Jun 022014

I’m having a tough time prototyping a new card game. The preliminary design is done; all of the cards are thought through, I’ve made prototype art for all of them, all of the thinking and prep work is over.

Now I just have to find out if the game is actually fun. One does that by play testing, and one does that by making a prototype version of the game.

The game is based on a Looney Labs pyramid game I submitted in a design competition several years ago; I think it would translate from plastic pyramids to playing cards quite well. But if, and only if, I can get certain cards printed on transparency.

I know this can be done, Keith Baker did it for his game Gloom. You will know Keith better for his role playing game work; he is the one who invented the Eberron campaign setting.

But I digress. This is not about Eberron, nor even about Keith Baker. This is about how difficult it is to prototype a game that requires transparent playing cards.

Consider these two examples. One is intended to be printed on transparent stock, the other on opaque stock.

MIRV card with transparent backing
MX card with opaque backing

They look pretty good, don’t they? I am surprised, everything I know about graphics I learned doing this blog which is – as you can all attest – not known for it’s layout and design. There are some rough spots, and a margin problem, but the fact is that for a prototype it doesn’t matter; any game publisher that might be interested would want to do all the art over anyway. Yet overall, the cards came out pretty well in spite of me.

But that is how they look here, on the web. I bought some (surprisingly expensive) transparency printing film and found that to my dismay they print out like this:

MIRV card with transparent backing

Actually this is sharper than they print on the film. They are even more vague than what I am able to simulate for you here. It has something to do with the transparent backing. But I don’t know enough about this stuff to know how to compensate. Super saturate all the colors?

Anyone know anything about any of this?


🙂 😀 🙂

  8 Responses to “A Game Design Problem”

Comments (8)
  1. Wait, how did I not know Keith Baker was Eberron and Gloom (Both amusing to play)?!?

    As for printing, what is printing? How close to the final product does a prototype need to be?
    It will be interesting to see how you approach this; what sort of printer are you using, or are you subcontracting?

    The main problem I see, is printing white, with standard home printers being a CYMK system, white is … well the absence of ink/toner, which is fine on non-transparent mediums. Sounds more like a screenprinting job, but I’m sure the print industry has come across this situation before. Keep us informed.

    Oh, and if you need play-testers…

  2. I would agree with Bob. It appears that you have no white in your printing. You would need a printer that has an opaque white ink to print true white on transparent media. Maybe if you change all the white in the picture to a very light yellow…?

  3. Yeah, probably a “white” thing. But since it’s a prototype, does it really matter *that* much? As you say, an interested game publisher would figure out how to “fix” it. That said, the suggestion about a light yellow is good – personally, I’m thinking a light blue, but whatever. Probably ANY light-colored background where white is needed could be used. I am assuming your little circle-symbols at the top on the transparent one are supposed to overlay on a non-transparent one. If that is the case, I wouldn’t worry too much about the faded color look on the one that overlay on existing symbols. The ones that don’t would probably be OK *if* the non-transparent cards used white backgrounds instead of black (at least where the symbols are). But yeah, you can probably ‘super-saturate’ the colors, if need be.

    You might also try talking to some print shops and see what they would suggest.

    Good luck!

  4. I thought the top card was a goofy looking Darth vader helmet and the bottom one was a person in a chicken suit and a tin man hat.

  5. Typically light colours in printing also rely on a light background (paper, etc.), standard printers don’t actually print light, just print less 😉

    But I’m sure Geoff knows all this already.

  6. It’s been a few days, have you discovered any solutions?

    I have been told you can get white cartridges to replace black (K[ey]), it would mean two passes on your transparencies, but that’s often similar to the commercial process: multiple passes to layer the desired imagery.

    Or just buy some correction fluid (liquid paper), and paint the areas you need first :p

    • I am in the middle of an effort to re-design the cards to better accommodate printing on transparency. Bigger borders, less fine detail, less reliance on white.

What do you think?

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