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The Story of Some Cards

by Charlie Plaine, Chairman

4th June 2010

A long, long time ago, on a design forum far, far away, the Design Team for Life From Lifelessness (LFL) had a plan. That plan was that every faction, affiliation, group or spiritually-aligned cult would get something they could enjoy when the expansion was released. The "everybody gets one" philosophy was a major motivation behind the design of LFL, and it meant that we'd need to find something useful for the dreaded Delta Quadrant affiliations.

There are a lot of opinions about the Delta Quadrant affiliations, and very few people think highly of the Kazon, Hirogen, and Vidiians. Even though these affiliations are reviled by a large number of players, they do exist and there are players that are fans; it would not be fair to deprive those players of something new in our first virtual expansion.

The back and forth early on created and rejected a few verbs for these Delta Quadrant affiliations before finally settling on the creation of three new mission specialists. Several of the game's affiliations - including the Delta Quadrant's own - did not have mission specialists, and the design team thought they would be a "safe" addition to the game. Thus, Kazon Mission Specialist, Hirogen Mission Specialist, and Vidiian Mission Specialist were born. (And yes, those were their names!)

One of our volunteers spent a lot of time creating a very useful tool for the design teams - a spreadsheet listing the number of skills that existed for each of the affiliations in the game. A quick examination of the skill matrix and we had useful classifications and skills for this trio of mission specialists.

Initial testing didn't lead to much feedback, and the design team didn't really give these mission specialists much thought. However, after two or three versions went by, the testers started to grumble about giving love to the already fast-and-powerful Delta Quadrant affiliations. "It makes them too fast," said one group. Another complained, "They shouldn't be able to use Assign Mission Specialists in addition to all their other tricks."

Not wanting to rock the boat that much, the designers made the decision to cut all three of the mission specialists. In an instant, "KMS, HMS, and VMS" disappeared into the ether and new cards were drafted to take their place. As an interesting side note, this is about the same time that a lot of the anti-[DQ] dilemmas made their debut.

A few weeks later, Jason Robinette and I were having one of our regular phone meetings about the expansion, when he brought up the point that we'd strayed from one of our major design goals. We'd cut all of the cards for any of the Delta Quadrant factions (except the Borg, but that's a discussion for another day.) We wanted to put something in, but we didn't want to risk the 'even more power creep' that a mission specialist would give these factions.

Suddenly, it was as if a light turned on inside of our heads. If they were too good as mission specialists, then maybe we shouldn't make the mission specialist. Knowing that being a support personnel wouldn't be much better, Jason and the design team decided to upgrade each of the trio to the non-standard, non-downloadable, universal personnel that you see today.

Are you wondering where these characters got their names? Well, in the fine tradition of Decipher... they were made up. As we were working on finishing up the expansion (which necessitated naming these characters), I sent a message to Brad DeFruiter and asked him how they came up with the names for their characters. He told me, plain and simple, to just make them up. To look at the existing character names, slightly modify them (even as little as changing one letter), and call it a day. So when someone asks you what's in a name, you can tell them!

Do you have more questions about these cards - or the others - in Life From Lifelessness? Visit the Boldly Going forum and participate in the Designer Q&A! And don't forget to return here on Friday, June 11th and get your copy of Life From Lifelessness!


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