TaKtiX: Todd Rowland

Todd is the Brand Manager for Alderac Entertainment Group

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Art of Warlord

A very enjoyable part of my job now involves art direction. I can hardly draw a stick-man properly, but being able to realize a vision through the skills of fantastic artists from around the world is amazing. Up until this point, most Warlord art has followed the pattern of create a big guy with a big honkin' sword about to cleave through you. While this is great for marketing art, sometimes the artist director (me) might have trouble coming up with something totally new set after set. So with the Temple of Lore expansion, releasing after Epic Edition, we've decided to approach the art in a new way.

The characters will still have big honkin' swords, and they'll still look like they could eat you for breakfast, but now they are going to be more involved in what's going on. The Temple of Lore set will focus on groups of characters who are exploring the Temple itself. The monsters within, the traps, the treasure, all of it will be encountered by these characters.

What does this mean? Take for instance an elf rogue and a dwarf fighter. Not only will they be on their cards exploring the Temple, they may also be featured on a new rogue action involving the elf attacking the dwarf. All of the set should end up with a more cohesive feel than past sets, as you'll see the actions of the Warlords and characters.

But how does it get from idea to card? It often begins with design passing me their rough idea of cards. It isn't that important that I know every single mechanic at that time, just that I know "This is an evil elf rogue", or "This is an action that involves attacking multiple opponents." From there I can draft up an art description, similar to this one:

Character. Free Kingdoms. Human. Cleric, Good. Male.
This character is a cleric of Neus. He wears simple white robes with a hood (that is pulled back now). He wears a simple necklace with a golden symbol. He has a metal staff. He also has a pack slung over one shoulder, for his quest into the Temple. He should be pictured before a large bookcase of ancient books.

Simple huh? Well, that's usually the best way to do it. Giving the artist enough direction to know clearly what we want, but enough leeway to inject their own creative ideas into the character and background. A few days after sending those out, we receive the initial sketches. The sketch of this character can be found in this very post. The sketches are often rough, but they ensure that we are going to get the picture we had in mind. Assuming all is well, we'll approve the image and the artist will begin to add colors and finalize. They will often send scans as they begin to add the colors so that they can continue to be sure they are going the direction we want.

Once this piece gets a little farther along, I'll post it then, so you can watch its development.

So many of you ask, why can't we have artist X do this character? Why didn't artist Y do anything in this set? What where you thinking AEG? Well, the pure fact is these artists are busy people. They often end up committed to various projects and simply can't take any work in the window we have to assign art, or they can only take a few pieces. Over time we find that some artists are simply better at action and movement than static characters. Some can illustrate magical items that capture your imagination better than anything else. We often try to assign them pieces that show off their strengths, as that then results in a better looking game overall.

In the end, art is always subjective. So before you dismiss a piece as something you don't like, take a deeper look. Look at the use of color, light, and shadow. Look at what is going on in the action of the piece, or the background, or the small details. You might be surprised what you find.

Next Topic: Not sure yet, tune in and find out!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Deck Building...

Oddly enough, one of the things I find hardest in my job is actually finding the time to build decks. I will shamelessly scour the Temple for decklists and slightly modify them to play at the local store. I just haven't had a lot of time to do anything from scratch. However, in the last few weeks I've built an entire deck without looking at anyone else's ideas, and I have another one in mind that has me more excited.

The one I made first was a Simon deck. It runs the Light/Shadow/Keres stuff to the hilt. Baedan for back up, etc. It's been really effective so far, losing only to Duty so far. Only problem is that it's a long, long game and that's not really my style. So that's how I moved on to the one I'm going to talk about today.

I've always been a fan of Vakeros. I love the risk of either winning really fast, or losing even faster. My mind instantly went to Vakeros when I started messing around with my Eye of the Storm cards. The skeleton of a deck came together as soon as I laid eyes on Albino Novice. The little guy is fantastic for Vakeros as his ability triggers before his death, and the react would occur before the die roll of Vakeros' ranged strike. Instant hit. Take that Tower'd up Ar'teks and die manipulating Tavises.

But a single level 1 character does not a victory make. We need to extend his usefulness, which Vakeros can do without too much trouble. Starting Albino Novice is totally out of the question, we need to ensure his survival until the proper moment, so my current thought is the typical x3 Urg, x2 Tower start, to buy time. Vakeros will use I Call Forth Valor to fetch the little guy, drop him during a clear moment and spend him back to rank two. The deck should also run x3 Severed of Flesh, to get double the use out of him. A few Meets for building the proper hand, and several auto-wound ranged strikes could be delivered to the enemy Warlord in short order.

Vakeros is of course Infinity's End bait, so Blinks are a necessity. The Avatar of Magic will help to keep recycling the Severed of Flesh, and then the many various ranged strike spells such as Final Power and Firey Bolts will help to round out the blitz on the action side. Rress, Stirges, and other quick punishing low level characters will keep the heat on the opponent, which this deck will have to do to pull of a win. But these are Nothrog, so that is certainly not a difficult thing to do.

So will the deck fall on its face? Have to find out whenever I actually have the time to look for my copy of Vakeros... hopefully someday!

Next Topic: The Art of Warlord.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Smell the Con Season...

Ah Con Season, almost upon us again. Con season is that nifty little time between the end of May and October when the big cons all seem to happen. ComicCon, Origins, GenCon Indy, DragonCon, KublaCon, etc. Nothing beats making the journey and enjoying a con as a gamer.

Of course, I haven't been able to do that for a few years. Don't get me wrong, cons are still a blast, they're just different now. There are some plusses and minuses. In the old days as a gamer, you gamed until 2am or worse, rolled back in at 9am and started all over, driven on the sheer power of caffeine and really bad convention hall nachos. Now, by the time 7pm gets there, I'm pretty exhausted and ready for food and sleep. Of course, that never happens. Dinner is followed by mingling with friends from other companies that we don't see often.

End result, I still stay out until 2am and roll in at 9am. But now it's adrenaline that powers it rather than caffeine. Seeing all of you guys and girls there having a good time is really a rush. I feed off of it I suppose. I've been known to run the whole of GenCon Indy on a total of 8 hours of sleep, just because there's so much going on.

At GenCon SoCal last year people said I looked pretty tired, of course I had just flown back from KoHIT the day before, so I think that's allowable.

Anyway, everyone gives their little list of what to do at a con, but here's mine:

1. Get a room. Don't do that sleeping in the car business. Get a room, get a bed. You'll enjoy the con a lot more just being able to crash there for the few hours between flipping cards.

2. Watch your stuff. It never fails. Every single show someone gets their cards stolen. Don't ask people to watch stuff for you, keep your own eyes on your own things. If you have too much to carry around, you might want to rethink how much you're bringing.

3. Leave the con for a little while. Just a little while. Most of these cities have some really great places to visit, and not seeing them while you're there is a shame. Even if it's just to take in a cool local place for dinner one night. You've made the trip, get the most out of it.

4. Say hi. I like to try to meet as many players as I can. Of course, if I'm dashing from one place to another, probably not the best time. However if I'm just hanging out at the booth or wandering around watching the games please do come up and chat.

5. Buy something from the artists. I know everyone likes getting their cards signed, and most artists will gladly do it. But those exhibit booths aren't free. If you liked that character card enough to get it signed, pony up the $25 and buy the print.

6. There are about 20 other things I should mention but I'm tired.

I really hope to see a lot of you over the summer. At the moment, it looks like I'll definitely be at the following:

Origins - Columbus, OH
GenCon - Indianapolis, IN
DragonCon - Atlanta, GA
L5R World Championships - Brussels, Belgium
GenCon SoCal - Anaheim, CA

And tomorrow I'm off to MobiCon here in lovely Mobile, AL...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ah, the RPG

As most of you are aware, the Warlord RPG has been long in coming. For any of you who may not have actually heard the story, here it is in short form:

- Warlord CCG releases.

- Warlord RPG is written, edited, designed for 3.0 format.

- 3.5 format releases.

- Warlord writers slap foreheads.

- Warlord is rewritten to 3.5 format.

- Various issues crop up and are dealt with.

- Books are printed.

And here we are today. Oddly, I still haven't held a copy in my own hands. I guess that's the joy of working out of the office, but from what Mike Leader has told me, they look great. The content is really cool, and I'm not saying that as the salesman, I'm saying that as someone who likes fantasy and RPGs in general. Major thanks go out to Andrew, Laura, Rusty, and all the many MANY people who worked long hard hours on this project.

So what are you going to see... Deverenian houses and all about them, Nothrog Legions and their totems, Brine Fiends, Overlords, Dragon Lords, Medusan Lords, major NPCs like Krun, Uthanak, Slayer, Captain Dukat, and many more. The creation story and the "from then to now" story of the Accordlands is even included, for those who like reading up on history.

Now I just have to convince someone at Borderland Relics here in Mobile to run a campaign...

Starting Off...

Hi everyone. Thought I should go ahead and make a post of my own. I'm not sure how frequently I'll find the time to update this, so I'm glad Mat let me have the "Guest Contributor" tag... though I might surprise myself and post more than I expect. As most of you know, I'm the Brand Manager for AEG's games. I'm going to primarily focus on Warlord here, but my ramblings might take us to the others as well. For the moment I plan to talk about various topics over time, including:

- What is Brand Management Anyway?

- Upcoming Expansions and Our Plans.

- General Thoughts on Warlord.

- How One CCG Changed My Life.

And lots of other stuff. I'm likely to talk about Jackson quite a lot too, just bear with that. Hope you all enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Introducing Todd

Todd Rowland is the Brand Manager for Alderac Entertainment Group. He plays more games than me (impressive), is good at them (annoyingly so) and was hired by AEG after he first did a sterling job running the Temple of Lore fansite forums for Warlord. That means he knows more about webcoding than me as well.

Did I mention he's also a nice guy?