have — she shared the stage with Vicci during the finals of The Voice Season 1, except I didn’t watch any of it other than Vicci’s audition on YouTube back then (I’m a terrible fan, I know).

Anyone else notice this?

After making an astonishing discovery digging through the content of the game Tacoma, I’m hooked on the “easter egg” hunt, and I think I’ve found some more! And I didn’t even have to look any further than Tacoma’s very own Vicci Martinez! Watch her music video for “Stay Awake” very carefully:

If you are any fan of Vicci Martinez, you know her Live DVD literally tells you it features “easter eggs” on the back of the DVD case. So, if you want to find them for yourself, don’t read any further and have another look from the source!

**EASTER EGG SPOILER ALERT!**

In the DVD, you can watch a song she messed up on that is not accessible via the DVD menu by accessing the player’s hierarchy system and selecting the secret chapter: Chapter 5 of Title 3. I just love it when artists put secrets in their work for you to discover, but the thing is you gotta be looking for them (like in the game Tacoma, as well as in my Dragon Warrior tribute previs! Hey, I can self-promote if I want to).

Back to the Stay Awake music video: I am seeing in the film direction what appears to be a foreshadowing toward the end. Like, wouldn’t you want to know what happens next? Where did the girl disappear to without her luggage? Where are his dancing legs carrying him away to? Can we find out for ourselves? Who’s with me on this? Anybody?

Look at this: these two

Here is the first time we see the dancer:


He seems to be on the move...

Do you know where in Tacoma this dancer is? If you love Tacoma as much as I do, then any time a location is featured in an art video you’ll want to pinpoint exactly where it is to, you know, gawk and whatnot.

How about the girl?  


Now where could this be?

If you are listening to the lyrics, “we break up to make up”. I’m going to guess these two are coming rather than going. They are, after all, facing each other.

Look at this: the map of Tacoma

Figure out where they are yet? No? Okay, I’ll give you another minute. Here’s a tip: use Google Maps/Earth and scroll around. That’s what I did. Ready now? Okay.


Looks familiar...

 


Yup, definitely the East 11th Street Bridge
I still love MS Paint

If you look at the map and imagine they keep going along the street they’re on, where would their paths cross in Tacoma? Aha, so they’d meet at South 12th and Pearl. Why there? Maybe have an early morning picnic while they make up in Minniti field? Or maybe they’re students at Tacoma Community College!

Is that all there is to it? Is there anything more to discover within this body of work having to do with this location on the map? What about the cover artwork for the digital album release that features the song “Stay Awake”?

Look at this: the album artwork

It’s clear by this artwork that VM identifies with her roots in Tacoma. I know the sentiment, but was there any particular reason this spot in Tacoma was chosen (other than the obvious presence of the Old City Hall building)? Let’s take a look!

It seems that if you draw a straight line from where they meet on 12th and Pearl to where the dancer first appears in the video, it passes right through the middle of the photo! So what does this line have to do with VM identifying with Tacoma? Follow the line…


Jazzbones?

Bluebeard coffee?

 


Notice how the photographer is positioned? Yup, facing the direction of the line.

So could there have been any thought put into where on East 11th Street to take the album photo of Tacoma? Here’s an idea:


The girl at the ferry dock looks to Mt. Rainier?

"Coincidence?"

If you draw a line from the ferry terminal to the peak of Mt. Rainier, the photo could have been taken by the dancer on E 11th St right near the spot his path crosses this line.

So there you have it. Was I reaching here? Or was this an intentionally made rabbit hole to go down, left for you to discover by an artist who pays attention to every little detail and wants you to do the same? Could Steve and Karla have spotted this and took inspiration from it, leading them to embed their own special tribute to her in their game, hidden in plain sight?

Did Tacoma, Washington’s Vicci Martinez inspire a whole new genre of video game?

Hello from Tacoma, Washington!

That’s right, readers, I have since quit my job at the Krishna buffet in Denver so I could move back home to Tacoma, Washington! It’s been surreal to be back in my beloved hometown after being homesick in Colorado. During those last few months there I put my controller down and revisited some albums from Tacoma native Vicci Martinez. Next I took a virtual trip down memory lane (i.e. Sixth Avenue) thanks to Google’s Street View and listened to Angel. Those first forty seconds of the instrumental intro to her song blasted me right into nostalgic bliss as it invoked memories of cycling across the city streets enjoyed with youthful freedom.

It had been nearly two years since last I had been to my hometown. Longest stretch ever before this was six months. I was in an especially unique and timely frame of mind. Unique in that it had never felt so magical to be home in my parents’ house in central Tacoma where I grew up, and timely because right around the corner was the release of Fullbright’s next highly anticipated game, Tacoma. What inspired Steve Gaynor and Karla Zimonja of Fullbright to choose our hometown? And, as the title suggests, could Vicci herself have anything to do with it?

 

*** SPOILER ALERT! ***

 

Let’s get right down to it, then. To begin, there’s Fullbright’s first game, Gone Home, released in 2013. It was a groundbreaking game because it featured an environment to explore to piece together a story, yet there were no guns or enemies to kill, or any real gameplay. Just walk around and search for the next part of the story. Basically a walking simulator. It was the story itself that was the real meat of the game: a realistic portrayal of a high school girl falling in love with a female classmate, the rejection and lack of support from her religious parents, and ultimately ending with the girls running away together. As a fan of Vicci’s, the parallels here are rather striking. The girl’s lover even joined a heavy metal band as the vocalist and played gigs. Striking, indeed, but “coincidence?”

I didn’t really give it much thought back then of this connection, but when I learned that their next game is called Tacoma, and was originally to be set in a house in Tacoma, Washington? Well that narrows it down a bit! Let’s read on!

Aboard the Lunar Transfer station Tacoma in the year 2088 there are six human crewmembers who have disappeared after an accident who you can dig up secrets about. Among those six from various parts of the world there is E.V. St. James who hails from Tacoma, Washington. (I’ll give you three guesses what that “V.” stands for in her name.) Here’s some info about her you will find out in your dig through her personal quarters:


Evie is captured in a recording singing a jazz song and playing her guitar

There are sticky notes on her headboard with what look like chords. So does this Evelyn Victoria also enjoy some singing/songwriting in her free time?

She is grieving the loss of a family member, her sister, as you will discover with your incessant digging up of her personal artifacts.

Evie doesn’t really look like Vicci, however, as she is black and has curly hair more like mine, but Natali Kuroshenko certainly fits the description.


Clive towers over tiny Natali. So many "ee" sounds with the first names. Evie, Natali, Vicci. Just sayin'.

Well paint me brown and call me Mexican! I’ve decided Natali is an intentional lookalike and you won't convince me otherwise.

So there you have it. I can now safely say that, as a classically-raised gamer of thirty years in Tacoma, having been a witness to the evolution of this medium, I am especially thrilled that someone from the City of Destiny could inspire not one but two games, as well as a whole new-and-favorite genre and contribute to the pages of video game history.

So thanks, Steve and Karla. You two are the best! Can you make a game about me next? I can do all kinds of cool things! Have you seen my manualism video? Let’s talk! Hit me up!

Edit: Oh shit I just realized — guess who’s birthday it is as of this posting?! Happy 33rd, Vicci!

PS: You can still borrow my Xbox to play this game, but it’s my brother’s so please don’t break it if you do borrow it. Let me know and I’ll bring it to your next show.

Dragon Warrior Tribute Previs Analysis

It’s been three months since I (finally) shared my EPIC Dragon Warrior Tribute previsualization music video with the world via YouTube, and I’m humbled by the view count racking up since its release. Thank you! All ten of you! The reception, feedback, and praise I’ve received from you is a super confidence booster — so thanks, mom!

In all seriousness, it’s time to give you a glimpse of what went into the thinking behind this project. It’s a tribute video, after all, and all of its content is stolen from the game and put back together again in the form of a fan’s interpretation. What’s more, I wanted the viewer to recognize the things from the game and say “wow! It’s so true to the game!”

Did you play the game, then watch my tribute video, and carefully compare the two? I mean really scrutinize this video shot-for-shot to look at everything? Anybody? Probably not, because who cares to make time for that shit? So let me show you a few things you might have missed.

In the opening scene, our hero, the descendant of Erdrick, is walking along a jagged and colorful landscape. Did you notice the video’s landscape is to the scale of the original 8-bit source, but in three dimensions?

See it now? Let’s move on!

In this terribly pixelated shot of my video, we can see what looks like a familiar place in Alefgard, and though there aren’t any Green Dragons where our hero is walking, they can be found in the swamp just south of him.


I don’t know who “Domi” is, but thanks for making it so I didn’t have to play all the way through to get this graphic

I didn’t bother adding color to the model yet, because I didn’t get to it in time. I had a deadline, ya know! Plus, who the hell is actually watching this? Anyway, how about I do it now for ya in Microsoft Paint.


MS Paint 4 life!

I could keep going, but I’ll let you (not care) to discover the rest! I will say that I really only changed a few things from the original game in my tribute, such as the location of the swamp where you find Erdrick’s Token, our hero not wearing his helmet in the beginning (but that’s because I forgot!), no cape or helmet tassel, and green dragons don’t grow into red ones. You also can’t be disarmed in the game. That’s about it.  

How about I finish this post off with the best “easter egg” in my video yet:

Look at that – it is the same thing you see on the game’s box art! The scenes flowed so naturally that I bet you didn’t even notice I slipped that easter egg in there. Because you didn’t even watch my video, that’s why.

Am I right?

My Dragon Warrior tribute project

Way back in 2005, I was listening to a song and a flood of epic visuals came over me of a young Descendant of Erdrick aimlessly walking the lands of Alefgard, encountering a fierce dragon, being beaten, rising up from defeat with renewed determination and purpose, taking on numerous trials and tribulations that would give him strength and courage, leading him to the ultimate climax of facing the dragon one more time to emerge victorious, with the music setting the emotion and flow of the visuals. Though the song didn’t quite fit, I still couldn’t stop fantasizing about seeing this music video play out in front of my eyes. The time and skill involved in making it a finished project would prove to be too ambitious, but that didn’t stop me from at least creating a visualization of it to just see what my vision would actually look like on the computer screen. This is the result of a few months of painstaking work using computer animation software to create the 3D assets I would need to make this visualization.

 

This project officially began in July 2014 when a friend had offered to take me in as an “apprentice” in exchange for doing work for him and his family. He is a designer by trade and a skilled artist specializing in sculpting, but has extensive knowledge, facilities and equipment to do just about anything involving arts and crafts, digital as well as traditional. He provided me with the software (which cost almost a grand if I wanted my own license), as well as clay to sculpt by hand, which is how I got the reference source to make the 3D dragon.

My mentor gave me useful advice and direction on how to go about a production, as there are many ways one can waste time if one does not have experience with animated video production. So I started with a storyboard on paper and worked out what assets I would need.

Since this is a tribute project of the NES game Dragon Warrior, most of the assets could be obtained by using the game’s original art as a reference, so all I would need to do is create 3D versions of them.

Once the assets were made, I began work on the animation. One month later, this neat music video! And then I decided to never work with computer animation again and became a chef.

The end.