Sweet, Sweet Posters

Every once in a while you come across something that reminds you how awesome the intertubes can be. Zazzle is one of those things.

Sure, more people probably know about Cafepress, and this sort of thing has been around for a while already. Making a custom T-shirt or mug with your own artwork is no revelation, for sure. But over the years it has developed into a pretty slick process, and it’s pretty cool how easy and fast it is to whip up a prototype of something, order it, and have it delivered to your door. The process has basically become how people imagined it should be. Pick the item you want, upload your artwork, fiddle around with it until it’s just right, and order that sucker right up. And the fact that these places allow you to order even a single copy of your item, rather than mandating cartons full of them, opens up the market to just about anyone.

I was going to use CafePress to print some Vespers T-shirts for the crew helping out with the game, but someone recommended I give Zazzle a try instead. They’re pretty similar, but there are a few things I like a little better about Zazzle. So I went with them, and I had a few shirts printed up. Small “ORS” logo on the front breast, larger Vespers logo on the back with the blood stain. Simple design, easy to set up, bing, bang, boom. Vespers shirts for all. Yay Zazzle.

Vespers Shirt

You know you want one. Just say the word.

Yeah, I feel a little goofy wearing this around, but hey, it’s my own freaking shirt, you know? (Funny story about the tag line. I think it was Jason, the game’s author, who felt we needed to have a tag line to go along with the blood stain logo, but none of us could come up with something that didn’t sound embarrassingly bad. He finally came up with “Say your prayers” which, I have to say, is both incredibly corny and perfectly brilliant. Get it? Say your prayers? See the double meaning? Awesome, right? No? Meh, never mind.)

By the way, if anyone out there feels the aching desire (without the accompanying embarrassment) to wear one of these around town, let me know and I can make it available on the Zazzle site. Ponder for a moment how much coolness awaits you.

Anyway, this isn’t about the shirt. It’s about the posters. Ah, the sweet, sweet posters.

One of the cool things I always liked about Jason’s Vespers is how many of the items in the church morph over time as the monastery sinks into evil darkness. One of the best: the frescoes painted on the church ceiling. They aren’t described in much detail in the game, starting out as follows:

>EXAMINE FRESCO
The soaring vaults are as vast and open as the arms of God. Frescoes depict the fall of Satan, with angels singing as they cut down the wicked.

That left us a lot of room to interpret, but you get the picture. As the game progresses, the image changes, reflecting the worsening struggle between good and evil, angels and demons. So for instance, at some point in the middle of the game (not really a spoiler):

>EXAMINE FRESCO
The Fallen are overrunning the angels, climbing through holes in the ground and spreading across the Earth. An angel's eyes meet yours and do not break. He is coming.

So this presented an opportunity and challenge for us in depicting the fresco and the changes that occur over time. Part of the problem is that we couldn’t realistically put the frescoes on the church ceiling, since it’s just too high up to see very well in the game. So we came up with an alternative, which was to have the frescoes painted on the walls of the church foyer.

The wall fresco

Behold, the fresco. Click to enlarge.

Anyway, the big challenge, of course, was to find someone who could actually, you know, make a fresco. I mean, that’s not easy. People don’t make frescoes very often these days. You don’t want someone just whipping together a little somethin-somethin and calling that a fresco. It has to be at least partially convincing. If I had the big AAA budget, we’d be looking for someone to research the artwork of the time in order to make a historically accurate rendering. Since it was just me working with the C- budget, I did most of the (hack) research on my own–using works by Giotto and Signorelli as a guide–and gave the information to a few prospective candidates from the most excellent ConceptArt.org, crossing my fingers.

The call was answered, quite impressively I would say, by Régis Moulun, a French artist. Here’s his gallery site, if you’re interested.

The art majors out there may look at these (eventually, when the time comes) and argue about the stylistic accuracy, but in my decidedly unartistic view, the frescoes he created simply kick ass.

Not to give too much away, but there are a half dozen of them. The one you can see in the image above is the first fresco, the one described as “angels singing as they cut down the wicked.” It’s beautiful, but it’s the tamest of the lot. They get progressively more disturbing, and I love it. Here’s a better view of the first fresco in full, with an additional shot of some of the close-up detail.

Weep at the beauty of the first fresco. (Click to enlarge)

Weep at the beauty of the first fresco. (Click to enlarge)

A closeup shot of the fresco. (Click for a bigger closeup)

A closeup shot. (Click for a bigger closeup)

So like, these are really nice pieces, the kind I think would look great up on a wall. Slapping up a set of the original images might look a little odd, though, but that’s where the whole poster idea comes in. A little creative clipping, some small, well-placed logos, and a little Zazzle, and we have ourselves a pretty nice set of posters. To wit:

The first fresco, poster style. (Click to enlarge)

Your wall is begging you for this. And the other five.

We’re currently doing some renovations to our house, and when it’s finished we’ll have a new office with, I’m excited to say, a lot of empty wall space. I’ve got all six of these things printed up and ready for framing. I’m really looking forward to seeing them all framed, hanging side-by-side. Is that excessively geeky?

Now, I could show you the other five frescoes, but that wouldn’t be any fun, would it? Suffice it to say that I love the first fresco, and it’s probably my least favorite of the set. But if there are enough requests, sure, I can show them. And if people think this is something they might be interested in, it might make a nice gift, say, for those who pre-order (when that time comes). What do you think? Posters, anyone?

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9 Comments

  1. Posted March 4, 2010 at 1:49 AM | Permalink

    It’s very difficult to me to respond to this article without cursing and using bold words, so I will contempt. But…

    THIS IS F$%&$% AWESOME!

    Of course, as a future tester I want one of that i-shirts and I will feel a pretty proud wearing this around. Man! (I imagine my t-shirt with the sublabel “tester” added, under the ORS logo :) )

    But the question here is the numbers… you must decide if you want to be a nice guy who put merchandise of his game for free or cost price on the net for the love of his fans, or an enterprise guy, who wants to earn money with this. This is the time to discuss the numbers, if Zazzle allows some margins for you to earn money for your efforts in bringing us this pretty awesome game and art.

    About the posters… I feel the same… look, I’m always searching for high resolution image archives with good art of my preferred games, because, it is sooooo cheap to go to an press and print a full size poster for less than 3$ or € (you know, I don’t buy paintings any more, I prefer to scourge the net for high resolution art). So the intelligent move is to use that resources to make merchandising, and use net shops to run your own. Look at Tale of Tales, with the merchandising of The Path:

    http://store.tale-of-tales.com/

    It is awesome, I would kill for one high resolution poster of those, but… I must pay for them if I want it.

    Resuming, you should start selling Vespers merchandising NOW. Forget about free resources, and free felies for fans, you deserve that money, and it will help in finishing the proyect.

    However, a good way to promote yourself is give “one” giveaway for free, or at cost price, just to bite the desire in your customers…. so, where is my shirt?

    PD: really, to give a giveaway is a really good idea… because, you could announce the thing via indie portals, via TIG source and Indie Games Weblog, RGIF, and such. This could help to refresh the buzz about your game, and add more fans to it.

  2. Posted March 4, 2010 at 8:38 AM | Permalink

    Rubes:

    Being a bloodstain guy, I was going to comment on the Vespers logo’s bloodstain, but man that fresco is coo-el! What a great solution.

    If you find you need some bloodstains for in-game art, let me know… I’ve got some images here.

  3. Erik Temple
    Posted March 4, 2010 at 7:31 PM | Permalink

    I agree with Ruber Eaglenest. You should sell this stuff, and make at least some of it available before the game is released. I probably don’t need a shirt (they’re nice, though!), but I could definitely scarf up one or more of those fantastic fresco posters.

    And how about releasing one poster at a time on a fixed schedule as you close in on the game’s release date? That might be a great way to keep folks coming back to the site, renewning interest and building anticipation. (Plus, the DESCENT INTO MADNESS AND EVIL that the progression of frescoes will reveal would handily foreshadow the themes of the game…)

    One thing on the posters: Zazzle can print in many different size ratios, so I’d really consider doing the full 1.7:1 ratio for the frescos, rather than cropping into them (or in addition to a cropped version). You could then put the logo(s) above or below the image. The effect would be more dramatic…

    It’s too bad the frescos are so different in aspect ratio from a computer screen, but there are still probably some creative ways to make desktops/wallpapers from them.

    My two cents–thanks for sharing this stuff! Can’t wait for another status update on the state of the game/animation/etc.!

  4. Posted March 5, 2010 at 10:33 AM | Permalink

    @Ruber: Curse away, my friend, it is much appreciated. I’m glad you like the shirt; I suppose I could easily make a “tester” shirt, and maybe that would be a good way to encourage more active testers (maybe sign up as a tester, and the top five contributors get a free shirt?).

    I certainly don’t intend to put merchandise out there for free, though — I don’t think I could afford that. Zazzle allows you to set up a store where you can set your profit level, but I’m not sure how well that would work. The posters I made are 18″ x 24″, which is a nice size for a wall poster, but the base cost is $19.95. If I want any profit, it just adds to the total cost. So even if I wanted to earn $5 for a single poster sale, that would mean a cost to you of $24.95. Seems like a lot for a poster for you, and not a great deal of profit for me. So I’m not sure how well that would work.

    But there are certainly other types of arrangements I could work out, whether it’s with pre-order specials, gifts for providing support, free giveaways, and so on. It’s nice that there are so many options to consider.

    @Andy: Good to hear from you again! Although, I have to say, the bloodstain thing is a little creepy. I never knew this about you, sounds like a…unique business venture. Bloodstained mouse pads? I’d definitely be interested to see some additional pics, if you have more.

    @Erik: I’m definitely considering releasing one poster at a time on a schedule like you suggest, the only problem is that I’ve struggled a bit with the issue of showing late-game material before the game is released. It’s not exactly spoilery, but it does lessen the impact of seeing it in-game when you might otherwise not know what comes next. But the benefit of building anticipation and maintaining interest might outweigh that.

    As for the full image poster, I think that would be fine, it’s just that the shape of the arch leaves a blank space in the upper corners that doesn’t look great. That could be hidden to an extent by the logos, but I’m not sure just how effective that would be. The other issue is that it’s nice to see more of the detail in the close-up shots, but I guess I could pretty easily offer multiple versions of each poster highlighting different areas.

    Oh, and by the way, they also do make great desktop wallpapers. I’ve been using one from fresco #5 on my laptop for some time now, and I can hardly believe how many comments I get on it. Many people think it’s a real historical painting. (It’s also fairly provocative given the content.)

    I definitely plan on making those available, too, at no charge.

  5. Posted March 5, 2010 at 11:37 AM | Permalink

    @Rubes:

    “…the bloodstain thing is a little creepy.”

    Agreed. It’s… different. The conferences are something special.

    “…sounds like a…unique business venture.”

    It is! A very specialized market for sure, but at least I know I have the best software in the world! I’ve actually been working on the bloodstain stuff since 2005 – before I worked at GarageGames.

    “Bloodstained mouse pads?”

    Like you I wanted to experiment with the print-on-demand stuff. I’ll probably do some of them with my product logo on it to give out at conferences. Now if I could just get those crazy forensics show fans interested…

    Pics: fire me an email and we can sort something out.

  6. Erik Temple
    Posted March 6, 2010 at 4:54 PM | Permalink

    @Rubes:

    “As for the full image poster, I think that would be fine, it’s just that the shape of the arch leaves a blank space in the upper corners that doesn’t look great.”

    Here’s a quick approximation of what I was thinking of:

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/947038/Poster.png

    I think it looks pretty good that way…

    For some reason, the fresco’s aspect ratio and the sense of drama (and maybe the sense that we’re looking at it slightly from above) reminds me of this iconic Dali painting:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_of_Saint_John_of_the_Cross.jpg

    …which is also a spooky rendering of X-ian imagery.

    Re the wallpapers: Yeah, I bet they do look pretty darn good if you just crop in on an area, rather than try to show the whole thing. When do you think you might release the first wallpaper? (That was meant to be a subtle hint.)

    And cropping in also might be one way that, in doing a paced release of posters, you could maintain a balance between lessening the in-game impact of the image, and getting some of that awesome out to the crowds…

  7. Posted March 8, 2010 at 6:09 AM | Permalink

    @Rubes: The thing about “tester” in the shirt it was an “almost joke”, buy now it is a wonderful proposal :) However, I don’t want to compromise yourself. If the Zazzle shop and others are flexible enough to enter slight variations from shirt to shirt, it could be a neat effect to have them personalized.

    Talking about the shop,… there’s no need to stick for Zazzle, just search for a better platform to sell your goods. For example, the marvelous posters at Tale of Tales, are only 10$ each 8-O. It seems they use Big Cartel:

    http://bigcartel.com/

    Another, more cheap option is to handle yourself the goods. But that consume a lot of time in printing (going to a print store to make high quality posters of Vespers, some times you didn’t need to go yourself, you send them the source file by email, and receive a packet the next day with the posters), and packaging. But ey!, the margins are better: they cost you 3$ for a full size poster, but better prices are allowed for massive quantities of the product (a bad idea if the thing doesn’t work).

    There’s no hurry, just talk with other devs, to see if they have used merchandising, and how the experience was going.

    Good luck!

  8. Posted March 8, 2010 at 1:22 PM | Permalink

    @Erik: I think that might work; I was thinking more of having the logos lower down, overlapping the top of the image, so that we don’t have to extend the whole image vertically any more than it is already. I’ll play around with it a bit more and see what I can come up with. I’ll try to get a few wallpapers out in the near future. One question: what are the best resolutions to include?

    @Ruber: You can do just about anything in Zazzle, so adding a little “tester” label to the shirt is no big deal. If I want to do that, that is. ;-)

    The main difference between a site like Zazzle and a site like Big Cartel is that Zazzle takes care of everything for me — ordering, payment, printing, packaging, and shipping. Big Cartel is a nice way to create an online store where they can take the orders and payments, but everything from that point on is up to me — they don’t print posters or other items, they just take the orders. I have to have the poster already, and I have to pack it and ship it.

    Big Cartel is a good way to save money (and to make more profit), but it’s more work for me. A number of places will print posters for much less than Zazzle depending on how many you buy — one place will print 1000 for less than 50 cents each. So then it’s really just the cost of the packaging and shipping, which is probably how Tale of Tales sells theirs for $10. But, like you said, do I really want a few hundred posters and packing tubes sitting around the house, especially when maybe 10 people will want one?

  9. Ruber Eaglenest
    Posted March 9, 2010 at 3:05 AM | Permalink

    In that case, for print posters for your own office, better tu print them by yourself at a “print store” (how do you name the place where they print books, leaflets and posters?

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