Now that we've explored some of what it took to get Destined Legends through alpha and beta testing, I'd like to move on to my involvement in the art and design of the overall game. By the time we entered the beta testing stages of development we had already hired on two of my personal friends, Scott Ferguson and Cari Corene, to do art for the game. Up until this point nothing about the game had any sort of risks, we were merely having fun and hoping we could make something real from it. With our first Kickstarter for the Destined Legends Battle Set on the way, we knew that we needed some nice artwork to relay our artistic vision for the game. So our first risk began, paying for some art pieces before we were even funded.
Fortunately since Scott and Cari are close friends of ours they gave us decent rates but all the same, we paid them very well over the duration of the project and the art was not cheap. If you're curious as to why I didn't step in at this point and do some art myself, I discuss that, our choice of artists, and a bit about the individual artists backgrounds in a previous blog about the birth of Destined Legends. Since we were limited in the amount of money we could spend, we had to sit and make choices on what pieces we should pay for up front and what exactly were wanted to reveal early on. We decided to pay for 1 Dragon (from Cari), 1 Legend (from Scott) and preliminary sketches of the remaining Dragons and Legends. As you can see from the image above, working with friends in an environment like this leads to silly things that will never show up in the final production, such as Scott's "the money $hot" joke or other childish musings we've written into character descriptions or future comic scripts.
Being that I stepped aside from doing illustrations for this release of the game, what I spent most of my time artistically (at this stage) being involved in was focusing on the design of the cards with Ali. The card's actual layout went through 10 revisions, each refinement being a direct reflection of things discovered during play testing. One thing that we realized and struggled with a lot was something I believe all artists have issues with: refusing to let go of initial concepts merely because they look nice. For any aspiring artists or anyone seeking to create something like this remember one thing, just because something is visually pleasing and presentable that doesn't mean it is the right way to go. In real world production, understanding ergonomics (or human factors) is a key factor in the success of a product because it involves the understanding of interactions between a human and different elements of a working system; Just because it works in theory or simply looks really good does not mean that the person using the item will understand how to use it. The location of things on the card became a huge point of development and were altered all the way until the closed beta was printed and shipping out to Kickstarter backers.
Artistic Work on Cards
Though I said I had to stepped aside on doing illustrations for the cards themselves that's not entirely true. I was doing two things before the game went into production: Art touchups and illustration for one card.
It's not uncommon in the artistic field, especially in animation and comics, to have one artist fully draw something out and another to take the submitted piece to clean up certain lines or modify the art slightly to work better for production. For example, on a few of Scott's designs we decided to make certain elements of the art, like a sword popping out of the appointed art space and overlay parts the frame of the card (the card above is an example of what I'm talking about). Since I've worked closely with Scott through out the years we've shared a lot of techniques, which led to me being able make alterations to his pieces without it looking any different than if he had done it himself. Also, due to how heavy Scott's workload was near the end of development, he wasn't able to complete one of cards; time constraints on being able to get the game into production and receive it in time for both San Diego Comic Con and Kickstarter reward shipments became a pressing matter. The "Punisher" sword featured on the Daxtes card that Scott illustrated did not have it's own card. Since we very much wanted to have it as part of the 5 rare cards we were releasing in the initial run of product, we had to figure out fast how to go about this. We toyed with the idea of having Scott crop out the sword directly from his original drawing (his suggestion) and I touch up the art, but the sword would have ended up looking dull and not unique enough to be considered a rare card. At this point I decided to go ahead and redraw the sword using Scott's design as a reference. The card above is the version that was delivered in the final production of the game!
The Mark of The Dragon
The last artistic thing that I wanted to discuss was the "Mark of the Dragon" design I did for the project. During the last leg of our Kickstarter the possibility that one of our stretch goals, a official Destined Legends shirt, was gonna be unlocked. The second it seemed as if it was going to be a possibility Ali gave me the green light to design it. Though the stretch goal was not met, we were so enthused about the design that I created that we decided that we should print a limited run of the design (only 72 units). Ali pretty much gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted with concept, which was excellent for me. My initial concept for the design started with a style of drawing I've done all my life. I'm not quite sure how to explain it but it's basically a combination of very sharp and round shapes. While drawing Autumn's magic effects in L.A.W.L.S., I used the same style but over the duration of working on the comic, I changed my technique from adding to subtracting shapes. Basically this means I would draw the over all shape I was looking for and use the erase tool to make different parts of that shape more unique. This is precisely what I did with the dragon above. A little secret, I erased my initials into the bottom half of the dragon's torso! Do you see it?
After running through a few concepts and discussing the idea of exact what Ali would want this design to signify, we decided I should go with something that looked a bit more like a tribal like design. Reject ideas including blood spatters from an epic war (too much like Dragon Age II) and gold that had fallen from a mixing pot that a smith would have had while crafting weapons. We went with the tribal design because it fits well with the lore we've been developing. This mark would be something you would see inscribed on a building, painted on a rock, or embroidered on a flag to indicate that a traveler is about to enter a place blessed by the spirits of the dragons. I can't go too much into this at this time, but there is a particular location that Ali and I had in mind on our world map that has a strong connection to the spirit realm, where the dragons reside. This emblem would be found there.
Unfortunately we are out of most sizes of the shirts unless you wear 3XL or 4XL, but if you like this design you can buy "The Mark of the Dragon Print" in my store now! The my next segment on Destined Legends will discuss fulfillment.