February 20, 2021
Graphic Design & Rulebooks (A Case Study)
featuring Micro Dojo by Prometheus Game Labs
We recently worked with Ben of Prometheus Game Labs to edit and upgrade the rulebook for his flat-packed game, Micro Dojo. Here's how the process went:
As the game designer, Ben has invested many months refining Micro Dojo—playtesting, commissioning art, writing and proofreading the rules... Most recently, he had worked on getting all the game pieces to fit onto a single punch-out board to ensure it could be shipped in a flat envelope. (At Small Furry Games, we take great care to keep our games as small, affordable, and sustainable as possible, so you can imagine why we loved this game!)
Ben plans to launch Micro Dojo on Kickstarter in May 2021 and was just about to send out the first batch of test mailings when he asked us to playtest Micro Dojo with him on Tabletop Simulator. Afterward, he asked us to take "one last look" at his unique, fold-up rulebook. (It had been proofread several times by multiple people, and in his mind, Ben thought it was ready, but wanted us to take one final look.) We did our normal round of editing for spelling, grammar, and clarity, and corrected several inconsistencies that had been overlooked.
In the process of editing, we suggested that some simple graphic design upgrades would make the instructions more approachable for first-time players, and enhance the overall look of the game. Ben was open to seeing what we could do.
From Home-Printed to Print-House-Ready
Though Ben had used Microsoft Publisher to prepare his original rulebook, professional printers typically appreciate a more professionally prepared file. So Ben provided us the original .pub file, his game art, and rulebook, and we recreated the layout in Adobe InDesign.
After a week of discussion and revisions with Ben, we arrived at a design together. Small changes, like adding clear headings, separating sections with color, and using a full-bleed layout (color that goes all the way to the edges of the page), took Micro Dojo from a home-printed document to a polished rulebook. Along the way, we also found ways to further condense and clarify the rules—which goes to show how proofreading and graphic design often go hand-in-hand.
Before & After
Here's a look at the front side of Micro Dojo's rulebook, before and after. (To zoom-in on either version, right-click and select "open image in new tab.")
Enlarged headings make easier for a reader to skim the document for the information they need, including the most important "How to Play" information, which is now broken into 2 clear steps, with large, consistently aligned visuals.
In the original version, the board reference on the top-right was simply an image of the board. In the new version, it has clear instructions about what pieces go where.
The colors and font families chosen for the design match the overall look of the game.
The amount of copy (text) has been reduced and condensed, and is ready for translation to different languages.
Ben's Reaction to the Changes
The best part about working on this rulebook was seeing Ben's reaction to the changes:
"It's gone from being just a rulebook to a really impressive and professional-looking piece. People have literally "wow"ed as they unfold the rulebook. Emily not only made it look great, but went through everything in detail multiple times to help get all the language and formatting consistent." —Ben, Designer of Micro Dojo
We really enjoyed working on Ben's pocket-sized game, and we hope you'll check out Micro Dojo on Kickstarter when it launches in May 2021. You can sign-up for updates about the launch on the Prometheus Games website.
Want help with your rulebook?
Having a clear, polished rulebook can make the difference between a first-time player being confused about your game, or rushing to the table to play it right away. For help with proofreading, rulebook writing, and other services, check out our Services page.