Category: Capitalism

Articles about things I do that you can buy. Ads, basically.

‘Doing Art’ For Card Games

Hey, reader. Let’s step, rhetorically, through a conversation I have semi-regularly and want to make easier and more convenient in the future. For the purpose of this conversation, let’s assume You’re an Artist, and I’ve approached you to do artwork for a game.

Hi there!

Hi!

My name’s Talen Lee, and I develop card and board and tabletop games, and I’d like to pay you money to make art assets for a game of mine.

Oh! What’s that entail?

What it’ll mean, usually is that I want to pay you to do some art, that I’m then going to put on cards or boxes or whatever, and that becomes part of the game, which I then sell on. Usually it’s a small number of pieces, sometimes with some modularity or some flexible components – but we can talk more about that in a bit, depending on the project.

Oh, uh, and how would I be getting paid?

I give you money. We agree on how much and it’s okay for you to price yourself out of my range. I’m not here to make you set your prices low or tell you what it should be.

If you can’t afford my work,why not a share of the profits?

No, because I’d like you to get some money. More realistically, I prefer to pay an artist up front for three reasons:

  1. A lot of my games don’t make much money, certainly not enough to make it worth your time to do the art. If they do eventually cross that line, it’s a very long time, sometimes a year or two, after the game is made.
  2. Even if the game never makes money, you still put labour into it, so you should get paid.
  3. I’m really easily made anxious about sums of money and bookkeeping details like this, so I’d rather err on the side of fairness to you, then put the whole process behind me, rather than try to work out a cut on convention sales or the like.

Not that I don’t have it in my mind that, one day, if a project becomes a runaway success I totally need to go back and give more ducats to the artist. I’ve done this with a few projects that just made A Decent Bit Of Money, for example.

Alright, then what kind of art do you want?

Now this is where things get nitty-gritty. I tend to approach artists because I see them doing something I like or something that gives me an idea. I like making games and systems, but I don’t have what I consider refined aesthetic sense – I much prefer telling an artist ‘here is the idea’ and see what they create from it. This can be, for some artists, super liberating because it means I’m not a jerk about fine details. For others, I understand this is a bother because you’d rather precision so you can be sure of the work.

Either way, this is an issue we’ll have to communicate on.

You mentioned modularity?

One thing that you’ll find when dealing with a board game is sometimes elements will be designed to look very similar, so players can grasp that they’re part of a common language, but not be the same because they’re not meant to be the same. Let’s say I want a game to feature potions with bugs in it, and potions without bugs in it. In this case, do I pay you for two almost-identical artworks? The second artwork is still labour, so it shouldn’t be free, but should it be priced at the rate of the first?

This is why I tend to want to pay for art assets in terms of a bundle. I tell you all the things I’ll need in your art style, we agree on a price for the lot, then I pay for the art, and an extra charge for a number of potential revisions. If you get the work done smack-on right the first time, then that’s fine too because instead of freedom to revise, you’ve saved me time.

Do I have to make like, card faces, or know how the rules work?

No, not at all. I do the arrangement/positioning of the cards myself. I actually prefer to.

So why not do smaller, easy things yourself, like the potion example?

One of the things that can make a game look really cheap – accidentally – is when its art is wildly inconsistant. If a game has one artist, it tends to look consistent; if it has three it often looks weird. If it has twenty, well, then you’re looking at a big anthological work and that’s a different creature entirely.

The desire for bundles of art is why I am also an active encourager of stock art.

What’s stock art, in this case?

Stock art fascinates me because it’s stuff you’ve already done, and you’re just selling me permission to use it in a design. Now, not many artists do this – and many aren’t comfortable doing it. I wouldn’t ask you to do it with stuff you’re not comfortable doing. But please, consider it; if you’ve, for example, done a bunch of sketches where you’re not attached to the core of what they represent, or just some art studies of individual characters or background art, please consider making that available for other people to remix, reinterpret and of course, recompense you for.

If you’re interested in selling your work as stock art, I look through the Drivethrucards set of websites for stock art.

I like stock art because I’m poor and it’s often an easy way to get a variety of cool artwork to use for a project, allowing me to make larger projects than I would if I had to comission the art individually, but I also really like stock art as a source of inspiration. Sometimes an artist will put together fifteen sketches of different, random characters and move on, leaving behind a puzzle of what kind of game I can make with that set of sketches.

Oh, cool, so what kind of game is it? Do you have something right now?

There are lot of games I want to make. What’s more, I tend to be artist-led; if you’ve got an interesting style, I may look at your work and need time to fizz away at ideas. This means that I’ll sometimes approach you with a request for contact information so I can get back to you later, or see what your rates/prices are.

Another thing is values. I, for example, don’like racist or sexist jokes, so if your work tends to make a lot of racist jokes, I’d rather know about that before I commit to working with you.

I’m just starting out, and I’m not sure what I do is good enough

A thing I really love about board and card game design is that there isn’t really a good enough. Some games have really simple art styles and they’ve been wildly successful. Some games barely have art at all. While some games are indulgent and want you to focus on gloriously painted landscapes, others are smaller, tighter, and want to evoke a comic panel or an internet avatar.

So, don’t feel you need to play down your work. If, for example, you’re one of those artists doing short-term comissions of busts or avatars, that kind of art is super useful to me, if it’s in a really usable format.

Usable Format?

The things I’m usually looking for with art assets are clean, distinct visuals that can be distinct when they’re small, and absence of background. It’s not that backgrounds don’t matter, it’s just that the games I’ve been making aren’t hungry for background art. If you can design a clean flag, for example, or a distinct avatar, chances are you’re good for what I’d like.

Also, busts and shoulder-up shots are fine! When you’re presenting a character on a card, that much space can be plenty for communicating what they’re about, and what they do. Full-body art is both expensive to get – in terms of time and money – and involves lots of fine detail that’s kind of hard to appreciate during play.

As a rule of thumb, a card I’m working on has a resolution of about 1,100×850 pixels, and is being prepared for at least 300 DPI. It’s always best if an artwork is too big rather than being too small.

This is a lot of words and it’s mostly you talking

Yeah, I’m sorry. I’m very selfconscious about this. I just want to make sure you, as an artist, have the information necessary to understand what I’m working on, and what kind of things I want out of an artwork.

I keep an eye out for artists who are doing things like offering comissions in emergency situations. I don’t want to exploit your lower rates, but at the same time, I do want to ensure you get money. I also understand that giving up or sharing the rights to that art for reproduction in a game isn’t the same as doing random comissioned art. So this information is presented here for your benefit and to hopefully make things a bit less awkward.

That said, if you want to talk to me more specifically, please! Contact me, I’m on twitter and you can send me an email.

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What Have I Been Up To

Tonight, I sat down and used the Invincible Ink blog for the first time in a while to belt out the games we’ve been making in 2017. Then, I sat down and sorted through the game projects that are cooking for the rest of the year. Then I sorted through shipping costs.

This weekend is Comic-Gong. We’ll be there, next to our buddies at Invincible Ink, and we’ll be selling stickers and bookmarks and games, games, games.

I’ve been thinking more and more lately of setting up a formal patreon, just because it’s a way to cover blogging, social media nonsense, the shirt-and-sticker designs, game design, writing about the game design, and even maybe short explanatory pieces using youtube or podcasting or whatnot.

We’ll see.

Pepsi Normalisation

So, this happened:

Now a thing I’m seeing swapped around about it is jokes in the vein of ‘Pepsi believe Pepsi is cop countermagic.’ Which is silly, and insidious and awful, but. But but but.

I politely request that you keep paying attention. Because I don’t think that’s what they’re doing. I think it’s super easy to take what they’re doing that way, but it’s kind of worse.

Okay, so first up, let’s talk about advertising. You’ve probably heard all sorts of things about subliminal advertising or the impact of advertising on your brain, which is a pretty successful pile of nonsense that convinces you that advertising is really powerful and dangerous and a lot like programming people. It’s not against advertisers’ interests to convince you that they have, in fact, superpowers. Thing is, the #1 job of advertisers isn’t to sell you products, it’s to sell advertising to people who aren’t you unless you are a multimillion dollar company with a giant pile of cash to blow.

Advertising is, let’s say, let’s say there’s a fairly tenuous relationship between advertising and success. Part of this is because advertising just doesn’t have the sample sizes and demographics to prove it works. You remember Dulux dogs? That dog they used to advertise Dulux paint? Didn’t appreciably improve Dulux paint’s sales, but really did improve sales of the dog. There’s also this problem of saturation, where your brain starts to just sort advertisements into big blocks – basically, at a certain point, your brain starts to say, when you’re being shown a product, ‘oh yes. Products exist.

There is however a form of advertising we’re pretty convinced works, and it’s an advertising method you kind of can’t do unless you’re already a massive multinational corporation. It’s supersaturation. It’s designed to represent your product as so overwhelmingly common, so universally available that people think of your product as part of being normal, as part of just existing. It’s about being background radiation. And you do that not by subliminal representation or cow-shaped ice cubes, you do it by just showing up everywhere. You put your brand on the sides of buildings, cars, trucks, vending machines, you put it everywhere, and you distribute your product absolutely everywhere too. It’s got to be this combination of availability and omnipresence. It only works for products you use regularly, for products you want to reach for all the time, replaceable and reusable.

Simply put, this is the sort of advertising corporations like Pepsi and Coke can do. And it’s a model that almost only works for their particular variety of product. You can see other companies wasting money on this kind of thing – even Apple’s marketing in the same vein has challenges in that people don’t need to buy new Apple products every week. It costs a lot to stay on the top of everything, to be everywhere doing everything.

And that’s where we get to this ad.

The company behind this marketing is, from what I can tell, doing exactly what they’ve always done. They’re trying to create a schema, a worldview of everything is normal and Pepsi is part of it. You know things are normal, because Pepsi is there, and Pepsi is normal. The best results of this massive multinational research company, trying to manage its already extant status of everywhere for everyone, is to make this ad, based on exactly what they can prove or know. The thing with this ad is that it’s not trying to say use Pepsi to change your world or Pepsi is part of the revolution. What they’re saying is even when you have a protest, for any reason or any purpose, hey, Pepsi is there. Pepsi is part of your day to day life.

And your day to day life will probably feature regular protests and confrontations with the police.

Sleep tight!

A Year Later: Game Design

I guess it’s been a year.

It’s been hot today, so it’s hard to write when the sun’s up, and then there’s a few hours after the sun sets where you need to do all the chores. But today I’ve been stewing on the challenge of being a game designer.

So.

I have not been a game designer in the context of ‘getting into the industry.’ I’ve just been making games now, for a year, and there was always a tacit thought in the back of my mind that, eventually, some point during the year, it would pick up the market and I’d slowly be building on having a job in game design, or at least, a portfolio game designers would want.

Not… really how it works. Anyway.

Here are some things I wish I’d known beforehand:

  1. Lead times are important. It takes about a half of a month to get a game sent from the printers to here in Australia. Expensive, too. Smaller games are cheaper to send, so designing for a small number of cards, leading to games like Werewolf, or Love Letter or the like, is easier and faster.
  2. Booklet games are really important. People are more likely to drop a bit of cash on a game they don’t know they want if there’s no delivery time. Buying a booklet is cheap and fast. Buying a printed cardgame has delivery time.
  3. Reddit and bloggers are super important! The two most sold products we have, online, are Simon’s Schism and Dog Bear, booklet games. The former is mentioned on a Venezualan game blog for people who need cheap games that don’t cost anything to import, which is awesome and lovely and I’d love to help get more games to people in that situation, and the latter is a goofy game that’s had the most time to sell, but was mentioned on Reddit.
  4. People buy my stuff when it is convenient. Face to face? People very rarely come to my booth at a convention and don’t at least show interest in maybe buying something. People want the product. The products are good. But getting people to know that, online, and then getting them to buy them… that’s the trick.

Please don’t feel guilty if you never bought anything. This isn’t about you. This is about useful things to learn. And hopefully, you won’t have these problems: Your product or game will be a wild, runaway success, if my hopes for you hold.

Huh.

The fact I barely advertise the products I make – or rather, the designs I give to the people who make products in the hope they give me a tiny fraction of the total cost of the product – means I’m periodically struck by just what the natural shakeout of the internet leads to people buying.

Particularly, someone has bought, from one of the sites, an XL version of the GENERALLY ADEQUATE DAD t-shirt design

marked as a gift.

Tony Vs Chester: Lessons In Branding

When you create a brand, specifically a brand to try and sell a product, it depends on how you position yourself in the media landscape so people can know how to react to you. In the past, we’ve seen Coca-Cola position itself as a standard, loved, traditionalist piece of our lives, while Pepsi tried to make itself an aggressive, reckless, new-hip-and-cool opposition to that stodginess. The same is true of Mario and Sonic (and later Crash Bandicoot), and this can be now seen in the way that both Chester Cheetah and Tony the Tiger are engaging with their thirsty, thirsty fanbases to best-

You know, sometimes you get stuck into a draft and realise you probably should just stop.

Chasing 1%, Part 2

The reason I titled this Chasing 1% is because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where and how I choose to improve as a Games Person, or Person What Makes Games And Sells Them. Even how you choose to phrase this is an ambiguity, and parsing out my personal challenges with expressing things in terms of I Am and the manifold layers of sin and pride around it doesn’t make it any easier. Let’s pretend I’m saying this decisively and clearly, here: I’m A Game Designer.

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THE SUITS: Phone Wallpapers!

pwallpaper header

Hey, did you like my The Suits designs? Would you like them on your phone? Well, I made these wallpaper-sized versions of the images. And I made sure to avoid the logo, and didn’t put any watermark on them, because I’m hoping that this won’t come back and bite me on the ass later! Either way, if you’d like one of these pictures available on your phone regularly, well here they are!

 

What is… SENPAI NOTICE ME!?

snmtitle

Senpai Notice Me! is a hidden-information bluffing and set collecting card game for 3 to 7 players where everyone’s a super cute schoolgirl trying to put together the pieces of their most charming look so they can both identify and earn the attention of the hidden Senpai at the table, which plays out in five to ten minutes. If you want to wear pretty gloves, or flaunt your rad tan, or maybe drawl out a flirty sentiment with a toothpick hanging from your lower lip, this is tha game for you, a game that can be bought on DriveThruCards for ten bucks, and right now.

Interested? Then great, click here, go check it out!

Or you wanna hear more? That’s fine, then, here we go:

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