“Tynes Law: Make the game you want to play and @#$% everything else.”
— attributed to John Tynes

I live and breathe by that quote above. Doesn’t matter if John actually said it (I’ve asked him; he says he doesn’t remember saying it) because I believe it’s the key to game design. Make the game you want to play and ignore everything else. Yes, other people can provide valuable feedback, but if you start getting lost in the “what will other people think” forest, you are @#$%’d.

When it comes to Galaxy XXX, however, I’m doing a lot more asking for feedback than I usually do. I mean a lot more.

Take for example, our lovely cover illustrated by the amazing Paulius Zakarauskas. In fact, take a look at both of them.

XG_60_01bGalaxy XXX CoverXG_60_01b_low res

The cover on the left is the original. The cover on the right includes changes I asked Paulius to make. It wasn’t easy to ask Pau to make changes after he submitted a final version, but he’s a pro and made the changes I asked for.

Now, the question you might be asking is, “Why did you change the cover, John?”

That, Dear Reader, is a long and complicated answer. But, I’ve got the time and the word count, so let’s do it.

Anson & Vex

The picture features the two main characters from the Galaxy XXX novella I’m writing. We have Captain Andrew Anson and Valeria Vex (you can figure out who is whom). And before we go any further, let me take a moment to explain the difficulty these two gave me.

When writing a story, there’s a difference, I feel, between the narrator and the protagonist. At least, there can be. Usually, the narrator is the protagonist, but not always. In fact, playing with the question of, “Who is the protagonist?” is one of my favorite literary tricks. For example, when watching Fargo, you don’t get introduced to the protagonist until the second act. All the characters you see are the story’s antagonists. Another example I like to use is The Shawshank Redemption. Many feel Andy Dufresne is the protagonist. They’re wrong. Andy is the antagonist. He’s the agent of change. The real protagonist is Red. He’s settled in, given up hope and accepts his lot in life. The antagonist comes along and offers him an opportunity to change. Of course, Red refuses it. It’s a perfect example of something I like to call the “benevolent antagonist.”

When I started writing the story, I felt Anson was really just an observer. He’s a 22nd Century astronaut who got lost in space and awoken from cryosleep in the 40th Century. He’s only around to be the stranger in a strange land, to observe the adventures of my real protagonist, Valeria Vex. But then, something started to happen. As I wrote the characters, Anson took a more active role. As the plot unfolded, I started to realize… my two main characters were both protagonist and antagonist to each other.

Anyway, more on that at another time.

Barbarella & The Fireman

In the fiction, I describe Valeria’s outfit—through the eyes of Anson—as “a skin-tight, silver outfit that would have been called a bikini a few thousand years ago. High, leather boots and black gloves. She carried no weapons that I could see, and trust me, I could see just about everything.”

So, I knew exactly what I wanted for Vex. She wears the outfit because it’s revealing. Because it’s distracting. Because it’s a tactical advantage. And because she’s a henta adept, she wears it because it’s easy to take off.

For Anson’s outfit, I felt giving him a bare chest and pants would be sexually appealing as well. I thought about shorts… but that felt too… I don’t know. It didn’t feel right. Didn’t feel right for the character. He’s brand new to this Century and not fully comfortable yet. So, the shirt off is a step in the right direction for him. Yeah, a baby step. He’s not fully bought in to the mindset of my groovy 40th Century, but he’s getting there. Maybe he’ll never be entirely comfortable with it, and hey!, that’s okay. As one of my early lovers told me, “We only go as far as your comfort level, not mine. Because mine will blow your @#$%’in mind.”

Besides, he looks like a fireman. And that’s what I wanted. I wanted her to be smokin’ hot and I wanted him to be smokin’ hot. He looks like a fireman and she looks like Barbarella.

So, we’ve got Anson in his trousers and Vex in her silver bikini. I’m ready to go. I send the art description to Pau and wait. We go through a few sketches and then he sends me the final. The image you see up above. He blows my mind. I’m amazed. I love it.

I start showing it off. Folks dig it the most, baby.

And then… and then…

Like I said, I’m not deaf to all criticism. I have a small number of people I trust and I give their opinions heavy weight. I was in New Mexico recently and showed the cover to my friend Marissa. When she saw it, she had a reaction I didn’t anticipate.

“Why isn’t she wearing pants?”

I… uh… had… I mean… she… um…

“He’s wearing pants, right? Why can’t she wear pants?”

Yeah… see… it’s a…

“You don’t think skin tight pants are sexy?”

Jessica was there, heard Marissa’s critique and agreed. Vociferously.

And there, right there, I realized my mistake.

All my professional game design life I’ve been fighting against cheesecake art in RPGs. And here I am, making a game that actually gives me a valid reason to have cheesecake art. And beefcake art, too. And I @#$%ed it up.

They made a fair point. I wanted a cover that portrayed both my characters as both action heroes and sex symbols. Competent, gorgeous, three-dimensional and smokin’ hot. But if I wanted them to be portrayed as equals—which I did—she should be wearing pants. If she wasn’t wearing pants, he shouldn’t be wearing pants.

They were right. Absolutely right.

It wasn’t a matter of making people sex objects. I mean, I was making them sex objects. But three-dimensional sex objects with personalities and flaws and strengths and backgrounds and…

Dammit, she needed pants. Skin tight pants.

So, I contacted Pau and told him my dilemma. As I said, Pau is a professional, so he gave me several options. We agreed on one and he sent the revision.

And now, you see the difference.

And Valeria Vex still looks like Barbarella.

Galaxy XXX: A Tale of Two Covers

One thought on “Galaxy XXX: A Tale of Two Covers

  • Not to start off on the wrong foot, but I though he was in pants because he was less comfortable in this bold, un-repressed future, and that Vex was bold enough not to care. Does the change reflect the world of today or their world of the 40th century?

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