2009: homestuck launches, riding on the wave of problem sleuths success. pretty big for a webcomic but still very niche overall. fandom is basically nonexistent outside of the mspa forums. mostly straight men and programming nerds
2010: hivebent happens. hetalia fans, tired of being in a big, widely-disliked fandom and drawn to the promised land of a fandom with a large cast and its own shipping system, migrate to homestuck en masse. the fandom gets its first major boost in popularity, more than doubling practically overnight. new fans are mostly young women
2011: fandom steadily expands over the course of the year.
ben nye literally sells out of grey body paint prior to comic-con. vriscourse comes to a head and people continue to argue about her death for months after. cascade drops in october, enough to crash multiple flash and download sites, and act 6 begins in november. by the end of the year its near impossible to use tumblr without being exposed to homestuck somehow.
2012: homestuck fandom peaks. this is the last year that homestuck is published regularly (the only hiatus lasts for about a month, before the dancestor intermission). homestuck is everywhere on your tumblr dash, on reddit, on 4chan. hussie has a tumblr and post and tweets regularly. in september the homestuck kickstarter begins, meets its $700k goal in less than 2 days, and finishes in october with nearly $2.5 million. this draws the attention of a few mainstream publications - pbs, wired, cnn, huffpo, etc. dante basco becomes a homestuck fan.
2013: homestuck fandom begins to shrink. first, in april, when the comic goes on a month-long hiatus. around this time, several other fandoms gain popularity - attack on titan starts airing in japan, off and dangan ronpa have just received english translations, welcome to night vale is finishing up its first season - thanks to homestuck fans looking for something to tide them over during the hiatus. when it comes off hiatus, homestuck resumes updating (much more often than most webcomics, but not nearly at the multiple-pages-per-day speed it had maintained prior). in october, hussie announces hes putting the comic on indefinite hiatus to work on the game, and that it will return with one final massive update containing the rest of act 6 and the entirety of act 7. namco high is published in late december to a resounding “meh”.
2014: homestuck remains on hiatus for nearly the entire year. the website only updates to announce new merch. paradox space launches in an attempt to revive the fandom, which has some success, but not nearly enough to compensate for the loss of interest over the hiatus. behind the scenes, whatpumpkin is wrapped up in legal drama with the odd gentlemen over stolen money and failure to adhere to a development schedule, finally severing their contract at some point over the summer. (hussie vaguely refers to “innumerable unspecified problems” in an mspa blog post, but due to a nda the full story doesnt become public knowledge until summer 2015.) hussie still tweets (but not regularly), but he nukes his tumblr. homestuck does eventually come off hiatus in october, hussie announces that the “one giant update” plan has been cancelled and serial updates resume. [s] game over stirs up the fandom
2015: updates continue regularly through january, at which point another hiatus begins that lasts until 413. on the same day that homestuck resumes, paradox space goes on an indefinite hiatus which continues to this day (”cancellation” would probably be a better word). a6a6i5 begins and, accordingly, the vriscourse comes back with a vengeance (although the fandom is now much smaller). davekat is canonized and surges to become the most popular ship in the fandom practically overnight. homestuck continues updating for a few months, with page after page of huge blocks of ponderous dialogue, reaching an emotional climax at the end of the summer with [s] terezi: remem8er. homestuck goes back on indefinite hiatus. early this year, steven universe finishes its first season, and near the end of it, undertale is released, both popular with ex-homestucks. at some point this year, hussie clears his twitter account.
2016: in february, hussie announces that homestuck is Ending, Seriously, For Real This Time. updates resume in late march. homestucks remaining fandom gets worked up, estranged fans rush to catch up, and ex-fans wax nostalgic. [s] collide drops to resounding applause and approval. opinions on homestuck are overwhelmingly positive up until act 7 drops and homestuck officially ends. the ending is almost universally considered a disappointment and the fandom works through the five stages of grief. there is a brief stirring of excitement when volume 10 is published in june, but it doesnt last long. fandom is lukewarm and disparate at best all the way up til october. hiveswap finally gets a trailer at the beginning of the month, and weeks later the credits drop. in spite of homestuck being “over” a canon jewish lesbian wedding is enough to interest a small number of new fans and revive the old ones. snapd8s keep interest high through the end of the year
2017: hiveswaps “for real this time” release date comes and goes with nothing but an announcement of another delay. snapd8s grind to a halt. nothing happens on 413 but some flaccid attempts at pr by whatpumpkin and promises of development updates we have yet to receive. its mid-may. no gods, no masters, no hiveswap. we are all gay and were eating each other alive over vriska and dirk
one day a CS major with some photoshop skills decided he wanted to make a silly user-submitted command comic about some asshole kid walking around his house, which would explode into some Plot Shit, generally following the model of a previous work, Problem Sleuth (which ran for a year and concluded itself cleanly, i.e., had an actual Beginning, Middle, and End)
anyway, then The Internet Teens picked it up and suddenly this guy’s audience was no longer CS nerds looking for shitty CS jokes and ridiculous plot shit, but teens looking for Feels and Gays
anyway the two things got combined and seven years and 7,958 pages later with probably approaching close to an hour of animation and ~4-5 hours of flash games spread throughout, we are left with an animation reflecting on just how many times the same characters have fucking died.
it was supposed to consist of seven acts.
the following is the current act structure:
Act 5 Act 1
Act 5 Act 2
EOA5 (once upon a time, people thought this 13-minute animation was the climax)
Act 6 Act 1
Act 6 Intermission 1
Act 6 Act 2
Act 6 Intermission 2
Act 6 Act 3
Act 6 Intermission 3
Act 6 Act 4
Act 6 Intermission 4
Act 6 Act 5 Act 1
Act 6 Act 5 Act 2
Act 6 Act 5 Act 1: Again
Act 6 Intermission 5
Act 6 Intermission 5 Intermission 1
Act 6 Intermission 5 Intermission 2
Act 6 Intermission 5 INTERFISHIN
Act 6 Intermission 5 Intermission 3
Act 6 Intermission 5 Intermission 4
Act 6 Intermission 5 Intermission 5
Act 6 Intermission 5 Intermission 6
Act 6 Act 6 Act 1: Homosuck
Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 1
Act 6 Act 6 Act 2
Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 2
Act 6 Act 6 Act 3: GAME OVER
Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 3 (psyche the ride never ends)
Act 6 Act 6 Act 4
Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 4
Act 6 Act 6 Act 5
Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 5
essentially, all you need to know about homestuck is this: if someone tells you it’s a cohesive unit they’re lying, and if someone tells you it’s ending, they’re also lying
I remember one of my biggest nagging fears being “I won’t be able to surprise the audience”. I think I’ve already said I wasn’t exactly subtle in my foreshadowing, but couldn’t quite control myself. So if there was something that someone hasn’t called, it was probably just due to the lack of the rest of the vital information.
And so even though there was more complicated bullshit to my final twists, I remember being actually scared when the first person commented with “that’s the twist, right?”
I sat and thought “well, good job being graceful with your hints Xam, what’s the goddamn point now? anyone who’s read that comment technically knows the ending. who’d want to sit through an entire slowly updating comic to get an ending people saw coming ages ago?”
I’ve heard of other webcomic creators having a similar issue. And while my case probably could’ve been saved with some rewrites, I gotta say: it’s ok to be predictable sometimes.
i’m gonna go to Homestuck for an example again, because it’s probably its fault for making me feel like I also have to pull out twists like handkerchiefs, heh.
I think at some point Hussie started doing things just to subvert expectations, and nothing else. HS fans were ready to overanalyse any tiniest bit from the update, they’d immediately figure out obvious stuff. And from what I remember, Hussie was great at doing just that: surprising us with the endless twists
But the other times I feel like he was sabotaging himself on purpose. Like, some other stuff honestly would’ve worked better if he wasn’t trying so hard to be unconventional. As if nobody told him “it’s ok man, it’s not gonna be the end of the world if Jade is a Seer of Light and Rose is a Witch of Space and the fans see it coming”.
Another, personally infuriating example is the phrase “real people don’t have arcs”. I’m sure it was less a subversion and more just Hussie accidentally writing himself in the corner with the improv comic and trying to cover it while sounding deep, but it was one of the things that killed the ending for me. Like, maybe it’s just me, but I can’t root for the story that actively refuses to let characters learn important things and finish their journey in a logical and satisfying way. It doesn’t even mean anything. Real people do have arcs, I know I did. I’m still having several of those. And I hope to wrap them up nicely and get my own real-person development one day.
Paranatural also seems to love the subversion of the tropes. but recently it mostly devolved into the “character says or does something dramatic, it builds up to something big - haha PSYCHE it wasn’t important at all” schtick.
Which is fine a few times, I’m also weak for the “cynical character that breaks up the tension” trope for example. But you gotta watch out for it, since when overused, it just becomes tiring, pointless and, weirdly enough, predictable. It stops being a neat little trick and starts being an outright lie, denial or an annoyance.
If the audience has been tricked into this trope so many times, it starts asking a very legit question: if nothing is actually important enough to warrant a serious, dramatic or tense moment, why should we care? If none of the established clues lead to the logical conclusion, what’s the point in trying to figure stuff out?
Basically, I’d say the rule of the thumb is: just don’t waste your readers’ time. If you can’t think of a good twist, don’t scotch-tape a bad one just because you “ought to”.
I liked how Nostalgia Critic explained this issue in The Devil review: if all of the characters have turned into the snowmen of George Takei, we wouldn’t have seen it coming, but it doesn’t mean that’s a good twist. A detective story where you’ve figured out the killer yourself is fine, but a detective story where the killer is an absolutely random character immediately renders the entire book full of misleading/unrelated clues worthless.
If your readers have figured everything out - good for them! It means they paid attention, and the story flow wasn’t too confusing to understand what’s going on. In the end, it’s not the outcome that matters, but the execution of it.
Speaking of Hussie’s work, a great chunk of Problem Sleuth was just the final battle. We knew what was going to happen, of course the heroes were going to win. We just didn’t know how that was going to happen, and it happened in the most amazing and batshit insane way possible.
Another Wednesday, another Hiveswap development team interview!
Hey there folks, we’re back to our new normal: it’s Ash here once again! I’ve returned from my brief outing to E3 last week and – don’t you worry – I’ve got a brand-new Hiveswap development team interview lined up for you today, just as scheduled!
But before we get to that, I’d like to toss a great, big “Thanks, man!” Cohen’s way for posting last week’s interview in my stead and, in fact, interviewing me so I didn’t have to very awkwardly interview myself. I may not be a super-cool artist or animator, but hopefully you all found what I had to say to be sufficiently interesting nonetheless!
But speaking of our illustrious creative types, today I’ve got an interview lined up with James Roach, Hiveswap’s sound designer and lead composer! These weekly interviews have been focusing mostly on the game’s visual elements and aspects up to now, but why should eyes get all the love? Not that eyes aren’t awesome and all, but I have it on good authority that ears everywhere are alsolooking forward to Hiveswap. Fortunately, James has very graciously prepared a smattering of Hiveswap sound samples for you to listen to as you read through the interview, so be sure to get equipped with some headphones before you begin!
Take it away, James!
Introduce yourself to the fans! What is your specific role on the Hiveswap team?
I’m James Roach, and I’m the Sound Designer for Hiveswap! I teamed up with [Undertale creator and composer] Toby Fox to compose the soundtrack for the game. I’m also responsible for most of the game’s sound effects and ambient sound alongside Marcy Nabors!
When and how did you get your start on the Hiveswap project?
When I saw the opportunity I reached out to What Pumpkin and sent along my portfolio. I was never part of the “Homestuck music team” in any official capacity, but I was pretty active in the community, so they knew of my work. I was as surprised as any of you when they offered me a job! They paired me up with Toby, who at that point was already a Homestuck music veteran. We’ve both been on the project ever since then.
Tell us a little bit about your career background! How did you get your start in music and sound design? Do you have any advice for others looking to enter this field?
I have been playing piano since I was about four years old. My family and culture have a strong musical tradition, and my mom thought playing music would keep me out of trouble. I got my start scoring web cartoons and doing freelance work. I only started doing sound design in the last few years out of necessity. A friend needed sound work done for their thesis film and had nobody else to do it, and I can’t leave a friend hanging! As far as advice goes, I recommend having your work accessible and easy to find. Make connections and be easy to work with. Being reliable, consistent, and professional will go a lot further than solely being good at something.
We’re making a video game, so of course the question must be asked: what’s your favorite game of all time, and what games are you playing currently?
The first game I remember having a big impact on me was The Legend of Zelda on the NES. My favorite game of all time is probably Bastion, but I don’t play a ton of video games anymore. I play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s all I ever talk about. My friends are so tired of me. Anyway, did you know a group of Myconids is called a “Circle?” Myconids are like cool mushroom guys that live underground. A lot of people think they might have a hive mind, but did you know they communicate using spores? Another cool thing about Myconids is–
Are there any games that you currently use or have used as inspiration for your own music and sound work here on Hiveswap, or just in general?
Obvious notes are stuff like Transistor, Luigi’s Mansion, Monkey Island, and so on and so forth. A lot of the inspiration for Hiveswap’s soundtrack comes less from games and more from my own musical and cultural background. There’s also a third-wave ska song. I have a really complicated relationship with ska.
As someone who writes music for video games, surely you must have a favorite video game composer or two (or three)! Who are they and what games have they scored?
You can’t talk about video game music without mentioning Nobuo Uematsu (the Final Fantasy series’ original composer) in some capacity, and his work has always been an inspiration to me. I think there’s an obvious Darren Korb (Supergiant Games) influence on my work as well. I’m really looking forward to hearing more of the Pyre soundtrack. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that Toby has greatly influenced my work, since I worked with him specifically on this, but he absolutely has. The way he writes counter-melodies is phenomenal.
What’s your workstation like? Do you listen to any particular kinds of music while you work? If so, tell us about it!
Because I’ve been doing a lot of Foley work, I have this bizarre assortment of things lying around everywhere in my apartment for the weird, specific sounds they make. I’ve had this bundle of straws (which I flick rapidly to make monster footstep sounds) on my desk for weeks. There’s a broken umbrella (perfect for a monster’s wing flapping) hanging on the door, and a big pot with a fork and a broken slinky in it (scraped and slapped together to make creepy, echoey laser sounds) just lying around too. It’s a disaster to live in.
Favorite Homestuck character?
Favorite Homestuck ship?
I used to be all about Intermission shipping, but it’s a little complicated to get into.
Favorite Homestuck flash?
I think like most people who started reading as a carryover from Problem Sleuth, “WV: Ascend” was the big “Whoa!” moment for me, so it’s always had a special place in my heart.
Do you have a personal message you’d like to relay to all the Homestuck and Hiveswap fans out there?
Where can people find more of your work? Link us to your own little corner(s) of the Internet!
Whenever you close your eyes and open your heart… I will be there. No, I’m kidding – please follow me. You can find me on Twitter and SoundCloud!
“Can’t hoooold on much longer… But I will neeee-ver let go!…” –oh, wait, I’m back on? Sorry about that, James’ last answer there brought out my inner Crush 40 fanboy. (Sonic Adventure had a killer soundtrack though, didn’t it?) Thank you again for letting us pick your brain for a while, James – and for those lovely sound samples, of course!
It’s Problem Sleuth day!! I spent most of it working on this GPI print, lamenting over my weird unfixable cursive g’s, and wishing I had my nice camera with me. :’)
It’s about time I do another re-read, so maybe there will be more sleuth doodles in the future? I always find myself coming back to this weird story, permanently cemented in my heart, truly a classic. <3