I guess i’ve been that busy…

October 3rd, 2014

…because when i tend to get /this/ busy, that means that some things tend to get lost in the shuffle. Like my blog. :/

So what have i been doing for the past month-plus, besides taking trips around the world and buying pair after pair of argyle socks with all the money i raised from the Kickstarter?*  Whelp, working on that damn card game of mine, mostly. Here’s the list of things that have gone on:

1) Read the short story, made edits, sent it back to author

2) Designed and got made 4000 score tokens

3) Continued the design of the cards for the game with Damion

4) Continued word on the card art (almost done!)

5) Designed the score counter, worked with manufacturer to get counter made

6) A bunch of boring KS admin stuff

7) Continued contact/shepherding of other KS goodies like the boxes and minis, Minion portrait cards, etc.

 

I’ve also been in talks with Chaosium about various things, evil, delicious things that i can’t mention in public. Yet. Except maybe that Gaslight scenario book i’ve been blathering about for a couple years now. Yes, maybe that.

Anyway. That’s where things stand. I’m trying to wrap up the art for Feed the Shoggoth! as quickly as i can; once they’re done, i can start throwing them onto the cards, and get the real manufacturing underway. I’m aiming for shipping in November sometime still, but i may slip a bit into December. We’ll see.

 

*Note: i really haven’t been doing this, i promise.

And i haven’t forgotten about 7th ed…

August 22nd, 2014

Since i haven’t mentioned it in my last post, lemme give you a quick update on Call of Cthulhu 7th edition: the printer’s proof has been released to Kickstarter backers for review, with the intent that people will crowdsource corrections and typos. I’ve already gone through both books and sent in my list of corrections (of which there are many).

Plan is to have the books out by Hallowe’en some time. I think that’s a reasonable goal, depending on how many problems are found, of course.

In the meantime, i’ll be meeting with Charlie and Mike Mason next week (Mr. Mason is in town for a few weeks in the bay area, visiting), to discuss future projects. One topic i know we’re going to hit is Gaslight supplements… :D

Stay tuned!

I’m not dead yet!

August 22nd, 2014

Hey everyone. You may have noticed, if you visit this site at all, that i’ve been rather quiet for the past…couple of months, it seems. Well, i’ve been hugely busy with the Kickstarter for Feed the Shoggoth, which i’m happy to say was very successful; i raised nearly double my initial goal of $8,000. I’d been meaning to post more about that here, but the KS consumed so much time, that i wasn’t able to write about it…until now. And while there’s still a ton of work to do on it (like, you know, getting the game actually made, printed, and shipped out to pledgers, for instance), i can share what i’ve learned in this wacky and wild world of Kicksteringness so far:

1) The video- like i posted previously, i’m so, so glad i ended up making the video. It was a lot of work, and took the help of a great number of people, but it was absolutely worth it in the end. According to the stats kept by Kickstarter, the video was played over 1,500 times! Now, i don’t have any conversion metrics; meaning, i don’t know how many people who watched the video ended up pledging (i may ask that in my survey). But i do know that there were people who did pledge largely because of what they saw in the video.

Do i think the video is why my KS succeeded? No, not in of itself. But i think it went a long way in helping. My advice for any budding KS creators out there- MAKE A VIDEO.

  •  Advertising- I spent…well, a significant amount of money on advertising. I targeted four websites:
  • Yog-sothoth.com, which is the premier and most popular Call of Cthulhu website
  • Rpg.net, one of the largest gaming sites on the interwebs
  • Lovecraft e-zine, a very well respected site for all things Lovecraftian
  • Kicktraq, a site that tracks trends of how well (or not) a KS is doing

There were a few other sites that i wanted to place ads in, but frankly, i was running out of money.

As i learned, different sites handle ads differently. Some will just constantly display your ad for a pre-determined amount of time. Others will charge by “impressions”, which is just a fancy way of saying how often your ad will appear when compared to the other ads in rotation. The more you pay, the more “impressions” you get, and thus the more often your ad will appear in comparison to other ads.

So, was it worth plunking down all that money for ad banners? I don’t have any numbers to prove it, but my gut says yes. I know (from what people told me) that they found out about the KS thanks to ads. However, i’m pretty sure that ads were secondary to…

3) Social media- As far as getting the word out, this was the obvious winner. Facebook, Twitter, and, yes, e-mail were huge factors in telling the world about the Kickstarter. Reposts on FB and Twitter were instrumental.

4) Hashtags on Kickstarter- this was something i didn’t know about until it was brought to my attention, and a function that Kickstarter doesn’t readily make known (i had to search through their blog posts to find one written in 2013 to find the instructions). On the main Discover page, on the right side, there’s a section called “#Tags”. Natrually, there’s one for Cthulhu. If you send Kickstarter a tweet, asking them to put a #tag on your Kickstarter, it will then appear in these Tag searches.

Why does this matter? Because there are folks out there who visit Kickstarter and look often to see what new games or Lovecraftiana or whatever have appeared on KS. I had one person tell me that they *only* buy games from Kickstarter.

5) Shipping- this will be a significant issue for any Kickstarter (unless all your stuff is in electronic form). Get your numbers figured out before you start. DON’T just guess. Go to the post office, or use their online shipping calculator, to get accurate numbers on how much shipping is going to run you.

And don’t forget packaging. I’d recommend using U-Line(http://www.uline.com); all they do is sell shipping materials, and it’s super cheap. Make sure to factor that into your costs.

Declare your shipping charges up front. I made a handy chart that anyone can consult, depending on which country they live in, to show how much they need to add to their pledge.

This still left to confusion. Some people expect that shipping charges are rolled into the pledge, if they live in the same country. Others don’t. I’m frankly undecided which method i would use in future KS projects, but be prepared for having to put in some extra work in corralling pledgers to get their shipping costs in.

6) Stay on top of communication- You’ll end up getting questions and comments from pledgers and prospective pledgers…possibly a lot. Be nice, be clear, and be respectful. Most of all, be honest.

7) Expect a few pledgers to bail- It just happens, for whatever reason, that some folks will need to either reduce their pledge amounts, or pull out entirely. Don’t take it personally. I remember being surprised when i first saw that happen, but i realized that it’s something that’s just going to happen. Unless you’ve done something to actively piss off your backers, don’t stress about it.

8) Trolls- Yep, even in a wee little Kickstarter such as mine, i managed to attract a couple of trolls (one of which went so far as shelling out a buck just so they could drop in and “comment” and offer “advice” on my game).

9) Keep talking about it- This goes back to using social media and e-mail. Don’t stop talking about your Kickstarter. In person, through mail, on Facebork, whatever. Keep your KS on everyone’s mind. It’ll remind them to pledge, or spread the word…or both.

 

That’s it for now. If more topics come up (and i’m sure they will), i’ll post about them here. Cheers!

The process of developing Call of Cthulhu 7th edition

June 13th, 2014

When I began the process of designing Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, I had it in mind from the start that two rules i needed to follow were to be paramount. One, that the book be easy to read; and two, that the book be easy to navigate and quickly find information. There had been a lot of talk in different circles about wanting CoC 7th ed to look like this, or look like that, and as a fan myself, it was easy to fall into the mindset of “Yes, I want to look as amazing as possible! Full color everything! Cool things everywhere!” But one thing (out of many, many things) that Lynn Willis taught me is that form should never supersede function. The primary job of a rulebook is to disseminate information in the quickest and easiest manner possible. Everything else is fluff. And if that fluff gets in the way, then I’m not doing my job right.

So I did a bunch of research. I looked at several iterations of Call of Cthulhu, from the first edition all the way up to 6th. I looked at the Spanish and French editions, as well. Each version had their strengths and weaknesses that I took note of. I then went outside Call of Cthulhu and the horror genre entirely and looked at other rulebooks that had come out in the last few years. The gaming world has advanced a lot since Call of Cthulhu 6th edition, with a ton of new artists and designers introducing new ideas and concepts into how rulebooks should look and function. What had they done right? What had they done wrong? I looked at titles such as Godlike, Pathfinder, Eclipse Phase, Kerberos Club, The One Ring, Hollow Earth Expedition, and others for inspiration and object lessons.

One thing that stood out to me was that, with a book as massive as this, easy navigation through the book was going to be really important. I hit upon the idea early on that I wanted to incorporate some sort of icon system that would give distinctive visual cues to the reader when flipping through the book. In addition, I borrowed an idea from Eclipse Phase in which the two columns of text really standing out from the page:

 

KS article example 1

 

As you can see in the above example, the icon navigation idea really didn’t work. The page is way too busy with icons, symbols in the background, splashes of blood, graphics at the top of the pages…the main text just gets lost, even with the highlighting. You can see also that the font for the headers is an early attempt of a tome-like feel that didn’t quite work.

Some things were kept, however, as we’ll see in a bit.

 

KS article example 2

The main page background has been toned down greatly, and all but one of the icons show up on the page now. I wanted to have notebook pages and scraps of paper used for boxed text and other highlighted sections; you can see one example of this above. Still, too cluttered.

KS article example 3

After some more feedback, things start to change pretty radically. Borders have been placed for most of the boxed text, as well as all the page headers. The main page backgrounds have been toned down even futher, with arcane symbols in the upper corners, and distressed looks in the lower corners. Obviously, the red sidebar text didn’t really work. Header fonts are still very much in flux (i went through so many fonts throughout the evolution of the book, it’s not even funny).

KS article example 4

 

Amazing what one font will do for a book…once i introduced Cristoforo, it all really started coing together. Example boxes have been made. And, for the separate boxed text, you can see how i borrowed from my idea back in the first example of the highlighted box for the main text. Goes to show you that you should always hold on an idea; you never know when it might work for something else! The illuminated letter at the beginning of each chapter, as well, has been kept from the earliest iteration (and, later on in the process, colored for effect).

KS article example 5

And now we see the near-final look and feel of the design. The size of the header font has been dropped significantly (in some places, it was just huuuge), the page background have been darkened just a bit, and it all just looks…cleaner. One side benefit of using the Cristoforo font by Thomas Phinney is that he included some terrific Lovecraftian glyphs, some of which i was able to use for bullet point lists. Example boxes have been refined, and space in general has at once been tighened up, and expanded as need be, to give the text space to breathe.

 

KS article example 6

One last example after further polishing. Old photo borders have been added to the pictures, the “Example” headers in the Example boxes have been taken out (to conserve space), and general tightening up.

So there you go! It’s been a very long evolution, one that doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What you see here is the result of months of tweaking, refining, getting feedback, doing further tweaking, more feedback…until we reach something that we can all be happy with and proud of. And this is but a taste of the many, many versions of the core book that we went through; these screenshots highlight only a small sample of them.

Thanks for reading!

First cover design…and some more Feed the Shoggoth news

June 9th, 2014

 

It’s kinda funny…i’ve been doing book design work for over a decade now, but up until recently, i’d never actually done a cover for any of the books i’ve worked on. But when Oscar at Golden Goblin Press assigned me to do the book design and layout for the upcoming De Horrore Cosmico, a collection of Call of Cthulhu scenarios set in the Cthulhu Invictus era, he asked me if i wanted to take a shot at the cover.

And, as usual, when someone offers up a challenge like that to me, it’s hard to refuse. ;) So i set about doing a bunch of font tests, to see what would look visually appealing, as well as playing around with the basic format. Much to my dismay, i quickly discovered that the ratio that the original artist had created the cover art at wasn’t at the standard US paper measurements. Urk.

Meanwhile, my font examples…fell kinda flat with Oscar. He sent me back an example of what his art director, Mark, had in mind, which helped out considerably. Sometimes it’s great to have a blank slate to work from, but in other instances, a little direction can go a long way. Now i had an idea to work with.

But those side areas…oog. I needed to do something with them. The idea of filling them with Roman columns was briefly bandied about, but i quickly jettisoned that, as it made the cover look too crowded, and took the focus off the cover art. I started thinking about many of the visuals i saw from recently watching Gladiator, and how many instances of marble were not solid white after all. So, something less busy, and set back against the rest of the art…

Well, you can see what i came up with below:

 

 

De Horrore Cosmico Cover Final Small

In Feed the Shoggoth! news, i’m actively editing the video for the Kickstarter. This is absolutely the last step before going live (pending approval from the Overloads at KS, of course). Hopefully another couple of weeks…

Video post mortem

May 7th, 2014

Wow. What a day. We spent all of the other Saturday filming, and it was a complete blast. It actually went faster than i thought it would (which is a good thing; last thing i wanted was for all of us to get burned out at some point with filming yet to do). My crew, actors, and everyone else involved made it a breeze; there’s no way in hell i could have done this without them.

Stuff i learned from the shoot:

1) Bring food and drinks: i didn’t think of this, but thankfully, a couple of my friends did, and brought snacks and such for people to nibble on whilst we were filming. It helped out a lot.

2) Get a professional: I was lucky in that i had not one, but two friends who do video production for a living. Their insight and experience was invaluable; knowing how to set up the equipment, staging the table and the actors, getting the lighting correct, properly recording the audio, how to film inserts (and where they’d be needed)…the list goes on. So…trust me. Find someone who knows their way around a shoot. Even if you have to pay. You won’t regret it.

3) Have people rehearse: This sounds like a no-brainer, so it’s easy to forget. And it’s an easy thing to do whilst the technical side of things is getting set up.

4) Get your post-production ducks in a row: As i’m finding out the hard way now, it’s really in your best interests to figure out how you’re going to get all the footage off the camera and on to your computer so that you can edit it. Or have someone lined up to do the post-production work for you. Right now, this is still a major blocker for me; i’m still dealing with trying to get to a place where i can just import the damn footage and start editing. It’s been a massive headache.

Kickstarter Ho (nearly)!

April 15th, 2014

With CoC 7th edition off my stove top, at least for now, i’ve been turning my attention full time to getting all of my ducks in a row for Feed the Shoggoth’s Kickstarter. Most of that lately has consisted of such un-fun but necessary activities as getting shipping prices for various countries sussed out (thank you, Angus at Chronicle City!), going through feedback for the KS preview, and putting a crew together for the video.

Oye…the video. Let me tell you this now, anyone out there who’s looking to get a Kickstarter going- PLAN YOUR VIDEO NOW. I didn’t mean for my video to be the last thing of my project. That’s just how things worked out. But for any future KS launchers, take heed and start scoping out your video as soon as you can. When you do, you’ll want to think about these little crumbs of advice:

1) Write a Script: i know it sounds kind of silly. I’m not really making some Hollywood epic, right? It’s just a little promo film for my Kickstarter. But that pesky little Baphomet is in the details. What do you want to say in the video? What are you going to show? Is there going to be game play demonstrated? If so, how much of the game will be shown?  If you have other people besides yourself appearing, what are they going to say and do?

If you plan none of these things before you shoot, you’ll end up being stuck trying to figure all that out while you’re shooting, and that’s only going to cost you time and money.

2) Keep it Short: Attention spans these days are short. Surprisingly so for online video (ask yourself how long you are typically ready to commit yourself to watching a Youtube vid. Probably only a few minutes, unless you’re really invested in the subject matter, right?). You should be able to give a good overview of your game (or whatever) and introduce yourself in 3-5 minutes, tops.

3) You Don’t Need to go into Super Detail: Just give the 30 second elevator pitch for your game. Save the in-depth examination of mechanics for the Kickstarter page itself. If people are interested, they’ll take the time to read up further.

4) Get as Much Help as you Can: At the absolute minimum, you’re going to need the following:

-Film equipment

-Location

-Editing software

-Sound of some sort (live or inserted post production

-Someone to film everything

Unless you plan on doing all of that yourself, you’ll want to start talking to your friends, co-workers, perhaps some college students who would be willing to film your video on the cheap…whoever you can scrounge up.

All of that has come up before i’ve shot one frame of video. No doubt more things will surface once we actually start rolling.

While i’ve got all that going on, there are a couple of smaller projects i’m plugging away at. One is a web banner for a friend’s site that will advertise  a Jules Verne-esque book he’s writing. The other is the cover design for an-as-yet-unannounced book for Golden Goblin Press. Woot, my first cover design!

CoC 7th edition is now in house

March 31st, 2014

As of yesterday afternoon, the last of my work for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition has been turned over; now the rest of the heavy lifting is in Charlie and co.’s hands. I had only about two weeks or so to do whatever work i could on the Investigator’s Handbook, which isn’t much. I was able to do the basic page decoration, and layout all the text, but there’s still plenty to do (tables and charts, inserting the art, etc.). Similarly, the core book has a lot left- inserting the rest of art and cleaning everything up).

The plan now is for the two books to finish getting assembled, and then they’ll be sent back to me for final clean up, look-and-feel wise. I’m assuming that at some point a final proofreading will happen, but that hasn’t been scheduled yet.

I have to say that it feels kinda weird not working on 7th ed anymore. I’d been plugging away at it in some fashion since last summer, and really ramped up work on it in October. I’ve spent most weekday nights and weekends on the core book and the IH for months…thus it was kind of anti-climactic to upload my files yesterday to Chaosium’s ftp server. No fanfare, no glass of champagne, just hitting Send and making sure the transfer worked.

In honour of that, i’ll share with you one more trick that i learned in InDesign that i wish i’d discovered years ago. Sure as shit would have saved me a ton of time and work…anyway. In addition to being able to search and replace text as one is used to, i found that you can also add formatting to the text.

Say, for example, you’re dealing with dozens of stat blocks. And you have “Damage Bonus:” repeated over and over. But you need to bold all of those. Whelp, in the past, i would do all of the bolding by hand. InDesign’s Find/Replace feature is way more powerful than i first suspected, though; you can use it to find all those instances of “Damage Bonus:”, and tell it to bold every instance. I can’t remember the exact steps to enable this, but it’s pretty easy.

So…what’s next for Squamous Studios? Whelp, the Kickstarter for Feed the Shoggoth will be going live in April some time, so i’m doing as much work as i can for that. I’ll be posting more about the KS soon; right now, i’m polishing up the KS page, and getting all my ducks in a row, so to speak.

Bookwise, i have a few projects upcoming that are floating about in the aether, but i’ll wait until i have something more concrete before yammering about ‘em.

The mother of all tables (and other musings)

February 26th, 2014

I meant to post about this a while ago, but i kept on forgetting…

In a couple of spots in 7th edition, there exist some rather…large tables. One particularly massive table has to do with listing every single Mythos tome ever written about in any Mythos story. We’re talking well over a hundred entries.

Up to this point, i’d been doing all the tables by hand, but after starting in on the tome table, i was quickly realizing that i was losing Sanity points in big chunks. Surely there’s got to be a solution for this…

Lo and behold, InDesign has a function available, called Convert Text to Table, which can be found in the Table menu. I won’t bore you with too many details about it, but one important element i learned (the hard way, as usual) when using this tool is how tell it when to create a new cell. There are a few methods, but the simplest is by a tab. Basically, it works like this:

(glob of text)  [tab]  (another glob of text)

Select the text and apply Convert Text to Table

(glob of text in Cell 1)    (another glob of text in Cell 2)

It’s an awesome, time-saving feature, but you have to be careful that you have all your tabs cleaned up before you run the conversion; otherwise, entire rows in the table can be thrown off. If there are two tabs between your words instead of one, you’ll end up with an unwanted, blank cell.

In other news, i’ve sent off a completed chapter of 7th edition to Mike Mason; it’s been approved, and will hopefully be put on the KS page soon. And, of course, i’ll put up samples of it here as well. I’ve also mocked up some final card designs for Feed the Shoggoth; i brought those with me to a local con recently, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Once those are prepped, i’ll post those here as well.

2013 in review, and a look ahead…

January 17th, 2014

I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, 2013 doesn’t /feel/ like it was a busy year, but upon reflection, it was probably the most crazy year yet for us Squamous folk.

  1. Publication-wise, most of the stuff that Squamous helped shepherd to print were Miskatonic River Press books: Tales of the Sleepless City, Grimscribe’s Puppets, and Deepest Darkest Eden. Sadly, this would be the year that MRP decided to go on indefinite hiatus (though i know that they’re still working with Chronicle City to get Punktown out in the near future.
  2. Oscar Rios’ new company, Golden Goblin Press, started and completed their first Kickstarter, and we managed to get our first release, Island of Ignorance, out to backers in the timeframe that was announced. That was one hell of a project to work on!
  3. I joined Montag Press, and designed the first book for them, M Against M.
  4. Work began (and continued) on Call of Cthulhu 7th edition; by far, my biggest project to date.
  5. Continued work on my Feed the Shoggoth card game, with toiling away at the artwork top priority for that.
  6. A second book for Montag Press, Punish the Wicked, is in the works.

So what’s up next? Oh, nothing much, really…

  1. Call of Cthulhu 7th edition core rulebook and the Investigator’s Companion are released to the public in late spring. And if they don’t, you’ll probably never hear from me again, as a horde of CoC fans will have stormed my house and flayed me alive.
  2. Punish the Wicked will be out on the shelves.
  3. I plan on launching the Kickstarter for Feed the Shoggoth in mid-March. Watch this space for further developments!
  4. Golden Goblin Press’ next Kickstarter is about get underway for Tales from the Crescent City. Assuming that the KS is successful, i’ll be doing the book design for that as well.
  5. I’ve got a project for Cthulhu by Gaslight that i’ve had on the back burner for months that i’m just itching to get out. By hell or high water…

And who knows what else the year will bring? I’d really like to thank everyone who’s been following along here, and those of you who have been posting comments. They’re very welcome, and i’m happy to answer any questions you may have. Cheers!