OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


How Star Army uses custom imagery

ketsurui_rikouOne of the most important and obvious aspects of a text-based roleplaying game is that it uses text. But we don’t just have to stick to the written form, many roleplaying games use imagery and cool graphics to convey ideas, places, characters and mood. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!

One of the most illustrative roleplaying games I’ve seen is Star Army, which uses brilliant custom artwork. I recently spoke with Wes Davis, creator of Star Army about the amazing artwork they use.

Was the artwork for Star Army created specifically, or did you just find and use appropriate images on the web?

Wes Davis

All of the Star Army artwork is unique to the site and is either made by commissioned artists or members of the community. In order to keep our site unique and steer clear of copyright woes, we disallow third-party image links and the uploading of copyrighted images from the web. At the same time, the community culture places a high value on artwork. We’ve spent thousands of dollars—about half the site’s yearly expenses—illustrating the site and it really sets us apart from any other roleplaying community I’ve encountered.

I typically find artists through DeviantART and if I like their work and I see they do commissions, I’ll send them a note with a proposal for a commission and a link to our standard contract. If they accept, we pay via PayPal.

At first, we focused on character art but characters come and go so we’ve changed focus to illustrating pages and items that are the most commonly used. In the future I would like to get more action scenes for the site, illustrating space battles, infantry combat, and bustling cities.

Your members all have similar artwork for their forum avatars. Is this mandatory? Do the characters choose these themselves or are they given specific images?

Wes DavisStar Army has an ongoing project to attempt to get chibi-style artwork (anime-style character art with a large head) for every player character and major NPC. We’ve purchased nearly 200 chibi artworks to date. This style of artwork is typically much less expensive than full-size character art. Players tend to use this cute artwork for avatars, as a normally-proportioned image would make it difficult to see the details of the face in a forum avatar.

To get artwork for your character, there’s a request thread on the forums. Sometimes we get art for entire plots. This service is provided free to active players.

Getting custom artwork is time consuming, and also can be expensive, as Wes said above, they’ve spent thousands of dollars creating suitable imagery. The result is something that definitely stands out however. Here’s some more of their custom imagery:

There’s a large gallery of their images on DeviantArt here.

Tell us what you think about imagery in roleplaying games, and let us know what you do in your game. Do you use imagery found on the internet? Do you make sure the imagery you use is all in the same style? Or do you perhaps not even view imagery as that important to the roleplay experience? Let us know in the comments below!