Visual Coding in Belle of the Ball



In Belle of the Ball, there are six different families, each noted by a unique symbol+color. The illustrations are also color-coded, using only the palette associated with their family. Each family also has a unique upper border, pattern and ornate family crest behind the illustrated portrait. And if that wasn't enough, I made each guests name alliterative, based on the first letter of their family's surname. All those things make the families distinguishable from each other even without being able to distinguish the colors.

Each guest has up to two actions they may be doing at the party: Either flirting, snubbing or neither, and either eating, drinking, dancing, or neither. For example, a guest may be flirting+eating, snubbing+drinking, just dancing, just flirting or none of the above. Imagine these category 1 as A, B, C and category 2 as a, b, c, d.

The symbols for either action will always go directly beneath the suit, but they are not color coded. They are dark, bold silhouettes representative of that particular action. The symbols from category 1 always go in the upper half of the text block. The symbols from category 2 always go in the lower half. So, at a glance, you can see whether a guest is doing two, one or none of the actions available.

And lastly, you may have noticed a small number above the suit. Each member of the family is numbered 1-16 to help you check that you're not missing any cards. Males are odd-numbered. Females are even-numbered. The numbers themselves aren't used in play, but if they were, I'd be sure to make them the same size as the symbols.

So that's what I've learned so far about the visual codes in my game design. Hope you found this information useful, too!

9 comments:

  1. Daniel - you stated that females are odd-numbered but your graphic above has Drant as a 5. Is he/she a woman in disguise? :)

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  2. Hey Daniel,

    Thanks for the sharing these designs. It's great to see what you're up to and how you approach design problems. Very instructive!

    One thing: I am not sure how genuinely useful the numbers are. If I think I am missing cards (which is the reason you mention), surely all I'd do is collect up the cards into coloured 'suits' and count each suit. I can't see how the numbers would help that process, other than identify *which* specific card I'm missing. I would say that if the number is genuinely irrelevant to play, then it becomes noise on the card; but if you want to keep the numbers, I would definitely suggest moving them away from the top-left (where they are not needed during play) — perhaps bottom right? The obvious analogy would be cards in CCGs where each unique card is numbered for reference, but this number is always hidden away in a corner to avoid it competing with the in-game information.

    Looking at the b&w images above I can still see on each the 'noise' of the little numbers right above the main corner icons, which seems to detract from the cards' elegance and simplicity.

    It may be that you perhaps have a possible future use of the numbers in mind (a variant game or expansion), but if so, and the numbers could become useful or relevant in-game, then of course they would need to be bigger.

    What do you think?

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  3. "Either flirting, snubbing or neither, and either eating, dancing, or neither." Isn't the second set eating/drinking/dancing?

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  4. » dnaworks: D'oh! I got the guys and gals mixed up. Thanks for the correction. Just edited the post.

    » Brett: Very good points on the numbers. There *is* a Belle who rewards you bonus points for keeping all-men or all-women in your hand at the end of the game. To make that easier to observe (in case of any ambiguous portrait art), I decided to make each odd-numbered card male and each even-numbered card female. In that specific situation, the numbers are indeed relevant. Otherwise, none of the other Belles really deal with the numbers in play. I guess I was being indecisive about the numbers. They're not small enough to ignore, but not big enough to be relevant game data. I may actually take this opportunity to create some more Belles who do use the numbers as a part of play and make those numbers larger in the next draft.

    » Fred: Thanks for catching that! Quite right, it's now corrected.

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  5. Hey Daniel,

    OK, so since this post and others are all about coding, and the male/female nature of the cards *is* relevant (to at least one 'Belle'!) what is the rationale behind using sequential numbers to code for this binary split between male and female?

    By definition sequential numbers *appear* to code for sequential or possibly hierarchical card structures, and are therefore (at the moment, at least) not relevant to the game. Just as you have used symbols and colours to code for other elements, would a symbolic language (specifically, two contrasting symbols, in two contrasting colours) also not be a better, clearer and more immediate code for male/female than the mathematical abstraction of odd/even (and different) numbers?

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  6. Partly it was for my own convenience as I developed the deck, so I could keep track of how many men and women were in each family. (I wanted 50/50 split.) In the future, it would be interesting to have a ranking data set for another Belle to use as a part of play. I figured it would be easy enough to combine those two data sets into a single code. I think I just need to make those numbers bigger or smaller in the next draft. Right now they're too in-between.

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  7. Partly it was for my own convenience as I developed the deck, so I could keep track of how many men and women were in each family. (I wanted 50/50 split.) In the future, it would be interesting to have a ranking data set for another Belle to use as a part of play. I figured it would be easy enough to combine those two data sets into a single code. I think I just need to make those numbers bigger or smaller in the next draft. Right now they're too in-between.

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  8. "Either flirting, snubbing or neither, and either eating, dancing, or neither." Isn't the second set eating/drinking/dancing?

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  9. Daniel - you stated that females are odd-numbered but your graphic above has Drant as a 5. Is he/she a woman in disguise? :)

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