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Pictorial Reference

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Torrent
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I wasn't exactly sure which forum to put this in, so moderators feel free to move as needed.

I have an opportunity to attend Essen this year so I have been reading everything I can on Boardgamegeek and elsewhere to try to figure out how I want to spend my budget. Last night I came across a game called Winds of Plunder, a pirate game by GMT. On their site there is a link to a pictorial reference sheet that really struck me.

First off, from what I've read this game is in a demo state. However just by looking at their reference sheet I have a good idea about how it will be played and what the relations between the various cards/resources will be. Basically the thing is a couple of columns with little pictures and one sentence descriptions. Some of the little pictures are math equations, +1 VP for something or such a quantity bigger than(>) another.

What really struck me is that it was a one page way of relating all the bits in pictures rather than words. I have had several times reading rules for a game where some commidity is described in several different places, one for gathering, one for using, one for scoring. In such a pictoral thing you can look across and see all the places where that little picture occurs.

You can't play the game totally from the reference, but it looks like it would be a good thing to see relationships between resources, actions, and VP's or whatever. You can see if one resource only has two steps to VP while others have two steps a skip and a stumble to the same number of VPs. The first will be more popular. I'm a real visual person and having pages of rules to read gets tiring.

For any from GMT games reading, I am really impressed with such a sheet even though I know little of the game itself. For the rest of us, does anyone use this sort of thing already? If so, does it help in figuring out the overall flow/structure of a resource management game?

Andy

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Winds of Plunder

Torrent,

I read a little bit about the game on the GMT site. It seems the reference page you were referring to was a demonstration of how to make a language independent game. Even though there was english text there, I think they were stressing the use of pictures over words. I think it's a neat system. Perhaps someone could design a universal language independent pictoral system for other games as well. Wouldn't that be neat? A game with no words in the instructions, only pictures...

-Darke

trnardo
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Winds of Plunder

Quote:
Torrent:For any from GMT games reading, I am really impressed with such a sheet even though I know little of the game itself. For the rest of us, does anyone use this sort of thing already? If so, does it help in figuring out the overall flow/structure of a resource management game?

Thanks for the good word! I am the developer on the Winds of Plunder game, and the reference sheet is one of my main contributions.

A few games made in Germany use something akin to this. If memory serves, I believe Tikal and Giganten use icons on small player references to help illustrate the game. These were of considerable value to me as a player. I could look at the references and easily discover the main points of each game.

Quote:
Darkehorse:I read a little bit about the game on the GMT site. It seems the reference page you were referring to was a demonstration of how to make a language independent game.

GMT obtains game designs and develops them to the point where they require only artwork, materials, and final formatting to go into production. They then place these games on their P500 list. When a game draws the necessary number of pre-orders (currently around 700), the customers' credit cards are charged and the production process on the game begins.

Winds of Plunder is not a mere demonstration concept: it is a game that GMT will produce if it draws sufficient pre-orders. (So, if the pictorial reference is a game concept that you wish to encourage, or if the game is one you believe you would like to play, the best way to do so is to pre-order the game! :-) )

Upon Winds of Plunder generating the required orders to go into production, GMT's plan is to improve the artwork on the reference sheet. They are also likely to remove the text entirely from that reference, since the game is slated for publication in four languages.

Our goal wasn't to make a purely language independent game, but we did want to enhance comprehension on the major game concepts in that manner. From your note, Andy, it appears that the effort was worthwhile. Thanks again!

Torrent
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Pictorial Reference

I'm resurrecting an old thread with a new example. I still think the idea of doing pictoral iconigraphic games components/rules is excellent. Especially as I am into buying games in German while I am here, I like games that are easy to teach my english-only friends at home. I also like the idea of things that are potentially teachable in 'Point and Grunt'. PnG being the sort of universal language of pointing at things you want and using body language to communicate.

However, I was surfing BGG again (not a bad habit) and stumbled across this picture. http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/36936. It is of Cards for a game called The Prince: Struggle of House Borgia. I like how everything with money is the little money bag with income and outflow being different colors. But what really caught my eye were the little pictures to show how to play the card (hold in hand, return to deck, discard, must be played immediately).

Except for the little special abilities, the icons seem very helpful to me. They would require little to no pasteups to play even if they were in German.

I guess the thing that interests me is that as much as we want the English speaking market to be bigger it just isn't at the moment. I think games that are easily translated without reprinting or little reprinting of the expensive components would lead more to the ability of getting published across languages.

Andy

Anonymous
Pictorial Reference

BANG!

Pulls it off perfectly.

Tyler

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Another example

Is the game Sindbad from Mayfair / Flying Turtle games. The cards for the game are language independent (althought I can't find scanned examples on the web anywhere) and the rule book comes in 6 different languages.

To me it all depends upon the designer of the game. If you put a lot of rules text on your cards, then it will be more difficult to make language independent. It seems to me if I were an international game publisher, then I would automatically 'language sterilize' every design I got. I think this is becoming the norm for most german game companies, or will be once they discover there is a huge market developing in the US.

But I think the best thing we can do is set the standard on this side of the ocean by making our designs as language independent as possible, even in the prototypes we present to possible publishers for review (assuming this won't hurt our chances of getting published). Perhaps some of the users of the BGDF can come up with a public domain set of symbols for common game actions that a player might need to perform? I think that would go along way towards realizing a standard. Any takers?

-Darke

Yekrats
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Re: Another example

Darkehorse wrote:
Perhaps some of the users of the BGDF can come up with a public domain set of symbols for common game actions that a player might need to perform? I think that would go along way towards realizing a standard. Any takers?

I'd be willing to make some icon pictures for the community. I wouldn't want to make the images completely "public domain." I would like to hold the copyright, but I would allow others to use it in their game projects for free. All I would ask in return is that credit is given to me. Sound fair?

Now, what images do you want? Please keep the list under 250. I have classes this semester. :)

-- Scott S.

Anonymous
Pictorial Reference

Well, you'd need it for every basic mechanic really:

Draw card
Discard
Roll die
Move

Whatever.

For those that haven't played BANG!, they have icons that represent:
Draw
Another Player
Discard
...

Using the symbols together, you get various actions
Draw + Player = take a card from another player
Discard + Player = make another player discard a card
Draw + Draw + Draw = Draw 3 cards from the deck...

And so on.

Tyler

FastLearner
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Pictorial Reference

I disagree that Bang! does it perfectly. I find the symbols to be quite abstract much of the time, and the reference card has symbols that are much, much too small to see by those without excellent vision, especially in poor light.

I think the concept of Bang!'s symbol system is excellent, however.

-- Matthew

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I agree

Bang! wasn't intuitive enough for me. I had to keep asking what everything was... It would be nice if the symbols were designed in such a manner that you could, for the most part, tell what they meant without even looking at a reference sheet.

Quote:

Well, you'd need it for every basic mechanic really:

Draw card
Discard
Roll die
Move

There may be a whole slew of other things we'd need to consider, such as:

look at a players hand
steal (or take) a random card
give a random card
give a card of your choosing
steal a resource/item
give an item/resource
collect money from bank
take money from a player
give money to a player
flip over a card.
turn a card sideways.

Not too mention values for various book keeping:
Income
Cost to maintain
Attack Value
Defense Value
Speed Value

etc. etc. ad nauseum.

Don't you hate it when things are more complex than originally thought?
-Darke

Anonymous
Re: I agree

Darkehorse wrote:
Bang! wasn't intuitive enough for me. I had to keep asking what everything was... It would be nice if the symbols were designed in such a manner that you could, for the most part, tell what they meant without even looking at a reference sheet.

Yes, it's one of those things you have to play a few times to get used too... but after that, there's no question what a card intends.

Quote:
There may be a whole slew of other things we'd need to consider, such as:

look at a players hand
steal (or take) a random card
give a random card
give a card of your choosing
steal a resource/item
give an item/resource
collect money from bank
take money from a player
give money to a player
flip over a card.
turn a card sideways.

My point was that you could simplify this list just by looking at the words you listed:
card
take
give
random
choice
item/resource

With just that list you could create a LOT:
Take + Card = Take a card from another player (non-random implied)
Take + Card + Card = Take 2 cards (non-random implied)
Take + Random + Card = Take a random card from another player
Take + Choice + Item/Resource = Take an item of your choice from another player...

Seeee. :)

Tyler

jwarrend
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Pictorial Reference

What a great idea! An icon language would be a fantastic thing to have.

I think that rather than inundate Scott with an exhaustive list of every action that ever happens in any of our games, a simple set of the "most common" actions is in order. I'm afraid I don't like Tyler's system all that much, either -- needing 4 icons to say one simple thing is going to clutter up the cards. Rather, I think what is needed is a list of simple actions with the understanding that these are going to be interpreted in the context of the rules of the game.

So, for example, I have a game that has 5 different draw piles, 4 of which are "face up" and one is "face down". But, it would be silly to try to have Scott capture this in "icon language". Rather, if I wanted to say this, I would just use the "draw a card" icon with the understanding that the players would have read the rules and would know that there are multiple draw piles that they can choose from.

One thing that would be nice is if the icons could easily be "extended". So, if I wanted my action to be "draw 2 cards", having the ability to add a card to the icon without taking up the space of a whole additional icon might be nice.

Also, it would be cool if there were a way to make some of the components "interchangable" -- so, for example, you might have an icon that is "Place a piece on the board", but the pieces in my game might be cubes whereas in your game, they might be pawns or meeples. So, if there was an easy way to substitute one for the other, that would be great. Also, if the colors could be changed, that would also be great.

But, I'm violating my own rules!

At any rate, here are what I think are a few of the actions that all of our games are likely to have in common:

Draw a card
Draw a tile
Place a tile
Place a piece on the board (cube?)
Move a piece
Discard a card
Give something to another player
Take something from another player
Roll a die

I think there will also need to be "pay this to do this" kind of stuff, but as our money systems and cost scales will vary from game to game, it's probably easiest to design our own "money" icons and add those to the game as needed.

It might also be nice to have some "standard" icons for elements that are in all of our games but don't specifically denote actions. Examples: Coins, Money bags for "money", Swords, shields for "combat related stuff", etc.

There's a list to start, I'll add more as I think of them. Cool idea, and I'm totally fine with Scott's terms. I think this could be a great thing! (Especially for me -- I love icons, but have no skill making them!)

-Jeff

IngredientX
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Pictorial Reference

What might help is distinguishing between verbs, quantities, objects, and destinations.

To wit...

VERBS
Take
Give
Pass
Pass
Pay

QUANTITIES
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.

OBJECTS
Cards
Coins
Tiles

DESTINATIONS
Player on the left
Player on the right
Random player
The bank

Hence, we can quickly assemble sentences. "Pass three tiles to the player on your left", "Take three coins from the bank", and so on

Anonymous
Pictorial Reference

That was my vision exactly Gil!

Oh... and I've always wanted to say it "Ah Gil just shut the .... " nevermind. :)

Tyler

Aerjen
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Pictorial Reference

Coming back on the original topic, whether iconography would be usefull and used by people in explaining the ruleset of a game. I know an academy of art (well actually it's not really that, but this comes closest to a description) in the Netherlands in which the students have to be able to explain a given game using only icons. I've seen the results and some of them were quite impressive. So I suggest everybody give it a try, just for the sake of it.

jwarrend
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Pictorial Reference

IngredientX wrote:

Hence, we can quickly assemble sentences. "Pass three tiles to the player on your left", "Take three coins from the bank", and so on

Maybe taking a step back is important -- do we want icons that are useful as a mnemonic device, or a special "icon language" that can be used to write the rules without words? I know the topic of this thread was the latter, but if Scott is making his services available, my personal preference would be for something more like the former. I would prefer to have just one icon represent the action "Draw a card", not 3 icons ("draw", "one", "card"). I really think that cluttering up the cards with "icon sentences" won't, in the end, be as useful as simple but slightly-less-than-fully-exhaustive icons that require the rules to be properly understood. (in other words, players should know where they're allowed to draw from -- you don't need icons to tell them that unless there are more than one option in the game)

-Jeff

Anonymous
Pictorial Reference

If you're going to have a icon to represent everything, I think that would take away from the whole point of having an icon language in the first place... you'd be asking players to memorize a whole library of icons depending on the game they are playing...

The idea was that if in my game I'm using tiles and in your game you're using cards.... the Draw symbol would still be universal. You wouldn't need a Draw Tile or Draw Card icon specifically.

Maybe we need "layerd" icons to save space.

The basic symbol can be a rectangle or box or whatever to represent cards...dice...tiles..... whatever.

So you'd have a hand to represent Draw... which you'd place the box over to represent "Draw 1 tile" or "draw 1 card"... whatever. Then you could put a number on the box for "Draw 4 cards" ....

Tyler

SVan
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Pictorial Reference

I think that symbols are a great thing for the game. Magic the Gathering is a good example of a game that uses symbols. It doesn't use too many of them, but they are all unique enough that the symbols help make learning and playing the game a much easier experience.

I disagree with Tyler on the point that there should be a symbol only for drawing and not for specifically drawing a tile or card. Though games with both are rare, I think that there should be a symbol for each in the case someone does want to include both into their game design.

I do however agree on the use of too many symbols. Going back to CCG's, there were numberous ones that weren't recieved as well as they could because of too many symbols (Vampire:TES or Jyhad happens to be one of those.)

-Steve
I always made my own symbols for games that I made, but it would be good to have generic symbols to use as well.

jwarrend
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Pictorial Reference

Hey guys,

Just thought of more icons to add to the piles! I think it would be nice to have icons that convey when a card can be played. Like:

Play this card immediately

Play this card when you're attacked

Play this card any time

Play this card during your turn/another player's turn

We may not need icons for all of these, but maybe a couple of the most common ones like "play immediately", "play anytime", or "play during your turn".

And, I'm sure I'll come up with more if I think about it long enough...

-Jeff

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