Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Speculation, discoveries, complaints, accusations, praise, and all other Erfworld discussion.

Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby MarbitChow » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:13 am

Congressmen say that they pay close attention to 'Letters to the Editor' because, for each person who writes in, there are 100s who feel the same way but didn't put pen to ink.
I assume forum messages fall into the same category, and those who express their displeasure with the update status have generally done so politely and eloquently.
As a regular reader of Girl Genius, Questionable Content, Dr. McNinja, and a number of other web-comics, I'd like to say a few things in Rob's defense, and I hope I speak for a number of other silent but similarly-minded individuals.

No other comic that I've read creates a world that attempts to be so different from both ours and other typical fantasy worlds, and yet so familiar and internally consistent as Erfworld is.

Girl Genius is just zany, so it's 'easier' to write. Phil can honestly just make everything up as he goes along and no one is concerned.
Questionable Content is also not plot-centric; it's relationship-centric, and there's a host of real-world experiences to draw upon there.
Dr. McNinja's author can pull an evil motorcycle from a magical world out of his butt and no one blinks an eye.
But if, after several years, an event in Erfworld appears to contradict a power described 3 years ago in 2 text bubbles on Page X of book one, it inspires 14 pages of debate on whether the author screwed up.

Yes, I'd love to see more updates, but Rob has to chart out his plot twists and world rules exceedingly carefully, because nuts like us pick them apart and analyze them to death.
I can't even imagine the effort that must be required to make sure everything remains consistent, since unlike a normal novel, each page has to be right the first time.
There's no chance to go back and rewrite the story so that the ending makes more sense, or to insert foreshadowing for an event Rob thinks up later.

I ran a RP campaign for several years that had the rules spelled out for me, and if the players were able to review everything I'd done in the campaign during that time and compare it to events later in the campaign, there would be hundreds of inconsistencies.

And yet I haven't seen anything in Erfworld that has shattered my suspension of disbelief. (YMMV, of course.)
Dozens of Hollywood films, crafted by hundreds of people, that take months or years to produce, and get to deliver a single finished product before most people ever see a single shot, regularly fail at that in far less intricate imaginary/alternate worlds.

Yes, I'd love to see more updates. But only as long as the quality doesn't suffer. Writing is an art. Forcing it often gives you crap.
I'll take slower updates and a well-crafted story over the alternative.

Your choices are: good, cheap, and quick. You get to pick no more than two, and the comic is already free for the vast majority of the readers, so that option has already been selected. Of the two remaining choices, which do you prefer?
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby Paladinian » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:22 am

CorrTerek wrote:This is getting hilariously bad. Are we gonna have one of these threads every month? Maybe two for New Year's?


People just feel the need to vent. The fact is, the update schedule *is* poor, particularly when compared to the other professional webcomics out there which people have already mentioned and I won't repeat. The comic is good... damn good... but it ain't the only one out there, and if someone contributes resources towards it, it is understandable when they feel entitled to a degree of reciprocation in terms of product. The feeling isn't always justified or reasonable (the Internet can be a demanding, selfish, short-sighted beast) but it *is* understandable.

Heck, I can't say I disagree with the sentiment much myself lately. I've been a Tool almost since the start and frankly when we go longer then a week without an update I can't help but feel, well... cheated? Taken advantage of? It's probably not fair to think that, particularly with the whole credit-for-purchase arrangement, but that's the synapse that gets tickled and eventually one gets weary of over-ridding it.

Flytrapz, I think you wrote a good vent there, and it was lacking much of the vitriol I've seen in other "CANCELLING MY TOOLSHIP IMMEDIATELY WHARBLGARBL" threads which we've all seen before. I think it sums up a fair bit of my own frustrations, and I appreciate not having to write all that myself. :P
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby Flytrapz » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:27 am

Thanks Paladinian...I think. Did you just call me a demanding, selfish, and short-sighted beast? I can't quite tell.
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby Ansan Gotti » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:35 am

Flytrapz wrote:Ansan, I don't know why you're taking this so personally, or why you're sinking into name calling and nastiness.


You write a screed three days before Christmas knowing fully well that you might be coming off like an asshole (your word, not mine) even though in your own too-kind-self-estimation, you didn't think you were, after having been a Tool for a whopping three weeks and already received over 150% credit for your $33, and you're making yourself out to be the wounded victim? Because I was so "nasty" as to say that you have no class (ooh, what nasty name calling)?

Spare me. Yes, this is the Internet, and although it's true that on the Internet just about anyone can throw up just about anything they want from behind the safety and comfort of their monitor, certain offensive content can and should be opposed and publicly condemned.
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby Paladinian » Thu Dec 23, 2010 12:35 am

Flytrapz wrote:Thanks Paladinian...I think. Did you just call me a demanding, selfish, and short-sighted beast? I can't quite tell.


Huh? No, I'm sorry if I gave that impression!

I was speaking in generalities. Internet communities do seem to have a tendency to become... confrontational... with their objects of interest and I was simply making passing mention of such.

You may still consider my post a statement of "Seconded!" to your original points. :)
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby the_tick_rules » Thu Dec 23, 2010 2:27 am

He is moving to chicago, that might mess things up, Hey maybe he'll be at acen next year now.
I would be a procrastinator, but I keep putting it off.
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby balder » Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:10 am

About 90 percent of things people complain about on these forums are things they imagine to be true but aren't. Usually that's about the plot, but a lot of times it's about my life and my job.

Flytrapz (the OP) here imagines that he understands what choices I am making on a day to day basis, and has reason to call me unprofessional.

Well, Flytrapz, you don't. But maybe there's no reason you should understand, unless I explain it down to the specifics. In my entire life, I have never been under time pressure like I am this month. But as the last minutes of this year tick away, let me spend a few of them explaining a choice I made yesterday. Maybe this can help sharpen your understanding of what "professionalism" in my job actually means.

So let's talk about this coming update.

It's a text update, and from Xin's end, the process of putting it up is now done. I had intensive discussions with her more than a week ago about it, because it's potentially an important one. It introduces a new character. We went through that character's design process, with hours of live discussion as we researched and shared source material on costume, facial features, and color scheme (despite this being a monochrome illustration, the character will appear later). Xin then took a day to draw the illustration, to which I will write the update.

So yesterday, I had planned to write and post it (a 4-8 hour process), come hell or high water. I sat down to organize what I wanted the update to accomplish. Four lines into that, I realized that something in it would not mesh with one of the five bonus pages going into Book 1.

I had a choice to make.

If I let it slide, it would be like dropping a stitch in the story I am knitting. I don't do that. And because I don't do that, the story holds together. I had to fix this, before we went to press.

So before I could write the text update, I had to find and completely rewrite the script for that bonus page.

So I did write a page yesterday, Flytrapz. Just not one you saw.

I lettered it, too. And maybe you also don't understand that lettering a page of Erfworld is part of my job. Maybe you don't know that it takes a minimum of four hours per page (an average of 6, the record is 32) because of the fine-tuning and attention to detail. Sometimes I will stop lettering and spend three or four hours searching for the right sound effect or magic word joke which was not in the script but would fit with the art. Lettering this bonus page required, among other things, coming up with an entirely new format of speech balloon just for that page. Why? Buy the book and you'll see why. This page is special, worth the price of the book alone if you care about the story. It'll be the one that goes between the old pages 141 and 142.

Why are updates slow right now? Shit like that and way, WAY beyond.

See you have to keep in mind that our creating this particularly challenging text update is happening in the context of furiously preparing both Issue 1 and Book 1 for the printer. You may imagine you understand that, too. But however much work you reasonably think is involved, triple it. Got that much work in mind? I'd bet a testicle you're still short of the mark. Xin and I are both working on this stuff night and day, because this will be the only chance there ever is to get things right. Tonight, for example, we standardized the "shmuckers" spelling, because I had somehow migrated to "schmuckers" in Book 2. This was a known problem that became a "drop everything" problem because if it were ever going to be fixed, it needed to be fixed before the files went to the printer. In other words, tonight. We're working on it in the other window as I write this.

This is also happening in the context of Christmas. Last night at 2 am, I found myself in a post office, priority-mailing a Snoopy card to my 92-year-old Grandma. I had intended to do it last week, but there has been no break in demands on my time. I still have cards and gifts to buy. I think if I weigh your eloquently-expressed sense of disappointment in not having new Erfworld today, I'd rather live with that than not have anything to give my only brother on Saturday.

And finally, this is all happening in the context of my moving halfway across the country in a little over a week, moving out of a place I have lived for 12 years. Have you ever moved? Benjamin Franklin said three moves "are as bad as a fire." Know how I know that quote? I learned it in the course of an estimated 30 hours of research laying in background for the character of Benjamin, the Transylvito Moneymancer.

This is what professionalism entails in my job. It's making hard choices, based on what's really important.

In this case, it's all prioritized above updates. I love my family and I am going away and won't see them for a while. I need to move all my possessions to another state, and it needs to go smoothly.

And yeah, the Erfworld books will sit on shelves after I am dead, so if I have to delay updates to get them right, then it's completely worth pissing you off, even losing your support. And if you're mad, I don't actually care how mad you are. You count as "one mad Tool," and I when I make these decisions I have to measure you against the other readers and supporters who get mad when I get a detail like "schmuckers" wrong, or worse. It's taking a question like "which option will lose me more support" and trying to then weigh the answer against the question of "what is my artistic integrity worth?"

So why did I spare the time to explain that to you tonight? Partly because I could multitask it, but mainly because you just need to understand why you are off base and hurting Erfworld instead of helping. I don't think you're an asshole, either. (Ace is, but you aren't. :D Haha just serious.) I do appreciate your support as a Tool.

But look, threads like this hijack the discussion and poison the fan culture. They can't do anything at all for the good. You're not teaching me anything I don't know, and I am not going to find 10 more hours in the day just because you're unhappy. I am doing the best I am capable of. I tried to explain with a news post what was going on, but that was not good enough for you. You have to come here and write me a lecture.

Well, I guess now you have one back. This was probably the most "unprofessional" thing I've done today. Hope it wasn't a waste of both our times.
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby charles » Thu Dec 23, 2010 8:15 am

balder wrote:But however much work you reasonably think is involved, triple it. Got that much work in mind? I'd bet a testicle you're still short of the mark.


*Roll On The Floor Pissing MySelf Laughing*

Strewth! I tend to roll my eyes and steer clear of these complaint discussions but bloody hell Rob writes some entertaining responses.

Heck, I can still remember laughing my arse off at Bobby Crosby's responses to whingers (claiming to be constructive criticisers) where he didn't hesitate to smash them down with straight out insults followed by a wielding of the banhammer.

Seriously though. He had a lot of the same issue where the art was often done relatively quickly (Sarah Ellerton turning a painted page out in 6 hours) and people presumed that the story writing must be even more simple. The fact of the matter is that in Dreamless, he was writing a story that covered two cultures (Japanese and American) in the 20 years leading up to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, which did all its could to keep with the historical and cultural accuracy such as the year phone calls from the U.S. to Japan became available, differing time zones (Hawaii was -10:30UTC back then) and even the times of sunset and sunrise at the time of year for that particular year.

I'm sure Sarah's own comic, The Phoenix Requiem, took a good amount of time to write, but she created a Victorian-inspired supernatural fantasy in a fictional world. There was very little need for historical or cultural accuracies, even technological ones since it was only inspired by the Victorian Era.

Now we look at Erfworld and here's a fictional universe which has a very specific and strict set of alternate physics that must remain consistent, thousands of pop culture reference and a massive amount of characters with specific personalities who all need to interact with each other and react in-character. This has got to be a monster of a thing to write and keep track of at the technical and accuracy level with massive research required, let alone the story and artistic level which Rob and Xin are evidently working incredibly hard to keep at top quality as well.

*meh* Updates will almost certainly increase after Rob's move, Book 1 and B2I1's publishing and the passing of the holiday season.

P.S. Merry Christmas and a Happy New year Rob and Xin!
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby balder » Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:27 am

charles wrote:Heck, I can still remember laughing my arse off at Bobby Crosby's responses to whingers (claiming to be constructive criticisers) where he didn't hesitate to smash them down with straight out insults followed by a wielding of the banhammer.


Thank you for loving Pupkin.

charles wrote:Merry Christmas and a Happy New year Rob and Xin!


Thanks, Charles. You too. :D
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby Flytrapz » Thu Dec 23, 2010 2:53 pm

Dear Rob,

Wow. It never occurred to me that you would bother to write back. I’m geeking out here a little bit. So thanks for that, and I enjoyed reading about your process. Now that that’s out of the way, I want to respond seriously to what you wrote, because it deserves a serious response - and because its tone was a little mean.

Man oh man, when I wrote my original post I was trying SO HARD not suggest that I thought I knew anything about the decisions you make on a day by day basis – did you see the number of “I feel” statements in that post? It looks like it was edited by Dr. Phil. Even after your very thoughtful explanation of a day in the life of Rob, I still profess no real understanding of your time investments of various aspects of your job. For instance, I have no idea why lettering a page could take 32 hours, but I must say I’m dying to know which page it was.

No, I was trying to write about the only thing I know about your business: What it feels like to be an end-user of erfworld.com. And what it feels like is exactly what you ultimately told me was the case: it feels like my end-user experience on erfworld.com just isn’t a priority for you at the moment.

The image that I can’t shake from your post is that of you sitting at your kitchen table in the morning, making a list of your priorities for the day, and my experience of your website not making the list. Like you said – you don’t care about my support, and you don’t care if I’m mad…not in an appreciable way relative to the perfection of book 1. That is a profound statement: At least at the moment, you don’t care about my day-to-day experience of erfworld.com. And if we’re honest about it, if your profession were about providing on-line content, web design, or creating a satisfying end-user experience, well, then not caring about your users’ experiences is an issue of professionalism. This is where I was mistaken and you set me straight.

I now get that that isn’t what your profession is about: Your profession is about designing books, and erfworld.com is about selling them and related merchandise. And so, if something’s got to give, it makes perfect sense that that would be your on-line advertising. It does, however, make me feel like a little bit of a sap, in exactly the way that SomeUnregisteredPunk claimed I was. I attributed some kind of charitable, supportive, or otherwise higher purpose to buying into what was essentially a pre-order marketing campaign. I thought I was pledging to npr, when really I was pledging to amazon. That has implications for how I feel about being a Tool, and for how will read erfworld in the future.

Not all of those implications are bad, however – certainly, it adjusts my expectations about the kind of content I will see here in the future. I won’t be upset when I don’t get a new page, in the same way that I’m not upset when a store hasn’t changed its advertisements. It also relieves my guilt at having started this thread, because I feel a lot less bad about being a hiccup in your viral Internet ad campaign – and it is a GREAT campaign – than I did about opening old wounds in a thriving on-line collective.

It does, however, damage my sense of community here, and pretty much kills the illusion of having some kind of stake in your project. Which is a little sad for me, even if you don’t really care. Not your fault, of course – my fault, for having misunderstood your intentions with the toolbox program and the purpose of your website.

I guess I will just have to console myself by printing out your counter-rant, pasting it into book one when I get it, and making you sign it the next time you come to ECCC.

I am, after all, a huge fan of your work.
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby balder » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:28 pm

Flytrapz wrote:I guess I will just have to console my self by printing out your counter-rant, pasting it into book one when I get it, and making you sign it the next time you come to ECCC.

I am, after all, a huge fan of your work.


Maybe I'll buy you a beer. :D
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby effataigus » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:37 pm

MarbitChow wrote:Girl Genius is just zany, so it's 'easier' to write. Phil can honestly just make everything up as he goes along and no one is concerned.
Questionable Content is also not plot-centric; it's relationship-centric, and there's a host of real-world experiences to draw upon there.
Dr. McNinja's author can pull an evil motorcycle from a magical world out of his butt and no one blinks an eye.
But if, after several years, an event in Erfworld appears to contradict a power described 3 years ago in 2 text bubbles on Page X of book one, it inspires 14 pages of debate on whether the author screwed up.


Hahah... awesome because it's true... sorta (I'm not 100% convinced that that motorcycle was evil). But then, there's a reason I hang with you all rather than on the Girl Genius or Dr. McNinja forums... if they even have foums. Ya'll are (collectively) infuriating, hilarious, idiotic, brilliant, challenging, rude, sweet, adorable, highly talented, well-read, and generally very entertaining. Mostly, reading these forums has given me an appreciation for the level of detail that has gone into Erfworld... and it's not just the pop culture references that I would have missed otherwise!

balder wrote:It introduces a new character. We went through that character's design process, with hours of live discussion as we researched and shared source material on costume, facial features, and color scheme (despite this being a monochrome illustration, the character will appear later). Xin then took a day to draw the illustration, to which I will write the update.


Ooooooh... you have thrown another palette on the forum speculation bonfire. :shock: Guesses anyone?
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby BLANDCorporatio » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:43 pm

Good thing this thread ended much nicer than one would expect.

And ya know what, several recent updates were in quite quick succession. In fact, up until the holidays came knocking, things went really smoothly. And I expected a Christmas/New-Year lull* anyways.

(EDIT: * added by editing :)).

But if this is the place to whine, I'll add my own sobbing- gosh that shipping tax is a killer. Nothing can be done about it, so I'm just venting off. I tried to get a few more Euro-Tools (but regular forumers that happen to be from Europe are welcome too) to join up for a larger order, so that the shipping isn't so big a fraction of the total cost. To no avail, yet.

But there's hope! There'll be Book 3 at some point, right? The more Books in one order, the better!

effataigus wrote:Ooooooh... you have thrown another palette on the forum speculation bonfire. :shock: Guesses anyone?


And since that thread is pushing 500 comments, not a moment too soon.

I'm thinking someone from the MK, and avoiding the obvious guess of one of Parson's gaming group.
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby Ansan Gotti » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:44 pm

Predictamancer, baby! A nice conversation with Wanda would fill in 141-142 nicely.
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby BLANDCorporatio » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:46 pm

Ansan Gotti wrote:Predictamancer, baby! A nice conversation with Wanda would fill in 141-142 nicely.


That's so plausible it just cannot be true :P
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby Occasional Sage » Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:35 pm

Flytrapz wrote:I have no idea why lettering a page could take 32 hours, but I must say I’m dying to know which page it was.


Me too!

Flytrapz wrote:Like you said – you don’t care about my support, and you don’t care if I’m mad…not in an appreciable way relative to the perfection of book 1. That is a profound statement: At least at the moment, you don’t care about my day-to-day experience of erfworld.com.


Actually, he obviously cares or he wouldn't've written back. What he said was that he has to balance that against other things. While that doesn't change your experience or your perception, it's a profound difference nonetheless.

Flytrapz wrote:And if we’re honest about it, if your profession were about providing on-line content, web design, or creating a satisfying end-user experience, well, then not caring about your users’ experiences is an issue of professionalism. This is where I was mistaken and you set me straight.

I now get that that isn’t what your profession is about: Your profession is about designing books, and erfworld.com is about selling them and related merchandise.


How about, his professional duty is to Erfworld's long-term quality, and slow updates are a problem that vanishes in the rearview mirror while low quality books are not?

Flytrapz wrote:It does, however, damage my sense of community here, and pretty much kills the illusion of having some kind of stake in your project. Which is a little sad for me, even if you don’t really care. Not your fault, of course – my fault, for having misunderstood your intentions with the toolbox program and the purpose of your website.


And sad to me, too. Personally, I find it very community-building and stake-increasing to hear what's going on in the project, why updates are paced the way they are, how the creator's life is going, and to get that all in something more interactive than a blog blurb or a newsletter.
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby charles » Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:33 pm

BLANDCorporatio wrote:
Ansan Gotti wrote:Predictamancer, baby! A nice conversation with Wanda would fill in 141-142 nicely.


That's so plausible it just cannot be true :P

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. We see Wanda in 141 and I'd easily imagine that while Sizemore might seek counsel from Janis with his peace loving attitude, Wanda would seek it from a predictamancer with her dedication to fate.
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby CorrTerek » Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:14 pm

balder wrote:But look, threads like this hijack the discussion and poison the fan culture. They can't do anything at all for the good.


QFT. I've stopped participating in so many forums because of issues like this. Thanks, Rob, for a concise explanation that I may quote for later use.
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Re: Sorry, Rob, but I've got to address the updates issue

Postby Tiger » Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:28 pm

While I don't feel quite the same as the OP, I think we're all frustrated by the slow pace of updates. One thing I think would help is if we were kept more abreast of when to expect the next strip - more than "updates will be slower than normal for a while", though I do appreciate Rob letting us know about that. A few webcomics with less-than-regular update schedules have a meter at the top where the author gives updates on how close he is to being done with the next strip. I think something like that would be appreciated, and less frustrating to those who have trouble waiting for their semi-weekly dose of Erf. Even just an occasional message on Facebook/Twitter saying that [important milestone] or X panels is/are done and the comic will probably be up in Y days would be nice.

Rob and Xin's prerogative, of course, but it might help keep the rabid fans at bay.
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