1 Jan 2016
December 2015 - d4dead Production Project - Part 3

Okay, this was a big one, and I"ve been shamefully slack on completing the writeup. So now, months later, it's time to take a look back at this ambitious little project and my ongoing stretching of the definition of 1GAM.

I decided to revisit d4dead once again, this time with the knowingly inaccurate assumption that the game is complete and ready to go to print. It's clearly not, and is still similar enough to a certain other game that I'd be foolhardy to try to distribute it in any formal way. However, that intentional falsehood allowed me to try out some aspects of game design and production that I'd never had a chance to experiment with before. First, I'd revisit and revise all of the game text for clarity and succinctness, then design and lay out all of the cards to look as professional as possible, and finally, take those designs to a print on demand shop and produce a full set of high-quality cards produced, so I could playtest with a copy of my game that looked like a real honest-to-goodness game.

Part 1 - Prep and Prose

First step took a significant chunk of time, with very little to talk about. I knew revisiting not only the full rules, but also every single card, was going to be a major undertaking, and was one of the reasons I decided to break this project up into multiple one-month segments. The full rules document (included below), plus 70 unique cards, were all revisited, and some got up to half a dozen revisions before I settled on their current forms. It ain't glamorous, but somebody has to make the donuts, and conveniently enough, one of the optional 1GAM theme words during this project was Prose. Huzzah.

Part 2 - Design and Layout

Here we get into new territory. I've done plenty of amateur image editing, digital mapmaking, designed some logos and shirts for people and events, and even used to know my way around page layout back when PageMaker was still a thing people used for actual work, but never like this. This required designing backs for three decks of cards at three sizes, plus anywhere from 1 to 5 background images for the fronts, plus incident graphics, and then coming up with layouts for a variety of cards that conveyed the necessary information clearly and succinctly, but still thematically.

I guess the best thing to include here, since I can't really explain the process in any useful way other than "get an image editing program of your choice and start fiddling with things," would be just a few examples of some of the images and layouts I particularly liked when I was done. Click on any of these to pop out a larger view.

Part 3 - Production

The hardest part to quantify but the easiest part to demonstrate - behold!

I'd looked into using The Game Crafter for printing components in the past, so this seemed like the time to download their templates, sort out the particulars of optimizing the game (for instance, making sure the card counts for each size match the printed sheet sizes to avoid waste), and print a game.

The process, once I got rolling, was fairly simple, though of course time-consuming for a one-person amateur production team working in my slim available spare time in December. I used Scribus for the layout work, since it's free and vaguely familiar to a one-time user of PageMaker and InDesign.

I had one minor issue with Scribus to overcome (which is I suspect a common refrain in its current state) - The Game Crafter uses images for cards, so the Scribus layouts of the cards must be exported as JPGs. There is, however, no way at present to have Scribus include your bleed area when exporting to image. It was more than a little frustrating to search for a solution, and be met with people on forums giving responses (IMO often condescending) about how "bleed" has no meaning for a flat image, so exporting a bleed makes no sense. In this case, exporting the bleed area is exactly what I needed, so I could set up and use a bleed area that matches The Game Crafter's layout and then export an image that includes the bleed area. So I had to re-cook all of my layouts I'd done up to that point to eliminate the bleeds and set up artificial bleeds using guides, so my exported images would be the right size.

With that sorted out, the process of uploading the images was pleasantly smooth, with The Game Crafter supporting drag-and-drop image uploads and automatic card generation/updating based on file names, so getting everything uploaded and proofed was a piece of cake. I put in the order, had alead time of about two weeks, and I had my cards.

Now, more playtesting...

The Verdict

Basically, mission accomplished, I guess? The prospect of doing the layout for a card game certainly doesn't seem very intimidating anymore. Just have to keep working on that pesky gameplay...