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Random Encounter: Pixel Art of the Sea Chicken

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A long time before I became a game designer, I started my art career working on high resolution assets for games and film. Background art, 3D models, textures, characters and the like. So, taking a ‘step backwards’ into pixel art was initially strange for me.

My first foray into the world of pixels came about from chance job that appeared with 4J Studios, working on the massively popular Minecraft: Console Edition. Initially I was outside of my comfort zone. But, many of the techniques I had used in previous work transitioned smoothly into my new workflow. The simple purity of pixel art continued to excite me and capture my interest. I kept learning, working on my technique, and I ended up working with 4J for a further 2 years.

Pixel Art comes with an array of emotional and nostalgic baggage for most gamers, myself included! For some, it calls back memories of games we loved as kids. For others, it points to the recursion of simple visuals in indie adventure games that have recently taken the style to a new level in the video games market.

I wanted to utilize the new experience I had with pixel art production and play off of the pre-existing views that come with it. But, I wanted bring it to the tabletop – where friends could experience something similar to those classic adventures together, in a fresh setting.

Random Encounter ended up as a game which feels like it hopped straight off of a screen but is still championing a new generation of tabletop games with fun, colourful, characters and a strong sense of self-aware playfulness about it. Vibrant visuals which feel entirely out of place on a table but perfectly fit the style of game and help to bring the unique world to life.

 

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My early sketching process for pixel art is much the same as with high resolution work. I usually start with initial (somewhat scrappy) pencil sketches to tie down the idea and the personality of the characters or location and then move straight into photoshop and start blocking out shapes. For colour consistency, I usually have a mood board at hand which includes image from other artists which I like, early tests and colour swatches and helps me keep on track.

Working on a standard sized grid and with a static background is another unique challenge. The smaller the character the less room for error there is on the details. Whole images and character personalities can change with the movement of a single pixel. The larger characters need more detail work to make them look convincing. But, if one character becomes overly detailed it can make the others seem out of place. Maintaining constants from card to card is always one of the hardest challenges.

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I am a little bit of a perfectionist (Ok, that’s a lie. I’m 100% a perfectionist), so I usually start cleaning up the edges of the pixels quite early on to get readable shapes out of the characters or backgrounds I’m working on. It won’t matter to everyone, but to me having lines and curves which follow simple coefficients (known as ‘perfect lines’ in pixel art) are hugely important. This isn’t something you have to worry about in high resolution artwork as a slight variance in a line will go unnoticed. These simple touches allow your eye to define shapes without any difficulty.

I get to work a little more loosely and skip the sketching phase on bigger background or tiled cards such as the Key Cards (used to open the door to the Final Boss). When I say ‘bigger’ they are still usually only around 300×300 pixels in size. I usually start with large brushes on these and don’t worry too much about spilling outside of the card borders. Once I have the general layout complete I slowly work my way down in brush sizes until I get into single pixels for details. I’ll then crop the image down to size depending on what it is needed for.
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The final step is always scaling up the artwork and preparing the final layouts for the game. The pixel art is usually blown up to 1000% (10x the original size that they were painted in) and then text and numbering is added where appropriate. Finishing off an individual card is always a huge milestone but as the others are finished I will often go back and rework some others to keep them in-line stylistically or thematically as the game design progresses.

Overall, I realise I may have made this sound like an arduous process. But, it genuinely is a labour of love. Every new piece of artwork I finish helps to expand the game’s universe and leads to unique stories for players to create with their friends. Every detail counts (always)!

Stay Awesome,
Jamie Keddie

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Random Encounter: Seas of the Sea Chicken will be hitting stores May 31st, 2017!

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Rayguns and Rocketships: A Dual-Scale Tale

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Scott Rogers’ prototype of Rayguns and Rocketships

The first thing that caught my eye when I saw designer Scott Rogers showing off Rayguns and Rocketships (with a gleam in his eye, mind you) at UnPub San Jose was the fact that it had multiple boards with action going on simultaneously between the two. It was incredible to watch. In seconds I was having a fantasy that this was FTL the boardgame. And in a way, it very much is, without the added complexity or punishing difficulty.

A lot of what I saw that lit me up about Rayguns was the back and forth between the star map, and the ship boards. I watched as players pre-programmed their rocketships, and then took turns moving their crew members around their ships, timing boarding actions as their ships passed one another through space in precise moments. What a trip to watch!

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Massive ship battle on the star map

After watching for a few turns, I had to play. No more than five minutes into the game, not only was I impacting how my ship operated on the star map due to my crew placement on the ship board, but I was also setting myself up for daring boarding missions as my spaceship passed an opponent’s spaceship mid-flight.

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My Blaarg crew have unwanted visitors aboard their ship!

Scuttling a few of my precious crew aboard an opponent’s ship proved to be a huge choice. I was sacrificing potential crew to man rayguns (thereby increasing their accuracy), and crew to operate the engines (increasing my ship’s speed) or to stay and defend in case of an enemy incursion, but I felt it was worth it to send them into an opposing player’s ship to sabotage their engines.

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The aftermath of a huge dogfight

That was what really got me. How successful am I at blasting an enemy ship apart with my rayguns from a distance? Could I send a few crew aboard their vessel to distract them while I continue the barrage from afar? What if another player sees that I’m low on crew, and decides to board me instead? The back-and-forth between these types of decisions heightened the experience to a wonderful level.

The duality of the scale is not an added benefit, it’s a necessity. In the days we live in now, where everyone is making miniatures games, doing something innovative is truly an oversight. IDW Games has certainly seen the beauty in something so cool as having a dual-scale system, and we’re leveraging that as much as we can to give the public a truly unique experience, set in a rich and colorful world.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 1.15.09 PMThat’s what I got, when I played Rayguns and Rocketships for the first time. This experience was, without any doubt, a novel and fortunate new type of game.

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– Bryan Merlonghi, Marketing Manager IDW Games
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Designer Diary: Rayguns and Rocketships

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Over my career as a game designer, I’ve been privileged to help create many video games – including God of War, Warhammer 40K, Darksiders, and Pac-Man World – but while I designed the levels and game play for these amazing worlds, I never quite had the opportunity to create one of my own. I was lamenting this to a friend and he asked me: “What kind of game do you want to make?” I immediately replied “A Star Wars game.” He scoffed at my answer and gave me what might be the best advice I’ve ever received: “Make your own damn Star Wars.”

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Players enjoying the PROTOTYPE of the game

His words inspired me, so I set out to create my own science-fiction game. I started by listing everything that excited me about the genre, especially the stories from pulp sci-fi magazines of the 1930’s and 40’s: Amazing Stories, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter books, and Wally Wood’s comic stories from Weird Science and Weird Fantasy. My imaginary universe became populated with jetpack wearing space-adventurers, sword wielding space-pirates, epic battles between lumbering spaceships, raygun shoot-outs, perilous asteroid belts, and exotic and grotesque alien creatures. I called it Rayguns and Rocketships.

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The video game’s concept was a multiplayer game in which players would pilot a rocketship, man a control system or raygun cannon that could be fired at enemy’s ships. If the player wished, they could draw their laser pistols, fire up their jetpacks, and jump out of the rocketship into outer space to fight their way onto an enemy’s ship. My co-workers all liked the idea, but the technology of video game consoles of the day just weren’t up to the task of creating the seamless transitions between ship interiors and outer space that I was dreaming of. In those days, it took a lot of money and man-power to make video games; two things I didn’t possess. But I was determined to make Rayguns and Rocketships a reality. How could one person bring this massive project to life?

The answer was board games. I have always loved board games since I was a young boy. Even before I discovered Dungeons and Dragons, I had been playing board games like Green Ghost, Dark Shadows and Which Witch. The toy-like nature of board games really appeals to me and I wanted to reflect this in Rayguns and Rocketships. The Planeteer miniatures are inspired by Marx Space Patrol toys from the 1950’s. I “recruited” some D&D lizard men minis and a handful of Adam Strange Heroclix to become my first Planeteer crews. I drew rocketship maps on paper and was gratified to discover that moving the crew around inside the ships was just plain fun.

In Rayguns and Rocketships, each player is a Planeteer faction. Each faction has a specialty – The Galactic Astro-Rangers are very speedy, whether flying a rocketship or using a jetpack. The Star Pirates of Samadi are armed to the teeth and are especially good as shooting their raygun cannons. The Grand Navy of Zardia are a race of lizard men who are close combat experts and swordsmen… er swordszards. And the alien Blaarg! Collective are strange invaders from a neighboring galaxy who are giant brains in mechanical pants and use their awful mind powers on the other players. The Planeteers are led by a unique Captain who have their own two-sided card listing their special abilities. Captains are like the Queen in Chess; a piece that is best used aggressively. In fact, the entire game rewards aggression and the player to reach the predetermined number of victory points first, wins the game.

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Crew members aren’t the only miniatures in the Rayguns and Rocketships. Each Planeteer faction has its own unique rocketships miniatures which are moved around on a Star Map around using command cards. The cards are pre-programmed like in Robo-Rally or Wings of War. The programming makes the rocketships feel large and requires a fair amount of strategy from the player when determining how to move them around for space combat. When rocketships move into position, they can fire their battery of rayguns. If a crew member mans a raygun, it improves its range and odds for success. Successful blasts can damage either the hull or rayguns and can trap crew members inside the rocketship. If a rocketship ever takes eight tokens of blast damage, it explodes!

Command cards also generate action tokens that the player can use to give their crew members additional movement, actions and attacks. Spend action tokens to extinguish blast tokens, heal the captain, open the rocketship’s hatch or airlock or perform special actions. Crew members are very flexible pieces but they are also very fragile as they only have one point of health.

Each faction has their own deck of command cards and some of them are marked with stars. These “star cards” are separated into their own deck and are added to the player’s hand through a variety of methods. The star cards cater to the Planeteer factions’ special abilities. For example, the Star Pirate card “Heavy Cannon” lets a player place two blast tokens onto a rocketship if a successful hit is made. The Zard card “Master Swordszard” allows the player to re-roll any failed melee attack rolls once. My favorite is “Rangers Attack!” where 4 Astro-Rangers are immediately placed on the Star Map around the player’s rocketship. It’s a great surprise move to use for boarding maneuvers or quick escapes.

There are many more components included in Rayguns and Rocketships; asteroid and iceteroid tokens that complicate movement, warbots that can be salvaged and used for crew functions and secret data tapes that may or may not hold the plans for a planet-destroying weapon! Rayguns and Rocketships is my love letter to the golden age of science fiction and I hope that you enjoy playing it as much as I did creating it!

– Scott Rogers

 

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Meet the Planeteers #2 – Captain Jessie Nova star

Things are heating up as Rayguns and Rocketships roars closer to our galaxy. I thought an introduction to the characters, technology and places you will encounter in the game was in order.
This time we meet the Astro-Rangers’ brash and bold captain: Jessie Novastar!

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3D Turns of Jessie Novastar

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Suggested Color Guide

Each Planeteer faction has a captain that has more health and special abilities in the game. The captains of the Astro-Rangers is Jessie Novastar, the daughter of space hero “Rock” Novastar and has lived in the shadow of his legendary deeds. While she feels she has a lot to prove, she has inherited her father’s flying talent and skill with a neurolizer pistol. She is reckless and a bit of a smart-aleck but she can back up the smack talk with action as she fights against space pirates, criminals and warlords that threaten peace in the galaxy.
Stay Tuned for more Intergalactic News!
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BREAKING NEWS: IDW Games Announces Rayguns and Rocketships Kickstarter!

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Blast off on an adventure that’s out of this world. Strap on your jetpack, and man your raygun, because it’s going to take all of your wits and courage to pilot your rocketship to victory in this competitive, 2-4 player miniatures board game!

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Designed by Scott Rogers, Rayguns and Rocketships uses an innovative dual-scale system that keeps players thinking big, while still sweating the small stuff. Preprogram your rocketship to navigate around your opponents while lining up the broad side to unleash a barrage of raygun fire! Meanwhile, quickly command your crew to overpower your engines, help aim your rayguns, and put out fires. You can even bring the fight to your enemies by jetting your crew off into space and boarding their ships.

Rayguns and Rocketships is one of those few games that captures your attention with its gameplay and sparks your imagination with its world,” says Jerry Bennington, VP of New Product Development.

Gorgeous, highly detailed miniatures dripping with retro-style, bring the Rayguns and Rocketships space opera to life. Set out to dominate your competition in standard player vs. player matches, or select an episode from the Episode Book and battle up to 3 friends in specially designed scenarios with unique and challenging objectives.fanglaird

Warm up your rayguns, fire up your rockets, and set a course for Zardia, The Rayguns and Rocketships Kickstarter launches April 19th, 2017 with a MSRP of $90. Don’t be left on Earth when Rayguns and Rocketships blasts off for the stars!

 

 

Sign-up for the Intergalactic Newsletter and get more information!
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IDW Games Announces TMNT: Shadows of the Past Hobby Challenge!

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People across the globe are painting their own versions of the miniatures from the hit TMNT: Shadows of the Past board game! Look at all the different ways painters and amateur hobbyists, (even professionals!) have brought to life their own version of the board game. Each person brings a new style to these radical figures!

Head to your local comic or game store, and get started personalizing your favorite characters from the world of turtles today! Ask for the TMNT: Shadows of the Past board game.


Challenge Details:
Join the TMNT: Shadows of the Past fan group on Facebook and submit your photos, or simply post them in a comment. A new batch of photos will be featured in the most upcoming issue of the TMNT comic! It’s our chance to give back and inspire others and help people see just how amazing they can be!

You heard right! For as long as we have interest, each issue of the upcoming TMNT comic book, brought to you by IDW Publishing, will have a page featuring the images of YOUR painted miniatures!!!

Current Winners:

  • Cullen Knappen
  • Justin Vasquez
  • Maciej Zylewicz
  • Adam Johnson w/ Big Mini Studio
  • Greg Peterson
  • Andrzej Probulski

When you go to your local store to ask about the minis,TMNT08_17 tell ’em Mikey sent ya!

 

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Designer Jon Cohn Talks About King of Creepies

Whenever I play board games I generally have two goals. The first is obviously to win. The second is to make as many terrible puns as humanly possible. It started as a game in middle school with a few friends coming up with as many puns as possible, but then it quickly grew into an obsession that would continue to haunt me even 20 years later.  In other words, I didn’t choose the pun life, the pun life chose me.

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Designer Jon Cohn

When I started putting together ideas for my first game, I knew right off the bat that I wanted to fill it with silly characters based on puns and dad jokes.  As a kid when I would get a game that had a sense of humor like Munchkin, I would immediately go through all the cards and create a little pile of my favorite art and jokes. As I grew up and got exponentially nerdier, my priorities shifted towards playing the actual game, but I never lost that sense of wonder when you first rip off the plastic and there’s a whole box full of silly stuff and eye-popping art.

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One of my top priorities when making King of the Creepies was to create an experience like I had as a kid; I wanted something that was as fun to look at as it was to play.  I also wanted to make something that adult me would want to play regularly with my weekly gaming group.  For that I looked at board games like Spartacus, which is one of my absolute favorites.  It takes seemingly heavy game mechanics like miniature battles, drafting, and resource management and combines them so smoothly that I can easily play it with my core gamers or a group of new players and always have a great time.

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For Creepies, the elements I wanted to combine were a commerce system, a robust card-based battle system, and healthy encouragement to bribe and extort your opponents. The game takes place in three parts:

First players buy and sell cards in the Market phase.  There’s a lot of freedom to strategize what decks you buy from, personally I like to start by loading up on Creepies.

The second phase is called the Mischief Phase, and it’s where players choose and equip their Creepies for the upcoming battle.  It’s also where players draw a Mischief card, because why not have a rule that occasionally flips everything on its head?

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Finally you have the real meat of the game, the Battle phase. The battles pit players against each other using combatants called Creepies, equipped with special gear and loaded up with powerful abilities.  The idea for battles is to have combat that is recognizable to deck building games like Magic: the Gathering, while capturing some of the random “Gotcha!” moments from games like Munchkin.

If you are looking for a quick to learn game that keeps a light and fun atmosphere while maintaining a tactically robust battle system, consider King of the Creepies.  Whether playing the game, or just ogling the art and jokes on the cards, it is my goal to keep you grinning.

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Getting Lost in 100 Million B.C.

Getting Lost in 100 Million B.C.


By Kevin Wilson

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Anyone who knows me personally understands that I’m just a big kid. I watch all kinds of cartoons, I play with Lego bricks and Slinkys when I’m stumped on something, and I’m a sucker for dinosaurs. That last thing is pretty much the main motivation behind the design of Escape from 100 Million B.C.

01In Escape from 100 Million B.C., players take part in an ill-fated time expedition that gets stranded 100 million years in the past with their time machine perched precariously atop an active volcano. Due to their violent crash landing, most of their equipment and vital parts of the time machine have been scattered across the dinosaur-infested valley that they find themselves in. Worse, as they explore and interfere with the past, they find that they are destabilizing the time stream, causing people and things to be pulled from other time periods into the valley as well. If this continues, it can cause a chain reaction ending with the volcano erupting as a sort of temporal release valve to protect the universe from further damage.

In game terms, the players have to explore the map, trying to recover the time machine pieces and their equipment while trying not to kill any of the dinosaurs (which causes paradox). Once they retrieve enough time machine parts, they can time jaunt back to the future, but they have to be careful what sort of gear they leave in the past or they might cause even more paradox, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory at the last second!

Sure, it’s an unusual theme, but when I went freelance a few years back, one of my reasons for doing so was so that I could have more control over the kinds of games I design. I wanted to do some quirkier stuff that would allow me to stretch different design muscles than I was used to using. With Escape from 100 Million B.C., I wanted to design an adventure that would be at home in an old pulp magazine next to a Tarzan or Conan story, but to do it in such a way that the story is told in the intersection of the game components, rather than on them. That is to say, the stories are created dynamically by the game engine rather than being mostly written on cards.

02This means that the way that the map is built for a particular game interacts with where and how the dinosaurs and time castaways appear and move to organically tell a story involving the players. While there’s a bit of card text for unusual events, most of the story takes place in the players’ heads, as the various creatures move around the map and the players fight, rescue, or drive them off. In other words, if the game is a machine, then the story dwells where the gears touch each other.

As an example, in one playtest, we were perilously close to having the space-time continuum unravel on us, and after a patch of particularly bad luck, we found ourselves with a time-lost Abraham Lincoln hemmed in by 2 Tyrannosaurus Rexes on either side of him. If Lincoln was attacked and killed by a T-Rex, that was pretty much it for us (and the time stream). We were able to drive off one T-Rex, but inevitably the other one sought out Honest Abe on the very next move, and we all groaned, figuring that was it. However, he was able to miraculously defeat the T-Rex with his trusty axe, and we were just able to return him to his proper time before successfully time jaunting home to the accompaniment of a group cheer.

If that’s the sort of story you like experiencing with your game group; if your copy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World is ragged from wear; or if you’ve spent hours playing with little plastic dinosaurs, then give Escape from 100 Million B.C. a try.

Oh, and make sure you don’t leave any tasty snack cakes in the past – those things are murder on the paradox level.

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IDW Games Returns from GAMA!

GAMA was an absolute blast! For any of who don’t know what GAMA is, it’s a trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada for retailers to come and see previews of all the 2017 products that will be launching this year. The Dice Tower and BoardGameGeek were there doing interviews, etc… it was incredible. We got to catch up with old friends, meet new friends, and talk games the entire week.

IMG_1372In the spotlight were a number of IDW releases. We got a chance to showcase our upcoming Purrrlock Holmes: Furriarty’s Trail! This deduction game designed by Stephen Sauer had fans storming the booth demanding cat puns. BAD cat puns! And we delivered.

Following that we highlighted the much talked about Planet of the Apes game coming from master designer Richard Launius. We spoke to Dice Tower about this cooperative adventure where players take on the roles of the multiple sides of the Colonel’s personality. Crash land, survive the apes, and find out the history of humanity before it’s too late.

Seikatsu, a beautiful game of building Japanese zen gardens caught the camera’s eye as well. Coming to us via designers Isaac Shalev and Matt Loomis, the aesthetically pleasing planting game is filled with beautiful art featuring trees, foliage, exotic birds and koi fish. Game mechanics feature tile-placing / matchmaking.

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Finally, our major news had retailers and the media completely buzzing. IDW Games announced an Atari® partnership. We showcased Centipede®, our first Atari 2600 classic title that we’re bringing to the marketplace in September 2017. Centipede® is lead designed by Jonathan Gilmore, co-designer of the smash hit Dead of Winter. The team underneath him is Nicole Kline and Anthony Amato.

We announced gameplay details, featuring asymmetrical game-play with one player able to play as the centipede, and the others playing as the gnomes. In a four player game, you can get a cross-fire, which means not just top-down fighting, but also side-to-side. It’s going to be incredible, with amazing eye-catching components. Nostalgic collectors and Atari aficionados are geeking out HARD over this set of games.IMG_1388

IMG_1389Look out for more news soon, and thanks for tuning in!

  • Bryan Merlonghi – IDW Games Marketing Manager