I'm excited! I have so many ideas for worldbuilding and dozens of character concepts! When do we start?!
I know a lot of you are bouncing off the walls at the idea of this new project. I'm happy for the enthusiasm, but please don't get carried away.
The idea is not that there will be a bunch of people constantly thinking about developing the world and story and characters. The idea is that there'll be this story, and every so often, maybe once every few months or so, you will be pinged and asked to contribute a few sentences describing what happens next. There isn't going to be a single grand unified vision of how the whole thing fits together, because there are simply too many people involved, and nobody will get to have that much influence.
If you happen to get the job of designing a character, for example, don't think you will have much control over what the character will do later on. The idea is to share all of that amongst a lot of people. There will be no "world-building" that comes down to individuals contributing large chunks of material. It will be "Here's what we know so far about the world - your turn to add a tiny piece. Okay, thanks, now it's the next person's turn."
I hope this doesn't deflate people too much, but that's how I envisioned it, and it's the only way that I can see to make something out of the enthusiastic overwhelming chaos we would have otherwise.
You still get to contribute, of course - that's the whole idea. But it won't be like you're writing Lord of the Rings and developing all the geography and backstory. It'll be like someone else is writing Lord of the Rings, and asking for your advice on what Frodo should do when confronted by a Ringwraith, and then a bit later on how Faramir reacts to finding out Frodo has the Ring.
Hopefully that makes the concept of what I'm aiming at a bit clearer.
Hey, I've just joined! Here's some art/characters/story to add to the project!
Uh, thanks... but unsolicited material will not be used. To contribute material, register and volunteer to do any of the several task categories. You will go into a queue for those tasks. When your turn rolls around, you will get an e-mail asking you to contribute a piece of work, within defined parameters.
Depending on the size of the queues, you may only get asked to contribute something after a few months. With so many people interested in helping, it's simply not possible for everyone to contribute new material every week or two. But all registered users can contribute their opinions and shape the direction of the comic by voting in the regular polls.
I've been given an art/story/whatever assignment. How exactly do I go about doing this?
That's entirely up to you! You do need to be familiar with the recent story in the comic, but what happens next within the context of your assignment is your decision. You have a couple of options:
When given a creative task, how free are we to do what we want?
Every task will be cooperative to some extent. Artists will be given direction as to what action to depict. Story writers will have to follow characterisations in a sensible way. Dialogue writers will need to go along with the story. But within those constraints, there is still a lot of freedom. One of my mantras is Constraints breed creativity. Working with defined boundaries in one direction can free up amazing creativity in other ways. Things will vary too. Sometimes art elements will drive the story, or dialogue will feed into character development. We'll find out as we go along!
On the other hand, there's absolutely nothing to stop you doing whatever you want. Completely ignore the story and the established character descriptions if you really want. Make Daisy Hoshino a man. Reset the story and say everything up to now was a dream. Turn a story-writer's carefully crafted emotional scene into a slapstick comedy routine. Destroy the universe. I'm not going to stop it becoming part of the comic.
However, the voters may. I wouldn't expect any weirdness of this level to survive the vote of all readers that it must go through to become part of the story - unless it's really, really good and interesting in other cool and exciting ways. And if it is really, really good and interesting in other cool and exciting ways, and the voters do go for it, then hey, that's good and interesting and cool and exciting!
I'm already registered for the Irregular Webcomic! forum. Do I need to register separately for this?
Yes, I'm afraid so. I want to keep the two projects as independent as possible, and also there are programming issues involved in integrating this with the phpBB database that I don't want to even contemplate. Also, this means people can register just for this project, without having to register on the IWC forum.
What sort of art will you accept? Raytracings? Sprite art? Photos? Stick figures?
Anything that will work and make sense as part of the story. This could make sprites, stick figures, and photos difficult to fit in well, but if you can manage it, hey, whatever works. Bear in mind that art will go through a voting process, so some styles may fare better than others.
Is the comic going to be funny? Serious? Contain adult themes?
The style of the comic is up to the contributors and voters. I expect it will evolve into a loose ongoing story with some serious episodes and some joke episodes, simply because people like variety. The only restriction I am going to place on it is that the content must be PG-rated, or suitable for unsupervised teenagers. No nudity or sex, no strong profanity, no graphic violence. Double entendre, mild swear words, and non-graphic violence will be okay, but I retain the right to define the exact line. Oh, and nothing obviously abusive of the concept, such as political propaganda or advertising.
How does the voting work?
Votes are counted using the instant-runoff system, also known as single transferable vote, "preferential voting", or "Australian ballot". This means your vote is not "wasted" if you choose an unpopular option as your first choice; your lower preferences are counted to determine which of the remaining choices you prefer. You do not have to indicate anything beyond a first preference, but it's a good idea to do so if you have opinions about all the choices on offer.
How does copyright work here?
Contributors will retain copyright in their original work, but must agree to it being posted on this site, modified into a final form that will appear as part of the project on this site, and posted on this site in that form. Contributors will agree to release all final combined work under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Licence.
Didn't Ryan North try something like this?
Yes. Whispered Apologies is a webcomic where people submit art on their own initiative, and Ryan and friends write dialogue for it. It hasn't updated for some time, because Ryan and his friends are busy people. This project is different, because I'll be handing out assignments for art, writing, and graphic production rather than accepting whatever art happens to come in and then doing all the rest of the work. Also, this comic will attempt to build an ongoing story, rather than one-shot strips. And yes, I've discussed this project with Ryan, and he's looking forward to seeing it happen!
This site is pretty minimal. What gives?
Yeah, it's all under development. I wanted to get this project up and running as soon as I could. I'll add more stuff and nicer design as we go. That's the spirit of the entire project. Have an idea, and do something about it, don't just sit around putting it off forever.
Your e-mail address will be used only to contact you for handing out and discussing assignments, and sending you a new password if you forget. I will not give it to anyone else.
This will never work!
That's not a question. And we shall see. Maybe it won't, but if we don't try, it certainly won't. What are you afraid of?