Thursday, December 31, 2009

Virus and Zombie: switched at birth?

Not wanting to end the year on a negative note, I'll end it instead with this interesting thought: when you get right down to it, FFG's Virus sort of looks like Zombie, and Zombie sort of looks like Virus.

I won't got so far as to say there was a mistake — I can say with first-hand experience that CE designer Kevin Wilson really nurtured the game during its development phase — but I will say that it's a pretty interesting side-by-side comparison. My guess would be either, A) a last-minute switch in artwork, for reasons unknown; or B) everything is as it was meant to be, and the folks at FFG must be thinking we're all a bunch of conspiracy theorists.

Still ... just look at those pictures.


pgocosmic said...

Among the founding principles which never survive the whims of the myriad art directors who get their hands on Cosmic Encounter, is that the aliens are supposed to have graphcs which:
a) fit the alien
b) are distinctly different from other aliens
c) do ot all have the same 'artistic style'
d) are funny
e) do not over emphasize guns and violence
f) do not have the same scale
e) are not overly 'humanoid'
f) do not have the same color schemes
g) give the players a quick inuitive handle to remember them
h) Use the written history to add flavor to the art

For example:
-the original Virus looks like a virus as seen under a microscope - why make it anythiing else?
- the original Mutant resembles a DNA strand
- the Empath is an entire planet (art directors seem to hate that).
- the original aliens have clashing art styles, perspectives, locations
- the Void is a black hole and the Anti-Matter a spacey looking scene. (We insisted on keeping these in the FFG verson, because they were both headed to becomeng 'recognizable 'beings of some sort'.

Some examples of art direction disasters:
Mayfair: all blue/brown flat looking stuff
Hasbro: We literally chose art at random for about half the aliens since they all looked similar.

FFG art is well done, and some aliens are excellent, but it's way heavy on humanoids and guns, and the colors (for the most part ) are too similar. Expansion aliens can cure this over time.

Bill Martinson said...

Thanks for the insight, Peter. That list pretty well sums up how I feel about CE alien art, and demonstrates yet another reason why your original edition had such *style*. You guys were never afraid to break boundaries, and I've sometimes wondered if the original Zombie art was possibly even an unfinished or concept piece -- one that nevertheless succeeded (in part, I think, due to the "incomplete" feel) quite masterfully in portraying the forlorn misery of a being who can never, ever die.

Your list also really brings into sharp focus why the Avalon-Hill art was so inexcusably off the mark: they violated pretty much your entire list except 'e' (and even then, I can see the "darkness" of all the vaguely disturbing cybermonsters to be emphasizing violence).

I'm well acquainted with the frustrating of having an art directory pull the rug out from under the development team. Back in my CCG days, there were a couple of times I actually vetoed a perfectly fine gameplay card from an expansion set because an artist wanted to ruin it with a poor or mismatched image; it was easier to swap completely a different component into the game than argue with the art department!

We just recently had a thread about the FFG aliens on BGG, in which we discussed some of the image oddities for Zombie, Virus, Spiff, and others -- most notably Grudge, who is lamentably missing his suction discs. If you think such a discussion would be of any help in letting an art director see how these decisions affect the reception of the product in the consumer's eyes, here's a link into the part of the thread where the image hijack starts:

pgocosmic said...

Thanks Bill- This has been an ongoing balancng act. We like other publishers to get thier shot at adding or subtracting to Cosmic Encounter. And FFG has been the best by far in many respects. My ideal would be to collect a cadre of artists and give each one an alien. The instruction would be to look at no other aliens. Read the history. Check the original Eon art if there was any and then do whatever they wanted in accordance with the principles laid out above. In fact with Hasbro, that's what we did. So they hired a contractor and told him nothing. Then they claimed that it was done and the 10K art budget was spent. I suspect the art direction was...make them all look like the alien in the movie "Aliens" as much as possble.

One thing that always stops us is that we never sold a ton of games as Eon, so who are we to rant on about what will sell.

When I have time I wil post up all the aliens in all the versions. There are actually some very nice renditions scattered around the world. If anyone wants to take a crack at that project I have a lot of them scanned :)

Andy Bates said...

Peter, I agree with you in general, although I feel you’re not giving FFG enough credit, and perhaps giving Mayfair too much.

Mayfair is clearly the worst of the bunch, with some aliens that don’t even look alien. “Oh look, a fat man in a brown suit” just doesn’t scream “alien” to me. The artwork is just plain horrible. ’Nuff said.

As for FFG, I think the humanoid look can work, as long as it’s not done out of laziness or lack of ideas. Pacifist, Loser, Locust…they are all humanoid, but still look alien, instead of just a human with a different forehead (to borrow a Star Trek trope). Plus, the artwork is just so nice! I just love looking at it!

pgocosmic said...

Let's clear up any misconceptions. There is precious little to recommend anything about the Mayfair art or treatment of the game, or adherence to the contract with Eon.

We love the FFG Version, and Comsic Incusion and we love the care and attention given to Cosmic by Kevin WIlson.

I want Keven to get his hands on Borderlands for us and have told him so on multiple occasions. :)

Unknown said...

I had a hunch you photoshopped switched the artwork. I double checked with my set and see you did. Very sneaky. :) Ok, I agree. It does look like an artwork mistake.

Eon artwork was awesome. Mayfair sucked. Mayfair even ruined the joke for Pirate.

TheDukester said...

Well, yes and no.

Yes, the aliens have been switched -- but it wasn't me. I just lifted it, as is, from a BGG thread:

pgocosmic said...

Hey you could start your own cable news channel!

Coin-coin le Canapin said...

I've found this intriguing, and I asked the zombie artist about this.

Her reply was :
"Zombie has always been Zombie for me. The original art description called for a something that was NOT a horror movie type zombie. My concept was a transparent grub/slug that ate everything organic in it's path and has it's young ready to detach if there is any trouble. I was inspired by No-Face from Spirited Away, carnivorous plants and transparent animals (worms, ghost shrimp, larva etc)."

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