Normally, we devote our “War Stories” videos to established and classic games of old. So what is a 2019 video game doing here?
Anyone who asks this question about , made by a three-person studio in Seattle, hasn’t played this wonderful title. It’s arguably the most addictive, accessible, and strategy-filled digital card game we’ve seen in years.
The result is the above interview, which is peppered with developer Mega Crit’s insights (and at least one Easter egg). We’re glad we sought out this younger team, because their answers revolved largely around the Steam Early Access system, which is still a pretty small drop in the bucket of game design history. Designers Anthony Giovannetti and Casey Yano sought a passionate community’s help to solve the game’s early design problems, and the community’s use of Discord and Steam forums were critical not just for fixing Slay’s early issues but also identifying them in the first place.
“Indie games, especially strategy games, have always had an accessibility problem,” Yano said to Ars. “We have played many early access games, and the developers would go silent for months at a time.”
The value of the masses
particularly needed community insight to home in on an issue that got in the way of its design dream: to marry deck-building board games () and digital roguelike adventures () into an infinitely playable video game.
The team originally planned to give players very little information about their enemies, but this left early testers confused, Giovannetti said. Players were asked to juggle tons of Dungeons & Dragons-like abilities, but they didn’t know when or how to apply them—especially if this meant “wasting” valuable cards. The team’s solution was to add an “intents” system, which gave players useful information but required serious iteration to get right.
Our interview goes into some depth about this process, aided by a nice look at earlier versions of the game to show exactly how reached its “1.0” state (which will launch on PlayStation 4 on May 21). The team at Mega Crit says this specific “intents” system was part of its work on getting the game ready for platforms like smartphones, though they had no announcements on that front just yet. They also addressed our questions about whether we should expect a sequel or multiplayer modes anytime soon.