Kickstarter Spotlight: Frostbolt Games' Wouter Lockefeer on Catamancer [Interview]
Do you like wizards? Do you like cats? What kind of absurd questions are those? Everyone likes wizards and cats! Frostbolt Games has both in an upcoming and hilariously pun-filled, digital collectible card game: Catamancer! Having worked on a previous title, Board Game Online for quite some time, Frostbolt Games is experienced in development and ready to go another round.
I caught up with the studio's lead game developer Wouter Lockefeer a.k.a. Dysprosium, or Dys, to ask him a few questions about the cute and cuddly card game.
Hold on a minute. What's Catamancer anyways?
Catamancer is the world's first 100% cat themed collectible card game, where players take on the role of a magical cat-summoning wizard and battle to defeat enemy wizards! The game is free-to-play, with the option to purchase additional card packs to upgrade your cat-arsenal.
Unlike most other collectible card games (CCGs), Catamancer is played on a chess-like grid arena, allowing cards to be moved each turn. This adds a whole new layer of strategy, as the object of a duel is to defeat the enemy's catalyst, which is placed directly in front of them at the far end of the board.
Like a lot of indie games, Frostbolt Games spent a lot of time on Catamancer's art style. After perusing thousands of artist portfolios on DeviantArt, the game has found a randomized style like no other.
Of course, Dys can describe the game a lot better than I can, so let's take a look at that interview!
BlackTideTV (BTTV): I'm sure a question that will be on everyone's mind when they see this game is: Why cats? Who's idea was it and how did this crazy idea come about?
Wouter Lockefeer (Dys): When we started considering themes for [a CCG], we decided to take a look at the market of CCGs and we noticed some patterns. Most CCGs are centered around very common fantasy themes, which we thought would be utterly boring.
We were very surprised to find out that, although many CCGs do indeed have some cat related cards, there simply wasn't a properly cat themed one. It just felt like a hole in the market and it felt absolutely right for us to fill it.
Of course my own cats, Oscar and Jon Snow, were a huge inspiration for me personally.
BTTV: How has Frostbolt Games' previous releases, such as Board Game Online, prepared you for Catamancer?
Dys: Board Game Online (BGO) has taught us many things. We've had to set up a multi-server system that automatically spreads the player load across all available servers, which we are re-using for Catamancer.
BGO has built a big community over the years with over 200,000 accounts and having been played by over 1,500,000 players. We've been receiving player feedback for years and we've had to overcome hundreds of problems. At this point, there's nothing about Catamancer that we cannot face.
Generally when you hear that a game is entirely focused on a single subject, cats for example, you immediately draw conclusions as to what the game will look, feel, and act like. Catamancer is all about breaking down those conclusions with their epic, randomized art style and crafty, game-changing, strategic game board.
BTTV: Artwork is often a huge part of Indie games, and the same can be said for Catamancer. From examples on Kickstarter we've seen, everything from realistic renditions to hilarious fantasy makes an appearance (Catdalf being a personal favorite). How did you decide which art pieces to include?
Dys: We've gone through more than a thousand artist portfolios on DeviantArt. Whenever we saw an art style that felt fun, epic, beautiful or otherwise special, we added it to our list of possible artists. After narrowing down the list, we contacted those artists and, luckily for us, most of them were more than happy to work with us. Turns out that quite a lot of artists enjoy drawing cat art.
While streamlining art in a CCG can be a good thing to do, we simply like art diversity more. We want to have cards that are sexy, silly, epic or downright scary. As long as a card invokes a heavy feeling, our mission is accomplished. After all, collecting new cards should feel cool!
BTTV: At what point during the game's development did you decide to incorporate the chess-style game board, and how will the board impact gameplay?
Dys: Just like the overused fantasy theme, we didn't like the idea of creating a digital card game that plays too much like a classic card game. A lot of digital CCGs let the player put down cards in front of them, much like you would in Magic. The digital format allows for so much more fun though!
We'd previously been tinkering with ideas for strategy games with game grids, so incorporating a sort of chessboard into the game felt really good!
The board allows for so much new gameplay! In a test game the other day, both players put a Munchkin on their backlines. The Munchkin grants +1 Health to a random friendly unit every turn, so it's a unit you want to keep alive as long as possible. Unfortunately, player one put down a Portal Cat, which has the ability to teleport to any empty space every turn. He assassinated both of player two's Munchkins, which was devastating!
Catamancer will include multiple game modes from single player to online matchmaking and ranked play, but the Kickstarter page lacked information on a buddy-system or battling a specific friend. When asked about it, Dys had this to say:
Dys: Yes, there will be a friend system. You will be able to challenge any online friend to a duel.
We're also considering building a lobby where players can advertise custom games. There are a lot of possibilities for non-standards ways to play Catamancer. For example, we could add a mode where both players draft their deck in-game from a single pool of cards. Given enough options, such a lobby for custom games could help keep the game fresh.
Catamancer will be a free-to-play game, but we all know what that means. Microtransactions. I asked Dys what Frostbolt Games had planned for unlocking cards and card packs via in-game currency versus real currency.
Dys: This is always a tricky subject. From our own experience, collecting cards in free-to-play games is way too hard. The short answer is therefore easy: earning cards by playing the game will be easier in Catamancer than in most other games. That's not a marketing pitch; it's a simple promise. [Emphasis added]
We believe that whether a player will pay for cards largely depends on the person, rather than how the game works. I know a ton of people who simply won't spend cash on free-to-play games. Trying to force them into spending cash is a waste of effort and will just chase them away.
You will be able to earn card packs by spending an in-game currency, currently called Catnip. Catnip can be earned by playing games and earning achievements. We'll make sure to include an incentive for players to play a game every now and then for increased rewards. Most games have a "first win of the day" or "daily quest" bonus.
We don't want to force players to play every day, but a system with a weekly cycle feels like a good plan.
Dys made sure to mention that completing quests and playing games gives players a chance to earn all variations of card rarities including rares and mythicals.
BTTV: Kickstarter tells me that Catamancer will be available on PC, Android, and iOS at FIRST? Does that mean it's possible that console arrangements could be in the works? Catamancer would make a great PS4, Vita, or Xbox One game!
Dys: Catamancer is built on the Frostbolt Framework, which is a home-cooked framework with the main purpose of being portable. Almost every device, including consoles, has port options available! If Catamancer is successful enough, we would love to port it to as many platforms as possible!
Frostbolt Games is currently working extremely hard to have Catamancer ready by the projected release date of July 2016. If cats and wizards, cards, chess, and art are up your alley, head over to the Catamancer Kickstarter page to learn more.
Still interested but too lazy to click on that link? You've cat to be kitten me. Check out the official Kickstarter video and some cat-astrophic gameplay below!