As our first series of Destined Legends is now available for pre-order, I thought I'd take some time to reflect back on our journey in creating Destined Legends. Last week we covered where the core idea of Destined Legends came from. Tonight, we're talking about the principle development of the game, leading up to our Kickstarter campaign.
In 2010, as my work in webcomics was drawing to a close, I started thinking about what my next creative endeavor would be. As I toured the west coast convention circuit with my best friend and fellow webcomic artist Denis Caron, I encountered many interesting people with even more interesting projects. People were creating everything from paintings, to picture books, to statuettes to even card games. There was so much creativity in the air. My mind was like a violent quasar, spewing ideas a million miles per hour without any signs of coherence. I could feel my next project on the tip of my brain.
There's nothing more frustrating to a creator than having so much creative energy with nothing meaningful to unleash it upon. So I did what anyone else in my position would do; I worked as a freelance designer. It got me by and allowed me to experiment with different design theories. I wouldn't be as good of a designer, let alone as fast of a designer, if I didn't do as much freelance work as I did.
The freight train I mentioned last week came one calm weekend afternoon. My brother Shawn and I were prepping to move, when we stumbled across my original Pokemon card collection. Shawn and I reminisced for a while about our fond memories of collecting and playing with the cards. Somehow the conversation found its way to us talking about those old cards I used to make. I jumped on my computer, curious if my old files were still there. Unfortunately the vast majority of those files were lost in the great PC crash of 2004 (the one that made me switch to Mac once and for all), but what I did find was arguably better. I stumbled across the old Final Fanatsy cards I had made.
The cell that was that idea began replicating in my brain in at a violent rate.
I expressed to my brother that I wish we could make a card game. Shawn stared back at me and said something to the effect of "we should make a card game!" It was so simple. So obvious. The cell that was that idea began replicating in my brain in at a violent rate. I realized that it would be the perfect project. I could use so many of my different skill sets. There was no hesitance, no doubt, and therefore, no denying that this would be my next creative project.
"just because something sounds like the best idea on paper, it doesn't necessarily mean that it will actually be great in practice."
We immediately began development. I mean, immediately. We talked it out for a few more minutes than drove over to target and bought a whiteboard. We came back and began outlining the basic mechanics. It was an incredible evening. We worked on that initial version for a few months then decided to print out a crude version to test out. That first play test revealed some glaring errors in judgement and quickly introduced us to the all-to-true fact that just because something sounds like the best idea on paper, it doesn't necessarily mean that it will actually be great in practice. Over the next year, the game began to take shape.
Of course, as a graphic designer, I also began to develop the visual look of the game alongside the gameplay. It worked out well. Shawn focused more on the gameplay, and I focused more on the aesthetic. It turned out to be a pretty great way to develop. If Shawn proposed a certain gameplay element that wouldn't work in a efficient graphic representation, then we had to retool said mechanic to work with the card design, and vise versa.
What we're aiming to create isn't just the next great card game, but the next great fantasy universe.
From the beginning, I decided that Destined Legends was going to have 3 very separate yet equal focuses. And that each of these focuses had to be perfect on their own to really help Destined Legends float above the pack. Those 3 things were Gameplay, Art & Design, and Lore. Because what were aiming to create isn't just the next great card game, but the next great fantasy universe.
The Design underwent a total of 10 major revisions. Those revisions are broken down in greater detail in our tumblr blog post about the card iterations. Our goal from the start was to have a good looking card that shows tons of art. Its amazing how many card games have no overall design sense to make a decent looking card. I definitely took it upon myself to make the best looking cards that I possibly could. I came up with the tagline that out cards are "designed with design in mind." Catchy ain't it?...
In the beginning, we didn't know what we wanted to do for the art. The only thing we knew is that we wanted it to be special. This is where my experience in the webcomics industry came in handy. Over the years I made many friends in the industry. Many of those friends happened to be incredible artists. We had this idea to make it a collaborative project. We wanted all the best artists we knew to be involved. This was our chance to share the wealth and help us all rise together.
I'd like to think that Destined Legends is helping our main artists Cari Corene and Scott Ferguson get noticed by people who would normally never read their comics. And on the flip side of that, Cari and Scott's fans would discover and part-take in a card game they would never have otherwise. It seemed like a mutually beneficial situation and ended up working out for the best. I was also super-stoked to be able to help out my friends by being able to officially contract them and pay them for their incredibly hard work. Destined Legends wouldn't be anywhere near where it is if it weren't for them, and for that I am eternally grateful.
The gameplay eventually got to a pretty incredible place. We made a few major changes like the decision to have every Legend have the same HP and increase at the same pace. Before that, one Legend may have started with 12 HP and another with 11. Then the 12 HP Legend might have increased at 4HP per level, while the 11 increased by 5HP. We eventually determined that It just didn't matter, and it didn't impact the game in any significant way. Gameplay development was riddled with situations like this: "Do the benefits outweigh the cost?" With so many gameplay elements that had to mesh together just right, you can't afford to force in an idea that you love, if it throws everything else off balance. A pretty major decision we made pretty early on was to introduce movement. Its hard to look back now and imagine Destined Legends without the ability to move along the battle grid. Up until that point, you could choose to attack a creature or a Legend, there was no range to restrict you, and therefore no risk or repercussions. Destined Legends was dead in the water until we added movement.
Luckily the lore kinda fell into place on its own. Firstly, I had a pretty well developed lore of the video game version to use as a starting point. Then the rest filled out when we had to write our character descriptions for Scott Ferguson, our character designer. In order to give Scott the absolute best idea of what we wanted from each character, Shawn and I broke down each character down to their most fundamental level. That forced us to also establish things like cities and nations to support their cultures and traits. Beyond that, we were lucky enough to be afforded the ability to do a digital comic with Scott Ferguson. Writing that comic helped further flesh out the characters and the universe they occupied.
We want the Destined Legends lore to be much more immersive that a quick quip on the bottom of a card.
One area we kept struggling with from a implementation standpoint was flavor text. Flavor text is a one or two sentence little bit of backstory to supplement the cards and help immerse the player in the universe. We went back and forth but eventually decided to omit it. At the end of the day, flavor text always feels like a throwaway add-on. We want the Destined Legends lore to be much more immersive that a quick quip on the bottom of a card. So it ultimately was going to be a disservice to the experience as a whole Hence the comic. Theres lots more we want to do on the lore side of things, and we can't wait to share it with everyone later on down the line.
Setting a Date
Our internal clocks are synced to Sand Diego Comic-Con International. So that was the date our development cycle was anchored to. We smartly decided to skip SDCC 2012, and set our sights for SDCC 2013. Setting that goal really forced us to get into gear and develop the project with a greater sense of urgency. We looked ahead and realized that if we wanted the final product to be out in Summer 2013, we need to place our order in February or March, in order to receive it by July. We figured out that we need to raise our funds before the end of 2012 in order to be able to commission our artists for the 75+ pieces of artwork that were needed for the game. And so we set our sights for late October to begin our fundraising campaign on a little site called Kickstarter.
The adventure continues next Sunday night at 9 PST with "Funded by Kickstarter Part III: The Campaign."
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In This Series
Funded with Kickstarter Part I: Too Much Free Time 6/2 - The conception of Destined Legends, beginning over 10 years ago.
Funded with Kickstarter Part II: Anything You Can Do 6/9 - The process of officially developing Destined Legends.
Funded with Kickstarter Part III: The Campaign 6/16 - The most exhilarating and stressful 30 days of our lives.
Funded with Kickstarter Part IV: I Heart Logistics 10/8 - The processes of manufacturing, importing, and fulfillment.