Some of the earliest advice I got about game design came from Alex Yeager of Mayfair games. I met with him in 2016 to pitch my first design, which was a clunky wooden monstrosity that I was extremely proud of at the time. At some point during our meeting, I apologized for the state of some of the artwork of my prototype, to which he replied, “never apologize about how your prototype looks.” He explained that publishers weren’t concerned with the artwork of prototypes that designers pitch, as they generally would throw out the artwork as a first step in the development stage. This idea has been echoed by several publishers that I’ve met and pitched to throughout the last three years. The general sentiment is this; make a good game, let the publisher handle how it looks.
I’ve often scratched my head at the amount of time and effort that independent designers put into the development of their prototype artwork. I’ve seen designers spend countless hours and hundreds of dollars trying to make their prototype look good. On the one hand, if a designer is planning on kickstarting their game and releasing it independently, that makes perfect sense. But for the rest of us, over-developing prototype artwork doesn’t seem like a necessary investment. Publishers want good, functional prototypes that allow them to see the mechanics play out. If those mechanics are good, and if the game is one that those publishers are looking for, they’ll sign it regardless of what it looks like.
My goal is to make good games, to find the right publishers, and to be respectful and friendly as I try and get those games signed. I don’t exhaust too much energy or resources on artwork, as I try and let the games speak for themselves. I’ve learned how to not apologize about how my prototypes look. Hopefully, the world will get to enjoy them.