Making The Games He Wants To Make: The Jon Chey Interview
July 19, 2011 Page 3 of 4
So can we talk a little bit about what you're actually working on at this point?
JC: The broad mandate I had for the studio is make the kind of games that I want to play, which is pretty broad, but I think those sort of fall into two categories. One is, I really like card games and board games. I think that they tend to bring those to computer platforms; there are interesting examples, but there hasn't really been, I think, an ambitious enough mixing of what's good about those kind of physical games with what's good about computer games.
And, of course, computer games have lots of advantages, like secret information, and maintaining collections, and doing all the busy work for you, and all that stuff. But I really like the simplicity and clarity of the rules of card games and board games so that's one area I really wanted to explore.
And seeing what you could get when you mix those two things together and design something that's isn't taking an existing board game and moving it onto a computer, but building something original from the ground up.
The other area I want to come back to in the future is the whole kind of simulation side of things, like the old sort of Looking Glass-style games that are very simulational, and dynamic, and procedural. But that's the future. One thing at a time.
So the first project is this game called Card Hunter, which is a board game/card game hybrid that you play on a computer, mixed with an RPG.
That's a pretty clunky way of describing it, I guess, but it's basically like -- imagine you're playing a board game/card game, only it's largely a single-player experience. The best way to describe it is, imagine I take an MMO, and every time you fight a monster, instead of playing a timer game with with pull downs and buttons that you click, you're playing a turn-based strategy game.
You have little pieces on a board, and you play cards to move those pieces around, and that's the battle you fight. And at the end of the battle you win some treasure, which you then use to trick your characters like you do in an MMO, but those characters are actually pieces in the board game. So that's it in a nutshell.
From a visual thematic point of view, we're guys who played, or thought a lot about playing, D&D back in the '80s, or even earlier, and so we've gone for that style. The whole game is themed around a quite a nostalgic look back to that. It's actually a very hard thing to make any kind of distinct impression with, so we really thought we'll tackle this in a couple of ways.
One of them is we're not going to go for like some sort of super modern engine kind of game, we're going to reach back into the very early days of D&D. And we're also not going to try and hide the fact that this is a board game and a card game, by doing a lot of kind of complicated 3D animation. We present the game as very much like an actual board game, so there's a board with little cardboard pieces and so on. It's pretty different from anything else that's out there, I think.
You can still do interesting visual stuff when showing people a board game, and it's not really common for studios to do that kind of game.
JC: No. Well, because I think there's still a kind of little bit of a ghetto feel to board games. I think that the natural reaction of game developers is like "Well, let's try and hide the fact that it's a board game. Let's make it 3D and animate everything." And the problem with that is that when you're playing a board game, you actually don't want all this stuff around. It's kind of nice the first couple of times you see it, but after that it just gets in the way. Do you play the Advance Wars games?
Oh yeah, a lot.
JC: You know how they have those little combat animations when pieces attack each other? I really like those and I watch them once or twice, and then I turn them off.
Yeah, everybody turns those off. It just slows you down.
JC: Right. I think that, well we'll see, I guess. I mean, I personally think of the sort of board gamey things as, I don't know, to me it's a little bit friendly and kind of welcoming. It's not trying to make out that it's the typical fantasy melodramatic, "you must save the world" and all the evil will destroy everything. It's a game.
You're talking about the warmth that board games have. I think that they just kind of evoke a "everyone gather around the table and do something together" mood.
JC: Right, right. So that's the kind of feel we're going for.
Did you say that you have another project too going on?
JC: No, no, we have a planned project. We're not big enough to run more than one thing at a time. My plan is to get this project up and if -- well even if it's a total failure, we'll probably try a couple of other things. We're so small we'll try to focus on one thing at a time.
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