When Monte first discussed Invisible Sun with everyone here at Monte Cook Games, three things stuck out to me that I felt would need to be reflected in the graphic and product design of the game:
Invisible Sun is a game about secrets.
Invisible Sun is surreal.
Invisible Sun is a premium game.
While there may be actual secrets throughout the Black Cube (sorry, no spoilers here!), I want to talk about capturing this ephemeral essence of them throughout the product. This starts with a black box—a large, mysterious box free of any markings on the outside, and one that opens in layers. The way the box opens is designed to pull the user inward, each step closer to the center, to the heart of understanding. Once the box is fully opened do you see the only marking on the box itself: a red foil stamp of the Invisible Sun sigil.
Likewise, certain components of the game come nestled within an additional layer by way of envelopes. While these envelopes are organizational first and foremost—collecting handouts and other elements into groupings for players, GMs, and props—it’s also intended to be supportive of the metaphorical experience of “layers of mystery.”
Of course we also include a literal Secrets Envelope, with the contents hidden behind a wax seal.
This is a trickier concept from a product design standpoint, so most of this is supported through the use of art. We started by selecting specific artists who we felt could capture both the overall style we wanted as well as ones who showed an understanding or appreciation for surrealism in their art. We knew that some GMs and players might initially struggle with conveying the idea of surrealism in the game, and while the text helps guide them through this, the art is there as a frequent reminder—a reminder that suggests: yes, this might be weird or bizarre from our point of view, but these are common, everyday experiences for those in Satyrine. A giant snail on the street? Normal. A woman with a book for her head? Special, but by far not unique. Beings who are holes into another world? There’s one running a shop just down the street.
Welcome to the Actuality.
A Premium Game
What constitutes a “premium” game? In the context of Invisible Sun, I suggest it is the combination of quality and quantity, and in both cases the Black Cube shines.
A significant effort was spent on crafting the components of the game. Certainly part of the goal was to ensure a premium experience, but in some ways that is a byproduct of the process. The Black Cube contains nearly a hundred different components, and each one has their own special requirements. This process started during the game design phase, and carried through into the graphic design phase: items designed to fit the cube itself, or props that felt real, as if from Satyrine. Just as one example: we spent a significant amount of time getting the Testament of Suns to be the right design and size, that would still fit into the Black Cube, and crafted in the material we wanted but that could still survive shipping.
To aid in all of this, I spent a week in China at the factory producing and assembling the game. I oversaw final details to ensure the best experience we could deliver.
Monte had a vision for Invisible Sun—a world of magic, and secrets, and the surreal, wrapped in a very tactile experience. In the end, I’m proud of the fact that we were able to rise to the challenge of his vision, and likely exceed it in many ways.