There are two of us credited with the Confucius illustration.
I painted the background landscapes and the painting on the wall
hanging gift. Tony Boydell drew all the line art for all the other
images and I coloured them electronically. It was a real team effort.
From the start, Alan Paull designed the game to be
set in Ming China. It could never have had any other theme, so we
knew right away that wed need suitably Chinese graphics. Tony
is very skillful with black and white line-art drawings. But the
cartoon style these drawings suggested would have to be adapted
to give us the mature, thoughtful yet conniving Officials at the
court of the Chinese Emperor. We wanted a more muted look with a
feel of water colours.
So Tonys line art was subjected to trial by
Photoshop. I scanned a real piece of silk to get the fabric texture
behind the Officials and on the box art picture. It is very difficult
to make it lie flat, but I think it is better with a few bubbles
in it. It makes it look less machine-generated. I had a book with
reproductions of old Chinese paintings of people at court. The pictures
were watercolours, but combined with that there was a surprisingly
strong use of outlining line work. The lines on these paintings
were mostly muted in soft browns and blended with the colours of
robes and faces. I do not know if this was the way they would have
looked when new, or a feature of the aging and reproduction processes.
I tried to emulate this style, knocking back Tonys strong
black lines to more muted colours and filling in the body of each
image with soft Photoshop brush strokes. Mixed with
the silken background the effect is quite oriental.
We have a Chinese friend who helped us with Chinese
custom as applied to the artwork of the game, and with the Chinese
characters for the ministries. She immediately noticed that Tony
had drawn an odd number of retainers in the Emperors entourage.
You cant do that, she said, that is bad luck. You must add
another or miss one out. So now there is an extra man, copied from
one of the others, just making an appearance at the back. We dont
want you to risk bad luck before you even open the box.
Much of the play testing relied on the graphics looking as much
like the finished game as possible. We hope the game will be attractive
to players once published and want the images, icons and colours
to help players to understand where they are in a game and how it
works. So, it helps to offer as accurate a representation as possible
to play testers for comment. Several people commented that we had
an unusually high production standard on the play test copies of
Confucius, but we found that without seeing how the game will look,
testers just cant get a feel for how it works. If the icons
are not right and things are not positioned in a user-friendly fashion
on the board, if it does not have the right look and feel
it just does not play as well.
We made the mistake of applying this to everything else but the
rules for a long while. Of course, to begin with there were few
written rules and Alan just told us the changes in the game since
last week. However even once the rules were written down properly,
we did not include good quality images in them until after a lot
of people had had opportunity to react to, and suggest changes to,
the graphics on the board and cards. This caused problems for the
first people to try to play the game out of the box.
The rules are so much easier to understand with illustrations that
I dont think this is a mistake we will make again.
I went for a visit to the British Museum. There was an exhibition
about nature in oriental art. It was lovely. But the important thing
for me was that it told me about the significance of various birds
and flowers to the Chinese people of the Ming period. When I saw
that wisteria represented a wish for high official rank, I knew
it just had to go in the game. I tossed up what should go with it,
a toad for wealth or a bat for good fortune. Before I went to the
exhibit I had planned to put in a picture of mandarin ducks on the
first gift card, but I found out they represented marital fidelity
and I did not think that applied to this game half so well as wisteria
Once wed got everything functional together and ready for
production, the next problem is how do you take a photo of the game
for the back of the box before the game has been produced? It is
more of a problem than it seems. I once heard someone at Essen walking
past me commenting to a friend that the photo on the back of the
game she had just bought was of the play test copy of the game and
not of the real game and how silly was that!?. But that
is how it has to be. You cant take a photo of the game if
it hasnt been produced yet, but you need a photo of it to
send for production, Catch 22.
Our prototypes were quite good, but no one would have been fooled
that a photo of one was a photo of the published game, so I decided
to try to make a mock up photo from the game graphics.
There is a set up diagram in the rules and I decided to use parts
of that. I added height, depth, distance distortion and a wooden
table to the flat 2D images. I am reasonably satisfied with the
Photoshop is a tool I really enjoy using and having Tonys
line work as the substrate for my machinations just makes it all
the more fun. I dont know what it is about taking an idea
and giving it life, colour, texture, depth and substance that gives
me a thrill, but I think it is something most of us enjoy, we just
express it in different ways. Im not really the writing type.
I work with pictures. I am a lot more comfortable with them than