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Tim and I arrived in San Diego last night around midnight and had a quick meeting with John and Dan at the Behemoth office before packing it in at the hotel here in Little Italy. The air outside was cool, but the non-air conditioned hotel room still managed to be hot.
I wake up at 5:44am - partly due to excitement but also because it's 8:44am on the east coast, which is way past when I normally get up nowadays. I've been on a jogging kick lately, so I attach my iPod and go to it. I start my routine with a jog AWAY from downtown, towards the airport and the neighborhood under its noisy flight path. This is a redevelopment district, so it's always fun to see what pops up. There are a variety of art galleries and boutique shops that somehow manage to stay in business despite not having any customers or local foot traffic. I like to imagine the shop owners come in when they're tired of sitting by the pool. Rather than run a business to make a living, maybe they do it to make themselves more interesting at coctail parties. A few of the galleries from last year are vacant, but new ones have sprung up. It's dead silent this early in the morning.
My jog loops around towards the waterfront, back past the hotel and in the direction of downtown. Interpol's "Heinrich Maneuver" kicks in on my iPod with, "How are things on the west coast?", which seems appropriate, like I'm in a movie. I pass Broadway and the outdoor mall with Jamba Juice (my favorite quick morning stop in San Diego) but don't stop because I still have a good bit of jogging in me. I go to where downtown dead-ends into the convention center (aka Mecca) and jog up the trail towards the Omni Hotel, where I've stayed with April during two previous Comic-Cons (she used up all her vacation days on the honeymoon this year).
From there, I loop back around and weave through the Gaslamp district, looking for changes since last year. I'm devastated to find that Bassam, my favorite local coffee shop, is vacant and available for lease. It looks like the Starbucks across the street finally won. It wasn't enough that another Starbucks was two blocks away, they had to make sure Bassam didn't stand a chance. During the Alien Hominid crunch, I would make nightly trips to Bassam for their chai latte. Sometimes I would go to Borders and listen to CDs while sipping my chai, picking out new music to fill those lonely late-night coding sessions.
Jogging back towards the hotel, I finally stop at Jamba Juice for a wheat grass shot (for old time's sake) and protein smoothie. I try to jog with my smoothie but ended up walking most the way back. The streets are still really quiet this time of day, mostly just me and the people who keep the sidewalks clean. I was caught off-guard by the sound of pounding club music - apparently 4th and B had some all-night rave that was still going into the early morning hours.
Returning to Little Italy, I pass a new gelato spot and a place called Intelligent Design, but not in the Biblical sense. I toss my cup in the trash and do one last sprint for the hotel. I figure if I don't make a post about something this morning, I'll be too busy to do it later today. :)
Today is my last day in the office before I fly out to San Diego on Sunday. I have to leave in an hour for a wedding and tomorrow we'll be celebrating April's birthday, since I'll be away on July 23rd, her REAL birthday. April couldn't come out to Comic-Con this year because all her vacation days were spent on our honeymoon. :(
I figured for the sake of a blog post, I'd talk about some of the preparation! The Castle Crashers demo is already prepped and ready to go in San Diego. We've also shipped out the 20,000 Newgrounds flyers we'll be giving away - each featuring the artwork from the Flash Portal front page, with artist autographs on the back (re-prints, not signed in ink).
We will be introducing five new NG shirts at Comic-Con, all of which are already waiting in San Diego. We'll be bringing our remaining stock of AngryFaic shirts, as well as NG stickers, AngryFaic stickers, Pico sticker sheets and NEW Tankmen sticker sheets (see crappy scan below)!
We've also packed up two widescreen monitors that we'll be using for Castle Crashers in the Behemoth booth. Tim got a Sprint data plan for his laptop, so we'll have Newgrounds up and running on a flat panel TV in the Newgrounds booth. We won't let people browse the site, but we'll play music from the Audio Portal and play movies by request when it's convenient.
This is the first year that Newgrounds has its own booth, rather than sharing space with the Behemoth. We'll be at booth 4529, around the corner from the Behemoth and adjacent to the College University booth!
For the flight, I'm bringing a book given to me by FrostedMuffins' dad last year after Comic-Con: Smart Bomb. I've already read the first three chapters, but I'd feel like a real jerk if I hadn't read the entire book by the time I see him again. It's a great book, too! I love reading about stuff like the IGF and Cliffy B (the lead designer behind Gears of War). :)
This year is gonna be so insane I'm afraid to even try to list all the people who are showing up. Guys like Luis, The-Swain, Rog, BoMToons, Krinkels and The Super FLASH Bros... Not to mention booths for College University and Tomorrow's Nobodies!
It's gonna be a crazy year.
That Walmart commercial pisses me off because they actually have a black t-shirt with a white loading bar on it. That's one of the t-shirts we were planning to make for the NG store, only with the omnipresent loading bar from the NG pre-loader, that has been stripped apart and used by people who don't even know about NG.
So the tank trophy castings are ready for pickup, but due to a slight miscommunication with the foundry, it turns out they are costing a bit more than expected... Like thousands of dollars more, WHOOPS! I'm not sure how many we'll give out this year, but it won't be all 20. I gotta make these puppies last. Maybe we'll just have a GAME of the year and a MOVIE of the year for the next ten years!
I keep checking the LATEST SUBMISSIONS list on the front page to see if it's getting results. I don't want a single submission to fall off that list without at least 1,000 views, but sadly that's not the case. At least the blue submissions seem to get 1,000 views before they fall off the list, that's a start.
So I'm cooking up ideas for what the next "NG" collab will be. Right now I'm pretty deadset on doing an I AM LEGEND collab, since I just read the book (it's really a short story). I figure the Will Smith movie will be a big hit, and what's better fodder than Will Smith vs a world of zombie vampires?
The whole theme, if it's like the book, is that Will Smith is the last man on earth, where a disease has turned mankind into zombie vampires. By day, he hunts sleeping vampires and repairs his house. By night, he hangs out in his house while zombie vampires try to break in and feast on his blood. If you want a homework assignment, the story is just 160 pages.
Now for the collab, people could choose to either make a movie about the daytime or a movie about the night. We'll then piece them all together with a fun little "sunrise / sunset" transition... And Stamper added that numbering the days would be cool, so during the sunrise transition it would be like DAY 1, DAY 2, etc. If we give out prizes, maybe the prize could be something like an ultimate vampire DVD collection, or a trip to Philadelphia to watch the premier with us, or just no prizes whatsoever.
I'm really enjoying collabs because all my other projects are stretching on for years. I'm thinking it might be cool to nurture an existing culture on NG where more people take on their DREAM projects, but take time out to goof off and participate in collabs along the way, without getting too sidetracked. It feels like a good way to go for someone who wants to dream big, but also wants to maintain some visibility and have fun along the way.
I would say this has been a pretty eventful week! It all started on Monday, when Tim took the site down at 10am. Ross was still on the train and a bunch of us were having a last minute breakfast meeting, but I respect Tim's moxie with sticking to the schedule.
From this point forward, all the pressure was on Ross, LilJim and Tim to move everything over from staging and get it running in the new environment. Mike made some last minute tweaks to the audio player, Stamper and MindChamber worked on their Blamformers! submissions, Jeff worked on Comic-Con booth art, Bob tinkered with CSS and I prepped the final Blamformers .FLA file with over 30 submissions.
The team worked for the next 15 hours, until after 1am. Keep in mind, Ross had been up since at least 5am and LilJim is in the UK, meaning it was 6am his time when we stopped for the day.
I went home and got some sleep, then returned to the office at 7am with two dozen donuts and some bagels (the least I could do - although being excited about the redesign is hard work). Progress resumed for another nine hours, until we launched the site at 4pm. Blamformers launched about six hours later, after some Flash upload bugs were resolved.
I figure I might as well talk about Blamformers because that's what I worked on this week... Ross, Liljim and Tim can all post about their individual redesign launch experiences, because the credit all goes to them. I will say, we haven't broken out the beer yet!
So Blamformers was a lot of fun to put together. I was hoping a few more "award winning artists" would participate, but I didn't want to bug people to do it - I figured if there were any TF fans out there and they had the time, they would toss something together. Overall, the submissions we got were a lot of fun! I had to leave out a few submissions, due to matters such as file size and "flow", and it really does make me feel bad. I like to maximize happiness; I hate having to do something that hurts someone's feelings, especially after they've spent time creating something for my benefit. The artists who weren't included have probably been discouraged from participating in NG activities, which bums me out.
Still, I'm happy to have been able to squeeze over 30 submissions into 10 megs! There was hours of vector optimization and "symbolizing" involved, as I call it. A lot of people make 1 meg movies that can really fit in 100-200k if done right. Nowadays people don't worry so much about their filesize, but I still embrace the time when I was making Flash content for my 33.6k modem almost a decade ago. Kinda sad that I'm approaching a decade of Flash use, and my contribution to the collab was squiggly Autobot doodles, although I would rather make something that looks stupid and funny than something that looks like it took a lot of work and still ended up being lame. I suppose a lot of people around here do that, so we all gotta appreciate the stuff that looks nice. :)
ANYWAY... The navbar in the collab is actionscript-based, where the author name and music ID is a variable associated with each submission. This made everything easier to maintain as I added submissions and moved them around. The end of each movie calls a function that runs the logo transition then advances to the next submission. Originally, you could cycle from end to start and start to end in a loop, but I decided to stick with a more linear path where the collab had a definite start and a definite ending. I hope the NG logo at the end doesn't feel too smug. I'm always worried that we're getting too "smug" with our handsome staff icons, over-baked staff page and pat-yourself-on-the-back submission intros, but it's all in good fun and I like to think it adds to the excitement of everything we're doing. Just know that we don't take ourselves that seriously and we end up hating everything we make, either as we make it or shortly after. I still like the Blamformers collab, though, since I was only a small part of it. I fast forward past mine.
Other than that, I've been reading all the forum posts, reading the news and blog responses and reading the artist news posts! We're all jotting down notes and trying to set priorities, although right now the big priorities revolve around server performance, as mentioned in my latest front page post.
By now you might be noticing something a little confusing: I still make "front page news posts" in the form of traditional forum posts, but I'm posting additional news here on my personal page, as well! I was a bit conflicted with this concept at first, but it's actually really cool.
You see, over the years my role within Newgrounds has sort of changed. The front page space didn't really feel like a place for me to discuss my own day to day thoughts and ideas, and I basically became a mouthpiece for the site and not for myself. Now, I have my own place, where I can complain about stupid shit whenever I want. Expect the front page posts to remain very NG community-centric (with the occasional plugs for my console projects, such as Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers), while tomfulp.newgrounds.com will be much more Tom-centric... More of a behind the scenes of day to day life at NG and beyond.
The user pages are also one more step towards a more "total Democratization" of Newgrounds. One of my big goals has always been for everyone to be able to use the site the same way I do. For example, I once would build pages for each of my games and give them a special showcase spot on the front page, but now I just submit them to the Portal and they are promoted in the same way as any other Portal submission. OK, maybe I leave them on the front page extra long... Life's not always fair. :)
User pages are an extension of that same mentallity. I didn't like the way the old front page affiliate posting system worked; it excluded a lot of people who deserved front page posting access, but I couldn't possibly give it to everyone because official site news would always be getting bumped off the front page. Now, EVERYONE who contributes to the site (in the form of Flash or music) has the ability to post news to the front page, albeit in a space below the official site news. Everything has been brought up alongside the content submissions, so now people don't have to scroll all the way down to find it.
As new features are introduced to user pages over time, I hope to see more people running their own "Newgrounds within Newgrounds"... Where they cultivate their own environment of news and content (not just their own submissions). Essentially, every user page on Newgrounds should have the potential to emulate the traditional Newgrounds front page, but with control in the hands of the user who maintains it.
My goal is that 20-30 years from now, when I'm an old man and no longer hip with the kids, I'll retire to tomfulp.newgrounds.com (where I will continue to post news and showcase my favorite submissions) and a democratically elected user will rise from the ranks to oversee the Newgrounds front page for as long as his term may last. Or maybe I'll just hand it over to my kids or someone from the staff, I can't make any promises there... It just seems like a cool idea. BYE!