Possible design changes

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.

Your opinion?

…to the SP-Studio survey

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!

Comments

  1. Well, I don’t mind. If You prefer – please. Only I have some questions:
    1. Will the site be renamed?
    2. And where can I view usage statistics?
    I also want to add that on Wikipedia also has a link to this website from the page “South Park”

  2. 1. I will keep the name, because many people know this website but they don’t follow the news on a regular base. So I should make sure it can still be found under the old name / domain. If a “brand” has grown for 15 years it would not be a good idea to change it. ;) Since the backgrounds, clothes, hair-styles and objects will stay I think it’s okay to just call it “the new SP-Studio” in the title or something like this. When the new version launches I will explain how the name is reference to the history of this website and how South Park was the huge inspiration. And the old South Park version will still be online in addition to the new one – but without future updates.

    2. Do you mean the results of the survey? They were not meant to be published, but if you are interested in this I will post some details here in the comments in a couple of days.

  3. To be honest, in the beginning (when someone first told me about this site) I came and kept copming because I liked the idea of creating some “South Parkish” characters. But in the last years I too lost interest in SP itself and kept coming here to create characters I like, so I would stay around! Also, it’s your site and we don’t have any right to demand anything LOL. We should be grateful for these 15 years and the hard work you have kept on the site. I think I’d welcome the change and that it’d give us more freedom and creativity (it’s indeed kind of frustrating to have such short legs LOL). So thank you and welcome the new changes (if you decided for them).

  4. Honestly, I just found your website today. I was looking to make cartoon characters for my own project. Your site seems relatively easy to navigate. Although I have not started a project, I felt inclined to at least express my opinion. I do like the South Park character type cartoons, but I am not here for that reason. I want to get to know your website and I will be happy with just about anything. I just like these types of characters because they look like real cartoons that I grew up with in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

    Good luck with your changes and just follow your heart.

  5. If you don’t really like “South Park” anymore, then there’s no use continuing to curate a South Park game. I only ever used it for playing with SP characters themselves, but you shouldn’t have to ‘fake’ something like this and I always remembered that even when you were kind enough to add them you seemed tired of adding new direct-from-SP items.

    It would be nice if there was a compromise but I know this is not possible.

  6. I too would love a design change that makes it more unique, assuming there will just as many, if not more, customization options. One thing I’d like you to add is maybe a way to give your characters different heights (tall, short, medium) and body types/shapes (average, skinny, fat, muscular, maybe even some things in between those)

  7. I would be perfectly fine with this change, but I would also suggest leaving the South Park stuff here as well. That way, people could do both. Just make it so that the South Park stuff isn’t in its own section, but amongst other original items you created.

  8. Thank you for your constructive feedback here and in the survey! :)

    I will not reply here but will publish an F.A.Q. in an extra blog post soon. There I will go into detail about some of your suggestions and questions.

    Just a quick note about what I learned from the survey so far: Though many people came here for South Park characters most of my visitors would be fine with a small design change to make the characters unique. It seems like the interest in South Park has declined over the past years. The most important thing about the SP-Studio for my visitors is how it is quick and easy to use. This is followed by the huge collection of items and the options to customize the picture.

  9. I mainly came here for South Park, so it would be disappointing, but as you mention, South Park has an official Avatar maker, so there’s always that. You should do what you want, because you’re the one putting effort and money into it. I would come back either way.

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