Let me start with some positives: I’m very exciting about the potential of ACK, most specifically its promise of formalizing the “campaign” part of “role-playing campaign”. I’ve been a long time reader of The Mule Abides blog, and ACK seems like a logical outgrowth of the kind of play styles and other explorations of “the old school” that have been taking place there.
So when ACK was announced over there, I clicked through to Kickstarter, digital wallet in hand, excited to support a project of this type. And then I saw the “cover image”. And my first reaction was one of profound disappointment.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still pledged. And I’ve downloaded the rules text and been looking through it with interest, and skimming the blog and generally liking what I’ve been seeing. But that one image is still getting me down. And here is where I become that annoying guy that shows up from nowhere and says “hey, you know that thing you guys worked REALLY HARD on? It’s not so good…”
But on the other hand, the Kickstarter invites me to “help us publish this game with illustration, layout, and production values comparable to the classic RPGs that were our inspirations.” So alright. If I let this pass without comment, I’m not doing that. Because I don’t think the current cover image fulfills that mandate in any way.
In the spirit of constructive criticism, let me try to express what’s bothering me about the cover image:
It shouts “generic fantasy gamer art” at me. Just the general style of rather bland painted art that permeates 4e and everybody that wants to look like 4e. I can see attempts to take it another direction sure, hey, that guy is brown. And the woman is scratched up. But at a glance? It just says “another 3e/4e supplement from a second string publisher”.
It comes off as vaguely amateurish. The figure poses are awkward, the woman’s gaze is strangely directed, and the overall composition seems strangely stilted. Forgive me, I know how hard this stuff is to get right. I couldn’t do it. But it still bugs me.
And for me the largest failing: it does not sell me on what ACK is fundamentally about. There are tons of RPGs that will give me scrappy fighting, but ACK (at least from my perspective) is supposed to be giving the grand sweep as well. Sure the title tells me that, but how does the cover sell me “Some day, you could ride at the head of armies?”
In my head there is a vision of a cover that could have the same two protagonists in a triptych, first alone in desperate battle for their lives against steep odds, then riding at the head of an army, and finally ensconced on a throne as their subjects kneel before them. Too literal? I dunno. Just an idea.
The thing that inspired me to put forward this little rant was a thread in my G+ stream where a couple folks were poking at the ACK Kickstarter going “what the heck is this thing?” and somebody posted a link to this discussion from the Mule:
…and a respondent commented: “Yeah. I am amused by the contrast of the art used for the kickstarter and the references in the article.” And I thought yeah, the Kickstarter image brings me none of what I found exciting about the discussion on the Mule, or what I find exciting about the kinds of play that I hope ACK can engender. And that was enough to move me from niggling disappointed to a need to express it.
On a positive note? I think the two Visionary-inspired pieces posted in the blog totally do fit with the vision for ACK otherwise expressed.