Local Kickstarter Comic: King of Pop Issue #1!

A couple local creators from Easthampton are putting together a print run for their comic, and the Kickstarter just needs a tiny push over the finish line!

We’ll let the creators themselves tell you about the book:

King of Pop is an oddball pulp assassin extravaganza, born from a love of D-List movies, tasty snacks, and homemade comics. The debut issue is jam-packed with off-the-wall action and comedy!

We join our heroes as they set out on a dangerous assassination mission in Osaka, Japan. However, they aren’t alone. There are other, competing assassins in the mix, along with some deadly and hilarious adversaries. Will the King of Pop succeed, and maintain his title as the World’s Top Assassin?

King of Pop: Big In Japan, is the first in a planned 5 issue arc! All color, 36 pages, and completely awesome.

At only $3 for 36 full-color pages, it’s a very reasonable price for a comic book!

Our favorite part is the faux-ads they’ve put in the book to give it that Real Comics Feel:



Wednesday Games at the Brass Cat Special Announcement!

Hello folks! We forgot to put this week’s Wednesday Games in the danged newsletter on Sunday so we’re making a special announcement and giving a little intro to the event!

Wednesday Games at the Brass Cat takes place from 7:00pm – 11:00pm at the Brass Cat bar in Easthampton [65 Cottage St #101, Easthampton, MA 01027].

This Wednesday is especially special because you’ll get to experience the currently in-development runaway Kickstarter success Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right! It looks like basically an adorable storybook asymmetric strategy game? And one player can be a dashing rogue raccoon! We would highly recommend arriving early if you want to check that out!



What is Wednesday Games at the Brass Cat?

A few dozen people head to a bar in Easthampton named The Brass Cat and they play board games at the tables. Outside if it’s warm, inside if it’s cold. Usually there’s a featured game, but there are always a bunch of other options ranging from games that take minutes to games that take hours!

How do I take part?

Head to the Brass Cat at 7:00pm, and look for a table that’s overflowing with board games. Then talk to the folks who are around that table! We suggest you introduce yourself with “Hello, I’m here for the board game night. What are we playing?”

Who hosts Wednesday Games?

Justin! Don’t hesitate to ask Justin literally anything because we’re pretty certain most of the entertainment he gets from this event is that he’s able to put his encyclopedic knowledge of his board game collection to a positive social use. He’s the person nervously darting about near the table full of games.

Who attends Wednesday Games?

A variety of folk from all over the Valley! The common thread is that these are folks who want to play something new or introduce someone to a game they love. If you are over 21 and you derive enjoyment out of spending time with a boardgame you’ll have a nice time.

What games get played?

The featured game will always be on offer, but other than that it’s up to you! Pick a game from the big pile that you know you like, ask Justin if there’s anything that takes X minutes or that needs Y players, or walk around and check with folks to see if they can take an extra person at the table!


January 16th – January 22nd

The Valley Nerd Watch!

Why is this issue late? Well, on the one hand computer troubles since we’ve had to reinstall Windows but on the other much more accurate hand we thought we were like an hour from the end of The Witness and it turns out we were like 10 hours from the end oh GOSH that’s a beautiful frigging game start to finish. Just spectacular. Probably the best puzzle game we’ve played in a decade, and that’s a decade that includes the likes of SpaceChem! Very neat, highly recommended.

Speaking of highly recommended, why not contribute to the last leg of the Kickstarter for the spectacular dark Western comic book The Other Son? It’s in the last legs this week and you can help push it past the finish line! The starting contribution gets you the comic for $4, and that’s pretty much the going rate for a comic book these days. Why not buy a comic AND make a local creator’s day a bit brighter?

We also got word from a local organizer this week about an event on the last weekend of January that we think you should probably attend! It’s a forum on what Massachusetts can do to help combat climate change. If you don’t really want to see a future where large portions of the US coast are no longer habitable, this is a chance to help make sure that reality doesn’t come to pass!

On Saturday, January 28 at 3 pm we will be holding a forum “Climate Action in a Time of  Crisis”  in the sanctuary of First Churches, 129 Main Street in Northampton. Featured will be State Senate President Stan Rosenberg and other representatives from the Massachusetts legislature, climate scientists and activists to discuss the problem and an action plan that will protect our earth from climate destruction. The forum will be one step in forming our segment of the massive movement that will be necessary to protect our earth and the generations to come.

Get to it, folks!

Go check out the Valley Creators page! As always, be sure to check out our Patreon and the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week! And don’t forget to check out the updated Book Clubs List!



Wednesday, January 18th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Forbes Library Zine Club
ZINES! Revolutionary! ZINES! Amazing! ZINES! Hyper-specific! ZINES! Building community from the ground up! Learn to put together and distribute some ZINES!
Friday, January 20th
Emily Dickinson Museum [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Emily Dickinson Poetry Discussion Group
Hear Joy Ladin Gottesman, Professor of English at Yeshiva University, speak about Emily Dickinson! She’s published a bunch of essays on Dickinson, and a book-length study, Soldering the Abyss: Emily Dickinson and Modern American Poetry. We always lose our solder in the abyss.
Saturday, January 21st
Jones Library [43 Amity St., Amherst, MA 01002] at 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Teen Craft – Loom Weaving (Ages 11-17)
Learn how to weave on a loom! That’s just good preparation, you never know when loom-weaving is going to come back into vogue and you definitely don’t want to be left behind when all your friends bust out their looms.

Board Games:

Tuesday, January 17th
Palmer Public Library [1455 N Main St, Palmer, MA 01069] at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Palmer Library Family Game Night
Play games! Bring your own or use the vast library at the library! It’s a good time for young and old.


Saturday, January 21st
Jones Library [43 Amity St., Amherst, MA 01002] at 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Racial Equity Leadership
There’s not really a description of this one on the site, but we’re assuming this is a get together that encourages folks to take leadership roles in ensuring that discrimination is appropriately dealt with? Let us know what you think about it if you go, it sounds interesting!


Tuesday, January 17th
MYSTERY LOCATION at 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Building Shell Tools with node.js – Monthly Full Stack Meetup
Sequoia McDowell gets to present the Node.js talk he was hoping to give in December! It’ll be a blast, talking about building shell tools in Javascript and it is both useful and fun!
Thursday, January 19th
Hampshire College Weneczek House [205 West Bay Rd., Amherst, MA] at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
January 2017 Western Mass Drupal Users Group Meeting
There are going to be “show and tell” presentations about anything that you’ve worked on recently or just something you think the group would be interested in! Sounds like a perfect first time to attend, as well!


Monday, January 16th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Queers in Comics and Games
Talk about comics and games with friendly locals at friendly local shop Modern Myths!
Thursday, January 19th
Palmer Public Library [1455 N Main St, Palmer, MA 01069] at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Anime Club
We aren’t really big on anime most of the time but we’ve heard good things through the General Nerd Osmosis Network about Mob Psycho 100? Oh it’s by ONE! That’s the person who did One Punch Man! That means it’s probably real gross and a bit mature but also real funny. It even has a similar dead-eyed main character!


Sunday, January 22nd
Deerfield Community Center [80 Old Main St, Deerfield, MA 01342] at 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Winter Lecture Series: Revolutionary Acts: Tea, Taxes and Tempests
Learn about the inciting acts of the American Revolution! How did a group of people who were pretty danged happy being British subjects get so angry at the Crown? A smart person will be there to explain some facets of the situation to you!


Tuesday, January 17th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
Kids’ Craft Club
Craft! No not Minecraft, craft craft! Physical objects that you can hold, throw, juggle, launch into orbit, all that jazz! It’ll be a blast and a half.
Wednesday, January 18th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
Minecraft Club
Minecraft! No, not crafts! Virtual craft! Non-physical objects that bend to your every whim! You can emulate a computer in there and play Minecraft IN Minecraft!
Thursday, January 19th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
LEGO! No, not Minecraft and technically distinct due to being a more specific subset from crafts in general! Put together a bunch of fun stuff using the most versatile toy ever made.
Saturday, January 21st
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art [125 West Bay Rd., Amherst, MA 01002] at 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Northampton CommunityMusic Center Family Concert Series: Shiprock and Anchordog
See the continuing adventures of the beloved Shiprock and Anchordog! Two best friends will tell kids about the exciting adventures they’ve had and the new ways they’ve learned to look at the world!


Wednesday, January 18th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Anomalisa Screening
Anomalisa is that one movie that looked really interesting a while back done up in stop-motion animation. Seems interesting enough, though it is kind of the four millionth movie about a middle-aged man finding himself. At least it looks neat!
Sunday, January 22nd
Yiddish Book Center [1021 West St., Amherst, MA 01002] at 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Carvalho’s Journey
“A real-life nineteenth-century American western adventure story, Carvalho’s Journey tells the extraordinary tale of Solomon Nunes Carvalho (1815-97), an observant Sephardic Jew born in Charleston, South Carolina, who was a groundbreaking photographer, artist, and pioneer in American history.” Sounds like a danged intriguing tale.


Thursday, January 19th
Palmer Public Library [1455 N Main St, Palmer, MA 01069] at 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
RPG Club
You get to pretend to be an Orc Bard, an Elf Bard, a futuristic techno Bard, the King of the Bards, a sort of modern-day rock and roll type Bard. Really, you can be any Bard you want to be in the world of your imagination!

October 3rd – October 9th

The Valley Nerd Watch!

Happy Halloween Month! Indulge your cosplay desires in this, the month we all agree it’s acceptable for everyone to dress in a neat costume all hours of every day including the work day because we as a society understand how to make life a bit more decent and are capable of having some fun OR JUST ON HALLOWEEN IF EVERYONE’S GOING TO INSIST.

We’re equally capable of performing our work duties dressed as Doctor Doom, you know.

This week we want to point you all toward a neat Kickstarter from local tabletop game developers Fat Elf Games! It’s called Broker, and the idea is basically that it is a simple and fast paced card game with an explicit rule that you are supposed to cheat as much as possible.

So for instance, if it says “everyone draw 1 card” and you happen to just subtly draw 3, that’s cool! The idea is that you can slowly cheat your way to victory or win the whole game in one intense cheat if you’ve got the gumption! All the while, your friendly competition is both cheating and looking to call you out!

Sounds like a good time, has a very reasonable-looking goal, and we’ve heard from playtesters that it’s a pretty fun experience. Although as always with Kickstarters, only put in the amount of money you can comfortably stuff into a trash bag and set on fire.

Also continue to ramp up your excitement for Nerd Nite next Monday, October 10th! It’s the third anniversary of Nerd Nite NoHo, and the first anniversary of the new hosts who we hear are just the best folks and everyone thinks so.

Go check out the Valley Creators page! As always, be sure to check out our Patreon and the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week! And don’t forget to check out the updated Book Clubs List!



Wednesday, October 5th
Sunderland Public Library [20 School St., Sunderland, MA, 01375] at 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Pumpkin Decorating for Teens
WARNING! This will not be an ordinary pumpkin painting program. It’s going to be about … painting different images and characters on pumpkins? This press release seems to be describing what we’d call an ordinary pumpkin painting program. Hm. Welp, best pumpkin gets a prize! Go make a fun pumpkin, folks!
Holyoke Public Library [250 Chestnut St, Holyoke, MA 01040] at 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM
Pumpkin Carving
Show those pumpkins what-for! We won’t be intimidated by them this year or any other! We’re going to prove it by carving funny faces into them and then putting them on the doorstep as a warning to any other pumpkins that might try to mess with us. For real though why the heck did we start doing this? We’ve looked it up just now and apparently literally just because people in Scotland and Ireland wanted to make lanterns out of turnips with weird faces on them to creep each other out. You do you, Scotland and Ireland.
Thursday, October 6th
Mead Art Museum [41 Quadrangle Dr, Amherst, MA 01002] at 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Gallery Talk by Rico Gaston
Rico Gaston will talk about his works on view at the Mead including a new mural to be painted with Amherst College students. A bold move, using students instead of brushes, we’ll see how it pays off.
Emily Dickinson Museum [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Amherst Art Walk and Poetry Night
All night long there will be art in the homestead, at 6pm there’s a poetry open mic, and then some featured readers from the Florence Poets Society including Eileen Kennedy, Howie Faerstein, Tommy “Twilite” Clark, Gerald Yelle, and Marian Kent!

Board Games:

Saturday, October 8th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Dungeon Busters Demo
Dungeon Busters is a recently Kickstarted “filler” card game for 3-5 players that’s supposed to last about 20 minutes. It sounds like maybe something you can bust out when you’re all waiting on someone to arrive and you don’t want to sit down for yet another filler Diplomacy game. Learn more and get a chance to play at the demo this weekend!


Tuesday, October 4th
Odyssey Bookshop [9 College St, South Hadley, MA 01075] at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Becky Wai-Ling Packard, author of Successful STEM Mentoring Initiatives for Underrepresented Students
Professor Becky Wai-Ling Packard will discuss her new book, a research-based guide for faculty and adminstrators teaching them how to recruit and retain students from underrepresented groups using effective mentoring. The book goes through both real and perceived barriers that face underrepresented students and shows how you can mitigate them via effective mentoring programs.
Wednesday, October 5th
Odyssey Bookshop [9 College St, South Hadley, MA 01075] at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Archer Mayor, author of Presumption of Guilt
A forty-year-old skeleton is found encased in a concrete slap at a recently decomissioned nuclear energy site. It becomes a case for the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI) and its leader, Joe Gunther. Delightful! VBI! This couldn’t be more New Englandy if it was trying. See Archer Mayor talk about a cold case mystery in the Green Mountain State!
Thursday, October 6th
Odyssey Bookshop [9 College St, South Hadley, MA 01075] at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Editor Cathi Hanauer and Contributor Julianna Baggott
Talking about “The Bitch is Back”, Cathi Hanauer and Juliann Baggot will discuss a new batch of passionate and funny pieces about the spirit of feminism, offering unique views from a diverse group of women!
Saturday, October 8th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM
Indie Author Day Gathering
Are you an independent or self-published writer? Maybe you’d like to be! Join a bunch of other folks at the library for a mixer, and share your experience while you learn more about self-publishing! The only rule we know is: if you’re paying someone else to publish you, that is likely not a great idea.

Comic Books:

Sunday, October 9th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Comic Creator’s Jam
Do you make comic books? Do you make a webcomic? Have you thought about a webcomic? Have you considered that lines can be put to paper using certain methods in order to create the impression in the viewer that those lines form a physical object? You should hang out here! Basically you chat with nice people about how to draw nice or make good comic-making business decisions or whatnot and also play drawing games to loosen up the old creativity. Lots of fun!


Tuesday, October 4th
Palmer Public Library [1455 N Main St, Palmer, MA 01069] at 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Down on Main Street: Planning Palmer’s Future
Chart the future of Palmer! Guide the ages with your own hands, and wreak your terrible visions upon the world. Well, upon Palmer. Well, and you will probably have to work with other people whose visions are not necessarily as terrible or awe-inspiring as your own. Still if you live in Palmer this is the place to be.
Saturday, October 8th
Sunderland Public Library [20 School St., Sunderland, MA, 01375] at 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Questions about FAFSA
Basically everyone finds planning college finances terrifying. If you’ve got any questions about the process, this is an opportunity to ask them! We aren’t really experts but we’re very comfortable saying that you should as early as possible jump through every hoop available that will reduce your student debt, because that death follows you to death and beyond. The literally dig up your skeleton and force it to work in the mines.
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
Free Sign Language Workshop
Join Signing Basics at Forbes for an hour of learning the basics of ASL. Learn greetings, spell your name, and play a fun game that’s common in the Deaf Community. No experience necessary, and open to all ages!


Tuesday, October 4th
The Foundry [24 Main St., Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Northampton Webdive – After Work
Hang out with local coders and web developers, and web DEVELOP a relationship with folks who have similar interests and skillsets to your own! It’s a good opportunity to put down the computer for a bit and focus on talking to other people, which is called “networking” if you want to make it sound less fun.


Wednesday, October 5th
Springfield Public Forum [34 Court St., Springfield, MA] at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Nancy Lublin: How Tech and Big Data Can Save Lives
Tech and Big Data are of course our friendly neighborhood super-team. Tech may look a bit scrawny, but their command of gadgetry more than makes up for their size in a fight! And Big Data, of course, possesses the Cerulean Gem of Knowledge, giving her a complete understanding of any object within her gaze as well as tremendous physical strength! Wait oh goodness wow no this one is actually a talk by Nancy Lublin about how it’s possible to use technology and large-scale data collection to save lives via a service that gathers up texts to a crisis hotline and suggests alterations in regional and local policy to address trends in that data.
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00 PM to 8:45 PM
Mystery, Horror, and the Northampton State Hospital
The Northampton State Hospital stood on Hospital Hill from 1856 until its demolition in 2006. At this event you’ll hear three authors read from their mystery and horror novels inspired by Northampton’s historic institution. Dave Stern will read from Shadows in the Asylum, Emily Arsenault will read from The Evening Spider, and Katherine Anderson will read from Hospital Hill!
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
First Wednesday Speaker Series: Patrick Barron with Defining the Machine
Patrick Barron, a person who ran for Congress as an Independent and did not win in 2010, wrote a book about how our political system is broken and how to fix it and we’re just going to go out on a limb and say that the fixed system would totally have elected him. But for real, get an inside look at what it’s like to attempt to work through problems via getting elected to office and what might make our kind of weird and awful system of elected positions better.
Saturday, October 8th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Forbes Library Doctor Who Club
Who? What? Why? The Doctor? No we don’t know any Doctors. We did meet a procession of aroun a dozen men of varying levels of personal ridiculousness, is that what you’re talking about? Anyway watch a classic TV show with a friendly bunch of local folks at the Library!


Thursday, October 6th
Historic Northampton [46 Bridge Street, Northampton, MA 01060-2406] at 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
The History of Market Street: 1730s to the End of the Civil War with Lu Stone
Historian and author Lu Stone will lead a walking tour based on her research of the Market Street Neightborhood. You’ve got to pre-register and there’s a suggested donation of $5 for members, $10 for non-members. Find more info and pre-register here:!
First Church of Deerfield [71 Old Main Street, Deerfield, MA 01342] at 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Lecture: “The Future of Historic Preservation: Saving the Places that Matter”
David J Brown, Chief Preservation Officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will present a free lecture about how we preserve our past. Deerfield is a place with immense volumes of human history, a Native homeland for 12,000 years and a community of colonizers since the 1600s. Why are places like Deerfield important to America? Why should we prioritize their preservation? Find out at this talk!
Saturday, October 8th
Historic Northampton [46 Bridge Street, Northampton, MA 01060-2406] at 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Saturday Walking Tour led by Steve Strimer
Walk the African American Heritage Trail, leaving from the Sojourner Truth Statue at the corner of Park Street and Pine Street in Florence, this time with Steve Strimer of the David Ruggles Center Committee and the Sojourner Truth Statue Committee!


Tuesday, October 4th
Holyoke Public Library [250 Chestnut St, Holyoke, MA 01040] at 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Scary Movies for Teens
They are all PG and PG-13 so it’s less likely “scary” and more likely “funny” but it’ll still be an excellent time!
Sunday, October 9th
Yiddish Book Center [1021 West St., Amherst, MA 01002] at 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Talk: Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing with Mike Silver
Boxing Historian Mike Silver talks about the all-but-forgotten history of Jewish boxers from the 1890s to the 1950s including their domination of the sport in the ’20s and ’30s and the ways boxing helped Jewish people assimilate to life in the US, there will be a chance to get the book signed after the talk!


Friday, October 7th
Chesterfield Scout Reservation [22 Sugar Hill Rd., Chesterfield, MA] at 7:00 PM to 12:00 AM
Magestry LARP Autumn 2016 Game 3
Magestry needs NPCs to challenge the increasing population of PCs! Get out there for FREE and get FOOD! Also, get to be a barbarian or an orc or whatnot! It seems like a ton of fun, and they’d love to have you whether you can be there the whole weekend or just a few hours! You’ve got to join the Meetup to see the contact email, and if this sounds like fun you definitely should check it out

Support Local Creator KC Green, Also Get Cute Plush Doggie Doll

There’s a new Kickstarter that you can pledge to in order to support one of our fair Valley’s great artists!

One of the first things we do when we talk about how the Valley has a surprising number of relatively unheralded influences on worldwide popular culture is mention KC Green. If someone hasn’t heard of his work, we ask if they’ve ever seen a cartoon of a room on fire with a dog sitting in it… and they immediately recognize what we’re talking about. KC makes amazing art in a ton of places, and we love it all, but this piece stands out as resonating deeply with a really wide audience.

Which is kind of annoying, since mostly what that has meant for our beloved local creator is that a bunch of people on image-sharing sites posted it with the attribution stripped and got a lot of likes.

Well, now is your chance to say to KC “Hey, good job making that terrifying dog-comic that became a meme because the world is kind of terrifying, and that new comic that’s slightly more hopeful despite also being terrifying

The Kickstarter has already exploded the goal for a plush doll of the This Is Fine doggie, but you should still get yours! It’s a cute doggie you can hug to feel slightly less afraid. It’s adorable and we highly recommend you grab one. There aren’t any stretch goals or nothing, just a cute doggie and a way to give KC some cash in exchange for a thing he made that you think is neat.

Speaking with Chandra Hughes of Chisa Studios

Local creator Chandra Hughes is a Hampshire student who co-founded a small game design studio that specializes in “Visual Novel” games, which are basically what they sound like? Choose-your-own-adventure stories with stats and pictures and also you tend to wind up involved in about a half-dozen simultaneous whirlwind romances and/or puzzle solving competitions. download

She and the rest of Chisa Studios have been hard at work between studies getting this small primarily student-staffed studio set up to produce their first game! We got to speak to her this week about that game, Bitter Truth, and about her experiences getting into game development.

James Olchowski: Hello! Thanks for talking to me today.
Chandra Hughes: Hey, thanks for having me.

JO: Were you born in the Valley? If not, what drew you here?
CH: No, I was not. I grew up in Manhattan. I am currently a student at Hampshire College which is how I ended up in the Valley. I really like this area though.

JO: You mentioned that you got into voice acting in 2010, what got you interested in voice acting?
CH: In high school, I stumbled across someone’s voice acting audition on youtube one day and decided to give it a shot for fandubs. After some practice, I bought a USB mic and spent most of my free time auditioning for projects on Voice Acting Alliance.

JO: What was your first voice acting experience?
CH: Honestly, I can not remember. But I will say, voice acting is the thing that brought me to video game production.

JO: And what exactly is a fandub, or the Voice Acting Alliance for that matter?
A fandub is fans dubbing a show. [Alright so… that makes sense. – ed.] I got involved in fandubbing for anime although people have certainly done it for TV shows and video games. Voice Acting Alliance is a website for those interested in finding online voice actors for their projects.

JO: Do you have recommendations for people interested in doing VA work?
CH: Recommendation wise, I’d highly suggest start by auditioning for fandubs. You learn a lot by imitating emotions that already exist from characters. Once you’re able to do that, it will be so much easier to voice original characters. Voice Acting Alliance is a great place to start!

JO: Have games always been a hobby for you?
CH: Yes and no. I wouldn’t call myself a gamer. But when I was a kid I would play a lot of Pokemon and other DS games. Honestly, I don’t remember why I started playing. It was certainly popular in my generation, but I remember picking up a gameboy one day and playing it.

I have also loved Japanese video games. Later down the road, when I became interested in game production, I got myself a ps3 and ps vita, and I have been trying well known titles since.

JO: When did you become interested in making a game?
CH: During my first semester at college, I took an introduction to game design course and fell in love with the production aspect of it. During that time, Bitter Truth had also arisen, and with the nice timing, I started developing games.

JO: How did you and Samantha start working together?
CH: Samantha and I are actually friends from middle school. I brought her into the voice acting world with me back in 2010, and since we both loved writing, we decided to write a valentine’s day radio play that was called “Tsurai Shinjitsu”. The project never was completed, and so we decided to revamp it into a visual novel, and changed the names to be a American, and hence “Bitter Truth”.

JO: I notice that neither you nor Samantha list programming as a skill, is it necessary to know how to code to make an interesting game? Did you need to call in specialists for any part of the process?
CH: While I do think knowing programming is beneficial, I do not think it’s necessity. Rather, if you under game design mechanics, that should suffice. That said, I do have minor programming experience as I’ve dabbled in Ren’Py (the visual novel engine we’re using) which certainly did make things easier.

JO: The inaugural game of Chisa Studios is a Visual Novel romance, why did you choose this format?
CH: I have always been a romance fan since a kid. When I encountered anime in sixth grade, I did not ever stop watching. I went through the sailor moon and magical girl phase, which had a huge romantic part in it. That said, we didn’t exactly choose to create a romantic visual novel. We had taken our romantic valentine’s radio play and decided we’d be able to expand on it, turning it into a visual novel.

JO: There have been, at last count, an infinite number of visual novels produced. What sets Bitter Truth apart for veterans and what makes it approachable for new players?
CH: What I can say is, Bitter Truth isn’t your typical romantic visual novel, and while it has elements of an Otome game, it is not completely an otome. The protagonist, Emilia Teague, is already in a relationship with her best friend, Callister Grant. In this sense, the gameplay revolves around Emilia’s life and interactions with other people, and less around deciding which guy she ends up with. Our game is heavily story based.

JO: Have you encountered any challenges putting working on a game with a small indie studio?
CH: Definitely. The biggest challenge, that I’m sure any indie can agree on is, budget. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to find people willing to volunteer their time to work on games, and we are very fortunate to have Gaby as our artist. Our team consists of college students and full-time employees, so there isn’t much free time for any of us to work on this, especially if they can not get compensated for their efforts.

JO: You’re going to Kickstarter for this work, were there challenges involved in setting up an effective Kickstarter? Do you have recommendations for fellow artists?
CH: There were a ton of challenges setting up the Kickstarter and still more to encounter. The biggest challenge is that we’re asking for $10,000 for the project which is a huge sum. With that in mind, we spend a lot of time working on promotional art, rewards and updates. Since September we updated twice a week. On Mondays we’d release a description of how we were building Bitter Truth, and on Fridays we would release the assets regarding the description. In terms of recommendations, I’d highly suggest spending a lot of time researching and listening to feedback. Audience is the key to success, and at the end of the day, the game is made for the fans, not for yourself.

JO: Not to be pessimistic, but is there a plan in place for if the Kickstarter doesn’t reach the final goal?
CH: Our publishing company, Sekai Project, and us are discussing a plan if the Kickstarter fails. At the moment we’ve decided that we would cancel the project and regroup. We’d discuss with the team on who would be willing to keep working on the project for fun, and see if we could launch another Kickstarter with a smaller goal. Each volunteer would get a small compensation.

JO: How do you keep Chisa Studios projects on track working with someone long-distance?
CH: It’s a lot of constant emailing back and forth, along with Skype calls. With our volunteers, we get a deadline from them and then check in periodically. Those for hire, we try to assign deadlines/ That said, it isn’t the easiest, especially with time differences.

JO: If you could only recommend one game to our readers, what would it be?
CH: Oh man, I’m never a fan of the “favorite” game. Considering I’m making a visual novel, I will go with one from that genre. I would suggest Clannad, for anyone who enjoys romance.

JO: What’s interesting about Clannad?
CH: I think Clannad’s gameplay mechanics are very impressive in terms of giving the player an immersed interactive experience. Choices really impact your ending on which character or story arc you end up in.

I’d recommend it to those who love romance because the game is highly romantic while still being realistic, in ways. There is a slight amount of supernatural in it as well. I did not attempt to imitate Clannad into my own work, as their protagonist is a single male while Bitter Truth has a female already in a relationship.

JO: Is there any other local work you’d like to highlight? Are there local developers that people should look up?
CH: I would love to highlight GlowLime Games, a student organization in the five colleges that aims to build a community of professional game developers. As the Operations Manager, I find working for this organization very rewarding in so many ways. For anyone in the Valley interested in trying game development or mentoring I’d highly suggest contacting us.

Thank you again for the interview. We have launched our Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight. Check it out! We’d love all the support we could get!

Speaking With Pioneer Valley Games Founder Jesse Bemben

We’re lucky enough to have some talented, interesting people in our happy valley, and the Valley Nerd Watch wants to introduce you to as many of them as possible.

That’s starting today, with an interview of local video-game developer and artist Jesse Bemben of Pioneer Valley Games!

James Olchowski: So first of all, why start your own studio instead of getting into the industry?

Jesse Bemben: That’s mostly because… even if I were offered to work with EA or Blizzard or something I wouldn’t do it. I spend a lot of time watching online lectures and stuff, I recently finished a lecture series by Warren Spector, and he had a bunch of people come in and talk for hours at a time, Richard Garriot and a bunch of others.

Hearing people talk about it just completely turns me off of working in the industry. The reason I’m working independently is because I want to make my story. It’s selfish but I think most people want to tell their story. If you work for a company, you’re never going to make your story. You’re always going to be working on someone else’s idea. And some people might like that but… I just am not interested. It’s also an extremely tumultuous industry.

JO: So do you do this for a day job?

JB: I actually do graphics, I’m working for a guy who does mobile games. So I put a contracted amount of hours into that each week based on my own schedule. I wake up whenever I want and work the hours that work for me. Everything else is just working on my own projects.

JO: Is there a reason you chose to make your company Pioneer Valley Games? Why you chose to specifically highlight the area?

JB: No, I mean I’m from the area and I love the area and it started in the area… so it seemed natural to me.

JO: The Valley has really built up a community of craft and artisans, have you found that it’s a good community for something digital?

JB: I haven’t had a huge amount of interaction with artists in the community. I only know a few to be honest, many of them in this building [Eastworks] itself, and one of the people I worked with was an artist, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. I think I found it more inspirational when I was a writer, actually.

You could go up to the mountain and sit down and write and it was awesome. Digital work is a bit different, I spend a lot of time hanging out at my house with my dog, I’m not connected to many people face-to-face.

JO: Interesting. Part of the reason I started the Nerd Watch, and something I’ve found as I’ve spoken to people, is that if people in the same area are doing something similar and it’s amenable to the internet you just don’t meet each other.

JB: Yeah, I’d say this area has a lot of… real artists I guess. Sculptors, painters, and they’re great and there’s just a difference between the physical and the digital mediums and how they interact.

JO: So did you get this position in part or in whole because of the Pioneer Valley Games work that you’ve been doing, and the RPG Maker assets you have for sale on Steam?

JB: Yeah, he saw that I had some stuff for sale on Steam and got in touch with me.

JO: Have you had a lot of success selling asset packs on Steam?

JB: Enough success that I don’t need a job so *laughs*, yeah.

JO: Do you think that the 3D-rendered models you’ve made [link] have something to do with your success? They don’t look much like other RPG Maker stuff.

JB: Yeah, when I started doing this about two and a half years ago there was only one additional pack that you could buy. RPG Maker came with a base set of very cartoony looking graphics. Then, they released another completely different set that was just graphics, from someone just in the community, not on staff. When I saw that I figured well if this person can do it why can’t other people do it?

So I sent a message to one of their staff asking if they’d be interested in selling something if I made something. The 3D rendering stuff I had was the fastest to work with at the time, and I was into experimenting with it so that’s where I wound up making most of the assets. And for whatever reason, no one else has been really making RPG Maker stuff in that style.