The Night Before Kickstarter

Tl;dr: Sci Fi Concept Cards Kickstarter launches tomorrow.

‘Twas the night before Kickstarter, when all thro’ the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The cards had been written on the computer with care,

In hopes that St. Kickstarter soon would be there;

The creators were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugarplums danced in their heads

Well it’d be nice, wouldn’t  it? Not gonna happen though. We’ll be tweaking the page and trying to improve things right up until launch.

It’s akin to stage fright.

But that’s okay. Some things are scary and they’re still worth doing, This is one of those things.

We launch tomorrow at about 4pm (give or take a few minutes for last second typo spotting). This time we are offering three decks of Concept Cards, science fiction ones.

  • Characters – people from all over the galaxy
  • Locations – places you might find on a space station or a city on another planet
  • Planets – worlds scattered through the cosmos

 

Our first Kickstarter, about four years ago now for the first set of concept cards (called Character Cards back then because we didn’t know there would be more of them) was funded in a day, an our best was funded in four hours and ha taken more than twice its original target in a day – It would be wonderful to beat that!

To facilitate that, we’d love it if you would do a couple of things for us:

  • First go to the Kickstarter preview page and click the “❤ Notify me on launch” button near the top on the left. Take a sneaky look at the page while you’re there, and then on launch day try find what we changed.
  • Second: Spread this blog post, or any of our other social media posts (Facebook / Twitter) you see to anyone you think might be interested.

 

The faster the total rises at the start the more prominently Kickstarter will display the project meaning more people will see it, meaning a higher total and more people get to enjoy our work. A higher total means more stretch goals and a better product for you – and helps us stay in business to make more products in future.

So I’m off to tweak the page some more – you’ll have to do the dreaming of sugarplums!

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Kickstarter – SF Concept Cards 13th of March

The Art is In

We delayed Science Fiction Concept Cards because we knew the art would be arriving late – due to illness on the part of the artists we were working with.

Fortunately despite the current freezing weather, the art we required has come in; meaning that we can plan a launch date – and as the title says we have picked the 13th of March

We are of course looking to further polish these symbols, and any comments on likes and dislikes are appreciated. Let us know on Facebook.

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SF Concept Cards – When is “Done” Done?

“Perfect” and “Done” are opposites.

At Artemis Games we can be perfectionists to a fault. We hate releasing anything with identifiable flaws – and yet as everyone knows “only God is perfect”: There are claims for many religious artistic traditions, from Islamic geometry to Amish quilting, that they deliberately include imperfections to avoid blasphemy. 1)Of course that’s not even slightly true. Few people will deliberately introduce an error into their work, and of those who do none of them do it because they think they’re better than God and don’t want to upset Him. It’s a training technique for some recovering perfectionists, and a trick for many contractors, to introduce an error and never fix it.
A perfectionist will be forced to accept that searching out every error is futile, as they already know where one is (likely a tiny one) and aren’t allowed to fix it.
A contractor on the other hand does it because they know the client wants to give input – by including an obvious error for the client to fix they can avoid more difficult editing when they’re confident their product is good.

We’re not God, we don’t even actually have Artemis on the team (although we do like her, partly on account of the inherent contradiction her being the goddess of both childbirth and virginity) – so perfection isn’t an option for us.

That means we have to have a way of deciding when something is sufficiently good, rather than perfectly good. We have to have (high) standards, but also ways of accepting our limitations, and our imperfections2)Which there are many of, with three out of four of us having chronic health issues yet still putting out a product.

So how do we set the bar? How do we let go, and say it’s done? With the Jigsaw Fantasy project we’ve used the deadline approach – it’s done on the release date, end of story3)well, not quite – we’re allowed to go back and improve things post-release, as it’s purely digital and we’ve been learning to make that work – ensuring that

There are a number of facets to how to make that principle work for us, but two of them are key:

1) We need to know exactly how long it will take to finish the work – and double it to include time for problems and polish. This generally means that we need to have done about half the work before we set the deadline, or (in the case of regular projects) before we can be sure which options are ready to go.

2) There must be a set size to the project. We’ve done things with stretch goals expanding them before, but that will always make deadlines wrong, and if the deadline is wrong we no longer have a release point!

But that’s for our writing work; Jigsaw Fantasy and Concept Cards. For the game design side of things, such as Clash of Blades, we still don’t know when to call “done” done – writing for us is as much writing as polishing, but good game design is all about the polishing; I could design three unique new games in three minutes, but they’d all be terrible.

So when is “done” done?

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References   [ + ]

1. Of course that’s not even slightly true. Few people will deliberately introduce an error into their work, and of those who do none of them do it because they think they’re better than God and don’t want to upset Him. It’s a training technique for some recovering perfectionists, and a trick for many contractors, to introduce an error and never fix it.
A perfectionist will be forced to accept that searching out every error is futile, as they already know where one is (likely a tiny one) and aren’t allowed to fix it.
A contractor on the other hand does it because they know the client wants to give input – by including an obvious error for the client to fix they can avoid more difficult editing when they’re confident their product is good.
2. Which there are many of, with three out of four of us having chronic health issues
3. well, not quite – we’re allowed to go back and improve things post-release, as it’s purely digital

SF Concept Cards – Pushing Back the Kickstarter

Our previous kickstarters have had unexpected delays after they finished, this time we’re hoping to get them out of the way beforehand.

We’ve learned over the years that it’s better to launch late and deliver on time than to launch early and deliver late: and unfortunately we’re in a space where we’re making that choice this week.

Art for the Science Fiction Concept Cards suit symbols was meant to be all in at this point, so we could launch on Tuesday confident that we had what we need, but unfortunately both artists fell ill, causing significant delays, and so we only have one of the five suit symbols we need at minimum: a clubs representing the connections of a planet:

We don’t want to take any chances with regards to delivering on time, so we’re pushing back the launch back and working with the artists to plan a new schedule. Once that’s done we can let you know the new launch date – which is likely to be in mid-march.

Be Well

-Ste

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Sci-Fi Concept Cards – In Use (The Sage of Hyblos IV)

Today we printed up and set out a whole load of concept cards, having set up some transitional suit symbols for them (they’re not final, but they’ll work for now).

And we decided to start trying for our Kickstarter Video, going with the approach that has served us best: sitting in front of the camera for ages playing with the cards, and cutting together something cool from that.

We did get something cool, but it’s a lot longer than we can use for the final video – so we decided to share it now!

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Third Thursday Freebie: The Druidic Paths

This piece is one drawn from our currently active 13th Age campaign – a solution to a common problem “How do we allow people to get to distant places quickly, without removing the potential of travel-related plots”

Of interest to some might be its original inspiration – a different take in some ways, while similar in others, and serving similar purposes for the play of its game – the Trods of the Empire LARP

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Sci-Fi Concept Cards: Suit Symbols

Three of the interim suit symbols for sci-fi concept cards – destined to be replaced.

In the Concept Cards line we treat the connection between card and concept quite seriously, using it both as a design tool and a way to standardise the structure of the concepts. Every card is defined by its primary suit – and each suit has a specific meaning in any given deck.

Over the course of the 11 decks of fantasy Concept Cards the meanings of the suits varied significantly, with each suit having at least two meanings (and most having three) – so when we came to start writing the Sci-Fi Concept Cards we decided to take a step back and think about what we were going to do with the suits.

We knew we were only doing a limited set of decks for Sci-Fi, whether 3 or 4, so we could plan ahead and get them all consistent – or so we thought.

It turns out that there was a very strong reason we weren’t consistent before – different concepts have different needs. There were some inconsistencies that could be solved by planning ahead, but others can’t be.

In the end we made only one major step towards consistency: in the original (fantasy) Character Cards decks Spades was the characters profession while Diamonds was their appearance – but in the Location Cards and Plot Hooks decks Spades was physical characteristics and Diamonds was wealth – so in Sci-Fi Character Cards we’ve made Diamonds the suit of their work, how they earn their wealth, and Spades the suit of appearances.

The suit meanings as they’re currently set out are:

Clubs: Connections/Politics for Characters and Planets, Dangers for Locations.
Diamonds: Wealth, resources or profession
Hearts: Desires/behaviours for Characters, Inhabitants for Planets and Locations 1)Listing the inhabitants of each character would be quite samey – E. Coli and other digestive bacteria every time.
Spades: Physical Traits

Of course, meanings aren’t the only complication when it comes to designing suit symbols. As you saw at the top, we have a set of interim images – but they’re far from the final version. For fantasy Concept Cards we had the amazing Marcos Hidalgo drawing the suit symbols, but this time around we’re looking for talent that we can afford to properly pay – people who either want to join the team, or who do such drawings as a job – rather than relying on finding another enthusiastic and artistic fan who’s just happy to be paid in decks!

My art skills (as displayed above) are massively better than they were, but they’re still not up to the standards we want for our work. By this time next month we should have better ones to show you!

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References   [ + ]

1. Listing the inhabitants of each character would be quite samey – E. Coli and other digestive bacteria every time.

Sci-Fi Concept Cards: What do we Mean by Sci-Fi?

In space, no-one can hear you complain about the colour palette

 

As you hopefully know by now, our next major project is another set of Concept Cards, this time Sci Fi Concept Cards. (If you don’t know what Concept Cards are, take a look at the fantasy ones here.)

Science fiction is a huge genre – it encompasses everything set five minutes or more into the future, and some thing that are set in the past too – especially when you include time travel. We couldn’t possibly hope to cover all possibilities in one deck – characters would range from the Victorian dandy making strange steam powered inventions in his basement, via cyberpunk corporate salarymen, to star ship captains. While there is no doubt scope for some variants of those in each other’s sub-genres (the steampunk airship needs a captain), there are enough differences that we don’t think it would be helpful. In future perhaps these will get their own decks – but not right now. (n.b. In the Fantasy Epic Locations deck there is already one sci fi reference – the Urban Emperor, The Last of the Ancients, is a man in stasis wearing a bathrobe, and references both Red Dwarf and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

What we mean here, then, is the kind of sci fi that involves starships and blasters. From Star Wars to Star Trek, to Firefly, to Warhammer 40,000 and even Eclipse Phase and The Foundation Trilogy.1)Ste Note: I’m drawing a bit from Schlock Mercenary too

These settings feature relatively ubiquitous space travel, some form of interstellar travel, aliens, blasters and/or laser weaponry, huge threats larger than a person, a city, or even a planet, and so forth. There are exceptions, of course – The Foundation Trilogy only features humans, Firefly takes place entirely in one solar system, In Eclipse Phase interstellar travel is limited to Pandora Gates, and Stargate has present day humans exposed to a far more advanced setting.

How interstellar travel works is something which can help define a setting – for instance in 40k the Warp is incredible dangerous, while in Star Trek, travelling at Warp Speed is rarely a problem (barring unusual accident, which inevitably happen to the Enterprise). The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has such unusual methods as the Infinite Improbability Drive (whereby it is incredibly unlikely you will simply teleport from one point in space to another, so if one can increase the level of improbability high enough it’s bound to happen), and Bill the Galactic Hero has the Bloater Drive (which works by expanding the space between atoms such that the ship is the size of the entire distance between the start and the end of the journey, and then condensing them back to normal.)

Then there is the question of psychic powers. These show up in many forms and are surprisingly common. In Star Wars the Force is a natural energy that connects all things, but in Eclipse Phase it’s caused by an infection by a sentient techno-virus, while in 40k if you overuse them you’re likely to get eaten by daemons (as is anyone standing too close to you). Regardless, they are usually rare and barely understood (even by the practitioners), but the subject of much research.

Faith also plays a surprisingly large part in sci fi. In Star Trek the Federation is atheist, but many of the other cultures are not – notably the Klingons are deeply religious, but they killed their gods for holding them back! But despite this exploration of faith, the genre doesn’t allow “gods did it” to be an explanation very often, and when it does the gods usually turn out to be extremely powerful aliens or fakes by people using technology or psychic powers.

Beyond all that there are new people, new places, new planets, and new ideas to explore. In Dark Heresy they are probably evil cultists hell-bent on causing death and destruction, and must be stopped at all costs, while in Babylon 5 the aliens have most likely come to the space station rather than the protagonists going to them, but the point stands.

And that, I think, is the key to science fiction –

Exploration of the new and the unknown.  

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References   [ + ]

1. Ste Note: I’m drawing a bit from Schlock Mercenary too

Artemis Games New Years Resolutions

Today is new years day – so we’re all a bit drained from yesterday – but we still want to say something significant. So here are the business-related new years resolutions for us this year:

  1. Go all-in on the February Concept Cards Kickstarter: More marketing, more contacts, better prep. It’s our central product, we need to make sure everyone sees its value.
  2. Work with local game stores to demo and advertise our products – help new players find our tools.
  3. Rebrand Jigsaw Fantasy – either when Dr!p launches, or when we’ve finished design work on Science Fiction Concept Cards.
  4. Talk to at least one publisher each month about getting one of our card games into production.
  5. Get more connected to the UK and international tabletop design communities – and look for opportunities to collaborate with other members of that community.
  6. Continue developing our art resources, and connecting with artists, to create the best looking products possible.
  7. Always remember that we have to look after our own health – and each others – in order to be productive.

 

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Amy and Ste Writing Techniques

Neither of us are even close to that neat…

 

Amy – by Amy

For me it usually starts with me watching, reading or dreaming about something and thinking “That’s interesting, but how does it work” or “Could it be done another way” or “I want to know more, but there’s no answers around”…

  • Then I usually write a small bit of it – an introduction or some bullet points on the bits of the piece that make immediate sense.
  • And I ask myself some questions – like why and how it exists, and what it smells and sounds like.
  • For instance with The Floating city, I had always liked the idea of a moving ocean city in fantasy with the city on the back of dragon turtles, and also the floating cities in the real world in vietnam and south america, but I didn’t want to simply copy either, I wanted to combine aspects of both – and then I saw a show call “The Future is Wild” and it had giant jellyfish and I realised that they could work as the base of a floating city. But once it came to writing it I had to work out how that would work in fantasy world, i.e. why would the jellyfish allow people to build upon them, and never dive beneath the waves.
  • So I make a template asking these questions within the piece, both for Jigsaw Fantasy and for the Monstrous Monday Blogs.
    • Questions often delve into things that are commonly ignored in fiction – for instance “Where do Kraken nest?”.
  • I also try to give background to a few things that most people might see as just a monster or just someone they met on the road – a bit of back story and place they come from – whether that be the origin of a species, or a young royal elf would be traveling with children he’s not related to.
  • When I know what I want to write to about but am stuck on how or what to say, there a few different things I do to help with this like
    • I go on a run, and think about it as I do so.
    • Read or watch some more information about it.
    • I talk it over with Ste
    • I dream walk, which is a bit like lucid dreaming, but rather than taking full control I just pick a point from which to allow my thoughts to spread – I do this either while in a half-asleep state, or while meditating.
  • My pieces are always finished off with a pass by Ste, doing a deep-dive of copy-editing that often involves filling out some areas where I’ve forgotten to put down things that I know about the piece – simply due to the fact that, with my dyslexia, I don’t always put things in writing.

 

Ste – by Ste

My pieces begin with a “High Concept” some major element of worldbuilding (or, in the case of People with Two Sides character building) that I feel a drive to explore – whether that be “the greatest possible city”, “a glacial disaster”, “nature on steroids” or “why do Devils really want souls”

  • I then break it down into subsections, writing a brief synopsis of each subsection at the start (this is generally cut from the final piece). Each of these subsections is something I expect to be roughly the same length – if they prove not to be I’ll subdivide further.
  • My subsections often share a structure, at least at first – for instance geographic ones will each have the same number of major elements from their region explored in depth, while each character will explore a set number of sensations and of behaviours.
  • I ask Amy what she thinks of my subsections and she’ll ask those questions that she alway asks herself 1)She does this with every piece she reads, but with those by Ali and Loz it’s often late enough in the process that there’s no longer space to devote to longer answers to those questions, and they end up in the Jigsaw Links as more open questions.
  • After the edits Amy prompts, the strictness of my writing structure is almost always broken, but that’s not a problem as the structure was there as *scaffolding* to help me write clearly.

 

Together at the End – By both of us

We always finish off our pieces together, chucking problems and ideas back and forth as they come up.

  • Sometimes art will change how we see something – “Why is a male elf wearing what looks a wedding dress?”
  • Occasionally Jigsawing makes significant changes – something that was specified one way actually makes sense multiple different ways.
  • Every now and then we have to cut something for space, due to over-writing – it is in these cases that we’re most likely to look at whether the patrons want a semi-sequel piece.

 

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References   [ + ]

1. She does this with every piece she reads, but with those by Ali and Loz it’s often late enough in the process that there’s no longer space to devote to longer answers to those questions, and they end up in the Jigsaw Links as more open questions.