"Nobody gets me. I'm the wind, baby!" - Tom Servo
"Push the button, Frank!"
I was going to be more active on my blog but it really amazes me how long it takes to make these. My Dune and Chitin: I blogs took hours & hours to put together. I was thinking maybe it's a better idea to make smaller, more frequent blogs instead of doing mega-size blogs with long dry spells.
This one will be a short one but hopefully still interesting!
So far I've not had the opportunity to work on a big boardgame title. I've done lots of small stuff and free stuff. I suppose I could be more proactive contacting companies and "shaking the bushes" so to speak. But having a full time job, I worry about making a commitment on a big title that will be hard to keep on schedule. My day job can be slow and it can be super busy. When I was working on the Dune project I was really busy but didn't have to worry about any deadlines for that!
Several years ago Chris Taylor, Tom Decker, and I decided to try getting a game published. We had about a dozen ideas and started playtest on the most promising ones. At the time I wasn't working so had lots of free time. So while one of the promising ideas was being worked on, I started graphic design. Now, this is not a good idea. You should have a very solid game before you go nuts on the art. The reason is the game will change and change drastically. As we playtested the design we kept making huge revisions that affected the card layout. I'd work on the layout, then stats would come and go which screwed up all the careful spacing. While we fine tuned the game I'd have to rework big sections. As you can imagine, this got frustrating. Though having so much free time meant I could keep working on it over and over. By the end I had made more than 50 versions of the card layout!
But eventually we decided to shelve the project. There were many reasons. The first one was the most obvious, we all were concerned about investing thousands printing a game. We've all heard horror stories of designers self funding a game and having a storage unit filled with unsold copies. The other problem was finding illustrators to do the card art. The game had a minimum of 40 illustrations necessary to make the game. That was the least we wanted to do, and would of preferred even more. During early design we had a friend do two sample illustrations for free which helped give us a visual style. But finishing the rest at the quality level he set would of cost us tens of thousands of dollars!
Even more of a problem was playtesting wasn't going well. None of us had done this before and we found the game overly complex and slow to play. We wanted a fantasy combat game using cards and dice but it needed to be fast in keeping with the theme of a dice based combat game of team gladiatorial combat.
Eventually we decided to shelve the project and hoped to revisit it in the future with fresh eyes. So far it remains in the drawer and maybe it will come out again in a revised format. Since then my two designer friends have published multiple titles with Victory Point Games and Tom has a game (Circus Train (First Edition)) on the P500 at GMT Games. We have learned a lot since that original project. Future titles I've learned to wait until playtest before putting too much work into art. I will come up with a style and then start making final designs once the game is near final. I think at the beginning it can be very exciting but once you revise that over months and months it can sap all your enthusiasm. I also find that you start to make bad choices and not want to make large changes even though you probably should. It's easy to get used to a design you've been hammering on for awhile and not "bit the bullet" and make that big change necessary to make it all work.
This was the final version of the card art before we shelved the project. I think it would of been beautiful if we could keep the illustration quality at this level. But the cost involved in doing that much art would of required a large number of sales to justify the cost. I do hope someday to use this design for a future game. I think it turned out pretty well and still holds up after all this time.