Monday, December 17

Artists! How does this sound?

If you've been reading my blog over the last few months you'll be keenly aware that the one thing Codename: Vacuum is missing is art. The cards have some rudimentary graphic design done, but no illustrations whatsoever.


Card lacking artwork
Needs some artistic love, methinks.

The main reason behind this is that while I have limited graphic design skills, I have no art skills and at the moment my money is going on tiny clothes and nappies rather than hiring artists. Having said that, it would be great to have some art on the game before I send it out for playtesting. How do I reconcile these two positions?


I've been considering that question for a while now. I mentioned it to my Dad when he was up a few weeks ago (he's a retired art teacher and artist, though in a completely different style) and he started sketching out a few things. In addition, an old friend from junior school offered to help, but he's a professional animator and has a young family and needs to focus on earning a living not helping out a mate he's not seen in 25 years for free. So what to do?


I've had a slightly bizarre idea over the last couple of days, and I've no idea how it sounds so I'm going to run it past you guys to get some feedback before I actually try to implement it. So what's the idea I hear you ask?


I get aspiring board game artists to do it for me for free!


And there's my problem. How much of an exploitative arse do I sound about now? I'm thinking an unacceptable amount. But maybe not. I'll flesh out my idea, and then you can let me know in the comments whether I sound like an arse or not.


The problem of no art is compounded by the fact that I need a lot of it. I need:


  • A card back design
  • 50 location designs
  • 7 location back designs
  • 65 card front designs

That's an enormous job for one person, especially when I can't afford to pay them, so finding people to share out the work between would be a more realistic way to go. But I don't know many arty types, and certainly not enough to get that amount of art done for free out of personal goodwill.


Clearly, I would need to offer these generous hypothetical artists something in return for their hard work, even if it can't be real folding money. Otherwise I'd appear like an arse and I'd end up with an unenviable reputation and still no art.


So the idea I've been tossing around in my head is this:


I post on BGG a list of all the art I'm looking for and ask for aspiring board game artists to knock something up for some of those briefs for free. In return, they would get: an artist credit on the card(s) they've illustrated and a link to their portfolio in the rulebook. I'd also do artist profiles here on Creation and Play of the artists whose submitted work I most admire.


I'm hoping at some point to get Codename: Vacuum into print. If that never happens (a reasonable risk), then that would be the end of it. But if I decided to hawk it to other publishers then the artist's work and their portfolio link would go to those publishers in the setting of a real game. Alternatively, I might decide to try to KickStart it myself, in which case the artists whose work I like the best would stand a reasonable chance of getting their art into the finished game, and more importantly, I'd be paying them for it at that point (the KickStarter budget would include paying for art). If I end up publishing the game myself, I would only use art submitted for the prototype with the artist's permission if we could agree a price that I would pay them for it.


What do you think? Does that sound like a promising idea? An exploitative idea? An idea which is extremely unlikely to work?

16 comments:

Jesse Hibbs said...

http://shouldiworkforfree.com/

Jack said...

Hiya Jesse,

Based on the ratio of Noes/Yesses in that excellent chart, I'm going to assume your vote is that it's a bad idea for artists to sign up, therefore I shouldn't be asking, because, as I feared, I'll sound like an arse!

Cheers,

Jack

Mal said...

First up, I'd run a mile from the idea of having more than one artist. Secondly, I don't think the meagre enticement of credits is any enticement at all. It sounds highly exploitative to me.

However... you're dead right to point all this out up-front. If I were an artist reading this, I think the only thing that might entice me is something like a combination of:
1. a good profit-share
2. there being a good chance it'll get published and be (at least moderately) successful
3. my own desperation ;)

Given that you can't guarantee #2, I have to say I'd not do it - even if I were an artist!

Soz, but you wanted feedback. :/

Mal said...

Oh, one other thing: I really don't think you need art on the cards before playtesting. You want people to concentrate on the game, not the art. Fair enough - tackle any usability issues with the cards' layout (if there are any), but I wouldn't have thought actual art was a necessity.

Jack said...

Hiya Mal,

Re. multiple artists: It's not unusual for games with lots of card art to have multiple artists, e.g. Magic the Gathering.

Anyway, another vote for bad idea. I'm seeing a big picture emerge here!

Cheers,

Jack

Jack said...

And in answer to your second point Mal, I think art would definitely help for a prototype going out blind to people. But it's looking more and more like it's going out naked.

Cheers,

Jack

Philip said...

I don't think your idea is so bad. Having said that, another route would be to "borrow" art/photos from the Internet. This doesn't seem so bad if it's just the prototype and not being used to sell or promote the game.

I also agree that art makes playtesting much less of a chore and also conveys important information/vibes to the players.

Jack said...

Hiya Philip,

Good to hear from you again, and nice to get another designer's feedback. The feeling I'm getting from both the comments here and BGG are that it's unlikely to garner much interest and might well attract bad will, so much as I'd like the art, I'm unlikely to actually pursue this route.

Cheers,

Jack

Mavis Cruet said...

I've been pondering this issue for a while - I'm fortunate in that I have an artist friend that has promised me lots of free art based on the ammount of helping out I've done on his stand over the years.

But despite that I'm still intending to give him a small ammount of money out of each copy I sell - £1 each copy. It's not much but it is something...... And as long as you are upfront about the ammount and the print run that seems fair.

I actually came looking for a blog to ask if you recomended any printers in the UK who might be willing to do very small print runs of about 100 decks of cards for a game I'm working on.

Jack said...

Hiya Mavis,

Since this post a mate has offered to do some sketches for free and I'm even considering trying to get my art mojo back for the prototype.

Printers-wise, the big guy is Carta Mundi, but they won't do really small runs. I used Stress Free Print for the cards in Border Reivers and It's Alive! but I had to cut them out myself :/

Cheers,

Jack

Mavis Cruet said...

Thanks for the recommendation.

I've mailed Carta Mundi but I was expecting the answer "a hundred - you must be having a laugh!"

If you don't mind me asking - if you were cutting them out yourself were the cards in Border Reivers just a normal print job onto card then?

The more I look into actual production the more I realise I just don't know anything about this.

Jack said...

Hiya Mavis,

I got the cards printed onto SRA3 card (double sided) and then laminated to protect the art.

Cheers,

Jack

Mavis Cruet said...

I assume it was printed - cut out by hand - laminated.... Not thought of laminating.

Jack said...

Hiya Mavis,

The professional laminating is really good, doesn't feel (or look) like the home-done stuff, looks very professional!

Cheers,

Jack

Mal said...

Another idea: convince a local graphic design student that they should take the work on as one of their coursework projects.

A few year back, I checked out the Northumbria Uni School of Design's end of course exhibition, showing off all students' work. Some of it was pretty awesome, and it included projects that could've been a good fit for what you need.

Might be worth getting in touch with those running the course to see whether they've got any students that might be interested. Their coursework isn't paid for as it is, so maybe your lack of funding wouldn't be a problem?

Jack said...

Hiya Mal,

Awesome idea! I'll see if I can find a contact at the Uni...

Cheers,

Jack