I am so pleased to finally be able to post the final product of this project. It took almost a year to finalize, and it was so much fun to work on, so am thrilled to finally share it.
This is a co-op game with the end goal of launching the most products. Designed as a game to play at recruiting events, it is targeted at programmers and people familiar with programming lingo and/or Google, but no reason why anyone who just loves games couldn’t play it, too.
The game design and mechanics were already mostly defined by the time the Google team who worked on it decided they were ready to reach out to a designer to create the game’s art. I came in to do a test round with their scratch deck and I was immediately inspired. They had a really good concept for game play, fun and clever ways to incorporate the Google brand and programming job functions into the theme of the game, and also had already compiled most of the details about verbiage, card distribution, game balance, etc. So it was my job to take the pieces and ideas and put them into a cohesive looking deck with fun, bold, Google-esque graphics.
I have played enough card games to understand some of the more practical elements required in making a good deck of cards, such as combining colors with symbols to make identifying types of cards easier (especially for color blind folks), putting at-a-glance info on the sides and corners of cards since they’re typically held fanned out in your hand, and also making sure layouts are consistent, fonts are legible, and type isn’t too small. These basic requirements, along with keeping text and pertinent design elements within the proper margins, were my guides in getting the designs started. I also had the benefit of having a well-defined brand to work with, which uses eye-catching, bold, primary colors (they also have their own font!).
It’s a thrill to see how this project evolved. I commend my contact at Google immensely for being such a great communicator. She was very organized and thoughtful with feedback (both her own and what she compiled and filtered down to me from the rest of the team), and I feel the feedback and changes they suggested really furthered the design immensely. Looking back on some of my round 1 and 2 ideas makes the excellence of their input and insight so clear as you compare it to our final product. I absolutely love when a project comes together in such a way.
So I started with a relatively blank canvas. The scratch deck they had created had a rough card layout with a solid bar of color on the left side with text on the blank space adjacent. It wasn’t a bad starting point, since the majority of the cards would be hand-held, and having that left bar for at-a-glance icons turned out to the basis for the final design of most of the cards in the deck.
So, a brief synopsis, there are Tech Cards, Event Cards, Launch Cards, as well as penalty/bonus cards, in addition to 4 “Tech Stack Base” cards.
Tech cards are split into Tech Stack cards (labeled with F, A, S, or T and numbered 1-7) that will get piled on top of one of the 4 coordinating stacks on the game area. Each color is assigned a color and shape (blue/square, red/circle, yellow/4-pointed star or green/triangle).
Additionally, there are “One-Shot” Tech cards that do not get stacked on the base piles, but are instead used one time and then discarded and are black with no attached symbol.
Other cards in the deck are not held in-hand such as the Tech Stack Base cards, Penalty/Bonus Cards, Launches, and Events.
Penalty Cards will either get placed on top of a Stack, or in front of a Player.
Launch Cards are the basis of how you earn points in the game, by earning Users.
All the Launch cards were cleverly designed as one of Google’s April Fool jokes (aka, products that were not real and were also far-fetched and hilarious). Examples such as Scratch and Sniff Google Searches, Locate a nearby kitten, Google Translate for Animals, etc.
These guys really went through some transformations.
I really enjoy how the eventually turned out, and find the process in getting to that point so valuable and interesting.
This is a culmination of roughly 70 hours of work for me over the course of 10 months including a folded page with instructions (not including the Visually Impaired version we augmented the layout for). I loved every minute and it inspired me to want to design and create the art for my own games (it’s really hard, btw). I really loved brainstorming with a team of super smart people to realize what I believe is a really thoughtfully designed game. I will jump on any chance to do it again.
For you Board Game Geeks, here’s a link to the game on BGG.
Over the summer, I completed a series of watercolors, the second time I’ve done so for the Sereno Group annual calendar. The images are of points of interest in the South San Francisco Bay, Peninsula, and Santa Cruz Coastal areas, and they will be featured in the 2015 calendar.
It was fun, as painting always is. I enjoyed working on the sunset image over the Baylands park, as making smooth gradients in gauche can be tricky but rewarding. I also really enjoyed painting the ship that sits at the dock in Capitola State Beach, as the colors of the rusty ship were really vibrant and contrasted beautifully against the bright teal water. I also haven’t played much with painting waves, and was happy with how they turned out.
I’d be happy to pass along any extra copies of the calendar that I get if you’d like a copy. Send me an email or leave a note in the comments if you would.
Originals are also for sale. Final sizes are roughly 8-1/2×11 inches.
I was very pleased to work on this little side project that a Google employee requested design assistance on. He had in the past create a few Google fan/Google employee exclusive projects like t-shirts, and had the great idea to put Google into a card game that he and his fellow Google/Game enthusiasts could play during their lunch break.
We used the base of a game called Palastgefluster, a German card game that is apparently not as obscure as it sounds (even though I don’t think even my nerdiest of board game geeks I know have ever heard of it). But, my client knew it well and thought the structure would work really well to make a Google parody of it.
I’ll walk you through it and how we adapted it for Google, which by the way I should mention, this game is not sponsored by, condoned by, or paid for by Google, but they did give us our blessing on the proof which ensures that all the logos and colors were up to their specifications.
Anyway, the cards we were working off of were in a medieval/knight/castle style with lots of textures and shading. I figured that wasn’t quite right for Google, so cleaned up the background, and stuck to the bright solid colors that Google uses in its logo. We had to add an additional color to the palette, so chose an equally bright and vibrant purple, and have a neutral gray as well.
Our plan with the Google version was to pair Apps with actions (seen above, the actions are a little cryptic in their native German – but each character you see actually represents a specific action you can take on your turn). In order to know which action each card represents, you can either piece together the illustration at the top of the card, or follow a cheat sheet that you keep beside you at all times. It’s easier when the actions are described as verbs instead of character names (also being in English is helpful, for those of us who are a little rusty on our German).
The game designer/redesigner, Richard, paired up the actions with corresponding Google Apps that seemed appropriate for what action they represented. Maps = Show, YouTube = Discard/Draw, Android = Return to Hand, Gmail = Trade, Chrome = Swap, Search = well, Search, obviously, and Labs = No action. I thought it was quite clever.
So each player is associated with a color (above is the green set of the cards). There are 5 players with 7 sets of action cards, yellow, red, green, blue, purple, and 2 sets of neutral grey. Each player gets a set of score keeping cards and the above mentioned reference cards that explain exactly what each action means. You place your reference card on top of the score card and slide it down as you earn points.
The action cards are meant to be held uni-directionally, unlike playing cards where you can flip them any which way. But, each corner is marked with a few helpful codes to make it easier to play when fanned out in your hand. 1st, we have a shape associated with each color for anyone with color blindness issues (these shapes are also present on the score cards, top left). 2nd, we have a symbol associated with that action, which is repeated on the reference cards for an easy key as well.
Ok, then we also have SRE cards (stands for Site Reliability Engineering which apparently is responsible for keeping the Apps afloat on google.com. In game terms, these are the cards that when put into play disable certain functions, making the corresponding action card in your hand unplayable. The backs of those cards is a patch that Google Engineers get when they’ve gone through the SRE program – a little insider info.
You can see on the SRE cards that we named them based on where there are major Google hubs around the globe, so I popped in little google map images (hard to believe these images are already outdated since Google updated their maps graphics since we finalized this project!). The Mission control map is centered over Houston, which was my own funny idea about where “Mission Control” is (not really Google related, but who could disagree).
The only cards left are the rules, which honestly sound a little daunting, but once you play a round or two, it becomes very clear how to play. The game is relatively quick; a great lunch-time option. Minimum of 3 players is needed to play, and typically you play best of 3 rounds to determine a winner. I won’t go into the rules of how to play exactly, but you’re welcome to come and play with me some time if you’re that curious.
Anyway, I had a lot of fun working on this and am really happy with how it turned out. Looking forward to playing my first round!
I enjoy living in Silicon Valley for many reasons. Variety of places to eat is pretty high on the list, weather a close second, but both are quickly followed by the social climate of the area. You don’t have to look far to find an entrepreneur or tech geek. Even the business people are interested in the new companies that pop up (even if only for their IPO values). I love being in the know about what people are working on, and what is coming next. I love what technology can do, and while I keep a fair amount of skepticism in my pocket about how far is too far (sci-fi offers a lovely insight into some opinions on this matter) , I really revel in the potential that some tech offers to make this world “a better place.”
There are specifically 3 companies I’d like to call out for their efforts to make things “better,” which in my opinion, includes making things more accessible, which I feel these 3 have in common.
Inking creates rich, interactive textbooks for the iPad. Going above and beyond just digitizing standard printed books, these buckets of knowledge are filled with links, references, animations, videos, interactive diagrams, and so much more engaging material than any poor defenseless hardbound paper version could ever hope to offer. It’s so exciting that it makes me want to go back to school just to play around with their software (not that I can’t play around with it on my own, but there’s nothing quite so informative as having to use something in the context it is designed for). The benefits seem so outstanding to make so much material accessible, all in a neat 1.33 lb package (goodbye backpacks). Of course, one could argue that this kind of technology caters to and exacerbates information overload and encourages easily distracted minds (I heard a really cool interview about this topic on NPR last night that kind of dug into that topic). I am optimistic, though, that our brains can adapt to these new inputs and will be better off for having access and the opportunities to gather all the new info.
Square is a company that allows any one with a smart phone to accept credit cards. In this ever increasingly cashless community, it is a welcome opportunity for individuals and small businesses to accept payments. It is a free app, with a free accessory, that charges 2.75% on all transactions, but no additional per transaction fee. For a small business, this makes it incredibly accessible to take credit cards where otherwise the fees of renting credit card terminals and paying monthly maintenance fees were deterring, if not completely cost-ineffective. On top of that, they have rolled out a new service called Card Case that is designed to be a virtual tab. At certain locations, once your account has been set up, all you need do is order your items and tell the cashier your name and you will be charged and sent an electronic receipt. While security is probably the first thing to jump to any critic’s tongue (and minding
that I’ve never been the victim of identity theft, I can not empathize with that frustration), I know that the company went to great lengths to dot i’s and cross t’s to set this system up securely. Like so many new technologies, they will certainly have hiccups, but will only get better the more people use them and work through issues. I for one am excited for this new cashless future they are enterprising. Also, having a small business that uses this service makes me all the more biased towards how useful it is.
Airbnb is a service that allows you to rent out your own home/room/space to travelers, and also allows you to stay in affordable or impossibly awesome locations all over the world. Putting hotels and hostels to shame, Airbnb is opening a whole new world of options to travelers to either meet and stay with cool locals, or just bask in the wonderful residential neighborhoods of cities that would otherwise go unnoticed. Or maybe you’d prefer to stay in a treehouse? Or on a boat? Options that you would otherwise have to know someone to have that opportunity. On the flip side, you can meet cool travelers coming to your city as you host them in your own place. Or just make some extra cash while you’re out of town anyway. You can rent out anything from an air mattress in the living room to your whole house. It is a wonderful online community of people who are eager to see new things and meet new people, and like most online services, there are ways to rate both renters and stayers so people can get a feel for what kind of person they are before accepting a reservation. Airbnb did have a snafu in July that caused the company to snap into action to step up their security measures: they doubled their support staff and are now offering insurance. I’m sure as they grow, they will continue to figure out new services and new ways to protect the community they’ve been growing since 2008.
Besides providing a form of accessibility to their customers, the other thing about these companies that stands out to me is how the few people I know who work at them are genuinely interested in the products they produce, are enthusiastic when talking about them, and really believe in what they are doing. There is little in life I find more compelling than hearing someone talk about something they are passionate about. It becomes easy to tell who is a salesman just pitching their product versus a person who is actually standing behind what they are creating. Above all else, whether a company succeeds or fails, I think having more people in the world truly interested in what they are doing is what’s making it a better place, regardless of what they’re creating.