Final Fantasy Trading Cards Games
Neuigkeiten 2020-10-30 17:36:43

The Past and Future of FFTCG: An Interview With FFTCG Designer Shota Yasooka


This week, we’re bringing you an edited version of the interview published in Card Gamer, Vol. 54, with FFTCG designer Shota Yasooka.

◆Introduction
Hello everyone. This is Kawa from the Card Gamer editorial department.

I don’t know where the time has gone, but it’s already late October, with only two weeks remaining until the release of Opus XII: Crystal Awakening. It includes a lot of features that I’m very much looking forward to, such as the introduction of Multi-Element cards as well as cards featuring new original art, so the release date really can’t come any sooner.

This week, we’re bringing you an interview with FFTCG designer Shota Yasooka, originally published in Volume 54 of Card Gamer, out on September 30th.
This is a powered-up version of that interview, with additional and more in-depth questions that weren’t included in the magazine, so there’s plenty here to enjoy for those of you who have already read the article over there as well.

Let’s get started!

▲Shota Yasooka

◆In FFTCG, his involvement is with the core elements of card design
―First of all, Yasooka-san, will you please tell us about how you’re currently involved with the production of FFTCG?

Yasooka:  I work on what is the foundation of the designs for cards to be included in each set. I make decisions on the individual frameworks of the overall sets, thinking about things like “let’s set this theme for this set” or “let’s include a new ability that’s like this.”

Kageyama-san, the producer, then looks at that and says things like, “okay, in that case, let’s give that ability to this sort of character,” and infuses the feeling of this being an item for fans of the Final Fantasy series, as in the “flavor” element that enriches card games.  

Subsequently, I work with the debug team to figure out how to plug everything into the actual game. We keep making adjustments, after which I give the GO sign for what we’ll ultimately proceed with.

―So the beginning and end portions of creating the game are handled by you alone.

Yasooka: Yes. I’ve mentioned this in another interview, but when multiple team members work on foundational design, we tend to end up, for instance, with a set that’s noticeably heavy in Summons, or with an imbalance among abilities incorporated into each element. This creates a need for additional steps in order to adjust those. To avoid that happening, I handle the initial design by myself.

Of course, that isn’t to say I go ahead and make any decision I want. I run ideas by the members of the development team beforehand, for example, so that I can absorb their input before approaching the design process.

◆The appeal of FFTCG, in designer Shota Yasooka’s mind
―The twelfth set from the “Opus” series, Opus XII, releases in November, but if you include the older “Chapter” series, there are almost 30 sets out so far. What makes FFTCG, which has been loved for over all this time, so captivating?

Yasooka: Between the “Chapter” series and the “Opus” series, there is a slight difference in the ideas behind development. For the “Chapter” series, we approached it with the idea of: “let’s create a game that gives people a challenge that they can sink their teeth into.” In contrast, the goal of the “Opus” series is to create something for not only card game players but also people who like Final Fantasy, as an FF series fan item.

With these points in mind, if I were to name the source of the appeal of FFTCG as a card game, I think that would of course be “how high the degree of freedom is.”

In FFTCG, the general flow is that you cast Backups that generate CP, and once your foundation of CP is set up, you cast other cards such as Forwards. However, discarding a card from your hand also allows you to generate 2 CP worth of cost, so it’s also possible to play with the sort of attitude like, “Hah, I’m not going to play any Backups!” And in FFTCG sometimes, it can turn out that that sort of play isn’t rash or foolhardy; it can end up that that’s what finishes an opponent who has a slow start.

Even with a control deck, you can step on the gas pedal sometimes, or you can pump the brakes while using an aggressive deck if you want. I think that what people find appealing is that you can adjust your play style to whatever the situation calls for, and players are able to change how their decks function to fit their intentions.

Even when players use the same recipe for an FFTCG deck, the way that deck functions changes quite a bit depending on the player using it. This can be said not only for playing but also construction, but you can imagine it as though you’re solving a puzzle that has several solutions, while continuing to readjust in response to your opponent.

And I think people feel like, solve the puzzle well = victory; playing a good game makes them feel happy, and they enjoy it.

◆Let’s ask about Multi-Element cards, which appear in the latest Opus XII set!
―Opus XII finally introduces Multi-Element cards, which possess multiple elements. Will you please tell us about what led to their inclusion?

Yasooka: In FFTCG’s most prevalent match format, which is the “Standard Constructed” format, there’s no “rotation” of cards. Older cards can continue to be used indefinitely. So, we needed to get past the wall at some point. And we thought, well, this might be a good time for that. By making them Multi-Element, we’ll now be able to create cards with effects that hadn’t existed thus far, which I think will give players a lot to be surprised and happy about.

―Was there anything that you struggled with in introducing and designing Multi-Element cards?

Yasooka: We did struggle quite a bit (laughs). For example, casting a card in FFTCG requires the payment of at least 1 CP in the element possessed by that card. So, we ran into a few issues we needed to solve, such as “what happens if some sort of effect from a card reduces the cost of the Multi-Element card to 1?” Ultimately, we decided to instate a rule saying, “it cannot be reduced to 1.” But it’s a bit complicated, because it can go to 0 (laughs). Because if it’s at 0, no cost needs to be paid. There aren’t many abilities that reduce cost to 0, but there may be more introduced in the future, and this might become something that’s a bit sticky when it comes to Multi-Element cards.

*Check out this article to learn more about rules for Multi-Element cards!

―How do you think Multi-Element cards will affect the game’s environment?
Yasooka: They’re slightly more difficult to handle than mono-element cards because they require you to prepare CP from multiple elements in order to cast them, but when you discard them to pay CP, you can generate either of the two elements of that card, so I think these might contribute to decks becoming more multi-elemental. Thus far, there haven’t been many decks with three or more elements, but I’m hoping that we’ll be seeing more of those with the introduction of Multi-Element cards.

Additionally, many of them are powerful as individual cards, so I want people to get a taste of that power. For example, cards like Regis [12-122L] have abilities that are only permissible because they’re Multi-Element.

Although it comes with conditions that must be fulfilled, a 5 CP card that enables you to place three Forwards all at once is power unparalleled by anything that has appeared in FFTCG thus far. Of course, there are times when it’ll be rendered powerless through Break Zone strategies and such, but the power of when you pull it off is extraordinary.

Additionally, among Multi-Element cards, it’s actually those with a cost of 2 that are most difficult to design. That’s because in order to avoid any waste, you must prepare exactly 1 CP of each element. As such, I think you’ll find that 2 CP Multi-Element cards, overall, are on the stronger side. Therefore, methods to allow the reuse of 2 CP cards, such as the Summon Phoenix [3-020H], for example, might see a resurgence.

In terms of Opus XII cards, Fenrir [12-068H] is one that lets you choose an Earth Forward of cost 2 in your Break Zone and play it onto the field. With the introduction of Multi-Element cards, it may be good to have another look through methods like these that enable the reuse of lightweight Forwards. 

Other than that, another thing with Multi-Element cards that left an impression on me is the fact that not only was designing their abilities difficult, but the visual designs were quite a challenge as well. The top left portion of the card indicates its elements, and although I wasn’t the one directly facing those particular challenges, it’s an area that everyone was mulling over quite a bit.

―This question isn’t limited to Opus XII, and instead covers other recent sets as well, but in our last interview, you mentioned, “Eventually, I’d like to implement enhancement effects and such that remain permanently across turns.” This was implemented in Opus XI in the form of “counters.” Would it be okay to consider this change similar to the introduction of Multi-Element cards?

Yasooka: Yes. With the “Opus” series exceeding its tenth set, we felt that new features were probably necessary, as you might expect. As such, we decided to introduce cards that use counters. Also, when we gave out dice as prizes during shop tournaments in 2019, we found that they were well received, so maybe I also thought, “well, you must all have them at this point then, right?” (laughs).

― I had no idea that the dice giveaway was just a way to get us ready for the introduction of counters…… (laughs)

Yasooka: Jokes aside, I do feel that by introducing counters, we were able to gain some new depth in the game’s design.

For example, Orphan [11-025H] retains characteristics expected of an Ice Element but is also able to break Forwards that aren’t Dull, and I think this is an ability can be considered innovative. Currently, the mainstream method still seems to be “save up counters and do something.” However, we may eventually create cards that possess one counter from the start and is able to use that to trigger a powerful, one-time-only ability. 

―Currently, many of the cards that use counters are Monsters. Is there a reason for this?

Yasooka: If many counters were to be placed on Backups and Forwards, which are cards that players handle frequently as they dull and activate them, playing the game would become complicated, so for now, we focused on creating them as Monsters, which have fewer chances of being dulled.

―Are there any new features that you’d like to implement next?
Yasooka: Someday, I’d like to introduce tokens (Forwards, Backups, or Monsters that are indicated using substitute cards, for example, instead of using actual cards), but it did take over two years since I said, “I want to create cards that use counters” in our interview last time, so please be patient with me (laughs).  

―Moving on to Opus XII, an innovative card there is Amaterasu [12-002H], which has received an overwhelming response since its reveal. The Fire Element, which gained the strength of “damage that cannot be reduced” in Opus XI, now gets a kind of counter (i.e. cancelling the opponent’s action) feature on top of that. The former feels very much on brand for the Fire Element, but the latter is something that we might imagine being more of an Ice or Wind, for example, or perhaps Water Element feature.

Yasooka: The Fire Element’s feature of dealing damage to Forwards is also built into strong cards of other elements, but at the same time, it also tends to be more prone to effects of abilities that “reduce/don’t receive damage,” which are conscious of elements like Lightning and Ice. Dealing damage is an effect that all elements have, so inevitably, it was weak as a defining feature for the element. Therefore, we decided to give it its very own strength, which is that it “cannot be reduced.” Although this, too, is a “damage dealing” effect, we wanted to give it something to set it apart from the others.

―Did you add effects like those of Amaterasu [12-002H] to the Fire Element for the same reason?

Yasooka: Yes. However, I do feel that it’s in a slightly different vein than similar obstructive features of Wind or Water Element cards, for example. In contrast to the “obstructive” qualities meaning more along the lines of “counter” or “jamming” in Wind and Water, for Amaterasu [12-002H] we were going for more of a “preemptive attack” or a “so ferocious it reflexively stings anyone who moves” sort of flavor. It’s less about inviting action from your opponent only to dodge and catch them off guard, and more like striking them the moment they step foot into your domain.

― I see. I’d venture to say that does seem quite like what I’d expect from the Fire Element. Amaterasu [12-002H] seems like it’ll be used quite a lot in the game’s upcoming landscape, and although I’m looking forward to it, I’m also scared (laughs).

Yasooka: Considering the introduction of Multi-Element cards too, it may be a good idea even to step back and rethink your selection of Forwards from the ground up. Whether it’s to accept the risk of Amaterasu [12-002H] and use an 8000 Power Forward, or to use cards that have over 9000 Power to withstand Amaterasu [12-002H], I can’t wait to see what the players decide to do.

For a while now, for the Fire Element, whether it was “Fire/Ice” based around category VI, or “Fire/Earth” for WOFF,  there was a bit of a strong “partner element” feel to it, but with the introduction of cards like this one, I’m looking forward to the possibility of seeing more decks centered around the Fire Element as the main element.

◆What can I do to get better at FFTCG?
―I’m often told, “FFTCG is a difficult game.” There’s a part of me that thinks that, too, so what kind of practice is good for improving at FFTCG?

Yasooka: I mentioned this earlier, but the nature of FFTCG shifts depending on the players themselves, their opponents, and how each match unfolds. Meaning, it’s a game that is “relative,” not “definite.”

Therefore, I think the key to becoming the strongest possible with a certain deck is to “get a good understanding of that deck and fully familiarize yourself with how it feels.”  Even if Player A and Player B were both using decks following the same recipe, the “right” way to play would be different for each of them. And, FFTCG has been created in a way that makes that possible.

For that reason, perhaps the shortest path to improvement would be to first find a deck that suits you, or try creating a deck based around a character you like from the FF series if there’s anyone in particular that comes to mind, and keep using that deck until you’re completely accustomed to it.

―So you’re saying it’s more important to keep playing with your own deck rather than to copy a strong deck.

Yasooka: Even if I’ve looked at a deck recipe and know, “okay, this deck is generally like this,” once I actually use it, there may be gimmicks that come to light that I hadn’t initially noticed. Therefore, having a detailed understanding of your deck becomes quite a crucial and key point to gain the upper hand over your opponent. As in, “turns out I can do this, too.”

◆Cards featuring original artwork are now a staple. Which one is Yasooka-san’s personal favorite?
―Ever since Opus IV, which marked their introduction to FFTCG, cards featuring original artwork by creators involved in the FF series have come to be included. Yasooka-san, which card is your favorite?

Yasooka: Among more recent ones, I like Mira [11-122H] and Tonbetty [11-119C]. I think that the original illustrations in Opus XI by Yasuhisa Izumisawa shatter preexisting conceptions of FFTCG in a good way. That goes for both the illustrations themselves as well as the outer frame portion, for example.

Thinking back a little further, I also like Lann [10-017R] and Reynn [10-020L] from Opus X, which I think are cute. Although, in the case of Reynn [10-020L], her ability wasn’t very cute at all and she went on quite a rampage (laughs).

When I’m designing abilities of cards, if it’s one that features original artwork, in many cases we won’t have the art yet at that stage, so once it’s actually in the form of a card with the text included, I’m often caught off guard and find myself thinking, “the illustration is so cute!” (laughs).

◆Which FF series character does Yasooka-san want to include in the future?
―Are there any characters that haven’t yet appeared in FFTCG but that you want to include?

Yasooka: That would be Wiegraf and Milleuda from FINAL FANTASY TACTICS (*Editor’s Note: Yasooka-san is a huge fan of FFT). It’s not just that I want them to join – I also think there are more than a few players who are hoping for that to happen, too. Most of the characters who appear in the main storylines already appear in FFTCG, but I’m dissatisfied that there still aren’t that many from FFT (laughs).

She and Wiegraf, and also those of the Knights Templar like Fomarv, as well as Beowulf and Reis, and Construct 8 – there are a lot of great characters there, so I would love to have them join.

Other than that, I would be happy if we could have Omega and Shinryu from FFV join. During the “Chapter” series era, “Omega [XIII-2]” from FFXIII-2 was included as a card, but we still don’t have an Omega or a Shinryu based on FFV, so I would love for that to change.

― When the “Opus” series was first released, the impression I got was that there were a considerable number of cards that retained the “Chapter” series feel, but I think that now, the “Opus” series is moving forward on its very own path. Were you conscious of there being a watershed moment for the “Chapter” and “Opus” series?

Yasooka: That wasn’t something we were very conscious of at all. I think the “Opus” series has progressed to its current form naturally. I think a reason for the cards that felt similar to the “Chapter” series going away is maybe because we got through a first run-through of creating cards featuring main characters. No matter who it is, every character’s first card will be based on how that character is perceived on the most straight-forward level. That’s why they ended up being similar when they appeared in both the “Chapter” and “Opus” series.

▲The image on the left is Aigis from the “Opus” series (original art by Akira Oguro), and the image on the right is Aigis from the “Chapter” series. The Chapter series Aigis has a “Link” Keyword, which is an ability that lets you play 1 Forward that meets certain element and cost conditions from your hand onto the field when this card enters the field.

But with the “Opus” series moving forward as well, we’ve been able to cover most of the titles’ characters for now. The Multi-Element cards that appear in Opus XII are included among these, but I think there will be more cards that are distinctive to the “Opus” series that will appear in the future. For example, characters from FFXV or following Heavensward in FFXIV, titles that weren’t around during the “Chapter” series’ time, are being released more and more, after all.   

◆ Thoughts on seeing FFTCG now being played globally
―FFTCG was brought overseas after becoming the “Opus” series, and is now a very vibrant scene in North America and Europe. Please tell us how you feel about having a game that you made be played even outside of Japan.

Yasooka: First, I’m just honestly very happy – that’s the main thing. At the same time, it makes me feel strongly about how the FF series is so deeply loved overseas as well, and I want to continue to provide a game that those fans will enjoy.

▲From the 2019 FFTCG World Championship in Los Angeles. Producer Kageyama (center) and players from all over North America.

It isn’t that the significance of gaining a fanbase overseas is simply “it’s popular overseas”; I think what’s really great is being able to be part of a shared culture with players outside of Japan.  

I’m not able to do this currently due to COVID-19, but I myself went through a period of time where I travelled the world as a card game player, and during that time, even if I was in an unfamiliar place, I was able to interact with local players through the game. That’s led me to where I am now, so it makes me very happy that FFTCG has created a common ground for players in Japan and overseas.

This isn’t necessarily just talking about players overseas, but one of the best parts of card games is that they become a tool for “interacting with people you don’t know,” so it makes me feel happy that FFTCG has now become one such tool.

Communication with people overseas generally defaults to English, so non-English speakers may feel a bit daunted by that, but if you keep at it, you’ll find yourself naturally improving, and people you speak with will listen to you with the intention of trying to understand what you’re saying, so as long as you put in the effort of trying to convey what you want to say, they’ll get it. Also, conversing with native speakers provides real-life practice in English, so you’ll probably improve quickly. I hope that players in Japan and overseas continue deepening their bonds in the future.

―This might not be limited to FFTCG, but are there any points that make you think, “this is different,” about Japanese or overseas players when it comes to deck direction or their approach to the game?

Yasooka: This isn’t about whether one is better or worse, but I do think that Japanese players tend to perceive the game in a more competitive way. In contrast, my impression is that many players overseas are putting their hearts into fan decks that feature characters they truly like, or into their collections. You might say they focus on what they love.

I feel like what happens is that there are a lot of people who love the FF series to begin with, and now, the player population is greater overseas than in Japan, so people get together there and have fun playing casually. From there, ideas for truly powerful decks arise, and those pop up at major tournaments like the World Championship and surprise us.

◆The game’s soon-to-come new environment, and a message for the FFTCG players
―This is the last question, but FFTCG will reach a new environment with the release of the new Opus XII booster packs on November 6th (Friday). Do you have anything you’d like to share with all the players who are eagerly anticipating its arrival?

Yasooka: Opus XII is a set that was originally supposed to release in July, and it was over a year ago that we were working on creating it. At the time, we couldn’t have imagined that the world might ever be in this situation, where even playing a card game is no simple task. I think there are players out there who are feeling frustrated with being unable to have big events and such, whether in Japan or elsewhere. In spite of everything, and although this would be talking about after next year, we are exploring how we might provide a place where we can all play FFTCG together again somehow. I hope you’ll continue to support FFTCG along the way.

Opus XII has many more amazing cards in store for you, so I think the game’s environment will see a noticeable shift. I hope you’ll enjoy this exciting new environment.

―Thank you for your time today.