Component Studio by The Game Crafter

As an independent game designer, I’m always on the lookout for tools that make my game design life easier. I’m also looking for tools that won’t cost me an arm and leg because I don’t make any money at this (I’m looking at you Adobe). I do it for the love of it. I use many free tools that are just incredible and I’m so thankful to the folks who build and support them – it’s obvious they love what they’re doing too. If you aren’t familiar with these tools, I highly recommend you check out Inkscape, Scribus, and Google Drive.

Enter Component Studio. First things first, if you are a game designer, whether professional or hobbyist, you should familiarize yourself with The Game Crafter. They are an incredible support to the gaming community at large, they participate in all the big conventions and are a constant source of encouragement and help to the game designer community. (No, they didn’t pay me to say that.)

I will say that CS is not free, but,  it’s worth it to pay the monthly sub because of its incredible power to let you manage your game projects, make changes quickly during the playtest and development process, and its integration with third-party services. Since I’ve started using Component Studio I’ve taken the plunge and begun the process of migrating all of my games to it, and I have zero regrets.

Projects

Pros

CS supports projects, which let you easily organize your games. Each project consists of a section for storing Images, Data Sets, Designs, and Fonts. This means you have a nice workspace for each project with all of its perspective pieces and parts. You can also make copies of components and projects easily, so you could likely even set up your own templates as a starting point for future projects.

Cons

Your process will naturally have to fit in the CS design paradigm which includes using spreadsheets to manage your game text, quantities, and other variables. This might be a mind-shift for some of you. In my opinion, this is the way you ought to be handling your design process anyway and this actually allowed me to solidify some things into a much cleaner design process.  Also, there is a 20GB limit on accounts which could be a hurdle at some point, if you have enough projects. I’m hopeful that this limit will eventually go up without any additional cost (disk space is as cheap as it’s ever been, and I know they’ve back-boned this on E3), but for now, I’m OK with this.

Design

You can use CS to design all of your game components, including creating the layouts for your cards, boards, or what have you.

Pros

You can do almost everything in one program instead of having to learn a ton of tools. They’ve implemented a pseudo-code system that lets you choose a set of data and merge it with a design and voila! You have all of your components complete with text and graphics. Need to change the text on your cards? Update your data set and rerun the export and presto! All your components have the change applied.

Cons

You need to know a little bit about programming to fully leverage the system. I’m actually a programmer by career, so this wasn’t a leap for me at all. However, for someone that does not really have any technical savvy, this could be a learning curve for you. It’s worth it to learn this, however, and it will save you oodles of time once you lay the groundwork for your project.

If you come expecting Adobe Illustrator, you’re going to be disappointed. This isn’t a professional design tool, but it does a decent job at what its here for.

Integration

This is the big kahuna. Component Studio integrates with a couple of other platforms by literally clicking a button. Want to playtest your game online? Bam! Export your game to TableTop Simulator. Want to print a prototype of your game? Kapow! Export your game directly to a Game Crafter project. Oh, you want to give a print and play copy to the world? Zzzap! Export your game to a print and play PDF.

Pros

Updating your resources for your Game Crafter or Tabletop Simulator project could not be easier. The folks at The Game Crafter understand technology, they know that their stuff should integrate and play nice with other services, and they already have a proven track record with developing and supporting a powerful API via The Game Crafter.

Cons

They only support 2 external services at this time: The Game Crafter and Tabletop Simulator. This list will eventually grow, and it’s new tech, so this is not unexpected. If you don’t care about either of these things then there are no cons here for you.

Closing Thoughts

I didn’t even flinch at paying for Component Studio for one simple reason: I got in on the early bird discount and so I only pay $5.99 a month for life. The standard price is actually $9.99 a month if you missed the discount window. Honestly, I might balk at that number myself since I’m a hobbyist and I make $0 doing this. But, let’s compare this to, oh I don’t know … Adobe Illustrator which weighs in at a whopping $19.99 a month.

Even if I had to pay the full price, I think I’d still bite the bullet because CS lets me spend time designing my games instead of worrying about how to get them to print so I can play them. You’ll have to judge for yourself if it’s worth it to you  —  The Game Crafter offers a 3-day trial (which I think should be atleast week).

They also seem to be very responsive and are constantly adding little improvements. If I had to guess, I’d wager they are eating their own dog food.

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Star Trek Adventures RPG

Bought the PDF. Started watching all things Trek. Dreamed about Trek. Played Star Trek Online. Setup a roll20.net game. Still, I can’t shake thinking about this game. Probably because I still haven’t found time to actually play it.

Star Trek Adventures looks aesthetically great and captures the feel of Star Trek. It uses the 2d20 system where you roll (wait for it …) 2d20 and attempt to roll under a target number based on your stats. At first, I was hesitant about the system, because, you know, it’s not Fate (but, hey, what is?) After reading through the rules, however, I noticed they took a Q from Fate and essentially incorporated aspects as well as zones. Maybe this has something to do with my current crush on this bad boy.

Special Dice

I like that they are using 20-sided dice. Face it, rolling twenties is fun. More fun than six-siders. But, they threw in six-siders, too, for you old-schoolers. My only issue is that their six-sided dice are special dice that don’t have your standard numbers on them. Instead, they are a bit like Fate dice (hmm, I’m detecting a trend here.) 2 of the sides have an effect that might trigger some special abilities when you roll them. For example, a vicious weapon will inflict additional damage for each effect that shows on the dice face. I feel this is a fun way to give some variation to your weapons.

Star ships are people too!

First thing, the ships are treated like a character, which means you don’t need to learn a whole new way of doing things when you start using your ship. There are a few extra items in there, but, essentially, it’s a character.

What differentiates ships from characters is their scale. Scale is a representation of how big something is compared to something else. Ships also track breaches, which are an indication of how deeply any damage has invaded your ship.

The Trek-verse

They’ve put tons of information about the Trek-verse in the book. Some of the information is pure knowledge dump, but there’s also data presented as communications from famous people from the movies and TV shows.

They also cover many of the races, particularly the more popular and involved races from the tube. Also, even though the game’s setting is in the 24th century, with a few minor tweaks (like removing some equipment and ships from play) you can choose any setting from Original Series onward.

So. Many. Actions.

During a conflict, there are Minor Actions and Tasks. Minor Actions are limited to one per turn but include drawing a weapon, dropping prone, standing up, etc. Tasks are the big things: punching someone in the face, firing phasers, sprinting all out, creating advantages (Hey! More Fate!), etc.

Star Ship combat adds an additional layer of options based each of the major ship posts: tactical, helm, sensor operator, security, communications, etc. They all have unique actions that only a character at that post can perform.

I can’t decide whether I love this or hate it, but there are a ton of actions you can perform. My first thought is that you’ll be scoring the book constantly during combat because of how many things you can do. Maybe with a good GM Screen that summarizes everything this will turn into less of an issue, but for your first several games I can tell you, you will be abusing your beautiful book.

Final Thoughts

This game feels like Fate + Crunch. Which I think sounds awesome. I’ll report back after I really play it and let you know how it went down. Until then, live long and prosper.

P.S.

Oh yeah, there’s also a living campaign that you should really check out if you end up playing. Hopefully, they can keep up with the content, but so far, so good. You can sign up for it in the sidebar on the main web page.