STRATAEGIS - The Tactical RPG-inspired World building Project

I’ll Start at the Beginning.

Growing up, I remember my first PSX Console. It was a humble thing - a mere solid gray rectangle with a circular top that popped open.

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My dad got it for me when I was 6 years old. He bought it used from a Pawnshop (we used to frequent pawnshops with my pop, as it was one of his hobbies.)

He then told me to pick out a few games from behind the glass.

There I stood, mesmerized by the case art and the titles I could barely read. I picked based on feeling, as most children do, and out we went with a used PSX and a gaggle of games.

When I sat down and plugged everything in, I was overjoyed. I don’t much remember the first 5 titles or so I played, but one of them stood out to me above all else, and that was Final Fantasy Tactics.

North American Box Art

North American Box Art

This game captivated me immediately. The wonderful art of Akihiko Yoshida was quite memorable and appealing:

Art by A. Yoshida - Copyright SquareEnix

Art by A. Yoshida - Copyright SquareEnix

and the captivating scores of Hitoshi Sakimoto rang my little soul like a bell.

Never mind that I could barely read, I sat there sounding out the words as the story unfolded, and before long I found myself in the tutorial battle.

Controlling only Ramza, the protagonist, I played all my turns until the allied AI destroyed the opposition.

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Then it was time for the real battle, the first one wherein you fight with your entire party. You had to be smart, as the units were under your control this time, and not at the whim of the game’s surprisingly smart AI.

I lost that battle countless times. Then I figured out I could add more units to my party prior to starting. From there the game really kicked off, and I was hooked.

I spent hours customizing my units, changing their abilities and equipment, and playing through the story while synergizing the group I was growing.

All of these memories are some of the most dear to me. I sought these types of games thereafter, and have played and thoroughly enjoyed many an SRPG since.

In fact, it’s what lead me to generate the world of Strataegis: Rhapsody of Battle.

And overview on some of the completed pieces I’ve done thus far.

And overview on some of the completed pieces I’ve done thus far.

My highest ambition is to realize the project as a game for a major console or directly on Steam, but for now it’s an excellent exercise in world building and visual development.

Here’s a bit of backstory

Strataegis is the fabled shield of the creator, wielded by a long lineage of heroes in times of great need – the likes of which occur every 888 years.

A chaotic populace of malevolent forces are always aiming to besiege the world Valon. This populace is ever-scheming with various occulted denizens of Valon; some of whom hold great power and influence.

Sanquisition is a secret organization that seeks to recruit promising soldiers, warriors, arcanists, agents, and everything in between in order to carry out a gamut of missions. The aim is to thwart the malevolent takeovers and onslaughts while seeking the fragments of Strataegis.

It is the 880th year in the grand cycle, and as the two moons begin to seek their celestial alignment (growing closer to the planet Valon on which this story occurs) the attacks from the Morivolum are growing more frequent, and require greater cost to fend off.

Worthy recruits of Sanquisition are being scouted and indoctrinated faster than ever in an effort to reunite the fragments of the Strataegis before it's too late.

Pictured in the center is Arcus - a sword-wielding Taroteer who plays a crucial part in the events of Strataegis.

Pictured in the center is Arcus - a sword-wielding Taroteer who plays a crucial part in the events of Strataegis.

If that wasn't enough, a triumvirate alliance of kingdoms and surrounding principalities have banded under the kingship of a possessed Ruler, Khard Trummeldane IV. Khard  will stop at nothing to ensure that Sanquisition gets wiped off the face of the planet.

Villains serving Khard T IV.

Villains serving Khard T IV.

It's up to small collectives of Sanquisition agents (Sanquisitors) to do everything in their power to fell all of these opposing forces within 8 years, lest the veil break and the Morivolum infect the world.

Caeli - one of the higher-ranking Sanquisitors.

Caeli - one of the higher-ranking Sanquisitors.

Thus far I’ve focused primarily on illustrations, but there have been some classes or job concepts completed as well:

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Generating worlds visually, textually, contextually, and otherwise is one of the greatest joys of expression. After a certain point you begin to feel more like a faithful teller, rather than the creator of said world.

None the less, I’ll continue to put work into Strataegis whenever time permits - if you’re interested in direct updates you can sign up for news here: http://eepurl.com/cLDqrn

If you’d like to talk about contributing to the project, you can reach me here.

Here’s to further developments! Until next time.

Value-Based Pricing: Why I don't have "rates" as a freelance artist.

Set rates our hourly rates don’t make sense in many cases.

Ah, rates. The classic tyrant to many-an-artist.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s a screenshot from the “Services” subforum on Deviantart.com


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The sad thing is, is that many of these poor artists will never be able to make it out of this very forum with that mentality, and a vast majority can barely get ONE commission.

It’s a bummer, and I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve secured my fair share of commissions from this job board.

In my lowest of lows, I was selling commissions for a mere $50 a pop. Art-slaving away for hours just to eat. It was the worst - even if the clients came back with no revisions…I spent the better part of the process mentally flagellating myself for stooping so low.

That’s no way to live, and whether you’re an artist or you’re interested in making a career out of your creativity. I’ll explain how I ascended beyond this dead-end, pale-green scene, and instead began to prosper from my hard-earned skills.

In short, I had to earnestly seek answers to these dollar-based dilemmas.

For me it was all about education and implementation. Following the advice and practices of high-earners in other industries, and translating them to what it is I do (more on that later.)

I studied business acumen, marketing prowess, principled actions.

Let’s go into more detail.

The turning point - when I began pricing based on value


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I had finally reached my breaking point after barely being able to save money month and month. I was working full-time, but my income did not reflect that.

The breaking point hurt, but it was also a seemingly magical event, a sudden willingness to challenge old beliefs. I did so until my efforts became the sword of sovereignty, deftly slicing that old mentality to ribbons.

here’s how I shifted my approach:

  • I went from charging for time, to charging for the event, to charging for the process and it’s effects.

  • Instead of hungrily taking every job where the client seemed halfway sane, I started being far more selective.

  • I began to look at myself as a peer, rather than a for-hire commodity.

  • The focus shifted from “make them the art they want” to “get them the objective results they’re after.”

  • I raised my prices. A lot.

  • I became less of a pair of hands, and more of a brain.

  • New thoughts about business practices and paradigms had to be programmed into my operations.

  • Specialization became the focus, rather than generalizing.

And those are just a few ways I had to pivot from my once poor mindset. You see, life is too full of riches to stay under the providence of our limited scope. You have to be willing to reinvent yourself and your work for the results you’re after.

The world will try to melt you down. It will want to standardize, unify, and program you. It’s your job to reject what everyone else in your field or your community is doing, and do the opposite.

Let’s talk Clients - an integral key to value-based pricing

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The client is best served by having their issues resolved quickly and effectively.

And here’s the thing - hourly billing isn’t moral in that regard. This is something I learned from Alan Weiss and Nathan Stark.

The longer you stay, the more your client pays - that’s not quite right, is it? After a project drags on and on, and your clients are over-budget, you get the “client from hell” scenario - even if circumstances were beyond your control.

No - it’s better to go in lean and mean, and price yourself based on the big difference you can make for your client’s business. Then deliver as quickly and effectively as possible.

For example - if you pay me $100,000.00 up front to knock out a project and it makes you 1,000,000.00 over the next 12 months, you’re happy.

Whereas if things aren’t coming together right, and the scope keeps changing, and over the course of a year you’ve spent $1,200,000.00 trying to get the thing to fly, no one’s happy.


That’s why having a bid where you don’t pay a dime more than the agreed upon price is ideal for the client.

Again, it took a while to pivot into these new paradigms, but now that I have a more solid foundation, years of experience, and the income to triple down on my skills and ongoing education, the effects are multiplicative.

I strongly urge artists who are freelance to consider value-based pricing, and to reap healthier profits, and happier clients.

For the clients out there, make sure that going to a particular freelancer is what you’re in definite need for at whatever project stage you’re in.

I can’t tell you the number of gigs wherein I took the job to fast, only to find out that my clients weren’t every 100% WHY they needed the artwork created. Some had asset lists wherein 80% of the items were superfluous to their project goal.

If you’re gathering another round of funding, that needs specific strategy - if you’re trying to engage your player base more, that needs a specific type of work as well.

And if you’re unsure about what will move the needle, then don’t be afraid to ask. Part of having integrity on my part is to let you know if what I can do for you is something that you actually need.

It requires a good deal of forethought and transparency to conduct business at this level, but ultimately it yields more desirable results for all parties involved.

Value is the key to creative collaboration, and when both sides can mutually prosper as a result of a near-alchemical value fusion, the resultant projects are more readily bound for success.











The SATELLITE Still Orbits

Expressing your stories is no small task. Discipline and diligence must be your cohorts if you are to realize the tales you have within.

I'm pleased to share with you the fact that The 3 main characters of SATELLITE have become crystallized.

Rai, Isaac, and Gemina are a band of espers ready to face a deluge of psychic foes, cataclysmic struggles, and otherworldly scenarios.

And that's not all.

I've started a personal movement I'm calling #wiptober (After the immensely popular #inktober.) My goal however isn't to improve my inking ability, but to improve my ability to finish pieces and projects.

And I'm really glad I did. Here's why:

Life has a way of letting those things we don't consciously cling to drift off into the perimeter of our focus.

Once it escapes the peripheral of our consciousness, it gathers two things: inertia, and then dust; neither of which are fun to shake.

SATELLITE was starting to get to that point. I hadn't lost interest, but I did lose focus.

My patterns and paradigms tend to be to move toward what I find easy, pleasurable, and routine. The thing is, many of us humans are susceptible to these tendencies. 

Luckily, SATELLITE didn't fall too far out of orbit. I was able to renew my creative fervor by talking about it with my friends, visualizing cool scenarios, and then adding more to the script.

It's only a matter of time before visuals start flowing again, but for now the story takes precedence.

If I say I'll write just a few sentences, a couple paragraphs usually spill forth. The trick is to focus on consistency, not perfection. Progress is my goal, and progress is made. I can always edit and tweak after the foundation has been laid. For now, it's a matter of manifesting that basis.

If you haven't begun your own personal projects, I can't recommend it enough. The reason we got into our crafts is because we want to be able to express the ideas, feelings, and experiences that bubble up within us. Our creative quests are among the most challenging and rewarding undertakings we can earnestly carve.

As I wrap my head around the characters, follow the arcs of their stories, and envision them in their pinnacle moments of failure and triumph, my heart begins to race. There's a special feeling to inspiring yourself, and I believe that it isn't always there by proxy. Like the hungrily licking flames, that spark must be tended with suitable kindling. You must be the one who uses your thoughts and feelings to spur your body into action.

I was watching an interview with James Jean. He's an artist I highly regard for his prolific output, creative mastery, and technical virtuosity. He said something in one of these interviews to the effect of the body being the vehicle for the mind, and that really resonated within me. Our thoughts are creative, and at some level we know this. You can view images in your mind, you can compose music, and you can generate most anything. The key is to practice and hone your skills in a chosen craft so that you have the information to express the inspiration.

Think about it. In•form•ation.

This just means we're keeping our inspiration in form.

It has a structure, something solid we can build upon. All form must have solidity if it is to be scaled.

One of the real-life people who has inspired me greatly is R. Buckminster Fuller. A vast portion of Isaac (The middle character above, and the protagonist of Satellite) is heavily based R.B. Fuller's potent philosophies, geometric wisdom, and architectural mastery.

R.B. Fuller knew a thing or two about solidity. His geodesic dome designs were among the most solid structures this earth has ever known.

So if there's anything I'd like this post you leave you with, it's that your stories and projects are calling to you every time they pop into your conscious mind. Set aside small chunks of time for developing them. Honor them. Do research on how to better your work so that you can express them more aptly.

Trust yourself. Trust that you're the only one who can realize your potential. Share these with the world, and even if you fail, you'll have learned so much in the process that you can renew your efforts to a greater degree next time around.

The cycle continues, it just depends how big we make the circle. 

I don't want to reveal too much about the plot of SATELLITE, but for the next post I'll have a hook, some more vis-dev, and perhaps even some chapter snippets.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to join the mailing list below so that I can update you next time I publish another post (that's the only time I send out mail to this list, and you can unsub at any time if you feel like it's spammy or something.)

All in all, I'm just happy that The SATTELITE still orbits.

Happy creating,

-Taylor

 

The Beginnings of SATELLITE.

All of us have stories locked within us. It's our privilege to craft them with love and expressiveness. 

The sheer joy of coming up with characters, settings, worlds, and plots is unlike anything else.

Sometimes flashes of inspiration come in the blink of an eye, sparked across the imagination as we sit idly. 

Other times we can work with intent, and through our efforts an idea may be wrested from the ether from whence it was born.

 This is how I knew SATELLITE was going to come into being. 

Isaac Ling - My protagonist.

When I wrote an outline for the plot, started to envision the world, and put myself in the shoes of the main character (Isaac Ling) it all began to take on a life of it's own.

Since then, I've returned to it periodically...Developing bits and pieces-- flirting with the idea of it becoming a fully-fledged graphic novel.

There were many worries, fear, doubts.

There still are.

These are the feelings and thoughts that oft accompany the creative process.

Despite that, you have to know that in the end, there's no unique problem, and the solution is existent the second we come up against any sort of barrier. 

In the end, we must trust ourselves to channel these creations! To allow our diligent efforts to unfold them piece-by-piece. 

So now I work diligently to develop the larger pieces, fleshing out the details as the come to me, and studying everything I can about the successful undertaking and completion of my projects.

Inspiration is everywhere, so join me on The Quest Of Creation!

Sign up for the mailing list below and I'll send out non-spammy updates regarding SATELLITE, the creative process (yes, even the cool technical bits,) and keep you abreast of any amazing resources I come across.

Thanks for reading!  

Join me on The Creative Quest below.

More soon,

- Taylor