‘Deadman’s Cross’ Producer on Building the Ultimate Zombie Card Game

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Written by T. Blake Braddy, @blakebraddy

Deadman’s Cross is a zombie-themed card battler from Square Enix. A spiritual successor to Guardian Cross, it combines RPG quests with first-person zombie hunts and, of course, traditional card game elements like deck-building. Players assemble a loadout of zombies to take down threats in both quest and arena-based settings, and when not actively hunting down the undead, they can upgrade or discard their “deadman” horde.

Shinichi Tatsuke produced not just Deadman’s Cross but its predecessor as well, and his interview with T. Blake Braddy illuminates Square’s interest in pursuing a more West-focused strategy for their mobile RPG market. Deadman’s Cross is available on Android an iOS platforms.

BD: It seems as though card games are making a comeback. What do you think is responsible for the rise in mobile-based card battlers as a genre?

I believe it stems from the natural synergy between card games themselves and the mobile platform. Not only are you able to take the cards you’ve collected with you, and game basically anywhere on the go, with recent smartphones gamers are able to enjoy the illustrations at a very high quality, enhancing the overall aesthetic experience.

BD: What is the added benefit of cards as a gameplay mechanic in Deadman’s Cross? What do cards offer that other kinds of mechanics do not?

Through the medium of cards you are able to express many different art styles by working with several unique artists, which allows for multiple levels of originality regarding the overall art style and feel of the game environment. Through the use of the card medium, not only is one able to express realistic graphics, but it is also very easy to mass produce content. It is for these reasons that we chose cards as the main gameplay mechanic in Deadman’s Cross. Of course, the same could be said of something like 16-bit graphics in terms of mass production, but with that style of art you tend to lose the charm and fear of the zombie element, something that I feel is key in this sort of gaming experience.

BD: Explain the main gameplay types and how they impact one another. So far I’ve seen Hunt, Boneyard, and Jobs sections.

Obtaining zombies by hunting, and then fortifying one’s horde is the foremost important aspect of the game. This process is further supported by the items obtained through side-jobs, where you can collect more in-game currency (hardware) as well as food items to power up the stats of your individual zombies. In the end, the ultimate goal is to pit your zombie horde in the Arena versus other players to obtain better and stronger prizes, as well as limited-edition zombie cards.

BD: In what ways has Deadman’s Cross improved upon the player experience found in the predecessor, Guardian Cross?

First and foremost, the UI has come a long way compared to its predecessor. Quality of life improvements such as the ability to select and use multiple items at a time, as well as the location and ease of access to confirmation buttons, etc., are something we really focused on while developing the game. We also improved upon the sheer number and diversity of side-jobs in Deadman’s Cross, in order to help the player deepen their understanding of the in-game world.

BD: It feels very much like a Japanese style game. Are there different types of card battle RPGs? If so, what are the characteristics of each?

Yes, the game was developed in Japan but is very much designed to appeal to western players.

Much like Guardian Cross, which was developed by the same team, Deadman’s Cross offers far more than strategic and in-depth card battles. Players can complete jobs for a host of NPCs to reveal their unique storylines and unravel the secrets surrounding the cause of the zombie apocalypse. Players can also team up with others from around the world in a Clan system, and together tackle missions with large-scale objectives.

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BD: For those who don’t play a lot of card-based games, how does this game distinguish itself? What makes it unique and innovative? What are some traditional card battle RPG elements, and which ones does Deadman’s Cross employ?

The primary appeal in Deadman’s Cross is found in that it is not just a card game, but a zombie game. In this sense I am very confident that not only fans of card games, but fans of the zombie entertainment genre itself will be very happy with what we’re doing. Moreover, the sheer amount of story we’ve been able to add to this game is something very unique, offering players a level of depth and fun that isn’t usually found in the free-to-play mobile space.

BD: How does the game balance player experience so that veterans of card-based RPGs will be challenged and new players won’t be left behind?

The Arena is split into different levels respectively for beginners and veteran players. Moreover, we plan to create a hierarchy of side-job difficulties as well to help nurture new players, and keep challenging the more hardcore audience at the same time.

BD: Building and maintaining a strong zombie lineup is key. Beyond rarity, what should be the strategy for assembling a collection of Deadmen?

It’s safe to say that a strong initial strategy is to bring your fastest Deadman to the front of your lineup to try and take the first attack, giving you an early advantage. Beyond this, it is important to remember that even when a Deadman may seem weak, if it possesses a debuff, its strategic value goes way up. For example, placing a debuffing Deadman in front of a stronger card will, in effect, make that card even stronger, enhancing the capability of your deck as a whole.

BD: Could you explain how clans and multiplayer work? In what ways are players able to interact, trade, and face off?

You work together with the members of your clans to complete side-jobs on a larger scale. For example, this could be something such as “using 20 clan members, capture 100 bird-type zombies.” Upon completion of said goal, you are awarded with a number of different items based on your personal level of contribution to the clans’ effort. As far as other multiplayer aspects are concerned, there is of course trading, as well as the ability to “support” one’s friends in-game, offering you daily access to extra items via the lottery system (where if you’re lucky enough, you can get your hands on a ★5 card here as well).

BD: I tend to drift very quickly away from mobile games. What will keep players coming back, day after day?

Well, the first important thing to do here is make sure the game continues to remain interesting by listening to the players’ feedback and keeping content fresh. Beyond this, there is a daily log-in bonus system, limited-time events, and pretty much always a reason to log in everyday to see what’s going on.

BD: Are there plans for additional content, like new cards, mission types, or a higher level cap?

New cards, new side-jobs, as well as raising the level cap are things we plan to implement regularly. We are also currently planning the addition of a completely new system to the game as well.

BD: Are there plans to expand Deadman’s Cross into other platforms, to expand it and bring it (or something similar) to consoles?

Yes, we are currently considering not only portable platforms, but consoles as well.