Dean Conrad
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Would anyone out there with connections with games publishers please ask them why they seem to insist on using graphic designers who appear not to have played any games.

Time and again cards and boards are so fussy and busy that you can't see the state of play. Our group recently had to make a simpler version of the 'San Marco' board just so that we could play this brilliant little game properly. 'Il Principe', another very good game, has a small, fussy board, and text in what seems to be 2pt - i.e. tiny. Even the great 'Euphrates & Tigris' uses a destruction marker that is difficult to distinguish from the rest of the desert.

If I were a serious games designer, I would be annoyed to see my game ruined by this seeming trend for over-zealous design. I realise that there has to be a fine ergonomic balance, but there does appear to be a recent shift towards 'pretty' games for the market (and games that look like each other for that matter). How many 'Go' players would be happy with a board inscribed with a full colour picture of Mount Fuji, fading through to cartoon sketch of ancient Edo? Ditto any of the traditional classics.

Let's have more games like 'El Grande', 'Shark', and 'Samurai', where players can actually see what's going on. The board for my current favourite game, 'Power Grid', is a boarderline case, but at least the card design is distinctive.

Am I alone on this issue?

How about some lists of the best and the worst...
 
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alan beaumont
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Quote:
cards and boards are so fussy and busy that you can't see the state of play

I agree almost 100% about the problem, but tend to favour an alternative explanation. You are likely correct about 'Il Principe' where a gamer would have expanded the map to fill the whole board and put the play aid elsewhere.
As for all the detail and muddy colours in most new designs I blame computer graphics. I'll bet they looked great on screen i.e. with a light behind them, but down on paper and cardboard alot of this stuff is simply hard to make out, or take in at a glance. Either that or my eyes are getting old (true), or I am getting grumpier (very true).
Any graphics professionals wanting to comment?
 
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Eric "Shippy McShipperson" Mowrer
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In principle, I agree with you, but El Grande was a bad example due to its poorly chosen player colors. Dark green, red, and brown? I ask you. Anybody that's ever played with a colorblind person (which isn't very unlikely, considering the large percentage of gamers that are) should know better than this. At the very least, have distinguishing shapes if you insist on those colors.
 
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Chris Kice
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That's a great point - I was happy to see Ticket to Ride use symbols in addition to colors for those that are chromically impaired. (My Dad is color blind, so I'm always noticing things that would be tough for him to play.)
 
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Steven Heinrich
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How about Caylus? The little bailiff and the provost are both white and people constantly grab the wrong one. How hard would it have been to make one a different color, or even a different shape?shake

It's little things like that which add up after a while...

 
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Dean Conrad
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ejmowrer wrote:
...El Grande was a bad example due to its poorly chosen player colors...


Quite right. I'd forgotten about those colours. One of our group has a big problem with blue and green as well - not uncommon I suspect.

I retract El Grande as a good example.
 
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Dean Conrad
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heinrichsteven wrote:
How about Caylus? The little bailiff and the provost are both white and people constantly grab the wrong one. How hard would it have been to make one a different color, or even a different shape?shake

It's little things like that which add up after a while...



Caylus, we play for the first time on Thursday, so I'll let you know.

I guess the problem with different shapes is price. It's cheaper to use stock pieces. We tend to recycle figures from other games for the key figures. The 'bronze' figure fron 'Condotierre' is our house turn-marker now - long after the game was tossed out!
 
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Jeff Coon
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Dean Conrad wrote:
Our group recently had to make a simpler version of the 'San Marco' board just so that we could play this brilliant little game properly.


Really? Actually, the graphic design on San Marco is one of the things that makes me smile when playing the game. It shows that a game can be great and beautiful at the same time. While I admit the textures could be a tiny bit distracting, they are clearly defined by color, and easy to tell apart.

Personally, I enjoy the nice artwork of modern games to the old-school idea that games appeal to engineers & programmers, who don't care about presentation.
 
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misteralan wrote:
I agree almost 100% about the problem, but tend to favour an alternative explanation. You are likely correct about 'Il Principe' where a gamer would have expanded the map to fill the whole board and put the play aid elsewhere.
As for all the detail and muddy colours in most new designs I blame computer graphics. I'll bet they looked great on screen i.e. with a light behind them, but down on paper and cardboard alot of this stuff is simply hard to make out, or take in at a glance. Either that or my eyes are getting old (true), or I am getting grumpier (very true).
Any graphics professionals wanting to comment?


I'll jump in. Your point about what looks great on screen and what looks great in print rings true: folks forget that everything they see on a computer monitor is back-lit. They are looking directly at the light source and not light being reflected from a source off a printed image.

But as to fussy designs, I would say ease up a bit on the designer. They can't create anything the client and publisher don't approve of and if those two think that topping El Grande means going from Baroque to Roccoco, the only way the designer eats is to give 'em Roccoco.

And I agree with the poster: Designers should keep the graphics simple/elegant enough that folks can see at a glance what is happening on a board. Ideally, the project manager and client would show the designer the components used to playtest the game and actually play through a sample game (if possible) so that a designer can have some first-hand experience with the product. Then they can talk over the experience and proceed with an informed and shared opinion about what would be optimal for the finished, printed product.
 
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james napoli
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it's a catch 22 situation.

games with jazzy, colorful fun components will sell themselves. Games with a great mechanics with less than desirable components will likely need to be sold.

through the desert is brilliant game, but i would image the camels acted an enabler for MANY.


obviously the perfect blend of well done, attractive artwork that uses a well thought out color scheme and design would be the best way to go about it.

Days Of Wonder seem to be onto something with their games, i think their trend will continue and we'll see high production values in 06.
 
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Usability is one of the things I most care about, whether it be regarding games or some other medium. I agree there are lots of problems with games that are published and that's why I started an in-depth thread on the matter:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/602956

I don't think the fault is the graphic designer's or the game designer's for that matter. I think the responsibility of playtesting/ergonomics/usability falls almost wholly on the publisher.

The publisher should be the one with the *growing body of experience* regarding these aspects and should precisely convey how to make the board/bits. Furthermore, the publisher should have the graphic designer make a very rudimentary sketch early on and be closely involved at various stages in the development of the functional artwork. I would slightly favor graphic designers who work primarily with digital mediums precisely for the reason that I could have them make functional changes at any stage in the process.

I agree. I think the Power Grid board and esp. the cards are great.
 
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heinrichsteven wrote:
How about Caylus? The little bailiff and the provost are both white and people constantly grab the wrong one.

I have no problem with the bailiff/provost. My issue with the Caylus design lies in the favor chart, where the favor actions all get covered up by the player markers. ("Which resources am I allowed to take as a favor?" :icks up everybody's markers to view the chart::)
 
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Dave Dyer
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The same kind of thing is visibile everywhere. Elaborate design makes all previous work look crude and uninteresting by comparison. The design people have really figured out how to grab us by the (eye)balls.

I agree there is a point where over-design detracts from the overall effect of the game; but for good or ill, I don't think there's any way to go back to simple cardboard squares.

 
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Mark Saya
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I agree that busy gameboards can be frustrating to deal with, especially when first learning a game. Many astute graphic designs begin with drab, empty boards–Through the Desert, Ursuppe, Shark, Fast Food Franchise to name just a few–that fill up with a riot of colorful playing pieces as the game wears on. (Nevertheless, I've seen people complain about these boards as well.)

On the other hand, San Marco has one of the most beautiful boards I've ever seen, well worth the small learning curve it may require.
 
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Michael Kandrac
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I am also of a mind that the game board should take a perceptual backseat to the pieces that are placed on it. In general, my collection of games features boards that are both beautiful and supportive in their function; the Kiesling-Kramer Mask Trilogy comes to mind, the muted colors of Hansa, the brownish art of Traders of Genoa that provides effective information without dominating the cards and bits.

Mayfair's Euphrat & Tigris with it's topographically-riddled board and civilization tiles featuring colored borders and over the top illustrations (albeit beautifully done) represents the problem with allowing art to triumph over game design.

Gg
 
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