Component Studio is Dope

Laying out a Harris Hawks tile in Component Studio.

I have many weaknesses when it comes to game design, but perhaps most severe among them is an allergy to making cards. They’re such an incredibly powerful component… an arbitrary-odds randomizer, plus hidden information, plus ‘multiple use’ item, plus… plus… plus… 🤯) but the idea of designing, balancing and laying out, not to mention the act of fucking printing and cutting out entire decks of them fills me with dread; and nothing makes me more likely to abandon a design forever than the mere fact that it requires a lot of cards.

(Let’s leave aside, for a second, the irony then, of my first signed game ever design being Potemkin Empire — a fully card-driven design)

After feeling abandoned by paperize, I’ve been a squib guy for a long time now, after some offhanded musing about either attempting to either acquire paperize, or replicate it and compete. Squib has met me where I live: it’s ruby, it’s code, its layouts are easy, it does everything I need (except the f*ing cutting and sleeving…). I even considered if I might use it as a backend for my paperize competitor, were I to ever build it.

Then along came Component Studio — JT (owner of The Game Crafter) has been a friend for a few years now, after crossing paths at several Cons, as far back as UCon 2008 in Ann Arbor 😂, and the Protospiel Ann Arbor when I first sent Valour home with a publisher, so I was excited, and of course jokingly pissed when he scooped me on building this out as a web app. Though by doing so, he ultimately saved me hundreds of hours and/or a gazillion dollars trying to roll this myself.

Plus it’s fantastic. I finally jumped in to try it a few months ago, as I mentioned in the Harris Hawks designer diary — the game required square cards, which I knew were possible in Squib, but since I always print on standard paper sleeve each together with an MtG card, and this seemed hard for square cards. (Though of course Geoff’s trick here could easily be employed for square cards in addition to hex cards.)

Harris Hawks tile deck imported back to TGC.

The bonus feature with Component Studio is that it interfaces round trip with TGC, importing component sizes/templates for designing, then pushing back for printing, allowing my next iteration of Harris Hawk Hunt to be easily be printed and shipped to me (for just $12!)

I spent about an hour making up a spreadsheet based on the existing pen + card proto (which turned out to be a huge mistake, because I forgot to include all the notes I took during playtests and had to completely refactor card counts)

Then, after watching one of the demo videos, it was incredibly easy to pick up the design tool itself (caveat: I’m familiar with Photoshop and other layer-based image tools, so I had some mental models about how this might work going in), and in one evening I had my new square cards all laid out. Luckily I discovered my notes before placing the order, and I was able to get the distributions updated, but now I have a really professional looking copy of a quick (15m) game for playtesting!