Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts

Monday, February 20, 2012

Game Design Notebook - Horde - Step 2: Revision and Prototype

In my last post, I mentioned my newest game project, tentatively called Horde.  The original submission was for a contest entry at BGDF and was constrained by the contest restrictions and the 200-word limit on entries.  Once the contest was over, free from those restrictions, I liked the idea enough to create a prototype and try it out.  The original idea had used small figures of different colors; I shifted that to cards, and created a deck of cards with six "suits" - typical fantasy stuff: fire, water, sun, moon, forest, royal - and five monster types - troll, ooze, golem, dragon, skeleton.  I doubled each of these, for sixty total cards, which would be more than enough for people to pick a couple of them on each of 11 turns (5 monsters + 6 suits = 11) and have enough.
Art for cards

But, as I was making these up and doing some rudimentary art, I thought of some ways to make the game more interesting, by having special additional monsters that allowed for special plays or special scoring.  That added a bunch more cards, and because those cards are generally more powerful than the regular ones, I needed new rules to balance out these cards.  The mechanism I tried initially was this: whenever somebody chooses a special card, everybody else gets another one.  More on that in my next post in this series.

I wanted to make the prototype at least look nice, so I collected some art for it, shown at right.  The art that I used came from four sources:

  1. stuff I made myself - generally crude or bad, although some of them were OK
  2. stuff I already had access to - I commissioned some art for a previous game, Zombie Ball, so I had art for skeletons and vampires already in place.
  3. online clip-art - I didn't want to use clip-art that was licensed or of unclear origin, so I went with royalty-free open-use stuff.  There's a pretty extensive clip art library at which purports to be all  royalty free.  There's another one at which is even more clearly royalty free.  Clker includes nearly everything at, so you can get more options at clker.
  4. art from expired-copyright books - for this, I used Google Books and searched for books from prior to 1923 - anything in those is in the public domain.
I include examples of each of these below.  The result is not publication-worthy, but it looks good enough.
    I got the background textures for the cards from a variety of sources, but a great one that I use a lot is Mayang's Free Texture Library ( - this has high-res texture images of all kinds of things.

    Once I had art, it was easy to go ahead and order a prototype from - and because I was curious, I even went ahead and got one of their medium boxes, which is cool - I'll discuss that later too.  

    I did the ooze using PowerPoint
    and some GIMP effects
    The final prototype
    A knight from a fairy tale book,
    once colorized, became my Elvenking
    Clip art borrowed from

    Sunday, October 30, 2011

    More Hex Tiles

    Zounds!  It works!  A hex overlay that will sit on top of other art.  Nice.  Now, if I were just a good enough artist to draw a top view of a cemetery arena...

    Hex grid in illustrator

    A neat step-by-step tutorial for making a hex grid pattern in Illustrator.  I'm working on better art for my Zombie Ball game (and maybe a better title, too), so I need this kind of thing.  I'm going to give it a try, and I'll post the results.

    I picked up Illustrator last year both for games and because I often have students who need to use it or something similar, and I figured it would be useful to learn it.  I find it much more difficult than Photoshop, which I picked up mostly right away.  The menus and controls seem much more cryptic (although Photoshop sure has some weird stuff).

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Art for space game

    Here's a sample play board (one of a 2x2 grid) for my new unnamed space game that I'm submitting for's vehicle game design contest, due in about a week.  In the game, players control ships and trade resources from planet to planet while completing missions and building ship upgrades.

    The game board background image is NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day from June 30, 2011, seen here:
    It is of Star Factory Messier 17, taken by the European Southern Observatory's VLT survey telescope's OmegaCam.

    The planets are textures from that I altered, recolored, and mapped to spheres.

    The green grid I created in Adobe Illustrator, with shadows added in GIMP.  The wormhole art is a GIMP plasma rendering with a bunch of effects.  The pirate icon is clip art from the Open Clip Art Library (  The starlanes (blue paths) are a path trace in GIMP with some gradient filling and border effects.  The text and disks around the planets I made in PowerPoint 2007.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    Diggity art

    I'm making some progress getting the art completed for Diggity.  The new stuff looks nice - way better than what I was able to do, which is what I was hoping for.  I'll post some pictures when we're farther along.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Racial stereotypes in games

    Bruno Faidutti, noted game designer, wrestles with changes required in the art for one of his games over at his blog.  The game involves exploration of an island populated by tribespeople, and the tribespeople were originally drawn as black guys with really big lips.  It's interesting - he realizes the old pictures were bad because he's been told they were, but he doesn't really get at the gut level why the old pictures would be condemned here in the US.  He's even able to figure out some of the historical reasons why (especially in his note down at the bottom) but (if I read him right) he winds up thinking Americans are just touchy and too politically correct. I think that's sometimes true (see my earlier posts on the King Phillip's War game), but not in this case.

    I suppose Bruno probably wouldn't want to hear that the art, even after the changes, would still be considered in bad taste by many Americans, even though it's being marketed by an American company.  Not the screaming bad taste that the outrageously swollen lips in the original art showed, but still not representing people of color in a positive light.  The bone-in-the-nose thing, which he thinks is not offensive, actually would be - see here for an example of racist thinking at work in another venue.  The feather ornaments and such, too, probably.

    Caricature is tough - you want to exaggerate certain features for humor, but you don't want to slide into stereotype.  Some political cartoonists have chosen racial stereotypes drawing Obama (see the Tea Party Comix for an extreme example); others have emphasized other features, like his slight physique and his ears, to get at more humor value without awakening past racist traditions.

    The solution for this game?  Easy. Make the tribesmen white (or gray-green or something) and the explorers multi-ethnic (and multi-gender).  No big deal, and nobody's offended (other than maybe white supremacists). It's not like it's an actual representation of real history, right?  It's a simple game, and the ethnicity of the people isn't important.

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    RPG map-making on the fly and on the cheap

    I made this map for an upcoming RPG session.  I like how it came out - I'm no artist, but I was able to use some terrain generation stuff in the GIMP graphics software to do a bunch of it.  I used a shaded version of actual terrain as an overlay for the mountainous bits, and I think it looks OK, even though it doesn't exactly match the outline of the island.

    Anyway, pretty good for a few hours' work.  I may post a how-to later if anyone's interested.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Yoggity Art revealed!

    I mentioned in this post that I'd gotten some new art created for my unpublished game Yoggity.  The artist is Jason Greeno of Greeno Design (  You can see some samples of the art at the Yoggity page here - I'm really happy with it.  I'm getting a mock-up made by TGC, and I'll post actual snapshots when I receive it.

    I've entered Yoggity in the Rio Grande Game Design Competition, and if I don't succeed in getting it picked up by Rio Grande there, I'll look to producing this as the second Plankton Games title sometime in early 2011.

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Yoggity art!

    I've gotten some artwork back from my artist, Jason Greeno of for Yoggity.  We're working out the last bits, and then I hope to get it up on my site and get a couple of copies printed by It's really exciting to see the game look better than I could ever get it to.

    This is the game I'm entering in the Rio Grande Game Design contest, so I won't be able to release it until that's over this fall (it's for unpublished works only).  It's been fun every time I've played, with any number of folks, so I think it will be a good one for the contest.  It's not too heavy, but it does involve some interesting dynamics, especially with multiple players.

    I think that's my next candidate for a serious rules edit - using what I've been learning from redoing Diggity and reading other rules documents.  Now that I've got some art, I'm really excited about it.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Game art

    I've recently gotten an artist to take a swing at my game, Diggity. I found him on, and it seems like he does good work and understands games.  Hopefully that will punch up the graphics to a commercial level and increase the appeal of the game.  I have been working on getting some design documents together for him. When working with artists in the past, I've always found it helpful to be as specific as I can at the start, so there's no confusion, but that means being pretty thorough and trying to anticipate questions.  We'll see how I do - I'll post samples when we're farther along.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    More on game box art

    The post I referenced earlier has been transferred to a discussion on BoardGame Geek, where, unsurprisingly, people have strongly held conflicting opinions which they express in snarky ways.  If I can distill the various viewpoints down to basic conflict, it's this:

    1. Exterior artwork, and to a lesser extent, interior artwork, is vital to the marketing success of a game.  A game will not sell in a game store unless it has an appealing box.
    2. Exterior artwork is irrelevant to people buying online, and because much game shopping is now done from online stores or through recommendations rather than by browsing in a store, the role of good exterior art is much diminished.
    So, these diametrically opposed views are interesting but not so helpful.

    For me, though, this will likely be my one shot, lifetime, at game publishing, and something that I'm going to dump a bunch of money into, so I think it's important that I do it right.  Really good artwork will probably add $500-$2000 to the production cost of my game, which at the numbers I'm considering comes out to maybe $0.10-$0.40 cents cost per copy (although if the game is a smash hit and I need to order a second print run, the art is free).  Worth it, or just more money I get to invest in a risky venture?  Hard to say at this point.

    Other interesting points I took from the discussion:
    • Good art can actually make people more likely to demo a game with their friends, which might lead to more exposure
    • The art on the side of the box can be as important as the front cover, since boxes are often stocked vertically, edge out
    • Stores are often pressured by small/indie publishers (like I hope to be) to buy multiple copies of a game direct from the publisher, when actually they'd prefer to buy only a couple at a time, and it's easier for them to order from a distributor than to maintain all these separate relationships.  It sounds like distributors are a necessary part of this whole process, and any hope I had of selling direct to game stores (at least until I get bigger and more established) is probably not realistic
    • Some places where I don't live have awesome game stores that make me quite jealous

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    The importance of artwork

    Erin Truitt (Lofwyr at BGDF) has a pretty powerful commentary here on boardgame artwork from the perspective of a retailer and designer.  I probably need to shell out some cash here for my game, maybe more than I was planning on.  At least for the box, maybe for the whole thing.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Finding artists for game projects

    I'm a pretty good programmer, and I like to think of myself as a pretty good game designer.  However, I'm pretty much a crummy artist.  I was able to get by with that in the early days of my shareware career, because I was mostly making 2D icons.  The Snood characters aren't great art, but they were useful for the game and cute enough to (I think) keep people playing. It even inspired a real artist to use the main Snood as a subject (see right).

    In recent years, I've worked with artists on several projects, including What's New (released by Snood LLC/Word of Mouse Games 5-6 years ago and no longer for sale) and Scryptix (soon to be released on Facebook; a development version with my ugly art is on the Plankton Games site), and another game that I'm currently working on which I hope to get released soon.

    However, it can be hard finding an artist to help.  For paid work, I've used - I've found it a very useful way to solicit bids for artwork, and the artists there are generally professional, skilled, and have portfolios you can see.  The bids are extremely variable, though; for one project I listed there involving about 60 separate small images, I got bids ranging from $25 to $6,000.  I ended up picking an artist in the middle of that range, and I was very happy with the results.  It's free to list a job, though, so it's a no-cost way to see what people can do for you.

    Another good option is  For my Scryptix project, which I was funding out-of-pocket, I posted a "help wanted" ad in their forums and got a number of responses, for prices ranging from free to a couple hundred bucks.  A number of people there are excellent artists, and again, you can see their portfolios online to see if their art matches your work.  I ended up using one of the respondents, and I got what I think are great results.  I paid the artist more than the small fee he requested, and I think it was a good deal for both of us.

    I'd definitely go to either of these places were I considering soliciting art for a boardgame project.  I'm trying to decide if I need new art for Diggity - The cards look pretty good as they are, but I think I might need something more colorful or exciting for the packaging and maybe the card backs.  Nearly every single GameWright card game has a person or creature on the box, and many other commercially sold card games do as well.  I think I might need an iconic spokescreature for Diggity, or at least for the box.