Making the Game – Phoenix Comicon 2016

Back at it again! This time, Making the Game lands at Phoenix Comicon 2016 (June 2-5) as both a presentation and panel discussion. We'll be fielding questions about game design, world-building, and the business of making "fun" happen.

Gavin – our young apprentice / son – has been interning with our studio (Specimen) for some time now. I'm stoked for him to join me on stage and provide his perspectives on our World of Rynaga project and the making of Iconica – Game of Strategy. He often has very different viewpoints on stuff than I do, which keeps things honest and interesting!

Calling all gamers, makers, and dreamers!

So help us spread the word and save the date. It'll be a fun time. Oh and entry to our panel is part of admission to the con. More info to come!

-E

Iconica Update – Package Art Redesigns

Fig. 1 – New front cover art!

We have an Iconica update for you guys. This one’s about Iconica’s package design. (Contact me here or on Facebook with questions!)

First let me just say:

When I decided to create a tabletop game, I had no idea of the work, time, and energy needed to undertake such an effort. Yet, the rewards have been great. With Iconica, I have portfolio pieces that others can actually interact with as a game! Iconica has led to more work I love doing and brings continued opportunities for me to evolve as a creative.

Iconica is an ongoing project. Sustaining Iconica’s growth means making refinements to elements of its design from time to time. While we’re still focused on investing most of our resources into game content, we felt it was time to update the box art that goes with each Iconica release.

Fig. 2 – The story inspiring each set will be on the reverse side of each front cover.

Here’s what’s new:

Characters First (Fig. 1)

Iconica is a game about characters. Unique individuals that players command during a match. We’ve made the characters the heroes of the cover art. This will also help longtime Iconica players and newcomers to the game make sense of each collection.

More Story (Fig. 2)

Iconica is set within a science-fantasy setting on a planet called Rynaga. There’s a backstory to the game. We’re telling more of that story now. On the reverse side of the front covers, there’s a summary of the thematic story inspiring each individual Iconica release.

Functionality and Clarity (Fig. 3)

Fig. 3 – Back covers are more focused on providing key information about each individual set. (No barcodes!)

We’ve made lots of changes to the back covers of the packaging. We’ve added a character list and some images of the characters inside each set. We’re no longer using barcodes since we distribute online only. Updates have been made to all the descriptive text, which is tailored to each Iconica release.

Gameplay References (Fig. 4)

The reverse side of the back cover still serves as an Iconica Quick Reference card. Overall this information stayed the same. But it looks like a new status effect is coming to the game?

Release Date

Everything we produce is in small batches. So, we're planning a new round of print runs in May 2016. That's when all of the Iconica sets will receive their shiny redesigned covers.

Fig. 4 – The reference card stays pretty much the same, but with something new happening in the Major Status Effect category.

In addition to base Iconica character sets, our Iconica Travels set will have updated cover designs as well. Lots is cooking for new Iconica Travels creations as well. More about that soon.

This is our ninth year making Iconica! Time is flying. We’ve got some big stuff planned in 2016. Packaging updates are just the beginning.

:)

–E

Making the Game at The Art Institute of Phoenix

I've been invited to present Making the Game at The Art Institute of Phoenix! Date and time = Tuesday, March 1 at 6pm.

This presentation is for creatives of all kinds. Game design is a discipline related to lots of other creative endeavors, which I'll give some perspective on. Tips, tricks, laughing and other fun stuff'll be happening. I also hear rumors of refreshments. Get there early!


The Discovery of Rynaga

When Humans finally discover sentient alien life forms on another planet, we’re surprised at what we find. Our intergalactic neighbors look like us. They call themselves Sarion. Their homeworld Sarios lies in the Ceylon Star Cluster, a galaxy situated far from our Milky Way. 

For many years after our first contact, the Human-Sarion relationship is both peaceful and mutually beneficial. A United Planetary Council comprised of both races is formed to facilitate diplomacy and enrich interplanetary relations. As a result, Humans learn of spacefold technology, cell-sampling, and organ regeneration. From us, Sarions gain advanced knowledge of nanite, robotic, and laser-based technologies. The relationship between our two worlds ushers in a galactic-renaissance.

Generations come and go. Human and Sarion explorations into the universe reveal many dead planets, dying stars, and hollow solar systems. But no other sentient beings. Besides marked differences in eye colors, Human and Sarion anatomy is identical in every way. In time, our two races intermingle and hybrid babies are born. Our two planets are joined by spacelanes, commerce, and culture. As the Earth-Sarios friendship grows, it seems nothing will inhibit our union.

But secrets are the undoing of many relationships. Unbeknownst to their Human counterparts, Sarion space probes discover the location of a third planet with sentient life in a remote part of the Mistral Galaxy. Sarion scientists, explorers, and ambassadors ready their starships for a journey across the stars. They reason that by solidifying a relationship with the inhabitants of this new world first, they stand to gain a strategic advantage over Earth.

After weeks of traveling foldspace, Sarion starships emerge within Rynaga's star system. However, within minutes of their arrival, the fleet is plagued by a series of unexplainable disasters. Navigation and positioning instrumentation cease to function. Communication systems fail. Propulsion drives sustain critical malfunctions. Life support modules shut down. Only one ship manages to stay operational – the Sol Luminus.

After days spent rescuing all they can from the disabled starships, the crew of the Sol Luminus continue on a course towards Rynaga. But as the ship closes in on the giant exoplanet, it too begins to suffer from strange system errors, shut downs, and malfunctions. Rather than drift off into space aboard a dying starship, the crew decides to enter Rynaga's atmosphere. Here, the Sol Luminus crash lands in a remote part of Etherna, a country of dense flora and fauna, as well as intelligent native inhabitants.

Of the 1242 Sarion travelers on board the Sol Luminus, 812 emerge from the wreckage alive. On Rynaga, these proud aliens face a harrowing struggle for survival spanning many years. Many succumb to illness and shock. Some are devoured by wild beasts. With every passing season, the survivors abandon their hopes of ever being rescued by their kinsfolk back home. With much resourcefulness and determination these lost Sarion turn their attention to growing food, increasing their numbers, and learning all they can about Rynaga.

Using the fallen Sol Luminus as a base of operations, the Sarion build a small city. The colonists salvage all they can from their starship such as historical records, starcharts, schematics, tools, and other resources. Disrupted by an energy source called radia, advanced Sarion technologies cease to function. Object replicators, laser weaponry, and healing devices all become useless. On Rynaga, the Sarion colonists find themselves living in an age unlike anything they've known. Despite the challenges before them the Sarion adapt. And in time, thrive.

When news of Rynaga’s discovery and the subsequent failed Sarion expedition reaches Earth, a period of deep distrust between the two civilizations develops. While our worlds remain irreversibly connected, both races contend with ongoing issues involving transparency, cultural insecurity, and xenophobia.

–E

Eric Imagines

Hey Earth folk. I've relaunched rynaga.com as ericimagines.com! What does this mean? Here's a few quick details to start the new year. Other updates are coming.

World of Rynaga

World of Rynaga will receive updates on this blog. I also have a page under "Projects" which serves as an overview of the project. There are also some Iconica-related downloads on that page as well. 

Other updates will continue to pop-up on our Rynaga Facebook page and my Instagram profile too. Email ericsdesk@gmail.com with questions.

Written in Dust

Written in Dust is a new project for 2016! I'm really excited about the possibilities for this sci-fi tale set in a future Phoenix. I love the desert, so writing stories set here is only natural. I'll have lots more about this project in January to share. For now, here's a quick rundown of that project.

Thanks for all the support in 2105. (2016: here I come!)

–E

Making the Game

Poster and invite design for the presentation. Save the date!  :)

Poster and invite design for the presentation. Save the date!  :)

You're all invited! In partnership with Mesa Public Library, I'll be giving a presentation on Saturday, November 21st at 10:30am entitled "Making the Game – The Art, Design, and Imagination of Iconica". The presentation is geared towards gamers, indie developers, and makers of all sorts really. Read on for more details.

As it happens, the library is a pretty awesome place for folks to gather and play games. In fact, as a kid I remember playing board games at our local library in Tolleson as part of summer reading programs. Somewhere in all the fun, we probably learned some things about being social with others, sharing, and cooperation.

Those experiences have informed much of my approach as an indie game designer. So when Mesa Public Library approached me to participate in International Games Day at Your Library, I didn't know that was a thing, but I was all in. I won't give too much away, but I plan to explore these main topics while keeping the presentation very visual.

How Iconica is made - I'll show what goes in to making Iconica, including my process for art and design, as well as testing and development. I'll share some secrets and fun facts around the game's creation too.

The Elements of Game Design - I don't have all the answers, but I think there are some essential elements that go into good game design. Things to strive for in the creation process. This will be geared towards those of you who might have an idea for a game.

Tips and Tricks for Creativity - Game design is about sharing creativity with others through interactive experiences. I'll share some techniques for sparking creativity that apply to almost any form of imaginative past time you may have.

So, I hope to see you at the library! Invite a friend and expect a fun time.

-E

Iconica Travels – The Hiveland Expedition

After three years of development, our first tabletop questing expansion for Iconica is here! Pack your bags. It's time to travel.

111 new reasons to play Iconica. :)

111 new reasons to play Iconica. :)

What is Iconica Travels?

Iconica Travels – The Hiveland Expedition is an adventure game contained in a deck of 111 cards. You’ll choose three of your favorite Iconica characters and embark on a journey filled with all kinds of encounters, items, and quests that are part of a bigger story.

Making Iconica Travels

Our first Iconica Travels deck took a little over three years to imagine, design, and create. Things took shape only by carrying my sketchbook everywhere and capturing any ideas that popped into my head. I brainstormed lots of ways of executing those ideas while also listening to great feedback from Iconica players about the kinds of adventure games they enjoy.

One of the sketchbooks I used for sketching characters and creatures for Iconica Travels.

One of the sketchbooks I used for sketching characters and creatures for Iconica Travels.

Lots and lots of flora, with some people icons for scale.

Lots and lots of flora, with some people icons for scale.

Bitless bridles. That's how they roll on Rynaga.

Bitless bridles. That's how they roll on Rynaga.

The photos here are a tiny portion of one of the sketchbooks I kept throughout the project. There’s no way to capture every part of this process, but it’s one of deep refinement, asking for input, and testing different approaches to gameplay. It can be hard to avoid choosing one solution early, which can lead to missing more elegant solutions.

How Iconica Travels Works

The Hiveland Expedition comes with a rule sheet and a deck of 117 cards. 111 of those cards are part of the playable deck. The other cards include two cover cards and four Party Initiative cards. The game can be played in a few different ways.

  1. One Player vs. One Player
  2. Two Players vs. Two Players – Teams
  3. Four Player “Clash” – Each player competes for him/herself
Game pieces are sold separately or with Iconica character sets.

Game pieces are sold separately or with Iconica character sets.

Select three of your favorite characters, paying attention to each character’s faction alignment, and set the game up like a normal Iconica match. Once play begins, players choose a card from the top of the Travels Deck during their turn and follow the instructions on each card.

Choose three of your favorite characters, just make sure they're of compatible alignments.

Choose three of your favorite characters, just make sure they're of compatible alignments.

Iconica Travels is easy to learn, but holds lots of potential for complex combinations and customizations of your characters. There are five main types of cards:

Supply – Gear, equipment, and provisions you’ll use during your travels.
Encounter – Creatures, characters, and places you’ll discover along the road.
Tactic – Methods you’ll use to survive in the wild.
Artifact – Powerful items you may acquire by chance.
Quest – Objectives you can complete to win the game.

Many Iconica Travels cards cost Initiative Points (IP) to play. In fact, IP is used in a variety of ways in the game. Think of it as a currency you'll spend during your turn to use cards and take actions. Each player starts their turn with 10 IP to use, which is tracked on a handy card with a meter. At the end of a player's turn, the meter is reset to 10.

The Party Initiative card tracks your Initiative Points (IP).

The Party Initiative card tracks your Initiative Points (IP).

Speaking of Winning

In Iconica Travels there are two ways to win: 1) Eliminate your opponent and 2) Complete quests. The basic story behind The Hiveland Expedition finds players hunting creatures called carapid for food and resources, but also to reduce their numbers. Carapid can be very dangerous as their swarms expand.

As the game progresses, the first player or team to acquire their bounty of carapid scales will win. If you prefer to play the game as a villain with no sense of sportsmanship or honor, you can do that too! You’ll just have to survive the different environments and beasts you’ll encounter while also striving to eliminate your opponents. No biggie right? Right.

Some cards are played when drawn, some are able to be equipped, others are held in your hand until you're ready to play them.

Some cards are played when drawn, some are able to be equipped, others are held in your hand until you're ready to play them.

Each card has a bit of lore about the world of Rynaga, a detail other card games often skip.

Each card has a bit of lore about the world of Rynaga, a detail other card games often skip.

Adventurers Wanted

If you’re like me, sometimes it's easy to look back at history with a sense of romantic longing for epic ocean voyages, warm forest campfires, and quests over rivers and mountains.

Well, those were exciting times for sure. But those times were also filled with things like the black plague, dysentery, and leprosy. No thank you! Instead of spending our days pining for those dark medieval days, let’s adventure from the comfort of our own modern day cottages! Minus the dysentery.

Maps add flavor, don't you think? Refer to this one for some key locales and hidden gems.

Maps add flavor, don't you think? Refer to this one for some key locales and hidden gems.

If you’re into adventure games involving lots of items, events, and story elements, I think you’ll love Iconica Travels. Don’t let your Iconica characters sit around being bored. Send them on a journey. They’ll thank you for it. Well, if they survive!

You can pick up Iconica Travels at our Etsy Shop. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Safe travels!

-E

Learnings from Phoenix Comicon 2015

While they're fresh in my mind, I thought I'd capture some random things I learned at this year's Phoenix Comicon. Every year I have a lessons learned day after the con and try to think about things we did well and areas to improve in.

Fist Bumps = +50 to Health?

It's kinda dumb, but I think fist bumping helped keep me (and others) more healthy at the con. I mean, if I don't shake hands with everyone I meet, I pass on less germs to others. This is the first year I didn't feel sick after the con. It's a theory, but the fist bump might have saved me. Hope I wasn't too impersonal by not shaking hands, but I'm glad I tried this experiment.

Evaluating Our Booth

Our booth is 10' x 10', yet it's minimal in its design and configuration. It sets up and packs up in 15 minutes. I've been tempted to increase the size, layout, banners, shelving space, etc., of our booth. Not gonna happen. We're on the right path.

Intrigue is what brings many newcomers to our booth. Discovering something different and new prompts folks to support us. The reality is that if we're adaptive and resourceful, we can do this at any size table or booth. I think we have the size booth we need to be engaging and personal with others for many years to come.

Transparency for Supporters

Exhibitors can be tight-lipped (at times with good reason) about sharing knowledge, experience, or techniques. But for us, once we have a patron we have a relationship to foster. We aim to strike a balance between being open and being careful. So we do our best to be transparent for supporters and offer useful information.

I offer tips and tricks others can learn from or behind the scenes information on how we do what we do. I share the lessons I've learned as a game designer, artist, and entrepreneur. The trick to our measure of success is hard work and it's the same for others. We can talk about ideas and experiences but at the end of the day it about doing things. Doing is hard and there are no shortcuts to doing things the right way.

For us, 2015 was our best con yet. We didn't experience some of the adverse affects other exhibitors did due to the con's reorganization of booths and event programming. I think the changes Phoenix Comicon made this year contributed to more room for cosplay, more comfort for browsing patrons, and more engagement for us.

-E

 

Iconica Travels – Color Design

We're getting closer each day to the release of our first Iconica Travels set! Travels will give players new ways to use their Iconica characters. Iconica Travels decks are packed with story, surprises, and new objectives for winning. Here's an update on the where we're at now.

Print Testing

Our first Iconica Travels deck is set within a region known as the Hivelands. This area is teeming with creatures called carapid, which resemble giant insects. These creatures build great nests and hives in this dense jungle environment. So, we wanted to create a color palette which would capture the essence of the flora and fauna that call this place home.

Part of getting the color palette finalized includes running color tests. The image below is a good representation of where we've landed on the overall color scheme of the cards. There will be differentiating color elements between cards, based on their use. This will appear in the artwork, with specific types of cards using specific color accents such as purple, coral, or yellow.

In the end, we want each deck to be it's own rich experience. While the structure and framework of each Iconica Travels card will remain the same across any decks we make, each release will have its own base colors and accent colors.

Some sample cards for the printer. If any color seems a bit off, we'll adjust it before the entire run is produced.

Some sample cards for the printer. If any color seems a bit off, we'll adjust it before the entire run is produced.

Immersion

In games, such as RPGs and other story-based experiences, immersion is a key objective. Iconica Travels is no different. When players feel a sense of place and of being transported to an environment, it's an amazing feeling. It takes us back to when we were kids and everything was larger than life and wondrous.

Color is just one ingredient in the immersion recipe. Many games use color strictly as a coding language, i.e. – red means attack, blue means heal, green means something else. This is a tried and true approach. However, color design can also be used to set a tone thematically for a series of ongoing releases. That's the approach we're taking with Iconica Travels.

The next update we'll share is the one I'm most excited about – artwork! 

–Eric