Ryan Goldsberry: Art in Board Games #9
This week we have Ryan Goldsberry an Artist who has worked with on games such as Paperback, Burgle Bros., Word Domination, Fugitive and Hardback and with publishers such as Fowers Games and Jeff Beck.
Hello Ryan thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I worked in video games as an animator for about 12 years, most of that at Crystal Dynamics where me and Lara Croft became best pals. Somewhere in that time I started making art on the side for the games that my good buddy Tim Fowers was inventing. Currently I'm working as an artist and animator for Lawrence Livermore National Lab, where I'm making cool art for sciencey type stuff. And, since life isn't busy enough, I continue to work with Tim to make our games, and I also illustrate books that my dad and I write (our first book, Floater, was published a couple years ago).
I live in the Bay Area in California with my beautiful, hilarious wife and our 5 kids (yes, that's no typo...FIVE kids).
Now we know a little more about you, I have to ask, as a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
An artist...always an artist. I had no idea what that meant or what kind of an artist I wanted to be, but I never really deviated from wanting to be an artist… except for a brief spell in my teens where I thought maybe I'd just go ahead and be a lead guitarist for some kind of super famous rock band. But, you know... reality.
So how did you first get involved in making board games?
I was happily working in the video game industry when Tim Fowers (who was a good friend from years back) called me up and said he was going to try and make a computer game and asked if I'd do the art for it. Not knowing any better, I said "sure!"
The rest is history. We made a couple of computer games (our first one, ‘Now Boarding’ was quite successful) and then we eventually switched to the board game media with Wok Star. I keep making the art I like, and Tim keeps saying he likes it, so we have no plans of stopping! I think we make a good team.
When you are working on the art of a board game can you give us a quick overview of your creative or thought process and has this changed at all since you first started?
Generally it starts with a conversation with Tim, where he tells me about the game he's working on, and tries to explain in detail how the game works. I try and pay attention, but inevitably zone in and out as he tries to explain it all. When he gets done explaining I stare at him with a blank look. Soon after that, I sit down with Tim and we actually play a prototype (Tim is the master of making prototypes) and finally a light goes on and I understand how the game works.
Then we have a lot of discussion about the theme of the game. Sometimes there is a very clear theme already in place, and sometimes we have to invent it. Once we feel like we have something cool in place, we start talking about how much art it will involve and we try and get a general idea of what we need, how long it will take, and also how much we should have done before we take it to Kickstarter.
As I'm creating the art I try and stick to the theme, and I do a lot of research to find references that support that. We have a certain art style and we try and stick to that because we feel like it has served us well. It's also fun because we now have a catalog of characters from the previous games we've made and we like to cross some of them over into our new games so it's like we're creating our own little universe. It’s fun!
You were involved in the creation of Fugitive, so could you tell us a little bit about what that involved and what were the biggest challenges you faced?
The biggest issue with this game was the amount of art that was needed. The cards are numbered (0 - 42) and we decided that each card would be unique and that if you laid the cards all out in order, you could see a story and a chase taking place. This added an extra challenge. Not only was there a lot to create, but it had to cohesively tell the story.
Also, with any good Kickstarter, you try and set a schedule and have an accurate delivery date. Goals help with the creation process and fulfilling goals keeps our awesome backers happy. However, after the Kickstarter ended and as I started to really dig in and work, it became obvious that we weren't going to hit our original timeline. This was a discouraging challenge. I was working as hard as I could to try and complete all the art without going too far beyond our estimated time frame but it was just too much to get done as fast as we wanted. Ultimately we came in late and it was pretty much all my fault, but, I think it turned out good in the end and hopefully was all worth it.
What was the inspiration or core idea that drove your work on Fugitive?
Inspiration for Fugitive came from several places. First, the game is a cat and mouse style chase game and we were inspired by movies like Catch Me If You Can. I was personally also inspired by all the cool chase scenes I’ve ever seen in movies. I looked at a lot of these, especially the classic chase from Bullitt and that cool car/train scene from The French Connection.
Another inspiration was comic books in general. Fugitive turned out to be a sequential art, like something you'd find in a comic book.
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
Hmm, I just got through watching the new and final season of Samurai Jack, and that also inspired me to go back to rewatch some of the previous seasons. Along with the fantastic storytelling that show has some of the most beautiful looking art I've seen in a cartoon. It's truly inspiring.
I also just got the big hulking 2 volume set of Ralph McQuarrie's Star Wars art and I've been reading through that. It's amazing and I wish I could draw even remotely as well as McQuarrie.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the board game industry?
If you're trying to work as an artist, my advice would be to branch out and really try different styles of art and design. I really like to see games that look different from the pack, and have themes and styles that are unique.
Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
Right now I'm finishing up our expansion to Paperback, and after that, we're going back to our beginnings with a game called Now Boarding. It will be coming to Kickstarter in August.
Finally, if we’d like to see more of you and your work, where can we find you?
You can follow me here:
(Artwork supplied by Ryan Goldsberry).