Thursday, July 12, 2012

I Love It when a Plan Comes Together

This man would be
incredibly excited
We braved the savage journey to exotic lands.  We sweated and strained with arcane tools.  As a result of our heroic endeavors, I currently have in my hot, sweaty hands... the first "beta" print of Ars Victor!  Not only was it made with LASERS, but it's also now the star of a soon-to-be-released video of epic proportions!

The difference between the original prototypes and the final beta is like night and day.  It looks like a REAL GAME.  Before I start rambling on, here's a great before-and-after shot; contrasting an early prototype version with the new hotness:

BEFORE: on the left, an early prototype.  AFTER: on the right.
Read more for the harrowing tale of production, involving sleepless nights, long drives, and LASERS...

The Saga So Far

For the past few weeks, we've been cramming  to get everything polished for the first professional sample print of Ars Victor.  We're using the awesome folks at Victory Point Games for our first Limited Edition print run.

I didn't tell them about the bats,
they'd find out soon enough.
We drove down to the VPG offices in Costa Mesa this past Saturday.  We'd been working around the clock to put the final touches on everything. The god of the 405 apparently favored our journey: there was no traffic, and we made it down there in about an hour and a half.

Nathan Hansen preparing files for the machines.
The machines have LASERS.
So, technically, Nathan is preparing to fire LASERS.
Their offices looked like what you'd get if you crossed a print shop with a video game company.  The front half was a particularly geeky creative space, with desks and offices for designers and developers.  There were games -- not just their games, but titles from lots of publishers -- on every shelf.  The back half of the site was a warehouse space for production and inventory.

This is the laser doing its lasering.
You can't see the shark; it is inside the box.

Made with LASERS

One of the cool things about VPG is that they have a laser-cutting machine.  This lets them print complex components without having to have a bunch of different die cuts made.

Because of this capability, we were able to do some great things with the map tiles.  We made the edges actually match the hex tiles, and we added 'caps' to the short edges of the board.

With a little bit of training, we were able to help out with some of the work.  Being able to put it together with my own two hands was pretty cool.  I also have a much better idea of what work is involved in assembling these suckers.  Short answer: quite a bit.

She is beaming.

Yes, it was like that.

Putting it All Together

The printing is the fastest part.  After that, there's a bit of manual labor involved: punching registration holes, applying sticker sheets to the heavy stock, and running them through the laser cutter.

We were down there for three or four hours. It took time for Nathan to fix all the newbie mistakes in our sources files, so that they wouldn't explode his machine.  The actual assembly took much less time.

While browsing their warehouse, I picked up a few of their games.  They publish a metric shit-ton of small, quick-playing titles.  So far I've tried a few of them, and they're all great games.

Alan Emrich and Stevo seal the deal.
The part that should worry you:  these were both spontaneous expressions.

Lights, Camera, Ars Victor

The next day, we had a 9-hour shoot for our teaser video and our tutorial.  But that is another story...

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