An ongoing Itch.io bundle is selling more than 60 games from over 50 designers in order to raise funds for software licences many independent creators cannot afford on their own.
The Layout Level-up! bundle, organised by tabletop RPG designer Speak the Sky, addresses an issue designers face along the journey to a successful game: publishing software is expensive. Advice from veterans often stresses the importance of investing time and money learning to use professional tools, as visual style helps games stand out in saturated marketplaces. But, even when on sale, many can’t justify the cost on top of food, rent and other living costs - to say nothing of the financial strain the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak.
“Many of us self-publishing in the TTRPG space use Affinity Publisher for our layout work, but not everyone can afford a license. So we're doing something about it,” Michael Van Vleet said on Twitter. Van Vleet is a part of Cold Hearth Collective, which is hosting several of its games as part of the bundle. He and other tabletop designers recommend Serif-developed Affinity Publisher as one of the more comprehensive tools for creating RPGs that look as good as they play. Another bonus is its relatively lower cost when compared to industry default Adobe InDesign.
Using the software, a designer can take art, text and other visual elements and create page layouts that can either be printed into zines or converted into high-quality PDFs for digital dissemination. If you’ve ever purchased a game from Itch.io or DriveThruRPG, the downloadable files were likely created using software such as Affinity Publisher or InDesign.
“Writing a game is one thing, laying it out is another - and a lotta the options for analog game designers are often too simple (e.g. Googledocs) or too expensive (e.g. InDesign) for what they really want,” the bundle’s description reads.
Each purchase of the $20 (£15) bundle provides half the cost of a base subscription, and its initial goal of $1,000 would provide 25 licences to indie designers. At the time of writing, the bundle has surpassed that goal and currently raised over $1,500. Per the description, designers will be able to submit an application for a licence once the bundle’s sale has ended.
The collection includes among its 67 games Dicebreaker favourite Thousand Year Old Vampire, a solo journaling game that Wheels deemed one of the most gorgeous RPGs ever. Find The Way sees three players take the role of the familiars of a missing conjuror who must put aside their personal grievances and work together to mount a rescue mission. On the sillier side, You Are Quarantined With Adam Driver And He Is Insisting On Reading You His New Script delivers, well… exactly what it advertises.
The Layout Level-up! bundle will run throughout January. All proceeds will be used to purchase Affinity Publisher licences, some of which have been earmarked for contributing designers.