September 3, 2014 9:00 AM | Lena LeRay
Anyone who's played Final Fantasy VIII is probably familiar with Triple Triad, a card mini-game which permeated the game's setting and captured the hearts of (or generated a great deal of frustration in) many players. Developer Aeterna Studios is working on Eminence: Xander's Tales, an MMORPG which has a Triple Triad-inspired card game for its battle system. Beyond that card game core, the team has plans to harness some of the characteristics of MMOs for community building, exploration, and storytelling.
The game is to take place in a world caught in a cycle of destruction and rebirth. The world is entering another period of destruction, and a long-lived legendary alchemist named Xander seeks to prevent the cycle from continuing. He remembers the last time this happened, and as one of his disciples, the player must help Xander in his quest. Meanwhile, though, alliances between the four nations are breaking apart and war is rearing its ugly head. The four nations have different balances of alchemical and technological advancement, giving the game a bit of a fantasy steampunk feel.
The card game in Eminence: Xander's Tales is rooted in Triple Triad, and as with its spiritual grandpa, players will take turns placing cards on a 3x3 board. Each card has a number on each of its four sides; placing a card adjacent to an enemy card which has a lower number on the facing side will flip the enemy card (and possibly chain flip other cards). It's a game of strategy in which a single match is short but can really test a player's thinking skills. Eminence will expand on the formula by including advanced rules that the player can unlock.
Players will be able to play versus other players or versus NPCs at will, all in a single environment. Before a PvP match can begin, players will need to agree on a rule set, using the rules that the least-progressed player has unlocked. They can also adjust the stakes of the match, letting the winner take one or more of the loser's cards if both players agree. It sounds like it will be a fair system; players can't start a match unless both agree to the rules and more advanced players won't be able to throw special rules at newer players who are unaware that those rules exist.
There are going to be other ways that players will be able to gain more cards, too. Cards will be given as quest rewards, players can trade cards or craft new ones, and there will be a marketplace with an auction house and the ability to buy card packs. The game will be free to play, but will only have a single currency that can be earned in game or bought with real world funds. Players will also be given a free card pack every day. The developers have stated a commitment to making the game fun even for players who aren't willing to spend a dime.
The things I've talked about so far are just scratching the surface of what the Aeterna Studios team wants to offer. Their Kickstarter page is massive, with lots of images and good details about their plans. Guilds with houses and guild dueling; information on how the difference between the card and environment art is connected to the story; some samples of the wonderful music they're already working with; and more. It's clear that a lot of thought has gone into the whole thing and although ambitious, it has the potential to be something special.
Their funding goal is £50,000 (approx. $82,000 USD), and if reached will allow them to make the game for iPhones and Android phones. Their stretch goals include tablets, Windows/Mac/Linux, browsers, OUYA, and other consoles, in that order. Since the game will be free to play, just about all of the reward tiers are for in-game items and/or the ability to help design elements of the game. If you are unwilling or unable to donate to their Kickstarter project but would still like to help Eminence: Xander's Tales, you can also vote for them on Greenlight.
Update: This article originally stated that the base funding goal would cover iPhone development only. At about the same time this was published, Aeterna studios announced Android support as an additional base goal.