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Jon Chey Founds Blue Manchu Games, Announces Card Hunter

As part of a wide-ranging Gamasutra feature interview, the Irrational Games co-founder announces the formation of a new studio devoted to making the "more genre, nichey games that I really want to make."
As part of a wide-ranging Gamasutra feature interview, the Irrational Games co-founder announces the formation of a new studio devoted to making the "more genre, nichey games that I really want to make." Blue Manchu, which is funded entirely by Chey, has also announced its first project: Card Hunter, a Flash-based browser game powered by microtransactions. It's an original fantasy-themed collectible card/board game hybrid. "The best way to describe it is, imagine I take an MMO, and every time you fight a monster, instead of playing a timer game with with pull downs and buttons that you click, you're playing a turn-based strategy game. You have little pieces on a board, and you play cards to move those pieces around, and that's the battle you fight." "And at the end of the battle you win some treasure, which you then use to trick your characters like you do in an MMO, but those characters are actually pieces in the board game. So that's it in a nutshell," Chey tells Gamasutra. Contributing to the design are Magic: the Gathering creator Richard Garfield and his business partner Skaff Elias. The only full time employee of Blue Manchu is Chey. The company is currently decentralized, with no office space and other staff contributing remotely. Other staffers contributing to the project include noted indie developer Jarrad "Farbs" Woods, Freedom Force art director Ben Lee, System Shock designer Dorian Hart, and more. The game will be distributed in-browser and also potentially as a downloadable client; target platforms will be all browsers and likely an iOS version as well, says Chey. "We do want to do an iPad version of it, because I think iPad is great for these kind of card games/board games."
Card Hunter will offer competitive and cooperative mutiplayer. "It's a lot like a traditional collectable card game, in one sense, where you can build up your deck and play against other people," says Chey, "but instead of the old kind of Magic-style business model where you have to buy random assortments of cards at one time, you win the cards by playing the game." While players won't be buying cards, says Chey, players will be able to purchase "either vanity items or try to accelerate your progress, a lot like other free-to-play MMOs." Says Chey, "It's very important that it will be perfectly fine to play it without paying for it. Definitely, these free-to-play things come with kind of the bad taste of, 'You must pay to actually be competitive with this game,' but I think we're starting to get people get that balance right." The game will be released "sometime in the next six months," he tells Gamasutra. "I'm entirely funding this venture. There's no publisher investment, there's no publisher, there's no outside investment, so I don't have to convince anybody that this is a good idea other than myself, which is a little frightening, but at the same time I think it's an opportunity to do some games that wouldn't get funded otherwise, frankly." Chey sees the studio filling a gap between one-man indies and massive teams. "What if we had five or 10 people who can afford to work for a year or two and try to make a game? No, it's not going to be Half-Life 3, but it has a level of polish and technology that's going to require some investment to get to. "So that's the opportunity. I'm sort of taking advantage here -- instead of taking my money for selling the company and buying a yacht, I'm buying the opportunity to make some games that probably wouldn't get made otherwise." The full interview with Chey contains many more details about Card Hunter and the team behind it -- as well as some discussion of Chey's work on BioShock -- and is live now on Gamasutra.

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