What kind of game do I want to make next?

Lincoln Bergeson

Mar 1, 2019

Card Crusade is a good game with some great moments. Not every moment is great -- walking around the dungeon is a little bit boring, some encounters feel stale, some cards aren't worth picking up, and even some characters are sort of uninteresting. (I'm looking at you, Bishop.) But there are some moments that I'm truly proud of. Like this person trimming the Nomad's starting deck to four cards and stun-locking every character. Like another player who did a Mitosis/Hoodlum/Dictionary run and got his deck up to 350 cards. Like the players early on who used Metallicize so many times that the amount of block overflowed into a negative integer. Those moments make me love what we created.

The thing is, it takes an open mind and a bit of an investment into the game to see those great moments.

Now that we've accomplished our original goal of just putting something out there, I want to work on something different. I don't want to make another game that's the same as Card Crusade in its basic skeleton: You move your character around a dungeon, you collect weapons, you fight monsters, and you gradually level up your abilities. Any variation on that theme would feel a little bit stale to me, like I'm not really pushing myself forward as a game creator.

For the next game, the type of game that it is -- its basic DNA -- matters much more than its existence.

Speaking of pushing myself forward, what do I want to push myself towards? My moonshot end goal is to create games for a living, in a way that's financially viable for me and my family. This means that I have to make than a "good game." There are a lot of people who make good games, but a good game is not going to be good enough. I need to learn how to create great games, exceptional games, amazing games, games that make people turn their heads, games that people want to tell all of their friends about. And to learn that will probably require some experimenting.

So the next serious game I make needs to have these properties:

  1. It must take only a few months to develop (3 to 6 ish).
  2. It must be significantly different from Card Crusade.
  3. It must be unique and stand out from other games.

We should also focus on our strengths as a studio, rather than trying to over compensate for our weaknesses. Here's what I think our strengths are:

  1. Fun and innovative mechanics
  2. Simple design and retro/lo-fi charm
  3. Engaging with our community

For all of the brainstorming and design talks that Jan and I had, Card Crusade was still designed around a fun little mechanic that we came up with. Watch this video that shows our earliest progress in the game -- the first week was literally just, there's four cards at the bottom of the screen that you can drag around, a card in the middle that changes its picture, and some stats at the top.

We lost some of that initial enthusiasm by focusing on making Card Crusade look like a "normal" game, the kind of game that we were used to playing. Hence the walking around a dungeon, the combat centrism, the merchant. What if we had focused instead on just making more toys, more fun mechanics, more interesting ideas? Some of that was regained later on in the development cycle when we started adding more interesting cards, monsters, and altars, but I wonder what would have happened if we hadn't tried so hard to make something normal.

We made a good game, and I'm proud of it. It's cliche to say but I did learn a lot: how to engage your players, how to do marketing and PR, how to finish something, how to know when it call it quits.

That being said, I don't think there are many things more dangerous that we could do to the future of our little studio than make another good game. Let's do something untraditional, weird, surprising, nonconforming, innovative, something new. Just not something "good".

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