Bushido Duels #2: The idea

In this instalment of the dev blog Per shares the origin of Bushido Duels. Let’s go back to 2016 on a well trafficked highway somewhere in northern Sweden…*

It was during a drive up north in the summer of 2016 that Bushido Duels (called Samurai Duels back then) came to be. As I was driving I started to think about over the top anime duels and began pondering on how such duels could be simulated in an easy and fast to play way.

As we were just getting started in game design and a Kickstarter campaign was our goal at the time, I thought that if a first game could be done using nothing but cards it would make production “easier” (more on that another time).

Embracing stereotypes and Anime tropes.

I wanted the game to be centred around the different character’s attacks and creating interesting situations where  characters with different attacks and play-styles would face off.

Some think that the anime or cartoon character tropes have been done to death but I wanted to embrace the tropes and have the different fighters to be distinct from each other and easily recognisable. One should only need to take one look at them or hear their nicknames to understand what they were all about. And I feel that our Skype calls (much later during the visual design process) and discussions with the artist Emily Ryan helped us achieved that.

The game mechanic

I wanted the player to make strategic choices but also wanted luck (good or bad) to play a noticeable part in the game. In my mind the rock/paper/scissors system would provide a good framework for what I wanted to achieve as it provided a basis for interactions between the attacks.  It also fit my plan of having any one attack to be successful against half of the opponent’s attacks and unsuccessful against the other half. I wanted an attack to be really really successful against two of your opponents cards while the other two although successful will have less of an impact as the opponent will be able to block some of the incoming damage. This led to the development of the speed and strength values. These would allow for another level of interaction between the cards than just win or lose. (see how to play Bushido duels for example on how).

And most importantly each character would have special attack cards unique to that fighter.

The Mon Symbols

Each card would be identified by an unique symbol. Visually I wanted the symbols to adhere to the anime and Japanese theme of the game, I also wanted them to have some similarities to make it a bit harder to remember which cards the opponent had already played.

How many attack cards?

I wanted to move away from the basics of rock paper scissors and have more attacks. But how many? 3-6 seemed too few since I wanted each character to have at least three special attacks and I didn’t feel that half of the attacks should be comprised of special attacks. It should feel special to successfully perform one of these attacks.

After a bit of thinking I ended up with 9 attack cards. The reason for this was that the special attack cards would comprise one third of the total number of attacks. I felt this would allow for the special attack cards to surface often enough during a game so that the uniqueness of the fighters would be presented while at the same time allowing the game to not only be about special attacks. After all in the anime movies and Mangas it takes a while for the heroes and villains to unleash their most devastating attacks. 9 played cards also felt like the upper limit of what’s possible to remember.

Then what?

With that the foundation of the game was there. Next came making a prototype and game testing etc. More on that another time.

* Editors Note: North of the wall

Bushido Duels #1: The evolution of the Mon Wheel

We thought this first entry should be pretty light and basically show some of the numerous updates and improvements of the Mon Wheel during the development of Bushido Duels.

“What’s a Mon Wheel?” you ask.

Well, it’s one of the central mechanics of Bushido Duels, a rock-paper-scissors-based system determining how attack cards interact. (See the game’s page for more details.)

Below you can see some of the variants that were used during various stages of the game development process.

The very first test version
The very first test version.
At one point we doubted the wheel and made a table version...We went back to the wheel
At one point we doubted the wheel and made a table version…We went back to the wheel
A different take on the wheel highlighting that the following 4 techniques for any given symbol would be defensive.
A different take on the wheel, highlighting that the following four techniques for any given symbol would be defensive.
The fifth iteration
The fifth iteration. Looks sort of cool but is hard to read.

Quite some changes along the way, right? As you can see they all had different flaws. You’d notice things like freakish colours, varying line types, asymmetric shapes, inconsistency in design. All those flaws can however be summed up with the fact that the cards lacked visual simplicity.

Bad visual design can KILL a good game mechanic! These previous iterations were all too complicated to read in a gaming session. They took too much effort to survey as a player and slowed down the gameplay, they were probably severe enough ruin (what we think is) a good game.

We had the rules, we had the game mechanic (the interactions between the attack cards), and we had the desired shape, The race towards visual simplicity was on.

The final Mon wheel after some feedback and work by Emily Ryan.
The final Mon Wheel after excellent feedback and work by Emily Ryan.

Trying out different approaches and receiving feedback from people outside the company provided insight to what worked and what didn’t. Using that information and our initial idea of the  Mon Wheel we worked with our illustrator, the excellent Emily Ryan. Through Skype calls and e-mail conversations we were able to reach a better more readable wheel.

It was now a Mon Wheel that had all information without the previous flaws and sources of confusion and also looked really nice. It simplified the design, made it completely symmetric and arranged the symbols in a way so the next four symbols are all defensive and the arrows sort of make sense.