A while ago I had posted about Iconica, a beautiful, game self-published by Eric Torres. I had asked Eric if he wouldn’t mind answering some questions for me, and he happily agreed to an interview.

Can you tell our readers who you are, what you do, and your background in gaming?

Sure. My name is Eric Torres. During the day I work as a designer/art director for an in-house marketing team. By night I’m a writer and illustrator, working on my own personal projects.

My background in gaming really started with board games and card games. As a youngster I played tons of board games from Chess and Checkers to Risk and Stratego. Of course, I grew up as a Nintendo kid, so I spent a fair amount of time playing on the original Nintendo Entertainment System as well.

When did you start working on the World of Rynaga, and how long has it
taken you to get as far as you are?

I started building the World of Rynaga (rin-ah-gah) in 2004. By the end of 2006 I had outlined 12 major races along with their histories and cultures. I created the galaxy Rynaga belonged to, its solar system, and related planets. I built a foundation for the stories I’d tell by imagining the conflicts, creatures, families, cities, landmarks, plant-life, and weather patterns one might find on this planet. So, you might say it’s taken me about six years to get where I am now – the beginning!

When did you decide to make a game based in the World of Rynaga?

The thought occurred to me while driving home from work one day. You have all kinds of crazy ideas when you’re stuck in traffic.

Truly, it seemed like a natural thing to do. I had a fictional world, the characters were in my head, they had histories and different agendas. I knew a game could also offer players a way to interact with Rynaga and it’s peoples, while having a social experience at the same time. That’s really what games are about, bringing people together.

Funding a game can get very tricky, so I’ve started small and kept things simple. Creating Iconica has been really satisfying and it’s off to a great start.

The graphic design of the game is beautiful, yet minimalistic. Did the fact that you’re self publishing help make the decisions that ended up in the final design? Did not having to worry about the box on a game store shelf give you more freedom to make the game look how you really wanted?

Thank you. Yes, self-publishing really does afford a creator more freedom. At the same time things like production values, presentation details, and visual language all need to come together to create a marketable product.

For this reason, I’ve tried to pay attention to all of the details involved as best as possible. For instance, something as basic as securing an ISBN and barcode go a long way to communicating the merit of a product, whether it lives online or in a retail space.

Tell us a little bit about the design process of Iconica.

It starts with writing and answering some important questions about the characters themselves. Where does this character live? What does he/she look like? What are his/her motives? What role does the character play? How do all of these things affect what actions, equipment, and skills a character should possess?

Once I understand a character, I begin drawing the artwork. I use sketch paper and grid paper to develop the compositions. I use a style that features geometric shapes as the foundation for the illustrations I create. Keeping the visual language consistent is very important to me.

Once the art is done and a card has been formatted in Adobe InDesign, the testing phase begins. Thankfully, I have a group of peers that I trust for honest feedback and they’re not shy about giving it. Testing a card usually takes weeks, so I’m literally always testing new cards. It’s tons of fun, but we take it seriously too.

In the end, each character has to feel like an individual capable of offering more richness to the game and the World of Rynaga itself.

What made you decide to self publish instead of trying to get published?

Well, that was a big decision. It really came down to not wanting to wait around for someone to give me permission to do something I really wanted to do. I knew I had the skill, time, energy, support, and funds to get things going, so I just started. Getting ideas done is now a priority for me in everything I do.

I do understand that some people would rather look for venture capitalists or “king-makers” to take more of the risk off of their shoulders. Yet, more often than not, these deals don’t really turn out great. In addition, many never see their ideas materialize as they wait for a golden ticket that never comes.

Ultimately, I want to retain ownership of my intellectual property. By deciding to publish things through my own company, I was able to make sure that I would see more of the benefits for my hard work.

Can you tell us a little about your manufacturing process? What steps are involved? Where/how do you print your cards? etc…

In terms of manufacturing and fulfillment, I’m constantly monitoring vendors for the best deals so that I can keep my costs down and provide supporters of my work with reasonable prices for the products I create. However, quality has to come automatically with everything I do, so I pay close attention to my vendor choices.

As for printing of Iconica cards, I work exclusively with a trade printer to produce the game cards. This ensures a consistent product and I’m also able to form a relationship for long-term benefits. I do all of the pre-press work for each file to be printed and I upload these to the printer via their Web site.

What can we expect for the future of Iconica?

Wow. Where to begin? I don’t really want to hype things up, but I’m excited! Iconica is maturing more and more each day it seems. In the short-term, I’ll be finishing Series One, planning the first Iconica event here in Phoenix, and releasing a boxed set of all Series One material. There are also plans for new types of cards, featuring beasts, pets, and special scenario cards that will create a setting for which to play in.

Long-term I would like to see Iconica become one of the most successful independently produced games in the world, with a strong niche following, and active community. It would be great to collaborate with supporters of Iconica in meaningful ways as well.

In the end, I plan to work on Iconica for many years to come.

Any other games in the works?

Hmmmm. How to answer this…? Iconica is my primary focus and I’m intent on keeping that focus. However, I’m always working on “secret projects.” ;)

Anything else you might like us to know?

Yes. As an independent publisher and creator, my number one enemy is obscurity. Thank you for your interest in my work and giving me this opportunity to talk about what I love to do. I really appreciate it.