Interview with Endogenesis Creator, David Goh
Endogenesis is a beautifully illustrated competitive strategy game that pits 1 -5 players against each other as they compete to construct reality itself and ascend to godhood. First and foremost, games are designed to be fun, but from time to time we stumble across a game that is as remarkable visually as the rest of its design. Today, I’m speaking with David Goh, the creator of just such a game.
What’s your background in gaming and what inspired you to pursue game design?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been surrounded by gaming. In my younger years, the medium of choice was video games, from old-school RPGs like Chrono Trigger to thriving new releases then like DotA. As I grew older and entered my twenties though, I was slowly steered towards tabletop gaming due to its social nature. There’s just something about sitting down with a group of friends at board game night that video gaming just isn’t able to replicate!
Having been surrounded by games all my life, I knew I wanted to make them ever since I was 15. Regardless of medium, I believe that games are the next greatest art form, and that’s why I’m obsessed with them! There’s something really fun about taking them apart and studying them, and try to understand how some games can be so engrossing, and others evocative. The idea that games are really just a collection of rules, visual aids, and predictable logical outcomes that combine to captivate the human mind with a compelling experience is just mind-blowing, and still is to me.
My delve into tabletop game design began with a fan-made card game called ‘Final Fantasy Boss Battle.’ I made it as a birthday present for my wife, and it was put together quickly in two months as it was intended to be less of a working game and more of a really cool looking gift. We played a couple of games with our friends at board game night, and while the game was clearly unpolished and a little frustrating at times, it was actually fun for a few sessions.
Seeing how I had created something that brought enjoyment to the game night table, I felt inspired to keep creating, if only to make games that my friends would enjoy. And so I did! Over the next 9 years, I’d designed prototypes to bring to the table. Many were pretty much trash, while some had potential. One other project that went beyond the table was ‘The Award Winning Game‘, which I worked on as part of a team of two. While we did bring it to Kickstarter a few years back, a combination of inexperience and logistical difficulties led to the project not succeeding, so we published it via The Game Crafter instead. Having a group of friends to test out game concepts has been such an amazing learning experience, and I’m glad to have such patient friends!
I’m really enjoying the art direction. The game components are just stunning. What were your inspirations?
A key point of inspiration came from vintage star charts and star maps. The idea behind referencing star charts came about while I was initially deciding how the universe of Endogenesis would look. How does one portray an entire universe feels completely alien from ours? This wasn’t just in a different galaxy — it was an entirely different reality, with its own physical rules and destiny.
To that end, I decided that the simplest way to do this was to avoid trying for a realistic portrayal of that universe. Instead, I imagined how the inhabitants of the universe would have illustrated their visions of how they perceived their surroundings instead — not unlike how early humans would make rudimentary cave paintings of their environments to store information. In doing so, the Endogenesis universe could actually be made to feel even more alien, since an exact representation of that reality is never seen.
With that direction in mind, I researched the ways humans have of recording observations and information across the ages. I eventually settled on star charts and runic symbols as a key visual reference. Star charts have an amazing aesthetic that feels foreign and esoteric, but mesmerizingly detailed. Combined with the use of astronomical symbols, I sought to create an art direction that gave the sense that you’re peeking into this whole other alien universe through the perspective of its inhabitants.
In Endogenesis, players compete to become gods by obtaining prisms. Can you talk a bit about the different ways they can go about doing that?
So in the game, Prisms are obtained through only one method — by slaying Legendary Monsters. There’s also a Distortion called “Exhume” which temporarily allows a player to steal a Prism from another player if they slay them, but generally Prisms must originally be sourced from Legendary Monsters. Because of this, no matter what strategy a player adopts, they must have some capacity to defeat Legendary Monsters in order to have a chance to win the game. But because of the many skills and the strategic combinations they offer, players are given the freedom to build a character however way they like…. as long as it’s a powerful one!
There are three realms in the game: The Realm of Knowledge, the Realm of Chaos, and the Realm of Wonder. How do each of these decks introduce different strategies?
The Realm of Knowledge is the primary source of all player’s power, in that it provides Skills and Energy to use them. In most cases, you’d want to always draw cards from this realm, as more cards mean higher potential in finding good Skill combinations and more Energy!
The Realm of Chaos is the source of obstacles and challenges, but also rewards should you overcome said obstacles. The Monsters that appear act as an additional AI-controlled participant in an already chaotic free-for-all battle between players, and Events and Distortions create unpredictable situations that may force players to rethink their strategies on the fly.
The Realm of Wonder provides moments of awe and power in the form of very rare one-use cards, but requires players to invest in improving their health in order to access them. When played optimally, Wonder cards have the potential of swinging the game in your favour! Because of this, often time when players are in a pinch, they will bump their Health points up to be able to draw a Wonder in hopes of a miracle.
What are some of the more unique combination strategies you’ve come across during play testing?
I can think of two that were particularly interesting. In one game, a certain player went completely defensive with Reaction Skills, only sporting one active Ultimate. Endogenesis is a game where you generally need to be proactive to succeed, but in this playthrough, everyone else was incredibly aggressive, so being the only one to turtle up with Reaction Skills actually worked as an interesting strategy. The player eventually won the game with a well-placed use of “Warp,” allowing her to steal the kill of a Legendary Monster and therefore acquiring 3 Prisms!
The other was a player who used the combination of the “Echo” and “Mimic” skills. Echo allows another Skill to be used twice in the same round, while “Mimic” was an Ultimate skill that copies the effects of other player’s Ultimate Skills. By combining these two together, the player was able to pull off very interesting and powerful combinations that arose from using two different Ultimate Skills in a single turn — something that’s impossible given that players can only equip one Ultimate Skill.
How does Endogenesis solo play work?
In solo mode, you pit yourself against everything that the Realm of Chaos has to throw at you. You must defeat all Monsters, Legendary monsters and empty out the deck, while making sure that you do not die or run out of cards to play. That’s because unlike the normal game mode, there are no resurrects or deck reshuffles! As such, players must not only focus on survival and defense, but also be mindful that they spend their energy efficiently.
Furthermore, the difficulty of the game increases as you clear through the Realm of Chaos. Initially, you’re only going up against one Monster at a time, just as how it is in the normal game mode. But for every Legendary monster that you slay, the Realm of Chaos expands a little, opening up a new slot for a new Monster to occupy. This expansion occurs until you’re up against 3 Monsters at any given point of time!
Because of the new victory condition, Prisms no longer serve as victory tokens, but instead can be discarded to deal damage. However, they also serve as de facto “point tokens” — if you’re able to destroy the Realm of Chaos entirely without using your Prisms, you’re the undisputed champion of the solo mode!
Do you have any plans for expansions in the future?
I don’t have any solid plans yet, but with how well the live campaign is going, I think that I most definitely want to do one in future! There are lots of great ideas in the Kickstarter comment section on how an expansion could be like, and I just can’t wait for them to try the game and share more ideas and thoughts!
What stretch goal are you most excited to share with players?
It’s the one I’ve just shared in the last week of the campaign — an ornate poker-size coin that’ll serve as an active player token. I personally love the feel of a beautiful tactile coin that feels heavy on the palm and I think a lot of board gamers like them too. I’m so happy to be able to include this in the game!
If you had unlimited time and funding, what’s the one thing you would want add to Endogenesis to make it stand out even more?
So many things… but I’ll just keep it to my top two! I’d want to do multi-layered game and player boards, complete with indents so that players can insert the components. I’d also want to do actual crystal shards that look similar to the current cardboard pieces, complete with deep colour gradients, inner fractures and textures give off a prismatic glow when it catches the light.
Thanks for talking with us David!
If Endogenesis seems up your alley, you’ll have to move fast. There’s less than two days left to back the game on Kickstarter and get your copy!
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