Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Game Graphics Creation

Following on from the MM:Scotland post, I thought I'd describe a bit more about how I made some of the Standard Game graphics, in particular the board.

The ideas and progressive versions were described in previous posts:

Game Board Design Part One.

First Printed Map
Discarded White Sea Version
Game Board Design Part Two.

Second Printed Map
Here's what I did to make the board.

1) Sketches on paper, pencil scribbles leading to the first set of area/region outlines you see in the first map above.

In my case, I am familiar with Corel Draw software for doing vector graphics, so used this program. There are many alternative vector editing applications, such as the freely available Inkscape (Open Source under GNU General Public License) all the way through to Adobe Illustrator (Not Open Source and Commercially Licenced).

As you can scan your paper drawing and then use the Corel Draw autotracing facility (vectorisation or image tracing) to convert your input into Corel Draw vectors, I used this method to get my scribbles vectorised.
A bit on hardware and software... 
An alternative would be to draw vectors directly in Corel Draw - the best option for doing this is to use a Pen and Tablet (for example those made by Wacomhooked up to your computer. 
Even better would be a Tablet PC with on-screen digitiser, such as an Asus Eee Slate, which can run standard PC software applications, or a full Wacom graphics tablet with integrated display, such as their Cintiq seriesThe latter two are expensive options that allow you to draw/paint directly onto your 'page'. 
I now have a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, which is a cheaper Android equivalent to  the above, with an 'S Pen' and Apps available to do similar tasks, but without the full power of a PC. The S Pen is a proper, pressure sensitive digitiser and the applications that can be used with it allow sketching and painting directly on screen. 
Here's an example, drawn based on an extracted snippit from a BBC News web page (hint of glasses in the end product, I think): 
 Practice1 Practice2 Practice3  Practice4 Practice5 Practice6
And stuck through the Lithic App:
Potential Character for a Card

Back to the board - the main advantage of the vectors is that they are scalable to almost any size without the loss of detail that you get with bitmap images (rasters or 'photos').

The advantage of bitmaps is that thay are great for doning tonal images, can be treated with various effects filters and can be 'painted' on.

I exported the basemap at the size I wanted (originally A0) as a bitmap, so I could then add details in a 'paint' package.

2) Add textures and colours to the basemap. I did this in a mix of Corel Paint Shop Pro and Corel Photo Paint, using different layers.

Basic outlines with basic blobs of texture added by hand
Coloured up, with radial brightness
With maelstrom swirl graphic added
3) Switched to Corel Draw to add vector linework.

Areas, regions, island and fine lines added to give stain glass look
Islands drawn in
And finally, victory track, Jormungandr head / tail, etc

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Words wot I have used

Thought I'd try out Tagxedo to see if I am using particular words too much. May not work in all browsers... here's a static image as well:

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Magic Maelstrom: Scotland, a new, smaller version of MM?

This is a work in progress on a streamlined version of the Magic Maelstrom game concentrating on Scotland, probably with the four sides being Scots, Picts, Vikings and Celts.

The objective is a shorter playing time, a board closer to real geography and perhaps version with wider appeal?

Simplifying and re-designing without breaking the game or ruining the graphic design?

Posted today on BoardGameGeek:

The Board

With a final draft currently being blind-tested and positive feedback on the graphic design and board for the main Magic Maelstrom game, I wanted to look a shorter length version that would have wider appeal.  As with the original design, I've started by looking at the map / board.

Using the free, open source Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) application and  freely available digital terrain or elevation model (DTM/DEM) data, in this case the GEBCO dataset of topography and bathymetry, I created a starting basemap.
GMT is a powerful script based tool which, amongst much more, allows you to pick inputs, in this case the GEBCO data, 'cut it' to your area, illuminate your selected grid and use easily editable custom colour palettes, such as those hosted by JJ Green's CPT-CITY, create different colour outputs.
GMT is designed to run on Unix, but can be used on a WinPC (or Linux or a Mac). There are also some GUI's available for it - see the GMT website  for more details. This is a simple script I ran on my Windows 7 laptop:

grdgradient -A0 -Nt0.5 -Gscot_grad.grd
grdview -Iscot_grad.grd -Qi400 -JM50 -R-10/1/52/61 -Cmby.cpt -V >

The result:

I then played around with warping the map as a swirl or either circular or elliptical distortion using various image editing software filters.

MM_Scot_tester_sphere MM_Scot_tester_twirl MM_Scot_tester_sphere_1 MM_Scot_tester_sphere_oval1

The swirl shown looked too extreme and more subtle versions didn't really add anything, but the elliptical version looked to have potential and was close to the orginal Magic Maelstrom map shape, so I took this further. The following map has the full set of Magic Maelstrom areas superimposed on top. These are too many areas for this version of the game, but I wanted to get an impression of what needs to be cut down and how the map may look.


The following are tests done using photo filters in various Android Apps to see what effects would be best for the basemap. The basemap needs to be suitable for overlaying the area polygons with their colours and allow the final game board to look like a stain glass window, as in the original Magic Maelstrom board

BeFunky Gritty HDR on AndroidPad 8420250727_0af77b63fb_b 8421349304_f769e0100c_b 8421455756_29c5b1cf2b_b

I have now made a start on refining the design and have started with the basic oval area. If you are from Shetland, don't worry, your homeland will be an inset on the main board, so won't get missed out.

MagicMaelstrom__FirstDraftScot_Board4_darker_screenshot MagicMaelstrom__FirstDraftScot_Board4_shiny MagicMaelstrom__FirstDraftScot_Board4_darker_rgb MagicMaelstrom__FirstDraftScot_Board4_darker_cmyk

Next up will be reducing the number of areas and finalising the board design in a vector editing program, plus looking at other parts of the game mechanics that can be simplified.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Playtest 4298...

...or that's what it feels like, not least to long suffering Mike and Allan.

Despite thinking that blind testing could start just after Christmas, I (we) haven't felt that the rules have quite been ready for unleashing. There's a fine balance between overdoing things with being too precious about the game and letting more people loose on it when they may not enjoy playing.

I think we are now there - one last go on Thursday and then let it loose.

And so to a very brief run through from last Friday...


This ended up as a three player game, as, ironically, the Ice player (Lynn) had a heavy cold and took to her sickbed. This left us with Fire (Paul), Dark (Allan) and Light (Mike).

In The Snowy Wastes, something is lurking
The game is best with four, but we've had many good three-player games. Two player has really only been tried as a dry run by me.

It was agreed that three rounds would be played, due to generally busy weeks being had at various offices.

Dark went first and mainly consolidated their home region, with moves towards the outer islands. Light was second and mainly the did the same. This has generally been the pattern of the first turns. In this case, however, the Fire player had drawn a large number of Fate Card beasties, so proceeded to take over several areas in their turn, drawing the usual whinging refrain of 'x is winning' to draw attention to that player and not the others.

In the second round, there was more expansion, with some fighting between Dark and Fire over territories in the Ice home region, which was occupied by neutral defender units. The whinging (albeit justified whinging)  from round one had some effect and the Light player, after drawing a nice selection of Fate Card beasties and having resource cards to build a few Characters, proceeded to carve a swathe of destruction right up the middle of the Fire player home region. The Fire player responded somewhat limitedly, whilst bemoaning lack of the right cards to do the job properly.

After the battles between the forces of Light and Fire
In the third round, there was further skirmishing between Fire and Light, with Dark mainly left to their own devices. Unsurprisingly, Dark was the winner, the man from Luncarty had played the long game and stayed out of trouble. As before, the scores were not too far apart, which is reassuring in terms of the core of the game mechanism being pretty well balanced.

Fire:- 140
Light:- 146
Dark:- 160

Fire player hand and deployed units at the end of the game.
Lots of characters and beasties, but not enough victory points.

Each round (of four player turns) was roughly half an hour, which would give a target of two hours for a standard four round game, but a couple of player turns took longer due to too many cards / choices of actions to take (or slowness of thought in the Fire player case). This is probably the only main issue left to resolve.  

1) Still too many fate cards, so need to revise rules to agree a fixed number of fate cards you get on your turn. 6, 8 or 10.

2) Add redeployment, based on Mike's description of Allan's idea, but minus resource cards, only for 'in supply' stacks (no

Redeployment Phase (immediately before ending turn): Discard a Fate card of the appropriate colour to move a single unit (make it either to or..?) from an area of that colour to any other stack belonging to the player. It may move anywhere on the map the player has an existing stack as long as there is a continuous line of your own stacks to the target area. Stacking limits still apply.

3) Revise the Rogue, as in Mike's suggestion:
Rogue (a teller of tales, a stirrer up of trouble): Once per player turn the Rogue may trigger a Rebellion in an adjacent stack. If the rogue is in a stack that is attacked, the rogue may cause one enemy unit susceptible to rebellion to rebel. No dice roll is required for these effects.