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Collected Interviews on Alt Design

- - - - - interview alts

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In conjunction with The Other Organized Play fan alt art tournament, I conducted a series of interviews with some of the community's most prolific and talented alt designers.  While you can find the original, extended interviews on the main Facebook group, I wanted to share these compressed interviews for people looking for advice on designing alts for their own tournaments and metas.  Enjoy.




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Ryan Ritter of the United States, interviewed on 4 January 2017.

How did you get started making alts?

Right away I noticed players wanted more than what FFG was giving them, a tournament every few months is not enough. People always want more prize support. I'm a graphic designer by profession, so it was only natural for me to pick up making prize support.

The thing I like about the Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, InDesign, etc.) is that it is much more accessible to everyone than when I first learned. You no longer need to go to school to learn the program with YouTube tutorials and online forums. In fact Cameron Davisson, the King in the North, picked up on Photoshop almost instantly and has designed some of our best playmats.

The key is to listen to your local player base. Make what they want, not just what you think is best. If you make great alt arts, they will come.

You just said, "If you make great alt arts, they will come." What makes a great alt?

1. Consistency. 2. Honesty. 3. Playability. Those are the three pillars to making a great alt art. 1. Don't reinvent the wheel every tournament. Stick with a consistent look and template. 2. GET THE ARTIST'S permission. Never use someone's work without their blessing, and credit them on the card. If you don't do this, you'll regret it. 3. Make cards that are played often and appeal to the player base at large. Do not make an alt art Marching Orders.

I'm glad you brought up templating. People have accused you on multiple occasions of using Fantasy Flight's official alt templates, and you've explained multiple times that yours are original. Could you explain your template design philosophy?

They are not original designs, but they were made from scratch by me. This fits under pillar 1, consistency. I wanted our cards to look clean and match the original FFG template as close as possible. All values and game text are in the same place (on all cards) across the board. To differentiate these cards from the official FFG cards, I use a slightly thicker card stock and make sure the back of the cards are unique to each event. I do not discourage others from trying something different for their cards, but I personally decided to stay uniform with the official look. I think it has turned out quite well.

What is your favorite alt that you've made?

Hmm. Don't ask me that... It's like asking which one of my kids I love the most (even though I don't have kids, so I can afford to play Star Wars: Destiny). If I had to pick a top 3 in random order: Sansa Stark (birthday party variant), Valar Morghulis (coming soon to our Winter Draft Championship), and Mance Rayder (King in the North).




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Samuel Linde of Sweden, interviewed 21 December 2016.


Your decision to use photography is unique in The Other Organized Play tournament and a little controversial according to the comments. How did you make the decision to use it?

We decided to make the melee tournament at Varberg Morghulis a featured event and make it worth it for the people who decided to stay an extra day to participate. And since we organisers are also the hosts of Great Beards of Westeros we decided to do something different. The guy in the picture is our official beard model for the podcast, and when we found these awesome pictures of him with a wine bottle and the flowers, it was as if the Mother of the Seven Gods all spoke to us in unison. It had to be done.

Had you been looking to use more pictures of the model then for the melee or was it a coincidence?

We've been trying to use different pictures of Roman (that's our model's name) for our cover art for the podcast, so we already had a bunch of different picture in a gallery that were potential candidates. But then we started looking at more pictures, and found these. And they just clicked with what we were doing. The fact that we had criticised the oficial artwork, especially the A Gift of Arbor Red, for the poor facial hair was just perfect timing.

Cool. Was this your first time using photography on an alt? Would you do it again?

First time for stuff that was printed and handed out to people, yes. For fun stuff that I post online for trolling purposes, I've used it a lot. But I definitely prefer illustrations, and would only use photography for special stuff like this.

I'd like to ask about your work with Lynden Joudrey. What was the commissioning process like?

We had another illustrator doing our stuff initially, but it didn't work out due to scheduling reasons. So Lynden came onboard fairly late but was so excited about the prospect of working with us that he jumped onboard with very short notice. I pitched some ideas, and he pitched even more back. We wanted him to do something with his isometric angle that you see in lots of his landscapes, and then we traded ideas about the characters for the house cards. We had basically the same lineup, a split between male and female characters, so everything just went super smoothly. We couldn't be happier with the results.

What about the Red Wedding mat? How did that change from conception to execution?

We had a bunch of ideas, ranging from a map of Westeros to a scene depicting all the major deaths in the books. And Lynden sent me an email basically saying: "I really would like to do the Red Wedding". I was onboard immediately, and Lynden actually pretty much nailed it on the first grayscale rough he sent.

What advice would you give anyone designing alts?

Well, I don't want to step on anyone's toes, but to me a pet peeve is getting the fonts right. For our cards we made sure to use the same fonts as FFG, but we took some liberties regarding the layout as some might have seen. Also, at any cost avoid the HBO-style font that is everywhere. It's free, I know, but it's poorly designed and the kerning sucks, hashtag font nerd. I'd also suggest working with printers that can deliver cards that have nice paper stock and properly cut corners, things like that. Oh, and ask around. Talk to people, get recommendation for printers, etc. We all love good alts, and love to help.




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Chris Thompson of the United States, interviewed 22 December 2016.


How did you get started with making alts?

It was the perfect storm. I wanted our first Win or Die event to have a special promo that fit its theme. The return of Valar had been mentioned mere weeks before. I decided that every unique Indy format event should have something memorable as a participation prize. I'm trying to make events where people carry away stories of games they could never have in a regular event. I commissioned the art straight away and tapped a few friends to template the card for me.
A few were good but I thought to message Ryan Ritter immediately because his cards from the first Knight of the Laughing Tree were divine.
Ryan only asked that I provide him with copies of the final products for his help, and we have worked together ever since with me searching for art and heckling artists and him working on his beautiful templates.

Are most of your alts commissioned or found online?

I find most of the stuff on DeviantArt or around the Web in similar places. It's a lot faster then getting originals, and I find 90% of artists are eager for exposure if you can just get them to see your messages.

For people looking to make alts, could you give any advice on approaching artists for permission to use their work?

I approach people as a fan. When I love art I see, I usually find a way to get in contact with the artist to let them know so and then ask them how they feel about having their art used for promotional cards for a card game.
Always make sure they know 1. they will be fully credited and their art will be distributed (and thus free advertising) and 2. you won't profit off their work.
Most people seem to love the exposure. Some like copies of the cards, and some may want a small fee. I've been super fortunate with wonderfully enthusiastic artists. Give them what they want, support the artists and everyone wins.

You mentioned getting artists to check their messages. How do you do that?

The biggest suggestion I have is FIND PERSONAL EMAILS! I have had several artists not answer me when I sent them two or three personal messages on a Website like DeviantArt, but when I find their email in their profile somewhere, they message me back right away and explain they rarely check the website inbox. Some will check their Facebook but rarely email. Be sure to reach out to the artists through every available channel. Sometimes it's what it takes to get noticed. My usual contact procedure introduces myself, why I noticed their art and what I love about it. I explain I'm a gamer and what game it will be for and then ask permission as described above. I usually header my messages with references to the specific art I'm interested in.
Flattery will get you everywhere.

Do you generally find yourself searching for art to fit a card or a card to fit the art?

I have a few thought processes. 1. Cards that will see universal play across several deck types (the neutral core cards, Valar, First Snow, Nightmares, etc.) 2. Cards that fit a theme well (Crown of Gold for Highlander, Valar for Win or Die, the season agendas for a dual deck event) 3. My favorite cards (most things with a Lannister symbol on them).
Sometimes it's a perfect marriage. I found the Nightmares art before I knew it was Nightmares. Nightmares was a card people need multiples of, and the art was an awesome fit in my mind, though it's been a less straight forward interpretation to some.
So I'd say both. Sometimes I see an art and just really want to use it, so I try to find a good fit

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