Question 1: Who are you, and what do you do at Bandai?
Tylar: I go by Hungry_Ninja on the forums, which I plan on changing soon I just don't know to what, and my real name is Tylar. I do: Q&A, lead Q&A at this point, I design, test, uhh edit for errors. Pretty much everything. I'm in charge of article writing, I keep the article writers in check, which Pat can attest to. umm I don't think there's a single thing I haven't done. I've even compared marketing numbers before.
Question 2: Ice breaker! If you could have one Super power, what would it be and why?
Tylar: The power to grant myself any power I want? Nah, but seriously seeing the future seems like the best thing ever. You'd be the ultimate at everything. "I'm going to put a thousand dollars down on double zero" "Why?" "Because it's going to be double zero." Then again, you'd probably go to jail because they would think you were cheating. Maybe I'll have to rethink that, or just do sports bets. But yeah seeing the future seems good.
Question 3: How exactly does the design process work?
Tylar: We are still in the experimental stages, but I can tell you what we did for set 17. We actually met in the room I'm sitting in now. There were six of us and we were told to start from scratch and come up with basic effects. Then James Takenaka came in and gave us two to three marketing goals for the set, and said "Every card must reflect these goals". Next we took the five elements and made kind of a pie chart out of them, and we divvied up the special niches between each element and then tryed to make those diametrically opposed, much like people would know from Magic: the Gathering. No offense to anyone who dislikes Magic, but a game going on for that long means it has to be doing something right.
Anyway, after that we took out a bunch of scrap paper and we calculated the total number of ninjas we need to on average get a good curve in draft. We then split them up so that each element has an equal number of zeros, each element has the same number of ones, twos, threes, and so on. After this we started giving the cards names and effects. Effects are really a kind of down the road thing, thats the thing that takes the most time. I distinctly remember the very first day working on this was fifteen hours long, because James was going to be like "Hey guys, it's been eight hours, it's time to go", but were were on such a huge roll that he didn't want to stop us. Each day after that we would come in and work on the effect text, wether we wanted to scrap them and start over, or wether we wanted to keep them because they were basic enough.
In the end we came down to a few problem cards that we wanted to balance the story line with the actual game, though I'm sure you know which ones I'm talking about. Hidan was a big problem, as I think he started out with five valid effects. We eventually broke him down to to the point where both sides of the group were happy, cause Brian and I are big on the story line, and Andy and Alex are big on the game play. In the end I'm pretty satisfied with set 17, we put a lot of work into it.
Question 4: What specific types of effects do you prefer to put on cards when designing?
Tylar: I don't really think of cards as a single entity. I don't stare at a card and say "Hey this card is good". When designing I tend to think "if I was making a deck, what would I need to make this type of deck playable?" and then I go from there and have cards bounce off from each other in one way or another so that it still feels like you are playing Naruto, but the way that you are playing it is more in tune to the character or the mechanic you are attempting to play with. It's more fun that way and it adds variety to the game if you ask me.
Question 5: So about that Hidan guy. Since you had full design over him, what can you tell us about him?
Tylar: Well, he originally started as a smattering of valid effects, you know there were a few things from the story line side and a few things from the game play side. From the game play side we wanted him to be playable in the current format um, in this right he couldn't be a stand alone stupidly good card. I'm okay with his regular version being a good stand alone card, but the curse mode had to be separated or something he transformed into. There were lots of card ideas and new mechanics floating around for cursed mode Hidan.
For story line purposes, Hidan had to be an idiot, he had to lose to shikamaru, and we reflected it no problem. The other thing we wanted to show, which was the biggest hurdle is him never dying. Without being over powered, that's a really hard thing to touch on, especially in a game with so much removal. It was really hard to get this card to really show the story without it being busted. I had some trouble when I first started working on him, and eventually had to give somewhat of a presentation of the card to try and prove my point about him. But eventually we came to a nice middle ground with the cards, including the weakness of Hidan and how he never dies.
Question 6: What decks do you think will do well with the introduction of set 17?
Tylar: Set 17 was shortly done, as we only had something like three weeks to build this set from scratch. it was very difficult when adding in getting license approval, asking Bandai japan for approval, and the artist working on the cards. We had something like three PDFs going back and forth in a mater of a week, which was impressive. For what little time we had though, I think this is a really well made set.
For what it will do to the meta, I know the Hidan deck might show up as it has a wickedly good combo to it, I don't really think any other new deck types were developed aside from Hidan and Kakuzu cause they were central to the set. Still, other decks will get stuff cause Shikamaru is going to beat Hidan he's going to need some mental power stuff, so that will be there too. I'm not really sure with the meta, as my head has been buried in the sand in set 18 as of late, but I expect a lot of these cards to make a splash. There shouldn't be anything completely busted, as we are trying to slow the game down, but yeah I expect to see some intresting developments with set 17.
Question 7: For future sets, what do you plan to work on in particular?
Tylar: For set 18 we started off three months ahead of time, sat down at the table and asked who wants what element, what characters do we want to make, and where do we really want to go. And I'm not thinking set by set I'm thinking block by block. were going to need a pain deck soon, as he is close at hand in the story line. Pain goes hand in hand with sage mode, and toads. As for elements, I ended up getting stuck with an element I didn't like at first. It wasn't exactly my flavor but I turned it into my kind of flavor. Everyone has been working on specific deck ideas, and since we are trying to think block by block we can actually plan out cards ahead of time so that by the end of the block, the deck is fully complete. It makes sense. I kind of ignored your original question, didn't I?
Andrew: Kind of. What element were you stuck with?
Tylar: Lightning. Keep in mind though, it's lightning as a first element. Things having two elements is still not out of the question. I will say that right now, there are three different deck types I'm working on for this next block (sets 18-21).
Question 8: In the current format, what card do you feel is the most problematic, and why?
Tylar: Tobi. He is playable in everything which is one of the things I'm deeply against. I'm for cards being playable in everything but they shouldn't be that good in everything or the best in everything. There should have been some kind of cost associated with it to try and slim it down. In the end that card should have never been printed. I have a small fear the new Might guy might turn out to be the same thing, but I don't think so.
Question 9: The tournament pack. What exactly went into it?
Tylar: We started with a huge list of characters and we thought: 1. What do we need for our set 17 archetypes? 2. What do we need for our set 18 archetypes? And 3. what would look really cool as a chibi?
Pat: Lots of Sakura Haruno?
Andrew: Ino Megamilk in Chibi? Both her head and her breasts would be huge!
Tylar: *Laughs* There are some really awkward picks in this pack, but number one priority was for draft ability so any effects that would affect making drafting easier, we would definitely put in the pack. Market and designing always seem to be at ends, last week we had a couple of cards James said we couldn't have the set so we had to cut them. Luckily we just got it finished up before this. So I feel pretty happy about this too.
Question 10: That cool Sakura Chick who is clearly three cards in one. How did that come about?
Tylar: Let's put hokage rocks on a body. It's still kind of bad, what do we do? Futaba is rotating out and the Chicago players love Futaba, lets put it on her. It's getting there, but how does it work in medical? Well, it needs to heal. Bam, Done. We put all three decent effects together and thats what came out. Why fire? I think it should have been Wind/Earth to fit in Kunoichi butas Fire it fit with the other "Reliance" Ninja cards. Story wise Sakura's personality and Inner sakura are always angry and have angry flames.
Question 11: What are your plans for the Taijutsu archtype?
I will tell you that that has been one of the decks on my mind for awhile. It's been away from the spot light too long, in fact it never had it to begin with. It's one of those decks that exemplified lightning in what it does and I really think they deserve a pump up. The question is what does Taijutsu do? "I get big and kick your ass". Thats the obvious answer anyway, but to exemplify that answer in teh card game I have a few Ideas but nothing is concrete just yet.
Question 12: Platoons with Hand costs... Why?
Tylar: It's dependent on what effect is on it. We start without a hand cost, and look at the effect and if the consensus is that the card is too good and splashable, then we add a hand cost or some kind of restriction. This is why Tenzo requires two earth chakra instead of one for his effect. If it has a hand cost, the hand cost has a place... Well now anyway.
Question 13: Sasori and Zabuza are rotating out, plans to reprint them?
Tylar: We watch ninja that are cycling out and in. We are already aware of the things that are leaving, and with Sasori and the puppets leaving it isn't beyond us to revisit puppets. Just next time without Lifeless Warrior and without that Kankuro guy.
Question 14: Is Sasuke BTL being reprinted?
No. We were sitting at the table when it was brought up. Three of us said instantly said "Not Sasuke BTL" A couple of people looked up at us. We stared them down. Then they were like "Okay, were not." The only way Sasuke BTL comes back is if the Chidoris in format were really balanced, like lightning blade from set 1, and you couldn't recur it.
Andrew: I like lightning blade from set 1...
Question 15: Have you tried out EDH?
No, haven't had enough time to try it.
Three Bladed Scythe
Cost: Fire Fire
Requirement: Printed Entrance cost of 3 or more
Target: 1 Ninja
Effect: Injure the Target. Then, if the User is Hidan, you may give 1 damage to the user.
Tylar: This card Originally started off as a blanket one damage. Pay this give one damage. We thought it was too bland, too stupid, and didn't fit really well with Hidan. It's based on when Hidan swings his scythe at Asuma, and Asuma ducks and it hits Hidan. It's generically okay, when you play it in a deck it's meant to be played in it's good.
Characteristics: Akatsuki l Rogue Ninja l Male l Jonin l Mental Power: -1
Valid: This Ninja cannot be removed from play due to damage.
Valid: When this Ninja is removed from play, return it to the owners hand instead.
Valid: Discard the top two cards of your deck at the start of your turn.
Stats: 6/2 Healthy, 6/0 Injured
Combat attribute: Curse/Weapon
Tylar: Hidan started with four or five valid effects and was boiled down to three effects on this card, and two effects on the cursed mode card. I gave Hidan the milling effect because I was out hanging with a friend who was eating a burrito. After awhile my friend said "This burrito is to big, I can't finish it" and then it clicked. Even though he wont die, he will eventually run out of steam.
Hope you guys enjoyed the interview, as well as the previews (Pics will be up later in the week when we get them). Thanks again Tylar for letting us Interview you!