Dev Diary—The Art of Fray

Dev Diary—The Art of Fray

As we’ve discussed in previous dev diaries for Fray (which covered its origins and design), Fray has come a long way from its early days as a concept built for fun. Since working with Smunchy Games I’ve had new opportunities to adjust the design for the world of Adia, and test it with new people. Today I’d like to share some of the art we’ve developed for Fray, and give you all an insiders’ look at how it’s changed over time.

The Art of Landfall

Early on, when the game was still just a concept, I didn’t have time to develop all the art myself. That, plus a dash of impatience, lead me to steal images from the web. I found a lot of excellent works of art, but many were inconsistent with each other—except for the landscapes. Sort of. So, all of today’s unit cards were once land cards, and the game was titled Landfall because of that. I never found a great reason why players were dropping markets, caverns, or magical volcanoes onto the playing field, but it was functional, and it looked pretty. As I mentioned before, I never had any expectation that this would go anywhere beyond my kitchen table, so this setup was perfectly fine.

The Art of Fray

Early in Fray’s life, we intended to use art like that which you see from Paths: World of Adia. The two games were connected, after all, so that decision made sense to us. I’d been given an early card design from a Paths game and used that to create initial prototypes (below). During this time we were also designing the three suits to be named after different factions from Paths lore: The Kinsworn, Society, and Reformists. It worked, but the frames were somewhat lackluster and I was asked to redesign them.

I was particularly proud of the next card frames we came up with. It was more detailed, made to look unlike any other fantasy card game that I could find, and took some minor inspirations from the architecture of the Taj Mihal. However, the frame size was a bit strange (this was both what drew me to the designs and what pulled me away) and the text box didn’t allow for much to be written. For now that was fine, but the text box especially could prove to be an issue in the future if any abilities changed to become more complex—which they certainly did. We needed to make another change.

Fray as an Extension of Adia

As Smunchy Games and I were redesigning the cards once more, we were looking at making the game more of a common and accessible item within the world of Adia. We tossed around some ideas for how it might have been created and settled on the concept of it being a game created by soldiers trying to pass the time at camp. If this were the case, the cards would not have these elaborate frames or realistic art like we originally planned. They needed to have a more hand-made feel to them.

The new frames, though, needed to stand out and allow players to very quickly identify the cards. Coloring them more boldly would help players associate each card with a particular suit—which by now had become the three races we’d end up keeping—but that wouldn’t work as well for anyone who was colorblind. To remedy this I added a pattern to the frames, giving each suit a distinct pattern. They would work in tandem with the suit icon (top left) and text (bottom right) to inform the player.

So, that meant I needed to create a unique border for each suit. For the dwarves we created a rigid one modeled after rows of mountains with caves dug into them. Classic dwarf stuff. The duanine took on a clean and symmetrical design to suggest their balance and flight. For the bjorn, who love nature, we settled on a frame of leaves. 

When it came time to get the art of each character, we further embraced the hand-made feeling we wanted to achieve and illustrated each with line art as if it was drawn on paper by one of the soldiers. Later, when it came time to finalize the designs, we added crumpled paper and stains over top of them, to make the cards feel used in-world. These are light, but if you look closely you can see the folds of the paper, or the ring of a mug that was set on top of a card!

Fray is Coming to Kickstarter!

We can’t wait to show off all the awesome art made for the game. The Fray Kickstarter will begin March 3rd! You can sign up to be alerted on Kickstarter when it goes live right here. In the meantime, you can learn more about Fray by watching Smunchy Games. Click here to visit our official page to learn the basics about it or join our Discord server to chat with our team! 

Adam Bassett is a lead game designer at Smunchy Games (Fray), and a UI designer. He also volunteers with Worldbuilding Magazine, and works on a host of other projects.

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