Evolution of Utara Symbols


I'm looking hiring the services of a custom dice manufacturer to make a single prototype set of Utara dice. Above, you see the prototype I worked with during the playtesting process and which I used to demo at Dreamation 2011. Simple blank dice with stickers and hand-drawn letters.


With an eye towards non-English speaking audiences, I thought it would be good to make Utara's faces non-linguistic. I based these on compass arrows. However, I realized that any time you introduce an arrow into an interface, the human will want to follow it in that direction. In the end, I figured out that there was such a thing as being too abstract.


So I went back to the NESW system from the prototype, but I wasn't content with simply putting letters on each face all on their own. I needed to add a thematic element to the presentation, something harkening to navigation by the stars. I needed constellations. Thankfully, boardgamegeek member BT Carpenter offered this diagram for turning a regular pip die into a Utara die. That's the perfect structure for making constellations that form the cardinal letters. Plus! The stars can be read as pips!


And here's a quick mockup of what the dice would look like in a perfect world. I have no idea if I can find a supplier for dice with this kind of marbling, but let's hope. At the very least, it'll be handy to show to a potential vendor or publisher.

9 comments:

  1. Those dice look very nice!


    Now I'm wondering about those compass arrows. How does the game change if, rather than in the clever north-aligned rectangular grid, dice are played in whatever direction their arrows fall?

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  2. That's something I considered in as a long-term game project. In my experiments, it would call for a long ruler or rubber band to ensure accurate trajectories. It reminds me of a dice-based version of Cheapass Games' Light Speed.

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  3. Those are superslick! I don't think I've seen dice with that particular type of marbling before. Most are either the swirled or the speckled kind, the latter of which might be about right. When can I preorder?

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  4. I'm writing a more thorough post about this, but basically my plan is to print one set of dice for use in demos and in a pitch video. I'll use that prototype to pitch to potential publishers for the license. So, right now, no preorders are planned.

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  5. Thanks so much, Marc! Hope I can get a good prototype.

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  6. I love the look of the dice, the stars-as-pips. They'd be functional even outside your game, looking forward to them.

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  7. Yup, that's the idea. Get some added value beyond the game itself. Perhaps expansions will incorporate point values based on pips, but for now it's just a nice bonus.

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  8. I love the look of the dice, the stars-as-pips. They'd be functional even outside your game, looking forward to them.

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Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.