Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Dangerous Time....

Board games are a lot easier to make than a computer game.  I can sit down, build all the parts, design all the mechanics, and do all the art myself.  But wow is that time consuming.  I worked for a solid month getting Taipan to a playable state for the NaGa DeMon last month.  And now I feel like I am floundering. This is a dangerous time for me during the game development cycle.  If I don't stay focused I will loose interest and start working on something else.  Once that happens I loose all my  steam I had for the last game I was building.

I just got a bunch of games and we are supposed to play one of them (Mansions of Madness) tomorrow night.  So I cleared off my table and put Taipan in a box with the intent of setting up and learning the new game.  As I did this, I thought to myself, this is how all of my ideas end.  I put it up with every intent to start working on it again right away, but it never happens.  Since I stopped working on Taipan, I already have two new ideas I want to start building.  A city building game and an Assassin game.

A long time ago, I was an artist.  I worked for Blizzard North working on the Diablo games as an Animator, Modeler, and Designer.  At some point I started doing more design and less art and eventually my art skills atrophied.  I don't get much opportunity to do art on a regular basis anymore, but my current job is giving me some artistic outlets that has re-fired my old love of doing art.  This past weekend I had some free time, so I got to do some art tests.  Here is the progression of my art skills coming back to life after almost a decade of cobwebs had built up:
Early free hand drawing with no reference. (5 minutes)
Painting of a military captain from the 1800's (10 minutes)
Cheesy girl from Halloween costume picture. (15 minutes)
Photo of an actor from a Hong Kong movie (25 minutes) 
Painting of a Merchant from the 1800's (4 hours)
I will undoubtably get a bit faster with each new image I do, but I have 60 unique cards that all need art.  Lets do that math and assume my current time as an average: 60x4 = 240 hours. Not to mention the game board, and box art.  If I were to do all the art myself, based on how much free time I have, it would take me about 240/4 + Flex Time = 60 days to get the game done.  I will not have that kind patience and this project will cease to make progress.

I tried some quick solutions where I took pictures I was referencing and automated the process with photoshop.  Here are the results:
Paining of a Captain from the 1800's (5 Minutes) 
Paining of a Port in Japan (5 Minutes)

Paining of a Junk hit by a storm (5 Minutes)
So now I have the time down to a very reasonable time but there are some problems.  1.) Each on of these images took a long time to find.  Color images from the 1800's are just not that common.  Most are black and white etchings or portrait paintings of nobility in Europe.  2.) I don't think these look as good as the last portrait I did.  The richness of color and cartoony quality of the Merchant I feel looks a lot better than the automated washed out image of the Captain.  3.) And this is the big one.  I have no idea where some of these images came from.  They could be copyrighted and I could be sued for using them.  Board Games already don't make enough money to make a living without having to worry about legal issues.

Dangerous times indeed!


  1. This is the problem with one-man projects of this sort, isn't it? You get to the point where you need to crank out a lot of assets with a decent amount of polish, and you know it's going to take forever. I have the same issues; it's too easy to lose focus before you're done.

    Luckily the image situation should be pretty cut-and-dry for you: images made before the 20th century will be in the public domain, even if the scan/photograph of the print/painting was recently made. So as long as you use actual historical images as the basis for your art assets, you're good. ( )

  2. Well, that makes things a lot better to go that route, it also makes my whole post kinda silly and pointless. =P Guess I will be starting to gather resource images that I can start using to create art. Thanks for the tip Ben.

  3. I've had some luck with friends who have helped me out in the art department. Granted, I haven't put anything together to the point of publishing/sale - it's been entirely for internal use and for friends. But they've generously agreed to help and done some nice art for me. Not sure how that would translate if I told them I was going to start making money off of it, though :)

  4. @Eric:
    Well, your points still stand because putting together assets for this could still take a while, even if you use historical images (and most projects of this sort won't necessarily be able to make use of public domain picts). First you have to discover appropriate images, and you won't necessarily find everything you need, given how specific your requirements are. So then you have to create a few of your own images to fill the gaps, but stylistically they have to fit with whatever you've collected, which will take even longer to make, on a per-image basis. Even if you manage to find every image you need, making them usable could take a while, and it's even easier to get bored when you aren't doing anything particularly creative or engaging with them. I have that issue right now - I'm working with historical images for a project, and they're needing a lot of clean-up and alteration to be what I want, so it's easy to get distracted.

  5. That is true. But I feel like it will not take that much time to search for suitable images that I can then modify and colorize to match a unified look. Besides, it's ether that or I pay someone to do the art, and right now that is just not an option. =(