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Culdcept Saga Producer's Blog

The following is a blog that Culdcept Saga's producer, Kohei Takeshige, wrote for IGN in 2007-2008. I've reversed the order of it, so you can read it from oldest to newest, top to bottom. It is very cool to get a peek behind the scenes at the development of this fantastic game. - Andyman

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Brief Introduction

Hi, my name is Kohei Takeshige from Jamsworks Co.,Ltd. I've been producing the "Culdcept" series for about 10 years so far. I'm happy to be here to kick off this blog series on Culdcept Saga for the Xbox 360. The Culdcept series is known for its addictive nature, deep board/card hybrid gameplay and fun competitive elements, so over the next few weeks we'll be digging into the game together to help you enjoy it to its fullest!

For those of you that are not familiar with the basic concept of the Culdcept series, it is a game that combines that the strategy of a collectible card game with the random nature of a traditional board game. The marriage and careful balance of these two elements has created an original type of game that, I'm proud to say, has a kind of addictiveness that is hard to come by.

When you analyze the foundations of board games, you'll see that one of their basic strengths is that they usually operate under simple rule sets that anyone can understand and enjoy. On the flip side, they tend to lack depth and potential for strategy because so much is decided by random dice rolls. On the collectible card game side, you have nearly endless variety based on the types of decks people create and a strong tactical foundation as people try to execute complex strategies, traps and decoy moves. Culdcept acts on both of these game types to create an experience that capitalizes on these best attributes of both.

The game's objective is simple: move around the board, collect Magic (the type of currency used in the game) and reach the total required Magic goal before the other players to win.

When the player rolls the dice and lands on a Land square, they can summon a creature onto the square to control it. This, in turn, increases their Total Magic and brings them closer to winning. If your opponent lands on this square, you can collect a toll from them. These are the absolute basics of the game, but if we take the concept one step further, things start to get really interesting. The opponent that lands on a square you control has a number of options. They can either pay your toll or summon their own creature to do battle with yours in an attempt to wrestle control of the land away from you.

Each player also has something called a Book which contains 50 cards of their choosing. These are three different types of cards – creatures, spells and items. All together, there are 480 cards in the game and you can customize your book from any combination of these cards. Therefore, no two books will be the same. Book creation is one of these key factors in consistently winning in Culdcept SAGA, and it's also a lot of fun as you think of new combinations that will wreak havoc on your opponents.

Hopefully you now have a good idea of how the game progresses and what you need to do to win. In our next entry, I'm going to go into detail on something special we have for fans who would like to get their hands on the game before it ships. I won't spoil it, but check back here soon for a nice surprise!

 

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Demo

Hi everyone, Culdcept Saga producer Kohei Takeshige here. In my first entry, I mentioned that fans will soon be getting a nice surprise. If you haven't yet heard, a demo for the game is now available on Xbox Live Marketplace in the US, so I'd like to take a moment to tell you a bit about it. The demo provides you with a brief taste of the game with both single and multiplayer modes, which we tuned carefully so that all kinds of players can enjoy it.

In single player mode, you can choose from two different pre-made books (decks) of cards. We made sure these books are not only simple and easy to use, but also contain a few more advanced cards to show you what to expect once you really get deep into the game. I'd recommend that everyone pay close attention to the in-game tutorial, as it will help first-time players learn as they play, and give Culdcept veterans a helpful refresher course. You'll also be introduced to one of the game's main characters, Lirara (be sure to check out her cards!). The tutorial is really comprehensive, so if you've never played this type of game, give it a shot! I guarantee it will open a door to an experience you've probably never had before.

In addition to the single player tutorial, the demo includes a multiplayer mode that lets up to four people go head-to-head. In this mode you'll be able to choose from four books to get a taste of even more card variety. Culdcept SAGA is best enjoyed with friends, so I really recommend you give it a shot. Multiplayer mode contains a scaled-back version of the character customization system found in the full game, so keep a close eye on the attire, headgear and more that you see on your character, because you'll be able to change it as you play through the full game.

Finally, while the full version of Culdcept SAGA will allow for four-player multiplayer via Xbox Live, we chose to keep the multiplayer in the demo to a single system. I know some of you are itching to test your skills online, but I wanted to make sure people get the purest multiplayer experience that is found when sitting next to one's opponents. Hopefully it will make you even more excited for the potential for online play when the game is released in early February.

That's about all you need to know to get started with the demo, so I hope you all get a chance to download it. It's a great segment of the game, so hopefully all types of players will get the chance to try Culdcept SAGA. For my next entry, I'll be discussing some of my favorite cards from the game, so stay tuned!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Book Creation Overview

Hi everyone, welcome back. I hope that by now everyone has had a chance to download and play our demo that is now available on Xbox Live. I personally feel that creating my own book (deck of cards) is one of the most compelling features of the game, but we disabled this feature in the demo as we didn't want to overwhelm those who were new to the series. Our game features more than 450 unique cards, so we spent a good deal of our time making sure that they were all properly balanced and there was not any one card that could unbalance the process of book creation. Specifically, we placed great emphasis on the balance of our creature cards such that we could retain the strategy involved in using our spell and item cards. It's easy for players to think that creatures are the best way to go in their book, but our goal was to encourage them to use all three card types equally.

The interesting thing that we learned while balancing the game is that the success of a book strategy all depends on the map, the objective and the rules the player is using. You can power up your creatures to protect your land and you can also use spells to slow the progress of your enemies to rattle off just a few rudimentary tactics. This element of strategy is so important to the game because it is easy to get started on, and really addictive once you spend some time with the game and try to come up with the "perfect book." The thing is, such a book does not exist since there are always so many ways to thwart an opponent's strategy.

The first time you play the game, I recommend that you start with one of our preset decks and then add to it with new cards that you accumulate along the way. This is the best plan for beginners because each of these preset books are sure to be balanced and easy to use. There are even some players who would argue that the preset decks are the most powerful in the game. As you replace the cards one by one in these stock decks, you're sure to devise a few strategies of your own, which is how you get into more complex tactics and book building schemes. You can also learn a lot by looking at the cards your opponents use – there is a chance to improve even when losing!

I'll leave you with one of my personal book building strategies. Try to set your ratio of cards to something like this – creature: 5, items: 2, spell: 3. This is a very well-balanced structure and should prove helpful for players of all skill levels. I hope all our readers are enjoying a happy holiday season, and I'll be back with a new entry soon!
Friday, January 11, 2008

Favorite Combos

Hi everyone, happy New Year and welcome back! We're less than one month away from the release of Culdcept SAGA for the Xbox 360, which will be in stores on February 5th. In my last entry, I addressed book (deck) building strategies to show you how much strategic freedom you have in playing the game. I'd like to take that conversation a bit further by sharing some of the development team's favorite card combos.

Of course when people think of collectible card games, the most recognizable cards are usually creatures. Not only do they look cool, but in Culdcept SAGA they can occupy lands and intimidate your opponent as they progress through the game board. However, there are some skilled players that can create a powerful deck that contains no creatures at all. I'm pointing this out to show that these combinations of cards below are just the starting point for what you can create on your own. As every player is going to approach the game in a different way, your cards should reflect your own play style. I'm sure you will inspire other players that you encounter online to try something new if you venture out with a truly original set of cards.

Mesozoic Song + Saint
"Mesozoic Song" is an enchantment that turns all the player's creature cards into Tyrannosaurus cards, a very powerful creature. At first glance, you might think it's best to cast Mesozoic Song on yourself to have an army of these creatures, but you can actually devastate your opponent by casting it on them and following up with another card, the "Saint," which is a water-type creature which can kill off the Tyrannosaurus with an 80% probability. With this combo you can turn the tables of the game in a snap and eliminate the army your opponent is sure to have spent a long time amassing.

Red Cap + Goblin's Lair
This combination is pretty obvious, but nonetheless overwhelmingly powerful. The "Red Cap" card makes your creatures stronger as you have more goblin-type creatures on the map. The "Goblin's Lair" lets you summon Goblins into your open lands, so after a few turns you'll have a really fearsome group of allies.

Bandit + Claymore
This is a fun combination for new players as both of these cards can be acquired early in the game. The "Bandit" is a creature card that steals two times the magic of the amount of damage you inflict on your enemy. When you pair this with the "Claymore," a powerful weapon item card, you can easily steal 150 magic from your opponent in a single move. To make this combination even more potent, if you place the Bandit next to an opponent that cannot attack back, you can constantly attack them to steal magic and keep their overall score low.

Cockatrice + Battering Ram
The "Battering Ram" card is an item that will kill a defense-attributed enemy 100% of the time. It's an effective card on its own, but is fantastic paired with the "Cockatrice" creature. The Cockatrice, with a successful hit, will change any creature into defense-oriented "Stone Wall" which is an easy target for your Battering Ram. The key phrase here is "successful hit," so there are ways to defend against this tactic if you know how to avoid getting hit.

Debility + Lunatic Light
"Debility" is a spell card that changes an opponent creature's strength rating to zero. It's mostly a special-use card, but becomes lethal when paired with "Lunatic Light," a card that swaps a creature's strength and HP values. This combo results in instant death for any creature and never fails to get a reaction from your opponent!

These are just five of my favorite card combinations, but of course there are so many more. I just wanted to demonstrate that the cards in the game work on a number of different levels, and allow for some really amazing strategies once you have a good commend of the game.

In my next post I'll talk about what defines the "feel" feel of the game – its graphics, artwork and music – so please check back soon!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The A/V Department

Welcome back, everyone. For this entry, I'd like to discuss the music and art of Culdcept SAGA. Even though the game is heavily focused on strategy and gameplay, we still put a lot of effort into giving it solid production values that deserve some discussion here.

Our main composer for the game's score is Mr. Kenji Ito. I'm sure some of you are familiar with his work, as he's quite a legendary figure for his accomplishments in previous video games such as the Final Fantasy and SaGa series. Mr. Ito is also contributing to the Super Smash Bros. Brawl soundtrack, so he certainly knows how to work with a hit franchise! Mr. Ito has worked on previous installments in the Culdcept series, so he knows what the game is about at its core. However, we wanted to make some adjustments to Culdcept SAGA, providing more depth to the game world and storyline, so he took a somewhat different approach for us to help make the game world come to life. I always find music to be a pivotal piece in drawing me into a game – I hope our soundtrack for Culdcept SAGA has this effect on you as well. I'd like to also mention that our full soundtrack is currently available for download from the iTunes Store. If you're interested in our music, you can listen to sample clips and download full songs to get a sense for the kind of sound we chose for the game.

Moving from music to art, we recruited a fairly large number of artists from around Japan to create our card artwork. It took over a full year just to let these artists work on their pieces and get them ready to put into the game. Most Japanese games don't follow this philosophy and prefer to let a small team of artists generate most of the assets for the game. We chose to break from this pattern, as I felt that using a large art team would help to bring a lot of variety to the game. Since the cards themselves are the most important aspect of the game, it's especially important that their artwork be compelling and varied.

Interestingly enough, we gave very little guidance to our artists beyond the basic card concepts. It was great to see what their imaginations had generated and how different artists chose different paths to accomplish their assignments. It's quite obvious to tell when different artists handled different cards, and I think that's a great advantage for the game to have this kind of variety.

You'll also notice that our art style is more reminiscent of traditional painting and even some medieval influences than the anime style that is so common among Japanese card games these days. It was hard for some of our artists to break from this style, but I'm proud of what they accomplished in giving Culdcept SAGA a very distinctive look.

In my next entry, I'd like to answer any questions you might have about the game. If there's something you'd like to ask, please post it in the comment sections and I will address it in my next post. There are only about three weeks until the game hits stores, so this is your chance to ask if you have questions!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Q & A

Hi everyone, welcome back to our blog - I'm Kohei Takeshige, the producer for Culdcept SAGA. In my last entry, I asked our readers to send in their questions on the game so that I could address them. We received many good questions, which I've answered below. Many of the questions were focused on online play, so I'm happy to hear that many of you are as excited about this new feature for the series as we are. OK- let's dig into our Q&A session:


1. Can we trade cards online?

There is no card trading online for the game. We thought this may offer an unfair advantage to those who could exploit such a feature in their favor. Instead, we made the process of unlocking cards fairly easy and themed against the map you are playing in. For example, your odds of getting Earth element cards are higher in a map themed for Earth elements.

2. Is it possible to wager cards, as in place a bet on the win? Winner gets card?

Yes. There is a betting feature within the game for those who would opt to increase the stakes of the game by wagering cards. Instead of selecting and negotiating which cards are to be wagered, the player who hosts the match determines how many cards will be won or lost. After the game is completed, the computer randomly selects the cards available within the loser's collection and takes them from inventory and adds them into the winner's inventory. This feature is enabled offline in Versus mode only. We did not enable this feature online. It was a tough call on that, but we felt this feature could have been also unfairly exploited to help others gain hard to find cards faster than others.

3. Can you choose to forfeit a match online thus honorably admitting defeat?

A point of concern was that some people may be inclined to quit the game even though it may be early within the game. If we made an option to let people out of the game this way, we projected that it could become a big problem within the game's online community. As a compromise, we made it so that you can opt out through hardware features. Once out, an AI character replaces the player who quit to continue the match until the end. Granted, this may not be the universal answer to this dilemma that all online games encounter, we believe it is a good compromise between fairness and the spirit of competition.

4. What happens when someone disconnects from the game if you are winning?

As I alluded to in the previous question, an AI-controlled character will come in to replace the person who disconnects, thereby ensuring that the game will go on. At the end of the game, those who remained will be rewarded for staying in the form of cards.

5. Will there be down-loadable cards?

We are currently not planning for downloadable cards. Our concern was to ensure that we attain a balance within the game. Making downloadable cards would create a level of unfair balance as some prefer not to pay for additional content whereas some others would opt to "juice" their Books. It was a toss-up between which path to follow, and we have ultimately decided to go for the balance factor.

6. Is there online ranking?

Yes, there is online ranking within the game! There are 4 different criteria on the style of the online match: Standard Match, Standard Blind Match, Alliance Match, and Alliance Blind Match. There is a Leaderboard for each, so feel free to try the different match styles!

7. Is it possible to win cards in an online game?

Yes! Regardless of the match type, ALL players who continue playing until online games end are rewarded with cards. The only difference is that the winner gains more cards versus the loser, but still, everyone is in for some treats once the match is done. We hope everyone will find this to be a reason for playing until the end of a set match.

8. Will the US version have all the cards that are currently in the Japanese version?

Almost. All the cards in the Japanese version will be available and none will be kept away. The only difference is a special card that was only available through a special pre-order offer that was made in Japan. Since this was a Japan-only offer, that particular card was not included in the U.S. version of the game.

11. Are there any plans to bring the Culdcept series to maybe the Wii, PS3 or even PC, perhaps something like STEAM on PC would be a great avenue for such a fantastic series.

Those are some nice ideas and surely, we will be looking into them down the road. For the time being, we will wait and see and hope to bring good news to all our players!

12. Will the US disc of this game be region free...? I know some people in Europe that are eager to play this game and are willing to import the game if the disc will run on European 360s.

The game is regionally locked for the U.S. territories and as such, will not be playable on a PAL set Xbox 360. I know that there are many dedicated Culdcept fans in Europe, so I ask that you please be patient while we determine our release plan for the game in that region. (sorry PAL users - it never happened. - Andyman)

13. Since matches can run rather long, are we able to save mid-game while playing online?

Due to the nature of the game and it being online, we opted to not include a save for online matches. If you are concerned about long matches online, please set the preferences for the matches accordingly. You can set the round limit to as little as 10 rounds, and shorten the time allotted each player's turn. A match with a 10 round limit can be finished between 4 players in a little under 20 minutes!

14. There is bound to be many games ruined by people quitting out when they see that they are losing. how does the game penalize and discourage quitters? (I think a great solution/deterrent would be every time someone quits, 3 cards are permanently removed from their pool of cards.) at the very least, will there be some kind of notation telling people how many times someone has quit?

This was a matter of great argument for us while we were making the game. Penalizing can deter cheaters and quitters. At the same time, to those who sincerely could not continue the game, it would mean that we are penalizing those people for living their lives, which is a reality we all must deal with as gamers. After much thought, we decided to not actually penalize, but rather enable a function to ensure that players can still play the match to the end, hence the AI replacement function. It was the closest median that we could implement that would satisfy the majority of the players. We are hoping, though, that our players are fair enough to accept defeat in a respectful manner, and help make everyone enjoy the game to the extent we are hoping it will.


Thank you to all the readers who submitted questions. I hope that my responses have helped you to better understand how Culdcept SAGA functions as a game. We're getting very close now to the release of the game in the United States on February 5. Since I'll only be able to write perhaps one more entry before the game comes out, please let me know if there are any specific topics you'd like me to discuss in my next post. I'm willing to talk about any aspect of the game's development, so please let me know! (as it turned out, this was Takeshige-san's last blog entry. The rest is history. - Andyman)

Last Updated on Saturday, 08 June 2013 15:36

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