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Subject: Artscow prototype cards... hot off the presses! rss

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Dylan Kirk
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I just received four 54-card decks (two decks per game, so two copies of the game I am working on) from Artscow. The timeline of events:

Ordered: 08/07/2009 12:14:37 PM
Shipped: 11/07/2009 11:54:31 AM
ARRIVED: 18/07/2009!

So ten-day turnaround to China. The parcel itself originated in Hong Kong (Artscow is HK-based as I understand) and is postmarked 10 July from the Kowloon East post office. You can see the results here on my blog. I talked a bit about the game on this thread.

My opinion: I think this will be a great resource for prototyping card games. I wouldn't want to produce anything for sale using Artscow, but protos are of reasonable quality and highly serviceable. All cards came in hard clear plastic telescoping boxes and give a good first impression. I think I will be using them in the future.
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Nick Hayes
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I don't mean to detract, but I don't see the purpose of paying Artscow to make your prototype.

The prototype as I understand it is a working copy, sort of a rough draft, of your game. You will still be making changes, sometimes drastic ones. So why spend five dollars (using a discount) for a semi-permanent copy of your unfinished game?

With an Artscow copy, one will feel more attached to the game as it is because it will feel more real, more concrete. As a result, I think it would be harder to make changes to the design.

For building a prototype, I can think of many other methods that are quicker, cheaper, and allow for easy changes to the game's design. All of these aspects are what prototypes are about. Not only that, but think of how much testing and working on your game you could accomplish in the ten days it takes to even get your order?

I'm not trying to stop people from using Artscow or other POD services. I can't wait to use them myself! However, I would use them for a more final version of a game, like a display version or demo version, and only when I feel the game isn't going through a period of constant change.

Any other thoughts on this subject?
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Black Canyon wrote:
I don't mean to detract, but I don't see the purpose of paying Artscow to make your prototype.

The prototype as I understand it is a working copy, sort of a rough draft, of your game. You will still be making changes, sometimes drastic ones. So why spend five dollars (using a discount) for a semi-permanent copy of your unfinished game?

With an Artscow copy, one will feel more attached to the game as it is because it will feel more real, more concrete. As a result, I think it would be harder to make changes to the design.

For building a prototype, I can think of many other methods that are quicker, cheaper, and allow for easy changes to the game's design. All of these aspects are what prototypes are about. Not only that, but think of how much testing and working on your game you could accomplish in the ten days it takes to even get your order?

I'm not trying to stop people from using Artscow or other POD services. I can't wait to use them myself! However, I would use them for a more final version of a game, like a display version or demo version, and only when I feel the game isn't going through a period of constant change.

Any other thoughts on this subject?


Its a lot easier to get people to playtest a game that looks like a game!

Not an issue if you have a dedicated group that likes to play your ideas, but not everyone has that.

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Dylan Kirk
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My first conundrum is that I have money but no time. My calculation is this: if it costs less than what I'd be paid for working the number of hours it takes to make, then I'm buying it.

Second, it helps hook people into playing your game. People who aren't used to prototypes might poo-poo someone sitting there with slips of paper in card sleeves. These look like a real game, and win people over from the get-go.

Third, I'm seriously of the opinion that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. As much as people say that pretty prototypes don't win contracts, I'd like to rebut that it helps a publisher make a positive decision to see what the final product will look like on the table and on the shelf.

Finally, I'd like to see how the design works on a printed card, how the colours turn out, have the die-cut corners. It helps me to see something that is as close to production values as possible so I know what tweaks to make in order to make a more finished product. For instance... the starfield on these cards looks like water damage. Lesson learned. I wouldn't necessarily be able to tell that with my home laser printer.
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Justus Pendleton
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Disclaimer: I have never designed a game.

(edit: I see the original poster beat me to this point! ) $5 is equal to 10% of my hourly wage. In other words, unless I can make a deck prototype in 6 minutes then it is more cost effective to outsource it to artscow and spend my time doing something else.

If you're interested in keeping things "easy to change" them sticking with a pure digital prototype in VASSAL would seem to make far more sense than printing out things anyway. But you're not limited to one or the other. You can do both at the same time! While you're waiting for artscow import your assets in VASSAL.

Given what I understand are very long design cycles (how many months was it from when Z-Man expressed interest in Genji until it was actually available in stores?) I find it hard to believe that 10 days means you are missing out on that much, especially if you've got a fulltime job and family and whatnot.

On the upside, it would mean you could more easily bring 5 copies of the game to a game night (or mail them out to a dozen playtesters around the world) and get much better feedback from people playing without having the designer constantly watching/explaining/playing along with them.
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Dan Dedeaux
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Having done the same thing I'm going to have to agree that this is a good way to test a game out. But, as had been mentioned, I probably wouldn't pay to have the cards printed unless I was reasonably far into the design of the game...i.e. It's where I want it to be (at the moment).

If things change, then so be it. But, it's way easier to present a game that looks like a game, and not some marked up paper cards.

Good luck with the game...sounds interesting!

P.S. One thing I wish I knew prior to printing cards at Artscow is that they crop the photos a bit. Some of the text in my cards (like yours) are riding the edges...and some of the icons were actually cropped. Nothing too drastic, though. Next time, I'll know better...approximately 2-3mm of space must be given around all edges (this was with standard playing card sizes).

P.P.S. $5 is approximately equal to 2% of my hourly wage cool Unfortunately, I paid $30 for my two sets of cards (shipped)...so, I'll have to work and extra 7 minutes this week to make up for it cry
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I think the days of crappy prototypes are over. It's really hard to get people interested when your game looks like crap. Your normal gamer doesn't understand what goes into game design. All they see is your pencil drawings on a sheet of paper with slips of paper glued over Magic cards. It's hard to get them excited.

Now I don't think you need final art but before you introduce a new game to strangers it certainly helps to have a little chrome. And I've found its so valuable to have printer tests. What looks good on screen can look terrible on paper. I've done tons of protos and you do need to print this stuff out pretty often to get a good feel for the colors and contrast. Case in point, blue and green. I hate those colors so much! Print so very dark on paper.

And with so many easy ways to make art at home now you can put together a decent looking proto without spending a fortune. Or look for artists online that want a way to show off their work. Twenty years ago you could get by with pencil draws but then most games looked pretty bad. With the videogame generation and FFG pushing the quality to insane levels you need that little extra to get noticed.
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Nick Hayes
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All good points.

It didn't occur to me that some people don't have the time to make prototypes by hand, or that it would take away from paid time at work. Right now I'm in the middle of 5 months with no work, so time isn't an issue for me. But I can definitely see that once work and/or full-time school begin, free time will be in short supply.

I also like the point it is easier to introduce the game to other players for playtesting. And you can come in with more than one copy right off the bat. This is a very good reason in itself.

Well, now I am leaning more towards using Artscow for prototypes. However, I will still avoid using them until the game design has somewhat settled. But all in all, I can now understand why people use POD for prototypes.
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Jack Neal
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I used to worry about how it looked - then I saw some of the Winsome titles which are fully functional, fully tested, fully loaded. Definitely not the most beautiful bits, but the most functional.

I find that straight lines and what you would find in NanDeck or Inkscape or public domain convey enough to start. It seems that artists are like women in Alaska - badly outnumbered. Somewhere between pen and paper and full tilt production is the sweet spot. If Artscow can do that, then great. If only a board producer could work similar wonders.
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Scott Everts
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Raiderjakk wrote:
I used to worry about how it looked - then I saw some of the Winsome titles which are fully functional, fully tested, fully loaded. Definitely not the most beautiful bits, but the most functional.

I find that straight lines and what you would find in NanDeck or Inkscape or public domain convey enough to start. It seems that artists are like women in Alaska - badly outnumbered. Somewhere between pen and paper and full tilt production is the sweet spot. If Artscow can do that, then great. If only a board producer could work similar wonders.

That's very true. I think the problem is boardgame art pays so poorly. I know a lot of talented artists and illustrators but when I tell them how much they'd get paid most of the time they laugh. One illustrator I know was offered $200 an image for a card game and he said he'd not even consider it unless he got at least $1000.

The only artists that you can normally find are those that do it as a hobby and not as their primary occupation. I myself only do projects that I have a passion for since the pay is usually nonexistant or so little its not even worth bothering over. The last professional job I did got me about $200 in free product. Considering it took me over a week of evenings that's pretty lousy pay. But I did it for fun so I didn't care.

So you do make a good point that finding a boardgame artist is liking looking for a date in Alaska!
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Byron Grimes
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Well, that's great...if you're using a standard card. A game I'm working on currently will use hex-shaped cards, so no go for me at this time.

Also, artscow does vinyl mats/barmats/placemats/mousepads, so that could be a start for game boards. Not quite the same, but it would still work. Yes, the price point is a bit much for prototyping, but if you're already going there, why not?
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Graham Dean
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I should declare that I'm not a game designer, so what I'm about to post may be old news, or not particularly useful.

Anyway, since this thread has developed into a discussion of prototyping, I'd like to draw everyone's attention to this thread http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/424272, which is about a new company specialising in small runs of fan based games and game prototypes.

I should also declare that I have no interest or involvement in this company or its website.
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Ariel Seoane
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blackthorne1978 wrote:
Well, that's great...if you're using a standard card. A game I'm working on currently will use hex-shaped cards, so no go for me at this time.


Maybe you could use Artscow's round cards, and trim the edges, as long as you manage to align all the cards with the right orientation before you start cutting. Just an idea, I haven't actually tried it, though.
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seo_ wrote:
blackthorne1978 wrote:
Well, that's great...if you're using a standard card. A game I'm working on currently will use hex-shaped cards, so no go for me at this time.


Maybe you could use Artscow's round cards, and trim the edges, as long as you manage to align all the cards with the right orientation before you start cutting. Just an idea, I haven't actually tried it, though.
Most games that need hexes can use circles just as well. So perhaps the circle cards will work ok?
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Ariel Seoane
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ScottE wrote:
That's very true. I think the problem is boardgame art pays so poorly. I know a lot of talented artists and illustrators but when I tell them how much they'd get paid most of the time they laugh. One illustrator I know was offered $200 an image for a card game and he said he'd not even consider it unless he got at least $1000.

The only artists that you can normally find are those that do it as a hobby and not as their primary occupation.


I'm not sure that is entirely true. I would rephrase it as "those who love games enough to be willing to lower their rates, sometimes substantially". Evidently, it's unlikely that anyone would love games so much as to do a $1000+ job for $200, but fortunately for game designers and publishers (unfortunately for game artists) not all professional artists charge $1000 for a card image.

I charged TMG about $1000 for the box cover illustration for Homesteaders, even though I knew from the start that it was about half what I should have. Do I regret that? Quite the contrary! I wanted the job, and it's been a pleasure to work for them. Am I going to charge the same amount in the future? Probably not, but I'm still willing to charge less for a cool job than I would for an uncool one, just as I would charge extra for a job I'd rather avoid.
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Nick Hayes
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I agree with Seo on this one.

As an artist, how much you want to do the work really makes all the difference. That is why people will do that work for much less or for free. When the desire to do the art is absent, money will provide that desire.
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