Showing posts from December, 2023

2023 Book Review

Here are all the books I've read and reviewed over the past year. As is typical of my lifestyle, I take in more audiobooks than physical books. I'm not a purist about that sort of thing. The one hitch is that I've already burned through a LOT of the audiobooks from the library that had my interest. It's forced me to branch out to other genres, so you'll see some more non-fiction and a couple of mysteries here. Plus one or two books I'm categorizing as Fantasy, though there are no swords and sorcery in the mix. There is one very specific element that kept popping up in the sci-fi I read this year: A distant-future community of humans has their Earthly origins kept secret by a manufactured religious authority. The Interdependency Trilogy features a theocratic government put in place to manage an interplanetary alliance of traders and producers. The Safehold series backstory, human survivors of an alien purge get their minds erased and rewritten to avoid any new in

Five Themes for Set Collection in Board Game Design

I often rely on set collection for my early prototypes. It's such a simple, satisfying framework to motivate players and give clear goals. The problem is how often set collection becomes a rote, emotionless task list to complete. The theme of the set collection is what set makes it more appealing to new players. An evocative theme suggests secondary mechanisms that help fill out the rest of the game. Here are a few themes I've used or seen over the years. Recipes and Shopping Lists Welcome to Stabbed! Impress the chefs, follow the recipes, and you won't be stabbed! This is by far the most common usage of set collection. Players are tasked with collecting certain amounts or combinations of resources. Then they're rewarded with a certain number of points. That straightforward transactional structure is certainly useful when the rest of the game is rather complex, but it doesn't necessarily suggest fun secondary mechanisms. I got around this in Junk Orbit by making th

Artist Advice: Early in my career, should I focus on building my portfolio or taking on small jobs?

  This is extremely important: What you draw today is what you'll be hired for tomorrow. If you draw spaceships, you'll show up on searches for spaceships. If you draw dragons, you'll be sorted with the dragons. If you don't want to draw spaceships or dragons, don't post them in your portfolio. As an art director, I have to search through hundreds of portfolios for each project, looking for the right potential candidates. If I don't see what I need in your portfolio, you don't even appear in that initial search, let alone get further consideration.  If you're in a financial position to just work on your portfolio so you can build up your skills, that's totally valid. Just make sure you're posting consistently and that your best work is visible first. You can also delete older work that doesn't show your current skill level. (I see a lot of portfolios with years-old freshman-level work that never got cleared out.) To get paid will building you

Artist Advice: How do I pick freelance jobs early in my career? Should I argue for higher pay or take what I can get?

First of all, never work (for someone else) for free! I'll break those four ideas down below, but just remember that only you can determine what your time is worth. You can always go lower, but it's hard to go higher. I recommend starting high. Never accept the feeling of being underpaid for your time and skill. You'll be surprised how quickly you can fall out of love with art. That said, both of these questions require an honest assessment of your skills, availability, the client's personality, and your enthusiasm in a particular project. Skills : Browse "open for commissions" tags on social media and look for artists with a similar style and skill level as yourself.  Try  to do this with a healthy perspective. This isn't an attempt to make yourself feel bad or good. Think of it as co-workers organizing for better pay. You're just assessing a fair pay rate. Even if all other skills are equal, you might still opt to charge more for the same project tha