Writing a fanfic – an experience report

Moin.

I recently stumbled about a weekly flash fiction contest thingy on Deviantart, this time, the contest was based around writing something that has to do with your favourite video game. Fanfic it is.

Initially, I thought this would be easy because every time I consume media, it spooks around in my mind, essentially being free inspiration, but so far, I didn’t think the stories that came out of it were worth it.

Because, what my brain does with the prompts coming out of other media isn’t necessarily a premise for a good story. Instead, it’s trying to insert me into the action and have me act in a way that “saves” the protagonists. In other words, it destroys an interesting narrative in favor of a Mary Sue. Fantastic, exactly the sort of thing I want to post as a 20-something year old studying media. I tried it anyways. And failed.

I took a game without a real story – Dota – and tried squeezing out a fanfic about one of my favourite characters in it, Phantom Assassin.

Now, what I should’ve done here is: Take the concept of the character, not the character itself, put it into a nice premise and write a story based on it.
But what I did instead was: Dive head-first into your favourite aspect of the character, which is explained in this Loregasm video.

<in-lore> Basically: She’s an assassin, getting her orders from some veiled oracle and executes these orders without question. But secretly she wonders why she has to kill all those people, then meets The Oracle, who promises her insight to all her questions if she only kills anyone who wants to kill him. According to the video, the two oracles are identical to each other, she’s being sent across an endless goose chase across the multiverse and due to the inter-dimensional travels loses the one thing she actually values, her name, and becomes the Spectre, another Dota character. </in-lore>

And this is where I went full fanfic and combined a sort-of Mary Sue with an all-knowing explainorama charcacter, resulting in this mess: https://www.deviantart.com/leowattenberg/art/A-False-Promise-805787925

I did my best to pull out of it and have somewhat interesting character interactions and developments (at least as interesting as you can make those in flash fiction), but overall, I just couldn’t get away from the template that is the original Loregasm video.

Anyways, the takeaway for me is that fanfic isn’t my domain. Good thing I tried that myself though.

Learning Blender: A crash course experience

Moin.

At my uni (FH Kiel), every semester there’s 2 weeks of “do whatever that isn’t in your usual curriculum”. So if you’re studying electrical engineering, you can get ECTS identifying mushroom or something. For me, it wasn’t as far fetched, but there is no “how to blender” course in my curriculum. And what a course it was: 5 days, 6 hours per day intense blenderization. And this is a result:

Now, I could write a rather boring “We did all these awesome things and it was great” blog post, but I think it’s more interesting to focus on the mistakes I made and the lessons learned.

  • When making an array of things and the elements don’t quite line up, check why this is instead of just reducing the distance between objects. Getting rid of overlapping objects flickering once you’ve applied that array is annoying and tedious at best.
  • Modeling is the most boring part of it IMHO. Which is probably why I never could get over the first steps of the various online tutorials there are; the issue never was as much that I couldn’t make that goddamn donut, but rather that I didn’t see why I should be making one.
  • Once you understand the node editor, texturing and shading is awesome. It turns the most boring white/grey wasteland into at least Half Life 1 territory.
  • When setting keyframes, using LocRotScale may be the easiest thing to muscle memory (just do i > c), but it does make things messier to find later on
  • Eevee is awesome. When they introduced it, I was wondering why everyone was so excited about having a thing that approximates lighting instead of actually calculating the real rays, especially now that raytracing whatever is actually a feature in some GPUs. But I didn’t factor in just how much faster eevee is than cycles: Instead of 6 hours to render, it takes 6 minutes. Instead of waiting 15s for the viewport peview to render, it takes <1s.
  • Working cleanly pays off. Even my little project has close to 100 objects. Naming and ordering your stuff as it gets created makes finding it later on when you edit it so much faster.
  • Arrays don’t have collisions and such. I’ve watched a ball phase through the ground way too many times before I figured that out.
  • Hotkeys, oh my. Even though I edited my fair share of videos, I never was quite the shortcut user. I only used the obvious ctrl+s/x/c/v/z/y, with a handful of editing specific ones (eg. cut/trim) added to the mix, but I never could be bothered learning all of them. In blender meanwhile, using hotkeys isn’t only faster, but also more convenient: There’s just so much stuff to remember the position in menus of, you might as well just remember the hotkeys.
  • Actually remembering the hotkeys by using blender is either going to become a hobby of mine, or I’ll forget how everything works again. Because there’s no way I’ll remember Tab > 3 > Click on a face > Ctrl+L > move mouse to different viewport > a > g > x > click on another face > … without constantly using it.
  • Smoke and I don’t understand each other well. In an empty project, it’ll work just fine, but as soon as I use it in my actual project, something fucks up somehow: Maybe the flames are too strong. Or too weak. Or disappear completely once the object changes position. Or emits smoke the entire time despite the domain only actually doing smoke stuff a hundred frames later on. And so on, and so on, and so on. This actually is one of the main differences between the YouTube version and the loop version on gfycat: I found the fire too weak in the initial render, however, upon changing it, everything went awry so I decided using a crappy particle effect instead of the fire just so I could create any sort of illusion that the bucket was a trash bin.
  • You can import any file you like, but no .blend files. For that, you have to click “Link”, or “Append”. Or simply copypaste.
  • Probably more, but it’s 2am, and I really should go to bed now.
  • But not before I give huge shoutouts to:
    • Silas Fuchs, for being my mentor for this week
    • Ian Hubert, for introducing me to blender way back in the day with Tears of Steel and Dynamo Ep1, as well as providing a worthy asset to finish off this little animation.
    • Anyone who’s criticised or complimented me when showing off this little animation
    • All those people who made the textures and sounds effects I carelessly downloaded with total disregard for ownership. I’ll try getting around to crediting all of you in the video’s description tomorrow!
The video: With sound, Ians Readerboard and 200% more particle effects.

Pornhub is not the savior of online video, and vimeo is not an alternative to YouTube

The discussion often goes as thus: YouTube sucks and is getting worse. Making a competitor is difficult, you need a big infrastructure for it, and Pornhub apparently has it and just would need to quickly make a copy of its website, rename it and open it for uploading of normal, SFW content.

But Pornhub neither has the right business model, nor the right infrastructure for this.

Pornhub’s parent company, Mindgeek, is not only a platform operator. It also owns lots of the studios that upload to Pornhub: Brazzers, RealityKings, DigitalPlayground, and others. Pornhub acts as a trailer site for these studios, with the “uncut” videos only being available via a 10 USD/month Pornhub Premium, or a 30 USD/month studio subscription. Further, the ads seen on Pornhub are served through the trafficjunky network – which is also owned by Mindgeek.

With this model, Mindgeek managed to put itself into a position where they are to porn what YouTube and Netflix combined would be for normal video. Competitors do exist, especially for their studio business, but the studios have to go through Pornhub if they want to get recognition by non-paying users, or money through Pornhub premium. For their platforms, a lot of what seems like competition actually isn’t: RedTube, YouPorn and others are owned by Mindgeek, too.

However: This model translates poorly to non-porn. The production cost of premium movies is astronomical compared to premium porn: Just think of the number of settings and actors typically involved. And the willingness of customers to pay 30 USD/month to access the works of a single studio is rather low.

On top of that, while Pornhub has lots of viewers, Pornhub only has 8 million videos uploaded. For comparison, people who

  • Were playing Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • On the PS3
  • Between 2010 and 2015 and
  • Wanted to share a funny clip with their friends
  • Without creating their own YouTube account

uploaded 1 067 410 videos to the default CODblackopsPS channel on YouTube. In other words: A decade ago, one game could get a video volume on YouTube in 5 years that’s in the same order of magnitude as all of Pornhub is over its life.

So, overall: Pornhub is nowhere near having an infrastructure that could compete with YouTube, and even if it had: Why would they? Free video hosting still is expensive. And it still comes with a huge portion of legal and moral issues attached: Copyright, now with Article 17. Spam. Terrorist propaganda. Hate. Gore. Livestreams of shootings. Pedophiles.

Who would risk a dominant position in an industry that probably won’t go away anytime soon to get into this space voluntarily?

Speaking of which:

vimeo is not a YouTube competitor.

YouTube is a free platform where you can upload videos in a decent quality, livestream and make money.

Vimeo is a platform where you need to pay to upload any meaningful amount of data, and 70 EUR/month if you want to livestream. The only way to make money on it is to sell access to your videos just like you’d sell DVDs.

Vimeo is not a YouTube competitor.

Their video quality is great though.

Zeitumstellung, Powernapping und der Bungsberg: Ein Kommentar

Alle halbe Jahre wieder findet eine leidige Diskussion über die Zeitumstellung statt. Eine Zeitumstellung, die sowohl im Krieg als auch in den 80ern eingeführt wurde, um Energie zu sparen. Eine Zeitumstellung, die dieses Ziel komplett verfehlt.

Stattdessen werden nun irgendwelche vage gesundheitliche Argumente hervorgekramt, die alle nach genauerer Betrachtung zerbröseln: Zwar gibt es am Montag nach der Zeitumstellung mehr Todesfälle, in der gesamten Woche aber nicht. In anderen Worten: Wer aufgrund der Zeitumstellung verreckt, hätte die Woche auch sonst nicht überlebt.

Und egal, welche theoretischen Vorteile die Sommer- bzw. Winterzeit mit sich bringt: Etwa die Hälfte der Bevölkerung wacht nicht ausgeschlafen auf. Das Problem ist nicht die Zeitumstellung, das Problem ist, dass die Gesellschaft gesundheitsschädliche Arbeitsstrukturen erzwingt: Starre Arbeitszeiten, die ohne jeglichen Grund von einem verlangen, vor der Morgendämmerung aufzustehen. Ohne diese Strukturen hätte die Zeitumstellung keine Auswirkungen auf irgendwas.

Der selbstgeschaffene Schlafmangel ist, anders als die Zeitumstellung, kein halbjähriges Trivialproblem. Er ist ein permanentes Problem, das einen signifikanten volkswirtschaftlichen Schaden verursacht: Durch gesenkte Produktivität gehen in Deutschland 200 000 Arbeitstage pro Jahr verloren, was einem BIP-Verlust von 52 Mrd. € entspricht. Nur durch Schlafmangel.

Doch die Produktivität ist nicht die einzige, die leidet. Viel schlimmer erwischt es die Kreativität. Das wird besonders beim Jetlag deutlich: In diesem mental eher vegetativen Zustand kann man zwar noch durchaus funktionieren und Befehlen von Sicherheitspersonal und Wegweisern folgen, aber ansonsten ist die Birne eher Notleuchte als Ideenflutlicht.

Der kollektive Schlafmangel wäre über viele Wege bekämpfbar: Flexiblere und kürzere Arbeitszeiten, eine Kultur, die den Mittagsschlaf auf der Arbeit nicht nur zulässt sondern fördert, vielleicht sogar eine Verbesserung der Luft-, Licht- und Lärmsituation.

Das Konzept von Powernapping und Mittagsschlaf führt dann auch wieder das Zeitumstellungsargument „mehr Tageslicht haben“ ad absurdum. Es ist gesünder und produktiver, ein paar der hellsten Sonnenstunden auszulassen, um mitten am Tag zu schlafen. Warum dann auf Teufel komm raus versuchen, den Tag so zu drehen, dass man mehr Sonnenstunden hat? Damit abends beim Fernsehgucken die Sonne noch blenden kann?

Die Lösungen, die die Zeitumstellung zu bringen scheint, sind höchstens symbolisch. Was auch sonst, schließlich wird die Uhr ja nur ein wenig vor- bzw. zurückgedreht. Es ist so, als wollte man den höchsten Berg der Welt suchen und nur den Bungsberg finden. Es gibt einfach bessere Lösungen als die Zeitumstellung, und das Verfolgen dieser Lösungsansätze macht die Zeitumstellung überflüssig. Genauwie der Bungsberg überflüssig wird, sobald man eine ernstzunehmende Skipiste in Schweden oder der Schweiz findet.