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Swordsfall 2020, The Year-End Review

A Look Back Through the Year

Story Highlights
  • A Look Back Through 2020 at Swordsfall Studios

To say 2020 was a ride would be an understatement of grand proportions. I don’t think the year turned out like anyone could have ever imagined. And honestly, if someone imagined this up, then they really need a better hobby. So what was up in the world of Swordsfall in 2020? A lot, actually.

Website Shuffle & Payoff

I moved the website THREE times this year, and let me tell you, that was some work. At the beginning of the year, I wanted to see if I could make a store on my own and do some fancy stuff. Well, long story short, it became far more of a pain in the ass than I could manage. I moved to my custom platform in January and was back to Shopify by August.

I actually learned quite a bit, so it doesn’t bother me too much. I definitely have a better understanding of what I want from the store and how customers interact with it. The latest version of both the blog and the store and the best so far, and I think I’m done making huge changes on that for a bit. Working on my web presence was something a lot of people gave me crap for, but Covid-19 proved how right I was.

When the 2020 convention season shut down, I was one of the people affected the least. I hadn’t started that side of the business yet cause I do 100% of my sales online through my website. Well, when conventions began to cancel and more people moved online, I already had an excellent infrastructure set up.

Like I always say. Keep your website strong!

No Welcome to Tikor, yet

The biggest disappointment is Welcome to Tikor not being out yet, and I’ll fully admit that. If you want to know more, the latest Welcome to Tikor update goes over that pretty thoroughly. One thing I’ve had to come to grips with is just how long the editing process takes for a book its size. It’s no joke.

When you read writer blogs or books from famous authors, you always hear them talk about the editing phase. I truly get it now, and in the future, I’ll account for that when I make timelines. That tome of a lorebook is coming along beautifully! It’s really become a bit of my magnum opus at this point, and I can’t wait for people to get their hands on it in 2021.

Welcome to Tikor Cover Illustration by Tumo Mere
Welcome to Tikor Cover Illustration by Tumo Mere

Enter a Publisher: Andrew McMeel Universal

The biggest surprise I was able to drop on people in 2020 was Welcome to Tikor being signed to Andrew McMeel Publishing. A major US book publisher who does major IP’s like Peanuts! Thanks to them, when Welcome to Tikor is done, it’ll be on bookshelves across the country.

Maybe even the world??!!! Right now, it’s just Welcome to Tikor, but you know me. I’ll be doing my best to get every single book I do on the shelf. This is one of those things that doesn’t feel real to me yet. It probably won’t until I can walk into a Barnes & Noble and see my book on the shelf.

But talk about vindication! Another sign that I’m on the right path and that all this hardwork will pay off.

Drift of Dreams Released!

One of my personal highlights of 2020 was releasing Drift of Dreams personally. Writing a graphic novel was always one of those things I dreamed of doing, so being able to do so was a bit of a dream come true. I was also nervous about it because, well, I’d never written a Graphic Novel before. But I did my usual thing where I just breathe and commit to conquering it bit by bit.

The reviews keep coming in, and it’s getting all the praise I hoped for and more! In 2021 one of my goals is to get Drift of Dreams in retail stores. Even if I have to do it myself, I’m going to get Drift of Dreams in bookstores. I’m still working on getting backers fulfilled, so once that’s done, that’ll be the graphic novel's final mission. Did I mention we also peaked at #4 on ALL Fantasy Graphic Novels on Amazon? Not bad for an indie with no industry support!

2020 11 12 06 08 25 Amazon Best Sellers Best Fantasy Graphic Novels - Swordsfall 2020, The Year-End Review
#4 isn't too bad when you look at the competition!

Summit of King, the First RPG is released

Remember the Summit of Kings? Yes, that was 2020, February to be precise! And that marked the official start of the RPG arm of Swordsfall. While it’s something I had talked about a bit, I hadn’t shown anything yet. Well, the rap adventure, Summit of Kings, was the introduction to it! While not long, I think it really highlighted the tone I was going to be going for with the TTRPG.

It also let me show off the way I view game design and such. And the unique way I intend to work the classes of the Swordsfall RPG. The art, as usual, was amazing, and the layout was crisp! Which is just the start of the RPG adventure in Swordsfall.

Role Inc & The Fifth Ebon Expedition

One day during the summer, I received an interesting email about a new platform and their interest in working with Swordsfall. Well, not too many companies try to work with me, so I was immediately interested. Enter Role and their sweet virtual tabletop website, which was doing all the things I was actually wanting!

Then they said my new favorite words, “We want to pay you to make a game.” Ummm YES. Done. Easy. Slam Dunk. What’s next?

Just like that, The Fifth Ebon Expedition was born, the next RPG in the growing Swordsfall arsenal. It was an idea I had before but was able to execute the way I liked—a dangerous journey into one of the “danger zones” of Tikor, the Ebon Cascade.  The adventure will be Mission-based as your expedition group struggles to survive the poisoned lands.

You’ll be able to grab the game on the website as well Role! Which their online software lets you play games with friends through it or match with new people. It’s pretty awesome, and I’m really looking forward to how it turns out in 2021!

Prime City EP – The First Swordsfall EP

I’m a huge music lover, and I’ve been looking for ways to add music to Swordsfall. Well, one day on Twitter, I say the artist EyeLoveBrandon and instantly loved the sound! Also, bonus points for sharing the same badass first name. Definite brownie points.

Brandon worked up three amazing tracks that I think really evokes some of the imagery I wanted for the most high tech city on Tikor, Prime City! There’s something about jamming out to your own stories EP that just hits different. In 2021 I want to explore more music with EyeLoveBrandon and potentially other artists.

The Bank Heist – The First Novella

I put out my first proper novella, the Bank Heist, out during the summer on the website and Amazon. And it was a lot of fun introducing everyone to the Killer Krew. I had a lot of fun writing that story, and it seems like everyone had fun reading it. One great thing about Kindle Self Publishing is that it lets me put out stories like that quickly.

I really wanted to share a fun story around the core group of this massive pirate armada. I’m a sucker for the “Found Family” troupe myself and had to put my own stamp on it.

Bank Heist is one of those stories I’m proud of just because it came all from heart and soul. I mean, everything I do is, but the Bank Heist just came out a certain way. Sometimes there’s a story dying to come out of you, and this was one of them.

Rise of Nubia – The First Comic

The list of firsts this year was massive. I’m a new creator, and this is a new company, so obviously, it’s to be expected, but it’s still exciting! Rise of Nubia was a stretch goal for Welcome to Tikor, a short prequel comic about Nubia of Heaven’s Fall and the Killer Krew.

Tumo Mere did a fantastic job of the art and the expressions! So good that the number one complaint has been that they want more. Which is really about one of the few good complaints you can have. The comic is bigger than the standard size (that was my mistake), but it almost makes it cooler, in my opinion.

I don’t have solid plans yet, but I definitely wanna do more comics in 2021. The ideas are just brewing…

Black Celebration in the Future Contest

For a while now, I’ve been doing to see more black sci-fi artwork around Twitter. Sure, I’m biased because of Swordsfall, but it’s still something I wanted to see. I decided to do a contest but one more fair to the contestants. One in which they ALL get paid, not just the winner.

And with that, the Black Celebration in the Future art contest was born, and the reception was amazing! I was able to raise over $10,000 in prize money for the 40 contestants that signed up. A huge chunk of the TTRPG community turned out to be sponsors and fans as well. Overall the contest went far better than I could have ever hoped. It’s a contest I definitely will do again in 2021.

Black-Celeberatin-the-Future-Banner
Black Celebration Winner – Joshua Clarke

2020 Diana Jones Award Winner

This was a surprise to ME as I didn’t know I was even in the running for an award on any front! One of my goals is to stack up awards so I can have my own wall of awards. That’s how you’re supposed to do it, right? Right. Well, either way, I was awarded it as part of their Black Excellence in Gaming, which, while not my favorite thing, I accepted anyway.

2021? I’m aiming for all the awards.

A Little Media Spotlight

I also managed to snag a bit of media spotlight in a few places. We were brought up in Screenrant and a couple of other major websites! This is the humblebrag section of the wrap up really. I emailed 100 different journalists for Drift of Dreams alone, looking for attention. So I’m gonna bask in the light every time it works.

We got name-dropped on Comicbook Review, another biggie. Some of the more prominent magazines have alluded me this year. But next year? Next year I’m coming for ya’ll. *glares at Polygon*.

Early Access Test Run

As a gamer, I’ve become accustomed to the term “early access game,” and while it scares some, for many others, it’s a way to play a game in progress and give feedback. It’s something I’ve been curious as to how it could transfer over to something like TTRPG’s. I decided to try it for myself with a test run.

My former homebrew Naruto RPG now renamed Shadow Academy.

I ripped out all the copyright Naruto stuff and put in Swordsfall, keeping it with the ethos of the anime with none of the legal jeopardy. In fact, I think it came out cooler this way. Shadow Academy, the battle of Axums, hit early access at the beginning of December, and the reception has been awesome.

I’m now looking at doing more of my big projects this way. It lets fans see what work has been going on and decide when they want to jump in, and also gives me extra feedback—a true win-win situation. In 2021 expect to see Fifth Ebon Expedition and more hitting Early Access!

Shadow Academy. A Swordsfall Campaign Setting inspired by Naruto
Shadow Academy. A Swordsfall Campaign Setting inspired by Naruto

2020 Release Schedule was secretly packed

I actually put out quite a bit in 2020 across the website and Amazon. Here’s a list of the major releases so everyone can remember.

So while yea, Welcome to Tikor didn’t make it to 2020, plenty of other products did! To be honest, I had almost forgotten how much I released this year until I sat down and thought about it. It was a grinder of a year for multiple reasons! And that’s including the couple hundred SKU’s of merchandise I added to the store!

Masks ended up being the biggest seller due to the pandemic. But it was still awesome to think that people are out rocking Swordsfall face masks to keep themselves and others safe.

2021? We go Ultra Plus

2020 was a ride and a half, but I learned much. And I’ll be using those lessons full-force in 2021 as I start dropping the big projects. In my mind, I didn’t do everything I wanted to in 2020, so I want to hit 2021 hard in terms of my release schedule.

As a taste of things to come, here are some projects you can look forward to in 2021. Until then, stay safe out there, and I look forward to seeing everyone in a hopefully less chaotic year!

  • Drift of Dreams Tarot Deck
  • Welcome to Tikor: A Swordsfall Setting and Art Book
  • Shadow Academy: A Swordsfall Campaign Setting
  • The Fifth Ebon Expedition: A Swordsfall Campaign Setting
  • Swordsfall Anime Kickstarter
  • Massacre of Ghinor: A Swordsfall Lore Book

Swordsfall

Creator and Author of Swordsfall. He's a longtime omni-nerd who grew up during the classic days of Toonami, TechTV, and Transformers. However, as a black man in the hobby, he found himself longing for more stories that told the adventures of people that looked like him. Creating Swordsfall has not only been an effort to be the change he wanted to see but also as his own personal journey.

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