Sunday, 15 May 2016

Lanschilandia Collectible Cards

So a long, long, loooong time ago, I tweeted on Tails of Lanschilandia's offical Twitter that collectible cards may be on the way. And guess what, here they are!

View the info page on!

I hope no one's been holding their breath for these, as that can't have been very healthy. I created 36 (well, 37 including a little bonus thing I did that isn't available yet) character artworks with sometimes rather elaborate backgrounds for these and it frankly felt like I'd never get done with them. I tend to go a bit overboard with things.

These were created to be part of a webcomic card database called Project Apex, which only requires one single card to be in existence and for sale, but since The Game Crafter - the company that prints the cards on demand - sells them in packs of at least 18, I wanted to match that number. That's when I found out that it's possible to randomise the cards as in real TCG booster packs so I ended up with plans for 36 cards and over the course of many months, between work on the actual comic and with a lot of pauses, 36 cards were actually made and I'm not sure if I ever want to create a "series 2".

Quite unfortunately, Project Apex hasn't updated in a long while by this point and - although evidently still alive, as indicated by an ambiguous approval of the first card I sent them - hasn't been as responsive as hoped either. The result is that, as of writing this, the cards are not actually listed on Project Apex, which is kind of awkward when I'm advertising their site on my cards. The link at the bottom of the info page on Tails of Lanschilandia was going to lead straight to their spoiler sheet, but since there isn't one, I eventually set up my own locally so I wouldn't have to keep delaying the release. I'm hoping that this is going to change eventually or I'll be rather bummed since I passed up the opportunity to make a card game by using their layout template.

Though printed by The Game Crafter, these are currently only available through the link from my website. I haven't purchased a proof yet, which is a requirement to formally publish anything in their store, but was rather happy to discover that it's possible to sell them anyway through the direct link. Of course, that also means that I cannot make any statement yet about how exactly the printed cards look. They're adding UV coating and linen texture to make them neat and durable, so I'm thinking the result will be worth it (though it does make them a tad more pricey than they otherwise would be - but hey, they're collectibles).

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Lanschilandia on Zazzle

I had been running a store for merchandise of my webcomic (Tails of Lanschilandia) and a lot of unrelated things on Cafepress for a while. Their printing quality has never been good and neither has their general quantity-over-quality approach, but I had been sticking with it regardless since I'm not paying any upfront costs anyway. After noticing recently that they apparently removed all-over-prints t-shirts from their store and did something to their posters so almost none of mine fit the dimensions anymore, I recently decided that it may be time to set up a store elsewhere (though I won't be taking down what's left of the Cafepress one since there's no reason to). After a quick search, I was reminded that Zazzle existed and was a similar thing with a somewhat better reputation, so that's where I went.

So here's the store I set up!

There isn't much there yet, and I'm not sure what to transfer over from Cafepress as a lot of the designs there are dated anyway and I'm not too fond of them anymore. I actually went and redrew the old "Lanschi in a circle" thing which may have been my first actual merchandise design on Cafepress back then and I guess I might do something similar with other things that are in need of an overhaul to look a bit nicer. I'm also feeling a little bit inspired to try some new designs, however - the old store actually had more miscellaneous stuff than Lanschilandia merchandise and I figure there should be a bit more of the latter available.

But on a more important note, how does Zazzle truly fare in comparison to Cafepress?

  • Good things first: Though I haven't used it much yet, I've had a couple positive impressions so far, and I'm also going to trust people on Zazzle's printing quality ranking above that of Cafepress (though that's hardly an accomplishment, looking at the products I have received from the latter). I like that the site places more of an emphasis on individual products rather than carelessly putting designs on as many different things as possible as Cafepress does by default and seems to encourage. I also like the possibility for dynamically customisable designs (which can be categorised by things like "occasion", which seems great for people focusing on those kinds of themed gifts, which also seem the most likely to profit from customisable messages). The designer tool in general is nice, making it easy to resize, rearrange, etc. things as needed if they aren't properly optimised and final the way they are uploaded. These things are great, but unfortunately, not everything is.

  • The most obvious disadvantage here is the lack of products. You got the shirts (and apparently some minor apparel that is grouped as shirts for some reason), posters, mugs and cases for devices I don't use and that's about it. Stickers, buttons and postcards are possible, but nonsensical for this kind of merchandise. I'm missing the fancy (sometimes unusual) things that Cafepress has. There are no clocks or bags or puzzles. There aren't even mouse pads. I'm finding myself putting things on shirts if they don't have a background and posters if they do and the rest makes so little sense I'm not bothering with it. What little is there does come in a bunch of varieties that the site can automatically add the same design to in the same manner, which seems nice, but that leads me to my next problem...

  • Customisation in terms of which varieties you want and which ones you don't is very limited. You cannot easily set up the individual products - the site provides one drop-down box where an option can be selected to apply or not apply the design to an entire group of items. There is the impression that one would be able to "edit" the individual items, such as setting different colours for each, but this does not actually seem possible - once what appears to be the default product (which shows up on the storefront) is changed, settings for the previously selected one reset. Cafepress treats all its shirts as individual items that I can modify (such as set their default colour to something that makes sense), move around and remove as desired - this evidently does not and it's awful.

  • Implementation of certain things around the site is lacklustre at best. The site attempts to be user friendly, but a lot makes no sense and seems buggy. Trying to edit an item and then saving it again resulted in a copy of the item. Uploaded images cannot be deleted from the image selector, only from a separate section accessible through the user profile. Random sometimes unfinished products are stored who-knows-where as "saved designs" for no discernible reason. Designs cannot easily be updated with new versions if there's a mistake in the old one. In one attempt to manually remove the image and add a newly uploaded one, the site glitched and caused the vertical scroll bar to disappear permanently until refreshing, which had me start over with setting up the product. If an avatar is uploaded and cropped, the cropping is ignored for half of the instances where the avatar appears, which instead simply centre the image. Different sections of the same store don't update at the same time, resulting in things such as a product that does not exist anymore and also doesn't appear on the storefront still being present in the store category and giving a site error when clicked because it does not exist anymore. It's a huge number of oddities and annoyances like that which simply add up - even the payment settings page had a glitch that caused a required drop down menu setting to be completely empty, which doesn't seem particularly reassuring.

Overall, I'm sticking with Zazzle for now mainly for the sake of those who'd like to buy these things, as I trust that quality is a lot higher here and it also seems like it's easier to use from a customer's perspective. It's also hard to ignore its flaws, though there may not be much of a choice in the area of print-on-demand merchandise. I'm just glad to have something set up that people may wish to actually buy from.