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Subject: The graphic appeal of a [edit: pretty] telephone bill rss

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Lauge Rosendahl
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I have played lots of Martin Wallace games, and they have two things in common: Sound mechanically driven gameplay, and graphics that make your last telephone bill look like a work of art.

Mechanically, I should rate Steel Driver at 7+, but I am sick [edit: tired] of playing games that look like this.

I know a lot of players that don't care about visual or tactile qualities in games, and I know a lot of players who do care.

The difference is, that the former will buy any game, as long as it's mechanically sound, while the latter will only buy games, that are both mechanically sound and has good visual/tactile qualities.

So why make good games with dull colors, [edit: What looks like] clip-art/public domain images, and generic non-descriptive physical pieces?
[edit: Tailormade pieces are expensive, but] Ink cost the same whether it prints a board for Pillars of the Earth or Steel Driver. The artist may cost a little more (a painting like the one for PotE, would cost around 1000$), but wouldn't that pay off in sales?
Of course it would - Steel Driver is (unlike Brass) playable by most people, and if it looked better, more stores might try it, and new players would find out just how good Martin Wallace is.

EDIT:
Ouch! Before I take any more frag from this, I'll hurry up and say I'm sorry it came out so offensively - I guess I put a little to much punch to this point soblue
Anyway, I still think there's a valid discussion about graphics and marketability in there somewhere ... that we might have when the dust settles a bit.
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Rik Van Horn
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
Give me Hungry, Hungry Hippos anyday over blah games with dull colors and a serious lack of colorful, moving parts.
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
luchau wrote:
So why make good games with dull colors, clip-art/public domain images, and generic non-descriptive physical pieces?


When comparing this:



...with something like this:



...i much prefer the graphics of Steel Driver. For me, functionality is more important than flashy graphics that make for hardly readable cards as in the above El Capitan example.


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Akke Monasso
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
luchau wrote:

I know a lot of players that don't care about visual or tactile qualities in games, and I know a lot of players who do care.

The difference is, that the former will buy any game, as long as it's mechanically sound


The former might not buy the game if the graphics distract from the gameplay.
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Anthony Simons
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
luchau wrote:
So why make good games with dull colors, clip-art/public domain images, and generic non-descriptive physical pieces?
Ink cost the same whether it prints a board for Pillars of the Earth or Steel Driver. The artist may cost a little more (a painting like the one for PotE, would cost around 1000$), but wouldn't that pay off in sales?
Of course it would - Steel Driver is (unlike Brass) playable by most people, and if it looked better, more stores might try it, and new players would find out just how good Martin Wallace is.


Well Lauge, you raise some good points about bland games; however I do think you have picked on the wrong game here. The artwork is far from bland; the board has to be functional in a game like this but the artist Peter Dennis has, as in the many other Warfrog games he illustrated, managed to take something that could easily have been a few lines on a white background and given it some colour and appeal.

On your point about paying more for better art, I doubt that alone would induce rocketing sales - at least not in the UK, where we have enopugh trouble finding shops that sell games in the first place. Besides that, I have seen way inferior artwork on what one might call mainstream titles.
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Richard Dewsbery
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
luchau wrote:

So why make good games with dull colors, clip-art/public domain images, and generic non-descriptive physical pieces?


You'd prefer day-glo orange and pink as opposed to red, green and blue wooden pieces? Just like Pillars has? Oh, hang on - the colours of the pieces are pretty much standard, *just* like Pillars that you hold up as being a paragon.

And I believe that the Pillars artist also did the board for Castle For All Seasons - which is a busy, confused mess.

The pieces are the same "generic" shape as the wooden pieces in almost all German-published games. Except that Warfrog have been able to order in big enough quantities to get some non-generic pieces (like the mines in Tinners' Trail and the locos in Steel Driver). Plastic pieces are ridiculously expensive for moderate print runs (look how big Settlers had to become before Kosmos - a big publisher themselves - moved over to plastic pieces). Wooden pieces aren't cheap, and custom wood (like the locos) are pretty expensive.

As for clip-art/public domain images, that's cobblers. You might not like the style of Peter Dennis' work (plenty do, and he's a highly sought-after illustrator, and produces stunnng artwork not just for Warfrog games but also the Field of Glory books), but to dismiss it as clip-art makes you look a bit silly. AFAIK, his charges are probably on a par with other established artists, although there are some who can probably command a premium (like Doris Matthaus).

What would you have preferred on the board, dancing girls and a juggling bear perhaps?

As for "mass market appeal", a Warfrog game is unlikely to ever show up in one of the high street chains, so Martin shouldn't worry about competing with plastic shovelware like Hungry Hippos.
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
RDewsbery wrote:
What would you have preferred on the board, dancing girls and a juggling bear perhaps?


More juggling bears in Martin Wallace games, please.
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Darrell Hanning
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
Unless you played Avalon Hill wargames in the sixties, you don't know crap about bland or bad graphics.
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Breno K.
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
Martin clearly isn't aiming for the mainstream crowd with his Treefrog line. It's not really supposed to sell by the millions. It's meant to get his designs out the door to the "hardcore" gaming community and to the eyes of the big companies for licensing. The actual physical production of the game is probably a big pain in the ass, I'm sure Martin would much rather spend his time fine-tuning his next designs.

Tinners' Trail sold out after just a few months, even though it's definitely not the looker. The issue you raise is definitely non-issue. If the graphics bother you that much, then wait for the game to be re-released by a big company, something that's already going to happen with Tinners' Trail and probably will to many other games of the treefrog line.
 
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
GeoMan wrote:
When comparing this:



...with something like this:



...i much prefer the graphics of Steel Driver. For me, functionality is more important than flashy graphics that make for hardly readable cards as in the above El Capitan example.


+1
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Andy Leighton
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
BrenoK wrote:
Tinners' Trail sold out after just a few months, even though it's definitely not the looker.


YMMV - I though Tinners' Trail looked lovely. A nice map of Cornwall and interesting pieces. I doubt there will be a major rework of the artwork when JKLM bring out the next version.
 
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Daniel Corban
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
I heard they were adding juggling bears in the reprint.
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
Verkisto wrote:
GeoMan wrote:
When comparing this:



...with something like this:



...i much prefer the graphics of Steel Driver. For me, functionality is more important than flashy graphics that make for hardly readable cards as in the above El Capitan example.


+1

I actually have no problem with this font, and I like the looks of El Capitan better than Steel Driver, but sometimes you do find pretty games with component issues (Revolution: Dutch Revolt being a great example)
 
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
You should stay far, FAR away from any Winsome games then.
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
Regardless of 'target market', the artwork is what it is. Not everyone is interested in graphics as the main aspect of a game. I know a lot of gamers (myself included) that appreciate good artwork in board games, but too much can detract from gameplay.

For example, I enjoy games like Power Grid and Railroad Tycoon. But after half an hour of playing, I get distracted from the game by the art. Graphics should complement the game, complicate it.

Steel Driver's art is very appropriate IMO. The graphics fit the era and theme very well. I find the art beautiful. I don't know what kind of telephone company you deal with but to compare SD art to your phone bill is just daft.

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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
dcorban wrote:
I heard they were adding juggling bears in the reprint.


Noo...say it ain't so! What about us early adopters? Will jugglingbeareeples be available separately?
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
BrenoK wrote:
...If the graphics bother you that much, then wait for the game to be re-released by a big company, something that's already going to happen with Tinners' Trail and probably will to many other games of the treefrog line.


What 'big company' is going to re-release Tinners Trail then?
 
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
Dannecus wrote:
What 'big company' is going to re-release Tinners Trail then?


JKLM Games, see: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/342312.
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Jim Cote
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
If aesthetics were my only concern, I would buy Steel Driver and NOT buy El Capitan. Games should be nice looking AND functional. If any graphical/physical choice--no matter how perfectly thematic and/or attractive--makes the game hard to play, then it's the wrong choice.
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Re: The graphic appeal of a telephone bill
JockiB wrote:
Dannecus wrote:
What 'big company' is going to re-release Tinners Trail then?


JKLM Games, see: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/342312.


Thanks, I shall troll over and put in a pre-order!

BTW, I'm with the 'Steel Driver Graphics are ok' camp. Only played it once so far, but the layout and pieces seemed reasonable quality and didn't get in the way of the game play. Martin Wallace admitted some of the colours of the goods were deliberately chosen to allow piggy backing on the back of his order for After the Flood parts, but I don't blame him for that. Once you accept the concept that the American rail roads were shipping Sumerian wood and metal around there's no problem! laugh

Played El Capitan as well, and although it's a nice game to look at, the graphics are too fussy and the font chosen made the cards hard to read, which did cause actual problems for some players.
 
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Lauge Rosendahl
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Clearly the graphic line in Warfrog games are as much a choice, as it is a natural result of Martim Wallace not being terribly interested in it - and that's absolutly allright, no one demands that great mechanical designers like Wallace and Knizia, should also be graphic artists. These things can be bought though.

The graphics in Warfrog games is made for gamers, because gamers - as many of you point out - value readability and no distractions over flavor and storytelling.

But gamers are not the majority on the mass market, and when a game, mechanically, could sell on the mass market, then why not do mass market graphics as well? Good examples I guess, are the games that win Spiel des Jahres (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Spiel_des_Jahres) - they are usually very appealing (while not overdesigned like Gloria Mundi, El Capitan and the like).

My point is I think Warfrog wants to sell more games, and I think they could by investing a little bit in more mainstream graphics. And even if the gamer crowd prefers it as it is, then you wouldn't stop buying them - why would you, as long as we're not talking El Capitan graphics?

I could be wrong though, maybe it actually does pay off to cultivate an exclusive fanbase - it does in some trades
 
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James Hamilton
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If you want to see what Martin's playtest kits look like you have to go no further than Election USA

For me the graphics in the Treefrog games are fine. I am not sure what else you would expect. The wooden components are mostly standard fare with some custom parts just like the much vaunted animeeples in Agricola.

What would you change to make Steel Driver 'better' graphically?

BTW, the board was not a clip art piece, it was custom made by a very tallented artist. I suspect that Martin would at least consider suggestions that could be incorporated into future games but he may well ignore them.
 
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Hammy wrote:
For me the graphics in the Treefrog games are fine.


I agree. However,I really dislike the box art of Steel Driver and After The Flood. The Tinners' Trail box art was nice, though. And yes, I am that shallow and judge books, CDs, games etc. by their cover. At least at first glance.
 
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cornelanner wrote:
However,I really dislike the box art of Steel Driver and After The Flood.


The good thing is that we play with the components, not the box...

I had a conversation recently with someone who insisted that the AOS maps are very bland. I tried to explain that if the maps were full of art (green pastures, tress, e.t.c) than it would be very hard for the players to keep track of the railroads when the board would fill with them.

Imagine trying to keep track of them for 3+ hours in a board full of heavy graphics... shake


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GeoMan wrote:
cornelanner wrote:
However,I really dislike the box art of Steel Driver and After The Flood.


The good thing is that we play with the components, not the box...

I had a conversation recently with someone who insisted that the AOS maps are very bland. I tried to explain that if the maps were full of art (green pastures, tress, e.t.c) than it would be very hard for the players to keep track of the railroads when the board would fill with them.

Imagine trying to keep track of them for 3+ hours in a board full of heavy graphics... shake




Which is precisely why the AOS board is not busy with unnneeded graphics. By the end of the game most of it is track tiles anyway.
 
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