Truly Epic!

November 26th, 2010

I talk a lot about marketing your bands on Figment, and over the years I’ve tried to give you some help and tips on how to get your bands in front of more people.  After all, marketing your band is key if you hope to build a fan base and truly establish your band among the top bands on Figment.

That’s why a recent video posted by frizbee hyping the upcoming release of his band Eccentric Arcade’s new album caught my eye.  Not only is this video adventure a novel way to hype an album, but it also plays right into the album’s concept and therefore is the perfect way to market this album.  This is the type of creativity I love to see, and is in essence a game within the bigger game of Figment.  So set aside some time and embark on this adventure, because it is truly epic!

GoMediaZine – Design Process

November 23rd, 2010

Since we had such positive reaction to our new “Cover Stories” feature here on Figment News I thought I’d pass along something that frizbee brought to my attention, this article from GoMediaZine.com on the making of an album cover using Photoshop.  It’s a fascinating article and it encouraged me to dig deeper into GoMediaZine, a site that offers tutorials on everything from vinyl album cover art to advice on how to start up your own t-shirt business.  As it’s tagline states “Real world advice from working artists and designers.”

I love sites like this, run by people who share a common love of art, design, and music, and are happy to share their collective knowledge with others interested in pursuing a career in any or all of them.  So take a minute and check them out.  I think you’ll find their a treasure trove of info for aspiring fake album cover designers, and real ones too!

…and pass along some thanks to frizbee for sharing this great blog with us!

Welcome to a new regular feature we’re starting here on Figment News called “Cover Stories”.  In each installment of “Cover Stories” we’ll allow a Figment player to describe an album cover he/she designed in their own words.  From the original idea to the finished product, we’ll hear the story behind the cover.

Javdoc’s entry in the Metal Concept Album Contest; ‘five’ by doom metal band Crimson Eye, is without a doubt one of the most striking covers on Figment, and one of which he’s justifiably proud.  Fronting a concept album inspired by the 5 murders central to the Jack the Ripper legend, javdoc’s cover captures the essence of violence and terror inherent in the story in a simple and stark image.  While cover art is obviously a key factor to success in Figment, it’s particularly so with respect to concept albums.  The ability to immediately draw a buyer/listener into the gist of the story with a well-chosen-and-prepared cover is critical.  Javdoc definitely has a knack for this, evidenced by his win in last year’s concept album contest with ‘The Saga Of Carus: I. Journey To Roh’Orn’ by Lords Of Winter, his strong showing in the most recent contest, and the high quality of his work in general.

So for our first entry in the “Cover Stories” series, we turned to javdoc to discuss the genesis and creative process behind ‘five’.

Javdoc: Thanks, I’m honored to kick off this new series.  I hope a little insight into what I did with ‘five’ will be helpful to some of the other players, and I look forward to learning more about some of the other amazing Figment covers as this continues.

I was psyched when the announcement of the Metal Concept Album Contest was made.  In real life and on Figment, I have a definite appreciation for concept albums.  I love the story-telling, whether on ‘2112’, ‘Animals’, ‘Tommy’ or ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’.  I don’t think it’s a surprise many of them are considered the definitive works of the artists who produce them.  And of course, and most relevant here, they almost always have killer artwork that has to tie strongly to the story.  I’ve done a bunch of concept and pseudo-concept albums on Figment, so they are certainly near and dear to my heart.

With some of the albums I’ve done, I’ve had an image first and then created an album to go with it, as in the case of ‘Portals’ by Zeroth.  For that one, I was fooling around with a picture taken by a friend of mine, and the idea of portals came to me.  In the case of ‘five’, I decided to do a concept album around Jack the Ripper, and had most of the songs plotted out before I started on the cover.  My original concept was of an extremely close partial view of a shape in the foreground with a knife in hand looking at a woman in the background, to create an anticipation of violence to come.  I had something very specific in mind, and wasn’t sure how I’d be able to come up with what I envisioned without a lot of editing work.

The image I started with for ‘five’ was a found one – from a BBC story regarding Jack the Ripper.

[Editor’s Note:  The use of found images is, as many of you know, something that you need to be careful with for copyright reasons.  Although javdoc did use an image from a BBC program, he heavily edited it to create a new image that he used for his cover, and thus it was not banned.]

It’s moderately creepy in its’ own right, but I think I upped the ante quite a bit with the way I worked it over.  Though this wasn’t really the image I had been thinking of, I started playing with this one for fun to see where it would go.  The first thing I did was to tweak the color, saturation, contrast and brightness.  I knew I wanted a red scheme, to reflect the intensity, violence and fear of the situation, and not to mention, blood.  I also made it quite a bit darker, so the red was really red and the black was absolute.  I have to say, the result turned out even better than I was expecting, and once I had this I knew I was onto something special.

The next thing I did was to crop the image.  If you look at the original, the perspective of the viewer is about on-level with the shape and the view is fairly wide.  I wanted to adjust that, to give the feeling of someone being trapped, cowering in a corner.  I cropped it so the head of the shape is closer to the top, as though it’s looming over the viewer, and giving more of a looking-up perspective.  The structure on the right side is very dominant, to again give the feeling of being closed in.  When you add this to the heavy, dark coloring, I think it creates a real feeling of closeness.

As I said before, my original intent was to focus on the potential victim, with the killer represented only by a partial silhouette.  Though the actual image was now focusing on the killer rather than the victim, I still wanted to convey the sense of imminent violence, so once the coloring and cropping were set, I painted in an arm with a very visible knife.  It is being very deliberately presented to the viewer, so there’s no doubt as to what is going to happen next.  It took me 2 or 3 tries to get it just right, and though I wasn’t shooting for it, I like the way it’s hard to tell if the knife is protruding from the bottom of the shape’s fist for a downward plunge, or from the top for a slicing swipe.  Personally, I thought the shoulders of the original image were a bit narrow, and to add to the feeling of looming threat and closeness, I bulked up the shape a bit at the same time.

The final thing I did, and I am not even sure if it’s noticeable to most who view the cover art on Figment, was painting in two red eyes for the shape.  This was probably the hardest thing to nail, and took me 5 or 6 tries to get right.  I wanted this to be subtle – I didn’t want some Jimmy Page “Song Remains The Same” special effects fiasco.  Partly it was the positioning, but it was also getting the color intensity just right.  I wanted them to capture the background shading, as if the viewer was looking through the eyes of the shape at the wall behind: playing on the “windows to the soul” concept, and implying the viewer is being stalked by a soulless monster.  I think I finally nailed it, and I must admit feeling a little creeped-out by the final product.

I debated with myself a bit what font style would work for the title.  I was considering some handwriting/scrawl options, and some period typset fonts.  I finally settled on one I thought looked like what might have appeared in the newspapers of the period, as the media coverage of Jack the Ripper was one of the key factors in the establishment and sensational nature of the legend.  The signature Crimson Eye logo was applied, a faint softening was done to tie everything together, and it was finished.

Overall, I think this is one of the best covers I’ve done, and even though it appears very simple a lot of thought went into the final product.  I hope this look into my approach was entertaining and helpful, and as always, I appreciate everyone’s interest and support for the things I do on Figment.

Thanks.

javdoc

Do you have an favorite album cover on Figment that you designed?  We’d love to hear about it for “Cover Stories”, so send it to us using the feedback link on any Figment page.  Make sure to include images that we can use to help tell the story and a full step-by-step write up (use javdoc’s above for a reference) on how you put the cover together.  Please keep in mind that the decision to post your Cover Story will be based purely on the editorial discretion of our Figment News editorial staff.  We look forward to hearing your cover story!

Lately we’ve been hearing back from our players a lot more with feedback on what they’d like to see available in the way of features on Figment, so thanks!  We always appreciate hearing what you’d like to see changed, improved or done away with on the site.

One of the things that some of you have been asking for more of late is a player forum where you can communicate with other players better.  While we understand your requests for easier ways to communicate and collaborate with each other, we’ve been reticent to add a forum.  Why?  Simple, because in our past experience forums end up becoming everything but what they were intended to become, and often add nothing to the game experience.  They require monitoring, are often used to wage wars of words, and can be downright noisy and unproductive.  We’re not against our players communicating with each other, collaborating on projects or even just discussing music, design, etc., in fact we encourage it.  Having said that, we understand that shout boxes aren’t the ideal way for two players to discuss a collaborative project at length.

Others have suggested we create an internal site mail system, but again that involves infrastructure changes and additional expense that we don’t feel is warranted at this time.  We’re not saying we wouldn’t consider doing that in a premium version of the game, but at this time it’s something that’s not on our immediate list of enhancements.

So how can you communicate better?  Well, how about using the forum we already have – our Figment Facebook page.  I know a number of you have already “liked” the page and as a result are connected.  You can start a discussion among the players on that page, post a cover for feedback or comment on something someone else has posted.  Want to strike up a conversation or collaborate on a project in private?  Send them a message through Facebook.  It’s all available and already built, so it solves our communication issues while keeping the site purely about the game itself.

We’ll be interested to hear your feedback on this suggestion and the subject as a whole.  Again, we appreciate your suggestions, and we hope you’ll keep them coming.  There is nothing better than having an open line of communication with our players.

Jaymundo hasn’t been playing Figment for that long, but he plays it like a pro!  His bands seem so real it’s hard to believe they’re fake, and the albums they release are always well though out, well designed and well written.  So who is Jaymundo and how does he do it?  We thought we’d find out in the fourth installment of our series “Figment Player Profiles”.

Figment News:  Tell us a little about yourself.

Jaymundo:  I’m Jay, I’m obsessed with music.  I honestly believe that the world couldn’t function without it. I have a range of hobbies that all differ from each other.  I’m a keen script writer, music producer/remixer, snowboarder, model builder and entrepreneur.

FN:  You mentioned on your profile page that you’re a bit of a music junkie and judging from the genre’s you listed you have quite a diverse musical palette.  When did you first start listening to music?

Jay:  I’d say I first started taking notice of music when I was around 6 or 7, I grew up with a lot of country & western in my household and that’s what I remember hearing and enjoying first. It just went on naturally from there, I started making mix tapes in school and then CD’s to Playlists as technology progresses. I don’t think people should be limited to one genre, all music is art.

FN:  Do you play an instrument?

Jay:  I played a lot of guitar in school and dabble now and again. I’m trying to get into Synth but it’s harder than it seems.

FN:  Why do you create fake bands on Figment?

Jay:  I have worked with a lot of bands on my local scene in promoting, marketing, booking etc so Figment just spoke to me as a good pastime.

FN:  Had you ever created a fake band before playing Figment and if so, what led you to do so?

Jay:  I can’t say I did. Figment was the first site that I saw that was doing this kind of thing before then I hadn’t really considered it.

FN:  What’s your band creation process like?  Are your bands influenced by real bands or do you simply decide on a genre and go from there?

Jay:  Most of my ideas come to me at work while I should be focusing on something else. Most are inspired by real bands and if you look hard enough at most of my bands you can see who is inspired by who.

FN:  What inspires your band’s albums – current events, historical events, personal experiences, etc?

Jay:  I look at what real bands are doing and have done and I try to create something that would fit in the real world at this time.

FN:  When you create a band do you already have their debut album in mind or does it take you a while to decide what direction to take them in?

Jay:  Most of the time I have it in mind. Sometimes however, I create the band simply because I have the idea in my head and want it out.  Then it takes time to come up with the debut.

FN:  Your album covers are well thought out and executed.  Do you have any graphic design experience or training?

Jay:  I did graphic design at school and have always been a strong drawer so you could say I have some experience. I mainly edit and combine images to come up with my covers. Sometime I use copyright free images and edit those or get permission from artists on social sites.

FN:  What tools do you use to create your album cover and band images?

Jay:  As I said I use what Images I can within the rules. Other than that I use Photoshop, MS Paint and Corel Draw.

FN:  Your label East Bank Records has already developed several bands including Dallas Massacre, Burn By Numbers, Beast Hunter, The Detroit Mongrels and Dr. Poncho.  What do you think is the role of a good fake label?

Jay:  I think a good label is one that doesn’t restrict itself to one style of music. I think a good label is a diverse one.

FN:  Any plans to sign bands to EBR that were created by other players?

Jay:  For now I have no plans to sign an outside band. Who knows, maybe in the future the right band will come along and I will go for it.

FN:  What are some of the real bands that you would say have influenced your fake bands?

Jay:  Manowar, Tool, The Devil Wears Prada, Volbeat, The Sword, Bury Tomorrow to name a few.

FN:  How about fake bands or should I say are there any bands on Figment that influenced your fake bands?

Jay:  In the nicest way possible… no. It’s not anything personal I just prefer to stick to my own ideas from real bands and not tread on any other players toes so to speak.

FN;  What do you look for in a fake band?

Jay:  A good creative name, good album art and a good bio.

FN:  If you could make one of your fake bands real and then join the band, what band would it be and what instrument would you play in the band?

Jay:  I’d have to say Dallas Massacre on guitar so they could finally have two axe men.

FN:  What is the band and/or album you’ve formed/released that you are the most proud of?

Jay:  I’d have to say Ruffian by Detroit Mongrels. It was the first album I really created that was long and had a mixture of tracks.

FN:  What would you like to see added to Figment in the way of features, improvements, etc?

Jay:  I’d like to see a forum and the ability to leave messages on players profiles instead of just band pages.

FN:  If someone asked you why you play Figment what would you tell them?

Jay:  Because It combines creativity with music.

Metal Treats: The Morning After

November 1st, 2010

Well, it’s the day after Hallow’s Eve and I for one stand amid the wreckage of another night of ghoulish fun.  Candy wrappers, toilet paper blowing in the trees, forlorn jack-o-lanterns awaiting their inevitable trip to the trash can, and of course a stomach ache from indulging in too many bite size Snickers.

But there is a bright side to my post-Halloween malaise and that’s the Halloween figments that were dropped in our site’s candy basket last night – starting with the incredibly cool Figment Pumpkin that frizbee carved!  Thanks friz – WE LOVE IT!

And then there’s the new albums that dropped last night, clearly inspired by the evening’s festivities, and full of all kinds of devilish fun!

Werewolf Concerto not only headlined the first annual Halloween-Fest, but also dropped their latest “Vampirella” and it’s chock full of all that ghoulish goodness we expect from this band.

Nordic extreme metal masters Törnekrona returned with the excellent “Cinder”.

The Forgotten Falling also played Halloween-Fest 2010, and their label gave their fans a treat by releasing the rare “EP” that until now had only been available in Japan.  Don’t forget to catch the band on their “Aphelion World Tour”.

Extreme metal newcomers The Angel’s Sin continue their inevitable climb to the upper reaches of the metal stratosphere with their best yet, “Lucifer’s Rebellion”.

And last but certainly not least, what would Halloween be without some good old fashioned Death Metal!  Well fear not, Cryptic Rage emerged from “Out of the Depths” with their latest!

So if you didn’t receive any of these new releases in your treat bag last night, don’t fret they’re all on Figment for the taking!  We hope you all had a Happy Halloween!  Horns up!