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Cyberpunk RED Alert: Layout and Launch

Happy Friday, choombas! Time for some Cyberpunk RED Alert! Today’s topic is about the how and why of the book’s design decisions, especially when it comes to readability and navigation. We’ll also show off the new Character Sheet.

Let’s get the news out of the way, first. We’ve got a good news/bad news situation.

The good news: The books are fully printed, we have them, and they’ve begun shipping out to distributors.

The bad news: Due to shipping schedules, it isn’t likely the books will hit stores on the 19th like we hoped. At this point, we aren’t sure on exact dates but it should, knock on chrome, not be long after when we planned. This is a busy holiday season, though, so things are in the hands of the distributors from this point on. We apologize for this and we’ll do our best to work out the kinks in the system for future releases.

The Silver lining: If your local gaming store is part of the Bits and Mortar program and they’re taking pre-orders, they’ll be able to give you free access to the digital version of Cyberpunk RED starting tomorrow (November 14).

The digital edition will go live on DriveThruRPG starting tomorrow as well. We’ll be selling the physical edition from our webstore starting on November 19. The price of the PDF on DTRPG will be $30. The suggested retail price for the physical book is $60.

In other news, Mike Pondsmith will be live at GlitchCon tomorrow! For obvious reasons, everyone’s taking their cons online this year and Twitch is no exception. At 1pm Eastern/10am Pacific, Mike will be running Cyberpunk RED for streamer Cohh Carnage, LA By Night’s Amelia Rose Blaire and Erika Ishii, and Brian Dechart (aka the voice of Connor from Detroit: Becoming Human). You can join Mike and the gang here: https://www.twitch.tv/twitchgaming.

And onto the show!

When it came to Cyberpunk RED, we sat down and made a list of goals for the layout. Perhaps predictably, they broke down into questions of style and substance.

Style: We wanted the book to look good, of course, and to feel like a Cyberpunk book. This meant more than “throw science fiction stuff onto the page”. It had to fit the theme. RED is a midpoint between 2020 and 2077 and we wanted the book to visually feel like it.

Substance: We wanted Cyberpunk RED to be easy to read and easy to navigate. That meant making it as accessible as possible. We deliberated font choices and page styles and consulted with sources on vision impairment and readability.

Readability

If you scroll back up to the sample page we posted, you might notice a few key factors in the layout: the white background and the large font.

The white background was a matter of debate and one we spent a lot of time discussing. Textured backgrounds look great and can really enhance the visual style of a page but they also make a book harder to read for people with visual impairments. It can also be distracting for the neurodivergent, who often have trouble focusing when there’s a lot of visual “static” present. So, we went simple. Black text on a white background. That also happens to be more printer friendly, for gamers who are printing at home.

When it comes to the font, we owe a debt to Irrgardless, a graphic design studio that focuses on gaming. They spent time with our layout lead, J Gray, working through various font choices with an eye towards both aesthetics (does it feel like a science fiction font) and readability. In the end, we went with Futura PT, a clean san serif font with distinct letters and solid spacing. We also decided to make the base text font size 11pt. That’s a smidge bigger than you’ll typically find in most TRPG books and it makes the words much easier to read. That’s important to us.

The Art

Jaye Kovach, our art director, pulled off a world class job gathering artists and art for Cyberpunk RED. Each piece is full color and tells a story about the world. If you look closely, you’ll even see a Pondsmith or two hiding in the book!

There’s more to the art, though, than just pretty pictures. The majority of the pieces are specifically labeled with the name of the artist, located in a red tag to either the left or right of the image. We encourage you to employ your Google skills and find the galleries of our artists! They’re well worth perusing.

Going back to the concept of accessibility, in the PDF version of the book, every piece of art has alt text. On a PC or similar device, you’ll be able to hover over the art with your cursor and see a box containing a description of the image. You should also be able to access the alt image text on a mobile device but the method might be different. We know there are a lot of gamers out there with vision impairments and we wanted to share the art with them as much as possible, too.

Navigation

We used a couple of tricks to make the book easier to navigate.

Just about every TRPG has text entreating readers to “go to page XX for more information”. Cyberpunk RED is not different. What is different is we worked hard to draw the eye so you can’t miss those navigation points. All instances of “go to page XX” in the book are in a different font and color from the main text, making them easier to pick out. In the PDF version of the book, that text is also hyperlinked so clicking on it will take you instantly to that page.

The outside margin of Cyberpunk RED is nice and wide. That’s what Adam Jury of Posthuman Studios (who also consulted on the design of this book) likes to call “thumb space”. When you’re holding the book in your lap and reading it, there’s room for your thumb in that outside space so you don’t cover the text with your digits.

Of course, at the same time, that space was begging to be used so on some pages you’ll find what we call a Data Pop: a box containing text.

Data Pops fall into one of three categories. In the sections on Character creation, the Pops help guide you through the process. In other chapters, Data Pops either provide some interesting trivia about the Cyberpunk world or direct the reader to a specific page for more information about a topic mentioned on the page.

Finally, this particular feature is unique to the PDF version of the book. We’ve already mentioned any instance of “go to page XX” is linked and clicking on it will take you to the page in question. That’s true of the Table of Contents and Index as well.

Beyond that, we’ve added two links to (almost) every page. At the top of most pages you’ll find the chapter title. Click on that and the PDF will navigate to the Table of Contents. From there you can click on another chapter easily. And at the bottom of most pages, you’ll find the page number. Click on the number and the PDF will skip over to the Index, where you can look up a specific topic and quickly navigate to it with another click.

We mentioned showing off the new Cyberpunk RED Character Sheet, right? You can download it (in static and form fillable formats) here!

That’s it for now, choombas! We’ll see you tomorrow for Mike’s game and the digital release of Cyberpunk RED. Until then, stay safe on the streets!

9 thoughts on “Cyberpunk RED Alert: Layout and Launch Leave a comment

  1. “The white background was a matter of debate and one we spent a lot of time discussing. Textured backgrounds look great and can really enhance the visual style of a page but they also make a book harder to read for people with visual impairments. It can also be distracting for the neurodivergent, who often have trouble focusing when there’s a lot of visual “static” present. So, we went simple. Black text on a white background. That also happens to be more printer friendly, for gamers who are printing at home.”

    Speaking as someone with ADHD and dyslexia, this is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  2. Thank you guys for putting in the extra effort this makes a huge Difference for someone like me. I have Dyslexia and ADHD growing up was really tough I could barely read until the end of third grade. At the end of second grade a friend let me barrow a book, it was the first book in the choose your own adventure game book series Lone Wolf by Joe Denver that book changed my life that year it was my first taste of a RPG and the skipping around in the book and at times just a few sentences to read on the page made it less daunting of a task of not trying to read a whole book in page order. Well to those who have read this comment thank you for putting up with my bad writing skills and long story just to say thank you to all the fine humans and maybe non humans? At R Talsorian Games and their effort is appreciated by me

  3. I have to say, my partner has some real vision issues and the fact that you all put as much thought into it is really uplifting to read. As the PDF has yet to come out at the time of this comment, I really look forward to seeing the contents myself and sharing it with them.

  4. I am sad you went for stark white. And I am more then a little upset that whoever claimed to offer accesability advice failed to mention that its not a particularly dyslecic friendly choice. especially as a softer white really helps with the clutter for many dyslexics.

    https://www.w3.org/WAI/RD/2012/text-customization/r11

    Personally I am a classic creme rather then white reader. Which is one of the reasons I loved the 2020 book as I found it so easy to read.

    Despite being fairly cluttered information wise(like many rpgs) and thus challanging in that regard.

    • You are absolutely correct and we apologize for this. In design we were thinking more along the lines of ADD/ADHD but not about dyslexia and that’s our bad. We’ll be uploading a version of the PDF to DriveThruRPG a little later this week with a different color background in order to help make it more accessible to gamers with dyslexia.

  5. As a long time 2020 fan, the game not the year. I would like to know if Cyberpunk Red is going to be supported like Cyberpunk 2020 was?

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