Spotlight on ARH Production

I got to play some IRL Destiny last week, for one of the first times since ARH began, and noticed one thing it’s often easy to overlook: ARH cards look amazing.

The cards look really clean, and the art used is consistently stunning. There’s other details too, like the faction/affiliation boxes and set logo, and the parallel die logo, which all look smooth.

It must be said though, it hasn’t always been this way:

The first spoilers released by ARH

When these were initially spoiled, it is fair to say that reactions from the community were pretty negative. The mechanics of the cards themselves were overshadowed by criticisms of the card appearance.

I contacted Agent of Zion about this. He takes full responsibility for the initial appearance of the cards, and explained that:

1) My chief concern was speed, and ease of use
2) I felt that art was a luxury, and as long as something filled the frame, we were good to go
3) The constraints of our first auto-generator made art an enormous pain in the ass. It was really good for our first go for internal playtesting materials, and we did keep using it for a long while for that
4) Playtesters didn’t mind bad, or no, art. Nor do they mind small things being out of place. This reinforced my own thought process that others wouldn’t care either. I was wrong
5) So I kinda rammed the “style” of the first cards down the ARH team’s throat. Not everyone on the team disagreed with my approach, but there was a significant number of people who ranged from “I don’t think this is the quality we should set as a baseline” to “this shit is fucking horrible what are you doing”
6) Then what happened, happened, and we pivoted with a quickness

When he says quickness, that’s a bit of an understatement. These first spoilers were released on 31 August, and the new template was shown off in their second set of spoilers on 12 September. That’s a pretty fast turnaround. But after all the efforts which went into making these first cards, where did the new template come from?
Enter Sarah Evans.

Sarah‘s a UK tournament regular and runs the online shop Laser Gaming, which is a great place to get tokens, singles and other Destiny accessories. She’s also a bit of a graphics wizard. She joined the team, and shortly afterward Solis and Martin of Twin Suns gaming (who makes our echobase promos) joined too. She says:

“The card template setup for FA was a joint effort by myself and Martin. This was quite the task, from adding the bleed areas for each card type to creating the vector elements such as the dice track that can expand and grow when there’s a payside. What I’m most pleased about is how we overhauled the bottom part of the template, making it look cleaner and more our own.

“The dice templates I created from scratch after initially creating some for Transformations as a personal project before I joined ARH.”

It was a lot of work in a short space of time. And it continues to be a lot of work. Agent of Zion discusses the timeframes involved, and how these have changed after ARH‘s initial learnings:

“I think for FA, we started actually looking hard at art maybe a week or two after playtesting ended (not counting the donated pieces). I might be messing up the timeframes there, but that feels right.

“Currently, the art team is at work starting when playtesters first get cards, and if we know there are certain characters or iconic things that are going in the set they start looking even earlier than that. Our process for finalizing changed a lot… and nearly every single card now has some work done by hand in terms of art to make things fit better and look better.

“It’s the kind of skilled work I am blown away by, because in and of themselves each change or edit is so small, but the finished product is twice as good as the team’s first draft, and easily 100 times better than our first spoilers. And somehow the team has the eye to make it also work well on the dice. Absolutely crazy.”

Sarah describes the production process in more detail:

“Solis handles the artwork for each card, from sourcing to producing ‘the ARH look’. His knowledge of Star Wars is incredible, which results in perfect imagery selection for each card. I’ll then often make some edits to get them template ready, this could include extending work to get better framing (some card types are more difficult as they have some dead space at the top), general brightening and sharpening to get them the best they can be ready for print.

“Once the artwork is ready it’s a case of adding it and all other other pieces that make up the final card into our templates. This part is quite special as all the months of hard work from across the teams comes together to form the final card.”

It’s a lot of work, and each card gets personal attention. This isn’t a plug-and-play process. Sourcing high quality artwork is a long process, and ARH and the community have been fortunate enough that a number of excellent artists have contributed to the project.

And let’s not forget that it’s not just the sets which the production team are responsible for. The Game Night Kits and spot glosses for the Galactic Open have to be sourced and templated separately, and they too look stunning. Regarding the spot glosses, Sarah adds:

“Myself and Solis were both very excited to be creating the spot gloss transparent cards which formed part of the prize pool for the Canto Bright Galactic Open. We wanted these to be stunning and match the quality people have been use to from the GQ prizes. The process to create these was somewhat more involved than the regular cards which was quite the learning experience. The result I think surpassed everyones initial expectations including my own.”

Game Night Kit 1
GO Spot Glosses

I haven’t yet seen any of these spot glosses in real life, but can’t wait.

I format and upload the ARH card data to swdb, so am fortunate enough to be on the production channel and see the huge amount of work and attention to detail put into these cards, a level of attention which borders on obsession. Changes which to me appear seemingly insignificant, such as a subtly different framing position, are not taken lightly.

So I just wanted to say thank you to Sarah, Solis and Martin for their work in developing these cards, and for their continued hard work in producing such a high quality product.

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