10-7-22 - Dan Burdick

Verses co-founder and lead game designer Dan Burdick discusses democratization of game design, open-sourcing Verses, and games that have inspired him.

Outline

  1. <a href="#1">What are you doing to avoid feature creep and make a game that emerges from beautifully simple parts?</a>
  2. <a href = "#2">What’s next for the game?</a>
  3. <a href = "#3">Did you think about making a collector’s paper edition of the game?</a>
  4. <a href= "#4">Will users be able to create their own maps?</a>
  5. <a href= "#5">Is it possible to get stuck in a scenario because my deck doesn’t have the right cards?</a>
  6. <a href= "#6">Can you find cards through gameplay?</a>
  7. <a href= "#7">What games have stood the test of time for you?</a>
  8. <a href= "#8">Will foundation cards give you an advantage in actual gameplay?</a>
  9. <a href= "#9">What does the game design process look like?</a>

<div id="1" class="anchor">What are you doing to avoid feature creep and make a game that emerges from beautifully simple parts?</div>

Andy Wilson

 0:01  

Okay. Hello, everyone. I'm Andy Wilson. And with me is Dan Burdick, the head of Lead Game Design at Verses and also co founder of the company. How's it going, man? Good. Thanks. So, let's just start off with, I guess the first question on our list, which is, with the design space as large as Verses has, what are you doing to avoid feature creep? And you need to make a game where the complexity emerges from beautifully simple parts.

Dan Burdick

 0:44  

Yeah, that's quite a question. So this person is right to think about it as something holistic that it's created through simple parts, rather than a game that gets bloated through feature creep. And, you know, that's exactly my approach is to think about things holistically, every feature in the game, you know, every way you can engage in the game, how can it be constructed in such a way that that experience for that particular player works for them, and in a way that's elegant. When we were actually working on our feature suite right now, and one of the most important things is that we don't have menus that are bloated with buttons, there isn't really complicated UI to navigate. In fact, whenever you load up the game, and you are immediately launched into a screen that feels like you're in inworld. So approaches like that, where the screens are really elegant and minimalist. And you get to focus on gameplay, rather than navigating complicated UI is one of something that will be a hallmark of verses. So yeah, this person probably thinks pretty deeply about games. And the right that games should be made up of simple parts that flow together in elegant ways. And one of the big ways to do that is to make UI that is very intuitive. And where it feels like you're playing the game the entire time instead of navigating complicated menus.

Andy Wilson

 2:40  

Yeah, that's, that's great. I know, this is something you think about a lot. I remember, it was definitely something that came up over and over again, during our Game Jam. Which, you know what my next question is, is can you tell us a little bit about what game design is working on right now?

<div id="2" class="anchor">What’s next for the game?</div>

Dan Burdick

 3:01  

Yes, so we are starting with the demo version of the game. So we're creating a single level, that kind of like, shows off the proof of concept. But we're also working on a whole lot of overall content through the eyes of the onboarding experience. So there'll be a campaign where players can play long form single player adventure. And so thinking about our content development, through the eyes of the of that log form, onboarding experience, is how we're thinking about content. We're developing each of the Verses and in their own distinct way, thinking about each of the levels for each of the Verses, and what will be unique about each particular Verse. And, yeah, so working on lots and lots of content.

Andy Wilson

 4:04  

And the idea is that when someone lands on the page, they won't have to, like it'll, it'll be very streamlined and fluid as possible. Like they won't have to, you know, connect their wallet before they play anything. They'll just be able to jump right into a game, right?

Dan Burdick

 4:20  

Yes, absolutely. The game is free and in every sense of the word. It's totally accessible without having to jump through hoops. You can, you can just get started right away. And then there'll be all kinds of awesome features when you connect your wallet or do any of the things that go along with creating an account, but we wanted the game to be as accessible as possible. So yeah, it's you when you go to the when you go to the site when you load up the app. right away here, you're playing.

Andy Wilson

 5:02  

I bring this up because this actually happened to me a few a few days ago where maybe this last week where I saw an ad for a game, and I was, Oh, sweet. And then I clicked on the ad on my phone and then brought me into a website. And it was like this. You know, this is not for this not a mobile games desktop only. And then like, also, you have to connect your wallet for you before you even start. And I haven't I haven't played the game.

Dan Burdick

 5:26  

Right? Yeah, it just hasn't happened yet. Yeah.

Andy Wilson

 5:35  

I was actually gonna go to our next question on the on the list here. Which is, did you think about making a collector's paper edition of the game?

<div id="3" class="anchor">Did you think about making a collector’s paper edition of the game?</div>

Dan Burdick

 5:47  

Yeah. So I came from, you know, a paper, tabletop card game background, growing up with Magic and Pokemon, games like that. And I think it's absolutely on the table to make a collector's paper edition. It could have, you know, once you get into AR and things like that, it could have some really neat features. You know, certainly having QR codes and things embedded into the cards, so that they can have interface with digital. It's not something that we currently have, that we're currently working on. But it's absolutely something that I think could be a really cool feature.

Andy Wilson

6:37  

Yeah, and it'd be, it'd be cool to have Verses on on my physical table, partly just because the art is so beautiful, but at the same time, the game is mobile, like it's a digital game. And I feel like it's so engrained in mechanics that it could be challenging to build.

Dan Burdick

 6:54  

I think, probably, if we, like this person asked about like a collector's edition, you know, which could just be a fun way of having my paper versions of cards. But another approach could be to make a tabletop version of the game at some point. You know, maybe something that's got things in common with Gloom, Gloomhaven, where you're actually going on kind of table ventures.

Andy Wilson

 7:21  

Yeah, and our next question is about levels and maps. And the question is, when you talk about levels and maps, do you mean that you create these yourself? Like, are you? Are you making all of the maps? Like as a team, or? So there only be like a set amount of them? Or is it something that like will be auto generated by like an engine or algorithm or something?

Dan Burdick

 7:47  

Yeah, so currently, the plan is both. We're going to handcraft a number of maps and levels. And then we're going to look into seeing in the ways in which they can be auto generated. So yeah, there's definitely the there will be a good amount of them that are completely like handcrafted by the team. Probably everything that's in the onboarding experience. And then we'll look into ways in which they can be created by algorithms to develop, like, more content.

Andy Wilson

 8:32  

And what about player traded maps? Because I know, a lot of, you know, a lot of the most popular games come with their own map editor. You know, we joke sometimes every game eventually becomes Dota. Right? Right. But is that something you foresee as people being able to create their own maps?

<div id="4" class="anchor">Will users be able to create their own maps?</div>

Dan Burdick

 8:51  

Yes, absolutely. And not only that, we're going to make all of our code open source so that people can make all kinds of content for themselves. And that's part of what I'm most excited about. You know, our team can only do so much, but once the game is in the hands of people making these mods or their own content. I think that's when we're gonna see like, a lot of the most creative things being made. And the game developing in all kinds of ways because, you know, like the person from the very first question said, the design space is large. And my hope is that like, the very best way to play or the very best level gets created by someone other than us.

Andy Wilson

 9:43  

It's kind of like how with, you know, magic are also other paper games. It's like, all the cards are just game pieces, and then the players will often find their own own ways to use them and make their own format, their own ways to play. And I feel like that's something that's been kind of lost in... in as card games moves to digital.

Dan Burdick

 10:07  

Yeah, there's, I can't even think of a single card game where there where it is open source in any way. So this is kind of new ground. Yeah, conversely, you know, being able to mod games like, although Blizzard games, you know led to an entirely new genres that, you know took over the industry making MOBAs and our auto chess games. And we want to be on the forefront of that type of revolution and card gaming.

Andy Wilson

 10:46  

Yeah, definitely. So do you do you think it'll be do if people are out there making maps,  do you predict that like, you know, contest for creating maps in different scenarios?

Dan Burdick

 10:59  

Yeah. So the first way that I think about it, because we can always figure out ways to provide, you know, some type of compensation. But the first way that I think about it is that one of our social features can be people are voting on user generated content, and then that content being surfaced. So that players can find all the best stuff. And that can be something that's an app and our social features. And then I can imagine, you know, all all types of ways in which players can benefit from creating this, this type of content. Yeah, any number of things could be generated that could actually create real value for for people who, who contribute to the game.

Andy Wilson

 12:03  

So the next question is, is, is it possible to get stuck in a scenario? Because my deck does not consist of the correct cards to handle the obstacles? Right?

<div id="5" class="anchor">Is it possible to get stuck in a scenario because my deck doesn’t have the right cards?</div>

Dan Burdick

 12:17  

That's a great question. So a lot of that comes down to really good level design. The levels being created, having their own ways of being solved, where it's not just about the cards that the players bring, but it's also about figuring out how to utilize the things in that particular scenario. To you know, accomplish whatever the goals are at that level. That's, that's really what it's gonna come down to I I like to think about the notion of failing the level moreso in the sense of semi failing, where you're, you might get all the way through the level. But if you didn't bring the right cards, or you didn't do all the right things on the level, then you might not, you may have freed the dragon, but you didn't get the dragon eggs. So the dragon doesn't join your team, and you don't get to unlock the dragon card. You know, things like that, rather than rather than dying or getting stuck. Instead of thinking about it more, as you may have gotten, like some level of when, but but not, but you didn't you weren't able to do anything because you didn't bring the right tools or you didn't navigate it in the perfect way.

Andy Wilson

 13:48  

Yeah, that would be such a major field that if you just got completely stuck behind, you know, a giant rock or something,

Dan Burdick

 13:54  

right, that's not the way levels level should be made.

Andy Wilson

 13:59  

So we talked about how cards let the characters overcome obstacles and different challenges. Do you have any examples of cards shot like game design, likes or that you kind of keep coming back to?

Dan Burdick

 14:18  

Let's see... some really beautiful ideas that we have. There's one where this character Theodoro, who is like a really refined ogre, you know, he's really charming, and you're erudite. He's got this like big hammer that you might expect an ogre to carry. But instead of destroying things, the the hammer shapes things into their finest form. So when he swings the hammer at something, they might turn a tree into a bonsai tree or something like that. And that's been a really interesting one to think about and explore because, you know how many assets you need to get created so that everything that he hits with it can turn into its finest form. And so that's a really interesting card to think about.

Andy Wilson

 15:12  

Going back to the idea of, you know, you, you rescue the dragon, but you didn't get the eggs. So you didn't get, you know, maybe you don't get the reward to get the dragon card. So one of the ideas is that players can find cards through gameplay. When when you say that, do you mean only through like, mission or objective rewards after like, you know, maybe after the level? Or do you mean that these cards are hidden inside the maps that you literally go through the map and uncover.

<div id="6" class="anchor">Can you find cards through gameplay?</div>

Dan Burdick

 15:46  

So again, it's both. Whenever there will be places you can acquire cards, during the course of a level, some of these cards might be temporary, some of them might be permanent, like going into your collection. And then there's also of course, rewards for finishing levels and doing things that are that get unlocked through progression of the narrative, such as you might unlock that the dragon character parry, once you've freed them

Andy Wilson

 16:29  

from this next question, or again, zoom a little bit away from Verses specifically, and just ask me some questions about you then. All right. Sure. So if you could be a superhero, what would your superhero power be?

Dan Burdick

 16:47  

Huh? Think my power would be super strength like the idea of being able to physically be of service when other people don't have the strength to do something.

Andy Wilson

 17:17  

So when we say super strength, how strong are we talking? Are we are we talking like you can throw a car over your head or like, so strong, you can jump up to the moon and like punch a hole

Dan Burdick

 17:27  

oh, I didn't even need any of that. Maybe just where I can, like, lift a heavy box. Probably more like lifting a car, rather than anything cosmic.

Andy Wilson

 17:42  

That's it, you know, you might be able to pull this off stand without any superpower.

Dan Burdick

 17:47  

Just hit the gym.

Andy Wilson

 17:51  

So what what games would you say have stood the test of time for you?

<div id="7" class="anchor">What games have stood the test of time for you?</div>

Dan Burdick

 17:59  

So Magic, the Gathering is a big one for me. I've been playing it since I was 14. And, you know, played it semi professionally for many years, and had the honour of being able to work on it and help them get to where they are now where they're, you know, over a billion dollars a year in revenue. And that game has really shown me that you can just that, that, that the wealth of content for, you know, a card game that's as sand-boxey as Magics ruleset is, is really limitless. So that was in less than it's been almost 30 years. But another game that really is inspiring, and I think it stood the test of time is Pokemon. Because when you ask somebody, do you play Pokemon? You know, they'll often say yes, because they've played but you have no information about what they have actually done. Because the game is expressed in so many different ways. And it truly is a franchise experience. You know, they may play the actual card game, they may have just collected some cards on the playground, they may have played a whole bunch of Gameboy games, they may play Pokemon Go. And I think that that is a really inspiring version of the type of franchise success that we're looking to create through Verses by having the same diversity of experiences that players can engage in.

Andy Wilson

 19:43  

Pokemon I never I never thought about it that way. Since if yes, what if they play Pokemon and they say yes, you don't really know. Are there any any other games that have stood the test of time for you or?

Dan Burdick

 19:57  

Yeah, I think it's also inspiring to think about how games that are exactly the same can still be played in 20-25 years later like Starcraft. It goes to show that there's so much nuance in real time experiences that, you know, the game can can go on forever, because there's so many like really subtle timing, things that can be taking place or strategic ways in which people can can mix it up and create that type of rock paper scissors experience. Another game Clash Royale, which has been an inspiration for Verses has a really small card set, I think they're up to maybe 100 cards at this point. And a really like short gameplay experience, you're playing about a three minute game. And yet, the game has really, you know, stood the test of time, and is a lifestyle game that a lot of people, millions and millions of people play still. And so much of that comes from the nuance of experience and it being real time. So that's pretty inspirational.

Andy Wilson

 21:21  

So one of the questions we have on here is asking, will Foundation cards the advantage in actual gameplay, and to our listeners who might not know what foundation cards are, when we minted, our first wave of NFT's, we minted Foundation Editions and found and Signature Editions, Foundation being one of one, extremely rare, Signature Editions having the artist signature on them being one out of one hundred. So the question here is, are those super rare of one out of one cards going to give in-game advantages?

<div id="8" class="anchor">Will foundation cards give you an advantage in actual gameplay?</div>

Dan Burdick

 22:02  

The short answer is no. They won't give advantages and in actual gameplay. But they give a type of accessibility that is pretty unique, you get every version of the card that the illustration is used for. And there's a whole lot of things that will be coming down the pipeline that will be available for folks who are who are in on the ground floor with the Foundation cards. But now they're they're collectibles unto themselves. That represent the illustrations. So we used to make all kinds of content for the game. So being able to yeah, so you know, folks who are holding Foundation Editions, keep your ears open, because there's all kinds of collectibles that will come available to you.

Andy Wilson

 23:08  

Very cool. Um, a few, a few more questions, which I'm earlier when you were talking about how you had worked on magic, quite a lot. And I know you've worked on a lot of other card games, too, over the years. And so my question is, like, what inspired you to break away from corporate game design and start your own project.

Dan Burdick

 23:38  

So we're really did it for me was just the sense that the technology was there, that we progressed to the point where user generated content is, is much more, you know, accessible to folks who want to create it. The advent of web3, the rise of web3 you know, once again, democratizing the process and really seeing that this is the type of thing we're just surrounding yourself with talented people and then people who have dreams about making games you know, the the tools are really there for people. You know, no longer it's no longer necessary to have the infrastructure of a big corporation. And then, you know, my skill set getting to the point where I felt like a direct such a such a project, and it's been really, it's been just a unbelievable experience so far. And now as we're heading into principle game design, you know, it's inspiring every way to see what everybody comes up with. So really happy that things have worked out the way that they have... I feel very lucky

Andy Wilson

 25:11  

we so we have a couple different designers that are working on burgers. Right. And I guess I'm wondering what is what does the game design process look like, you know, day to day or week to week?

<div id="9" class="anchor">What does the game design process look like?</div>

Dan Burdick

 25:25  

Yeah. So on Monday we we do our is our planning day where we figure out what what we're working on both strategically and specifically task wise that week, we assign out the tasks. And then we were totally online. We've got several people in Seattle, but you know, our entire office is digital. And so we're all meeting on our Discord actually on a private discord. And after all the tasks and our goals for that week are are decided flux work individually and then we'll work collaboratively as well. And then we'll meet with our partners MSL. And it's kind of a way of, we get together to share what we've been working on, then we break apart to work on it individually, and just do that back and forth. iterating and collaborating

Andy Wilson

 26:34  

it's been really, really cool to watch the process. Whenever I whenever I get to see what the game is Game Design game is up to it's always like, sometimes there are huge, huge leaps in what has been created and developed between, you know, the design team and MSL because I'm, I'm mostly, you know, writing a lot of stuff and then managing all of that writing and then, you know, finally, I'll get a look into what game designers do. And I'll go Oh, my God, like there's a character walking around!

Dan Burdick

 27:07  

Right, the big leap. Yeah, that's always the exciting thing because sometimes you can feel like you're you know, something's taking a while but then you really get to see what people worked on you know, once it gets shipped into the build.

Andy Wilson

 27:25  

So I we're getting kind of to the end of our time here. But before we sign off, I kind of wanted to give you the opportunity to just say anything you want to say or maybe answer a question I didn't ask but you know, you you wish I did or just just kind of pass the ball back to you and in an open forum kind of way.

Dan Burdick

 27:49  

Great. Thanks, Andy. Yeah. I think that this is a really key time for Verses you know, like you said, you know, the the design is coming coming through and leaps and bounds and our development partners doing a spectacular job. And yeah, as we as we learn more and more about, you know, the best possible ways to implement this engine that we've created. This is really like one of one of those key times and we're really starting to build like a fantastic team. We've recently brought on Mike Chen to beat our development and some other designers that are consulting for us and yeah, this is this is a really exciting time for the project. I think this is a good time for folks that have been here from the beginning to expect to see some really cool stuff coming this year out of the studio lots and lots of really really beautiful artwork et cetera coming through so yeah, I can't think of people that have followed along enough because really fantastic things are on the horizon

Andy Wilson

 29:20  

I can't wait to share it all. I'm I'm just like burning to share some of some of the stuff I've seen in the in the discord. Yeah.

Dan Burdick

 29:29  

Oh, yeah. Totally. It starts coming faster. Once you know my experience with creating games from scratch. You'll be doing a lot of theory crafting and then all of a sudden the art assets that are coming in and you know, the builds. The client builds, you know, start having a lot more functionality and that's the point that we're at right now.

Andy Wilson

 29:56  

Very exciting. Well, thank you Dan for joining us for this thing, I know a lot of a lot of people have been following us are just dying to know what's going on in the game design room so I'm glad we finally got you on one of these.

Dan Burdick

 30:08  

cool Yeah, my pleasure.

Andy Wilson

 30:11  

And thank you to all of the listeners all of the fans and supporters people in our Discord. You know what, what would a game be without any players, right? So we're just very thankful to have other people interested in the project and have been supporting us all the way through.

Dan Burdick

 30:30  

Oh, thanks, Andy.