Today’s Art (31st July 2016)

Well, although I was in a slight rush when I made this digitally-edited painting, at least I was feeling slightly more inspired than I was when I made yesterday’s painting. Even so, this painting is more of a practice painting than anything else.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Reflection" By C. A. Brown

“Reflection” By C. A. Brown

Top Ten Articles – July 2016

2016 Artwork Top Ten Articles July

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time to give you a list of links to my favourite ten articles (plus a couple of honourable mentions) about writing, art and/or comics that I posted here this month.

All in all, this month has been a reasonably good one in terms of articles, although I ended up writing a ridiculously large number of articles about making webcomics.

I don’t know, I seem to be going through a “webcomics” phase at the moment (and the fact that I was busy with the upcoming follow-up to “Damania Restricted” at the time of writing these articles probably had something to do with it too).

Anyway, here are the lists:

Top Ten Articles For July 2016:

– “Three Very Basic Tips For Developing Your Own Art Style
– “Should Your Webcomic Have A Theme?
– “Four Very Basic Ways To Deal With Comics Burnout
– “Four Ways To Make Sure People Actually Read Your Book After They’ve Bought It
– “Four Quick Ways To Come Up With Titles For Your Webcomic Updates
– “Why Your Webcomic Should Have Rules (With Four Examples)
– “Four Ways To Start A Long-Running Webcomic
– “Why You Should Make Art When You’re Feeling Uninspired
– “Four Sneaky Ways To Make “Talking Head” Webcomics Look More Interesting
– “How To Turn Stock Webcomic Characters Into Something More Interesting

Honourable mentions:

– “The Joy Of… Space Zombies
– “One Easy Way To Make Your Characters’ Political Opinions More Realistic

Today’s Art (30th July 2016)

Well, I was feeling fairly uninspired when I made today’s painting. In fact, this painting also required some fairly extensive digital editing after I scanned it, since I messed up the colour scheme in the original painting (and because I wanted to add some stuff to the background digitally, and cover up a couple of mistakes too).

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Cold Sector" By C. A. Brown

“Cold Sector” By C. A. Brown

Mini Review : “Epic 2” (WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”/ “GZ Doom”)

2015 Artwork Epic 2 WAD review sketch

[Note: This “first impressions”/mini review article was originally meant to be posted here in March, but I ended up rescheduling it for various reasons. Sorry about the delay.]

Well, after seeing some gameplay footage from this WAD in a Youtube video, I thought that I’d take a look at a 32-level “Doom II” WAD from 2010 called “Epic 2“.

Before I go any further, I should probably point out that I used the “GZ Doom” source port whilst playing this WAD. Likewise, at the original time of writing this review, I was somewhere between halfway and two-thirds of the way through this WAD – so, this review only reflects my impressions of the game up to that point. Unfortunately, at the time, I ended up moving on to another WAD before I quite had a chance to finish “Epic 2” if I remember rightly.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Epic 2”:


One of the first things I will say about this WAD is that the settings in it are really interesting. From what I’ve played so far, there are levels set in both ancient Egypt and on a mysterious alien spacecraft of some kind.

As someone who is both a sci-fi fan and a fan of ancient Egypt, it’s really cool to see both of these things together in the same WAD. Seriously, it’s a little bit like “Stargate SG-1”.

Although this WAD gets off to a bit of a slow start, with the first four levels mostly taking place in a series of slightly gloomy ancient Egyptian crypts, temples, catacombs and tunnels, with the occasional bright outdoor area to break up the monotony – the fifth level is more than a little bit reminiscent of the first “Serious Sam” game in terms of both settings and gameplay.

Yay! It's like a mid-1990s version of "Serious Sam" :)

Yay! It’s like a mid-1990s version of “Serious Sam” 🙂

The sci-fi levels are surprisingly creepy and innovative too, with a slight “Duke Nukem 3D” feel to them. Also, the thirteenth level of this WAD is absolutely outstanding.

Basically, you’re stuck in a rather claustrophobic series of corridors, with relatively little ammo and lots of arch-viles. In addition to this, the background music in this level is a wonderfully creepy track that sounds a lot like something from “American McGee’s Alice“. I don’t think that you can get more awesome than this.

Even though this level reminded me quite a bit of one spectacular level in a WAD I played quite a while ago called “Equinox“, it’s still a really cool (and creepy) level.

 Seriously, there should be more of these levels..

Seriously, there should be more of these levels..

In terms of difficulty, this WAD is for experienced “Doom” players only. If you like your WADs to be fiendishly challenging, then you’ll love “Epic 2”.

Although each level I’ve played contains a large number of monsters, proper “slaughtermap”-style areas (with far more monsters than you can actually fight) are fairly rare in this WAD.

Even so, you’re still going to have to use a lot of tactics and strategies if you want to get through this WAD. This WAD also takes a bit of a traditionalist approach to the gameplay – so, jumping is disabled by default.

Plus, quite fittingly for a WAD that is set in Ancient Egypt, there are a surprising number of puzzles in “Epic 2”. Whilst most of them are the usual switch-based and key-based puzzles, expect to spend a fair amount of time searching for hidden areas (you’ll need to find some of them in order to progress through a couple of the levels) and even solving the occasional combination puzzle:

 Interestingly, this ISN'T the combination you have to use later in the level. You have to do something else to find the actual combination.

Interestingly, this ISN’T the combination you have to use later in the level. You have to do something else to find the actual combination.

Visually, this WAD is surprisingly beautiful and there are a lot of new textures here. Even the slightly “gloomy” early levels still contain all sorts of wonderfully cool ancient Egypt-themed textures:

Like this wondefully macabre room.

Like this wondefully macabre room.

And there's also molten lava in one of the other early levels too.

And there’s also molten lava in one of the other early levels too.

...And this cool teleporter in the last "Ancient Egypt" level.

…And this cool teleporter in the last “Ancient Egypt” level.

Although most of the weapons in this WAD are just the standard “Doom II” weapons, the pistol ammunition looks like revolver ammunition for some reason and the rocket launcher now looks like a vaguely steampunk-esque cannon of some kind:

Huzzah! Fire the cannon!

Huzzah! Fire the cannon!

As for the monsters, a few of them (the imps, the chaingun zombies and the pain elementals) have slightly different textures. However, this WAD does contain a new monster.

During the spaceship levels, you’ll encounter aliens that can appear and disappear at will. These aliens also shout at you (I think they say “there he is” or “there she is” or something like that) when they see you too.

Although these new monsters are technically a replacement for the “Wolfenstein” enemies from the secret level (so, this WAD might not work if you have the German version of “Doom II” or the modern censored version), they’re basically a new monster in all but name:

Yay! Innovation!

Yay! Innovation!

All in all, from what I’ve played so far, I really like this WAD. It’s enjoyably challenging and surprisingly atmospheric. Yes, the really impressive levels don’t appear until a little way into the WAD but it’s certainly a fairly solid “Doom II” WAD and it’s worth checking out.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, I’d give it a four.

Today’s Art (29th July 2016)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s art post, I had an interesting dream that contained a lot of fascinating locations and I’ve tried to turn a couple of them into paintings, albeit slightly rushed ones. I’m not sure if they’ll be a third painting in this series or whether I’ll paint something else for tomorrow.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"The Houses On The Hill (A Dream)" By C. A. Brown

“The Houses On The Hill (A Dream)” By C. A. Brown

Humour Types In Webcomics (With Comic Preview)

2016 Artwork Humour Variety In Webcomics Article sketch

Although I’m busy making the next mini series of my long-running webcomic (it’ll be posted here in early- mid August, but you can check out the previous mini series here, here, here and here) at the time of writing, I thought that I’d talk very quickly about humour types in webcomics.

One of the things that I noticed with a couple of my previous comics projects is that they didn’t contain as many types of humour as they probably should.

What do I mean by this? Well, a lot of the humour was very cynical humour. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great type of humour and it’s easy for a cynical person like myself to write. But, well, it can get a little bit predictable and boring after a while. It can go from “Ha! I actually wrote that!” to “Meh. Time to be cynical again“.

So, it can sometimes be a good idea to include different types of humour in your webcomic just to keep yourself interested in it. In addition to this, using different types of humour in your webcomic will also make it more interesting to read for the simple reason that, like anyone else, the members of your audience all have a subtly different sense of humour from each other.

In my upcoming series, I’ve made an effort to include a few different types of humour in order to add a bit more variety. In addition to the usual cynical humour, there’s cheerful humour, random/surreal humour, nerdy humour, slapstick comedy, character-based humour and even an old running joke too.

Here’s a preview of one of the funniest comic panels from my upcoming series that I’ve made so far. It’s also an example of character-based humour, since it sums up the differences between two of the characters (Harvey and Roz) absolutely perfectly:

It's even funnier when you read the whole comic (which will be posted here on the 11th August). But, it's a good example of character-based humour, with a slight hint of cynicism too.

It’s even funnier when you read the whole comic (which will be posted here on the 11th August). But, it’s a good example of character-based humour, with a slight hint of cynicism too.

Whilst you shouldn’t include lots of different types of humour in your comic just for the sake of doing so, it’s worth doing if the opportunity arises and if you think that a different type of joke will work well in that particular comic.

If it works in the context of the comic that you’re making, then using several types of humour can make things more interesting for both you and your audience.


Sorry for the ludicrously short article, but I hope it was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (28th July 2016)

Well, today’s (fairly heavily) digitally-edited painting is the first of a very short series of paintings (it will be at least two paintings long, possibly three) that are based on interesting locations in a dream that I had the night before I made these paintings.

Unfortunately, this painting didn’t really turn out as well as I’d hoped though and it looks a lot less interesting than the actual dream did. I was in a slight rush when I made this painting and I left out a few details from the dream for the sake of time (eg: such as the crowd of people who should have been on the bridge)

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"The Desert At The Edge Of Town (A Dream)" By C. A. Brown

“The Desert At The Edge Of Town (A Dream)” By C. A. Brown

Review: “The Blackwell Epiphany” (Computer Game)

2016 Artwork Blackwell Epiphany Review Sketch

Earlier this year, I reviewed the first four “Blackwell” games (my reviews can be found here, here, here and here) after buying them in a collection called “The Blackwell Bundle” during an online sale.

However, I foolishly didn’t get a copy of the fifth and final game – “The Blackwell Epiphany”- at the time. By the time I realised the error of my ways, the game had gone back up to full price.

However, thanks to another sale on GoG a few months before this article will be posted, I was able to pick up a DRM-free digital copy of “The Blackwell Epiphany” for a little over two quid.

If you buy “The Blackwell Epiphany” at full price then, at the time of writing, it costs a little over a tenner though. Judging from the two times I’ve seen this game on offer, there seems to be about a three-month gap between the times it goes on sale.

Although I’ll get on to the review in a bit, I should probably point out a couple of things first. The first is that you need to have played the first four “Blackwell” games for the events of this game to make any sense to you. It isn’t a stand-alone game! The second thing is that, at the time of writing (mid-February), the GoG release of “The Blackwell Epiphany” doesn’t really come with any extras, unlike the “Blackwell Bundle”.

Finally, it almost goes without saying, but this review may contain SPOILERS. I’ll try to avoid major ones, but there might be some here.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Blackwell Epiphany”:

Blackwell Epiphany Title screen

“The Blackwell Epiphany” is a 1990s-style paranormal detective/ horror/ thriller “point and click” adventure game by Dave Gilbert that was released in 2014.

Like the previous “Blackwell” games, you play as both a medium called Rosa Blackwell and her ghostly companion, Joey. Their job is to help ghosts pass into the afterlife by convincing them that they are no longer alive.

 Trust me, this makes sense if you've played the other games.

Trust me, this makes sense if you’ve played the other games.

The game begins in modern-day New York during a particularly harsh winter. After the events of the previous game, detective Durkin has hired Rosa to investigate strange cases off the books.

However, what starts out as a simple investigation of a haunted building quickly spirals into something much larger and more menacing. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but this game is as much of a plot twist-filled thriller game as it is a horror game.

Hmmm.... He looks friendly, we should say hello...

Hmmm…. He looks friendly, we should say hello…

However, I should probably warn you that the story of this game is a lot creepier and a lot darker in tone than a couple of the earlier games are.

There are plot twists that will make you gasp. There are bittersweet scenes that will make you cry. There are also a few scenes that literally made me take a deep breath and say “wow, that’s really f**king dark!” Although this depressing stuff is leavened by a decent amount of humour, don’t expect this to be a cheerful game. However, the plot is so compelling that you’ll probably want to keep playing regardless.

In addition to this, the game also provides a satisfying resolution to many of the long-running plot threads that have appeared within the previous four games. We also get to learn more about pretty much all of the characters too. For example, two playable segments in the game even allow you to see some of the countess’ backstory.

 This would make an absolutely awesome prequel game. Unfortunately, it's only two short segments....

This would make an absolutely awesome prequel game. Unfortunately, it’s only two short segments….

In terms of the gameplay, the gameplay mechanics are fairly similar to what I remember of the fourth game. You can switch between Rosa and Joey at any time (and you’ll need to do this to solve many of the puzzles) and Rosa still uses her smartphone for note-taking, clue combining and internet searches:

 Damn it, the notebook and the computer are literally RIGHT THERE! Why can't I just use them instead?

Damn it, the notebook and the computer are literally RIGHT THERE! Why can’t I just use them instead?

One subtle gameplay change is that, when you’re playing as one of the characters, you can walk to another screen and then press a button in order to call the other character to your present location. This saves a lot of time and is a rather cool feature. Another cool feature is that, if you’re playing as Joey, you can leave one of the game’s locations without having to switch back to Rosa again.

That little button in the corner of the screen might not look like much, but it can come in handy.

That little button in the corner of the screen might not look like much, but it can come in handy.

Talking of locations, this game has more of them than in any other “Blackwell” game. Although you still have to jump between locations using a world map, the larger variety of places to explore helps to make this game feel a bit more like a traditonal adventure game than some of the previous games do.

Plus, the world map looks really cool in this game too.

Plus, the world map looks really cool in this game too.

However, this game is somewhat more difficult than many of the previous “Blackwell” games are. Although all of the puzzles still make logical sense, they can be somewhat more challenging than you might expect. For example, even the introductory segment involves finding a hidden key, solving a complex puzzle involving a fuse box and solving a couple of clue/dialogue-based puzzles.

Even so, I’m not really very good at adventure game puzzles and I was still able to work out the solution to all but about three or four of the puzzles without consulting a walkthrough. So, by adventure game standards, it’s probably still a bit on the easy side. Although, by the standards of the “Blackwell” series, it’s fairly difficult.

This was one of the parts that I ended up using a walkthrough for.

This was one of the parts that I ended up using a walkthrough for.

Whilst the additional difficulty helps to increase the length of the game somewhat, “The Blackwell Epiphany” only took me between four and six hours to complete (I played it in two sessions and used a walkthrough infrequently).

Even though this is fairly long by “Blackwell” standards, it’s still a bit on the short side when compared to other classic “point and click” games.

Although the game’s relatively short length is more than made up for by the extremely high quality of the story, voice acting, characters, dialogue etc… it may be worth waiting for this game to come down in price or to go on special offer.

In terms of graphics, the “Blackwell” series has consistently got better and better, and this game is no exception. I absolutely love 1990s-style pixel art graphics and it’s great to see that the character sprites have received something of an upgrade in the game. The digitally-painted background and character artwork in this game is, once again, even better than in the previous game. Seriously, this game is a work of art:

Not to mention that it's wonderfully atmospheric too :)

Not to mention that it’s wonderfully atmospheric too 🙂

As for the music, it’s absolutely stellar! As you would expect from a “Blackwell” game, there’s a decent variety of instrumental jazz music, ominous ambient music and even the occasional song too.

One of my favourite pieces of in-game music was the surprisingly epic theme tune to a MMO game that Rosa has to look at during one part of the game (don’t ask). This sweepingly dramatic music is also foreshadowed by a haunting piano version of the same song, which is surprisingly creepy in the context of the scene when you first hear it.

 It's a MMO game, on a smartphone. I SHOULD hate it, but the music is just too cool!

It’s a MMO game, on a smartphone. I SHOULD hate it, but the music is just too cool!

However, this excellent soundtrack is let down slightly by the fact that – at the time of writing – the GoG release of the game doesn’t include the soundtrack as a bonus download. The “Blackwell Bundle” is sold with a complimentary MP3 copy of the soundtrack, so why isn’t it included for this game?

All in all, this is the best game in the “Blackwell” series. It’s the stunning conclusion to one of the most dramatic, compelling, well-written and intelligent series of games that I’ve ever played.

“The Blackwell Epiphany” will make you gasp. It’ll make you think. It’ll make you laugh. It’ll make you cry. And it’ll make you wish that the “Blackwell” series was longer than a mere five games.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get five and a half.

Today’s Art (27th July 2016)

Well, I wasn’t feeling quite as inspired as I had hoped when I made this painting so, although it started out well, the background didn’t end up being as detailed as I’d hoped. And, in the end, I actually used a few digital effects to fill in most of the background after I scanned the original painting.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Data Cartridge" By C. A. Brown

“Data Cartridge” By C. A. Brown

Politics, Consistency And Creativity – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Politics and consistency

[Update: Sorry about posting this article late, there seems to have been a scheduling error of some kind].

Although I often try to avoid writing about politics on here, I had a rather interesting experience shortly before writing this article that made me think about politics and creativity. But, although this will be a rambling article about writing and comics, I’m going to have to start by talking about music for a while. As usual, there’s a good reason for this.

A while ago, I ended up having a random conversation about politics and heavy metal music. This made me think about the politics of my favourite metal band (Iron Maiden) and I quickly realised something very interesting. Although most of their songs are completely apolitical, when they do include political topics in their songs, they are often handled in wonderfully variable ways.

For example, for every cynical song about organised religion, there’s also usually one that uses religious imagery in a reverent/serious/dramatic way. Likewise, although many of their more recent songs about war have a strongly pacifist message, they’ve also made some rousingly epic songs about historical battles earlier in their career (eg: one of their most famous songs is “The Trooper“, which is about the charge of the light brigade during the Crimean War).

Personally, I think that this is one of the many things that makes them such an amazing band. Their songs have a kind of honesty to them, where you get the sense that they’ve thought about both sides of a particular issue. You get the sense that their songs are actual nuanced self-expression, rather than a political lecture of any kind.

This made me think about my own creative works and how many of the political views I’ve expressed in them have gradually changed over time. Most of the time, I try to keep my art, comics etc… fairly apolitical and/or open to different interpretations (eg: one of my favourite things to do is to ridicule both conservatives and liberals at the same time), but politics can seep into them sometimes. When this has happened, I’ve noticed changes over time.

Although my views about a few issues haven’t changed, I’ve noticed that some of my older comics tended to have a somewhat more strongly liberal outlook than many of my modern comics (which can be anything from liberal to conservative, depending on the comic itself and the mood I was in when I made it).

There’s this foolish idea that writers, artists etc… should express consistent political views throughout their entire body of work. Whilst a few creative people hold the same political views throughout their entire lives, this just isn’t the case for many people. I mean, you only have to look at how public opinion about various issues has changed over time to see that many people’s opinions aren’t carved in stone.

I’m only using a sample of one here, but there have been times in my life where I’ve been somewhat conservative, there have been times where I’ve been very liberal and there have been many more times where I’ve been somewhere in between.

It’s always interesting how the people who write fervently about how artists, fiction writers etc… should consistently express a particular political viewpoint in their works are very rarely artists or fiction writers themselves. In fact, they’re usually critics. And you should probably ignore them.

Why? Because the whole point of making art, writing fiction or making comics is to express yourself. It’s to translate the contents of your imagination into something that other people can enjoy. As you change and grow older, your imagination also changes. In a way, everything you make is a reflection of who you were at a particular point in time.

So, if you hold strong political views and have held them for a long time, then by all means include them in the things that you create (but try to do it subtly because no-one likes being lectured at). But if, like most people, you hold a variety of changeable opinions, then don’t feel like you have to express “consistent” views just because a critic tells you that this is what you “should” be doing. Just express your views when you feel it is appropriate to do so.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂