EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Hand Of Fate Creative Director Morgan Jaffit
It’s not uncommon for the mechanics of a card or board game to make their way into a video game intact. But not many of those video games are as action-focused as Hand Of Fate, which Defiant Development are making for PCs, PlayStation 4, and, as they recently announced, Xbox One. But in talking to the game’s creative director, Morgan Jaffit, it seems there’s more to this game than what they’ve laid out on the table.
First off, what kind of game is Hand Of Fate, and where did the original idea come from?
Hand of Fate is a deck building game where the player’s cards and decisions come to life as an action game. The original idea came as we were looking for interesting ways to randomize decisions in gameplay, and we settled on card game mechanics pretty early. From there, there were a whole bunch of exciting ways that we were able to tie card gameplay to action gameplay, and we just kept evolving those ideas as we developed the game further.
So it’s not based on song “Hand Of Fate” from The Rolling Stones’ 1976 album Black And Blue?
No, not Manos or Kyrandia. We’ve been asked those questions a few times. It’s just a perfect name for a game about cards, fortune telling, and fate.
And here I thought I was being clever. So what other video games do you think Hand Of Fate is similar to, and how do you think it’s different?
It’s got elements of Batman: Arkham Asylum and God Of War, mixed in with some mechanics that were inspired by such games as FTL or Binding Of Isaac.
But Hand Of Fate, as you said, also takes inspiration from some tabletop board games and card games. Which of those were the biggest influence on Hand Of Fate, and in what ways?
Dominion, which is a deck building game in which you build your deck as you play was a huge inspiration. Also storytelling games like Tales Of The Arabian Nights and card based fantasy like Talisman, along with some inspiration from games which broke the rules as you play like Cosmic Encounter.
Hand Of Fate has its roots, obviously, in fantasy. And, as you know, all fantasy has to be influenced by The Lord Of The Rings. But what other books, movies, comics, games, and TV shows were an influence on the fantasy aspects of your game,?
I was raised on Tolkien’s offspring: books and games of the ’80s that drew from that well pretty deeply. If you look at the direct influences on Hand Of Fate, gamebooks — especially Fighting Fantasy and Grail Quest — feature pretty heavily, as do the early such CRPG’s as Ultima. The Dealer character is very much inspired by Ultima’s fortune teller.
Funding for Hand Of Fate was done through Kickstarter. How, if at all, did that impact the way you made the game, or how the game will ultimately turn out?
It basically encouraged us to make the game playable much earlier than we would have otherwise, which has been great. We put a build out every month and get feedback from our players, which has helped a lot in refining the game and making it as good as it can be.
One of the interesting things that you have added because you exceeded your initial Kickstarter goal is that you’re going to have an optional but hidden quest designed by David Goldfarb, who was the lead designer on Battlefield 3 and the game director on Payday 2. Why did you go to him as opposed to, say, Cliff Bleszinski (Gears Of War, Unreal Tournament), Vince Zampella (Call Of Duty, Titanfall), or Ted Price (Ratchet & Clank, Sunset Overdrive)?
David has been a sounding board for me for years, and I respect his opinion on games more than pretty much any other designer. So it comes down to personal relationships more than anything else. I have also always wanted to work with David, and this was a great chance to do that on a small scale.
When he turned in his ideas, did anything about it make you think you should’ve called him much earlier?
Oh, I did call him earlier. He’s offered some great feedback all the way from our pitch forward. I do think if we were lucky enough to have him on the team full time we would have built a very different game. David has an amazing eye for building narrative and gameplay in a way that draws in a very wide audience, so it would have been interesting to see what he did with it.
Are there plans to reach out to other big-name developers? Cuz there aren’t any listed on your Kickstarter page.
I have some guests who I hope will develop some contributions. It’s always fun to see what other people do with the framework we’ve built.
It was recently announced that, along with the PC and PlayStation 4, there would also be a version of Hand Of Fate released on the Xbox One. How, if at all, will these versions be different?
Other than tying into the native resources there — achievements, trophies, etc. — we’re trying to offer the same experience to all of our players. We are in the middle of optimizations at the moment, and it’s going really well.
Since the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Hand Of Fate will obviously be played using a controller, is it safe to assume that the PC version will support controllers as well?
Absolutely. We’ve spent a lot of time getting our mouse and keyboard controls to be as solid as possible, but we built the game from the start with controllers in mind.
Finally, Hand Of Fate is not the first game made by Defiant Development. If someone liked Hand Of Fate, which of your other games would you suggest they play next and why?
Probably Heroes Call, which is an action RPG for mobile/tablet. We built on a lot of the lessons we learned there to create Hand Of Fate.