The Feeling Of Twisting In My Gut

First off: Hey everybody! If you’re still reading, thank you, if you find this later, thank you. I quick reminder that this blog started off as a way for me to keep track of what I needed to do in World of Warcraft in order to start tanking raids. I chronicled my journey into hardcore(ish) raiding, then into raid leading. Those who followed me got to see my descent into burnout, then watch as I attached myself with almost mindless fervor to the as yet unreleased Guild Wars 2. I played other games as well, but mostly mused and speculated on what would be happening when that game released. Then something happened and I basically stopped talking about Guild Wars 2, and then I got a new job as a game artist myself, moved cities, and used the blog as an outlet for posting recent artworks. Since then it’s pretty much faded into obscurity as I let it lie in a pool of dereliction.


I expect to continue posting art when I remember.  Mainly though, the duties of my position have shifted and afforded me more desire to work on my own projects.  I’ll talk about them here as well as what I’m currently playing and my thoughts on game design and production in general.  If you enjoy them, great!  If not, then I’m sorry I wasted your time.  Mostly I just write for me.  If you’d like to follow a bit more spaztic version of my thoughts, feel free to stalk the living bajeezus out of my tumblr.  Now, without further ado….

Everybody loves Steam Sales, right?  I know I do.  I pick out games I really want then wait until I get that happy little e-mail that lets me know something on my wishlist is on sale, then I either snap it up or I don’t.  I tend to have two categories of ‘stuff that I want‘.  There’s ‘stuff that I want that I’m going to buy right this instant‘, and ‘stuff that I want that I can’t really justify paying money for but I’d still really like to have‘.

This sexy sexy hoodie is, sadly, in category two.  The game I just loaded up, however, was super firmly in category one.  And that game is:



The description on Steam begins thus:  Congratulations. The October labor lottery is complete. Your name was pulled. For immediate placement, report to The Ministry of Admission at Grestin Border Checkpoint. An apartment will be provided for you and your family in East Grestin. Expect a Class-8 dwelling.  The communist state of Arstotzka has just ended a 6-year war with neighboring Kolechia and reclaimed its rightful half of the border town, Grestin. Your job as immigration inspector is to control the flow of people entering ther Arstotzkan side of Grestin from Kolechia. Among the throngs of immigrants and visitors looking for work are hidden smugglers, spies, and terrorists. Using only the documents provided by travelers and the Ministry of Admission’s primitive inspect, search, and fingerprint systems you must decide who can enter Arstotzka and who will be turned away or arrested.

Upon booting the game, you are presented with a black screen upon which soon marches the logo to the game in lockstep with the oppressive and forcefully patriotic theme music.  Even just the music and strictly regimented motion of the animation gets my hackles up.  I had reservations about this game even before I bought it.  Now, it’s frankly giving me chills and I haven’t even started.  Eventually though, I do begin a new game and, horrifyingly, I find it’s even worse than I could imagine.

Quickly, I want to make note that when I say it’s terrible, and it’s worse, I don’t mean that to be a slight on the game.  This game has got me by the short hairs and I’m reacting to it on a visceral level.  That’s the whole point, and it’s doing a terrifyingly good job of it.  I haven’t had this strong of a reaction to a game since I played Amnesia: The Dark Descent (which I still haven’t finished, but that’s a story for another bright, sunny, bunnies-in-the-grass day)  Instead of pure, unbridled flight-or-flight terror, this game produces in me disgust, fear, worry, stress, tension, and anxiety.  This is not a game one should play to relax, especially if you’re not a fast reader or very good at hidden object or ‘one thing is not like the other’ type games.  That’s the whole premise.

If you hadn’t gathered by now, your whole purpose is to analyze peoples’ documents and persons to determine weather they should be granted entry into the country.  Everything must match.  If it doesn’t you must deny them entry.  Even if it does and you saw something in the paper about a certain person being suspicious, you must deny them entry and detain them.  If you don’t you will be given a warning.  Even if the papers do match, and you deny them entry because they’re part of an underground human trafficking ring but the government hasn’t asked you to do anything about this, you’re given a warning.  Get enough warnings, and they dock your pay.  Herein lies the rub that sent me over the edge with this game.

Your pay.  This game pulls some mechanics from Oregon trail in a terrible, horrible, gut-wrenching way.  You are paid, and with your pay, you must allocate funds for food, heat and, should your family get sick, medicine.  I was barely making enough to cover everything, then my son got sick and I had to turn off the heat.  Then the rest of my family started getting sick and I had to choose between food or medicine.  We were hungry and we were cold.  All the while I’ve gone to work and I’m presented with this endless stream of people who I have to either allow or deny access.  If I make a mistake I will be reprimanded, perhaps even my already too-meager pay will be docked.  On the other side, the more people I get through the gate, the higher my salary and the better I will be able to care for my family.

So I must be thorough, yet I must be quick, and there is no margin for error or people will die and my family will suffer.  It’s not a fun game, and it isn’t pleasant, but I don’t believe it’s meant to be.  In the way I loved Dear Esther and Amnesia, I love Papers, Please.  Video games, even more than other forms of entertainment like books or movies or music, have the ability to transport us.  They allow us to slip into someone else’s shoes, to experience the merest taste of what another would go through.  These games exist to evoke an emotional response and to enlighten us to situations and considerations we might not previously have entertained.  I would encourage everyone to seek out and play games like this.  They’re not meant to award the posturing masses with row upon row of high scores with which they can use to declare to the world their imagined greatness.  These are games made to make one think, to empathize, and perhaps to open ones mind a bit wider.

I think I’ll continue to play Papers, Please, though I don’t read very quickly and am bad at spotting discrepancies.  I fear my family will die because of my incompetence, though I will try my best.  The true terror though, I believe, comes from the possible parallels we could draw between the world this game presents and the one which we currently inhabit.  I’ll leave that to you though.

Character Portraits

Nothing terribly special here.  This is about the only art I’m getting done in the evenings after work, though the lad in the purple with the scars on his arm only took three hours this morning.  That was kind of surprising to me 🙂


Down The Rabbit Hole

I find it hilarious that my last post featured art I created during my second day at my new job.  Now my next post I can finally show what I’ve been up to.  I’ve fallen down the NDA rabbit hole!  Well, it happens I guess.  For what it’s worth, this is the first game I made.  If you’re interested in buying it you can find it here.  Otherwise, enjoy the artwork!

Reelplate mockup with all symbols.

Reelplate mockup with all symbols.


And some examples of animations on some of the symbols.  Thanks to anyone who’s still got me on your reader 🙂

Artwork Catch-Up

I’ve been a busy little bee 🙂  I started a new job, had my car break down, bought a new car, THAT one broke down, got myself stranded in a strange city for a week and a half (community managers are the nicest people btw, did you know that?), am moving to a new apartment, and have just about finished all the art on my first game!

So here’s a look at what I’ve managed to accomplish in my SPARE time.





Also, my sister bought me a kindle for christmas and loaded it up with Game of Thrones.  Yeah… don’t expect to see me for the next six months!

Bird Pile

It was my sister’s birthday yesterday and I forgot 😦 So I drew her a pile of birds to make up for it.

Suddenly SATYR!

I don’t know, I had 20 extra minutes during lunch at work.  I put stylus to tablet and a satyr came out.

Also, I’ve gotten myself embroiled in real roleplaying finally!  Normally I just waffle about on forums and pretend to be le fancy writer when really we’re just a bunch of giddy girls partaking in interactive soap operas.

Nope, this is REAL roleplaying, I have a character sheet and everything, I had to do MATH to calculate HIT POINTS.  This is srs bznss.  Long story short, it’s a Changeling game set in a steampunk San Francisco, the year is 1891 and my character is best described as a tall thin birdman with lurid, multi-hued plumage.  He looks as if he had fallen into a mad painter’s palette and barely escaped with his life.  He is part owner of The Lucky Bird Gentlemen’s Club with gambling downstairs and willing bed-warmers upstairs.  The GM calls it a brothel.  He HATES that, but it’s much better than the monikers the rest of his motley offered up.

Working on a character portrait of him.  Now, I’m no fashion designer, and I usually just draw my characters without clothes because… well… I’m BAD at it. There, I said it.  I am bad at drawing clothes.  It happens.  Thing is, drawing naked satyrs is plenty fun for 20 minutes on lunch, but if I want to make anything of myself as a character artist I need to confront and conquer that which I am bad at.

For you non-artisty types, that means practice and lots of reference.  I love reference.  I believe the right reference can fix anything.  So last night after I sketched out my character without clothes to make sure I was getting his anatomy right, I went hunting.  I found a lot of great things and I’m amazed again at how wonderful a thing the internet is.

Yeah, hello, internet? I need as many examples of men in fancy dress from the late 1800s please and thanks.  And there it is, at my fingertips almost instantly.

The only thing left to do is to draw:

Observe the elusive reference peeking into frame!

THAT, my friendly faceless constructs of internet ether, is just a teaser.  As of the writing of this I’ve got his whole outfit sketched out and I’m starting on linework. (Spoiler, he’s wearing spats)  One thing I would like to say about men’s fashion is: Really? I mean… REALLY? Exactly how many shirts do you REALLY need, seriously?  After a bit of research I’ve concluded that dapper gentlemen walk around with so many shirts just so they can take them off and offer them to unsuspecting damsels in distress, or something equally ridiculous.

Anyway, this Changeling game is played over Google Hangout and the GM broadcasts it live to youtube!  If you like that kind of thing go ahead and follow me on twitter.  I’ll tweet when we’re live.  Last Friday was character gen, and this Friday night we should be playing our first game.  I’m pretty excited.

Werewolf In A Vampire Game

Yeah, I’m one of THOSE players.  Stick me in a game of Werewolf and I want a werebear.  Stick me in a game of Vampire and only a werewolf will do.  Just call me Rum Tum Tugger, I guess.

Anyhoo, my buddy Laz is starting up a Vampire game and I twisted his arm into letting me play aformentioned werewolf.  She’s a Ghost wolf, and a maned wolf come up from South America, so a bit of an oddball even by warewolf standards.  That tattoo is a fetish of some kind, used to be her cellphone until she took it to a Glasswalker because it kept mouthing off.

Dania Desoto