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Builders: How to Graphic Design

Games go through a lot of iterations. Like, a LOT. Each step of the way you’re honing and improving, making it something closer to that oh so perfect vision you’ve got in your head. In light of that, and Builders! being nearly funded, we’re going to take today to talk about this stuff.

Version 1: Minimum Viable Product

So, this was the first version. Just text. We had a vague idea on how we wanted the graphic design and layout to look, in part because that was a piece of inspiration for the game. There were plenty of games that had you using a deck where you were fanning it around in odd ways to see all the pieces of your card you needed to see at a glance. From the beginning we were trying to get Employees away from that. Everything was numerical at that point, and was a very simple interpretation about how we were going to do things.






Version 2: Alpha

The next round added some stand-in art and started the move to iconography. It was at this point that we were already beginning to work with interactions of various pieces of the cards and how we wanted to improve. Notice that the resources moved their way up to the top in order to be seen at a glance while fanning in your hand, or on the table. Part of that was to have a different look, and to create large art spaces for the various Employees.

This was the phase that the bulk of the rules for the game got resolved. There were still things to resolve and finalize after this, but by the time we were done with this phase we had a solid idea of how the rules were going to function, how decks would work, and the actual action of constructing your skyscrapers.

Version 3: Beta

For the next phase we reworked the floors as well, and came across an unexpected challenge. Portraying an entire floor of a building in such a small space. The result was a lot of communications with an artist that didn’t understand what we were saying. It should be noted this was our fault from not being able to properly get across our idea, and it resulted in this monstrosity to show a forced odd angle that survived into the final iteration of the game.

This led to the art being finalized and an update to the iconography to do the “nearly done” run, as we called it. Icons, borders, and other details were in full colour, but the art wasn’t. 

The layout of each card was still being adjusted at this point, attempting to ensure that it could be read and otherwise considered from other parts of the table. This included a lot of experimentation regarding the font choices. It was also at this point that we realized that using words to communicate the building “type” wasn’t a great way to communicate it, especially at a glance for those who were colour blind.

This was the version that got taken in front of a large number of blind and other playtesters, resulting in feedback regarding layout and other pieces of the game. This lead us to the situation where the bricks, used to denote the cost of building or tearing down a floor, being replaced by a wooden board with nails on it. This fit better with the expectation that the players had from seeing bricks and how they intuitively interacted with hammers and axes.

Version 4.0: “Done”

All these updates led to a number of changes to layout. There were changes including different backgrounds, increased iconography, and even changes to those icons. They were able to pop more as a result of this, and there were floor type symbols added to the top left of the floor cards to help convey what they each were.

The art was colour at this point, though still missing the backgrounds for the floor cards. The game wasn’t done at this point, but we had reached a point where the art direction & graphic design were almost where we wanted it. Nails are easier to read, and are going to take another pass on a few of those pieces. Even now, conveying nails had some issues with how it was conveyed. The art team has a couple of ideas on how to handle this that we’re currently experimenting witht behind the scenes.

All in all, it’s an iterative process. One that is both art and science. It’s worth noting that this was a high level examination of the different steps in the graphic design of the game, and missed several .1, .2, and so on sub-updates. There were several iterations of versions tweaking where, exactly, the icons and other graphics would end up, going through multiple sub rounds of testing both internally and showing them to people we knew and trusted.