Culdcept Saga Interview

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, February 8, 2008

Back in 2003, a small US branch of Japan based electronic company NEC released Culdcept for Playstation 2 to American audiences (the company has since closed down its US branch). Combining a card game with a Monopoly esque setup and quite a bit of depth, the game became an underground hit. Now nearly five years later Namco Bandai has picked up the rights to the Xbox 360 sequel of sorts, Culdcept Saga. We had the chance to speak with Nobu Taguchi, the localization producer of the title, in order to learn more about what was new in the sequel and more.

To start off, please explain how Culdcept Saga’s gameplay works for our readers who are unfamiliar with the series.

The core rule is very simple: Your goal is to achieve a set amount of Magic points and to cross the finish line to win the game. In order to do this, you play as a character on a board, which we call a “Map”, and you roll a die and use cards allocated within your playing hand to occupy spaces on the Map. As you occupy spaces, you gain points towards your goal. Also, if an opponent lands on your space, they pay a toll in the form of Magic points, which also is totaled towards your goal. Of course, there are quite a number of ways in acquiring Magic points to reach your goal, and the strategy of how to approach it will be quite different between the play style and choices made by each player. In the simplest terms, you want to be the first to finish lapping the Map with the required amount of Magic Points. In your journey to collect Magic points, you control and battle for territory, level up your lands, and take Magic points from your opponents. So, really, the rules are quite simple, yet, the more you get into the game, the more complex and fun it gets, as you strategize to maximize your position against your opponents.

Turning to the other end of the spectrum, for those who are familiar with the original Saturn/Dreamcast iteration or the Playstation 2 port, what new elements can be found in Saga?

The game’s biggest new feature is the online capability. Due to the nature of the game being a “people’s game”, we wanted to include this online function in order to have people play against other people, just as those who play board games and collectible card games do. This feature alone, will surely double, triple, quadruple, the experience people will have in enjoying the game. Also, we were very concerned about balance, so we revisited the card list to ensure that this balance was there and that no single card will have dominance over others. We believe the balance has been made extremely well, and this will lead to many variations of matches and strategies, enabling everyone to have fun in getting themselves ready for a fun match. Of course, we also did many other adjustments and introduced new features, such as including an offline versus betting feature, making a brand new story line for those more attuned to playing single player, and more. In regards to the Maps and Cards, every single Map is new to the series, which include some new types of territories, and while we revisited some previous Cards and updated them, we also added over 100 brand new Cards. We are sure that the game will not only entice newcomers, or those who are looking for something different, but will also give a new and invigorating experience for our fans of the past games as well.

Give us some background on the story in the single player game.

First, we had a very renowned author, Mr. Tow Ubukata, handle the script for the story line. The story line uses the core concept within the Culdcept series, in that the Culdcept was a powerful book that was broken and dispersed throughout the world, in the form of fragments of cards which certain people have the ability to use. Some use the power for petty personal gain, whereas others use the power for the greater good. In this story, a young person finds himself having the power to control the Culdcept. Through a series of events, he learns of his powers and goes forth in an effort to prevent imminent danger of the world being put into war. As he goes through the events, he learns of many things which engulf more than just the war itself… Well, I don’t want to spoil all the fun here, so I’ll let our players experience the rest of the story and hopefully they will enjoy it as much as I did as well.

Though the focus in Culdcept has always been on gameplay over graphics, how do the graphics in this title compare to the previous one?

We wanted to be sure that we maintained a similar look to previous games in the series while providing the kind of visual update people expect from a game on the Xbox 360. As such, we kept a very simple route of displaying beautiful 2D graphics with a refined level of 3D as well. The in-battle sequences also hold true to the previous game, in that we did not want to over indulge in animations to the extent that it slows down the actual game play. After all, no matter how great it may initially look, the more a person plays, the more irrelevant such repetitive animations can get. As such, we kept to the core values of the graphics within the series, while at the same time, trying to maintain a level so that none of the graphics will overwhelm the player, taking away from what is actually making the game the most fun: the actual game play itself.

What multiplayer options will gamers have, and how will the game be supported via the Xbox Live Marketplace (will content continue to come out post release)?

Through Xbox LIVE, players can compete against other players throughout North America, battling with cards and strategies they each have set-up. We have many different criteria which can be set prior to initial match creations, from limiting the number of cards being used, to changing Magic goals, to setting Sudden Death matches, to even making Alliance (team) matches. With the plethora of criteria to choose from, the potential combination of match types is endless.

In regards to Marketplace, we had initially thought of creating additional cards, but we decided against this plan, since we did not want to make any unfair advantages between players, just because one opted to pay for boosters whereas another didn’t. As I mentioned earlier, the key word was “balance”, and we went through extensive thought to come to this decision, to ensure we brought a title to our players, to make everything as fun and enjoyable as possible. In line with that, since we decided to opt out of making cards as downloads, we thought that it would be rather hypocritical to create other content, when the core item was not going to be pursued. That does not mean we are ruling it out. We will be looking at our community and keeping an eye out for things to make sure we can accommodate and help expand the community in any way possible. Hence, we’ll keep a keen eye out to see how this title goes before making any other action.

We know that Kenji Ito is once again handling the soundtrack for the game, but what can we expect in terms of voice acting?

We have a very talented pool of voice actors participating in the game. We put precedent of making sure we give as much of an experience as possible to our players by incorporating voice acting which fit nicely within the persona of each character depicted. The result is a very fluid and fitting voicing within the game, which we believe and hope others will also agree, is very befitting for the game.

How hard was it to localize a game as big as Culdcept Saga and how long did it take?

Since the Japanese version was, to some extent already translated, it was a fairly smooth process. We did, though, find out that there was still a large portion of the game needing localization (card data, Help function etc). Due to the intricate nature of the game, we needed to ensure that the translations would not confuse our players and we also needed to make sure that the terms would be culturally acceptable and understandable. This was just a tip of the iceberg in localization. We also were involved with licensing of the game, legal confirmations, marketing correspondences, control and management of development issues, setting up of quality assurance, etc. So really, in term of localization, there were quite a number of issues to handle, which in turn took us until recently to say that we have finally finished the localization of the product. But, I can assure everyone that everyone’s wait was well worth it.

What will Namco Bandai be doing to promote the title and make sure card game fans know about it?

This a great question. The promotional aspect of the game started way back at E3, when we presented the game to press for the first time. We then took the game and hosted tournaments at PAX convention in Seattle in August and in New York at the New York Anime Festival. We also put out a single and multiplayer demo in OXM and on Xbox LIVE marketplace. The game will also be in iGames centers across the country.

What is Namco Bandai’s relationship with OmiyaSoft, and will this result in any future partnerships (such as the Armodyne series perhaps)?

Well, we are very happy to have had the wonderful opportunity with working with OmiyaSoft and all the other members that were involved in creating the game. NAMCO BANDAI Games America is committed in bringing innovative and quality titles to the US market. As such, we definitely would like to work with OmiyaSoft, as well as all others again in seeing what we could introduce to our gaming public.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

We hope that everyone will give this unique game a try, and that you all get hooked onto the amazing mixture of adventure, luck, and strategy! If you haven’t checked out the demo yet, I recommend you head to the Xbox Live Marketplace to do so. See you all online!

For more information on Culdcept Saga, visit its official site at http://www.namcobandaigames.com/games/culdceptsaga/ and also read our write up of the title here. Thanks again to Nobu Taguchi for taking the time to answer our questions. Look below for a picture of Nobu showing off the game.

nobu

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