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An archive from 2004

What's in a name?
Some of you may have noticed some unusual names for characters and other things in Project .hack. Remember, this property is based on a fictional "massively multiplayer online roleplaying game" called "The World."

You may have played a fantasy roleplaying game with players who came up with fantastic names like "Balmung of the Azure Sky," but there was probably one guy named "Bob" who named his first level magic user "Bob." Every group has one of these guys.

That is simulated in our game by PC cards like Tim and John, and weapons like SWORD (not an exciting name, but somehow more exciting in all caps).

We got these names from the .hack video games. I think they're kinda cute because every online RPG has players who name things like this.

The use of all caps is another convention in MMORPG playing, which is where we get a character named NOVA. You will eventually see PCs with names and lore in "leet" speak, the special online "hacker" dialect.
chuckkallenbach
4 May 2004
What's the difference between a CCG and a TCG?
There isn't any difference, except for the name. This is a question that comes up from time to time on our message boards.

There are no rules for what is a CCG and what is a TCG. There are no copyrights or trademarks forcing any manufacturer to use one name or the other. There are no rarity or gameplay considerations that make one game a CCG and another a TCG.

The name that caught on when Magic was young was CCG. Later, Magic decided to use TCG. Most other companies have settled on one or the other. TCG seems to be more popular these days, although many companies still use CCG. For a while, Decipher used "customizable card game."

We have decided to change from CCG to TCG because consumers find it easier to understand what a "trading card' is than what a "collectible card" is. Trading cards are a familiar concept to most people.

This doesn't mean we've decided that our cards are no longer for collecting, and now are to be used for trading only. 🙂 It's just a change in terminology. The games remain the same!
chuckkallenbach
19 Apr 2004
A thousand and one stories - Net Slum 2 P 5
In the video game and anime, Helba makes Net Slum from deleted files that haven't been erased yet. This card makes a new game from the discard piles of the players, in much the same fashion. It's another example of a "top down," story-first kind of card design.

It's a card designed more for fun than killer gameplay, although it's never a bad idea to wreck your opponent's momentum. Both you and your opponent have to have a significant number of cards in your discard piles when you play Net Slum or the subgame ends right away. You can blame me for this one, too.
chuckkallenbach
15 Apr 2004
Aura makes an appearance - Girl in White 2 P 4
Like the card "Woman in White," we decided to name this card by not using the character's name. We're still not sure about Aura, but Helba will eventually become a playable PC, so it's good that we saved that card title.

The card text here is supposed to show Aura's elusive nature. In the story, she shows up several times and then quickly disappears each time. Girl in White has one effect when you play it as a regular event, but it also does something special when it shows up as a destiny draw.

The lore, represented as the garbled text Aura uses to communicate in the video game, says "There is no time. Please help me."
chuckkallenbach
13 Apr 2004
Secret sanctuary - Delta Hidden, Forbidden, Holy Ground 2 P 3
Because you demanded it! We missed this important field in the first set, so we had to get it in the game as soon as possible. It's a unique field, with no monsters. The story of the video game returns here many times, as the PCs find out more about what's happening.

As a result, we resolved to make a field that benefits PCs. This "crosses the line," since fields are supposed to only help monsters. (That same line is crossed, going the other way, by PCs like Natsume and Sora that can help your monsters.) The fact that it worked against the dangerous "all monster" deck was an added bonus.

Players have come up with some clever ways to keep this card in play, by attacking their opponent's hidden cards. It remains the most interesting field in the game by far. Maybe too interesting, since it provides a near "lock" which is just the kind of gameplay we don't like.
chuckkallenbach
12 Apr 2004
He's got huge, sharp-- eh-- he can leap about-- look at the bones! - Angolmore 2 P 2
It looks more like a robot than an undead creature, but I guess its skeleton is visible. Angolmore is the "bonus boss" for Mutation, the second video game. The Parasite Dragon filled this slot for Infection, although we put that lizard into the regular set for Contagion.

Anyway, even though it's not all dark and purple, you'll find that Angolmore fits in fine with those ghosts and undead in your darkness deck.
chuckkallenbach
9 Apr 2004
Jealous girl - Kaochin 2 P 1
Like everything else in the property, characters from the anime series are a limited commodity for us. We have to be very careful where we use them. Some characters are part of a natural group, or fill a special role. Some just show up, and have a couple of scenes, and leave.

One of the latter few is the Heavy Axeman Kaochin. She appears in a single episode of .hack//SIGN. She just shows up, threatens Subaru, and kills her. For some reason, this is portrayed as much more brutal than other player killer actions. By comparison, when Sora kills BT (lots of times), BT just turns grey and drops dead, without being cut to ribbons.

Anyway, Kaochin is an interesting character. I posted a question on our message board to see if anyone knew who she was, and there was an immediate response. Never underestimate the fervor of the fans of Project .hack.

Kaochin's card text was not warmly received by the sales and marketing folks at first. Once they understood the log out mechanic, they were definitely impressed. Kaochin is a strong card and was well received as a promo for the Level Up tour. PCs are the most desired cards.

Her name is pronounced "Ka-oh-chin." Not "Cow-chin," as we originally called her.
chuckkallenbach
8 Apr 2004
Sometimes looking pretty is enough - Level Up cards 1 T 6 through 1 T 10
We realized that we'd need five times as many Level Up cards as tournament cards, since you get one of each each time you level up. The art guys immediately seized upon the opportunity to do 5 different Level Up cards, which players could collect and trade.

The image treatment here is very cool, and players really like them. The inimitable Ed Gartin from our art department worked hard to get the Japanese characters on the cards. That added a lot to the coolness factor.

For these special cards, we got to use characters that we wouldn't be in the game for several expansions, like Balmung, Helba, and Orca. A nice treat for players familiar with the property, and a tantalizing tease for those who aren't.

Fate provided yet another cruel surprise for me, since I am level 6 and have gotten the same Level Up! card every time. At least it's my favorite one, Helba.
chuckkallenbach
7 Apr 2004
No place like home - Other Servers 1 T 5
We've had lots of ideas to represent Root Town in our game. It's the place where players restock and rearm before they go out into the field to fight beasties. This is kind of hard for us to represent in our game, since that doesn't exactly happen.

Maybe Root Town is the cards in your hand. Maybe not, since that's where monsters come from too... okay, I don't really have a clue here. It's another one of those cards you can use to hasten the end of the game when you're ahead. At least it only costs 1 Level Up card.
chuckkallenbach
6 Apr 2004
AFK (away from keyboard) - No Response 1 T 4
Players of the video games are aware of periods during which you can't contact one or more of the other NPC players who form your party.

For example, at one point during the video game, Mistral has to leave because her "dinner is burning" in real life (IRL).

We crafted this card to represent this kind of MMORPG experience. It has a great destiny, but it's very hard to play. For what it's worth, this card will get easier to play... in about four sets.
chuckkallenbach
5 Apr 2004
The truth is out there - Investigator 1 T 3
Mr. Tokuoka, the eponymous man shown here, is one of the heroes of Liminality, the movie that accompanies the video games. He's an ordinary guy, looking for answers.

The gameplay provided here is not cutting edge, but Investigator has been used to fight cards like Corrupted Field and Coma. The card provides a kind of counterspell protection, in a clumsy and expensive manner.

You'll see more of Tokuoka and his "Charlie's Angels" in a future set.
chuckkallenbach
2 Apr 2004
Springtime folly - 1 T π Cracks of Doom
Sometimes I just think we should know better. Sure, we wanted the tournament cards to be memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

But an event card with game text that says, "The One Ring is destroyed and its bearer's player wins." was a bit much, I admit it.

Good thing I didn't think up this card. Somebody suggested it last year when we were developing the game. I think was late March or so. Maybe April 1st. Foolish idea.
chuckkallenbach
1 Apr 2004
We're listening.
My last two posts talked about two of the most problematic cards I've ever had a hand in. I don't want you to think we're not taking these cards, and their impact on the play environment, very seriously.

We have been listening to comments from all our players about the tournament cards. We have had numerous talks in the office, informal and formal, about them.

I just want you all to know that we're watching, and listening, and keeping the welfare of the tournament scene as our primary concern.

Thanks for your patience.
chuckkallenbach
31 Mar 2004
Musical chairs - Corrupted Field 1 T 2
How wacky is too wacky? Storywise, here's the plan: When the system gets corrupted, just about any number of things might happen, most of them bad. A clever card idea, but Corrupted Field became complicated for a lot of reasons.

At a big event, it's just damn hard to walk around the table and change seats in the middle of a game. Not to mention the fact that players don't like to have other players touch their cards. It's so easy to screw up six turns of play with a single card. ("I'll replace your Subaru and her lv. 2 armor and lv. 4 weapon with Elk.")

Again, sometimes when you push the envelope, the envelope pushes back.
chuckkallenbach
31 Mar 2004
Take a dirt nap - Coma 1 T 1
Okay, here we go. "Who thought up that card?" That was me. I figured that taking a few turns off in .hack//ENEMY didn't mean that much, since the turns are so tiny compared to other games.

Yes, I knew there were ways to stack destiny, and ways to juice destiny. I didn't think through the horrors of multiple, consecutive Comas when I thought the card up. Players found ways to chain two or three of these suckers together.

The idea came from the story, of course. However, in the rest of Project .hack, once a player goes into a coma, other players don't get to beat the crap out of him. Only in our game.

Sometimes you design a card and you want it to be real strong, but the result is too strong.
chuckkallenbach
30 Mar 2004
Ma'ruf had a ring? - Gate Hacking 1 P 4
Originally, this card was designed as a tournament card. That's why it requires a Level Up card to play. The marketing folks wanted it in the retail incentive program. This was done to show new players what kind of cool stuff they could get if they hooked up with the tournament system.

Gate hacking in the video game lets you go places you can't normally go. We twisted this around a bit to say that you could get something from a place you couldn't normally access. Same concept, different point of view.

This is a card that will only get more powerful as new mechanics provide more ways for cards to leave the game. You'll see more of this kind of thing in Epidemic. Some day we'll do something with protected areas and virus cores too.
chuckkallenbach
29 Mar 2004
Bad-ass mofo - Mu Guardian 1 P 3
Second of the three cards in the unprecedented retail incentive package. Not much to say about this critter.

Sometimes Mike would ask, "What about this monster? What's it like in the video game?" and I'd just say, "Well man, I don't know what to tell you, but that guy just ripped me up. He hits real hard."

So that's how you get to be a monster with 7 strength and kick butt reward text.
chuckkallenbach
26 Mar 2004
Standing stone - Goil Menhir 1 P 2
As I investigate the interesting names given by Bandai to the monsters of Project .hack, I often learn something. A "menhir" is a large, upright, monument stone, like those that make up the mysterious Stonehenge in England.

The menhirs in the video game have a nasty habit of healing other monsters which you are attacking. This makes them a real problem, and you'll often want to kill them first. We represented this "help your buddy" mechanic with various bonuses provided by the menhirs to other monsters.

This was a great way for Mike Reynolds and I to work on the game. I would describe how something worked in the video game, and he'd come up with a nifty way to implement that in our trading card game. That way, players of the video game feel at home.

Mike has a master plan for parceling out the monsters, and he was able to cut loose one of the menhirs to use as our first tournament weekend promo. It's hard to play in sealed deck or booster draft, but it's a solid card in constructed.
chuckkallenbach
25 Mar 2004
Silver Knight - Ginkan 1 P 1
Ginkan was part of our first retail incentive program, available beginning October 15, 2003. To give .hack//ENEMY a bang-up start, we provided a package of three retail incentive cards for one purchase.

We saw Ginkan, leader of the Crimson Knights, as a special character outside the mainstream. He wasn't just another Blademaster, he had a job to do. To make him unique, we gave him 2 strength. To make him fair, we gave him a drawback as well.

He also received a bonus "extra subtype" of Knight in addition to Blademaster. What does that mean? Well, nothing yet, but we have plans. Obviously, the Crimson Knights are an important organization in "The World," and we'll make sure they have a high cool factor.

We plan to explore the Crimson Knights more completely in the fourth expansion set, Isolation. There are several special mechanics saved just for them.
chuckkallenbach
24 Mar 2004
Who thought up that card?
We get that question a lot. It usually actually means, "I hate that card and I want to punch the guy that thought it up." So as you can imagine, we tend to sidestep these queries.

However, I want to spend some time talking about our promotional and tournament cards in the next couple of weeks. I won't be telling you who thought up the card unless that person was me.

We get card ideas from lots of different places. Just about every way you can imagine. Our promo and tournament cards tend to use "top down" design. That means that for these cards, the story came first. We're fitting game mechanics to some predetermined story concept. Usually, that works the other way around. Gameplay first, then story is added on later in the concepting stage.
chuckkallenbach
23 Mar 2004
The Treason of Images
Yes, it's true, I'm back! The relentless schedule of the past few months has... well, it has relented, so I've got some more time to share some info with you, Dear Reader.

Our game is based on Project .hack from Bandai. We have access to the PlayStation®2 video games, the .hack//SIGN anime series, and the .hack//LIMINALITY movie in four parts. This is where we get all our images.

While these sources provide lots of images, it's still a limitation. For example, the excellent character sketches by Yoshiuki Sadamoto that grace our packaging... there are only 19 of those. We have to use them carefully.

Sometimes we surreptitiously reuse them, like the way they're in the background of the Level Up! cards. We have to stretch all our image resources as far as we can to make sure that we can make lots more expansions.
chuckkallenbach
22 Mar 2004
Benchmark #3: Players playing
The final moment, and what is really the big payoff, is when you actually see players ripping open packs, making decks, and playing your game.

That's the best. Absolutely the best. I remember at the Star Wars Celebration in Denver, walking around and around the aisles of the first little Young Jedi tournament held there, feeling very giddy and happy.

I'm looking forward to that feeling soon with .hack//ENEMY. It's a long journey from idea to game, and for this game, that journey is just about complete.

Of course, with a TCG, that journey never ends! We're working hard on the next expansion set and making plans for lots more than that.

Stay tuned... we're just getting started!
chuckkallenbach
15 Oct 2003
Benchmark #2: The printed card
Probably the next cool time when you're designing a game is when you first see a printed card. Not a press sheet, but an actual, trimmed, round cornered card.

Until that very moment, the game exists in a sort of cyberspace/photocopy dimension. You see a lot of electronic files on your laptop, and you make decks with old cards in sleeves that have photocopies of new cards slipped in front.

When you see that first printed card, it makes you think that the game might actually really exist. I know that sounds silly, but sometimes a game doesn't make it that far.
chuckkallenbach
14 Oct 2003
Benchmark #1: Prototype
There are a number of benchmarks for me as a designer when I work on a new game.

The first real prototype is one. When you have cards mocked up and actually play a game with them, that's a pretty cool moment. The resultant coolness is tempered by how well that prototype works, of course.

Mike Reynolds, my partner-in-crime on this project, was pushing hard to get a working prototype early in design. I think that's a good plan that we'll use from now on.
chuckkallenbach
13 Oct 2003
A boost for .hack//ENEMY
There has been some experimentation with a new booster draft format for the game here in the office. They've tried a few different configuations, but haven't quite settled on the best one yet.

This is really cool! For those of you who haven't participated in a TCG booster draft, it's a lot of fun. Instead of just opening your packs and taking your cards home, you get together with other players and throw some packs together to make a limited play environment. Then you all pick some cards, make a new deck from those, and play some fun games with cards you may not look at otherwise.

We're already making some changes to the second set, Disortion, to make sure it's ready to support booster draft.

Watch the DGMA website at dgma.com for more info on booster draft in the near future.
chuckkallenbach
10 Oct 2003
Level Up! Your Game!
There have been a lot of concerns expressed on our message boards and by players in person about Level Up! cards. Players are justifiably worried about the possibility of abuse by some who will get large numbers of these cards, one way or another.

Many are worried about players obtaining lots of Level Up! cards that they have not earned through sanctioned tournament play.

We have a system designed that will easily allow tournament directors to verify what a player's ranking is and how many Level Up! cards that player is entitled to use. We'll be revealing more about this system in the next few days.

We've already made the clarification that Level Up! cards can only be spent, and they can't be sacrificed or destroyed. This ruling, along with a few others to make the game operate clearly and smoothly, will be in the release day FAQ which you'll be seeing next week.

It's our job to monitor the organized play environment for .hack//ENEMY and make sure that every player is having a terrific time. We think we have a great system in place to make that happen. We're here 24/7, and we're listening.
chuckkallenbach
9 Oct 2003
He should be deleted
The system administrators tell Kite that he's using illegal actions in violation of his registration agreement and they're going to delete him.

Of course, they don't. We won't either, but he does have a problem with his game text. In .hack//ENEMY, that is.

This is what Kite should have said:

When you are about to draw destiny for Kite, reveal the top 2 cards of your deck and discard one.

That game text makes it clear that you only use one of those cards as a destiny draw. So as far as Bear and Yuji go, if both cards are the same type, you can only play one.

Writing game text for a new game is tricky. You'd think we'd know about all the destiny draw tricks from our three Star Wars games, but it's different for this game.

Anyway, we're learning. It'll be in the first FAQ.
chuckkallenbach
8 Oct 2003
Parental love
I mentioned this in an earlier post, but there is a kind of innocent love a designer has for his game. When the game is new, and things start working, he believes that it will be smooth sailing from then on.

However, the reality with trading card games is that in the period right around release (just before until just after), problems arise.

Now, I should know better. Every TCG has an FAQ. But somewhere, deep in my heart of hearts, I hoped it would not be necessary.

We'll be having a meeting later this week to craft a document to answer some questions that have been popping up lately. Nothing serious, just some clarifications.

One side effect of this new FAQ document is that some of the rulings we have made in the last few weeks will probably be reversed.

It's a new game, so we're all learning how it works. Even us designers, who are supposed to know that already.

It's an ongoing process, but we're commited to getting it all straightened out. Stay tuned.
chuckkallenbach
7 Oct 2003
Those little silver things
Some items and one PC have small, round, silver icons that provide Tolerance to that PC or that item's bearer. Tolerance is a way to help keep your PCs alive and well. The story concept is that Tolerance represents toughness, armor, and resistance to damage. Piros gets it because he's a big guy. Otherwise, it's mostly found on armor items. Some Wavemaster weapons provide Tolerance, which represents defensive spells.

Here's how it works. Usually, when your PC loses a fight, that PC is wounded. If that PC has Tolerance, however, there is a chance that he might lose a fight and still not take a wound.

For example, if a PC has a Tolerance of 1 (only 1 silver icon on that PC's item), then he can lose a fight by 1 and not be wounded. So if that PC has a strength of 2 and fights a monster with a strength of 2 or 3, then the PC loses the fight, but doesn't take a wound.

Pretty cool, huh? Not taking wounds is a good thing, if you're a PC. Tolerance enhances your deck's defense, and allow you to spend more card slots on monsters instead of extra PCs or other healing types of cards.

Just remember that there is no such thing as "Tolerance of zero." Tolerance starts at 1. You either have it or you don't.
chuckkallenbach
6 Oct 2003
Stuff
There are three kinds of nouns: persons, places, and things. Most TCGs have card types for those categories. In .hack//ENEMY, we have PCs, fields, and items, respectively. But why did we call them items?

This is an especially good question if you're a player of the PlayStation®2 video games. A full-featured RPG like .hack//INFECTION has lots more stuff going on than the average TCG when it comes to things like possessions that the characters have access to.

In the .hack video games, there are "Items" and "Key Items" and "Equipment." Key Items are special story things like fragments of the Legend of Twilight and other such cool stuff. Items are expendable, one-use things, like potions and scrolls. Some of these things we show with event cards, which are also one-use, like Sprite Ocarina. Equipment, in the video games, is the stuff you wield and wear. Armor and weapons. That's what we call Items in our TCG. Why did we choose to use the word "item" instead?

Because we found in our Star Trek CCG that card types like Personnel or Equipment are bad for game text. "Equipment" is the same word in plural and singular. There is no such word as "Equipments," so it's hard in game text to know whether we're talking about one or two. For our Star Trek game, the designers constantly have to remember to say "one of your personnel" to make it clear that they mean just that and not "all of your personnel."

This is just another of the many benefits we have here in the Decipher TCG Studio from experience with other games. Our design team has been together for a long time, and we've developed a number of different games. We're getting better all the time.
chuckkallenbach
3 Oct 2003
When the bad guys win
Let us remember what happens when your monster wins a fight. Here's a list of those things, and they happen in this particular order:

(1) The PC loses and takes a wound.
(2) You may use the reward on each winning monster in that fight.
(3) You choose one of the winning monsters in that fight that has a victory point and score it.
(4) Place the other winning monsters in your discard pile.

Using rewards is optional, and you decide the order if there is more than one reward triggered.

When you use a reward, the losing PC will have already taken a wound. A wounded PC will be already destroyed and gone, so his or her items can't be sacrificed. This applies to Guardian, Baby Worm, Hungry Grass, Snappy Grass, Wood Stock, and Phantom Wing.

When you use a reward, that winning monster is still in play and can be returned to your hand. This applies for Hell Doberman, Sled Dog, and Flame Head.

When you use a reward, other winning monsters are not in your discard pile yet. This applies for Nomadic Bones, Living Dead, Ochimusha, and Gladiator.

Because you choose the order of rewards, you can do cool things. If you win a fight with a Scorpion Tank and a Squilla Demon, you can choose the Scorpion Tank reward first and play a water monster as a hidden card. Then use the Squilla Demon reward to score the monster you just played.

This is stuff I just thought you'd like to know.
chuckkallenbach
2 Oct 2003
Are you scared now?
The first draft of the Contagion rulebook included a detailed sequence of play. I decided to take that out. I was afraid it would be scary for new players.

See, I had this idea that the game was elegantly simple and would never need complicated rulings and procedures.

That idea is not surviving the test of time. Just another example of the way designers think about their games, right or wrong.

Sigh.

Sequence of play (detailed)

1. Draw step (you must do all of the following)
a. Draw a card from your deck
b. Reconcile your hand

2. Play step (you must do one of the following)
a. Play a PC (replace a PC in play as needed)
b. Play a field (any other field is sacrificed)
c. Play an item (on one of your PCs)
d. Play an event (then place it in your discard pile)
e. Play a hidden card (usually an action card)
f. Play a monster (if you play a monster and don’t play it to your portal, you must attack with that monster)

3. Attack step (if needed)
a. Defender may avoid (this ends the attack)
b. Assign fights
c. Assign extra attackers
d. Select a fight
e. Flip desired actions that modify strength
f. Draw destiny
g. Compare strength
h. Select another fight (if any)
i. When all fights are resolved, the attack is over and the turn ends.
chuckkallenbach
1 Oct 2003
Timing is everything
As I mentioned before, we took a look at the other "teen" games in the markeplace when designing .hack//ENEMY. One of the other differences between this group of games and "core" TCGs is the issue of timing.

In core games, it's common to have cards that play at virtually any time (interrupts, events, whatever you want to call them).

The problem with these cards is that they create problems. Problems like which player plays first, do the plays alternate, stuff like that.

Many of the teen games avoid this by simply not having cards like that. We followed that model for .hack//ENEMY.

While some cards do have actions that respond to other actions, we designed the game so that two things aren't trying to happen at the same time. That's why we don't have a rule covering this problem. We designed the game so it wouldn't exist.

The best example of this design philosophy is in the timing of action cards. Skill cards that apply to PCs are flipped before the destiny draw, and other action cards that apply to monsters are flipped afterward.

I'm sure there are some confusing chains of events possible with the first set of cards. Frankly, this kind of thing will probably get worse as time goes on and the card universe gets larger.

But this diary is about design, and we designed the game to avoid timing problems.
chuckkallenbach
30 Sep 2003
The final frontier
"Design space" is a term that I've used a few times in these posts, and I'd like to explain it a little more. It has nothing to do with HGTV. Let me make that clear first.

When the basic mechanics for a new game are designed, many parameters are set in stone for the life of that game. Some of these will determine whether the game system will allow many or few new card ideas. This is a problem mostly faced by TCGs, but applies to a few other kinds of games as well.

For example, in our old game Young Jedi we decided to remove game text from characters. This severely limits how many significantly different cards can be made. Game text provides a virtually limitless amount of variations.

I like to think of design space like a mine. If there is a lot of ore in the mine, then you can mine it for a long time. But if some of those veins of ore start to dwindle, you're in trouble. Sometimes you can "open up a new vein" (objectives, for example) with a new mechanic that provides lots of new card ideas.

We've established a lot of design space with .hack//ENEMY that will last us for many expansions to come. That includes plans for new mechanics to give us lots of exciting card ideas. You'll see how this works when Distortion is released.
chuckkallenbach
29 Sep 2003
Be there or be square!
Have you seen the card we're giving away for the First Tournament Weekend? This card rocks! It's the Goil Menhir, number 1 P 2 on the Promotional Card List. Not to mention getting your first Level Up! card too.

Why is the Goil Menhir card so good? Well, it's a "puller," like a lot of Idol cards. That means it allows any monster in your portal to attack. Works great in decks with monsters that don't have easy ways to get out of the portal, like Hounds. We made the Menhir cards kick butt because they are a royal pain the video game.

Not just that, but the Goil Menhir gives that monster a +3 bonus and lets you use that monster's reward twice! Can you imagine playing Data Bug to save your Parasite Dragon to your portal and then getting him out with the Goil Menhir? Destroy two monsters and score two points (maybe 3) for you.

You may think this guy is hard to play, but isn't one of the basic goals for your deck to get 3 PCs out there with some kind of items on them? Sure the Goil Menir may not be an early game card, but it could be a finisher.

If your local store isn't part of our First Tournament Weekend promotion, get them moving because time is running out. You don't want to miss out on this deal. The Goil Menhir will be available in limited quantities and this is your only chance to get one. Tournament promos like this have been among the rarest TCG cards we've ever made.

Find out more about the .hack//ENEMY First Tournament Weekend at dgma.com!
chuckkallenbach
26 Sep 2003
A new demographic
Most of Decipher's TCGs have been designed for and played by people in their late teens and twenties. That happens to be the demographic we appeal to. This group is generally very loyal, mature, and have lots of time to spend on their hobby. They want a game that lasts about 45 minutes or so that provides lots of decision points and complicated game turns.

The one exception to this was Young Jedi, our Episode I Star Wars game. This game was tested early on with young players, and throughout design was simplified over and over again. The belief back then was that Pokemon was being played by six-year-olds, so simplicity was the goal. Originally, YJ was going to have all its cards with no game text, and be played only with symbols and numbers.

Over the years, we found that system to be lacking in design space. YJ didn't have enough mechanically to support a large number of card designs. We also found that the new young group of CCG players was skewing older, more like 9 to 12 years old.

When we decided to pursue the .hack license, we looked into the demographic for the various parts of Project .hack. The video games are rated Teen, which means ages 13+. The ratings information we obtained for .hack//SIGN on Cartoon Network showed us that it was doing well in the age range right around 14 years old.

We took a good look at other games in the same demographic currently in the market, and found that they were all fast to play and they centered on fighting of one kind or another. They are battle games, as opposed to our games like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings, which include combat but have much more going on than that. (Young Jedi was focused on battling, and that's another reason it's closer to these other games.)

At this point, we figured we needed a fast play battle game, with complexity and depth a little above the current "teen" games out there right now. That was the basic blueprint for .hack//ENEMY (originally referred to around the office as just "dot hack," and later ".hack//TCG").

So basically, what we did to establish our parameters for this new teen demographic was to limit the game time, emphasize a fast pace, and make sure the game was about battle.

Once those were set, we engineered the same kind of depth and design space that we would provide for a core game. That's why we think that even though the "target market" is teens, older players will find a lot to like about .hack//ENEMY.
chuckkallenbach
25 Sep 2003
Why I don't like counting beans
Before we began design on .hack//ENEMY, we took a look at the other "teen" games on the market. One characteristic of these teen games is that they have virtually no resource system. (Pokemon shares the "land/mana" system of Magic, but that's not really currency.)

Our previous games tend to have "money" you use to "pay" for cards (counters in Young Jedi and Star Trek Second Edition, twilight in Lord of the Rings, force pile in Star Wars CCG).

A primary goal in .hack//ENEMY was fast play, and money systems slow the game down. They take away from the fun part, combat. (Money systems also provide a tremendous amount of design space for a core game, but a core game is supposed to last longer too.)

So we decided to return to the "draw a card, play a card" system of the First Edition STCCG. This is interesting, since everyone who worked on ST 1E has begged for some kind of cost system for years (that's why ST 2E has added counters).

However, we think we've made the "to play" system work without doing any "bean counting" (keeping track of money somehow). You have to play little monsters before you can play big monsters. This is important because it keeps players from making a deck full of big monsters.

Of course, this has an effect on destiny too. When the cards with big numbers require you to play cards with little numbers first, you can't load up your deck with destiny 5 cards. Or strength 6 monsters. Or level 3 items. You get the idea.

We think we have the balance just right, but only time and the tournament scene will tell.
chuckkallenbach
24 Sep 2003
Picking up the pace
The most important concept throughout the design of the mechanics of .hack//ENEMY was what we called "pace." (Another player recently used the word "tempo" for the same thing, a term I really like.)

Pace, for us, means the game goes fast. We wanted a game fast enough to be played in two-out-of-three matches for tournaments. We wanted a game in which you never have to wait around to see what your opponent is going to figure out.

The reason you reconcile at the beginning of your turn (instead of at the end, like LOTR or Magic) is so that, generally speaking, when you see your opponent play a card to the table, that means she's done. You know it's time for you to draw and play. Of course, combat is a little more complicated, but that's the fun stuff, right?

As we finished up the design of the cards and rules, we ruthlessly removed anything that slowed the game down. You'll find few cards that let you play cards from your deck, since that extra shuffling takes time. We do mess with the discard pile pretty often, but you know what's in there and it's all face up so that is much much easier.

The emphasis on pace provided a lot of the fun factor in the game. I have to credit Mike Reynolds for hammering away at this concept throughout design. Mike has a theory that games should have as little "negative expenditure of energy" as possible. This game could be the shining example of that theory.

You players will be the judge next month. I can't wait!
chuckkallenbach
23 Sep 2003
The best starter decks ever
This could be my most unpopular Design Diary post, but at least it's not in Pirate.

Let's talk about starter decks. The price point may be a little high, but I think these are the best starters we've ever made. They are packed with bonus features.

The .hack//ENEMY starters come in a cool hexagonal shaped box, never before seen for a TCG product. Or any other product, as far as I know.

Each starter also has a nice, oversized, readable rulebook with lots of helpful comments from Orca. And he knows his stuff. When he's conscious.

Five, count 'em, five, foil cards unique to each starter deck. That's more than just about any other TCG has ever done.

Let's proceed to the controversial features.

Both of the starter decks are completely preconstructed. Each Kite starter has the same cards as any other Kite starter, for example.

This makes the decks good for new players (the primary purpose for having a starter deck at all). Also, our research showed that other games for the teen demographic always have preconstructed starter decks.

We realize that many players prefer a random or semi-random element in starter decks, but that would have increased the cost of a starter that is already not inexpensive.

Each special foil starter card is found exactly once in each starter deck. Yes, that means that if you want four copies of Black Rose in your tournament deck (and who doesn't... she's hot) you'll have to buy four starters.

I know that sounds expensive, but look at it this way. To get four copies of a regular rare card by buying booster packs, you'd have to buy over a hundred with average distribution. To get four copies of even an uncommon would require dozens of packs.

When you look at the cost this way, buying four starters doesn't seem so bad. And believe me, Kite and Black Rose are worth it. Those cards are good. So are the other starter-only cards.

We think the .hack//ENEMY starters are terrific. We hope you agree.
chuckkallenbach
22 Sep 2003
Throwin' it all away - like a pirate, me hearty!
The rulebook allows ye t' do somethin' special on yer first turn o' the game. (Blimey!) Somethin' ye can't do at any other time On yer very first turn, ye can discard yer hand.

Why would ye want t' do this Well, let's think 'bout this a little. (Bloody landlubber!) Each turn, ye draw a card, 'n then reconcile yer hand t' five cards If ye have less than five, ye draw up t' five. (Weigh anchor!) So, if ye discard yer hand on yer first turn, then on yer second turn, ye'll draw a card (as always) 'n then draw four more cards.

Unlike other TCGs, a sin'le turn o' .hack//ENEMY be bonnie short. (Weigh anchor!) In some games, ye might play as many as six or seven cards in a sin'le turn, but not in this game. (Be ye ready to walk the plank?) As a result, it's not that important t' go first, 'n it's not devastatin' t' give up yer first turn t' get a new hand.

So we added this rule t' help players who get a lot o' cards they can't play on the first turn It doesn't happen oft if yer deck be built correctly, but it's possible For example, ye can draw a few level 2 or 3 weapons without a PC t' play 'em on, or ye might get a hand o' high-strength monsters that ye can't play without spottin' a lot o' elements. (Yo-ho-ho!) Or a combination o' both.

Many players like t' play a PC on their first turn That way, yer opponent has t' think twice 'bout playin' a monster t' attack. (Yaaarrrr!) Also, with a PC on the table starboard away, ye should be able t' use most o' the action cards 'n items ye draw.

Thar be one more sneaky reason ye might want t' ditch yer hand If yer deck plays a lot o' cards from yer discard pile, ye might want t' give it a jump start at the beginnin' o' the game.

Just remember, ye can only do this on yer first turn. (Shiver me timbers!) We wanted t' give ye a chance t' avoid a bad draw, but testin' showed that allowin' this t' happen at any time in the game would just complicate thin's 'n slow the game down.
chuckkallenbach
19 Sep 2003
Throwing it all away
The rulebook allows you to do something special on your first turn of the game. Something you can't do at any other time. On your very first turn, you can discard your hand.

Why would you want to do this? Well, let's think about this a little. Each turn, you draw a card, and then reconcile your hand to five cards. If you have less than five, you draw up to five. So, if you discard your hand on your first turn, then on your second turn, you'll draw a card (as always) and then draw four more cards.

Unlike other TCGs, a single turn of .hack//ENEMY is pretty short. In some games, you might play as many as six or seven cards in a single turn, but not in this game. As a result, it's not that important to go first, and it's not devastating to give up your first turn to get a new hand.

So we added this rule to help players who get a lot of cards they can't play on the first turn. It doesn't happen often if your deck is built correctly, but it's possible. For example, you can draw a few level 2 or 3 weapons without a PC to play them on, or you might get a hand of high-strength monsters that you can't play without spotting a lot of elements. Or a combination of both.

Many players like to play a PC on their first turn. That way, your opponent has to think twice about playing a monster to attack. Also, with a PC on the table right away, you should be able to use most of the action cards and items you draw.

There is one more sneaky reason you might want to ditch your hand. If your deck plays a lot of cards from your discard pile, you might want to give it a jump start at the beginning of the game.

Just remember, you can only do this on your first turn. We wanted to give you a chance to avoid a bad draw, but testing showed that allowing this to happen at any time in the game would just complicate things and slow the game down.
chuckkallenbach
19 Sep 2003
Isabel Sucks
They told me this was my blog, and I could say whatever I want. There is no language filter (as you can see above) and I can edit my posts after they go up. I don't really have to be on topic, nobody told me to. However, I will tell you as part of my professional experience as a game designer that you can't design cards when there is a hurricane coming. There, that makes the post on topic.

When I left Decipher yesterday, I couldn't get out the front door because that was boarded up. All the big windows on the front side of the building were covered with boards. We moved all our electronic equipment on the third floor into the bathroom. Don't laugh: it's often the safest place in the building.

We covered our workstations with plastic, worried about the beautiful skylights we have on the third floor breaking and drenching everything. We backed up all the most important files and various people are taking home copies to keep them safe. For those who have homes that are safe.

The weird thing about the weather is that for the past few days here, it has been absolutely perfect. Sunny, beautiful days, the kind you move to Virginia Beach for. Tim, who has more hurricane experience than I, says that's because the hurricane sucks up all the energy from surrounding areas. Truly the calm before the storm.

Some of you may remember that I have just bought a new house and moved in last week. There was a lot of joking at work this week, as we all tried not to be serious about the hurricane. I told them my house was a condo, so the roof and siding could blow off if they wanted, since they're not mine. That was funny yesterday, but sitting in my house today, it's not so funny.

Latest news is that Isabel is about Category 2 strength, which is bad news for mobile homes, but mostly just tons of rain for everybody else. I'm sure I'm oversimplifying that. My only real experience was with Bonnie a few years ago, and we were without power for 36 hours or so. Which sucked, much more than you might think without actually experiencing it. We've got supplies in the house to get through that kind of thing.

For me, the worst part has been about three straight days of solid, unending dread. As a Midwesterner, I much prefer tornadoes. Like the MTV video awards, they just hit quickly and terribly and then they're gone. Anyway, this may all be for nought, and Isabel may not be all that bad. We'll see in the next couple of days.

The good part is that most of the people here in Virginia Beach have been through this before and have a plan. People are suffering together too, like people you see at the store in line for batteries being nice to you. We're all in this together.

I'm sure some of you who live in areas not prone to natural disasters don't understand the gravity of the situation. For me, I'm glad to be working for a company that takes these things seriously and gives me and my family the time to make preparations on our own. Sorry for the personal stuff today. I promise I'll get back to game design next time.

Addendum: At home, we came through Isabel just fine. Never lost power. Most Decipherians are okay, although nearly everybody lost power for a while and had some branches or trees down. It could have been worse! We all agree that if this was a Category 2, when the Category 3 comes we're headin' for California!
chuckkallenbach
17 Sep 2003
Pulling the goalie
Since the only rules we've shown so far are the Sample Deck rules, they don't include rules for building your own deck. That's because those rules are only part of the complete rulebook. In fact, a lot of questions players are frequently asking are covered a lot better in the rulebook. But I'm digressing, sorry.

Building your own deck is not too hard. The rules are simple. The deck has exactly 60 cards, no more, no less. You can include no more than 4 of each card, going by the card's title.

This covers the promo and tournament cards as well, with one exception. Level Up! cards are not really a part of your regular deck. You can have as many Level Up! cards as you want, and the images on them don't matter. You can have lots of Black Rose Level Up! cards, or you can mix and match however you want. The Level Up! cards differ only in the images on them, and their gameplay is always the same.

What does this mean for you, the deck builder? Well, there are no rules that require you to have any particular type of card in your deck. You don't have to have any PCs if you don't want to. You don't have to have any monsters... oh, wait a minute. If you don't have at least 7 victory points worth of monsters, you can't win the game. So even if the rules don't require this, it's a good idea to include some monsters with victory points.

Yes, it's true... you can make a deck with no PCs in it if you want to. In fact, you can make a deck with 60 monsters! Remember my sports analogies? That's like all offense with no defense. It's like playing hockey without a goalie. You might think you could score a few more goals, but every shot on goal by the other team's offense is good.

Try it if you want. You might win some games, and you'll certainly surprise your opponent, but once they figure out what you're doing, you're in trouble.

It is possible to go heavy on offense or heavy on defense for a particular deck concept. You can try to beef up your PCs with lots of items and go light on the monsters. Or you can go the other way, and skimp on the PCs and throw in some more monsters. There are lots of possibilities. Soon, you'll see the whole card set and you'll see lots and lots of exciting deck types to build.
chuckkallenbach
16 Sep 2003
Crush! Kill! Destroy!
Alright, class, listen up. I'm only going through this once. There are three little words that are confusing the heck out of everybody, and I'll explain them all right here.

Discard: To take a card from your hand and place it in your discard pile.
Destroy: To spot a card and place it in its owner's discard pile.
Sacrifice: To spot your card and place it in your discard pile.

First, the similarities. All three of these words describe a card heading toward its owner's discard pile. Your cards always go to your discard pile, and your opponent's cards always go to her discard pile. No exceptions.

When a card is discarded, it always comes from your hand. Yes, this is different from some of our other games. But once you learn this rule for .hack//ENEMY, you'll be a better player.

To destroy or sacrifice a card, you have to spot it first. That means that card has to be in play (not in your hand, discard pile, or deck). Remember, you can spot a hidden card only as a "card" or "hidden card." If a card says you must sacrifice a goblin, you can't sacrifice your hidden goblin, because you can't spot it (except as a hidden card or a card).

Often, players ask the question: who chooses? Generally speaking, the card text is speaking to its owner. So if your monster wins a fight and its reward says, "destroy a monster," then it's saying to you, the owner, "Spot any monster in play (your choice) and place that monster in its owner's discard pile."

I hope that helps clear things up. Please be advised that these concepts are discussed better in the rulebook than they are in the abbreviated sample rules. Okay, class dismissed.
chuckkallenbach
15 Sep 2003
Rewards of Thunder
Several of the thunder monsters in the demo decks have rewards that players have been confused about. These rewards make your opponent take cards from her discard pile and put them beneath her deck.

Why is this a good thing for you and a bad thing for your opponent?

As you see more and more cards you'll find that .hack//ENEMY has some of what we call "hand extension." That means that you can use the cards from somewhere besides your hand (such as your discard pile) as resources.

So in a way, taking cards out of your opponent's discard pile is like taking cards out of her hand. Of course, it's possible that your opponent has no cards that interact with her discard pile, so this doesn't affect her much. But most decks will be affected.

Besides, it's good story! See, there's this lightning bolt that hits your discard pile and cards go flying off into your draw deck... or something like that.
chuckkallenbach
5 Sep 2003
Destiny, Destiny... No escaping destiny!
For those of you who have played our Star Wars games, there has been a lot of speculation about how we determine destiny numbers.

In the past, we have used various criteria for destiny. One of them was "good card = low destiny" and vice versa. Sometimes that didn't work very well.

Another criterion was that if the card itself needed high destiny draws, that card should have low destiny itself. This is the rule that the old SWCCG card Spaceport Speeders broke. Badly.

Originally, the lesser Goblins of .hack//ENEMY were destiny 5. This is based on the "low strength = high destiny" idea, a corollary of the above concepts.

This led to abusive, high destiny decks made up of little "weenie" monsters that are easy to play. This is not a good thing.

Geoff Snider, one of our developers, had an idea to rework the destiny numbers for Contagion. The new concept was this: If a card is easy to play, it gets a low destiny. If it's hard to play, it gets a high destiny.

Now, you have to earn those cards with a 5. It makes it tough to make a high destiny deck, since you need little guys to play big guys, and they have different destiny ranges.

This has the side benefit of putting big fat destiny numbers on the bad ass big monsters, so they look terrific.

I worked for years making destiny numbers in our older games, and I think this way of doing it is much better than anything we had before.

What do you think?
chuckkallenbach
4 Sep 2003
Mimiru and Black Rose: Separated at Birth?
It's a common question for fans of Project .hack. Why does Black Rose look so much like Mimiru? Are they the same character? What about Orca and Bear? Elk and Tsukasa?

The fictitious online roleplaying game that Project .hack is based on, "The World," is similar to popular real world games like Everquest or the new Star Wars Galaxies.

In these games, a player logs on to a remote server from his home computer. Each player has a player character, or PC, to explore the online game with.

There is a limited number of character designs to choose from. Even though there may be dozens of possible looks for a single character class, there are hundreds or thousands of players on a single server.

Although these games allow the player to personalize things like hair color, hair style, and color of clothing, it's not unusual to find another PC that looks a lot like you.

So Mimiru's player and Black Rose's player both made a lot of the same choices, differing mostly in hair and eye color.

Kite has a very unusual outfit, and he begins with a green color scheme. After he receives a gift early in the story, his PC changes to orange. Later, another PC remarks that orange is not a normal color for such a Twin Blade.

Some characters like Helba have probably been created by their hacker players to be unique. This isn't exactly legal, but it's really cool.

Monsters are often similar in the same ways. Again, to populate a world with thousands of monsters, the creators of games like this reuse their computer models. That's why Snappy Grass and Mad Grass look alike, for example.
chuckkallenbach
3 Sep 2003
The hidden value of hidden cards
There has been some confusion about hidden cards, how they work, and why they are good to have, so that's the subject for today.

Actions are designed to be played as hidden cards. They have to play face down, and they have game text that tells you when to flip them up. You can play any card as a hidden card. However, if your hidden card is not an action card, there will be no way to flip it back up and use it. You have to play a card on your turn, so sometimes you play a non-action card face down because you can't play anything else.

Those are the basic rules about hidden cards, but there are a few more tricks you can do with them.

If a card effect makes you sacrifice a card, you can choose one of your hidden cards. They're like armor, protecting your other, valuable cards.

Some cards require you to spot hidden cards in order to play them. You may want to throw down a hidden card or two just so you can play those.

Of course, you can also use a hidden card to bluff. Make your opponent think that you have an action ready to flip when the next fight happens.

Remember, you can't spot a hidden card as anything else. If a card tells you to sacrifice a Goblin, you can't sacrifice your hidden Goblin.

There are a number of cards with game text that involves hidden cards, such as Noble Cloak, Frost Armor, Water God Axe, Squilla Demon, and Red Scissors. Often, it's a water-element card that affects hidden cards. That's one of the things that gives the element of water its character.
chuckkallenbach
2 Sep 2003
Elementary School
The six elements are very important to the play of the .hack video games. Basically, when you use the right element against a monster, you do double damage.

The elements are organized in three opposing pairs: Wood/Earth, Fire/Water, and Darkness/Thunder. When you use a Wood weapon against an Earth monster (for example), you'll often do extra damage.

This is very powerful, and often the only way you can defeat some of the tougher monsters. In fact, the really tough monsters are the high level ones that *don't* have an element, so you can't use this trick.

We wanted to include some of this in .hack//ENEMY. Originally, the destiny numbers were on top of the element symbols, and when you drew destiny, if the elements were opposed, you drew again and added.

While this was cool, it was hard to keep track of. We eventually got rid of that, and we included some opposing element effects into card texts (especially the Action/Skill cards).

In the video game, PCs have no ratings in the six elements until they start putting on equipment. That's where they get their elements from.

That's why in the TCG, PC's have no elements on their cards, and they acquire the elements of their items and skills.

The opposing elements will become more important in future expansions... like the one we're working on now.
chuckkallenbach
29 Aug 2003
Big Game Hunting
Let me begin this story by saying that our relationship with Bandai is terrific. They have been unbelievably helpful every step of the way. We've had the pleasure of meeting some of them at conventions, and they've all been great.

The first time we received a batch of image files from them, the filenames were all in Japanese. Which is not too surprising, really. Man, I wish I could read Japanese.

This made things tough for us when we were trying to find a Spark Blade or Magical Goblin image. We used the strategy guide to match up monster types by looking at the image files one by one.

But when it came to a skill description or weapon image, I had to go on a "big game hunt."

First, find the weapon in the strategy guide. Then find out what monster drops that after a Data Drain. Note the monster's element and level, and find a field that might have that monster. Track it down, fight it, data drain it, and hope that it drops the right item. Whew!

This was a lot of fun, I admit it. However, when you've drained your sixth Halloween and he still hasn't dropped Adian's Rod, it gets frustrating!

Thankfully, the folks at Bandai got us copies of the files with English file names. No more big game hunts.

Yes, this does mean that I play video games as part of my job. It's also part of my job to watch anime (that's how we get screen grabs for card images).

I love my job.
chuckkallenbach
28 Aug 2003
Do you have an infection at home? Or maybe a mutation?
For those of us who have played the video games of Project .hack, it's obvious that .hack//ENEMY TCG is heavily influenced by these games.

It's equally obvious that there are lots of things that don't work quite the same. We tried to incorporate enough references to make players of the video game feel at home. At the same time, we couldn't let a one-player, linear game restrict the design of our TCG.

For example, some things have levels in our TCG, but they don't go anywhere near as high as the levels in the video games.

In the video games, you lose when all your PCs are killed. Although the rules for the TCG don't say that, we made a card called "Game Over" that does the same thing. Sort of.

In fact, nearly all the events in the TCG are inspired by the video games. A couple of the tournament events are concepts from Liminality, the DVD that comes with the video game.

As more cards are revealed, those of us that have played the video games (me too, my PCs are over level 50) will be discussing these influences on the message boards.

(Yesterday, we added the subtype "ILLEGAL" to a few cards in Contagion. You can probably guess which ones. Heh heh heh.)

The other players who haven't played the video games will be confused by this stuff. It will be our job to explain things, so we can all enjoy the world of Project .hack. So be nice.
chuckkallenbach
27 Aug 2003
Those little red letters
During the development of .hack//ENEMY, we had several opportunities to run demos for players at conventions.

Each of these conventions became a playtest session for us, as we tried out the new game under "live fire" circumstances.

We found during the first demo games at Origins that the cards needed something more in the upper left hand corner than victory points on monsters.

At this time, the little red initials for card types were not there. It was hard to tell card types when cards were in your hand.

In time for our next demos at Anime Expo, we had letters for each card type: M, I, A, F, E, and PC. These worked nicely, but then we found out that players would sometimes play two weapons on a PC.

When we got ready for Gen Con, the new decks we printed had "IA" for armor and "IW" for weapons, just like the final cards will have. The evolution was complete.

For those of you that had demos at Gen Con, I think we had cards from all three versions in those decks, so it got a little confusing.

That was all part of the fine tuning of the look of the cards themselves. We were lucky to have these extra "playtests" in the form of demonstration games.
chuckkallenbach
26 Aug 2003
A card by any other name
Yes, it's true, card names change during development too. Here are some playtest names and their eventual final names (in parens):

Pulled a Hammy (Enemy)
Less Is More (Critical)
Helba (Woman in White)
Investigator (Whistleblower)
Spring of Myst (Treasure Chest)

The playtest names for the fields were "Love for the Flame," "Love for the Storm," "Love for the Shadow," "Love for the Drink," "Love for the Dirt," and "Love for the Branch."

You can puzzle out which is which.
chuckkallenbach
25 Aug 2003
So long, Winter Coat.
If you're a regular player of the .hack video games, you know that armor is used by one of three distinct groups of classes: "any PC," "any PC except a Wavemaster," and "any PC except a Wavemaster, Twin Blade, or Long Arm."

Basically the idea is that most PCs can wear lighter armor, but only Blademasters, Heavy Blades, and Heavy Axemen can bear the big stuff.

Anyway, we got the Winter Coat wrong. Our version (which used to be in Sample Deck B) was not "any PC," which is what the Winter Coat is supposed to be.

So, what do we do? Another problem, late in the production cycle. We found an armor with the right "to play" requirements, and it's called Frost Armor.

We decided to change the name of the card from "Winter Coat" to "Frost Armor." Of course, that screws up the numbering of the cards, since they're in alphabetical order.

Now it's a king-sized mess for our Web department, who have already posted a card list and scheduled updates of card postings.

Here's the cards that changed, with their new numbers. This will be updated on our web card list in the near future (don't rush 'em! it's a big pain).

Frost Armor 1 R 76
Hell's Gate 1 R 77
Jester's Wand 1 R 78
Jinsaran 1 R 79
Strormer Spear 1 R 80

It's tough to keep making these decisions late in the process, but sometimes that's better than living with cards you know are mistakes.
chuckkallenbach
22 Aug 2003
When is a fight not a fight?
Yesterday, we took another look at text on storable monsters that says, "May fight when another (insert monster species here) fights." We wondered, what if neither of those monsters actually fights?

For example, I play a Goblin to attack, and add another Goblin from my portal. You decide to avoid the attack. So neither Goblin fights, and both get their reward and score.

Hmm. So that game text should say, "May attack when another X attacks." This affects a few other game texts you haven't seen yet as well.

It's late in the production cycle. We had to make a call. We decided to make the change. So some of the card texts you've already seen will be different when they're printed.

Isn't game design exciting?
chuckkallenbach
21 Aug 2003
Rumplestiltskin was right.
Names are important. The name of the game was originally ".hack//TCG." Didn't roll off the tongue too well, and we were looking for something different.

If you poke around here at the office, you can probably find some early sell sheets that use that name.

I was playing MUTATION at home (doing research, honest) and noticed the [ENEMY] tag you see when monsters are off-screen. I suggested that as the name of our TCG, and it stuck.

The names of the sets were going to be the names of the final bosses from the video game. So the first set was called Skeith, and the second was to be called Magus.

We decided those were too obscure for most players (since many will have never played the video game). So we crafted new names for the sets, like Contagion, and others to be revealed soon.
chuckkallenbach
20 Aug 2003
Early game concepts
Lots of early ideas get changed or discarded as the development progresses. Here are some of the ideas for .hack//ENEMY that we originally tried out:

When your PCs defeated a monster, that monster went into your score pile. Eventually, we developed the idea that the stars of the game were the monsters, so this idea was discarded.

Destiny numbers used to range from 1 to 4. We decided we needed a little more excitement added to battles, so we increased the range from 1 to 5.

Weapon strength bonuses used to be +1, +3, and +5. We discovered that +1, +2, and +3 made a big enough difference and worked just fine.

Victory originally required ten points instead of seven. (Skeith used to have four!)
chuckkallenbach
20 Aug 2003
Which numbers are which?
This is a good question that was brought up on the message board. Here's the scoop:

The yellow number in the upper right corner is the destiny number.

The white number on the left margin (just under the picture) is strength, or strength bonus for items.

The silver circles below the strength number are tolerance icons. They help your PCs stay healthy.

In the upper left corner are red letters for the card type, and the lower left corner has the element icon (if any--some cards have no element).

Victory points are white hexagonal things just below the M in the upper left corner of a monster card.
chuckkallenbach
19 Aug 2003
Welcome!
It's my job to regale you with stories from the design and development of Decipher's new .hack//ENEMY trading card game.

I'll be posting here from time to time, at all hours of the day, proferring tidbits that help show how the design process works.

For example, did you know it's difficult to come up with the right names for card types?

"Fields" were called "areas" for a long time. "actions" were "skills," and "PCs" were originally just "characters."

We felt that those old names weren't representative of the property. What do you think? We can discuss this on the .hack//ENEMY message boards.
chuckkallenbach
18 Aug 2003
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