State of the state of the...

Quick follow-up to the State of the Erf. (Can Rob write a short news post? Yes, probably. I probably could also learn to fly in a wingsuit, or make tiramisu from scratch, or slay enough antelope to tan their hides and stitch them into a yurt. Am I gonna? Mmmmaybe.)

We saw Linda's oncologist today, and...

...she was smiling. Linda's latest CT scan from Friday shows no new tumors and no tumor growth. I'd love to report that there was further shrinking, but there's really nothing significant. With NET and sandostatin, sometimes you will be fighting a holding action for years, and that's where we are right now. But her doctor is happy with what she sees. She only wants imaging every six months now, which tells you how great this news is. Linda will still be putting up with shots in the keister every month indefinitely, but those shots are working. If and when a CT scan shows any kind of advancement of the disease, we would probably step up to the PRRT radiotherapy or (and this is really not out of the question, given the typically slow progression of neuroendocrine carcinoma and the fast progression of cancer medicine these days) there may be something even better that comes along in the meantime.

Something else is working

Xin and Lillian are learning Maya modeling from the basics on up. In an intensive week, they've gone from simple polygon primitives and learning the tools: some pretty great looking shapes to match the 2D source photo:

They have weeks and weeks left to go, though. In terms of funding those efforts, Re-Tool the Art Team had a big debut. We've now got the money to keep Connor, Xin and Lillian learning through at least the end of the year. Thank you so much to all who have pitched in and bought a gem so far!

Some real pretties appeared in the collections of our artist-sponsors, too. I'm posting a few favorites:

Everybody roll 100d20

So, anyway we've raised over half of my target goal for the training budget. I've talked this over with the team, and here's how we want to bring it in for a landing.

The gems in the store now show a quantity remaining in stock, ranging from 100 for Lillian's Lucky d20 to just 10 for Rob's Resplendent Rays. When they are sold out, that's it. No more gems of these cuts will ever be created, sold, or mined. (The Cube of Tutelage is the only exception. It will be available in unlimited quantity through the end of December, then never again.)

If we can bring in that much, then we can afford to keep Xin and Lillian working all the way through Connor's course, and keep Connor working on the city models, plus stuff like this:

(progress on the dwagon sculpt/model)

and this:

(WIP reference model for portals in the MK, colors still to be canonized)

There is still so much for him to do (and Xin and Lillian, when they're up to speed). We'll need all the older cities, plus the frequently-seen interiors such as portal and throne rooms, generic background terrain, maps...that stuff is piled up high. Ideally, we're going to be able to create a city generating engine, so that new locales barely even need a concept beyond "Old Jetstone Signamancy, near the edge of lake" or some other vague input like that.

And that's just "make the main comic" kinds of things, before we even get into the sculpted units, items, and possibly characters. Anybody want to see a 3D pinup? 3D printed dwagon sculpts? Rigged figures for animation? It all might happen as we level up the art team. Please, please, please chip in and help us do that.

Backer story coming up

I want to get back to Dylan & Thomas, but the main story needs something else right now. So the current prelude update with Noah Moore will be the springboard to a short story for a different backer. That will update tomorrow and for the next two or three update slots. Should be fewer skips, since they'll have no art until the final page. This will give the team time to do some of the new models for the preludes to come.

(Note to Tools: with the backer stories, if you have checked that you'll pledge to these and are also Rain or Shine, you will not get double charged. A maximum of two pledges will ever be billed in one calendar week. If you are not Rain or Shine but would like to add backer story updates to your pledge, now would be a fantastic time.)

Ads coming back?

I want to thank everyone for your comments on the State of the Erf, Part 2. There was a lot of helpful and heartwarming stuff written in there, and I especially want to give a nod to Omnimancer for a couple of great suggestions. The stuff we're going to try is partly in response to that comment and a one or two others.

So. The one thing that everybody seemed to agree on was that we should put the ads back on the site and just suck it up. Hrmmm.

Thaaat's not so simple. Ads actually pay very little if you don't cast some Moneymancy on them. That is, you have to watch them all the time to optimize for revenue, rearranging the ad chains weekly and evaluating the data almost daily. So it's not really as easy as just "activate the ad codes" it's also "activate another part time job for Rob" which I really don't need right now.

But money is something we do need right now, and a lot of it. And you're right. We can't afford to ignore a source of revenue at this point in time, even one we hate as much as ads. So we'll try bringing them back again in January, but maybe with some kind of way to kill the ads again for the whole site that month by doing another special gem sale (or something better we come up with in the next three weeks).

Hey Rob, don't you have a yurt to stitch?

Well I've got Erfworld to write, anyway. So let's call it a news post. Please, please continue to pitch in to Re-Tool the Art Team, at least until we lock in the 3D art budget. Let's take this into a beautiful 2019 for everyone.


    • ElementalNimbus

      While it isn't the most fancy, I was pretty proud so I wanted to share what I got:

      Hope Linda keeps rolling them on her saves :)

      • gamingfreak10

        As someone who used to get shots in the keister twice a month (I still get the shots, but I learned to do them myself in the thigh),  I feel Linda's pain, but also know that it's completely worth the trade off having a semi-normal life. Glad to hear all the good news!

        • OneHugeTuck

          Already had backer stories checked. Upped my thing from $1 to $3.  
          Go Linda!
          Go backer stories!

          • meerling

            So glad Linda is getting good reports from the Oncologist.

            I have several family members and friends that are dealing with cancer as well. One is doing great and only needs 6 month checkups, and another isn't in the hospital despite far too many unexpected visits, but that person is several years past expected survival date and we hope that stays true for a long time to come. The rest are obviously somewhere in between, and still kicking it with mostly regular days. 

            It can get rough, but hang in there, you aren't alone.

            Just a rarely seen unit with the special of "Lurking".

            • KeiranHalcyon31

              Store worked fine for me (in the USA). I got... a 2. Some "lucky d20". ;-)

              • ol Roger


                • Error: This transaction couldn't be completed."

                And Fraud alert!

                • ol Roger

                  Sorry, I do not know how stripe works and my email has become obsolete.  My PayPal is dead as it was linked to obsolete account.

                  • balder

                    @Freddy ZBrush is in Connor's array of tools, and if you've got chops there might be a role. If you want to take a stab at something Erfworldish, just email it to the gobwinknob @ gmail address. Word of warning, though: I am a very tough room. I've got high standards for things that go into Erfworld art. We did put out a call for 3D modelers when Lauri departed, and I also went looking and reviewed/interviewed about 10 modelers. No slight to any of those people (some were incredibly talented), but I gave up on finding someone for our needs until I stumbled on Connor. What we need is just too specific, and I wasn't seeing it in anybody's portfolio. So just don't feel bummed if you fall into that category. "Good, but not right for Erfworld" is a big club.

                    • balder

                      @Crivens Then "training and managing that person" becomes my part-time job, which is a reason I'd hesitate to even accept the volunteer effort. Almost everybody I've talked to who monetizes ads on their site gets much worse results than we were getting at peak, when I worked on the ads all the time. And that's because most site owners stop learning about ads after two hours or one day of Googling. There was a 10-week span in 2014 in which I dove headfirst into all the ins and outs and terminology, and did almost nothing else with my time besides producing the comic.

                      To make ads pay anything, you've got to set up complicated chains with realtime bidding. You've got to analyze every inch of the site and optimize the inventory you're selling. You have to read the constantly changing landscape of ad spending, and try new things all the time. It's just a different level of complexity from what people seem to think it takes, about like the difference between learning to be a tour guide on the jungle cruise ride at Disneyworld and learning to be a tour guide in the Congolese jungle.

                      So it's not just the 20 hours of work per week, it's the volume of data that you have to learn, keep in your head, and apply to the task in order to get decent returns. It's the fact that we get cold-emailed a couple of times a week from companies that want to sell ads on this site, and maybe 1 in 6 of those companies has something decent going on that deserves a place in our ad chains. It's deciding the real cost when a malicious ad causes a problem for a reader. It's a lot of things.

                      "Jungle cruise ride" ad-management (like "AdSense and forget" or worse, "try and sell our own static banners") would get this site maybe $2500-12,000 a year. Hitting that prior stride of $50,000/year may no longer even be possible, for all I know. The whole business gets disrupted every few years. Most trends are toward privacy violation and intrusive tracking. In Q1 2018, our ad revenue had fallen significantly, from neglect while we were working on a scheme to kill them. I probably won't even be able to guess at the current ad revenue potential until I'm 30 hours and 3 weeks into our January ads. Might not be $25K a year. Really, really not looking forward to that work, but hiring someone or delegating is unlikely to get a good answer. I'll be starting from square...three-ish. We'll see how it goes.

                      • FreddyND

                        @rob I work in ZBrush. I can send you some pictures of some recent sculpts if you want. 

                        • Cbob

                          Nonrandom thoughts (maybe in order even)

                          Yay! Much Yay!

                          Shiny! Cool!

                          Ads - while the nth party brokered adstream(s) generate needed shmuckers with the ad rotations they were also subject to the occasional hijack/scareware/etc. Would going retro-net with semi-static links/banners or locally (to your hosting) ads be worth it? (yes it is possible, but would renting 1 week/1day of the top inch of the site pay enough?)

                          Yak skins for the yurt, not antelope


                          • PsychoMentats

                            When ads are re-implemented, would it be possible to add an opt-in switch for tools? If it would help, I'd gladly gaze upon Generica :) 

                            • youngstormlord

                              Still having issues, I'm afraid. Same message. Tried to pay with paypal express checkout, logged in paypal user.
                              Chrome Console says:
                              Mixed Content: The page at '' was loaded over HTTPS, but requested an insecure image ''. This content should also be served over HTTPS.

                              Mozilla console says:
                              Cross-Origin Request Blocked: The Same Origin Policy disallows reading the remote resource at (Reason: CORS request did not succeed).

                              • Crivens

                                @shneeky's offer is generous, but in the words of Homer's brain, "Money can be exchanged for goods and services!" The ads were earning $50,000 per year, was it? And managing the ads is a part-time job, you say?

                                What if I told you that you could hire someone to do that part-time work for less than $50k per year?

                                (Insert photoshopped image of Morpheus holding a red gem in one hand and a blue gem in the other)

                                • balder

                                  @wild card We really appreciate it. It never leaves my mind that you and 2200 other people are going to work at your job, then contributing a piece of the paycheck you earn to make Erfworld still be our jobs. Thank you.

                                  • balder

                                    @shneeky Since it's you, I will very seriously consider that offer. Let me start the process of seeing which ad companies we used before are even still in business. There is one who was doing some of the patroling but they stopped being worthwhile. Another from a couple years ago was offering to do the patroling as well, but I don't know if they're even still around. I appreciate it greatly and I will get back to you if I think there's a role you could fill.


                                    @youngstormlord The dev team's taking a look. They've fixed a few glitches since the new store went up. Other people have bought gems since the qty change but the store might indeed still have some post-upgrade issues with foreign addresses. Shouldn't apply here since there's no shipping, but they'll look into it.


                                    EDIT: Anybody else having issues? Gems were leaving the store on the regular until like 2 hours ago, and then they stopped cold and there's nothing since. That can mean a glitch, especially if it coincides with "an I got an error" kind of feedback.

                                    • youngstormlord

                                      That's great news! Unfortunately, I have some bad news for you too. I can't checkout and pay you in store. Says the following when I try:

                                      • Error: Checkout cannot be completed because tax has not been calculated. Reasons:
                                        • No to zip, required when country is US

                                      The country is Serbia. I tried with US, but got the same response. Help here?

                                      • Wild Card

                                        upgraded my pledge. Wish I could do more. All the moral support I can muster is yours guys, keep it up :)

                                        • Ksaturn

                                          I really do hope something better comes along soon. Radiotherapy is definitely something you want to avoid. I think there are already better options, if you catch it soon enough. Good luck Rob and Linda!

                                          • shneekeythelost

                                            You know, I seem to recall from one of Parson's klogs that he got in trouble for not patrolling the city because it runs more efficiently when a Warlord patrols it.

                                            It sounds like what you need is a Warlord for the City of Adze, who can go on regular patrols and ensure that everything is operating optimally. Which, in addition to being a fine revenue-generating city for the Side, also produces finely carved wood products.

                                            In addition, this Warlord would also be tasked with ensuring only the finest quality Adze, with no audio or hot-links. Someone with less on their plate who can take the time to make sure that the job is done right. It also wouldn't hurt if this hypothetical warlord would be willing to work for Shmuckers instead of cold hard cash, because what's the point in getting a Warlord to patrol the town if his upkeep is worth more than what the city produces, right?

                                            Unfortunately, while my time constraints have somewhat eased, and I could comfortably commit to a year of working on the program on a part-time volunteer basis, with no expectation of income outside of things like maybe shmuckers or a title or something, this is not my field of expertise. In fact, I've never done website development or management before. So as far as qualifications, the Numbers point to zero. I'd be willing to learn, but honestly you've got too much on your plate right now to try and bring someone up to speed.

                                            However, I'm betting I'm no the only one with a bit of free time, and a willingness to give back to Erf by supporting you in such a manner, and I'm betting there's at least a few potential warlords out there who are in this category AND have FAR more experience and expertise in the relevant field than I do who might be willing to get Promoted.

                                            Might be worth looking into, at least.

                                            • balder

                                              WB Freddy! What program do you work in?

                                              • FreddyND

                                                Wow, I've come back to Erfworld after taking a break for a year now. Was great to read new content and see how much has happened. Also sorry to read about Linda :( Good to hear she is improving though!

                                                I've spend this last year sculpting 3D models of monsters and have played with sculpting things like Dwagons or Gobwins for fun, but if I can assisst team Erfworld in any way with my skills, then I will gladly do so! I can sculpt any of the creatures you want for you Rob :D

                                                • Omnimancer

                                                  Glad my suggestions could help out in some way! I'm excited to see what you do next with all the 3D stuff.

                                                  • Drest

                                                    Tiramisù is so easy that it's the go-to recipe for teens who want to prepare desserts! Super easy! Unless you want to prepare lady's finger by yourself - then it's slightly more complicated, tbf.

                                                    All the best to you and linda!

                                                    • Salvage

                                                      Yay! Great news to start the day.

                                                      @Linda and Rob - Keep up the good fight. It sounds like you are pulling through.

                                                      @Xin, Lillian, Connor - You folks are amazing. Your artistry is outstanding. That you are working extra hard to improve and grow on top of what you already do is admirable and wonderful. Thank you for realizing the vision of Erfworld.

                                                      @Bandaid - Our bank accounts should be friends, they sure sound a lot alike.