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Originz has more than 156 unique pieces of art across its 264 cards. From the very beginning, Alex and I knew, deep down, what we wanted Originz to look like. However, bringing that vision to life was far more involved than we expected to be.
We were creating a comic-book themed game about different superpower sets, so we started with symbols and colors. Each Origin needed a specific Symbol and a color that was representative of the superpower itself. We were lucky enough to meet a graphic designer, and fellow game designer, named Jae Duncan (j.kloud entertainment), who was able to quickly draft nice symbols and templates upon request. Once we had established a symbol and corresponding color for each set, we began looking for an artist.
There are many, many talented artists out there. However, we wanted an artist that was excited about the project, capable of illustrating a large variety of fantasy, science fiction or comic-book themes, and committed to a strict timeline. We found such an artist in Matthew Ryan, of MattR Illustration. He was immediately on-board, quoted a reasonable price, and demonstrated his understanding of the game by delivering some amazing Card Back art in response to our first request.
Next up, was character design. We explained that our game was about wielding superpowers in a post-apocalyptic world, so we didn't want traditional costumed superheroes and super villains. We explained that we didn't want flashy costumes...we wanted characters that would give the player a sense of the power they were wielding. MattR did an amazing job sending us 12 compelling characters per Origin. We asked that they be colored appropriately to match their respective color-symbol.
Once we had settled on character designs, it was time for Matt to begin illustrating cards. Alex and I knew we wanted a card template the felt similar to a full-bleed comic book cover. Although we didn't have a finalized template yet, we sent Matt some appropriate locations where we expected the symbols, titles and card text to go. Full-bleed templates are difficult in this way...the art must be designed from the ground-up to account for the Titles, Symbols, Boxes etc that will be layered over it.
By this time, we already had an excel spreadsheet filled with ideas for over 300 hundred cards from 17 different Originz! We eventually narrowed this down to 12 and decided to leave the remaining cards for expansions. We knew we didn't want to offer more than 2 copies of any singular unique card. We both found feel that variety is what makes card games so exciting, and drawing a hand with 3 or 4 copies of the same card just isn't fun. So we were committed to lots and lots of art from the get-go.
I would send Matt one Origin at a time (13 cards each). I would email Matt a write-up of what each card was supposed to do...the comic style power it was depicting, and preferred perspectives. We wanted the character to be at the center of each image, like you would see a character in a comic book. This meant that although the focus of the art might be a Minion, or a Weapon, we still wanted to be able to see character. This is not easy as it sounds, but luckily, Matt totally got it.
Matt would send back 6 rough sketches for each card, which we would narrow down to 3. Then, he would send us 3 more detailed sketches with varying perspectives. Finally, we would choose 1, which Matt then began coloring. This process went on and on over the course of a year, day by day, until all the art was done. Matt was amazingly responsive and disciplined - an artistic machine.
During this year, and the year that followed it, we also tried template after template. We really wanted a full-bleed template in a style reminiscent of a comic book cover, but it wasn't working out. We cycled Jae over and over, which was frustrating for everybody involved. It was proving exceedingly difficult to get the appropriate information on top of each different piece of art, in a clear and consistent manner. In exasperation, we completely abandoned the full-bleed card art idea in favors of a more traditional, bordered template. This bordered template was professional looking and featured the colors of each origin.
For better or for worse, our initial print runs drove us nuts. The art came in too dark. We worked through some of these issues with Matt until we got the right color profile, the correct mix of brightness and contrast. We learned a ton about RGB vs. CMYK, print profiles, varying printer quality on varying cardstock, and more.
Still, our colored borders, which had looked so great on screen, made the cards look boring and monochromatic at print. This unfortunate turn of events proved to a blessing in disguise - because it compelled us back to our original goal of a full-bleed template.
Sometimes the design process is '1 step back, 2 steps forward.' We went back at designing a full-bleed comic style template design with renewed vigor, and worked it, and worked it until we got it right...In the end, Alex did the graphic design for each individual card titles, the battery-style energy symbols, Minion Offense/Defense symbols himself.
That is only the meat and potatoes of the story. I could go on and on about Font selection, sizing, energy symbol design, black border vs. white borders, box design and more, but I think you get the point....The Originz artistic process was a living, reactive journey. Once the card illustrations were finished, it was really only the beginning. The art, and the emotion it created, began to influence the design of the game itself. Even as we changed mechanics and rules, we had to make sure the cards had a thematic flavor that matched the art.
Like anything that is worth it, the art of Originz is the culmination of a vision, talented execution (on Matt's part), an unrelenting refusal to accept mediocrity, and lots and lots of hard work!
The art in the game has a great cohesive aesthetic with a strong comic book feel. I'm excited to get to play with it in person!
Thanks Tim! Appreciate the kind words.