Victoria Ying: Art in Board Games #37
Editors note: This week I'm joined by the supremely talented Victoria Ying, artist on board game; Bargain Quest. The game successfully funded on Kickstarter back in 2017 and is for sale directly through the official website and local game stores.
Hello Victoria, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m an artist and illustrator from the LA area. I was born and raised here and graduated from Art Center college of design. I knew I wanted to be a professional artist from when I was in High School and had fallen in love with comic books. I realized that people were actually paid to make them and I became hyper-focused and went for it.
The internet was just beginning to be a ‘thing’ and I found a lot of art forums and Oekaki’s that really helped me grow as an artist. Oekaki was a web-based art program that anyone could access and you could create and share work. You could install the java on any website so I joined one that belonged to an artist I admired. It was a great community for an aspiring artist. I got critique and got to interact with lots of artists all over the world through these forums.
After college, I was accepted into the Disney Feature Animation training program and was lucky enough to work on films such as Tangled, Wreck it Ralph, Big Hero 6, Frozen and Moana.
So how did you first get involved in making board games?
My brother is a game designer, he and I worked together on a few other collaborative projects before. Bargain Quest was his first independent game project and he asked me to do the art. I was also embarking on my own independent art career and thought it would be fun to collaborate on a large scale project like this!
So where did you start when coming up with the ideas for the look of Bargain Quest?
When my brother approached me with the theme and concept for the game I was excited by it and immediately started doing my research. Our game’s visuals rely a lot on tropes from fantasy, so I got to dig deep into my love of things like Lord of the Rings and Zelda.
I had to find a way to make the artwork appealing but also manageable with my time. I experimented with techniques for rendering for a while before finally landing on something that worked for the scale. I also wanted the characters and worlds to feel familiar, but different enough to hold your interest. We had a lot of heroes in this game, which was a challenge, but Jon and I worked together to make sure that we had a diverse range of bodies and skin tones.
Could you tell us more about your thoughts when designing the heroes of Bargain Quest?
Diversity was really important to the look of the game. Although we were using a lot of fantasy tropes, I always found it odd how so much of fantasy was so white. It made sense in Tolkien's days, but being persons of color ourselves we felt like why not create a world where our heroes could be from other backgrounds? It also helped to create variety in the types of clothing and weapons. We were able to draw from more culturally diverse and fascinating histories rather than the traditional fantasy settings. One of the best responses we get is from young people who are just entering nerd culture. A lot of them don't see themselves in the media they consume and they are really excited to see our cast!
Was there any particular inspiration behind the artwork in Bargain Quest?
Visually, we were inspired by JRPGs and their versions of western fantasy worlds. My favorite was Final Fantasy 9, where I tried to emulate their appealing shapes for the shops. FF9 has a really appealing style to their shops. The shapes were bubbly, but not toon town levels of whimsy. Still, I wanted to capture a fantasy world that didn't take itself 100% seriously.
Thinking back, what were some of the most challenging aspects of this project?
The sheer volume of art was a huge hurdle. As a card game we had so many assets to create that it sometimes felt really overwhelming. It makes sense why so many of the games you see in stores have multiple artists on them!
The Game Boards were the most difficult. It was a challenge to create a space that could fit the cards as they had to be displayed but to still get personality and a feel for perspective. I had my brother, the game designer, draw me a template for how he wanted the game pieces to work on the board, from there, I did a few concepts that I felt could work. It was a very collaborative back and forth process and the work involved was hugely rewarding.
With so much art to create how did you stay organised and on schedule?
I was working on a lot of other projects at the time so it was really important that we have very strict deadlines. I had to make it as much a part of my work as any other client work going on at the time. I also did have help, my brother did a lot of the item cards which was a huge portion of the work.
Do you have any advice for the game creators out there reading this?
I was glad to be able to have a collaborator who I worked well with and I feel that if you are going to partner with someone, you both need to know each other well and respect each other's work. The fact that we are family made it easy to balance because we knew that we had to maintain a long-term relationship and not a short-term one just for this project.
Another thing I want to tell creators is that even if you have a small budget, please pay your artists. I had many friends who I was able to convince to make art for us on the Kickstarter for the special rewards, but I made sure that we paid them. Any project with money making potential should pay all of its contributors!
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
I’m a HUGE reader, I love Science Fiction and Fantasy. Right now I’m reading “A Gentleman’s guide to Vice and Virtue” and I just finished Roxane Gay’s memoir “Hunger.”
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to work in the board game industry?
Keep working on your art, the milage is going to get you there! Challenge yourself, try to do work that is complex and can tell stories.
Do you have any current projects underway, or coming up that you’d like (or are able) to tell us about?
I'm working on my own original Middle Grade Graphic Novel and another Middle Grade Graphic Novel for a well known property.
(All images copyright of Victoria Ying)
Jonathan Ying, Game Designer: "We also got a whole bunch of guest artists to do a lot of cool artwork for the game's expansion as well".
In the below 8 images you can see work from Yuko Ota, Brian Kesinger, Kyle Ferrin, Kelsey Liggett, Cory Loftis, Gino Whitehall, Tessa Stone and Nicholas Kole. There are even more over here with information on the artists plus links with how to find their work.