Archive for the ‘Behind the Tentacles’ Category

Kickstarter Ho (nearly)!

Tuesday, 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!

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!

In the Gutter

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

One of the issues that plagues any book designer/layout monkey is the gutter. No, i’m not talking about the one outside of Lou’s Piss Shack that you stumbled and fell asleep in last night around 1:30am. I’m referring to that gap of space between where the spine ends, and the text begins.

As i’ve learned the hard way (see Dissecting Cthulhu for one brilliant example) that, if you don’t accommodate for enough space in the gutter, the text on the pages get too close to the spine, making the book more difficult to read. This is a major goof. Basically you’re breaking one of the ten commandments of book design: “Thou shalt allow for enough space in the gutter, lest a donkey shite in your car”. It’s a big no-no.

So there i was, absentmindedly thumbing through my copy of Island of Ignorance the other night, and noticing the gutter spacing was a bit too snug. And my mind started to wander a bit…7th edition is sitting at over 320 pages, and i’m on Chapter 12 of 18. This thing is going to need a big gutter.

Oooops.

Right. Problem is, how the hell do i institute this sort of fix book-wide? I sure as shit can’t do it page by page. That’d drive me (more) insane.

After fiddling around, i found the solution. Check it:

1) Go to your Master Pages. Select all of them. Make sure both pages in your Master Pages spreads are highlighted. This is important.

2) Go to Layout -> Margins and Columns. Here’s where you’re going to do your tweaking. Just start increasing the number value of the Inside Margin.

3) Now, this is a reeeeally important step. Before you start changing your numbers, make sure you have the Enable Layout Adjustment option checked. By doing this, you’re ensuring that your main text boxes on all the pages will be moved to fit the new margins, thus saving yourself a huge ass headache of having to do all that yourself by hand, page after page after bloody page.

4) If you have the Preview option selected, you can see the pages adjust as you increase or decrease the numbers, which is neat.

5) Now hit OK! You should now find that all your pages within the book have been adjusted.

Of course, you’re not done yet- since all of your pages have been altered, you’ll want to comb over your book, looking for things that’ll need fine tuning and adjusting. But trust me, this is really important, if you find yourself in the same situation i was just in. Hope that helps!

 

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.

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.

Spreading the tentacles out

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Just a quick update that i’ve added a couple of new links to the “Friendlies” section. David Grilla is the new artist on the Gaslight project, complementing work already done by John Snyder and Adam Denton (two other people who’s web pages i need to get…). And Dean Engelhardt joins the list of sacrifices people who are lending a hand to Gaslight- Dean is doing some amazing work with the handouts, as well as his fabulous character sheet. Welcome, both!

Can it be, an update on the site itself?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Yes, it can! I’ve finally cleaned up the joint to the point where it isn’t embarrassing to show off, and i’ve created a portfolio gallery to show off my publishing credits to date. Just click on the Portfolio link in the right nav, under “Pages”. Or you can click here instead.

In the near future, i plan on creating another gallery that will contain examples of my work itself, but for now, this will suffice.