Designer Interview – Trivatch Games {Part 1}

Today, I’m speaking with David Vatcher of Trivatch Games about his company and their upcoming Hunting & Crafting game “Legends of Rakasa: Fordra”

Welcome to Legends of Rakasa: Fordra, a game which encourages creativity and adventure through hunting and crafting.

Hi David, thanks for talking with me today. Before we get into the game itself, can you tell us what roles do you play within the company?

It started off Michael and myself, because it was our original idea, and then our brother Steven joined in. All three of us work on the actual game design and development, and then we each have our own roles of what happens after development. My brother, Michael, is in charge of the art and he also does all the video editing. I handle all the business side and the finances. I set up most of the conventions we go to. Our other brother, he does a lot of our local interaction with gamers so he does a lot of the game demos locally.  He’s into music, so he does all the music for our videos—if you’ve seen any of our past videos, he actually composed all of the music for those.

Are there certain things that each of you are really focused on when it comes to game design and play-testing?

So, we each look at different aspects of games, and its mostly when it comes to play-testing and designing that it varies. Each of us has a different background. I mean we grew up on ColecoVision, Sega Genesis, N64, Super Nintendo, but eventually, my older brother (Michael),  branched off into tabletop gaming, me and my brother Steven started playing more MMO’s. I highly enjoy both MMORPGs and tabletop gaming, so my perspective when developing games is from that perspective. That’s why Rakasa has such a board game/MMO feel, because I bring that in when I test, and my brother brings in a board game perspective, so it kind of merges. The design of our games are to capture not just tabletop gamers, but also video gamers.

So, lets talk about how you’d classify Rakasa again… Privately, we’ve had a few discussions on how difficult it can be to describe Legends of Rakasa– In the past, I’d have described it as a Hunting and Crafting game as well as an Open Framework for custom adventures. Is that accurate? How has the game changed from what the early adopters and previous Kickstarter supporters may remember?

{Laughs} If you saw our first KS or ordered the first version of the game, it has changed drastically. Back in the day, Rakasa was mostly focused on the battle, hunting and crafting. Now our focus is more on having a story-based or story driven game. So its, what are we using now… an “open platform” game. That’s the definition of sandbox, so I mean its an RPG sandbox game that is story driven.The original game had basically no objective– we originally designed it that way because we wanted people to come up with their own adventures. We later realized that people wanted a set objective or some type of  story to get them started so thats when we started developing the storyline.

I remember playing the  prototype  and thinking, “I REALLY love this game, I love so many aspects of this game… But what am I playing for? I think its soo cool that I can do anything I want with this game, but I need something to start me off.”

Legends of Rakasa: Fordra tells its story through Tarot-Sized Chapter Cards, which give Objective, Setup, Win and Lose conditions and the effects that apply to Success and Failure to meet those objectives.
Legends of Rakasa: Fordra tells its story through Tarot-Sized Chapter Cards, which give Objective, Setup, Win and Lose conditions and the effects that apply to Success and Failure to meet those objectives.

You are absolutely right, and that was a lot of the feedback that we got, and we were like, “No, no, no… you’ve got to go and make your own adventures.” And then, the development of the stories ultimately, eventually led to that—which is, the start of your adventure. These 5 chapters only get you through the tutorial of the game. We want people to take the 5 chapters and expound on them…to, create further chapters or create alternate versions of these chapters.

Although the latest iteration of the game comes with the same number of cards as previous versions, there has been a significant art, component, and box upgrade.
Although the latest iteration of the game comes with the same number of cards as previous versions, there have been significant art, component, and box upgrades; as well as the introduction of Chapter Cards and a mini game.

Our joke, not a joke, but the kind of thing we talk about is that.. You know when you buy a game and like, you have a huge box and no content in it?

Right…

So, our joke is, “Is the box half full or half empty?” and then, for Rakasa… “it doesn’t matter, its always full.” So, because if you open this bad boy up… its jam packed. If you look inside, its full to the brim. We had to make a special arrangement so that the chapter cards fit over stuff. If you take them out, its still full. It will now always come in this size box (8.5 x 5.5 x 2.25).

The guys at Trivatch have though of just about everything, including working with the manufacturer, Print Ninja to add tassels to their custom insert for easy organization and removal of the various cards.
The guys at Trivatch have though of just about everything, including working with the manufacturer, Print Ninja to add tassels to their custom insert for easy organization and removal of the various cards.

So this is a patented technology; just kidding we didn’t patent it, but I’m going to pretend that its patented. So what’s interesting is that we came up with this idea, we call it the battery idea. So how this works is these tassels… each printed version is going to have these built in. You’ll notice I have the two laid out, so all I do to get my cards out now is I pull on this tassel and it lifts my cards up, so now I can easily take my cards out.

We’re also all avid, original RPGers from PS1, so of course, any true RPG has a mini-game inside it. Whether its a fishing game or something like ff7, with some of the great saucer games or the chocobo runs… so we have a mini game, its called Rak’min.

"...any true RPG has a mini-game inside it…" Rak'min is that mini-game—and can present a challenging puzzle for the players, with potential rewards and consequences.
“…any true RPG has a mini-game inside it…”
Rak’min is that mini-game—and can present a challenging puzzle for the players, with potential rewards and consequences.

What you do with Rak’min is very unique in that you can have different aspects come out from your success; do you succeed and unlock your grandfather’s trunk to get your equipment or do you have a different method of obtaining that equipment? The thing about this early chapter is that if you fail, you just continue on—but like Chapter 2, when you’re hunting the rabid Oposubakasa, if you fail at actually killing him, he permanently gains these now boosted stats.

Also now everything in the game, not just him, so every monster has a boosted stat, and then every equipment as well now has some kind of boosted stat. We actually don’t lay out how you use most of boosted stats, the only one we share is what you do with Oposubakasa. The rest of them can be used in any kind of way really, but that’s another element that makes it so players can customize their game. They’re little simple things that we’ve built in. So, the 5 chapters cover everything players need to know, but there’s so much more that you can make so many different adventures using the things we’ve added on.

For example, at the bottom of the cards, we have the Trivatch copyright. But if you look next to the copyright, you’ll see three different symbols. Notice that each symbol is different, so if the player was paying attention enough, they could say that each of these monsters had a different thing associated with them.

When it comes to your boost tokens, you have a white and a yellow, instead of most games, where you’d have a x1 and x3, we left it so you can customize that…the backs of them have these little gems. So there’s blue gems on all your boost tokens, and on your other tokens, like the dragon tokens, you have a red gems. So, we don’t give any explanation, because we have no idea what these gems actually will be used for. Then things like fear tokens–we don’t use them in the 5 chapters but we put them in there to create variety in your gaming. We’re trying to build as much value into it as possible and adding as much replay value is really what we’re going for.

This game comes with everything you need to play and extra components for customized games and story arcs. In many cases, you are free to decide how these pieces will influence your game.
This game comes with everything you need to play and extra components for customized games and story arcs. In many cases, you are free to decide how these pieces will influence your game.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with David Vatcher, where we talk about the future of Rakasa, expansions, and some exciting new events that cross the boundaries between traditional board games and electronic media.

PyroFrog is a gamer through most every medium as well as a father, novice blogger, hopeful game designer, and hopeless Kickstarter supporter. His blog is dedicated to gaming news and tends to focus on interesting and high value opportunities. He regularly organizes game nights where he and 3-8 friends frequently try out new games, playtest new IP's and enjoy popular favorites.

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