My friend Mark and I are each working on prototypes of card games we are designing. I had previously gotten a quote from the nearby university’s printing services that my ~150 card game printed in color double-sided and cut would cost approximately $150. Needless to say, that was way too rich for my blood, so when Mark linked me to a site called TheGameCrafter.com, I was pretty excited. The estimator guessed at a cost of around $20 to print and ship the whole she-bang. That’s much better.
So I used their site and uploaded my already complete files. The FTP side is a little wonky as the cards are not displayed in alphabetic order, but in some unsortable mess. That’s a problem when I have 100 different card designs, but eventually I got everything into the service. The site was otherwise very user-friendly.
A few days after I ordered I got this message:
Subject: your game is broken
Order #17 went out the door today, but unfortunately it’s broken. Content
is being cut off on it. It looks like the game will still be playable,
but it won’t look right. I just thought I should give you a heads up
so you can get it fixed sooner rather than later.
adjust your cards accordingly.
I was pissed. While I had a “safe zone” on my cards, it was nowhere near the amount of safe zone they had wanted. I had created my images the actual size I wanted them to be and moved the content inward in case of error, but they had wanted a larger image with the “bleed” larger than the intended card size. This was entirely my fault for not digging through their templates thoroughly. But I was also pissed that the company had seen that my design was broken, yet printed and shipped it anyway.
In the end, my prototype is playable thanks to the buffer space I created, but some of the images are clipped off. This is okay for now as it was meant only to be a second-stage prototype. However, the printer seems to be in an earthquake zone as some of the cards are cut too far left and some too far right.
There is a significant amount of “ghosting”. I’m not sure what it is actually called in the printing world, but the outline of my letters and numbers don’t line up with the shape of my numbers causing a lot of cards to look “out of focus”. I couldn’t capture that with these images because I was using my crummy cellphone camera.
In the end, TheGameCrafter.com served its purpose. I wanted a site where I could print up my game well enough that I didn’t have to deal with hundreds of sleeved Magic: The Gathering cards with notecards slipped in front to represent my designs. To that, the end result is respectable and well worth the price. If you go in thinking that the quality will be similar to the quality of commercial games, you will be sorely disappointed. Manage your expectations thoroughly. Vanity presses in book publishing are not known for having comparable quality to the commercial publishers, so I don’t know why I expected that here. Chinese labor? Regardless, on my next card/board prototype I will likely use them again.
Also keep in mind that (as you can see from the email above) I was Order #17. I’m sure as the company operates, they will adapt their processes to make the final product better and better. Oh, and when they say your game will come in a box with your cover design on it, this is what they mean: