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Video Game Producer Changing Gears

5 replies [Last post]
Joined: 04/25/2012

Hello All!

My names Chris, and I'm a recovering producer/designer from the video game industry. I recently started a job where I'm able to resume work on some personal projects and wanted to make sure I was able to gather a wide range of thoughts and opinions. I've been working with a lot of former WotC and Decipher folks, and recently shipped "Pokemon Trading Card Game Online" and "Big Bang Theory: Mystic Warlords of Ka'a". I've been neck deep in TCGs for the past 2 years and am hoping to find some more perspective on the forums, and ideally, not get sucked into a debate on the pros and cons on mana screw :)

Joined: 03/15/2012
Well, I'd say that you've

Well, I'd say that you've come to a pretty good place then. It's a shame that you've been tied up with TCGs, they unfortunately get a bit of a looking down on from the folks here. It's not that they aren't great in their own right, but they are more of an exercise in profiteering than in game design. I can't complain, I've just been approached to pen one myself, but I'm finding that it is much easier to write rules that are simple enough to be played with hundreds of variable pieces while knowing that at any time you can add or phase out a rule with new cards.

What other kinds of games are you into, or is primarily TCGs? Granted, I'd love to see someone make a balanced and fair TCG that didn't just play to the guy who spent more on rare cards for his deck, so I still like reading into TCG ideas. It's nice to have you aboard, I hope that you get settled in and start posting soon, I'm curious to see what ideas you have!

Joined: 04/25/2012
On the games I'm into, aside

On the games I'm into, aside from some TCG's, I've really enjoyed the gipf project games ( and play Go when I get a hankering for general strategy. Tabletop RPG wise I like to separate my mechanics from my narrative and have had a lot of fun with Prime Time Adventures (

I believe a really good TCG does not have to phase out rules or create "must play" cards (note how MTG fits into this schema), and those are tools that are being used as crutches by some games. Like an online game, sure, you can patch out changes after launch because you rushed the game and had to make a street date, but if you don't HAVE to, you probably should just wait till it's ready. One of the things I've enjoyed most about the board game process is the luxury of saying "Hmm, that's not working, I'll try a different direction and see where it goes". This works fine for my personal projects, but when I'm sitting on a milestone payment that will mean life or death of the studio and possibly cut 40 people of their jobs, that becomes a much harder choice to make, and you fall back on the "Eh, we can fix it later". With as much money riding on some TCG's regular release schedule, it's pretty easy to see how they can fall into that trap.

Because of the TCG influence there have been a couple concepts that I've been bringing into my board game, and I think it's for the better. Those thing are:

  • Rarity Distribution - Using powerful cards in randomized piles to gerate excitement and provide a method for players to come from behind on lucky draws. I feel that if you know who is going to win on the 2nd turn, it can take away from the replayability and lasting enjoyment of the game
  • Customizability - The power to build vastly different play experiences using the same set cards
  • Resource Management/Power Curve - Understanding how games can ramp into bombs/game changers and how those influence the flow of the game
  • Expandability - I know some people like to be able to mark something off as "Done", and I love those games as well (see above Go and Gipf), but as a designer I really enjoy finding ways to expand and explore a world's narrative. New mechanics and story elements are fun for me because I really enjoy world building, and expansions - for better and for worse - allow me to get elements in that didn't quite fit in the schedule/scope/budget of my first iteration

I'll be posting some questions/thoughts on my next iteration's direction sometime soon. Looking to forward to hearing people's feedback and learning more about board games in general.

MarkKreitler's picture
Joined: 11/12/2008
Welcome aboard!

Good to have you here, Oltyan!

It's great to see other video game professionals revisiting the roots of game design. As you point out, the money and production schedules of the mainstream video game industry forces a lot of unfortunate design decisions. Here, we have the luxury of bouncing ideas off each other until we find the sweet spot.

Sounds like you've taken a lot of good influences from the TCG market and know how to inject them into other genres. I look forward to seeing how you roll everything together, and hope you'll post some ideas in the forums and journals in the near future.


Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
SlyBlu7 wrote: I'd love to

SlyBlu7 wrote:
I'd love to see someone make a balanced and fair TCG that didn't just play to the guy who spent more on rare cards for his deck.

It’s been done

A friend of mine proved it to me by making a deck of all commons that was just as strong a any deck I could make using my complete collection which included the box set One of Everything.

I think that any resentment of CCG’s comes mainly from three things.

1. The business model designed to get players to continuously purchase upgrades to keep competitive.

2. Very few of them offer anything new or interesting, in other words too many head to head battle CCG’s .

3. MTG/Pokemon is often the main support for gaming shops that have play space making them hangouts for noisy tweens* rather than a place where a person can sit and enjoy playing a game in a relatively quiet environment.

*Yes I know older people play too.

Joined: 03/15/2012
Very few people buy cards to

Very few people buy cards to trade anymore, most people that I know buy them off line. To be competitive, you need cards that are more rare. To get those, you can either buy $900 worth of boosters, or you can go online and order the card. The only people who trade much are the guys who buy a brick and trade up until they have 6 cards left that they can sell for a massive profit. That's not a trading card game - that's the f'ing Stock Exchange.
The people that I've met who most loathe TCGs are the TTG guys (myself included). The two camps seem permanently opposed. On the one hand, the TCG guys can't understand why we would want to spend so much money on models, lavish so much time in painting them (if needed) and then play games where you can see everything all at once. On the other hand, the TTG folks don't understand how you can spend just as much money (albeit $9 at a time over YEARS) on an endless stream of cards, why you would rather "invest" in slips of cardboard, and why you'd risk your entire gaming experience to blind luck of the draw.

Chris - I like where you're going with your ideas. A lot of people and companies have developed games which use cards in the ways that you have described. Every game that I've designed since I've gotten to this site has been card based. My favorite even allows players to buy additional decks and expansions to use. Card distribution is a big deal, rarity in a TCG is a joke - a player with enough money can fill his deck with just as many Power Nines as he can with 10cent chaff. In a sealed-deck environment, you can enforce rarity by only putting 1 copy of a card into a 50 card deck. You already have very solid understanding of that though - I'm sure you're going to come up with some awesome ideas.

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