‘Calculords': Saving the Galaxy with Basic Arithmetic
It’s a Wednesday evening. You’ve just come home from work, exhausted, ready to unwind. You kick off your shoes and put on your comfy pants – the ones with the big hole in the crotch and the chocolate stain from 2006, because only God can judge you – and stretch out on the couch, only to find yourself stuck in that age-old dilemma. Do you play a collectible card game on your phone, or do you solve a series of basic arithmetic problems?
Fortunately, noted internet comedian Seanbaby has solved this classic Sophie’s choice with his new mobile game, Calculords. It’s a collectible card game where you unlock new cards as you progress to build a deck, except instead of using mana or land or other resources during battle, you add, subtract, and multiply a stash of numbers in order to get the value listed on the card and play it on the battlefield. It’s a tough game to explain, but it’s quickly addictive and completely unique.
We spoke with Seanbaby about his first foray into game development. Read our conversation below, and download it FOR FREE (whaaaat) for iPhone or iPad.
Man Cave Daily: What were some of your favorite games while you were growing up?
Seanbaby: I played every game I could when I was a kid. River City Ransom and Romance of the Three Kingdoms were the ones that spent the most time in my NES. In the arcade, I loved any Double Dragon clone, although WWF Superstars was my all time favorite machine. All of them have entrenched themselves somewhere in my mind, but when it comes to formative games, SNK: Card Fighter’s Clash, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, and Final Fantasy Tactics are the most inspiring. As soon as I start playing one of those I spend the next few hours daydreaming about making video games.
MCD: Where did the idea for Calculords come from?
SB: Something is wrong with the part of my brain that relaxes, so I have dozens of game designs that range anywhere from 40 page fully-illustrated documents to a scrap of paper that says “Final Fight, right, but except TIME TRAVEL.” Calculords was my most refined and probably most unique idea, so I focused on it.
It also solved a problem that I think all card games suffer from– the first five turns are devoid of any decision making. I wanted a card game where you could use both your frontal lobe and your good cards immediately. For that, the math stuff in Calculords works better than my first idea: a card game where you just skipped to the sixth turn. And my second idea: punch myself in the dong and scream nerd.
MCD: It’s such a strange combination of games (CCG and arithmetic) that it seems to me like you wouldn’t know if it works as a game until you actually had the game in front of you and could play it. Was that the case? Were you developing it blindly, hoping it would be a fun and functional game? Or was it earlier on that you realized you’d hit on a great formula?
SB: I actually made a really crappy board game version of it first to make sure it worked, but there is so much stuff going on every turn took forever. It wasn’t terrible, but I was sort of trusting that the dorky thing we were doing would start getting fun if it was going 60 times faster.
MCD: I imagine with a game like this, there was a lot of tweaking and balancing and refining — was the development process different from what you expected?
SB: Almost everything was a struggle. Every change you make from the original design adds work in every direction. Something as simple as changing someone’s name from FART-MONSTER-NAME-TO-BE-CHANGED-LATER to LASER TANK often involved three database modifications, a revision control disaster, a long discussion with a programmer about where the FART-MONSTER-NAME-TO-BE-CHANGED-LATER graphics went, and a haywire AI who can’t figure out what where its FART MONSTER went.
My point is, holy crap, yes. As I made the game, I changed virtually everything. Some stuff sucked, and other stuff seemed clear to me, but insane to everyone who played it. It was my first game and I was reinventing several kinds of wheels, so I wasn’t very shocked to find out my freshman ideas were stupid and/or confusing. I had a publicly-educated mind and Google, so it’s not like I went in completely clueless, but I was at least 70% dumbass when I started making Calculords.
MCD: Are you looking to develop another game after this? Any lessons you’ve learned from Calculords that you’ll take with you into the next game?
SB: I can’t wait to make the next game! We are still adding things to Calculords including Android support, multiplayer, and new bosses and cards, but my next game is already being drawn and built. It’s kind of like Calculords in that most of the reviews will be two pages of someone merely trying to describe what the hell they just played. It’s a mystery, strategy, fantasy RPG set in the late ’80s in a game within a game. I’ve started describing it as Viva Piñata meets Elder Scrolls with Pokémon, Gone Home, and text adventure elements. That’s certainly word salad to you now, but I’m hoping it will make sense to you by the end of next year.
Seanbaby’s cleverly addictive Calculords is out now! Download it for FREE (again, whaaaaat) for iPhone or iPad.