Phylomon

All things phylomon! (http://phylomon.org)


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If you ask me, the art should look like this...

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For discussions on the images. Currently, we're taking an "anything goes" approach, since we've discussed at length the merits of realitic versus cartoony. Maybe there's a balance between photo real and iconic pokemon-ish imagery.

If it helps, the website is already being designed to allow easy flipping from "illustration" to "photo" (as tagged by the creature's latin name). As well, in a perfect world, we'll get enough images over time, that we can have different sets that accomodate different art styles...

Regardless, art comments can start here for now.

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Do you know what do the kids prefer? I'm guessing it's cartoony?

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I for one am a huge fan of the pokemon/Japanese style art. It has influenced me for 12-13 years and allowed me to remember all the pokemon as a kid. Personally, I hope to follow a similar style in creating some of the characters/animals for the project.

Part of the beauty of a cartoon with less details is you get to fill them in with your imagination. Each character then gains a more meaningful place in the heart of the viewer.

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So far, I've had the chance to show this project to about 60 or so Grade 2's (about 7 years old), as well as my own kids (6 and Cool. From this initial look-see, they seemed to like anything that was both colorful and also was obviously something that looked relatively polished (i.e. the inked stuff were much more effective than the pencil sketches. The pictures that looked like a lot of time and effort were appreciated).

No real preference on the cartoony versus realistic rubric yet, but so far only we only had a few artists contribute that were more in the cartoony arena (babbletrish comes to mind).

I have a student conference coming up in March, where I'll get to pick the brains of about a hundred 12 to 15 year olds. Would be nice to get a few more where the style is squarely in the "character design" department.

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I agree that Pokemon's art is one of the best parts about it. Do you think the game loses some of its educational value if there are no photographs?

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Originally, we were going to focus only on artwork, but when it became clear that we'd be missing out on Flickr's predominant media type, we thought it best to include the photo submissions portal "just in case."

When I last had a meeting with folks who are programming the site, they offered a toggle button on the website that would allow the browser to move between photo and art seemlessly (i.e. if a teacher in on the site and prefers pictures, then so be it).

I'm personally of the opinion that unrealistic pictures are o.k, and that there might be clever ways to embed reality at the gameplay level (i.e. many folks have suggested introducing an element where kids actively try to take photos of organisms, and with that media on hand, their cards could be worth more, etc)

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maltezefalkon wrote:I agree that Pokemon's art is one of the best parts about it. Do you think the game loses some of its educational value if there are no photographs?

I don't think so. The educational value is gained when the kids are interested enough to look the photos up for themselves.

Also, I think a wide range of styles would be best. One thing that was always fun about Pokemon cards (for me at least) was the diversity of styles in the cards, as opposed to say, Magic or Yu Gi Oh, where the vast majority of the cards are highly uniform in style (realistic or cartoony respectively).

There were some interesting Pokemon cards where a toy of the Pokemon was photographed in a "real" environment, in grass or whatever. That might be an interesting Phylomon card also. Very Happy

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rageofanath wrote:One thing that was always fun about Pokemon cards (for me at least) was the diversity of styles in the cards...

I agree. I remember looking at the artist on different cards, comparing one with another. I eventually have my favorites, but liked the variety. That's part of the beauty of this project being so open.

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9 photo animal + cartoon accessories. on Tue Feb 02, 2010 2:01 am

What do people think if we let the animal themselves be photos/realistic and let them have flashy/cartoony accessories, which is where gaming could come into play.

The reason I think this would be a better idea is that sometimes subtle differences between species/genus could be found out later, after the artwork A is created. One scenario is that, one bird artwork is created and became very popular and iconic, a couple months later, someone want to add another bird, which artwork A actually resembles more due to slight difference in the color of the beak (for instance). This could create inconsistencies in the system.

With accessories, not only would the animals retain their "identity" rather well, "upgrading" an animal from rookie stage to some other stage would also be possible.

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I've pondered over this for quite a while. On one hand, anthropomorphising organisms (esp the ones that matter, ie non-animals) is frowned upon and sometimes awkward, but on the other hand the human brain yearns for familiar features (eg. eyes, mouthes) to feel attachment to the character. While I find SEMs of various microorganisms cute and wonderful, I can't imagine conveying emotion in a ciliate or a cyanobacterium, for example. And emotion is a fairly integral part of any story, including games. Thus, as childish and scientifically taboo as it is to add eyes to things that shouldn't have them, it's perhaps worth making that sacrifice of accuracy to make the characters likeable and available to empathy.

What do other people think?

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11 @Psi on Tue Feb 02, 2010 6:21 pm

Psi Wavefunction wrote:I've pondered over this for quite a while. On one hand, anthropomorphising organisms (esp the ones that matter, ie non-animals) is frowned upon and sometimes awkward, but on the other hand the human brain yearns for familiar features (eg. eyes, mouthes) to feel attachment to the character. While I find SEMs of various microorganisms cute and wonderful, I can't imagine conveying emotion in a ciliate or a cyanobacterium, for example. And emotion is a fairly integral part of any story, including games. Thus, as childish and scientifically taboo as it is to add eyes to things that shouldn't have them, it's perhaps worth making that sacrifice of accuracy to make the characters likeable and available to empathy.

What do other people think?

Hmm, I have to agree with what you said, I definitely would like anthropomorphisized bacteria much better. So here's the hard thing... for something like a bacterium, it definitely make them more attractive and no one would actually mistakingly think they really do have eyes, but what about for something like a slug or worm?

I just think maybe it's better if we let them wear skirts, than letting them have eyes. LOL

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I like the pokemon style too. It's cute, and realistic enough to get some detail in.


Another popular site is Neopets. The style is more detailed than pokemon, but it has the same colourful cartoon feel.


Maybe getting into more stylistic flat illustrations could be fun as well.


I think another consideration in the designs is making sure they're simple enough that kids can draw their own versions. There's sooo much pokemon fan art because they're simple enough for kids to copy.

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Personally, I've always liked the variety of different types of illustrations on the pokemon cards, that's part of why I collected them.

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I favor illustrations over photographs because part of the goal of Phylomon is that kids be able to ID species.

Wild animals are notoriously uncooperative about holding still to be photographed at just the RIGHT angle. Plants and fungi are more cooperative, but you also aren't guaranteed they'll look exactly 'right'. If something ate part of it, it's stunted due to drought, etc

I also suspect there's some species that people really won't to take photos of. Has to be a dedicated photographer to get pictures of burying beetles.

Illustration allows you to arrange the organism so that the important areas for identification are front and center and in focus. It's why so many field guides rely on illustrations.

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I think illustration is the clear choice: fenrislorsrai and Psi Wavefunction make a good point that empathy is critical for getting kids to emotionally (and mentally) invest in what's being presented.

Also, it's going to be extremely difficult to get enough images (illustration or photography) that are uniform in style: you're going to need to tap many different artists to populate the image bank. Having a variety of different styles was a really great aspect of M:tG -- but beyond that, it probably wouldn't be feasible to do it any other way (even if you wanted to).

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Just showed the image submissions to a whole bunch of grade 1's and 2's. The younger ones are digging the cartoony ones (although they also thought octopus was cool).

I'm thinking, our current take is not a bad one (i.e. taking in a variety of image types and seeing how things go from there).

I have to admit though, that I'm partial to the flat illustration type of images that sparklehorse highlighted. Would be cool to get a few of those as well.

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Illumina wrote:I think illustration is the clear choice: fenrislorsrai and Psi Wavefunction make a good point that empathy is critical for getting kids to emotionally (and mentally) invest in what's being presented

I agree. A too-technical approach, while appealing to the more science-minded of the group, is unlikely to appeal to kids where an "educational" game such as Phylomon would have to compete with "fun, fluff" games such as Yu Gi Oh, Pokemon, Neopets, and such. Thinking like an elementary school kid, the majority of my classmates would have gone for the cute/fanciful/fun over a more technical-looking style, though there are exceptions.

The correct way to market an educational game to kids is to hide that it is educational. In a kids mind, typically: educational = school, school = boring, therefore educational = boring. It likely wasn't that way for some of us, but we can't just cater to the upper end of the bell curve if we want to be successful. Razz

So in other words, we need to be ninjas.

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I, too, like the cartoony pictures Sparklehorse showed.

However, I kind of gagged when I saw the Neopets picture. It reminds me of my little ponies from the 80's Suspect

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I think the deck could balance both realistic and cartoony cards to appeal to all age groups.A previouse card deck called the Beastiary was able to do this: bestiarycards.com

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20 Lines, photos, and which way is up on Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:44 pm

Much as I see the attractiveness of the line-drawing imagery, my concern is two-fold: (1) accuracy, and (2) availability.

In terms of accuracy, who will vet a drawn image as acceptable? At least a photo is always of an animal - there's no good way to argue that a photograph of a raccoon is not an image of a raccoon.

I think you will find it *far* easier to get photographs than drawn images -- so much so, that you may find that you enough choice among available photos to get really good photos. The drawn imagery may all be good, but it will be few. The photos will range from lousy up to great, but there might be so many that the best really are great.

Finally, though, there is one glaring inconsistency in the imagery, that I think someone needs to fix *quickly*.

You state, all over that images should be...

"150dpi, 360 pixels x 225 pixels (2.4 inches x 1.5 inches) – portrait mode"

... but all the images are *landscape* mode. Even the card mockups use landscape mode. Did someone just flip this in their mind?

Remember - portrait is a person standing, landscape is a horizon.

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We've actually done some initial testing of imagery on children (from about ages 6 to 15) - at least from a "do you like this?" angle. From this, it's pretty clear that photography alone wasn't able to provide the "wow" factor that I think we need to entice people to visit.

As well, these students seemed most impressed when there was a variety of different art styles, which sort of makes sense as artistic preference is quite subjective overall. Anyway, so far most images are fairly realistic, but it'll be interesting to see (as the project progresses) if the art community starts to include more unrealistic styles (we have a few already like the hummingbird).

In some respects, this is why the project is quite interesting to me as an academic. It's easy for me to insist on scientifically literate renditions of the art all the time, but from an educational point of view (in so far as engaging an audience), that focused way of doing things might not always be the best. Anyway, it's one of things we can try and monitor.

Thanks also for the typo. Will fix immediately.

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22 Variety is Good on Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:10 am

I agree with davehwng: there absolutely has to be variety. The goal is to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, and there's no catch-all artistic style that everyone likes, so as far as I can see, the best option is to let everyone who wants to provide imagery do their own thing, and trust that to yield a significant level of variety. Since artists tend to have somewhat consistent styles, you'll still see "themes" that show up in multiple places, but there'll also be a lot of variety as well. Of course, that raises the question of how to filter submissions.

Submissions could perhaps be picked through some sort of randomized rating page on the main site, where people are given random bits of art that people have sent in and provide their opinions -- maybe even just "Thumbs up" or "Thumbs down". Perhaps they would be shown next to a picture of what they're meant to represent. Similar to this, perhaps. And maybe there could even be a box for written feedback -- I think that being able to actually submit reviews of images which then get sent to the artist would be very cool, and would be a good way to help people fine-tune their work. There's some potential for harassment, sure, but there are ways to handle that. Obviously, voters would not be shown other people's ratings/reviews, in order to keep the system objective -- although perhaps they could be revealed after voting, like post-redesign YouTube. And then, say, the top 2~5 images for a species could be provided on the main page for printing onto cards. I like the element of fluidity that's possible here.

It seems like this would work even better if the target audience could be gotten to participate in the voting process. My only worry would be about people ballot-stuffing via proxies, etc, to get their own art pushed up, but randomized selection with a big enough base of art to pick from ought to circumvent that, at least partially.


So, to summarize, it seems to me like the best idea would be to provide total artistic freedom (though perhaps with someone filtering submissions to make sure nothing that's unsuitable for young'uns makes it in) and to simply let people vote on what they like and what they don't. Sticking to one artistic style is a recipe for disaster.

Anyone have any thoughts on that?


Edit- I suppose I should be more specific. When I say total freedom, there are still, of course, necessary constraints -- image dimensions, for instance. What I mean is that, under this system, there should be no rules about art that do not directly address either the physical constraints of the medium or its child-friendliness.

Edit2- An alternative to the voting system that might work better could be something that's more like Kittenwar and similar sites. You would be given two submitted pictures for a species and would pick which one you like more. It seems like that might be superior to the voting style I suggested above, since it doesn't require an artificial baseline concept to judge individual images against. And yes, associations with Kittenwar make everything better.



Last edited by Wootfish on Sat Apr 17, 2010 8:44 pm; edited 6 times in total (Reason for editing : Clarification & afterthoughts)

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