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Images for play testing

8 replies [Last post]
Joined: 02/11/2015

So I have a card game that I'm play testing with my friends. Just for a sense of what the cards would look like, I have a bunch of unlicensed images that I'm using to give it a better feel. Obviously I would not try to sell it with these images. However, I would like to know what to avoid for play testing.

I don't want to violate any laws. Can I post it as a print and play for free (for play testing), or do I have to remove the images first?

Also, how is the best way to post here for all of you to try it?


questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Quality and consistency

Hello Adam,

The first problem I see with any "Game" that uses "unlicensed" artwork is "at best" a complete hodgepodge collection of "artwork" that usually doesn't look to be uniform. Correct me if I am wrong.

The thing with "playtesting" is that there is "attribution". What that means is that you are saying: "This is MY game." And with "unlicensed" artwork I personally think the quality and consistency of that artwork is questionable.

But sticking to the question, I would remove the "placeholder" artwork and either use a uniform background or something very generic for all of the cards. If your game has factions maybe you can use a generic background and colorize it with the faction color (colored layer).

I doubt if you are going to try local "playtesting" resources that you have a problem with the "unlicensed" artwork. But if you make a Print-aNd-Play (PNP) for people to download - you risk offending the owner of the "unlicensed" artwork. But know that PNP games get very little attention, even on BGDF.

It might be more worthwhile to find LOCAL "meetups" or University Gaming Groups, etc. That are local to where you reside. By doing this you'll get the valuable feedback - without "wasting" your time to develop a PNP which nobody is interested in playing...

So my advice about the artwork is to "remove" it if you plan to playtest with strangers. Besides it allows everyone to focus on the GAME not the artwork. Which isn't final - so what is the point?!

All MY prototypes are Black & White, laser printed and contain no art.

When people play my prototypes - they are focusing on how the gameplay feels. But that's just my opinion... Other designers may feel differently.


questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
I personally don't understand it...

Personally I don't understand WHY people use "Placeholder" artwork. Usually the quality of those images is "questionable" especially when you COMPARE two different cards using artwork from two different sources. Does it look similar? Is it at all "presentable"??

If you are submitting the game to be reviewed by a "publisher" or a "reviewer" well it makes sense to REMOVE the "placeholder" artwork...

But what I don't GET - is FUNDAMENTALLY what drives people to use "placeholder" artwork... I think I do this to maybe one or two SAMPLE cards ... to see what they look like. I don't waste time searching for images for all my cards.

Actually what I'd rather do is contact one of my illustrators/Artists and say something like: "I need a sample for a Wizard Card, yada-yada-yada..." And then pay for the SAMPLE artwork to get an idea HOW the game "might" look.

Using "other" placeholder artwork is useless. UNLESS you like the art so much that you can CONTACT that artist directly. Maybe if he is on DevianArt or happens to put his name somewhere (on the source website, for example)...

To me "placeholder" artwork is usually pointless. It's not going to get people to play your game because it may be disjoint, average artwork that is produced by unknown authors - with the exception that it is all Copyrighted...

What seems reasonable is FINDING an artist and doing a couple SAMPLES and paying for those. That to me make 100% sense... You're trying to establish a relationship with someone who can illustrate your game...

But downloading or trying to find artwork using Google - to me seems like a waste of time (IMHO)...

Joined: 02/11/2015
Thanks QuestCCG

Thanks for the feedback. To clarify, my wife set up the card layout and designed the icons (she's a web designer and has some graphic design skills). So it does have a uniform look and feel (though not game industry professional looking). All I did was look for movie scenes to post in the picture area (as the game makes fun of movie tropes). It didn't take me long to find the images and put together, but it got some good comments/compliments from our game group as a prototype. I don't do artwork for all my games.

It's been a while, but I've seen others on here offer up their game for people to play and poke holes in (my reason for offering up the PNP). I'm also working with the game theory professor at IUPUI to get blind play testing for this and another game. None of my games are quite to the point of needing to an artist (I would probably look to a publisher to steer me in the art department anyway, or if I can find and artist, self publish on gamecrafter or the like).

Joined: 02/16/2010
I'm not a lawyer, but...

It would be bad if you posted artwork with a game. This would be a violation of copyright, the same thing that protects written material. The real concern is an artist seeing their artwork, on display, in an unlicensed fashion. If they take issue with it you could certainly get some unwelcome attention.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
I have borrowed foto's

(Mediocre advice)

Any form of publishing borrowed art is not allowed.

The only exception that I know of is that I play my game with friends. Only I own a copy of my game.

It is truly for personal use.

However. If I want to get a prototype done for sending to a publisher. I need to get a real artist. If the publisher wants better art. You better go with their choice.

Asking for a fast doodle is also an option...I think.

Joined: 02/11/2015
Thanks Lofwyr

That's what I wanted to make sure of. I'll remove any outside stuff before posting for PNP.

Joined: 02/11/2015
That's what I did too

I borrowed photos as well. I have just the one copy for personal use, but need to get it ready to share with the IUPUI people for play testing. So I'll reprint the cards without the images.

pelle's picture
Joined: 08/11/2008
I agree with others here,

I agree with others here, remove before sending to anyone outside your local group, or even sharing pnp files within the group.

There are great sites with free (for commercial use even) photos.

For non-photo art there are artists that post nice free collections so you can at least get a uniform look on your playtest kits. I like (payed for some of his stuff even if he also puts most of it up for free).

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