Monday, October 3, 2016

Five or So Questions with Nathanael Cole on Gattaibushido!

Today's interview is with Nathanael Cole about his new game Gattaibushido, which is a story-driven mecha-pilots game! It's currently on Kickstarter and sounds like a great time. Check out the interview, and then click-thru to the Kickstarter if you're interested!.


Full disclosure: My volunteered voicework is included in the Kickstarter video for Gattaibushido.


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Tell me a little about your project. What excites you about it?

Gattaibushido is my personal RPG love letter to a number of old cartoons and animes that own permanent crash space in my heart. I grew up watching shows like Voltron and the Power Rangers, but honestly the biggest inspirations came from two anime series called Gunbuster and Vandread. When I first saw those series, I immediately wanted to game in those worlds. Once I realized that I had a good foundation for teamwork games with Motobushido, I got ridiculously excited about finally getting to write my own person Gunbuster game using those mechanics.


What mechanical inspirations did you have for Gattaibushido?

From the very beginning, I wanted a way to involve Colors in every aspect of play. The first obvious step was basing the team roles off of the classic color roles in Super Sentai shows. But beyond that, I wanted more of a focus on colors than just numerical stats all over the place. Turns out this was already easy enough to do. Motobushido had a heavy focus on threes and sevens as part of its thematic core, and porting that over to a "Roy G Biv" color scale was a cinch. By this point in the design process, almost the entire system has some aspect of the rainbow scale within it, and I'm pretty happy with the way that part has turned out.

However, probably the biggest of the more recent inspirations came from a video game called Chroma Squad. For weeks and weeks I had tried to nail down the Final Form Fight mechanics, and went through dozens of iterations. I kept working the "natural extension to the core fight mechanics" angle, but nothing was working, nothing felt right. Finally I took a long break to chill out and play some video games, one of which was Chroma Squad. I don't want to spoil that game (it's amazing!), so I'll just say that when the first "season" of its story ended, there was a sudden change in mechanics that came out of nowhere, a whole new kind of battle sequence that had not even been hinted at before. And then suddenly it all made sense: if I really wanted to showcase the difference in scale netween the normal battles and the final form battles, I needed a whole new approach, something totally different than the core mechanic. Two design jam session later and the current "Rumble" mechanic was born.


How did you come up with flavor of the game including themes and associated mechanics?

The basic "combining robos vs space monsters" originally came to this project as just a nifty idea for a spin-off "hack" of the core Motobushido rules. Once I started re-immersing myself in the source genre, I grew more and more inspired, and likewise the hacked text grew more and more complicated. Eventually I realized that it needed its own spotlight, and decided to make it an entirely new stand-alone game.

But specifically, two animes deeply inspired the core themes of teamwork. The first was Gunbuster, which was in fact the original kickstart my brain needed to get moving with this project in the first place. The team relationships within that show were so intense and conflicted and _real_ that I felt that those characters could very well have been created using the previous Motobushido rules, just needing a few tweaks to fit the material. Later on I was introduced to a newer series called Majestic Prince. While not actually a "gattai" show, it might as well have been for all the ways that the themes of teamwork and intra-team conflict guided every aspect of that show. I wanted my game to play just like that and I think I've done a good job so far bringing out that team dynamic in the playtests.


Coming from your inspirations, what choices did you make to ensure the game is approachable for all ages, genders, etc.?

Specifically, in order to deal with certain old sexist tropes inherent in the classic super sentai genre character roles, I've tweaked the colors a bit to make them more versatile. This has had a positive effect with my current test groups, and although a handful of people were expecting more traditional SS color roles, they adapted to the alterations pretty easily enough.

Additionally, I made a few conscious-but-not-overt design choices very early on in the art and writing process. I chose to show only women and girls in the vast majority of the artwork and text (there is one, singular character exception, and it is a bit of an homage to Gunbuster). There're no outright statements in the book saying "you have to play women," but if you follow the artwork and the text, it's pretty much assumed. Additionally, I specifically requested that the majority of the girls in the art be non-Caucasian, and of a variety of body types. I have been pretty pleased with the stuff Juan's done so far, and I hope my readers will be too.

As for ages? Ah, this might not be a good game for kids, as the themes can be pretty violent and I don't really hold back with some bits of language here and there.


What do you think are the core elements of Gattaibushido that you want players to see when playing the game, and how do you think the mechanics and flavor help make that happen?

Hands down, teamwork is the absolute number one core element that I want to be ever-present throughout the entirety of play. Everyone has a "Harmony" track, which keeps them in sync with the team spirit. It's front and center in the gaming space, and integrated into almost every action and component. The characters can of course function on their own, but they truly excel the most when working in synch with the rest of the team. The core fight mechanics heavily involve teamwork combos, including an "Uno" like rotation and reversal mechanic that encourages the players to strategize and synch their abilities together. And of course, the Final Form Rumble fights are pretty much impossible without a well-synched team. =)

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Thanks so much to Nathanael for the interview. I hope you all get the chance to check out Gattaibushido on Kickstarter now!




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