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Today I'm passing the mic over to our own Gary Kim as he explains the story behind the creation of Rising 5; Where the project began, what influenced his choices and how the game we know today started out as something very different...
I used to choose one of two paths when designing a game. The first one isdesigning from a mechanic that came to me suddenly. I find the right theme for the game fit for the mechanic. This is quite easy work but it these “flash” moments aren’t so common. After I became a professional game designer, the second way is what I use more. I set up the concept of the game at first. Then I find the right theme for the concept and I develop the mechanic of the game. I designed Rising5 this way and I’d like to tell you the story.
The first game published by GaryKimGames was ‘The DOME’ which is a card game for 2-4 players. The second one was ‘The GATE’ which is LCG style deck-building game. There are characters called “Crackers” who are hackers. (Sounds like Android Netrunner? Right!) I was planning “The CODE” as the third game in the series. I wanted to make hacking themed game with a deduction mechanic.
The main idea of ‘The CODE’ was a ‘Deduction game working with a mobile App.” When I saw “Alchemist” by CGE in 2014 at Essen, the game shocked me. People playing a board game while using their mobile phone! I thought it would be the future of table gaming. Of course I bought it at Essen and enjoyed a lot. However, I found several matters needed to be improved. All players needed his/her mobile phone which has same version of the application. I saw this as an inconvenient setup process. Also, the playing time was too long. I enjoy long games but some of my friends were very tired by the time we’d finished the game. It made this great game a benchwarmer.
So, I set my two main conditions of “the CODE”:
1. Players need only 1 mobile device to play the game.
2. The playing time should be shorter, so normal players could try to beat it more than once per session.
The main reason that Alchemist requires a mobile phone to play is that the game is a competitive deduction game. But what if the game is cooperative deduction game? We can share a mobile phone and share all info. And it would make the setup time shorter.
OK, I have a picture of the game I want to design. Now, it’s time to decide the core mechanic of the game. This is the most difficult part in the design of a game. As the goal was a cooperative deduction game, the main mechanic should be “deduction”. Other minor mechanics can be adjusted as I develop the game. I needed a reasonable and indispensable reason to use the mobile app and the main mechanic must be worked into the app.
People like deduction game play. One of my previous game “Abraca…What?” even looks like a deduction game. Actually it is a random picking game that’s not a real deduction. People feel like it’s deduction when they select a number based on possibilities. But I wanted to make a real deduction game this time, but not a difficult one.
Finally, I developed the “Rune Mechanic” idea. The Rune mechanic is a kind of twist of the traditional deduction game called “Master Mind”. Players choose several Runes and use the camera of the phone to get several clues.
I don’t know anything about application programing. I needed an expert in this area, so I asked the professor Eui-chul Lee of Sangmyeong Univ. who holds the patent of Data programming based on camera recognition. They developed the core programing library of the camera recognition.
Like this I finished the deduction part of this game, then I tried to develop the cooperation part. I researched other cooperative games. Good cooperative games have this scenario: Players choose their characters (roles) and they communicate with each other to decide the actions of each player, order of priority and combinations of character’s abilities to win against the game. The best cooperation “Pandemic” is a good example of that. Communication is the essence of cooperative games. However, what if we could control any character we want? I thought that would expand the role of each player and increase the fun of the game. So, I developed the part of cooperation with the undecided role of players. A player can control any character in the game by playing character cards from their hand.
I developed the game with these 2 major mechanics. Like always, it was a long journey with tests and revision of rules. Many things were changed during the development, but I could keep the main concepts: deduction and cooperation.
Early prototype of "the CODE"
Various prototypes and titles, It was called “Seekers” for some time.
I found the problem was that there were 2 major mechanics. Which mechanic should be more important in this game? Usually, we need to focus to emphasize a major mechanic to appeal to players clearly.
I had a chance to test the prototype of Rising5 during Essen Spiel 2015 with Bruno Cathala, Cédrick Chaboussit and Cedrick & Anne-Cécil of Ludonaute. After the test, they advised me to do two things. The deduction part was too complicated. And the game play with the mix of deduction and cooperation should be revised. Their advice was very helpful and I used it to make a better game. I’d like to thank them again for this!
The deduction part could be revised in simple way but we couldn’t easily decide what was the best balance of the two mechanics. We considered giving up ont he cooperative game play but the game would just be a normal or a Master Mind style game with app if we gave up the cooperative mechanic part. So, we kept trying to find the right combination of 2 mechanics.
To make a good cooperation game with an adventure, we should have the reason and motivation for players to take part: a good story. The story should be strong enough to leave players immersed in their mission and the action. We needed a good background story for the game.
To create a good story, I believed the characters should be the core the story and that a series of games would allow us to make the most of the story and world. To achieve this, I needed 2 things. A different concept for each game in the series and stunning artworks to visualize the story.
I spent quite long time to determining what “different concepts for each game” would be. There are a lot of games which have series, but usually they have the same main mechanics. I’d like to have a game series with continuous story but totally different game systems. It would be difficult to design, but it would increase the enjoyment of the players!
The artworks of the game were getting more and more important. Gamers would need to be drawn in by the game’s art, not the story. We got the first impression of the game from the box. I like the box artworks of the DOME and the GATE, but they look almost identical on store shelves. I wanted to have stunning artworks which shows the story of the game.
Vincent Dutrait was in my mind since I started developing this game. He is the one of the most popular game illustrator these days and I really love his art. He created a lot of wonderful artworks in fantasy, ancient, middle age and modern theme. However, I couldn't find Sci-fi among his portfolio. I thought it could be a hook! If we had the first Sci-fi art of Vincent Dutrait? That would be news in the gaming community! Luckily, he lives in Korea! I wrote him an e-mail about the project “the CODE” and he joined. Because of Vincent, we could decide the theme and create the beautiful game universe. Vincent showed us the fantastic characters, creatures and planet that were in my imagination! Thank you Vincent!
Sketches. In the beginning, Orakl was a deer!
Interview with Ludovox, Spiel 2015
A Game with a mobile app, mixed styles of cooperation and deduction, a series with every game using a different system and joined together by one of the world’s best illustrators….I realized the project was getting too big to handle everything by myself. Usually, I designed the game mechanics the publisher handles everything until the game released. But I would be doing many tasks beyond game design without a publisher. So, I decided to team up with right people. First of all, I need a producing & marketing expert to make the right product and to find regional distributors in other countries. I asked this of Kevin Kichan Kim. He had worked at Korea Boardgames as the head of game development and international business. After he resigned from Korea Boardgames he started his own venture ‘Mandoo Games’. As he is the most experienced producer in Korean boardgame industry and has global network of contacts, I decided to work with Mandoo Games. Thanks to Kevin, we could have nice production samples and introduce Rising 5 to the world.
Secondly, I needed a help to finish the game mechanics. Evan Dae-eun Song was a new game designer who was in the same office as me. I had a high opinion of Evan because I saw his ability, assiduity and passion about game design while we worked together on ‘The GATE’. I asked him to help me and he accepted immediately. As a game author, seing just my name on the box is good for the ego but I really think I made the right choice of going with a co-author. Without Evan, I couldn’t finish this project, Evan made many contributions to the mobile app development, game testing, balancing and so on. Honestly, I thought it would be fun if I could collaborate with different authors for future games in the series. I gave up on that idea. Because I can’t imagine developing the next Rising 5 without Evan!
Testing prototype with Kevin, Evan and Vincent at Vincent’s home. Summer 2015
Until I had these friends on the team, it was called “the CODE”. But we thought the title were not relevant to the story anymore. There were other candidates such as Seekers, the Gatherers and Rune Code, but we didn’t like them. One day I proposed “Rising 5” to the team because there are 5 characters in the story of the game and everybody liked it. We believed it is a good title for this space opera and it is intended to tell the story of the 5 characters’ growth.
*사실 이 제목에는 이 게임을 통해 우리도 함께 성장하길 염원하는 마음도 담겨있다! *Actually, the title Rising 5 includes our wish…we want to grow also.
Finally, we met Jamie and Olivier of Holy Grail Games for KickStarter campaign. They introduced Rising 5 on TricTrac and then proposed the KS to us. We were very pleased because they loved Rising 5 and they are the people we needed for a KS. As a Korean, KS campaigns are quite difficult to run. There’re matters such as legal issue and the language problem. Originally, we considered publishing and distributing Rising 5 in the traditional way. We were looking for possible ways to do a KS and they appeared in front of us! Jamie and Oliver are crazy gamers full of passion and dreams. We had unforgettable time when they visited Seoul to meet up and make the promotional videos.
Well, I think we’re ready to show this game to you and we wanted to share this journey with you too!
Thank you all for helping us make our project a reality!