Camen Design

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Tanner Helland Writes: #5

This is one of a series of personal letters written to / from Tanner Helland during 2003–2005. These letters cover—in immense detail—events in my life during that period, including many unfinished and aspiring designs and creations. As a person however, I have changed from the inexperienced, often immature person I was and my skills in programming and web-design have changed just as radically.

These letters have been republished to give deep insight into the way I tick, and to show a lot of background work that lead up to the concepts and skills needed to produce this website, which ultimately I failed to do so back then.


To Kroc:
Everytime I think I can’t possibly get a longer, more intricate letter from you, you go and send a monster like this. :) Seriously though, I am amazed that it only cost you £15 to send! 20 pages!! AHHH!!!

Haha, I really do enjoy your letters. They leave me with lots to think about and it always brightens my day to see something from you in the mail. I really do appreciate all the time and effort and money you put into keeping in touch with me. I hope you always remember & realize how much I value our friendship and the fact that we can disagree on so much and yet still get along! It’s awesome!

A section was removed here that doesn’t belong on the Internet (e.g. personally identifiable information).
The page above and below are short for that reason.

Now that you’ve heard some Evanescence, here’s the next band to listen for: Hoobastank. “Crawling in the Dark” and “Running Away” are exceptional.
Since you offered, if you could burn all the midis from as CDAs, I would be forever in your debt. I would be ecstatic to have these tunes on CD. I was never able to record them on my computer because it just wasn’t fast enough to software emulate the DX soundfont and simultaneously record it. My personal thanks for such an awesome favor. I am so happy you offered! Thanks a million! A lot of the people I’ve met out here have had me play the piano arrangements for them, but it would be so much easier to just let them burn a copy of a CD. Seriously, thanks a million. I owe you so much.
Camen Design
I’m sure proud to see you finding ways to share your design talent with the world. It’s about time! Get out there and make some money off all those skills! :) There’s enough people in this world that make a good living doing the same thing, except they don’t have the talent part of it. If you’ve got the derive to match your abilities, the sky’s the limit! You really could do anything.
I think Camen Design is a good start, and I’m glad to see you keeping it open ended so you can expand at your leisure. Just be careful not to have too many projects running or you’ll never complete any of them! (Alas, that was another valuable lesson learned from TLA). My suggestion would be, as always, to focus on two or three (or even one) and divide and conquer. I know it’s hard, but it will pay off in the end :) I really like what I’m seeing so far, however. The layout is professional and clean while still being fun. The orange and blue color scheme really looks nice too! Honestly, I can’t tell the difference between your sites and the most expensive “professionally” designed ones. Amazing!
Checking Out Camen Design
And I know you didn’t want to hear this, but I seriously won’t be able to check out your webpages in full until 2005! I just don’t have the access or the time or the ability to do so. Sorry! :( I would if I could, but I just can’t. Alas, someday…
NoNonsense 3

I’m excited to see the return of NoNonsense† in its latest incarnation. With the explosive popularity of MP3s, there’s no reason people shouldn’t use it. Bringing it back was a great idea. (And I like the idea of system-wide hooks—good thinking!)

NoNonsense 3 Site
But perhaps the best part of the whole thing is the website…? I absolutely love the NN3 screenshot you sent. As I recall the Flash animation in the corner is a rotating grid thing, which would nicely match the theme of the site. I like how each subsite is unique but similar enough to the original that you retain a sense of familiarity. Brilliant! I don’t know if you planned it that way or if it just happened, but it’s great. I even noticed the nice little status bar at the bottom :)
Hypertext Label
Ah yes—almost forgot. You could totally make money from that Hypertext label. Any number of companies sell stupid ActiveX controls, and that one would actually be useful! Maybe try asking some different companies if they’d pay for the source code…
Vacant Brains v2?

As for the VB section of the site, I’d think it’d be great to use the original VacantBrains¹ idea, except that I’ve completely forgotten what it looked like :) I think, as well, that you should merge out code into the same VB section. I have no problems supplying code for Camen Design :) In fact, I’d be happy to! Feel free to splice up various interesting parts of PhotoDemon² too, if you’d like. VB sites get a ridiculous amount of hits so be sure to do this page nicely and link it well to other pages! (For example, maybe have an “other game resources” list after each game—related pieces of code, with links to HoTMeaL³, music etc.) Just my 2¢

Disastrous Letter
This letter is already an unorganized disaster. AHHH I MISS E-MAIL! Oh well. I guess I’ll continue, since it’s already taken me three days to write this much. I just try to jot down a couple lines here and there whenever I’ve got a free second, so I do apologize for the dissonance and disjointed way this letter must sound!
Goodbye, TLA
It’s too bad that TLA had to end like this, but as soon as I heard you had left, I knew this was inevitable. I don’t see TLA as any kind of failure, though—in fact, quite the opposite. I learned many, many invaluable lessons about life from the project. I also made some wonderful friends—like you!—and I have no doubt that I’ll keep in touch with some of the team members for many years to come. I also learned a lot about leadership and working on a team; skills I now find indispensable were born out of the trial that began as TGP and ended as TLA. Oh, so many memories…
Hello, TLA?
But regardless of this ending that would happen sooner or later, I am really liking this idea of merging TLA from a team project into a community of sorts. I think it is far better. Instead of TLA being a single project, it could instead be a hub for talented VB developers across the net to help each other with their individual projects. For example, Asuka could ask me for a battle theme, I could ask you for a 3D tile algorithm, and you could ask Asuka for a DX render engine. We all help and get help from each other, and only VB
developers with a proven track record of talent and dedication will be allowed to participate. We could even retain the whole TLA website (with some minor changes). I think we would end up getting far more done, and so long as everybody was fair we would all benefit. I know I could use help from every member of the team, and I think I have something to offer all of them. It’s a good idea, at any rate… so talk to Clint about it and shut down the TLA server to save yourself some money! :)
The 3 Amigos (Clint, Kroc, DS)

I am 100% down with you—or Clint—designing a game and me just writing the music for it. If I return to a fully developed game I will happily write the musical score for it, regardless of whether or not I agree with the way the game is designed. My true love lies in music anyway, not design or even programming. I wouldn’t mind fleshing out the script either because I think I have a talent for writing (moreso than the design part, anyway) and I enjoy it. But tell Clint to design a game too and we’ll make both his and yours using the same engine! I’m planning on pursuing music composition as a full-time career upon my return†, and I’ll need lots of practice to work myself back to the peak I was at before I left.

Anyway, try and convince Clint to go along with this because I’m quite excited about writing the score for a game designed by you and drawn by Clint. I think it could be big…

As far as BDA goes, keep me updated. I agree that BGM on a site is annoying. I hated it. And I knew about the Transparent Blt API calls, but I never liked using it because my laptop only ran Win95 so it didn’t really work :) It’s more fun to use your own functions anyway!
Story Ideas
Your first story idea is rather interesting, and actually is quite similar for my plan for the prequel to Defiance, the story. The plan was for Ashmek to have once been Keshma (same letters, different spelling) the evil madman who took over the world then disappeared.
He resurfaces in Defiance, which is actually the 2nd part of the story but was written first, and he plans to aid the heros in an attempt to repent for this previous misdeeds. It’s an interesting idea anyway. I always like stories with big twists at the end. The 2nd idea—about Dragons—I’m not as excited about, just because I’ve never really been into that kind of stuff—But it is an interesting idea…
Tanner Helland Website

Okay, saved the best for last :) Here’s the general idea of what I’m thinking for this, and feel free to disagree if you think I’m crazy :) Haha, or perhaps more appropriately, if you think this idea is crazy.

With me wanting to seriously pursue music upon my return, I want this site to be just mind-blowing. That’s why I wouldn’t have anyone but you do it. I’m thinking some kind of mix between the style of your NN3 page and the curves and non-linear look you mentioned. If the site could look futuristic and ground-breaking but still be simple and ergorn ergan (I can’t spell :P) ergonomic, that would be ideal. I want this to really stand out in a crowd but still be simple enough that anyone with half a brain could navigate it. That’s what I love about your design—it’s so classy and professional without being unnecessarily complicated. Masterful!

I’m planning on using this website as a resume as well, so I need to change a lot of things about it. For one, I’m worried that right now I have too much music posted. It’s almost overwhelming. One idea I had to simplify it would be to post like the Greatest Hits section, and then make the rest of the songs accessible only to members. To become a member you’d have to comment and vote on at least 5 songs and submit your e-mail address. What do you think of that idea? I just worry that a playlist of 50+ songs is too much for most people. Also, a cool feature would be to select songs by genre (battle, character, town, arrangement / remix etc.), I don’t really know if that feature would be worth it, though. I’m open to ideas from the master of design…

Words I would use to describe the site… how ’bout: modern, simple, sleek, dynamic, defiant :), interactive, ergonomic, unique. Colors are up to you—do whatever you want to make this fun for you. I’m hoping that when you’re done you can call this your biggest masterpiece


yet and we can use it to generate you some business. If all goes as planned there should be list of link to your eCV site from it :).

Navigation really doesn’t matter to me. Do what you think is best. I trust your judgement. As for theme of symbolism, I’m thinking of names for it rather than “Tanner Helland Productions”. How boring! One idea I had that would be fun to design for was Fractured Sound Studios, or FSS. You could go crazy designing that :) Lemme know what you think…

The Novel
But enough about that. I can’t thank you enough for helping me. After all is said and done, I’m going to owe you so much. Hopefully a music score for any game you design will be a little in return… As for the novel, it is coming well. The last few weeks have been too busy for me to get anything done with it, but I have some good ideas for it. I’ll send you a part of it at some point in the future.
Did I get it all?

I probably forgot something, but I did my best :) I think this is the longest letter I’ve ever written. Wow! It’s not quite 20 pages but it has taken awhile to write :) I hope you enjoy it.

Above all else, keep up the good work and have lots of fun. Continue to share your talents for they are many!

Good luck with it all and be sure to w/b soon…


Photo of Tanner in front of the Cardston, Alberta Temple
I took this at one of our trips to the Cardston, Alberta temple.
It’s an awesome building and the picture didn’t even turn out half-bad for taking it myself! :)