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Dune Graphic Redesign – What I worked on to relax during Fallout: New Vegas development

Scott Everts
United States
Foothill Ranch
California
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"Nobody gets me. I'm the wind, baby!" - Tom Servo
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"Push the button, Frank!"
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I’ve worked in the video game industry for close to 20 years and though it can be fun, it’s also very hard work. I worked on the original Fallout & Fallout 2, both great games and tough to complete. Especially Fallout 2 which we had to finish in only a year. I figured after Bethesda bought the development rights to the Fallout series years ago I’d never work on a Fallout game again. Then my company signed a contract to do Fallout: New Vegas! There’s several people I work with that worked on the originals so we already had a good head start on making the new game. But it was a tight schedule so we really had to work hard to complete it by the release date. Meant some long hours, especially for our programming team that really burned the candle on both ends.

I love working on boardgames as a hobby and I’ve made a lot of free player aids & sometimes do graphic designs for friend’s games. My favorite published game so far is Forlorn: Hope which was really fun to do. I hope someday we can do a fancy 2nd edition with nice bits (potential publishers take note!) But most of the stuff I do is for free download just for fun.

Back on August 29, 2009 I played my first game of Dune (thanks BGG for tracking my game plays!) I was really impressed with the game! Though no one in my game group owned it. A friend of a friend came by and brought his copy. He trashed us since he was an expert. I wanted to try it again with a group of newbie’s like me but because of the eBay value of the original game we didn’t feel comfortable asking to borrow it. So I debating about making my own copy. There were quite a few versions available on BGG. None of them were perfect but I figured I could cobble something together from several different versions. Then work was getting a bit busy with Fallout NV so shelved the project. Fast forward about 3 months...

I really enjoyed working on Fallout NV but was very busy and I needed some project of my own to wind down each night. The one great thing about having your own personal projects is no deadlines and no one but you decides the direction. So I went through my various on-hold projects and remembered my interest in building my own Dune game. I had already compiled some folders of various images and designs others had made. Wasn’t sure how fancy I wanted to get so decided the first thing to do was the map.



First draft map & Near final map

At first I was just going to use an existing map. I looked through the various designs already made. I figured I’d just do some minor revisions on an already existing one and be all set. But the more I did this the less happy I was. I started work on one and kept screwing around with it more and more but never was really happy. It was just too busy and not very elegant. Then I found OglBrutus' design. I liked the simplicity of the map but wasn’t super happy with the border. I wanted a square map for easier construction and it gave a place for cards/tokens to sit. At first I just added a border. My first pass was ok but it was really red and kind of overwhelming. I then toned down the reds to more yellow and added the large blue starscape around the planet. The blues helped balanced the yellows/reds and made a nice border. I realized while working on the map that maybe I should also redo the cards. I planned to print them with Artscow and there wasn’t that many cards so seemed like a good idea.


First draft cards 3D render (my first released design very close to final)

Before finishing the map I began working on the card design. I figured the map and cards should match so needed to figure out a cohesive design for both. My first plan was to change them to full 3.5" x 2.5" size so I could print then at Artscow. I also wanted the game rules printed on them so I didn’t need a ref card. I find games that force you to lookup the rules on a separate ref card cumbersome to play. Now the big question was what to do about illustrations. I’m not an Illustrator. I know several but none of them are boardgamers and so not interested in working for free! Fortunately someone supplied me with very high resolution scans of the original game art and decided just to use that. The original Dune art is actually quite good. It has that 70’s comic book look and surprisingly detailed. With very good scans I was able to get very clean copies of all the art. I then spent a few weeks working on a graphic design that would suit those illustrations. When I got a design I was happy with I posted a 3D mockup for opinions.


Final printed map & closeup

Since the cards worked out well I went back to the map and did further refinements to the design based on the layout style I made for the cards. Eventually I reworked so much of OglBrutus' map that much of it was changed. I created new mountains, put all the text in a circular pattern for easier play, changed the territory/storm lines to be easier to differentiate, & created new icons for the strongholds/spice. I then worked in the 4 corners with a place for cards, tank (dead leaders/armies), and spice tokens. Also added a turn track. The Photoshop file for just the map was over 200 megs. The border was a separate 180 meg file that I squashed together for printing.


First Artscow test print (had numerous errors, these got thrown out)

Now was time to layout all the Treachery & Spice cards for printing. With my first draft I printed a test set of cards with Artscow. While waiting for it to show up I found numerous errors and wanted to do a few edits to the design.

At the time I had no intention of doing the expansions but decided to include the expansion Treachery cards. They were independent of the expansions so didn’t see a reason not to add them. Some of them I thought were really cool. I put a little logo on each expansion card so players could remove them if they wished.


Final Spice & Treachery decks (printed by Artscow)

Writing the Treachery card rules was a challenge. I needed to condense the rules so they fit on the cards but were clear enough that a ref card wasn’t necessary to play. Since I’ve made many ref cards over the years, I’ve had a lot of experience doing this. I think my deck has the most consistent and accurate rules to date. So far no one has had any issues.

One thing I’m a stickler about is keeping with the original designer’s rules. I don’t want to deviate with fan made variants or rewrites. I don't mind adding player made content but don't want the basic release to be different then the original release. Though I realized some like to play with variant rules so made sure to create a blank Treachery card for those players that want to rewrite/add cards to the game.

I did create a Treachery Ref card with the full card rules on it. This was probably unnecessary since we’ve never had to use it on the games I’ve played with this set.


Leader/Army tokens (3D render)

The leader/army tokens were next on the list. I planned to have custom acrylic disks lasercut by Litko Aerosystems so made the leader token art 1.5" (same as original size) & the army tokens 5/8". I then ordered 1.75" tan colored disks and 3/4" disks in 6 colors from Litko. The leader disks were a little bigger then I planned. I mis-measured. I should of ordered 1 5/8" but it wasn’t that big of deal. I debated about ordering the leader disks in 6 colors but that was a lot more expensive so settled on making them all tan. Besides, the back and front had the faction color so didn’t seem a big deal. I could of done the same for the army tokens but seemed more important to see the colors in stacks on the gameboard.

The main leader tokens from Dune: The Duel were easy enough to add but had horrible art. I don’t know why they didn’t commission the original artists to make them. But they clash badly with the other leaders. I’m no illustrator so my attempts to make them look closer to the originals failed badly. Eventually I decided to rework the Descartes edition main leaders. Those fit better. Still not as good as the originals but didn’t clash so badly. This is one of those times I really wish I had a friend that could of drawn new ones!


Faction Logos

I then had to create the faction logos. I used the color logos that are commonly seen on many designs and traced them by hand. They were too small to use automatic tracing. They got a lot of use on the various cards/references/tokens/etc.

It’s important in a game to have various tells for players to easily distinguish elements. Distinct icons and colors work very well. And its best to use both at all times. Some of your players might be color blind so they can pick up on the icon while most other players will probably pick up on the color first. The army tokens include an army dude on one side and a faction logo on the other. So players can use either depending on their preference.


Player Shields back & front

The player shields design went together pretty quickly. I was using a sand dune motif on the card backs so figured that would work great on the shield backs tinted with the faction color, large logo, & faction name. The front side took awhile to layout. I wanted to include the full rules and include the optional rules too. Plus a sequence of play. It’s very important to me that all player options are easily referenced without requiring too many extra ref cards. So fooled around with the layout for awhile until I got it as clean and useful as possible. Since this had to be extremely readable I didn’t put any distracting background. Plus the text is dark on white for easier readability. The left and middle panels are all you need for a basic game. For new players you can tell them to ignore the right completely!


Combat Wheel

The combat wheel is a very cool component of the original game so wanted to make my own. The hardest part was doing the numbers around the wheel. My easy solution was making a 21 edged cylinder in 3D Studio Max and rendering a quick image in wireframe directly from above. Then used that to line up the numbers in Photoshop. Fast and made a perfect wheel! I then whipped up a Crysknife logo for the top. To cut them out I found a circle cutter at the local art supply store. That worked great! I made 6 wheels so each player could have their own. The back was printed on cardstock and the top on paper. Then both were laminated.


Traitor Deck

All the basic stuff was ready. But then realized I needed more to make the game even more friendly for first time players. Over the years fans have added additional "ease of play" elements to the game. The most useful one is the Traitor deck. I wanted to make sure my copy didn’t require you to write stuff on scraps of paper! This was an easy deck to put together since it was really just each character illustration and name. Since I had space I added the rules to the card.


Alliance Deck

The Alliance deck was an idea I had to help new players remember what extra powers they had when they were allied with other factions. This was one of my most useful new additions. Remembering what each faction gave you in your alliance was easy to forget so having that card right in front of you was really useful.


Bene Gesserit Prediction, Kwisatz Haderach, Leader cards

In my quest to replace post-it notes and pens I made several other card decks. There’s a full card deck just for Bene Gesserit Prediction which works quite well. Pick faction and turn number. Then return the rest of the cards to the box unseen. I also made a special card for Kwisatz Haderach optional rule. Finally I made a Leader ref card so players could see each faction’s leader strength value.


Mouse Pads

Mouse pads! Ok, why did I make these? Because they are cool! But there was another reason. One of the big problems with plastic disks is they are bloody hard to pry off a table if you have no tablecloth. Just like cards can be. But a mouse pad makes it so much easier to pick them up. So it dawned on me that a round mouse pad with the faction logo would be really cool. You could put your screen in front and keep all your disks organized behind it. And they look so nice.


Box

Finally, I made a quickie box cover image. It’s my least favorite part of the project. Just something I put together quickly for my own simple box.

Originally I had no plans to do Dune: The Duel or Dune: Spice Harvest expansions. I was planning to add the leader tokens from Duel but that was about it. But several BGG members begged me to make those too. The unfortunate part for those expansions was they added a ton of new cards.


Duel map 3D render & final printed map

I started first on Dune: The Duel. It had just a board and a small number of cards. This one was really fun to make. I fooled around with various designs for the board until I came up with the marble & metal inlaid board you see now. It turned out really pretty printed. It’s fairly big at 11"x11" but wanted it that size so the leader disks would fit comfortably in each zone.


The Duel deck

The Duel cards were also fun to make. I put big colored circles behind the illustrations so each of the 4 card types were easy to differentiate in your hand. I also put the full rule text on each card so no ref card was necessary. I gave these cards a purple tint so they wouldn’t get confused with base game cards.

I still haven’t played Dune: The Duel but thought it might be fun to try as a completely independent game. Four players duking it out around the tiny board could get interesting!



Spice Harvest decks

Dune: Spice Harvest was a big one. Tons of cards! Fortunately (like the Duel cards), they had excellent illustrations. I loved the stronghold art so wanted to make sure it was well featured on the cards. Came up with a slight revision to my graphic design that would use most of the card for the nice art. I deviated from my normal cream tone for the planet deck. The color planet images were great so decided to keep them. I added a shadow to the planets which added a nice 3D effect.

Once the cards were done and they were checked many, many times for errors, it was time to process the files for upload to Artscow. Wow, this took hours and hours! I created a few Photoshop actions to help but still took forever. Then the layout in the Artscow editor which took even more hours and lots of checking for errors. Once it was all done I ordered the whole bunch and waited a couple weeks. It was kind of unnerving since I had a constant worry about errors. I checked them many times but something always sneaks in. Fortunately all was well. And Artscow did an excellent job. I’ve had some issues with them in the past on inconsistent back printing but these were all perfect. For added protection I sleeved them all.

I was finally done! Well, not really.


Combat & Move Storm decks

I got a request for a card version of the Combat Dial & Move Storm markers. They were easy enough to make and I thought the Combat dial deck actually looks pretty cool. I used an illustration left over from one of the expansions for it. I still prefer the dial but these work too in a pinch. The Move Storm cards actually work just as well as the tokens.

I also had a request for a deck version of the Leader tokens. That was easy enough to add and just a modification of the Treachery deck. In some ways this might be better then the tokens. Since you are already playing cards in a combat, adding another card is easier then holding the token with the cards. Personally I like the feel of the tokens but would be happy to play with either.

So now, was I done? Nope!

Requests started to come in for translations. I realized that would be a huge job to get done depending on how many requests I got. I’ve already worked for months on the redesign and was itching to work on something new. But what could I do? The best solution was to release all the source files. That way anyone could make their own translations (as long as they had Photoshop) and release it themselves. I don’t think everyone realize how much work that is so several of the requests I got disappeared once I suggested they do the layout work themselves!

It took me a few months in-between some other projects to get all the files converted in a user friendly format. The original file sizes were huge so made a special version of every component that had all but the text layers flattened. As long as you had Photoshop and the fonts installed you could make your own. So far only the Italian Treachery deck was ever made. I’m actually surprised we don’t have a German version but so far no one has started work on it. Maybe someday.

I did have a request to do the Lansraad, Ix, & Bene Tleilaxu but had to decline. I wasn’t impressed with their rules. They added many new elements and seemed way unbalanced. From reading other comments many felt the same. Fortunately Slev Sleddeddan (Slev) has taken over that project and made his own version of those factions. So I think every released item has been made for the game thanks to Slev!


The complete basic game setup to play

So, a project I did to unwind during the evenings after a busy day at work on Fallout: New Vegas turned out to become a major full scale project! I started the project sometime in April 2010 and finished up the last bit in March 2011. I did a little consulting with Slev and gave him a few extra unflattened files to make his life easier. But think I can finally stamp "FINISHED" on this project!

Hope you all enjoyed my rather long description of my redesign. It was fun and really did help me get through the tough bits on Fallout New Vegas. I remember nights excited to get home to work on the next piece. And gave me something to think about when I was doing something particularly dull like painting dirt and rocks in the middle of nowhere along the endless desert of the wasteland!
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