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Subject: If you aren't a graphic designer, don't bother with art. rss

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Eric Jome
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Recently, I've had the very good fortune to be more engaged in playtesting and game production than I have been in the past. I've been to a Protospiel convention and I've gotten to see a lot of things rolling through the queue at a new game producer. And I've had a chance to talk to a lot of game designers. And one thing keeps coming up again and again.

They spend hours and hours and hours on graphics. And it's still bad.

So, I thought I would post a bit of a reminder. If you aren't a graphic designer, don't bother putting any real effort into the art for your game! A potential publisher isn't going to keep your clip art or shaky hand drawn line art or your Photoshop photograph mashups. They'll have a real graphic designer to do real layout and art for your game, someone with a degree and/or years of practice.

When you work on your game, be sure the idea of the game comes through strong and clear. Put cut and paste images from things you find online or quick pencil sketches on it to convey the purpose of pieces or the methods they will be used. It's useful to use the prototype art to convey the action and important information of the game. But don't spend a lot of time trying to get to finished product art if you don't do that professionally or semi-professionally already.

Your job is to build a game with great game play. Your second job is to be able to convey the theme and style of your game to another person who is a graphic designer to help them put art on your game. Unless you can wear both hats well, plan for that graphic designer to be someone else.
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Also, don't actually design the game either, unless you're a real game designer with years of experience.
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Richard Kitner
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To add to that, don't expect the artist to be a mind reader. The more detailed of a description you can give, the faster the art will get done.

It will save a lot of time on reworking.

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J C Lawrence
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And if you are a graphic designer, still don't (much) bother with the art.
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I agree that a game designer (who isn't going to make any money on his or her masterpiece) should NEVER spend serious cash on artwork.

However, a prototype with crude pencil sketches and a board drawn on a brown paper grocery bag might not attract much favorable attention at a convention.

The target zone is right in the middle... free (or extremely cheap) graphic design with a little extra polish applied for prototypes which will be seen by the public.

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I really wish I could draw.

I can't.




Fortunately many people can.
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I'm just guessing that some people like putting together art for their game designs? So the hours spent might be OK. It's part of the fun for them, even though they know that the publisher won't keep their work and that it won't help much in getting the game picked up.
But yeah, if you're bad at art, and you don't like doing it, then don't bother. But I don't think that anybody needs to be told this.
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Curt Carpenter
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clearclaw wrote:
And if you are a graphic designer, still don't (much) bother with the art.

Unless you care about the sales of your game.
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Seth Jaffee
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curtc wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
And if you are a graphic designer, still don't (much) bother with the art.

Unless you care about the sales of your game.

Curt the point is that the effort you put into art for your prototype has NOTHING to do with the sales of your game.

I feel like you read JC's comment because it came up in your subscription thing, but didn't read the original post of the thread.
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Eric Jome
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BoB3K wrote:
Also, don't actually design the game either, unless you're a real game designer with years of experience.


Hey, I totally approve of anyone learning to be an artist. Art is enriching and wonderful. I'd like to be a better artist. Work towards that goal too if you like.

But if you aren't an artist and you need some art right now, say for that game you've been working on Mr. Game Designer Who Is Not An Artist, perhaps leave the art for the artists.

Really, this is supposed to be a helpful reminder for designers. You don't have to worry about the art. Don't spend all your time on worrying about the art. Worry about the game. The art will come later.
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Eric Jome
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pete belli wrote:
I agree that a game designer (who isn't going to make any money on his or her masterpiece) should NEVER spend serious cash on artwork.


That's not what I said! Spend the money on the art if you want! Especially if you are self-producing the game, please do that. Money will need to be spent to get good art... but probably better money spent hiring an artist over doing a hack job yourself.

Quote:
However, a prototype with crude pencil sketches and a board drawn on a brown paper grocery bag might not attract much favorable attention at a convention.


And you are quite right here. It's probably a business presentation, so it's a good idea to make your presentation look good. Be presentable. But there's no need to be perfect or final.
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Eric Jome
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wmshub wrote:
I'm just guessing that some people like putting together art for their game designs?


And I strongly support anyone's right to do it their own way, to have fun with it their own way.

Quote:
But yeah, if you're bad at art, and you don't like doing it, then don't bother. But I don't think that anybody needs to be told this.


I guess... I guess I didn't think so either. Until lately when the last 12 or so games I've looked at people spent hours sweating over the art and... well... that wasn't going to make the cut in the end, to be kind.
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J C Lawrence
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curtc wrote:
clearclaw wrote:
And if you are a graphic designer, still don't (much) bother with the art.


Unless you care about the sales of your game.


Happily, prototypes aren't (typically) sold to customers, just to publishers who have no interest In the prototype's art, so that's not a concern.
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Steven Metzger
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If you're not the art director, don't bother with art.

I DO bother with visuals, for ease of use of playtesters and things like that.
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There is a corrolary to this.

Have something on your prototype cards that has some feint resemblence to what you are trying to do.

BAD:
Cardwithwalloftextthatisreallyhardtoreadanddoesnthaveanypuncutationspacingortitleisreallyhardtoread.

So don't do that.

BETTER:
TITLE and nothing else is not visually distinctive enough to create an association, so this is better, but don't do that either.

BEST:
TITLE
[picture - even if it's crappy stick art]
other text

are very useful. Be sure each unique TITLE has unique ART because it allows our visual cortices to do their job and differentiate at a distance in a way that reading text upside down can't compensate for.
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If you want to spend hour on the art, go for it. If not, don't. Does it really harm you in some way if someone spent hours on mediocre art on a game?
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J C Lawrence
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metzgerism wrote:
I DO bother with visuals, for ease of use of playtesters and things like that.


Bingo.

Caveat: I spent a lot of time on the art for 1843. However I did not spend my time on that art for the sake of the game. Rather, I spent that time in order to learn some of the basics of Adobe Illustrator. The game was merely a vehicle for that larger exercise.

1843 is now pending a publication contract with a publisher (ie indicated intent to publish, but I have yet to receive a contract). As expected, the publisher does not intend to use my art.


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Graphic design is a lot more than "art". The entire way a game feels, how much information you can get at a glance, and the organization of the bits is decided in a large part by the graphic designer. I think the person who has the vision for how the game works should have a hand in graphic design.

Too many games seem to have compartmentalized production: the rules, the gameplay, and the components are just done by different people who don't talk to each other, or at least who don't work together to realize the big picture (eg FFG).

I would suggest that the game designer(s) be very actively involved in the way the game physically looks. However, do not simply accept your prototypes as the final word on graphic design (eg Agricola, Le Havre). Challenge every aspect of the physical design all along the way. Think about how every choice you make affects physical and mental game play.
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It is very helpful when the designer develops a prototype with good graphic design - generally that makes the game easier to playtest, and honestly shows that the designer did a lot of playtesting themselves. Laying out information to make the game playable is part of designing a good game.

The actual illustrations of a prototype are much less important, clip art, or images borrowed from the web are just fine.
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Eric Jome
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cold_fuzion wrote:
If you want to spend hour on the art, go for it. If not, don't. Does it really harm you in some way if someone spent hours on mediocre art on a game?


Me? No. Them? Yes.

Those hours, that effort, it could have been spent making a better game.
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Eric Jome
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theredtree wrote:
I'd like to hear what a publisher thinks.


I've worked with 3 so far in one capacity or another. All of them hire professional artists to do the art after the game is approved to go to production.
 
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cosine wrote:
cold_fuzion wrote:
If you want to spend hour on the art, go for it. If not, don't. Does it really harm you in some way if someone spent hours on mediocre art on a game?


Me? No. Them? Yes.

Those hours, that effort, it could have been spent making a better game.
For myself, when I'm working on my game (the good one that's not done yet, not the crap in the database now) I'll stop and fuss with the art for a while when I can't make myself think about the design aspect anymore.
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Ryan Heac0ck
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cosine wrote:
If you aren't a graphic designer, don't bother putting any real effort into the art for your game!


This is possibly the most pretentious drivel I have ever seen posted on this site (which says a lot). I believe that if a game designer wants to spend his time and effort into the graphic presentation of his potential game design then more power to them. You learn new things by attempting to do them. Even if the result is discarded, the time they spent drawing shaky-lined artwork or horrendous Photoshoop mashups better informs their next attempt. If you think a University degree is the only way to gain the skills to design then you are badly mistaken.
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J C Lawrence
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The product of a game-design project is a game design, not game art. Please don't fob off game-art projects as if they were game-design projects.
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