I need a catchier name than that for this.
Okay, look, something I do, regularly, is go looking for game assets I can use. I am, as a designer, kind of aesthetically flexible. I don’t tend to design games with a vision of how they should look ahead of time. And what’s more, I tend to be resource-inspired. If I see a new mechanic, or an art asset or something, my natural desire is to creatively explore it, to say ‘hey, I’d use this for this.’
I’m also uh, cheap? Like I don’t like the idea of my games as these ongoing costs. I want to buy assets, address my needs for a design, and be done. That means instead of comissioning an artist, I’d really like to buy their existing art as art assets rather than hire an artist to make things. It’s funny, too, because if the artist designs a thing and just makes it look right, great, that’s their choice and decision and I don’t have to try and tell the artist how to make it more, I dunno, ‘fwoowshy’ or appropriate to my needs.
I’m an odd boy, I know.
This is something I’ve been planning on doing for a while! How long have I been waiting on doing this? Well, the first draft of this article, and that name, is from January.
I gotta shake off that awkwardness, and just do it, so here’s the plan. I’m going to show you an asset pack, and tell you what I think about it, and what kind of games I’d think of doing with it.
Okay, so here’s the asset I found when I went looking that I want to talk about: Golem Battler Pack for RPG games by Anvilsoft. The images here are obtained from there.
Alright, what we have here is an art asset pack with a total of six objects in it. They have a unified aesthetic and art style — which includes things like colour palettes and line weight. Basically, these six things all look like each other. They’re also kind of card-proportioned, mostly, except for the lava golem in the top left. Here they are with a boundary box overlaid to make it a bit more clear:
If we reorient them so the cards are vertical, we run the risk of cutting off the edges of the club, and the bottom right golem is probably going to fall off the side. This art is however, good at being splashy. These golems can host an entire card on their own, no problem, but then that card needs to be doing something.
Okay, what ideas can I think of that primarily use these six cards?
They’re designed as RPGMaker enemy sprites, things you fight in combat. That’s an easy place to start. If I have a game which wants to be a battler, players fighting monsters, these would be fine monster cards to fight. It feels a bit basic, though, and it presents another problem: I’m going to want more than just six golems in most designs for that kind of battler, and I’m going to want assets for the player characters to project onto as well. That means this isn’t as contained as all that.
Okay, well, what else can I think of?
When I look at a small pool of artworks I think of games where I only need those artworks as focus. Hook, Line & Sinker works with just basically one unique graphic (the background red-black shatter look), as a platform for the iconography:
What kind of game might feature just these golems?
With six golems to choose from (and choose is an issue), I find myself wondering about a game that’s about assembling or activating golems. Maybe even the cards are multi-part, with two golem cards that you have to activate through some other game mechanism:
I’m not wild about how this looks, especially because these golems are so active seeming, and splitting them into parts cuts up the important parts of them, but it could be useful if I need the players to think of most cards as ‘them’ and the golem cards as ‘big.’
The idea that sticks with me the most with this is the idea of a small game where these golems are arranged in a circle around a central dais. Each golem represents a defender with different wants, and the players have to ‘activate’ them, to endure some kind of siege. Maybe something cooperative like Castle Panic, or something like competing mages trying to solve an ancient puzzle.
If I make this design for a mid-size deck, with say, fifty cards, then there’s an option to do things like have a central deck of problem cards that clash with golems and interfere with their repair. Players might be frantically spending resources to make sure the right golem is available to deal with the right opponents. But that does ask for the cards presenting problems to also have art that matches the Golems. That’s one kind of game.
If I scale down a little, and say make this game for 12-18 cards, then suddenly the resources get very strapped. The game is probably a race or a bluffing game – each player is trying to activate a particular golem, and then they’re dedicating effort to do so. Maybe this could be done with hidden priorities – you get a card that indicates ‘repair three golems next to one another’ or ‘repair the ice golem’ and then you need to convince everyone to vote for the goelm you care about.
Another option is to have the game about lining up Golems with tasks they need to do. Maybe as a solo game or a cooperative game, where you’re both being given tasks that need to be put in a pipeline and they steadily work their way towards the Golem, or ‘lock’ a Golem for a few turns.
A third idea is to borrow from Button Shy’s Avignon: A Clash Of Popes, where you have a small number of pieces (the Golems) and a line of cards representing the board. This might be duelling wizards trying to command control of ancient war machine golems that advance back and forth, heedless for who thinks they should be in one location or another. Get too many golems over your side of the board, you lose.
I like this asset pack a bunch! I’ll give a think about these ideas, maybe make some formal notes about the game idea so I can return to it, and maybe I’ll make this microgame when I get the opportunity.
Did this interest you? Do you like hearing me think my way through design questions like this, while putting art assets out there for you to consider? I kind of want to do more articles like this, so let me know if they interest you.