Quality Control: Creating the New Look of the Game
Ante Up: The Cover
Joshua Brain Jaffe
(Please put the blowtorch down)
March 2, 2001
Alright, here we go.
Seems the cover of TLE has caught some flack. Funny, since no one has SEEN IT YET. So here it is. I am going to keep my social commentary to a minimum because for one, this column is about the design, not the ills of societal, cultural and biological gender interaction, and for two, I left my asbestos suit at the cleaners.
Let's get the unpleasantries out of the way first, shall we? When I thought about what I wanted a cover, after some failed concepts, I figured, quite simply, that I wanted a Scion on the cover, a character from the game, or at least a possible one. A Messiah, or Antichrist, who would portray the religious aspects of this game. My brother and I talked it over, and decided that stigmata would be a recognizable symbol, as well as the obligatory Halo..
With this simple start, it was obvious we needed to figure out whom we wanted for the cover. We long decided a photo instead of a painting would be an original idea. Next came the question of gender. Well, a woman. Of course..
We figured a portraying a woman as the symbol of the Second Coming(s) of Christ was a pretty cool idea. Now, what do we want with this woman? Well, we wanted her to look strong-willed, powerful, and yes, sexy. Have her look stern, put a gun in her hand, and do her hair up nice. Now, pardon my cultural deficiency, but putting a fat/ugly/muscle bound (mind strength, not physical strength, was the idea here) woman on the cover didn't cross my mind. Pretty soon after, we thought it would really cool to later release the same cover, but with a man, and we wanted the same aspects out of him. Strong, but not muscle bound. Half because I don't like the image, and half because almost every woman I know finds muscle bound men unattractive.
So it was settled: We would find a beautiful, strong willed woman (yeah, because I know millions of them!) and put her on the cover . Now, a new dialogue began in my head:
Great. Now I just had to find the woman. Soon, it occurred to me that we were hiring Derek Stevens to do art for the book, and his wife is gorgeous. I didn't know if she'd be up for it, but I figured I'd ask. I make the call. She loves the idea. She WANTS to be our booth bait as well! (Her idea! Can't turn down that deal!)
So I set it all up, fly out to St.Louis, we drive out to Kentucky (yikes) and do the shoot. Derek paints our logo on her back. It goes great. After the slides get back, slap her on a nice sky background, all Heaven-like, put some Stigmata on her and chef up the graphic design. We have a cover. Here it is:
Now for graphic design-y stuff. Pardon if I ramble, but this is all kind of hard to explain. First off, the logo. The whole techno-logo with all the lines behind it, and the same line thingies on the left vertical and the symbols running down along it idea came to me on the flight back from GAMA in Vegas last year. Seeing Vegas on the way back is amazing. You can see the light of the Luxor for MILES. Inspiration just hit. It came out great. Next, I decided to follow suit with the Sacred Heart logo, and then the idea to make all look like a head-up display. Folks, outlining all of that and doing all that detail work, have taken since that day, almost a year to the day.
I put the "targeting sights" on the Cross, the plug of the high-tech Crown of Thorns representation and one on the pointy devil tail on the end of it. I figured the Cross would be like the arms display (the main weapon!) the plug some sort of status report, and the devil tail the target. Like the Cross and the Crown are targeting evil. They are in the same symbol, since it is all two sides to one battle. Both claim to be the true god, both lay claim to being the true center of religion. I figured it would look cool to connect the heart symbol to the heart tattoo, so I used all this lines to connect them, like she must represent this battle somehow, since all this symbolism is ON HER as well. Lastly I put the warnings on the gun. Is she good? Is she bad? Who knows.
The Stigmata and and the Halo were simple symbolic tools to portray her Spirituality, and the whiting out of her eyes was to simply remove her personality, so her good-evil leanings would be harder to Judge. Lastly, any of you who saw the older version of this cover on our pamphlet will notice two main differences. First, the photo as opposed to the Vallejo painting. Basically, Boris completely screwed up the concept (the symbolic differences between a pistol and an Uzi are staggering) and was generally a pain to deal with. There is a much more emotional side to this story, but I ain't telling. Second, the color scheme changed from black/yellow to clouds, blue, and, well, every color. This was originally due to everyone at GenCon thinking the black motif was some attempt to be Goth (GOOD GOD NO!!!!), and so went with a far better Heavenly concept.
So that's it. More or less, I think it speaks for itself. I think it is a tasteful and beautiful cover. I am damn proud of it. It took a lot of work. If you think it's ugly, I can't help ya. If you think it's tasteless, I can't really help you either, but at least now we all know what we are talking about. Cheesecake? I dunno, but it does portray the essence of the game, which is the main goal here.
Finally... Peace the eff out.
PS: Sarah you are a sweet, bright, talented and gorgeous woman. Thank you. PPS: Derek. I hate you, you lucky bastard. Thanks for the great art, and the whole-putting-your-wife-on-the-cover-of-my-book-naked thing.