This is your weekly podcast about Genesis: Battle of Champions. In this 'cast we talk about everything related to game design, development, testing, and more for Genesis.
As always, if you have any questions, reach out to us at: email@example.com
Music: Jake Butineau
Designing Welcome to Jaelara pt3 - Tone
Hey Champions and welcome back to another podcast.
Last week we talked about how iteration played a big part in designing Welcome to Jaelara, this week I want to tackle another topic which is about the Tone of the set. It may not have seemed like a lot went into the transition between phase 1 and phase 2 but it did. We went from a very unstructured, chaotic, approach to design in phase 1 to a more focused and direct approach in phase 2 - if you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say phase 1 and 2, go back and listen to last week’s podcast.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty details about this, I want to give a huge shout out to our supporters on Patreon. We still have one signed, pre-alpha, epic rare that we are giving away to the next Patreon supporter. It is Purifying Wave signed by Damjan himself. These signatures weren’t easy to come by because it involved a lot of shipping things across the ocean and hoping to get it back. Some stuff was lost along the way. So if you want this signed card, you have to be the next person to sign up.
Also, next month’s premiere promo is the Anime Nubia. So sign up soon if you want to make sure you get that for August.
And one more thing! Don’t forget our championship in November where you have a chance to win $1000 by getting in first. There will be a lot more prizes for that event, so even if you aren’t certain about your abilities to come in first, come out anyways. We will have so much going on, you’ll love it.
Okay, back to the topic at hand. When we were in phase 1, we made nearly 60 or 70 cards but there was no cohesive pattern; you had no sense what the set was about. This was a challenge because we had no way of telling the story of Jaelara. We knew we would have particular story pieces that would represent each city and some of the key things that depict life there. But we didn’t have anything that pointed in a single direction. We were just going everywhere with each card we made. This would have left you, the players, a bit in the dark the same way Beta does.
From the Beta set, do you get a good vision of what the world is about? Do you really know what each City represents and why? If you do, that’s awesome because even the game designers were a little lost on this topic. I was adamant that I wanted a clearer focus for this set. I knew we wouldn’t be able to bring in the same focus and attention to the story as some of our competitors, but that shouldn’t stop us. As long as Welcome to Jaelara was better than Beta was, that’s all that mattered.
So how did we make Jae better? The key here was to pick a tone that was interesting enough for the players but not super complex - I recognize that most people are still quite new to the game and adding a lot of complexity early on could harm the feel of it. So we started at the roots of the world: the Affiliations.
Once we knew we wanted to focus on the Affiliations: Bellum, Thymos, Axon, and Chaos. We had to clearly define what they all represented. Each affiliation could take up a podcast on their own, but on a high level here is what they all represent.
For Bellum we knew it would stand for, “Belief”. Not just a belief in a divine being, or some sort of religion. No, it had to be more than just that. We wanted Bellum to be more than just the righteous ones. So we focused on three key areas: belief in a spiritual structure, belief in combat training, and the belief that power comes from controlling a balance between magical and physical abilities.
For Thymos, we knew this was going to be about, “Emotions”. That was there from the very beginning. The hard part was figuring out which emotions to focus on because we couldn’t focus on all of them. So we picked these three: Emotion of Rampage, Emotional connection to the world, and Emotional connection to each other. Basically, rage and love.
Axon was interesting. Most people would assume it is about knowledge but we steered in a different direction and went with control. Control gives us much more design space to work with and can lead to more interesting concepts. The areas of control we focused on are control of time and space, control of the mind, and control over the elements of the world.
For Chaos we knew we didn’t want to be stereotypical here and make it about something sinister or evil. We made it a bit vaguer and went with power. And as any Buffy fan knows: it’s all about power. Those who don’t have it will always be afraid of those who do and that’s the key about Chaos. We focused on these three types of power: Raw, physical power, occult power, and coercive power.
After we decided what was to go into the affiliations, we now had a direction that I could point the team at and they could just start working on it at full speed. It was amazing to see the work they produced and how it all started to align under a single vision. But there was still one more thing I needed to add - something that I’ve taken a lot of slack over but I feel was truly necessary. Our one and only thematic mechanic in the sets: The elemental damages.
Yes, I agree, it feels a little clunky and unwieldy right now. But this is something I’m really excited about it. Actually, this stems from a PodCast by Mark Rosewater where he talked about the 10 or 20 things he would change about Magic if he were to remake the game from the beginning. And one thing he mentioned was the fact that he would add in elemental damage types. The issue is, once the game gets too big, you can’t go back and retroactively add that because you’d have to errata too many cards. So adding it at the beginning of the game allows you to have that creative design space as the game grows to do it in the future. And that’s something I feel we’ve just started to leverage in JAE.
For example, Phyr Hill is one card I’m really excited about in the next set. First off, let’s talk about the naming of this card. Phyr, spelled P H Y R, is an area right by Ajna and is the previous home of the Phoenix. This Hill holds the nest where it would have been resurrected but instead, Feng was. Secondly, look at its build mechanic. Most alterations have a create mechanic which allows you to place it anywhere. However, with those alteration you can’t activate those abilities right away. With Phyr Hill, you are building it right underneath you allowing you to take advantage of it right away. The last, and my favourite part about it, the feel of this card. As long as something is on it, it activates giving that thing the Fire attribute and everything around it the Fire Weakness. This has a cool, “King of the Hill”, feel to it which is just fun to have in a ccg. This card has a lot of amazing aspects to it and I hope you’re excited to play with it soon.
I actually had a lot more I wanted to cover in this cast but I think it is getting a bit long. I wanted to talk more about the elemental mechanics but I guess that’s a cast for another day. Until then, bye for now.