Android: Archived Memories
Insights from the Developers of the Android Universe
Lately, the Android universe has been enjoying a healthy growth spurt, and over the past several months, fans have been able to see larger and clearer pictures of the setting that first debuted as part of the innovative Android board game:
- Android: Netrunner continues to lure players into its Network and adds new richness to SanSan, Mumbad, and the virtual realm as it pits countless Runners and Corps against each other in a never-ending quest for cyber-dominance.
- The Worlds of Android lends color your table or bookshelf and serves as your definitive guide to the not-too-distant future.
- Our upcoming Android novellas offer a deeper look at several fan-favorite characters and corporations.
- And the recent release of Android: Mainframe permits runners with the rare opportunity to ignore the threats posed by sentries, code gates, and other cybersecurity, and instead focus on outmaneuvering each other in a twenty-three-second, no-holds-barred race for cash and glory within the defenseless servers of Titan Transnational Bank.
Through all these books and games, we have streams of data, flowing and pooling together, filling servers upon servers with more information about the Android universe. Accordingly, we like to check in with the developers from time to time to update our feeds and our brainmaps, and to get a better sense of how everything Android all fits together.
These are our Archived Memories articles, and today we get another look at the Android universe from one of the people most responsible for the setting's continued growth and development. Android: Netrunner developer Lukas Litzsinger discusses what the setting and its themes add to your cat-and-mouse cyberstruggles between Corp and Runner.
Lukas Litzsinger is the designer and developer responsible for taking the original Netrunner collectible card game and updating it for the Living Card Game® format as Android: Netrunner. He was also the lead developer on the game for its early expansions and, as such, has had a tremendous impact on both the shape of Android: Netrunner and the ongoing evolution of the Android universe.
FFG: Hi Lukas, let’s talk about how the people, companies, and themes of the Android universe have impacted the design of Android: Netrunner. For starters, when you were working on the Core Set and the first cycles of expansions, what sort of adjustments did you have to make to fit the original game and its cards into the Android universe?
LL: The main difference between the original release and the LCG is the introduction of factions. Once we had established factions, I found it relatively straight-forward to assign cards to those factions without making too many changes to them. But the Corp factions, in particular, are integral to the LCG and the direct result of the Android universe. It is impossible to imagine the setting without the rivalry between Haas-Bioroid and Jinteki.
FFG: When did you start exploring more new card designs, and at that point, how much did you draw inspiration for your new designs from the established elements of the Android universe?
LL: I started designing new cards immediately with the Core Set. All of the identities, obviously, were new. But the Core Set and the first cycle had many more “reprints” from the original Netrunner than the later sets. One of the first things I would do in each set was review the original cards that we had not yet reprinted and figure out if we could use them or a revised version of them. As time went on, I would find fewer and fewer, and I think it was around the Lunar Cycle that I stopped looking at the original cards altogether.
It was also around the time of the Lunar Cycle that I began to think of each cycle as more of a physical entity that could represent a time and place in the Android universe. Previously, the game's cycles had identities driven by mechanical goals for the game and for each faction, but I found the complete sets to be much more compelling when we paired the cycle with a theme from the Android source material.
FFG: Can you elaborate a bit on the idea that each cycle was a physical entity that could represent a time and place in the Android universe?
LL: Sure. To a lot of our players, the Android universe is a vehicle for the game. And if you present it to those players piecemeal, on a card-by-card basis, that is all it will ever be. Without playing the board game, or reading the novels, it is hard to get a sense of what is really going on behind the cards other than snippets. By focusing on a specific place, like the Moon, SanSan, or Mumbad, we are able to give players more context about what they are seeing. These places begin to feel more real, because you talk about them more.
In the SanSan Cycle, each district has its own unique identity, and you can explore it one district at a time. The Data Packs become little portals into the universe, almost like different levels in an open-world video game.
FFG: Okay, since you mentioned SanSan, the SanSan Cycle was the first that themed each Data Pack individually, even as it focused on a number of different locations in “meat space.” How was the experience of working on that cycle different than working on the previous cycles?
LL: Very different. Up until that point, cards were not assigned to their individual packs until the end of testing. Basically, we created a 120-card set, then broke it down into six packs of twenty cards each. We would look for balance of theme, mechanics, and power level in each pack. Starting with SanSan, each pack was assigned cards at the very beginning of the design process. This meant that the theme of each pack had to be considered from the very beginning, and that it was harder to adjust the order of a card’s release at the end of the process. But the overall benefits of having a clear theme and sticking to it through a single pack was worth this loss of flexibility.
If we had created the SanSan Cycle as a 120 card block, I guarantee you that it would be incredibly different. Working with our own intellectual property is a double-edged sword. You have incredible creative freedom. This can lead to amazing ideas, but it can just as easily lead to lazy ideas. By focusing on specific districts in SanSan, it required us to get more creative when we wanted to create an effect for a card. The temporary “check-out” policy on London Library (Breaker Bay, 29), for instance, was a direct result of the name of the card.
FFG: How has the growth of Android: Netrunner impacted the development of the Android universe?
LL: The growth of Android: Netrunner has definitely led us to explore the universe in more detail than we ever could have before. Among other things, it led to the formation of the Android story group. The group originally consisted of myself, our fiction editor, the game's art director, and Dan Clark, creative content guru and co-creator of the universe. Our Vice President of Product Development presided over the group. The group’s responsibility was to generate ideas to flesh out more of the Android universe and make sure that we remained internally consistent. Much of the story group's work can be seen in the recently released The Worlds of Android, which is a beautiful 272-page book that goes into great detail about the universe.
FFG: What have you enjoyed the most about working in the Android universe?
LL: We are fast approaching a world where our cars drive themselves, and the things we buy are dropped into our laps via drones. With the advent of an automated workforce, robots and AIs will be a real threat to our economy and livelihoods. But the technology that takes us there will drastically improve the lives of millions at the same time. This dichotomy is really at the heart of the corps in Android: Netrunner, and exploring the moral ambiguity of such a post-human society is fascinating. While it might seem like the future as depicted in the Android universe is far-off, I think it is much closer than many of us realize.
FFG: You’ve recently stepped down from the lead developer role on Android: Netrunner, handing the reins to Damon Stone. Are you still playing any part in the Android universe?
LL: I am still a member of the story team, but after helping out with the Flashpoint Cycle that Damon led, I am now hands-off on the design side. I will always feel a strong connection to the IP and the game, but it is important to make sure that the game evolves.
FFG: Okay, to close... do you have a favorite character from the Android setting, and what makes that character stand out?
LL: I definitely love the enigmatic g00ru. He or she or it is the legendary hacker that is revered almost as a prophet among other runners. How can you separate the human from the myth? One of the conceits of the game is that a single individual can have a large impact on the world around them, and we see the impact of g00ru in all of the runner factions.
FFG: All right, we're done, then. Thanks, Lukas!
Where Do We Go from Here?
Where do Android: Netrunner and the Android universe go from here?
As Lukas steps down from lead development on Android: Netrunner, he passes the opportunity to use the game to explore the Android universe to fellow LCG developer Damon Stone. With his previous work on A Game of Thrones: The Card Game and Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game, Damon has amply demonstrated his ability to blend themes and mechanics, and he's already had a hand in developing a good number of cards for Android: Netrunner, as well as the runner-versus-runner struggles of Android: Mainfame.
In our next Android: Archived Memories, we'll present our interview with Damon Stone and discuss some of what he has in store for Android: Netrunner and the Android universe.