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Philip Bradbury is not only our audio guy here at Player Affinity. He also wrote and programmed an upcoming graphic novel called Way of the Sax which I talked about last week. I got an interview with Philip, who told me some of the intricacies of Way of the Sax. If you’re interested in the comic, check out the Kickstarter and donate a dollar to help make this comic possible.
Me: How is Way of the Sax different from your average graphic novel?
Bradbury: The first thing you’ll notice when you load the comic will be music. Obviously, graphic novels don’t typically have music because their on paper. Most panels will have some kind of music or sound effect. I’m treating the audio aspect of this project like a video game or movie. There will be music cues and sound effect cues. Unlike other interactive graphic novels out there that do have music, the music will follow what is happening in the current group of panels (think a scene of a movie with a bunch of different shots). The music changes when it has to. Most interactive graphic novels that have music, the music is just one really long track or the music loops over and over, making for a mundane audio experience.
The next thing you’ll notice is that the panels have some pseudo animation in them. It’s not a bunch of still images. The panels zoom in like a movie camera, the characters move around, and other things like fading in and out make it look kind of like the comic is animated.
Also, Way of the Sax has minigames, five in total. The first minigame you’ll come across is at the end of chapter 1 (will be playable in the demo), and it is in the style of a DDR rhythm game. You’ll be fighting a bad guy using punches and kicks and the saxophone, but the twist is you have to select the correct attack (using a keyboard) and time it just right to the music…just like you would the arrows in DDR. Other minigames will include a point and click clue mystery and a Final Fantasy style turn-based fight.
A big part of this project is to give the reader a chance to decide if Ken is inherently good or inherently troubled. The reader gets to make 8 choices throughout the story that tell Ken to do something good or bad. At the end, the different choices will add up and force a corresponding ending to play. There are 4 possible endings and 2 short bonus endings, all based on what choices the reader made.
Finally, there will extra things like some articles you can read to get more scope on the background of the characters and stories and also some extra “scenes” that tell Ken’s origin in detail. The main story is designed to be independent from reading the articles or watching the extra scenes, but you’ll get a lot of neat info and some extra fights that are key to Ken’s past.
In other words, this graphic novel is alive.
Me: What type of software are you using?
Bradbury: The software I’m using to make the graphic novel is called Construct 2 by Scirra. It’s a game-making program kind of like Game Maker, but codes in HTML5 with a lot of export options, making it perfect for a web release in addition to Android, IOS and other platforms. The interface is really intuitive.
Me: How did you come up with the idea for the story of Way of the Sax?
Bradbury: I think one day I was fed up that I couldn’t find a good project to work on. Either the project wasn’t right for me or the ones that I had been working on usually fell apart. I compose serious music and also video game music, but it’s hard to find the right project, especially if it’s some overblown out-of-their-minds project on sites like Gamedev (think dozens of teams trying to make a MMORPG). It’s just not realistic.
So I guess I kind of thought, what if I could start a small project that only required a couple of people, and I could be in charge and make sure it gets done? The rest of it kind of fell into place. I knew I wanted to do something that integrated music with interactive elements. An actual video game is beyond my capability, but I know how to write. I came up with the character of a martial artist/jazz saxophonist probably because I play jazz saxophone and like martial arts movies. Somehow it came to me. I started seeing images in my head and realized that I had to make an interactive comic. I started writing the outline for Chapter 1, then it kind of grew from there.
Me: What feature do you think readers will enjoy the most?
Bradbury: I have no clue. The way I’m doing it, there will be something for everybody. There’s a good story, there’s good music, there’s cool minigames, and there’s the ability to decide what Ken does in critical situations. When I play video games, this is the type of stuff I’m looking for…variety. Games like Prey, Mass Effect, and the Final Fantasy series all have these elements. Basically, there’s incentive to do more than just sit and read a comic book or simply watch something play out on its own.
Me: What are some of the perks people will receive if they back your project on Kickstarter?
Bradbury: There are many pledge levels starting with $1, which just grants access to the full version of the comic. Other pledge levels offer your name in the credits as a supporter, HD resolution backgrounds, signed artwork and music soundtrack, a cameo spot in the comic (up to the pledger who he/she wants to be), and a Skype video jazz performance by myself in my room (newest reward).
Me: What other comic projects have you done?
Bradbury: Well, I drew a running series in middle and high school called Stupidman, a really stupid but sometimes funny spoof of the Superman comics. The main villain was called Dr. Badguy and was a mastermind criminal billionaire like Lex Luther. Other frequent characters/villains include Pxyzmtlk (a parody of Mxyzptlk), the Flydoor (Cyborg Superman), Tin (Steel), Stupidboy, (Superboy), and the Eradinator (Eridicator). Sometimes the storylines would spoof famous Superman stories such as the Death of Stupidman (he actually dies more than once in 2 separate first issues) and the Trial of Stupidman.
Me: Digressing from the comic book realm for a moment, can you tell us some personal information about yourself?
Bradbury: I grew up in New Orleans where I started learning to play music at 6-years-old. I’ve been playing saxophone since I was 7 and clarinet since I was 12. I’m 28 now. I have a Master of Music in Clarinet Performance and Theory/Composition from ULM. I’ve played all over the state of Louisiana, whether it was in college, the Monroe Symphony, honor bands, jazz clubs in New Orleans, or private parties in Shreveport. Currently I’m enrolled at Louisiana Tech University Barksdale in Shreveport where I’m pursuing a BS in Electrical Engineering Technology. Someday in the future I’d like to combine music and electronics and maybe work for a large company like Sony.
Me: What plans do you have for the future involving both Way of the Sax and any other projects?
Bradbury: Way of the Sax is intended to be a trilogy. The first installment that I’m working on now mostly introduces the main characters and sets up the overall story arc. I guess whenever this one is done, I’ll start working on the story for part 2. I’m learning the software as I go, so the next 2 installments should be easier to work on since most of the programming will already be there and I’ll know how to do it.
As for other projects, I occasionally compose some serious music and large jazz ensemble pieces. Sometime next month the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) wind ensemble will premiere my piece The World in My Window, which is a tribute to the retirement of the NASA space shuttle program. I also try to keep up with my performing ability. I currently play in a couple of concert bands and a jazz combo, and we play some of my stuff sometimes too. Last week I did a local clarinet/trumpet recital with a friend to get back into playing serious music again. We plan on doing some more recitals in the near future.
Me: When do you think Way of the Sax will be on sale, and how much will it be going for?
Bradbury: I’ve been targeting a release for May 2013. Whether I make that date remains to be seen. The project is becoming very massive very fast, but we’re (the artist and I) are keeping up with it. As soon as the demo is finished we go to work on the rest, but by then we’ll be in a routine and the pace should pick up. As more people get interested in it, I think we’ll be motivated to work faster to make the deadline. I’m not sure about the pricing just yet. I think it’s hard to price it at this point, but I was thinking of an initial cost of $1 for the pre-orders and then a retail cost of $1.99 to get started. I want to keep the price down because it’s something everyone needs to check out. If the audience is there, I think we’ll do OK with it.
Me: Thank you for your time Mr. Bradbury!