I find presentation the hardest part of design

komradebob's picture

Hi all,

I've been re-organizing my apartment work space a bit, and looking over tons of half scribbled game concepts. They're all over the place, literally and figuratively.

One of the bigger road blocks in development I seem to run up against is taking that stuff and putting it in a presentable, shareable form that gets the concepts across to people not directly present.

Some of this, admittedly, is not having a whole lot of even very basic layout skills.

Does anyone else get stuck at this stage of development? How do you cope?

DeReel's picture

It depends a lot on what you want from your games. It's frustrating to have games that are not played, but I don't need to add to the cacophony of "read this !" "listen to that !" and "watch there !"
And yet... For some projects, illustration is part of the game ; rules redaction is always a concern ; and if you talk about redaction, a minimal lay out is expected. So, depending on where you set the limit, presentation is somehow part of the design-fun.

Hopeless_Wanderer's picture

@DeReel, Sure, a little bit. I just find it hard to find typefaces and art that really match the theme and tone of the game. I am not really experienced with graphic design so it is always the step that keeps me from publishing anything. As far as art, well, I have no money and only a bit of artist skill. And I find it hard to find public domain art that, again, matches the theme and tone that I am going for in a game.

Paul T.'s picture

It is certainly true that the standards or expectations for presentation and design have increased almost every year since writing and publishing your own rpg became easy to do roughly 20 years ago.

I remember when it was totally normal for a new game to appear as a basic document with no art in Times New Roman. And, in some ways, that culture is coming back because so many games are now being shared as google docs.

My own approach has been not to worry about it - I don’t think anything I’ve ever typed up has any art at all, for example.

DeReel's picture

RPGs are participatory culture by many aspects. Using community resources, you can learn how to do the game from concept to actual play. Nobody will do it for you for free and it takes time and you can't expect much in return in such a saturated market. But there are lots of people eager to help and it's fun and learning is its own regard.
Can I help you with it ?

Mansfeld's picture

I found that the hardest part for me was... well... shoving the game concept as *awesome* as possible, to convince bystanders to even look at the game and read it. Like, catchy and *cool* cover art and descriptions like *street werewolf drama fueled by disco in the USSR 80s". I feel that the style of advertising the game is more important than the substance. Everything must look like attractive 100$, even if it's just one page d4 diceroller or some kind of system-agnostic forgetabble thing. It's harder to convince someone to review or try the game, if the cover art isn't at least on 50% of catchines of Mork Borg...

This creates kinda gatekeeping thing: in order to be recognizable TTRPG designer, you either must be awesome PR guy & great artist OR you need to pay substantial amount of money for that. Which leads to the collapse of the main point of "indie publishing" - from the metaphorical garage, underground, when substance is perceived as important as style...

DeReel's picture

Yes, very beautiful things are overlooked if they don't have a golden cover. And it's near impossible to get paid if you don't already have a name. Much like in the whole entertainment industry. To me, style is as important as substance but I'd agree that "production value" is overrated. Which in itself is an aesthetic statement.

Taking the question the other way around, it's clear to me you're more lucky if you have a wonderful game concept for a one page RPG about black and white things than if you have ten wonderful ideas that need a 300 page RPG with refined illustrations to be expressed. Ideas are cheap. Illustrations are not. Printing costs are ultra low, but it's still expensive.

Now, I don't know your expectations, but you can do decent looking games for cheap and with little effort. See for yourself : https://dereel.itch.io/

What took me time and effort is finding a nurturing community of like-minded persons to share tricks of the trade, support and critique one another. There's no TTRPG community, but an archipelago of play cultures. No gatekeeping from my point of view, rather the frailty of boats and the vastness of the sea.

Mansfeld's picture

I do try to create games, which don't require 300, even 100 pages. Like here: https://common-fortress.itch.io/

About one-page RPG, they either need to be very niche specific OR the become murky diceroller. Like two examples from the same author: Grant Howitt. "Honey Heist" has a substance about specific heist (honey steal) by specific actors (bears). On the other hand, "Sexy Battle Wizard" are just about some kind of awesomeness of sexy battle wizard, without any direction.

Then, it's quite hard to write down and explain how to play and/or run the session in just one page. You need couple of sentences explaining, that, the next thing, the another. It adds up. It can require two or more pages to have clearly laid out concept. "Lady Blackbird" suffers from lacking at least half a page more explanation how to improvise/run a session, for instance.

DeReel's picture

I'm glad to exchange views, because I don't agree with you.

To me, once you admit one page RPGs are a good low entry into TTRPG design, your arguments become a bit irrelevant. Thge question becomes : what game concepts can accomodate a galaxy inside a niche, or make dog games ("niche" means doghouse in french) or whatever,

In that regard, Mesopotamians by Nick Wedig was an eye opener for me. When I first read it, the setting felt cheesy and cranky and smaller than a doghouse, really, smaller than a fleahouse. I close the book and forgot about it (false: the game is a deck of cards). When I gave it another pass, it blew my mind. I saw that you could change the lines on the cards and play a myriad of other settings, the game system would stay. And it was a jewel. Nick Wedig did some other brilliant works.

Likewise, I feel losing the "explaining" part of rules is very emancipatory.

Oh and, your book is pleasing to the eye.

Tod's picture

Editing is a specialized job.
Game Editing is a specialty within that specialty, because the productisation of a Game Design usually requires a kind of "technical writing" that involves everything from linguistic/grammatical issues to organization to pedagogy. That all happens after the original design and playtesting of the actual rules, but before we can even get to layup... which offers a whole other host of problems and possibilities.