I've seen one or two unboxing videos of Santimanitay pop up; but now someone has written an actual review of it. I actually met Nicole at one of my play tests last year, she helped test the game twice actually. Nicole, quite possibly, may have played the game more than anyone else I know, playing it twice before release as well as multiple times after she bought a copy. Who better to do a review than her. Anyway, you can check it out here and take a look around while you're there she has a lot of great content!
It's an interesting feeling when your hard work starts to pay off and goals become reality. After more that two years of development and testing and prototyping and more testing, it's almost here. Well, technically it IS here. After a fair deal of back and forth with the manufacturers, me telling them what I wanted and they advising me on what was practical and cost effective, we came to a compromise. I was able to have a handful of the final version of the game shipped and the video is me opening it up for the first time. There is no commentary because I was in a bit of shock to be honest; I just didn't know what to say.
I was very impressed with the quality of the finished product; the overall finish, the print quality, the weight; it felt substantial, not flimsy or cheap. One of the compromises that I'm very glad happened was the finish of the game box itself. Initially I wanted a gloss finish, because that's more in line with the prototype I had created. The manufacturer said that a matte finish would look better, I doubted it, but this was one thing they felt very strongly about, and so I trusted their judgement. I was not disappointed at all! I'm very VERY happy with the final result. Design-wise, my goal was to produce something that would be able to stand up and compete with anything else on the market visually AND in terms of quality. I think I have achieved that with this product.
I have always been involved in Carnival and Mas; playing, making, photographing. For a long while I helped produce a children’s Carnival band, and in 2006 the band played “Aquarium,” a stylized sailor band designed by Patrick Roberts (designer and bandleader).
I was the graphic designer for the band and as such I handled the logo creation for the different portrayals each year, along with helping to construct the costumes of course. For Aquarium however, I got a little more involved in the design aspect of the band itself. I created different fish icons for the band.
These icons were then projected and blown up to make stencils.
These stencils were then used to transfer the artwork onto squares of fabric.
These fabric squares were then stretched over frames to be hand painted.
Which was then used to make the costumes.
It was a very interesting experience seeing my artwork on children's costumes as they played ah mas through town.
My working prototype was put together using some pre-made elements; the box, the board and the player piece stands, which were all blank so I could apply my artwork to them. Initially, I paid little attention to the back of the game board which was black, why should I... the important part was the front... right? At least that's what I thought.
When preparing the artwork for production, I was asked by the manufacturer what I wanted printed on the back of the board. I told them it could remain black (as this was what I was accustomed to), thinking it would be wrapped in black paper or linen and that printing the back would incur an extra cost. They explained that the back would be printed either way... oh really now??? Well... that's not something I thought was an option initially... but since you put it THAT way.
I mean... if it's gonna be printed anyway, might as well make use of it... not so? As a result, I branded the back of the board as well. Minor detail, but, thought it would be a cool lil addition. What do you think?
I often tell my design students that as much as we are told not to judge books by their covers, that’s exactly what we do. In fact, as designers, we’re paid to design covers that people will judge and find attractive. Santimanitay was a self-imposed challenge on a number of levels; one of them being design, product and packaging. I had a clear idea of how I wanted some of the visual to look hence why I contacted my friends James and Nabeel. Also, I also wanted to prove, (to myself), that you can design packaging that does not require the inclusion of red, white and black specifically to make it look like a product of Trinidad and Tobago. I’m not entirely sure if I succeeded, but I’m pleased with what I came up with.
I actually had to redesign the box. I loved the initial design, which was based around the measurements of a pre-made game box I was using at the time. Granted it lacked some pieces of information, such as suggested player age, average play time, number of players etc. (and there wasn't bottom design, merely a sticker with standard info.) Overall it had the aesthetic I envisioned. However, as the project moved forward and I looked into actually producing the game, it became clear that the initial measurements may not have been very cost effective; or at least, there were MORE cost effective alternatives.
Originally, the box was 10.5 inches wide x 10.5 inches long x 3 inches high and included a cardboard insert which formed a tray to hold the player pieces, cards and die while the board rested on top. However, I discovered that if I reduced the depth of the box by roughly half, production cost was reduced quite a bit. I used this change in size to redesign the outside of the game box. I reduced the size of the characters a bit, I included much more information both on the cover and the underside as well as included more white into the overall design.
I am pleased with how the second one turned out… and honestly, if cost was not an issue, I’d have a hard time choosing a favourite.
Which one would you choose?
So I found another short story that I did some tears ago. This was actually supposed to be the intro to a longer children's story that I never got around to writing... maybe one day I will. Decided to do a lil illustration for it and post it up.
Rain fell heavily on the roof of the tiny hut. The children huddled together at the feet of the old woman and waited. The people of the village called her the griot, the storyteller who lived in a hut under the old saman tree. The childer had never been here before, they were afraid of her so they had stayed away. Today was different, the rains had come suddenly and heavily and the thunder and lightning scared them. The griot had opened her little door and offered them shelter from the storm.
Looking around the one room hut showed that it was actually bigger than it seemed from the outside. It the far corner there was a little bed and a bed side table next to it. On the table the children saw a stack of books that looked as old as she was, or even older. They also saw a little battery operated lamp glowing weakly on the table. There as another lamp hanging from the ceiling of the hut as well, it was a little brighter than the one on the table but not by much. Old picture frames hung from the wooden walls, most of the photographs were yellow and worn. The children saw an old rocking chair facing a wooden window that was now shut tight against the heavy rains outside.
There was a little stove in one corner with a slightly rusted red and grey gas tank at its side. There was a pot on the fire and the old woman shuffled over to check on it. The children had never really seen her before today, they just imagined that she just had be old and scary-looking because of how creepy her home looked from the outside, with vines and bushes growning up and over the hut. She was tiny compared to the other adults of the village, she was barely taller than the children themselves were. She was hunched over and moved around with the help of a walking stick. Her hair was long and silver, her skin brown and wrinkled.
The children saw that she was probably very beautiful when she was young, and even now she still held on to her beauty refusing to let age win totally. Her eyes were bright and seemed to sparkle in the dim light of the hut. Her hands seem delicate yet strong as she held a wooden spoon and stirred the contents of the pot. Bringing the spoon up to her lips she tasted and smiled.
Much to the surprise of the children, the old woman turned around and spoke. "Anthony and Arianne, would you take five cups out of the cupboard and rinse them out in the sink please."
The two children were so surprised that the old woman knew their names and addressed them directly, that they did as she asked without question.
"Reshma and Yohann," she continued, "would you bring my rocking chair over here please," as she pointed to the centre of the room, "and be careful, it's older than I am." She chuckled quietly. Her smile grew as she saw their eyes widen and they carefully lifted the chair and move it. "Little Joy," the old lady smiled, "would you help me to my chair and bring my blanket please."
Even the Griot was surprised when the tiny girl took her thumb out of her mouth long enough to say, "yes granny," before running over to the bed to pick up the blanket, they holding on to the free hand of the old woman and help guide her to her chair, "thank you my dear."
"Arianne, Anthony," the Griot called, "the pot should be cool enough now, fill the cups and share them out please."
"Yes granny," they replied.
The boy and girl used the wooden spoon to fill up the enamil cups and handed them to the other children. The brown liquid smelled good and the warm metal of the cups felt good in their hands as the rain continued to pound on the galvanize roof of the hut. The thunder boom loudly and all the children jumped, little Joy ran to the Griot and clutched her arm tightly, letting out a quiet whimper.
"Do not fear children," smiled the Griot, "you are safe here, nothing will harm you."
Joy looked up into the grey eyes of the Griot and stopped trembling, she really did feel safe.
"Come children, sit down and drink."
"What is this in the cup granny?" asked Arianne. Yohann seemed to agree as he smelled the contents of his cup trying to figure out what it was.
The Griot smiled, "Your mother has taught you well child, I made us some Hibiscus tea, would you mind getting me a cup as well please?"
"Isn't Hibiscus a flower granny?" asked Reshma.
"Very good," smiled the Griot, "yes it is Reshma."
"I know it!" shouted Joy excitedly, "it's a pretty pink flower!"
"No," corrected Anthony, "the Hibiscus flower is red."
"You are both correct children," the old lady said while accepting a cup from Arianne, nodding in thanks, "Hibiscus come in different colours."
"I didn't know you could make tea from a flower," commented Arianne, "my mommy buys tea in a box with little packs."
All the children nodded, the Griot smiled, "yes most people now buy their tea in the grocery store and super markets, but the old way is to pick your ingredients fresh and make your own that is how I was taught." She sipped her cup.
"Why are some flowers red and some pink granny?" asked Joy, her eyes bright in the dim light of the hut.
"Because of the Zigwarians my dear," answered the Griot.
"Who are they?" asked Yohann and Anthony at the same time.
"They were a race of tiny people that lived a long time ago," the old woman sipped her tea again, "the Zigwarians of the air were in charge of the flowers, we called them the little feathered people."
"Where did they live?" asked an excited Joy.
"They lived mostly in trees, sometimes sharing nests with birds, like the Kiskadee."
The Griot had all the children's attention.
"Would you like to hear a story about the little feathered people?"
"Yes please!" all the children shouted as the rain continued to fall heavily outside.
I was recently reminded about some work I did over a decade ago for TTPost. I got the opportunity to design some stamps for a series called: "Anansi and the cricket match." It was a stamp set targeted towards children to help encourage stamp collection as a hobby. It was an honour to have my work featured on the stamps, and I am thankful to all involved in allowing me to do that. You can see some more of them here.
I have been a huge fan of Danielle's work for a very long time; her illustrative style and line work as well as her use of colour. What's really amazing to me is the volume of quality work she produces on a regular basis, how is that even possible??? Since seeing her artwork I've wanted to do some kinda collaboration with her, so I reached out and asked a question and thankfully she was all for it! While initially things did not work out quite how I had planned, in the end I was still able to put my spin on one of her black and white illustrations. Here's the end result.... I think it was a successful merger of styles, I'm very pleased with the end results!
I grew up on stories of all kinds in all different forms; books, movies, cartoons and spoken. They all fueled my imagination and helped me to get to this place now. Growing up I heard stories about people like Papa Bois and Mama D'glo... about creatures like the Douen and the Soucouyant. These were not characters seen on TV or read about in Aesop's Fables, they were from here, right here in Trinidad and Tobago; and at that age, they were real and terrifying. Growing up in Maraval, my home was surrounded by foliage, many different types of trees and bushes, standing on the landing at the top of the back staircase looking out into the night, I often wondered what was out there, beyond the glow of the "outside light." My mind would race with the horrifying possibilities, ANYTHING could be out there, waiting to drag me away! There would be a sudden noise in the darkness and I would bolt inside, finding the most well-lit spot in the living room to sit in while my heart tried to stop racing.
It was only later, as I grew older, I understood that the old folklore stories were created to scare people into doing the right things. But as time marched on the old stories began to fade away, replaced by different ones, ones not necessarily our own. As an adult I still enjoy stories, in all forms; I've even tried to tell a few. This is one of them.
I began writing it in 2004; it was really a self-inflicted exercise to fight boredom at the office. Fueled by decades of comic books, anime and science fiction movies (and at the time, Naruto fan fiction), I decided to write my own story based around Trinidad and Tobago folklore. I gave myself the ongoing assignment to produce once chapter a week, between 1000 and 2000 words. I started out with no initial plot and was only guided by my mood at the time of writing, which I can only assume is a terrible way to write. Nevertheless I enjoyed the process and kept at it for a while, amassing 30 or so chapters. While I suspect if I submitted the work to a professional editor they would cringe and subsequently vomit a little inside their mouth, I did pass the story on to a few people who seemed entertained enough by it to want (and in some cases DEMAND, more). I tried to continue while I was at UWI, but somehow writing anywhere other than the office never yielded the desired result, so I put the story down until I had finished university. Since then, three years has morphed into over a decade and I have finally decided to try to finish the story I started way back when.
My mindset is different, my environment has changed and also my influences and understand of the world, but I'm excited to see if I still have something to say. For some odd reason though, the thought of going back and reading what I had written before seems so very daunting. But I have begun the process, added to which I have also started creating illustrations to go along with most, if not all, of the chapters thus far. I believe my style of illustration has turned a corner and I'm interested to see what my work looks like 20 chapters in. The end goal is to have the work published in a few volumes in print and maybe digital format.
I have no idea how things will end, but I'm off to a not-so-bad start, and that's not bad at all.
Early on in development there were certain things I knew my game must have; one of these things is relatable player characters. I remember playing Monopoly with family and friends and there being arguments about who got to be the car or the top hat. I wanted my player pieces to be memorable and for the people playing to have a vested interest in them. That meant developing personalities and back stories. The challenge came in crafting these characters, not so much as stereotypes, but people you could either relate to directly or know of someone who the character would remind you of.
In my first round of prototype development I cannibalized a $20 Ludo game I saw when I entered a game and hobby store looking for dice. I used those player pieces to work out and develop the initial game mechanics.
While testing was in full swing I approached a friend of mine to help with the character illustrations, I told him what characters I wanted and what they were supposed to represent and he went to work. After he completed the line work, I then added the colours and backgrounds. I am very pleased with the result of our collaborative effort. I wanted to work with other talented artists to bring this project to life. The goal of the game is not only about preserving Trinidad and Tobago culture, but showcasing the huge talent pool we have here. With groups like We Does Draw, we have access to some of the best artists in the country who are are more than capable of producing work of an international standard to compete in the global market. Why look any further?
By the time I got to this current iteration of the game, the player pieces had taken on lives and personalities of their own. With the help of a very intelligent and enthusiastic 12 year old, we developed stats and attributes based on the characters' personalities and back stories; this added a whole new dimension to the game and game play. I think that story is an important part of game design, (at least in my game), I believe this adds so much more to the overall gaming experience. While observing play tests, I’ve seen people build on the initial stories and create hilarious scenarios for their chosen characters, making the game infinitely more enjoyable and memorable. The game is not just about Carnival, but also about the people associated with the festival as well. At least, that’s my goal… time will tell.