Monday, November 19

(Lack of) Art in Prototypes

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some pictures of a few cards from the last three versions of Codename: Vacuum. The pictures showed small incremental changes to the cards over time with functionality disappearing to later reappear, or subtly changing over time.

But what was probably most noticable about all three versions was the lack of artwork. The cards were 90% white. Why the lack of art?

Art-free prototype cards
The name's Bland, James Bland

It's a combination of reasons, but the most relevant is that I don't have the skills, and nor do any of my gaming buddies in Newcastle. I enjoy doing the layout and pictography, but I just can't draw to any reasonably level. I could download some vaguely relevant clip art from the internet, but I'm not a fan of copyright infringement and for a lot of the cards I have a pretty good idea in my head what they should look like, and finding those images through a Google search would take days - time I don't have to spare.

For some designers, doing the art is as much a part of the game design as coming up with the rules and components, but not for me. Nor do I have anyone who can do the art for me as a favour or for fun.

As a workaround I could rustle up some home-drawn crappy art, but I figure that would look worse than none at all - at least a compelling name and a blank page will conjure up a picture in the players' mind's eyes, whereas a badly drawn and coloured picture that would cause my dad to disown me (he's an artist and retired art teacher, though sadly not in a relevant style) would just turn the players' stomachs.

I could get someone with the chops to do the art for me, but there's a lot required, and I don't have the funds to pay someone for that work (my money's going on nappies at the moment). I can't expect an artist to work for free, or for the promise of future funds if I publish the game because that's not fair to them - especially as the game may never get published and they may never get paid or get to see their art get published. I don't mind working for free for something I'm passionate about (as evidenced by five years of running Reiver Games), but I can't expect the same from others.

So Codename: Vacuum languishes in its stark, white beauty. I've had a chat on Twitter with an old friend from my childhood who I've got in contact with again recently, he's a professional animator (and hence artist) and has offered to lend a hand in his limited free time, but again, I don't want to abuse his generosity - he has a family to support too.

It's important to get art in there before phase 3: i.e. testing and blind testing in front of real gamers.

Something else to think about is:

  • if the game ever reaches a 'finished' state
  • and, if it meets the required levels of awesomeness
  • and, if I decide to self-publish it
  • and, if I decide to use KickStarter or IndieGoGo to raise the funds for that

I'll need at least some teaser art before I start the campaign to raise the funds, I'm sure seeing awesome art on the KickStarter page helps people to decide to part with their hard-earned dough.

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