Interview with Claire Racine of Malkyrs Studios
As technology develops and new technologies emerge, old industries will seek ways to create something new by means of integration. History’s recorded first mention of playing cards was in 868CE in China under the Tang Dynasty. Five hundred years later, they made their way to Europe where they evolved into the format we’re so familiar with today. Far more recently, competitive trading card and collectible card games entered the market, with the most famous one, Magic: The Gathering, debuting in 1993. Since then, other CCG and TCGs, both physical and digital, have tried to take its place. Malkyrs, currently on Kickstarter, aims to combine these two worlds.
Malkyrs is a trading card game that uses near frequency communication to scan cards in an online version of the game where players can duel one another, sort their collection, and upgrade their cards. Using a Switch joy con, NFC enabled phone, or NFC USB device from Malkyrs Studios, players can scan their champion and action cards into the game and compete online. As a fan of Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering, and Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, I wanted to know more. Thanks to Claire Racine, we got the answers we were looking for.
What is Malkyrs and what does the game’s title refer to?
Malkyrs is a trading card game with the particularity of having real cards that can be played online. Furthermore, every card can be upgraded the way that the players wants.
Malkyrs is also the name of our studio. It comes from the divinities that created and reign over the universe we created for the game. In the beginning, the game was called “Malkyrs Arenas of Eternity”, but our beta community shortened it to “Malkyrs” so we did the same.
Tell us a bit about Malkyrs and how the physical and digital game components interconnect.
In your hand, you have physical cards, inside each of them is one NFC chip, the same technology used with Amiibos, Skylanders, and contactless payment. When you put your card on an NFC reader device, it will scan the information of the chip. Every card has a different ID so when you upgrade it, it becomes unique!
With a hybrid game like this, I’m curious to know where you started. Did you begin in game design or technology and what did that look like?
A little bit of both! The idea comes from the reunion of four friends. Two of them created a physical card game in a unique fantasy world and the other two worked in a company that co-created the NFC technology. They met up one day and realized that they could create a really unique game and maybe one day play it like in the manga Yu-Gi-Oh!
Of course, they had different prototypes of gameplay and NFC devices that have been refined until now.
In terms of your influences, have you been a fan of trading card and collectible card games before this project? What made you want to start this project?
We have all been really mad about card games since we were teens. We all played Magic: the Gathering and Hearthstone of course. And nowadays, at almost every lunch we try different card games. (For example, now it is Keyforge!).
For fans of the genre, what existing game do you feel Malkyrs most closely resembles?
I use to say Malkyrs is a big mix between Hearthstone and RPG games, without too many random effects. Indeed, you play with cards and have a champion that has an ability, like in Hearthstone. But every card represents actions and the effects of these actions are directly linked to your champion characteristics, like in RPGs.
How does combat work and what are the different modes of play available in Malkyrs?
There are two type of cards: champions and action cards
You can put one champion card and ten action cards in your deck. However, you can only have one legendary card in your deck.
All action cards can be put together with any champion, but they will have more synergy with some champions than they would with others. For example, if I am a warrior and I use the fireball card it will not deal as much damage as if I was a magus.
You will play in a duel and put a card after your opponent card. Most of the time one turn is the same as playing a single card. Your card will be active only when your opponent responds. With some cards, you can put special counters on your opponent to add effects on your actions. Some other cards also have a special keyword. One of them is “Paralysis” and the effect is your opponent will only have five seconds to play their next turn.
Then every champion has a passive ability that you can change a bit when you evolve your champion. For example, one of my favorite champions is the goblin Nevardie. He has half of the other champions health point, but the first time he dies, he will revive with all his life and double his power for two turns. And when he evolves, you can change his ability too. The first time he dies, he revives with four times his power for two turns, but he only has twenty health points.
Today (in the beta), we can play against a random opponent at our level, against a friend online, or against someone on the same device sharing one NFC reader. We plan to create a solo campaign beginning with a tutorial for the release of the game.
What are some of the different classes of champions and abilities featured?
There are twelve playable champions and they all have different ways to be played. We will unveil each of them step by step during the campaign. We’ve already featured:
- The Onadrïl:, a time witch
- The Lyceran: a strong and defensive warrior
- The Swiftblade of Maden: a polyvalent warrior
One of the most satisfying parts of dueling games are the ability combos. What kind of combination moves can backers expect to play with?
In Malkyrs, there are so many combinations that I don’t know where to begin. Most of our champions play with special counters that will add effects to their cards or improve their special abilities.
There also are combos you can do with some equipment if you equip your champion.
When players scan their cards into the program, what options are made available to them?
First of all, they will create their deck on the deck manager. They will have to scan, name, and register their champion. Then add ten action cards of their choice in the deck.
Then the player can choose between the several game modes we propose: on the same computer/console, against a friend, a quickplay against someone with the same level, or the solo campaign. In all these different modes, he can complete one of the many daily quests we have.
There is also a tournament section held by trusted associations or partner shops, where you can compete against other players in three matches. In that game mode, you can have a sideboard and change up to three cards in your deck between every match.
And game after game, the player will be able to upgrade and equip his champion, which can change all the strategies.
What kind of world building lore can players expect to find when scanning their cards?
The lore has been created before the entire game. It is a complex fantasy world with different races and divinities fighting for territory and power. It is a world of alliances, war, and revenge. It was inspired by classic heroic fantasy literature, but also our own History.
Currently, the lore is not really explicit in the Beta. You can only find some clue in the lore text of the cards. But it is our will to make it appear on the solo campaign, novels, and other media.
It’s great to see that Malkyrs will be coming to both PC and Nintendo Switch. For the sake of my own curiosity, what were some of the programming challenges that you encountered while developing for both systems?
Our main challenge was to link the Malkyrs accounts to the Nintendo accounts. It was hard, but we succeeded!
Then we had some difficulties to master the NFC reader in the joycon of the Switch because it was not the same program used by Nintendo and the NFC we use on PC. Today, all cards are compatible with Switch and PC.
Our last challenge is to adapt the computer interface to a much smaller screen and navigation with joystick and buttons. We already made some progress, but we still have some work until the game releases on Nintendo Switch.
How does the card upgrade system work and what kind of bonus can players expect as their cards improve?
For champion cards, they will unlock a relic slot and a trait slot. They will be able to improve and sharpen the special ability of the card and equip their champion with relics that give them great bonuses.
For the action cards, the evolution does nothing by itself. However, when several improved action cards are in one deck it will give you a bonus.
Are there different upgrades that can be in earned in the campaign that can’t be earned in multiplayer?
At the end of the campaign there will be a title that you can display under your champion’s name and favors (in-game money, that helps you buying relics and upgrade your cards).
We are thinking about other surprises, but I don’t want to say too much. You will have to finish the campaign to discover it all!
Once players have started to improve their deck, how does multiplayer balance the upgraded abilities of newcomers and more experienced players?
First of all, the improvement always comes with a price. If you improve your health you might decrease your resistance for example. However, we have a matchmaking system that will match you with someone with the same level and win-rate ratio. If nobody has the same win rate ratio, you will encounter an AI with your level.
Trading card games are heavily dependent on the release of regular expansions. What are your plans to continue supporting Malkyrs?
We plan to make several expansions.
We already experienced that system in our beta and the release extension of the game called “Journey to Enardem” is the reunion of all the card we released before.
However, we do not want to make stupid extensions that get more and more powerful. We want our early gamers to be on an equal footing with players that are just beginning. That’s partly why our cards do not have the precise effects written on the physical card. Indeed, if we need to boost or nerf some cards, we can do it!
After working so hard on the game, I’m sure it would be difficult to pick just one, but I’m going to put you on the spot and ask anyway. Who is your favorite champion and why?
Ow! Only one is too hard! But I can narrow it to three:
- I love Nevardie. It’s a Goblin I already talked about. His power is to come back to life the first time he dies, with twice his strength for two turns. All the action cards with the best synergy with him have a fun title with puns. He often plays with a lot of combos to surprise his opponent!
- Daeris is a time magus. Her design is one of the most original of all our lore, it is at the limit between sci-fi and med-fan. Her power is about stocking the remaining seconds of her timer when she plays, and then attack with it! However, you only have ten seconds to play. She has plenty of cards to increase her timer and she can activate so many combos when her timer is short.
- The Swiftblade of Maden also has a design that I love! She reminds me Nebula from the Guardians of Galaxy! She has the most subtle and polyvalent gameplay. It would be too long to explain her power but you can find a document here. Her particularity is the more malus counters she accumulates, the stronger she is.
What stretch goal are you most excited to share with players?
Our stretch goals are surprises for the most part. But for now we already unlocked two stretch goals and each of them offers rare and legendary cards with a design exclusive to Kickstarter. But I think that the three summon cards are gorgeous.
Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?
Thank you for this interview Jason! I hope you will be convinced by the game. We already have a wonderful European community and we are looking forward to having an equally amazing US and worldwide community!
Thankfully, Malkyrs will include a cross-play feature ensuring that its community can grow without the restrictions of platform related exclusivity. So long as players own cards, a computer, or Switch, they’ll be able to play against one another from across the seas, which will be perfect for when I beat Claire at her own game.
Malkyrs has already exceed its crowdfunding goal has still has a number of weeks to go before it closes it’s fundraising on January 10th, 2019. If you’re interested in getting a set of cards, now’s your chance to get in at a starting backer level of $34. Higher tier backers get access to exclusive champions, the USB NFC reader, and other merch, expected to be delivered in June 2019.
Keep your eyes posted for more on Malkyrs as we’ll be doing a hands-on preview with the Malkyrs beta as soon as our cards finish their journey from France.