This is David Ladyman, designer of Star Traders. I would like to give you a brief description of the initial art in Star Traders, including the things we shouldn’t have done and the correctional steps we have taken.
PERSONALITY ART. We had three pieces of character art that we should not have used. In April, Ryan contacted all three of the artists involved and apologized. I have seen the responses from all three and they have graciously accepted his apologies.
I will say this — since I wasn’t looking over his shoulder at the time, I cannot swear that Ryan drew each of these characters freehand (as opposed to copying and pasting them), but shortly after this situation came to light, I asked him to sit down and draw freehand a portion of one of the figures in question (about 20% of the total figure) while I watched. He did so, in about two hours, and I had trouble finding differences between the original and his version. But I repeat, however the figures were created, we shouldn’t have used them, and I am grateful that the artists involved accepted the apologies.
A: we recruited a second artist to help get it done,
B: I provided initial art direction myself (meaning we weren’t working from other illustrations) and
C: as much as we could we worked directly from photos of the twenty people who agreed to participate. I believe that we’ve been able to create acceptable Personality art for the final game.
STELLAR ART. We originally worked from art that was available as free wallpaper images. (The initial primary box image matched an image that has been used by Walgreen’s, but that’s not where we found it.) I should have been paying closer attention to these sources; after the fact, we realized that while they were posted for free personal use, they were not free to use commercially.
We have replaced all stellar art (including that on the initial box cover) with art that is based on NASA images that are in the public domain. NASA has useful images, but the primary reason we decided to base all our images on NASA images is so that we have a clear, legitimate source for all of them. (For example, the small orb that has been found on a textbook cover that matches an orb we have on our current cover are both based on a NASA image.) We have included the disclaimer of endorsement that NASA requests, in our game materials.
We will also be asking BGG to replace the initial art on file here (including the initial box cover) with the final art. That is not an automatic process, so we might not be able to do so immediately.
CARGO ART. Three of these have been flagged. The first is my mistake — I had thought the familiar image of the H.G. Wells Time Machine was in the public domain, so I simply asked Ryan to base our Time Machine image on that. Upon further review, it’s not clear whether it’s in the public domain or not (probably not), and so we have created another image that matches the time machine description in Wells’ story. That means it is still clearly similar to other artists' conceptions of the same thing, but that’s because we’re all creating art from the same description.
The second is a generic cargo box that was always intended to be placeholder art (we have an image of each different cargo on the cards now). It, like the first Personality figures, was too close to another image; it has now been deleted from the game since it was just a placeholder.
The third is perhaps the most familiar image (or pair of images). I have mentioned that there is parody in the game, and this is one visual instance of that. The cargo is Stellar Antiquities, and the image illustrates a couple of the oldest “stellar antiquities” known to TV watchers. This image has not changed; my understanding is that we are allowed to parody with an image, and that’s what we’ve done.
I’ll also note, for those who are curious, that (with the exception of the three 19th century authors and one estate that said we didn't need permission) we have received permission from each author or the author’s estate to use their names for worlds and to include a cargo (and an image of the cargo) based on their works. Again, there is a disclaimer that this does not imply endorsement of the game.
Since I was the one who knew the cargos best (from reading the stories), I sketched or described what I wanted for the remaining cargo art for Ryan and Megan; their primary references were several dozen images I drew on a whiteboard. Or at least tried to draw — I’m no artist.
There is other art in the game. Nearly all other images are based on figures we have permission to use (partly to thank those who have supported us, and partly to again provide a clear source for the images) or is abstract graphic design.
If you have read this far and think I am excusing myself and Ryan, please reread it. We made mistakes which we deeply regret, and we have attempted to correct them. I am actually grateful for the intense scrutiny that Star Traders has received. (The encouragements to commit suicide were perhaps not as useful.) It has made us just as intensely vigilant to make sure the final game has no objectionable imagery in it. As has been noted, this is our first Kickstarter effort, and we obviously had things to learn about the process (over and above the concerns about the art). The game is now in preproduction, so it’s about four months behind our original schedule, but it is proceeding and we look forward to repaying our backers’ patience with finished games.
Nice to see you listened to the criticisms and updated the art for the game.
This message really should be a full update in the Kickstarter campaign though, preferably with some examples of the new art. Do you plan to post this on the campaign?
It's unfortunate that there is now a four month delay on the game, but I suppose it's for the best with regard to straightening out the art issues.