As mentioned in my previous blog post there are several improvements I think about for the future of this website. The change from Flash to HTML5 means a complete rework is inevitable, and while I edit every item anyway I also want to improve the illustrations. This is the one topic that might cause some controversy among long time SP-Studio.de visitors, so let me explain exactly why I want to do this and what you can expect from the results. Please remember: This is just an idea for now. Nothing has been decided yet and I just share my early thoughts with you.
I would love to change the character design from South Park to a unique style. I know… The whole project is based on South Park and even the name “SP-Studio” is a reference to the show, but please hear me out. During the past years I became more and more annoyed by the fact that my dearest project I put so much time in is “just fan art”. Though I draw everything myself the typical South Park shape of the characters means that the copyrights partly belong to Comedy Central, which limits me in many ways. And there are more things which make me consider this change.
Downsides of the South Park style:
- The copyright issues limit me a lot. For example I am not allowed to publish an app in the app store or Google Play Store. I am not allowed to offer services like “print your SP-Studio character on a shirt!”. And I am not allowed to allow you to use the pictures for commercial projects, even if you want to pay for it. Many things my visitors ask me for are not possible because the characters look exactly like South Park. I always have to be careful about legal consequences.
- While I am limited by the copyrights, other people ignore them and illegally earn easy money with my work. They sell fake South Park merchandising with SP-Studio images and just insult me if I tell them to stop. This happens a lot. They disrespect South Park and me as the creator, and even earn money with it… While begging for donations is the only way I can earn money with the SP-Studio to pay for its maintenance. Honestly… I am sick of this situation.
- I might reach a wider audience if the website does not look like it’s just for South Park fans. I notice many SP-Studio users don’t visit it because of South Park, they just like the cute characters and the many possibilities for customizing them. For example I often hear from teachers who use the pictures in class. Many people might prefer something that’s not based on a certain tv show.
- What about the future? Here in Germany South Park is not as popular as 15 years ago. And when the show is cancelled (which becomes more likely because it already runs for 21 years) the interest in this type of characters will become even smaller. While this is not a pressing reason at the moment now is the chance for me to change the design because of the new version.
- The official South Park page has its own character creator since a couple of years. It was built with mine as a base and is more limited, but it is difficult to compete with an official version in terms of marketing. They have a huge audience on Facebook and Twitter and are allowed to create an app. I am sure many young South Park fans just use the one they know from the official website.
- The new character shape I have in mind will have advantages. With slightly longer legs and bigger feet more detailed clothes would be possible. And you already ask for features like noses, ears and eyes with an iris which are not typical for the South Park kids. So I guess there are many of you who don’t care about the original South Park style.
- My numbers of visitors are dropping.. A couple of years ago I had 50.000 visitors per day, but the interest is slowly fading. While I cannot exactly tell what’s the main reason for this (the problems with Flash, less interest in South Park, other avatar trends, more competition from mobile apps…) I know I should not be afraid of changes if I want my website to stay relevant for you and new visitors. This is not about money or fame! I just want to work on something people like. If I feel like they don’t like it anymore because it is outdated I should change something.
- It would be more fun for me and it would feel better to draw my own characters instead of just copying existing ones. I am not as huge of a South Park fan anymore as I was 15 years ago, so I am not very attached to this art style. I don’t want to come to a point where I shut down this website because I hate drawing for it.
There is only one advantage I can think of:
- Some of you are only here to build South Park characters. They just want them to look like from the famous cartoon and are not interested in a unique character design. I might offer the biggest collection of items and most freedom in customizing, but if they just came here because of South Park they might not care about this. So they will stop using the SP-Studio because of a design change, no matter what the end result might look like.
So while there are way more disadvantages than advantages about the South Park style I know the one disadvantage weighs heavily. 15 years ago I created this as a project for fellow South Park fans and though I wanted to get away from this style for many years now I was always afraid to turn on the fans which made this website big in the beginning. So it’s a really difficult decision for me. But I think I would regret not taking the opportunity for a change.
How would the new character design look like?
As you can see in the sketch above I don’t want to change the characters a lot. I want to keep the look and feel of the SP-Studio. And there is no way I can draw every shirt or hairstyle again! So I would just change the body shape a little bit, with different eyes, (removable) ears, longer legs and different feet. The characters will stay cute and very similar to the ones you love, but they would be unique enough to be my own creations instead of a copy of South Park. All the objects would stay. I’d have to edit certain parts of them, but this would be fine. But please know that this image is just an example of what they might look like. It was just a first test and I am open for feedback.
And just for the record: The old SP-Studio will stay online. As long as Flash is working on your computer it will still work. But there will only be updates for the new HTML5 version. I cannot update two versions.
While I always cared about your feedback in the end this is something I will have to decide on my own, because I have to live with it and draw those characters in the years to come. But there is one thing I’d really want to know… how many of you only use the SP-Studio because the characters look exactly like South Park and don’t care about anything else? And how many new people would start using it if it would not be South Park fan art? While I cannot ask those who don’t visit the SP-Studio right now I created a little survey with three questions to learn more about my current audience. It would help me a lot if you would take the time to answert those questions!