Children of Zodiarcs - A new Tactical JRPG by AAA veterans
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Children of Zodiarcs is a story-driven, single-player Tactical JRPG that combines traditional strategic gameplay with the thrill of collectible cards and craftable dice!
Do you wish there were more indie games inspired by Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force, Tactics Ogre, and the best of Tactical JRPGs? Us too!
Children of Zodiarcs comes from our deep love of these games, as well as board games and collectable card games like Magic: The Gathering. We decided to bring these two passions together to make a game that would resonate with fellow fans of Tactical JRPGs, and also add to the genre in fun and exciting ways.
Zodiarcs is a game that engages you at every moment with a sophisticated story, memorable characters, and gameplay that provides countless opportunities for strategizing the ultimate victory.
The core team at Cardboard Utopia is made up of AAA game industry veterans. Collectively we have worked on games like Eternal Darkness, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, The Warriors, and Far Cry 3. We have been in the trenches and know the rigours of top-quality game development well.
Zodiarcs is being developed for PlayStation 4, PC, and Mac and will launch with English and French language support to start. On that front, we already have a "Coming Soon" Steam store page up! You can check it out here! Feel free to add it to your Wishlist and Follow it. Doing so shows to Valve that people are interested in the game and helps with our visibility on the Steam front page.
"At the heart of an evil empire, a group of young outcasts rebel against the corrupt system that holds them down..."
Infiltrating the chambers of a decadent noble, they intend to steal a priceless relic, but what awaits them is more than anyone bargained for. Relentlessly pursued by the authorities, they make a desperate escape, seeking refuge in the city's seamy slums and sunless underground catacombs. On their trail are heavily armed city guards, rival bandit gangs, and a clan of subterranean cannibals. Can a motley crew of outsiders survive this vicious world without sacrificing their own humanity?
Children of Zodiarcs is a very personal story for us at Cardboard Utopia. As lifelong fans of JRPGs, we grew up with stories of amazing fantasy worlds, relatable and memorable characters, with surprising (often shocking) plot twists. Recapturing those emotions and that sense of wonder is one of our company's primary motivations. We have been developing the world of Zodiarcs for over a year now, making sure to create a rich universe, full of mysteries and unexpected revelations.
As a story-driven game, unique and memorable characters is something very important to Children of Zodiarcs. Here are but a few of the the characters you will meet in the game.
Nahmi and her companions are forced to run and fight for their lives against the elite city guards ordered to capture them. Worse, even the Toran nobility is equipped with the latest in Zodiarc weaponry, and will show no regard for the lives of the thieves they are after. To emerge victorious you will need to use everything at your disposal, and not be afraid to fight dirty, flank, and corner your opponents.
Combat is about much more then planning, however. Your ability to adapt to the unexpected will be tested at every turn. In Children of Zodiarcs, every action (attacks, curses, or even special abilities like stealth) take the form of cards that heroes draw at random from custom decks they carry into combat. Do you save that powerful attack for later, or come up with a new strategy on the fly? As cards are drawn, so is your strategy.
This is not to say you have no control over luck - Zodiarcs is a game of planning. Outside of combat you will build a deck of cards for each of your heroes. While you will always know WHAT is in your deck, you won’t know WHEN you will get it, making each card draw an opportunity for new strategies to emerge. Make yourself more lucky by crafting better odds for your heroes.
Each hero has their own strengths and weaknesses; Nahmi is quick and deft whereas Brice is reckless and deadly, even to herself. These traits are expressed with symbols etched on Zodiarcs' dice. Your heroes will carry their own set of dice into combat that you roll for each card played. These symbols can vastly affect the outcome of the card. Learn what each hero is capable of to unleash devastating effects upon your enemies.
As with cards, your chances to get the dice outcome you want is also influenced through customization. Outside of combat, you will craft and equip the dice your heroes bring into combat, effectively stacking the odds in your favor. Want a die with more swords for stronger attacks? Equip it. Don't have one? Craft it using collected loot dice as ingredients in a recipe.
The ability to build your deck of cards and customize your dice makes combat in Children of Zodiarcs about how well you can adapt to changing situations. It took us months of prototyping to find the perfect balance between tactics and influenced luck, but we put the prototype into the hands of Tactical JRPG fans and they have been excited about what we have to offer.
- Plan your actions and fight by pushing and flanking your enemies.
- Play your cards and roll your dice to increase your damage or get that extra turn to finish the job.
- Influence luck by building your deck of cards and crafting your dice to maximize the chances of the outcome you're looking for.
Getting attacked triggers a Counter-Attack, allowing you to still be on the offensive even during the enemy's turn. But watch your back! Exposing your backside opens you up Back-Stabs that cannot be Counter-Attacked and cause greater damage.
Use ranged attacks and high-ground to your advantage to attack enemies without them being able to reach you!
Play Your Cards Right
Children of Zodiarcs was heavily inspired by the tactical gameplay of tabletop card games like Magic: The Gathering.
Each of your heroes has their own deck of cards for battle that you add to throughout the game. In combat you play these cards to perform attacks, use abilities, or cast spells. You can combine the effects of cards to create chain effects. Each card drawn from your deck opens up new tactics, making it a moment of great anticipation; that next card you draw may turn the tide of battle!
Cards work together with dice. Some cards have special effects that are triggered with certain dice symbols.
You will be able to customize your dice to support the deck you have built for each hero.
Build Your Deck of Cards
New cards are unlocked in Children of Zodiarcs for each hero as they level up, opening new deck strategies with each new card. Children of Zodiarcs has no microtransactions and there are no booster packs purchased with any form of paid currency in or out of the game.
Between each battle, you will need to revisit your deck in the Deck Builder to add or remove cards and craft that deck to match exactly how you want each hero to play. Each hero's collection of cards supports multiple play-styles. Play! Experiment! Share your builds with the world!
Luck has always been a factor in tactical games in the form of success / fail percentages (ie: XCOM) or dice rolls hidden behind the scenes (every Dungeons & Dragons video game ever). Other than performing actions to try to adjust those percentages by a couple of numbers, you have little to no control over the outcome, let alone an answer as to why your 95% chance-to-hit missed!
Our solution to this is to make those results obvious, intuitive—and best of all—to put the control in your hands!
First, our dice do not determine ultimate success or failure, but instead reflect varying degrees of success and alternate outcomes. We use symbol-based dice, with each symbol having a different effect. This means that each dice roll gives you different outcomes that can benefit you in different ways.
Second, you will actually shake and throw the physically simulated dice in-game, creating a greater investment with the results you get. Be honest. How many of you have a special ritual when rolling dice? Do you blow on them? Shake them a certain number of times? We don't judge! :)
With these systems in place, the results feel intuitive and fair. Enemies also use the same system for rolling their dice, so there's no secret developer cheating going on here. BUT, our system of dice rolling has an ace up its sleeve! With each roll, you'll get a second chance to select which dice to re-roll. Maybe this time, you'll get that extra sword you were looking for...
This system of re-rolling came out of our lengthy prototyping period, but it was what really brought the idea of "dice" together, helping us find that balance between tactics and influenced luck. (Thanks, Sam and Denis!)
Customize and Craft Each Hero's Dice
Customization and influencing luck is a big part of the Children of Zodiarcs experience. Each hero is equipped with their own set of dice for combat, with dozens of different dice types available to choose from.
As you progress through the game, you will find randomly dropped Loot Dice. Equip these dice on your heroes to match the play-style of their deck of cards.
The emphasis on dice is taken even further by letting you craft dice, customizing the symbols on each side. You will use collected Loot Dice as ingredients in the different crafting recipes. Through collecting and crafting, you can build the perfect set of dice unique to you!
Long ago the Heralds came from a dying world, bringing with them the Zodiarcs: arcane machines that allowed the user's will to manifest as reality. The people of Lumus were in awe of the Heralds and made them kings and masters of the world. Thus began the Age of Apex, a time of incomparable beauty and advancement. The Heralds built great nations and the people prospered under their wisdom and guidance.
But the descendants of the Heralds did not share their ancestors' wisdom. They used the power of the Zodiarcs against one another in a terrible war that nearly destroyed everything, ending the Age of Apex.
Over time, the people of Lumus forgot about the Heralds and their Zodiarcs, the ruins of ancient cities buried under mountains of sand and rock. But eventually they were uncovered, and their secrets revealed once more. The ruined temples of the Heralds were rebuilt, and their stories told again. Zodiarc Relics from the Age of Apex were reverse-engineered and their power harnessed. Lumus stands again at the doorway to a new golden age, a time when anything is possible...
Torus, Heart of the Empire
The corrupt Toran Empire has harnessed the power of the Zodiarcs to swallow up much of the world, draining resources and profiting from the misery of the conquered. At the heart of the empire lays the city of Torus, a place where rich and poor are polarized to their limits.
Here are a couple of the Torus districts you will visit in Children of Zodiarcs.
The Nobles' District - In the gilded towers of Torus' Nobles' District, opulence is everywhere. The treasures of a dozen conquered nations clutter their residences while decadence and entertainment dominate their lives. The pleasure chambers, hanging gardens, and menageries tell of the nobles' disinterest in the banality of common life, to the point that they carelessly dump their uneaten table-scraps down to the Shambles below.
The Shambles - The majority of the city's population occupy the ground level beneath the shadow of the Nobles' District. Virtually abandoned by nobility, the people who built Torus are supported by neither the taxes of the Empire nor the protection of the Army. Left to survive by their own means, the Shambles are overrun with crime and violence, but there is still joy in these blood-soaked streets, evidenced in the vibrant music and colourful murals of people struggling to find meaning in an uncaring world.
The Underworld - Below the streets of the Shambles is a world lost in shadow. Once the guts of an ancient city from the Age of Apex, it now crumbles away like a forgotten mausoleum. Here, huddled beneath giant turbines and stone aqueducts, are the untouchables of Torus’ social order. Traitors, liars, cheats and murderers, too vile even for the low standards of the Shambles, with nowhere else to escape to. Rumours of their foul lifestyle abound, but not many can truthfully claim to have seen them and lived to tell the tale...
Music is one of the big reasons we're such lovers of the JRPG genre. Some of the most amazing and memorable soundtracks in all of video games have accompanied JRPGs.
For Children of Zodiarcs, we wanted a soundtrack just as memorable, so we're working with award winning Vibe Avenue for music composition. Vibe Avenue shares our deep love of JRPGs, and they jumped on the chance to help us create Zodiarcs. Here are a couple of samples of music already composed for the game.
Might of the Toran Empire
Legend of the Zodiarc Mirror
Children of Zodiarcs is being developed by a core team of industry veterans coming to you from the production trenches. We are lead designers, lead programmers, and writers from the AAA space. We've worked on such games as Eternal Darkness, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, The Warriors, and Far Cry 3. Combined, Cardboard Utopia represents 60 years of game development experience across 35 shipped games.
Being able to involve the community in the development of a game is a big reason why we moved from AAA to indie. As recent history has shown, Kickstarter is an incredible way to do just that. This is mainly why we are coming to this platform.
The second reason we are coming to Kickstarter is to make the game greater. In the spirit of openness, we already have the initial funding necessary to make the core of Children of Zodiarcs. We are fully committed to bring this game to life, and with your support we can extend the length of the game, add new playable characters, and expand the numbers and types of abilities giving each hero more cards to bring into battle. Onward!
Square Enix Collective is an indie outreach platform where independent game projects can get direct feedback from Square Enix Fans.
Back in September, 2014, we ran a campaign on Square Enix Collective where we received a 93% approval rating, the highest rating at the time and still one of the highest to date. Because of the awesome response Children of Zodiarcs got from the Square Enix community, the Collective is helping to spread the word about this Kickstarter campaign. Just to be clear, we do NOT get any money for being a part of the Square Enix Collective. The funding we already have comes from the Canadian government, our own personal funds, and an investment from Execution Labs, an accelerator for indie game studios.
Square Enix games like Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy Tactics, Dragon Quest, and Tactics Ogre stand out as some of our favourite games of all time. They gave us some of our greatest video game memories. Being involved with Square Enix Collective is a huge honour and a fantastic way for us to connect with fellow fans of the genre.
Digital Copy of the Game - A digital copy of the game available to be downloaded upon release through the PlayStation 4 store, Steam or a DRM-free alternative.
Your Name in the Credits - See your name in lights. Or, well, on a screen... It doesn't have to be your actual name, but cannot be the property of someone else or anything offensive.
Digital Soundtrack - A digital copy of the Children of Zodiarcs original soundtrack by Vibe Avenue for you to listen to when you aren't playing the game.
Beta access - Help us make Children of Zodiarcs the best it can be! You will get early, pre-release access to the game to help us tune, balance, and bug test the game. While the Beta will be near completion, it will still be an in-progress build with bugs and balancing issues. Available for PC first, followed closely by a Mac version.
Postcard Signed by the Team - We mail you a rad 'thank you' postcard with original art from the game, signed by the core team.
Alpha Access - Be among the VERY FIRST to play Children of Zodiarcs. You will get access to very early builds of the game and be able to give us feedback. This early version of the game will be gameplay only, no narrative, so it is intended specifically for fans looking to help us during the (barely) functional stages of game development. Available for PC only.
Digital Art Book & World Guide - A digital (PDF) Art Book & World Guide for Children of Zodiarcs. The book will contain concept art, character bios, lore, and more!
Digital Painting of You - Send us a photo and our artists will digitally paint you in the art style of the game.
Wall Poster - A sweet 11x17" poster of original Children of Zodiarcs art for your wall. You can even choose to have it signed by the core team (optional).
T-Shirt - Get a stylish, limited edition t-shirt designed by our Art Director, Erica.
Physical Copy of the Game - We send you a physical copy of the game in a cool case with original art designed by Art Director Erica. This is for all you old school gamers who like physical stuff. A PlayStation 4 physical copy is available!!
Name an Enemy - You get to name your very own enemy! Scattered among the rank and file enemies will be special, named units which will be stronger than the generic ones. Name them after you, after your dog, or make something up; it just can't be the property of someone else or something nasty.
Come to the Launch Party - Like any good developer, we plan to party when the game is done. Come to Montreal, Canada and join the fun! Must be at least 18 years old. Travel and lodging costs not included.
Your Name in the "Designer" Credits - We put your name in the game's credits under "Additional Design". It doesn't have to be your actual name, but cannot be the property of someone else or anything offensive.
Physical Art Book & World Guide - A physical (soft cover) version of the Art Book & World Guide. Will contain the same content as the digital version, but it will have that "nice book" smell.
Mini-Boss in Your Likeness - We put your face into the game. You will be one of the mini-bosses that players will encounter during battles.
Design an Enemy - We want you, yes, YOU! To work with us to design an enemy class for Children of Zodiarcs. There will be several different classes of enemies in the game and, with our help and guidance, you will design one of those enemies. Please note that this enemy will need to fit the game's art style and gameplay.
Design a Boss - Looking to help contribute to the game's design in a different way? Well, how about designing a boss enemy to stop those pesky thieves? We will work with you to design an awesome boss for all players to see and fight. Whatever your creation ends up being, it will need to fit the game's art style and gameplay.
Design a Playable Hero - This, this is the big one. With this backer reward, we will work with you to design a playable hero for all to see and play in a side campaign. We will help you nail down their look, story, and gameplay. Again, whatever the design, it will need to fit the game's art style and gameplay.
Risks and challenges
Perhaps the single biggest risk for an independent studio is not having enough money to finish and release the game. We already have the funding to finish the core game, so whether this Kickstarter is successful or not, Children of Zodiarcs IS going to be finished and released.
Game development, however, is a challenge. Combined, we have shipped a whole lot of games (around 35 titles) of all shapes and sizes, so we are well aware of this fact. Because of this, we have approached the development of Children of Zodiarcs with theses risks and challenges in mind.
Of course, despite our experience, there will still be unforeseen issues that come up. This is where the other aspect of our depth of experience comes in: our ability to adapt. In the past, we have had to adapt to changing deadlines, budget cuts, crazy publisher 'requests', and shifts in game direction. Adaptation is a critical tool, and one that we have used a lot.
We have already poured over a year of blood, sweat, and tears (oh so many tears!) into this game. We will not let this game die before it's finished.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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