The pop culture impact of collectible card games such as Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! are hard to overstate. Many among us can recall childhood memories of trading Pokémon cards during recess, or later memories of late nights spent fine-tuning deck lists for a competitive edge… or maybe I’m just a big nerd.
Local start-up Group 6 Studios are working on their own take on the CCG genre: Battlecasters. We were able to sit down with the company’s founders, Nes Cohen and Ian Watters, to chat about their passion project turned start-up.
Question: So, “easy” question to start: in your own words, what’s the overarching concept of Battlecasters?
Ian: Well, it’s a twist on the usual CCG genre, using technology to elevate the player experience. Where with a traditional card game, the most you’d get in terms of visual feedback is the card art – which is still often gorgeous – and the ticking down of your opponent’s health points, we want to really make those awesome spells (fireballs, teleportation, lightning bolts) come to life.
The player takes on the powerful mage, whose selection of spells comes from a deck of cards. They’ll be able to move around an arena, slinging spells at their opponents until a winner emerges.
Nes: Exactly! There’s so much potential to take the compelling mechanical aspects of card games – the deck-building and decision-making – and combine them with the excitement and realization of fantasy that video games can give. Our goal is to let the player be the spellcaster who conjures up crazy magical spells, giving them visual effects to complement the cards.
Q: Aside from well-known examples such as of Magic: the Gathering and Hearthstone, what other games have you drawn inspiration from?
Ian: A lot of the gameplay was inspired by the Worms franchise. Like Battlecasters, it’s a turn-based game where you control a single “worm” and get to use a bunch of awesome weapons and gadgets to fight other players.
Nes: Yup! In that same vein, the original inspiration for Battlecasters was this old flash game that I played as a kid, Arcanists. Like our own game, Arcanists puts players in the roles of spell-slinging wizards. However, we’re innovating on the formula set by Worms and Arcanists by mixing in the card game aspects, such as deck building and drawing cards.
Q: Any non-video game sources of inspiration?
Ian: Absolutely! One of the biggest sources of inspiration for us is the Harry Potter franchise, along with a bunch of other movies and shows that bring the concept of the “wizard duel” to life. There’s so much potential in video games to bring these amazing visual experiences to life and to let the player experience them.
Nes: Like we talked about earlier, one of our biggest goals is [to] immerse the player in that fantasy of wizardry. One of my favorite pastimes is Dungeons & Dragons, along with other tabletop role-playing games. Getting to play through those D&D sessions is super refreshing for the imagination. There are so many awesome moments that have inspired design choices in Battlecasters.
Q: You stated earlier that this is your maiden voyage in terms of start-ups. What sorts of lessons have you guys learned along the way? Have you experienced any burnout?
Ian: One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is about pacing – either with the development cycle or with our own schedules. To that end, OSU’s “Launch Academy” has been super helpful with giving us the resources we need to keep going. Our advisor from that program, Holli Ogle, has been awesome in giving us guidance and advice.
As for burnout, it’s something you have to deal with constantly. I think the experience I’ve gained from putting so much time into the start-up has really kept me going though. At this point, Group 6 is my hobby, haha. And the start-up kind of becomes your family.
Nes: Like Ian said, you really have to rely on your teammates. Fostering a sense of community with each other is super important. Burnout’s the other end of devotion and, without a reliable team with you, it’s easy to lose momentum.
Thanks to the folks at Group 6 for doing this interview with us! They’d like to wish everyone a safe time during the pandemic, and ask that you continue supporting your local businesses. Even if you’re unable to show your patronage in person, staying connected via social media keeps those important relationships alive.
If you’re interested in learning more about Battlecasters, check out www.group6.io for announcements and play testing opportunities.
By Thomas Nguyen