Archive for the ‘Chaosium’ Category

And i haven’t forgotten about 7th ed…

Friday, 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!

The process of developing Call of Cthulhu 7th edition

Friday, 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!

CoC 7th edition is now in house

Monday, 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)

Wednesday, 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…

Friday, 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!

Working in phases

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Here at Squamous Studios, we appreciate insanity in all its forms; insanity gives us insight that we may not normally possess, and it gives us an excuse to drool on ourselves or smear ice cream on the cat.

However, sometimes madness doesn’t help. Sometimes, ya gotta be a little more organized. Like when you’re putting a massive tome like 7th edition together. Thus, i’ve broken down the process into 4 distinct phases:

Phase I: Getting the basic text laid out, formatting charts, inserting the basic page decoration, and so on. The skeleton and meat of the book is getting done at this phase. All the text for all various chapters are completed at this point, including all the boxed text bits, tables, diagrams, and so on. These are not, as of yet, incorporated into the main pages.

Phase II: Dropping in the artwork, and moving all the elements around so that everything flows together (boxed texts, tables, sidebars, and the like).

Phase III: Final tweaks and corrections. Admittedly, i will often start Phase III whilst i’m doing I and II; exporting a pdf, and seeing how things are looking in general. But this final phase is when all the fiddling and adjusting and fine tuning happens. Whether it’s corrections in the text, or scooting an art element over a few pixels, forcing a paragraph break in a header, or whathaveyou.

Phase IV: The final front pages go in (title page, ToC), the index is built out, and (according to Mike Mason) the ants take over.

So where are we at now? More than half way through Phase I. I’m staring at roughly 320 pages of book. Yikes! This guy is going to be massive. Phase I always takes the longest, with Phase II going much more quickly.

One last thing- on the Kickstarter page, a couple of layout examples were posted there. I definitely appreciate the positive comments; thanks! I do feel compelled to point out that those examples are a bit old at this point, and many of the criticisms brought up have already been addressed. Trust me, the book looks even better at this point. :)

I’m going to try to get some more up to date examples mocked up soon…

Take /that/, tables!

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

I’m sure the multitudinous members of my audience will be happy to know that i finally figured out how to slay the tables importing dragon. It took me a bit, but here’s what i ended up doing:

1) I copied the original table from the manuscript file, created a new doc in Word, and pasted it there.

2) I then created a new document in InDesign.

3) Created a text content box, and hit Command+D to Place the Word doc containing just the table into the box.

4) Lastly, i copied that box/table and placed it in the main book.

And that worked. A bit of a work-around from being able to import/place it directly into the book, but hey, now it’s in there.

Continuing on the subject of tables, i’ve been creating a bunch of others in the core rule book as they come up; Damage Bonus charts, Income levels, etc. And at first, i was doing them in simple black and white. Which is, frankly, boring to look at. I had to remind myself that i’m working in color…so why not, in the spirit of the game, make them ichor green and white?  And thus, they now are. :)

Oh, and one tip that i discovered with resizing the cells of tables- you can move your cursor over a table grid, and drag them, but that resizes all of the cells. But you can also Shift+drag, and that will resize only that one row/column. Very handy!

Learning a couple of tricks with InDesign

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

As i chug through the initial layout of CoC 7th edition, there’s a couple handy tricks i’ve taught myself (remember, InDesign experts- i’m a self-taught guy who’s still figuring things out as i go sometimes):

1) Grouping. Since i’m handling a LOT of boxed text elements in some of the chapters, i’ve quickly learned how valuable grouping is when it comes to handling those elements. Select ‘em all, do a Command+G, and bam! Easy to select and drag and drop. And editing them is so much easier, without worrying about screwing up the formatting.

2) Saving boxed text elements in Master Pages. This trick comes with a possible pit trap if you’re not careful. Basically what i did was create a master page set, and dump copies of commonly used elements like boxed texts and the like there. What it does help with is ensuring that you’re using common formatting and fitting; you can copy something from these master pages and not have to worry about fiddling with them individually so much (of course, you still have to take care of putting the right text, resizing the box appropriately, etc.

But one thing i discovered with this method (the pit trap i mentioned) is that if you make a format change, because the element is on a Master Page, it will change all of the elements that you’re using throughout the book. This has fucked me up more than once, and i’ve had to go back and fix a bunch of headers because i made one little change somewhere else. Ooops.

Also: tables suck. Importing tables suck more.

Call of Cthulhu 7th edition layout in full swing…

Monday, November 4th, 2013

For the past couple of weeks, i’ve been actively pounding away at laying out the text for CoC 7th edition. After meetings and swapping of emails, i’ve got a much better handle on what’s expected in the next couple of months.

So far, i’ve knocked out the first three chapters, which are admittedly pretty easy and not very big. The next chapter, dealing with creating Investigators, is going to be the first real large chapter, and certainly the most challenging by far. Feedback on my progress has been positive, which is real encouraging.

Some artwork is starting to trickle in, as well, for the DPS pages (here’s something i’ll reveal right now about the core rule book- each chapter will be preceded by a double page spread, containing the chapter title and a quote from ol’ HPL). And…man, do they look fucking amazing. I’ve been…hoping that we would line up some artists, and they would create some captivating work. If these first pieces are any indication of how the rest of the art is going to turn out….holy crap.

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

I’m happy to announce that Golden Goblin Press first release, The Island of Ignorance, is in the can, and is now available for order! Anyone who wishes to grab the pdf version can buy it now from GGP’s website…or you can wait a little while longer for the dead tree version.

http://www.goldengoblinpress.com/island-of-ignorance/

Plus, i’ve finished my first book for Montag Press, M Against M by Declan Tan. It’s not up on Montag’s site yet, but should be soon. Once i hear that it’s out and available, i’ll definitely post about it here. But you can always check Montag’s site by going here.

Meanwhile, i’ve been making headway with the design for CoC 7th edition. It’s slow going at the moment, as i still have to wait for art and text assets to come in, but i’ve completed chapter 3, which is the Call of Cthulhu short story itself. I’ve also been working on more card art for Feed the Shoggoth, and that continues to chug along. Funny how some pieces get reworked as they do. One card, “Horde of Penguins”, is an in-joke, making a reference to the story “At the Mountains of Madness”. Obviously, shoggoths and blind albino penguins aren’t going to get along well. At all. (in the game, using the “Horde of Penguins” card allows the player to move the shoggoth a certain number of spaces in any direction; the shoggoth just wants to get the hell away of those penguins).

It makes sense to me, anyway.

 

*ahem*

 

When i originally drew the art, they were normal looking penguins. But in the story, they appear as blind, albino penguins. So i’ve taken this opportunity to go back and make sure they’re the right kind of penguins. Gotta get my in-jokes right!

Lastly, i updated my portfolio with the latest books that i’ve designed; four more this year! There’s actually another Cthulhu fiction anthology (with added sci-fi!!) in Chaosium’s print queue, but it hasn’t come out yet: Eldritch Chrome. I guess that’ll be in 2014.