2 November 2018 | The Lord of the Rings LCG

Exploring Middle-earth

An Interview with Fantasy Flight Interactive

#LotRLCG

Over the past weeks, we’ve taken a look at the different aspects of The Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game—a cooperative digital card game of thrilling adventures in Middle-earth from Fantasy Flight Interactive, now in Early Access on Steam!

You can pick up the Limited Collector’s Edition while supplies last for the ultimate The Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game experience, and today, we’re going behind-the-scenes with the team that’s inviting you to come to Middle-earth. Read on for an interview with the team at Fantasy Flight Interactive!

Fantasy Flight Interactive on The Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game

Why did Fantasy Flight Interactive choose The Lord of the Rings as its first title?

The Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game felt like a natural place for us to start. We had identified cooperative card game play as an under-served part of the market, and the tabletop game had firmly established this market for modern Living Card Games®. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game set the standard for cooperative Living Card Game play and we wanted to explore this type of play in the digital realm!

Additionally, The Lord of the Rings is such an amazingly rich world with a depth of characters, places, and themes. It’s so instantly recognizable that we felt it really made sense to begin here to establish our own brand as a studio. We’re all fans of the books and wanted to create something that reflected the depth of the world created by J.R.R. Tolkien.

How big is the Fantasy Flight Interactive team? What kind of staff does it take to make a game like this?

Fantasy Flight Interactive is a very small team that works with partner studios. Rather than establishing a huge studio presence, we have a small team that oversees the design, production, art, sound, and testing of the games we bring to life. We work with partner developers who write the game code, as well as both creating new assets and implementing game assets we provide. 

This way, we can stay lean as a studio, but leverage larger teams to create the games we work on. It also allows us to be more agile since, now that we’re established, we can create more than one game at once in the future by working with more than one team at a time around the world. 

Our internal staff includes testers, producers, designers, and art and programming direction staff. Overall head count is still less than a dozen people internally, but with a reach that extends far beyond that. 

In addition, we work with the creative design and art staff at Fantasy Flight Games in Roseville, Minnesota as well as our publisher, Asmodee Digital out of Paris. In this way, we can have 24 hour development as our development partners around the world work together.

What is the relationship between Fantasy Flight Interactive and Fantasy Flight Games?

Fantasy Flight Games is both our partner and inspiration. They are the authors and creators of the games we develop into digital titles. They are also our partners, as they are involved in the design and art direction decisions that we make. We work with the original development teams and the digital team at FFG as much as we can—they are instrumental in our development process, providing support in art direction, design direction, and game scripting.

We also work with Asmodee North America, who support us with marketing, promotion, and licensing support. Working with each of these sister teams means that even though our own staff is small, we still have global reach and resources.

How would you summarize the studio’s approach to game design?

We have a really indie house design approach. Because we’re so small, we’re fairly experimental. Our studio was formed to explore the digital design space—not just crank out ports from tabletop to digital. We want to create new and unique games based on the tabletop properties, and that means taking risks and trying new things. 

Why did FFI decide to release The Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game in Early Access? What does Early Access mean?

Early Access is part of the experimental philosophy. Specifically, Early Access is a program on Steam where games that aren’t considered complete can be released to the public for input into development. A major pillar of our philosophy is to be open and communicative with our audience, and Early Access lets us interact with our fanbase in a way that traditional releases just don’t. We support this approach with constant refreshes on our Steam Community pages and twice-weekly Twitch video streams.

On one hand, this means that users have to deal with the issues you might see in a beta release, such as occasional missing features or incomplete content, but on the other hand, players get to be part of our community and directly influence the direction the game is going into the future. We feel that what we gain in adaptability and real-world player feedback more than makes up for any instability or incomplete polish!

What’s next for The Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game? What can players expect during Early Access?

Already we’ve released free new cards to players, and have upcoming free adventures we call Encounters, which are singular quests that are either more challenging or test out new features. All players in Early Access get this content completely free. Coming up we’ll have Cooperative play going live online, as we want to have the chance to test this and adjust based on player feedback before we go live.

We also have our first Expansion Pack, The Shadow’s Fall, coming up before we exit Early Access. This package will include four new heroes, sixteen new player cards and seventeen new cards in our Valor Vault that players can earn through play, as well as new avatars, an all-new card back, and a new player nametag frame.

Looking even beyond that, we have all-new campaigns, heroes, and play modes in the works. We have ambitions of introducing a survival mode, draft play, competitive play, and even a Saga mode, where players can play through the entirety of The Lord of the Rings books as well as The Hobbit. That’s all for the future, however, as we focus on polishing the game during Early Access.

What’s the future look like for FFI? Any hints about upcoming titles?

We have an embarrassment of riches from Fantasy Flight Games to choose from. With so many great games and limited time and resources, the biggest challenge has been picking which games to pursue next. We have two games planned for release in the next eighteen months, in addition to The Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game, but you’ll just have to stay tuned to see what they are.

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