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Destination: Neptune - Illustrations vs Photos?

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edgd00
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Hi all, I hope I'm posting this in the right section. I'm part of a development team working on a euro-style space exploration game. We will be publishing this in early 2014. Before I ask my question, here is some info on the game:

Destination: Neptune

"Destination: Neptune is an optimistic envisioning of commercial space exploration in the next century. Players control an organization with the resources and intent to explore, develop, and colonize the worlds beyond Earth. Organizations that practice careful planning and resource management, with a healthy dose of technology research will succeed.

As Destination: Neptune moves through four generations of space exploration, players earn Victory Points through building of large commercial outposts and colonies, as well as from fame and outright purchase. After four generations, the player with the most Victory Points wins the game."

Even though its fiction, we are basing it off of real world concepts and realistic science. (sorry, no aliens). So we want to represent the game in a realistic way as well as make it educational. We're working on getting it in museum shops.

My question is: Would you as a game hobbyist, prefer high resolution NASA photos on the board/cards or would you prefer illustrations? Bear in mind that going with illustrations would mean that the price of the game would jump from say $40 up to $50.

Thanks for any input!

Stormyknight1976
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Go with real photos.

Since the game is based on real world implications of space exploration. The more realistic the better. Plus its another great way to teach young to old about space and science.

edgd00
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Interesting

Interesting, I was actually advocating to the team on going with illustrations in order to compete with other euro games on the store shelves it will be next to. The target audience is euro gamers and I worry that consumers would think we took the lazy/cheap route with photos.

But then I guess those same gamers are more concerned with the gameplay than the art.

Corsaire
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Both

I think starting with NASA images is a great idea, but for me just a regular picture in a game looks somewhat cheap. Two things I'd consider:
1. Look at NASA concept art
2. Use art software to convert photos towards looking more like illustrations, at the least you can derive lines from the art and adjust contrasts and color levels. There are even procedural effects that can make a picture look like a painting.

edgd00
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Thank you, very good points

Thank you, very good points to consider.

silasmolino
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Art

Art. It will look like you put some money into your game.

Traz
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definitely art

There are tons of planetary/other-world landscape art pieces floating around on the net. If you could contact the artists, they might let you use their pieces for art in your game in exchange for listing them and their website in your rule book - many of these pieces have been floating around for a long time without being sold. Appearing in a product as a form of advertising might even get them a tax break [?]. All they can say is no.

radioactivemouse
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Start small, work your way up.

I say start with illustrations. If this is the first game you're designing, then DEFINITELY start with illustrations.

I only say that because the most important thing here is gameplay. This is what will bring people to keep playing your game. If the game is not fun, then who cares if the pictures are real?

It's like this. 38 Studios is a video game company that just folded. It was started by Curt Schilling, a former MLB star that wanted to get in the game industry. He spent the money to get one of the best comic book artists around: Todd McFarlane and got a top rated storyteller to join his team (in addition to many other things). And, while his game looked good, he had to shut down his studios shortly after launch (they were creating a sequel) because his game didn't sell very well (also because the studio ran out of money).

Now, I'm not saying this is your situation, but I think if you spent more time creating a game engine that will make people want to play the game and less resources on how "real" the look is going to be, then it will be a stronger game.

It's the question that floats around the net amongst game players: Do graphics make the game?

I say no. Gameplay is far more important. What good is the frosting on the cake if the cake itself is awful?

Stormyknight1976
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To my first post,

I think he was asking as a general question for an end product look and not for a prototype end look for artwise. I was basing my vote for end product of realistic N.A.S.A Neptune photos. I should of stated this in my first post. Illustration artwork in the prototype will be fine.

radioactivemouse
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I still go back to

I still go back to illustrations. If you're sponsored by NASA and can get the images for free, do it. But if you're doing it for the sake of "being realistic", then passing the fee you paid for the photos onto the customer is kind of lame...especially when you haven't proven yourselves as designers.

Theoretically, if you spent the money to get the photos and your game doesn't do very well, then getting the photos was just a waste of time and money.

If it DOES do well, you can still put out the real photos in a second printing...after you've proven yourselves to be profitable. Then you can justifiably bump up the price because the gameplay was good and people like the game.

TONS of games have done this. Cosmic Encounter, Kill Doctor Lucky, Betrayal on House on the Hill, are games that have improved in quality and gameplay with each major version change.

If you want to teach something using the game, let the gameplay teach it.

edgd00
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Awesome Input!

Thanks for the great input guys! Let me clarify a few points that have come up.

Photos: If we go this route, we have tons of high-res NASA images we can use for free. That's the easy way and it'll keep costs down. For art, we would not scour the net for free pics. Instead we'll commission original work for it. However, this will bump the price of the game significantly. That's just how things roll in the business.

Illustrations: Again, I personally have been advocating illustrations but there definitely seems to be two schools of thought about it. I do like the idea of going with photos for a first edition and then perhaps going with illustrations for possible future print runs. At this point, I'm starting to lean towards that route. We have a good graphic artist at our disposal (http://angryfungus.blogspot.com/) and he is ready to do some original work or work with photos to come up with a compelling look.

Gameplay: Though this is the first major game by this company, most of us are experienced in independent game design and self-publishing. The gameplay is our most important consideration and it is what we're working on most. This will be a fully tested and balanced product by the time we are finished. My question is to gauge overall player/buyer preferences when considering a game they see on the shelf or being played at a con somewhere.

I'm very happy and grateful for all the responses and input. I find this to be a fascinating topic to cover and not just for this particular game.

Shoe
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I'd go with the photos, if

I'd go with the photos, if they really truly are free, they would provide a cool immersive feel and save boatloads of cash.

Last Night on Earth and other games by Zombie Frog use photos to great effect. I say use photos!

radioactivemouse
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Shoe wrote:I'd go with the

Shoe wrote:
I'd go with the photos, if they really truly are free, they would provide a cool immersive feel and save boatloads of cash.

Last Night on Earth and other games by Zombie Frog use photos to great effect. I say use photos!

You are talking two...completely different types of photos.

Zombie Frog either 1) Takes their own pics, then photoshops them to get that "look" or 2) Gets stock photos and then photoshops them to get that "look"

(personally, I think it's the former, but could very well be the latter)

Either way, those photos are easy to obtain.

With NASA, you may need to PAY THEM to use their photos, since they took and own those photos.

Regardless of what the OP ends up doing, I highly recommend going the cheaper route to keep costs down and give more incentive for people to buy the game. If you can get the photos for free, use it. If it's cheaper to use illustrations, do it. At that point it's all aesthetics.

Shoe
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the OP flat out said that

the OP flat out said that NASA photos were free, paying ( I assume they have done thier research) is not the issue there

radioactivemouse
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Oh my. Looking back I had

Oh my. Looking back I had completely misread that initially. Silly me. I'm sorry about the mixup.

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