Q&tAy: Kung Fu Factory's Adventure Time Card Wars

Flooped from the depths of Cartoon Network and Kung Fu Factory, there is now a real game, based on a fictional game, based on a fictional cartoon, rubbing elbows with the other top 10 iTunes paid apps called Adventure Time Card Wars.

Ricci Rukavina, Creative Director of Kung Fu Factory, and I flooped the pig (aka did a short Q&A) about Adventure Time Card Wars while I drank a special concoction of soda, kim chee, jam, and help-me-I'm-dying-this-is-totally-gross.


How would you describe Adventure Time Card Wars?

As Jake might say, Card Wars is a fancy card game that's super complicated which means its really awesome. Its not for nerds who do not know how life is outside of the nerd universe, its for super cool people who love to summon creatures, cast spells and battle it up in the Land of Ooo!

From what sources did you draw inspiration during development?

Its fun to work with somethiang you love and we love Adventure Time, but then again - who doesn't love it - its wacky, silly, fun, crazy and inventive - its a crazy show. I've watched it since the beginning and I'm a huge fan of Pen Ward's, so its sort of a dream come true to work on a project like this. We had the good fortune to work with the creator of the Card Wars Episode, a cool dude named Pat McHale who helped get us into the Adventure Time groove - so we consumed even more Adventure Time than is probably safe for any one person. With Pat we talked story, influences and got some insight into the secret sauce. We also drew influences from classic CCGs that we all used to play, deck building games like Dominion and board games like Ticket To Ride. The Map concept was inspired by Super Mario 3 and Candy Crush Saga. And of course everything else by Adventure Time.

We tried to imagine if this were a real game what would it be like - and the holographic board itself is a jumping off point where we really try to have everything feel like it is being created by that board. We also spent a lot of time discussing and planning how to not to 'cross the streams' so you won't see a Peppermint Butler creature on the board for instance, since he lives in the 'real world' of the Land of Ooo and could only be a player. Whereas a corn dog creature could only exist in Card Wars, of course.


What sort of difficulties have you faced during development?

One of the difficulties we faced - quality on a budget (doesn't every developer?)! Our goal was to design something that felt like it had the high quality of a console title and that it could easily have been released for 3DS or Vita, Steam(PC) or the larger consoles where players are super happy spending somewhere between 30 - 60 dollars for their game. Its strange because those games obviously cost a lot of money especially compared to $3.99 for Card Wars - but often you don't think about it, you're just super excited about the experience. We wanted people to feel that they were getting a lot of bang for their couple of bucks. We want Card Wars to be a game that you'd come back to when you woke up the next morning and be excited to play - but also that you would be excited when we added new things to it.

Another difficulty are In App Purchases. For better or worse thats the world we live in so trying to figure it out in a way that pleases everyone is a super difficult task. As an independent developer, we know all too well the costs of making a game, and the toll it takes on us personally as developers to build a game from the ground up that we love and players love. Our feeling is that if you love a game, then you won't mind paying for more of it - whether that's because you want to play it first or because you've gotten into it and want to see all of the content the game has to offer.

It is a balancing act that we worked hard on and will continue to work hard on to get right. We tried to be really loose with content so that people felt like they were getting their moneys worth upfront - but if they really get into it - after hours and hours of playing - they like it so much they don't mind spending a few more bucks on the game. Thats the feeling we are going for. And like I said before, we tried to make the quality of this game something similar to what players would see on handhelds, Steam or console. As much as everyone would probably like - games can't really be free, so we try our best - and its something we want to get better at and strike a balance.

So we designed the game so that players don't feel inundated with IAP paywalls right after downloading the game - that type of stuff sucks - and actually doesn't really make a lot of sense - either people are going to get into your game or not - so hitting us over the head in the beginning isn't something we are into ourselves. Also we tried to strike a balance by giving players some free gems up front, they can also win a ton of free gems through the Quest star system, and powerful cards that they can craft. Ideally we would like to continue to give stuff out to players that show their support, so we'll see how that goes. We're also fans of really difficult games like Dark Souls, so there should be a real challenge for players regardless of how much the initial price was. Difficult games such as Temple Run, Candy Crush Saga continue to be popular with players. We still have to watch players and learn from their comments and tweak it so everyone feels like its as it should be. For example - the heart timers seem to be too aggressive based on early comments (even Kotaku's 'dumb' headline), so we need to address that for people who have paid $ upfront for the game. Thats the intent anyways - listen to what players say, iterate and revise the game to reach a perfect balance. But that's one of the advantages of making mobile games - people can tell us what they think and we can react pretty quickly. We are always listening!


Were there any specific "Aha!" moments that set the game in a new direction?

An interesting behind the scenes story is that originally when we were talking to Cartoon Network and D3, they had wanted a different type of game. We sent over our pitch, but I had personally loved the Card Wars episode so much and I thought that it was my chance to pitch the game that I thought they should make (selfishly, I wanted to play it, and would be even neater to work on it!) . So we spent some time putting together our ideas on what it would be like to really make Card Wars into a game. We crossed our fingers and sent it over to them - and once Cartoon Network saw it - they loved it! Everyone realized right away the opportunity and Card Wars 'The Game For Real' was born! That was really exciting, because we gave them something they didn't ask for, and that's my favorite thing to do - is to try and lead products and companies in a different direction than they might initially be thinking and make something that we want to play too. It doesn't always work out, but when it does, like in this case - it turns out to be pretty cool.

One other moment specifically came around multiplayer. Originally we were making the game turn-based multiplayer from the start, which is something i wasn't quite sure about, but on paper seemed like it should be fun. However, the reality is - who wants to wait four days for their buddy to Floop a Pig? So that was a problem. Once we really analyzed multiplayer and what it should be - we realized that the core of the game needed to be a single player experience first and that the gameplay needed to be quick and easy at launch. Multiplayer could always come later.

Some other "Aha!" moments that I can think of would revolve around Floop Abilities, The Battle Wheel and The Map. Flooping was originally pretty haphazard and some creatures could floop and others couldn't and it was really confusing. We had the idea to give every creature a floop ability and simplify the game flow which made the game feel fast, fun and a lot easier to understand.

The Battle Wheel came about as we were trying to eliminate areas of the game where the player loses control. A dice roll takes the game out of the players hands and we thought it would be fun to experiment with critical hits, blocks and counters to add depth to combat. In playtesting, players really responded well to the Battle Wheel, so we felt encouraged that it really added something special to the game. We will probably be adding some new stuff to the Battle Wheel where each hero can affect it in different ways. It could be really cool the way we want to change it up in the future.

Another big "aha!" moment was the map. Originally, Card Wars had no progression system, which was boring. We came up with the idea for the Map - as we were pretty obsessed with new games like Candy Crush and old games like Super Mario 3 and thought that the Land of Ooo would be a fun place to travel around endlessly and that we could expand it pretty easily. We really wanted to have a lot of content in the first rev of the game - that was really important to us and we weren't sure how to do it by just giving cards out - once we had a more single player game in place, the map gave us psychological freedom to know we could just add and add and add.


What aspects of the game did you want to implement, but had to leave out?

There were so many features that we wanted to add to the game for our initial launch. There is never enough time to do everything. But we have some pretty exciting stuff planned if the game does well.

We definitely have plans for multiplayer, so hopefully that will be announced in an update. If the fans really want it and like the game enough, we should be able to add it pretty quickly. We don't want to go into much detail yet, but we have a new and inventive way of doing multiplayer on mobile and we are really excited about it.

Additionally we have plans to do Special Tournaments. For example, one of our first Tournaments would be be a 'Corn Carnival' where all battles would revolve around corn cards naturally. There will be special entry requirements but players will see lots of new characters, new environments and new challenging gameplay. But the most important part of participating in Special Tournaments would be to earn new cards that players can only get here. These cards can be used at the Forge to craft the higher level cards and would only be available by playing in these Tournaments as opposed to the cards you can get by progressing through the main map.


Tell us what the back of the box for Adventure Time Card Wars would say.

Card Wars is the best most awesome collectible card game which has the most important and highest stakes of any game ever released. Will you be the cool guy or the dweeb? Customize your own deck with spells and creatures to battle against the best players in the Land of Ooo! Filled with hundreds of unique cards, hundreds of quests, tons of playable characters such as Finn, Jake, BMO and The Earl Of Lemongrab each with their own unique spell abilities. Craft your own unique cards at the card forge, build and customize original card decks for literally Infinite combinations of play. Simple to learn but with lots of action and depth, become a Super Card Wars Amadeus now!

Grab Adventure Time Card Wars for iOS, here. Android version forthcoming.


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