29May/13Off

Victoriana Third Edition – The Cover

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The cover to Victoriana 3rd Edition

The cover to Victoriana 3rd Edition

In our continuing series of previews of Victoriana 3rd Edtion C7 art director Jon Hodgson talks about the production of the cover art for the game:

"With a new edition comes a new cover.  Victoriana is a favourite game at C7, it’s been a solid line for a long time.  This brings a certain amount of pressure when time comes to make a new cover.

There are a couple of directions one can take with a cover for a roleplaying game, which I would broadly categorise as tasters and teasers.  The taster is a very common approach - show a scene from within the game world as a kind of instant sampler.  Teasers a little less literal, and show an image that makes you want to learn more. They carry the spirit of the game rather than the details.

For Victoriana I wanted to make a teaser for a bunch of reasons.  But that wasn’t where I came in.  So let’s rewind to the start.

Victoriana line developer Walt Ciechanowski, Dom McDowall and myself had a couple of conversations about where the game was going. At this point I’m really keen to get the elevator pitch for a game, or new edition of a game. In many ways the cover is the visual equivalent of an elevator pitch. It’s our 2 second chance to grab the attention of you the customer in a crowded market, be that on the shelves of a game store or in thumbnail format on a webstore.  My mission is to make an image that will first of all get your attention, allow you to quickly identify what it is in broad terms, and then get you to pick the book up or click on a thumbnail.

So our starting point was the covers for the previous editions of Victoriana.  Where did they succeed in those things, where could they have done better?

Initally I really loved the idea of an action packed image, showing off the high adventure that we’re bringing to the third edition.  And so I made this thumbnail image - we have a party of adventurers all flying using various means (which allows us to show off steampunk marvels as well as magic, which is a good fit), we have Big Ben which is a clear winner, and we have a giant clockwork ape.  What’s not to love?

Initial Sketch

Initial Sketch

But as I thought more about this it felt more and more like this was an image for a supplement. This is the climax of a scenario.  A really exciting scenario, a really good Victoriana scenario... but not one that’s in the book.  Equally this just didn’t feel right to me as the corebook cover.  It was too specific a situation to carry the whole game.

So I spoke again to Walt, and he agreed.  We thought again.  I can’t recall exactly how it came about, but showing two representative figures of Victoriana characters in a portentious situation seemed a better fit.  More of a teaser approach that hopefully makes the viewer want to know more, rather than showing it all and hoping the viewer likes it.  As an image it has more room for questions and for the viewer's imagination to play a part. Where are they? What are they doing? Hopefully in a positive way!

Second sketch

Second sketch

This idea came about around the same time as the concept of having a heavy frame.  We’d done something like this for the PDF only release The Outsiders, and I really liked that one.  So I sketched again.

Second sketch with mocked up frame.

Second sketch with mocked up frame.

Sometimes it’s hard to express precisely why something clicks, but this one felt right.  It had the right amount of pulpy feel, I felt we could make something of these characters that shows costume, a bit of steampunk, some magic use, and the like.  An active female lead is always positive, and I wanted her to be beautiful without being crassly “sexy” in an adolescent way.  I wanted that character to be someone gamers might like to play as an active protagonist, rather than just as eye candy for a perceived male audience.

The little glimpses of environment could carry a lot too - giant cogs, dripping water, huge iron pipes, gothic architecture.  There’s a lot in the book about setting, so that seemed important to reflect.

With the strong framing we had something hopefully eye catching.

The pale colour wasn’t right though. I know from working in games retail that pale books can be a pain - they dirty up real fast, and that’s true at the gaming table as much as on the store shelf.  Also I had been thinking about that heavy Victorian gothic feel we see in BBC adaptations of Dickens and the like.  So a much darker frame came into being.  This also has the benefit of making whatever we put into the frame very jewel-like. It’s hard to see online, but there’s a map of London overlaid in there with lots of William Morris style patterns.  That will be discernible on a closer look at the real object, perhaps when you pick it up in a gamestore.

A closer look at the dark areas of the frame.

A closer look at the dark areas of the frame.

At this point it was time to paint.  You can see the progress from sketch to final painting in this gif:

The cover painting in progress

The cover painting in progress - click to view.

I decided I wanted greeny-blues for the cover to really emphasise that jewel-like quality:  I knew Paul Bourne’s logo was strong stuff, so the painting has to hold it’s ground against it.

Some way into the process it became obvious that having the female character’s magical energy coming out of the frame would be really cool.  This will also provide a common element in future covers, where fire, smoke, gunshots and the like can break the frame.

So here’s the final painting sans-trade dress.

The final cover without the frame

The final cover without the frame

The cover to Victoriana 3rd Edition

The cover to Victoriana 3rd Edition

I hope you like it!"

Victoriana Third Edition is now in layout proofing.

Links

Interview with Victoriana 3 Line Developer Walt Cienchanowski:
Part Six: Trials and Tribulations

Part Five: Sorcery and Steam

Part Four: Cogs and WheelsPart

Three: One's Full Measure

Part Two: Encyclopaedia Victoriana

Part One: Introductions

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