The following entry was written by the 2 authors of Mutants, Sen-Foong Lim and Jessey Wright.
They provide a very interesting window into the creative process that led to the creation of Mutants!
Deploy & Leave Ability (Sen-Foong)
Mutants started as a dice-based combat game that Jessey and I had been working when the opportunity to work with Lucky Duck Games came up. The most novel thing in that game was its combo system. There were cards that had two powers on them: one that activated when the card was played and a totally different power that activated when the card was removed from play. To make this mechanism interesting, each character had a limited amount of slots you could play cards in. If you wanted to play a new card, you had to remove an old card first - activating its other power. The combos that this system allowed were amazingly fun to discover and rewarding to set up and pull off.
When we received the request to design a game inspired by the app Mutants: Genetic Gladiators, we saw it as an opportunity to use this combo mechanism to make something really fresh and exciting. Since building combos is very tactical, we needed to introduce a strategic element to the game. So, we ditched the dice and used the deploy and leave concept as the foundation for a deck building game.
Cryo-Freezer Mechanic (Jessey)
While we set out to build a deck building game, we also wanted to do some things differently. There are some common mechanics that you can find in almost every deck building game. We really wanted to innovate on some of those mechanics and tropes.
One common mechanic is removing cards in your deck from the game. In many deck builders, removing cards from your deck can be so important that acquiring cards that allow you to do this can be the difference between victory and defeat. Our first twist on this mechanic is that we force players to decide which card to remove from their deck every time they reshuffle their discards. Our second twist is that those removed cards go into your Cryo-Freezer, where they will score you bonus points at the end of the game.
In most deck builders, you remove the least useful cards from your deck to make it more effective. The Cryo-Freezer system, and the way we designed the cards, turns what is often an ‘obvious’ play into a tough choice. Typically, the mutants that are the most effective at fighting in the Arena are also worth the most points in the Cryo-Freezer. Since you must freeze one mutant every time you reshuffle your deck, you’ll have to make this critical decision multiple times during the course of a single game. To make this choice even tougher, we made sure that every card is useful. Even your starter cards have utility, and the decision to freeze or keep them in play can be a critical part of your overall strategy.
Video Game Adaptation (Sen-Foong)
In adapting these mechanisms to an app-based license, we did a lot of research and played the original game to gain an understanding of what it was all about. When we adapt games to different formats, we focus on the experience. What is it like to play? What does the theme suggest it should be like? Who are the players playing as? The tabletop experience for Mutants needed to be unique and worth playing in its own right, all while capturing the spirit of the app.
After playing the game and delving into the lore, we knew that we wanted to make a game about crushing your opponent’s team of mutants in the Arena. We wanted to avoid all spatial relations in this battle - we didn’t want to deal with range or movement. This lead us to designing the “king of the hill” battle system that is in the final version of the game. This system let us put all of the game’s complexity into the strategic decisions you make when you build your deck and the tactical decisions you make when you breed, deploy and freeze mutants during the game.
Breeding Mechanics (Jessey)
The economy in most deck builders is separated from the other mechanisms. There are cards that specifically generate currency and different cards cost different amounts based on their relative power or utility. In Mutants, the economy is blended into every card.
The economy in the card game is directly inspired by the app. To gain a new mutant in the app, you must breed a pair of mutants. The new mutant is typically related in some way to the breeding pair, usually having some of the genes of the “parent” mutants. Players don’t know what mutant they will get in the app.
This led to our innovation on deck builder economies: every card’s cost is also its currency -- it’s genes. To gain a new mutant, you discard two mutants. The genes of the mutant discarded must match the mutant you want to breed. Every card is both part of your economy and part of your actions. This makes for some tough decisions, as you have to decide if you will send mutants to the Arena, or use them to breed more powerful mutants.
In the app, each gene has a unique ability. We captured this in our own way, designing new abilities to make the mechanics in Mutants really shine. Each gene has a ‘theme’ and at least one specific mechanic that is associated with it. If you want to attack, you should include Saber mutants in your deck. If you want to have better access to specific cards in your deck, include Cyber mutants which will let you draw and discard cards.
When designing abilities, we also took our lead from the app, but in an unexpected way. In the app, mutants have named attacks. We didn’t want to introduce mechanics and attack types to make different themed attacks feel different, but we wanted to ensure each mutant’s abilities matched it. So, instead of using the existing ability names for inspiration, we re-envisioned how each mutant would work in our new system based on their artwork. For instance we asked ourselves: 'What would happen if I got punched by a slot machine?' Our answer, in case you are wondering, is on the Big Bo$$ card!
End of Part 1
Authors: Sen-Foong Lim and Jessey Wright.