Questions by Cody
When it comes to creating online trading card games, SOE
Denver has no equal. In the business since 1996, SOE Denver (formerly
known as Worlds Apart Studios) certainly has a vast breadth of
experience in the TCG industry and they caught the eye of SOE and were
eventually acquired fully on 2006. Their latest game, Legends of
Norrath, has received href="http://eqvault.ign.com/static.php?page=lon">stellar
marks from a href="http://pc.gamezone.com/gzreviews/r33245.htm">variety
of different press
sites, including our href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/12633">own review.
With such a vast array of support, we wanted to hear exactly what the
developers behind the card game were like - what games did they play,
how they entered the industry, etc. - and we tracked down Senior Game
Designer Paul Dennen to see what made him tick. Please enjoy the
developer profile, and I hope you've enjoyed our week of TCG content!
Ten Ton Hammer: For
starters, Paul can you give the Ten Ton Hammer readers a brief synopsis
of who you are and what your role is at SOE Denver?
Paul Dennen: I'm a cat-loving game designer living and working in
Denver, Colorado. My official title is Senior Game Designer. SOE-Denver
is a small studio and we each have a variety of roles. Some of my roles
are to shape our game systems and to make sure our other designers are
working effectively by reviewing their work and giving them feedback
style="font-style: italic;">Allure is certainly
one of the more "attractive" cards in the game.
Ten Ton Hammer: What
genre of games do you play regularly? Do you mainly stick with TCGs or
do your interests spread into other games as well (tabletop, video
Paul: Strategy and casual games are my favorite genres. I don't stick
with TCGs really. I play lots of tabletop boardgames and computer games
-- but not many console games.
Ten Ton Hammer: Do you
have an "all-time" favorite game?
Paul: No, there are just too many great games that hit different
nerves. But in an attempt to give you a non-lame answer, I'll say that
RoboSport and Civilization are certainly two of my all-time favorites.
Ten Ton Hammer: What's
your current game that you play regularly?
Paul: I don't tend to stick with one game for a long time, and thus
it's hard to give you an answer on this one. The game that I tend to
come back to for relaxing casual strategy is good old Tetris. But my
current non-SOE games are Overlord, Armed Assault, and Advance Wars. I
try to play a lot of different games and check out the ideas of other
designers in the industry as grist for the new idea mill.
Ten Ton Hammer: What are
Paul: Board-gaming is probably my primary hobby. I went to GenCon this
year on vacation. It was cool to be able to stop by the SOE booth and
chat with coworkers but not have to stay there and work. *smiles* I'm
also into animal advocacy and vegetarian cooking.
style="font-style: italic;">I wonder if Paul
made the Snow Bunny Hat?
Ten Ton Hammer: How did
you get started in the industry? What led you to become a developer?
Paul: I used to be a programmer in the financial and medical fields,
and just got bored and wanted more of a challenge in my professional
life. So, I built an RTS game in the late 90s. It didn't find a
publisher, but it did serve as a great demo for me to land a job in the
Ten Ton Hammer: Did you
go to college? If so, what was your major and how has it helped you
with the development of online TCGs?
Paul: Yes, I majored in Computer Science in college. Having programming
skills is certainly a plus in this industry. A lot of game designers
have to have technical skills; in my case, scripting cards requires
some technical knowledge. Beyond that, I suppose that combinatorial and
statistics classes help when putting together a balanced card set.
Ten Ton Hammer: Has your
gaming history influenced how you designed Legends of Norrath?
Paul: Yes, I would say so. I'm a "map" kind of gamer; I like maps. I
like seeing things move around and have positions beyond how most card
games work. The result is that in Legends of Norrath, your cards "live"
in certain areas, and when cards enter combat, where they are or were
is a major factor. There is just a clear feeling of movement in the
game, even apart from combat you have the choice to attempt either the
left or the right quest.
Ten Ton Hammer: As a
player, what's your favorite aspect of LoN?
Paul: My favorite aspect of LoN is trying to create a deck that can
counter the most powerful decks in the metagame. There's plenty of
strategies and enough room for creativity that I can feel like I'm
being a "rogue" while also having an effective deck.
style="font-style: italic;">Paul says that MMOG
gamers should play TCGs to "have fun.".
Ten Ton Hammer:
Conversely, as a developer what's your favorite aspect of the game?
Paul: Seeing people having fun first-hand is my favorite aspect of the
game. As an example, yesterday I was playing a game with Kevin
Shoemaker, a QA guy in Austin who is also a heck of an artist. I played
a card that he drew, and he said "that's one of mine!" At a fundamental
level, I'm in this industry in an attempt to give joy to other people.
When you help to make an online game, it's a fun bonus to be able to be
there to share some of that joy.
Ten Ton Hammer: From a
design standpoint, you were the initial creator of Star Chamber and
you've also done work for the Auto Assault TCG. How difficult is it to
create a TCG from an existing online entity like Legends of Norrath?
Paul: Personally, I find it a daunting task because of the pressure to
satisfy the fans of the brand. Fortunately, our other two designers -
Evan Lorentz and Chuck Kallenbach - have a lot of experience with
making TCGs based on existing licenses. We also have a couple hardcore
EQ/EQII players in the Denver office who can give input and perspective
from the shoes of a fan.
Ten Ton Hammer: Why
should MMOG players play TCGs? Why do you play (and create) TCGs?
Paul: Simply put, to have fun. We've been asked the why question by
some MMO players who are wondering how they can "advance" in the game,
questioning why you would play. I think having fun is an end unto
itself. TCGs are also a good way to spend some downtime with friends,
because you can get in multiple games in a short span of time.
Ten Ton Hammer: Finally,
what’s the best part about being in the online TCG industry
and what advice would you give to anyone else wanting to break into the
Paul: I really prefer working with smaller teams on projects that can
be developed in short time spans, as opposed to massive games that take
years to build. I also like building strategy games that let people use
their brains and apply logic to varying situations. Online TCGs fit
well with all of those desires. To those who want to get into the TCG
design field, there are a lot of ropes to learn. One rope is purely
analytical. Become an expert at a couple games and figure out how they
work. Another rope, just as important, is psychological. Understand why
players enjoy playing with certain cards and are frustrated by others.
Just because a card is technically balanced doesn't mean it is a good
card. Have fun and understand why you're having fun. Show that you have
those tools and you should succeed!
unofficial source for Legends of Norrath href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/396">news
Make sure you check out our Legends of Norrath href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/12633">review!
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