Quixo the "Adventurer"
Developer Brad Andres on KeyForge: Call of the Archons
“…I’ll leave this part out of the memoir.”
Enter a world where anything is possible in KeyForge! This fast-past game of tactical clashes takes you to the Crucible, an artificial planet in the center of the universe. The Architects have used the pieces of countless civilizations across the stars to build this planet for your kind, the Archons. The Crucible is steeped in mystery, with the secrets of the planet held within the scattered Vaults. To gain access to this knowledge, you must unite an incredible array of creatures to your cause, using their artifacts, technology, and unique skills to gather Æmber and forge the keys to open the Architects’ Vaults. Only one can gain the full knowledge and power held within. It must be you!
Along with this new world comes a new type of game: the Unique Deck Game. With this model, every single Archon Deck in existence is unique and you only need one deck to jump into the action. With no deckbuilding or boosters, every deck is ready to play straight out of the box, and you have the challenge and the invitation to discover your deck's strategies and unlock the true power within.
Still, with billions upon billions upon billions of possibilities, we may need some professional help to examine it all. Today, we meet with Brad Andres to discuss the world and technology behind KeyForge: Call of the Archons—now available for pre-order at your local retailer or online through our website!
Brad Andres on KeyForge
Fantasy Flight Games: Can you tell us about the technology behind KeyForge?
Brad Andres: Sure! We use a couple of different systems to make the game possible, the first of which is the deck generator. The deck generator is built to supply us with decks using a sophisticated set of rules and processes. These rules and processes are secret, but they ensure that each and every deck contains twelve cards from three different houses and is within an acceptable range of parameters. These decks are then checked against every other deck we've created to ensure that each new deck is completely unique in the world.
Once the contents of a deck are generated, it then gets a unique name. Our name generator looks at all of the cards in the deck and based on what it sees, it qualifies that deck for various different groupings of words. Words from these groupings are then pulled in to fill in a blueprint for the deck’s name and voilà, we have a deck!
This still isn't the end of the story though, as the files generated by this process still have to be sent to the factory, where each and every deck is printed individually using digital printing technology.
FFG: How did you approach developing KeyForge?
BA: Developing a game without deckbuilding was a very different beast than developing one of our other card games—the biggest change was in how we approached the card pools for each of the game’s Houses. Typically, when approaching a card pool, we focus on designing and developing a variety of decks for each faction to focus on. While developing KeyForge, however, we focused on the overall shape and play style for each of the Houses, crafting them more as an entire entity with different strengths and weaknesses, rather than trying to target a couple types of decks for that House to use.
While there are tons of new design opportunities that the Unique Game format presents, one of the most interesting for me personally was the opportunity to have cards that pair with other cards. Since these cards never show up without each other, we can pack a huge amount of interaction and synergy into them, and they truly feel like several parts of the same story.
FFG: Where does the strength of an Archon Deck come from?
BA: There are really two factors that go into how powerful an Archon Deck can be, composition and skill. With a game like KeyForge, where every deck is unique, some decks naturally have more synergy than others. As we developed the deck generation algorithm we kept this in mind and focused on making sure that we were generating the widest variety of decks that were as fun and competitive against each other as possible. Because of this, the skill that a player brings to the table is an equally important factor in the equation of deck strength. The more KeyForge you’ve played, the better you will be at picking up a new deck and being successful with it. And on top of that, the more you’ve played with a single deck, the more of its secrets and synergies you’ll be able to understand and use to your advantage.
FFG: As a developer, what excites you the most about KeyForge?
BA: Oh man, so many exciting things… probably what excites me the most is chance to really push the envelope on what we can do in card games. KeyForge is already breaking new ground with its distribution model, but what I’m most excited about is finding ways that we can bring new experiences to our players and surprise them with things they never thought possible.
FFG: KeyForge features a lot of humor and a lot of heart. How did that come about?
BA: Richard’s original vision for the setting was one that didn’t take itself too seriously and wasn’t afraid to have fun. Andrew Navaro and Dan Clark took these ideas and ran with them to help build the Crucible as we know it today. As far as cards go, a lot of the visual humor was masterminded by the design team here at FFG, and brought to life by the talents of Andy Christensen and Taylor Ingvarsson, and then the flavor text was written by the combined minds of Dan Clark, Nate French, and myself. Much as the Crucible is built from the pieces of countless worlds, the game was built through the love and dedication of many passionate people.
FFG: How do the different Houses of the Crucible fit together to form the whole?
BA: Mechanically, the different Houses explore the design space present in KeyForge, each focusing on different aspects of the game. This is incredibly important, as it makes the assemblage of Houses in your deck present a compelling and unique play style, depending both on which Houses are present and the specific cards from those Houses that have been pulled in.
In terms of flavor, the Houses on the Crucible are all bound together by a need for survival on such a strange and mysterious world. They cooperate with each other frequently (the Martians a bit less so…) and generally don’t participate in all-out warfare against each other. And of course, once the members of the Houses band together under the banner of an Archon, they become even more in tune with one another.
FFG: What were some of your greatest influences when you were designing cards for KeyForge?
BA: While working on the game, some of my greatest influences were the show Adventure Time, the Choose Your Own Adventure books I read growing up, and rogue-like video games. The sense of experimentation and discovery that they present was very inspiring as we pushed forward with the game’s development.
FFG: What was the greatest challenge you encountered while developing KeyForge?
BA: Well, there were many, many challenges we faced during development, but probably the biggest was figuring out how we were going to translate the game into multiple languages. Normally this wouldn’t have been a huge deal—just translate the rules and the text on the cards. The trouble came in when we had to consider the Archon names for all the different languages and how the name generator was going to work for those. It was a big headache for a while, but eventually we figured out a way to make individual name generators for different languages.
FFG: Which House do you identify with the most? Do you have a favorite card?
BA: Logos is probably the House I identify with the most. The mad scientists and engineers appeal to the way I approach game design, as well as my sense of humor. And as such, my favorite card is probably Wild Wormhole (Call of the Archons, 125). It’s always a surprise what you get!
FFG: How do you plan to celebrate when KeyForge is released?
BA: I’d love to settle in with some friends and play a sealed tournament where everyone opens up a new deck and tries to take it all the way. I’ve really been looking forward to doing that with real cards!
Ascend to the Stars
The time will soon come for you to begin your quest to unlock the secrets of the Crucible. Are you ready to seek out new challenges and discover your place? The world is wide, the possibilities are endless, and your destiny is in your hands.
Pre-order your copy of KeyForge: Call of the Archons (KF01) and your own collection of Archon Decks (KF02a) at your local retailer today or online through our website here! Otherwise, be sure to look for the game when it hits shelves in Q4 of 2018!