PlayStation Experience 2016 – Hand of Fate 2 Interview

PlayStation Experience 2016 – Hand of Fate 2 Interview


The original Hand of Fate was a unique mix of table top card gaming and action RPG gameplay that proved to be a surprise hit in 2015. It offered an interesting blend of combative and non confrontational situations, all of which was tied together by the game’s shady, enigmatic dealer. The sequel, Hand of Fate 2, promises to expand upon the first game’s strategic deck building while offering even more difficult choices and challenges for players. This around time the player has to trust and work with the dealer to defeat the protagonist from the first game. 

Hand of Fate 2 was one of our favorite games showcased at PlayStation Experience 2016. CFG had an opportunity to interview Lee May, community manager of Defiant Development, courtesy of Grace Lim of Stride PR.

What was the inspiration for the original Hand of Fate?

While the game draws inspiration from classic tabletop RPGs and choose-your-own-adventure books like the Fighting Fantasy series, the core conceit of building a dungeon out of pre-selected cards sprang out of investigating randomising content in a way that still allowed for player control and visibility. One of our previous games, a mobile RPG named Heroes’ Call, had a lot of randomized content, but it was mostly invisible to the player. We were looking for ways to make it clearer when we hit upon cards. As soon as the suggestion came up, we all got excited. We’re all keen boardgamers, so immediately we had hundreds of ideas for ways we could combine mechanics to create interesting gameplay scenarios. 

Was the dealer inspired by a particular person or character? His relationship with the player defined the first game for many, so we’d love to know how this character came to be. 

There’s definitely some shared DNA with the Fortune Teller who guides character creation in the Ultima games, but the Dealer was actually conceived as a solution to another long-acknowledge videogame bugbear: randomised NPC dialogue. Our creative director, Morgan Jaffit, was once given the job of writing dozens and dozens of unique ways for NPC guards to say, “I think he’s over here” in a stealth game. Despite the work that went into coming up with variant lines, players still got sick of hearing the same stuff over and over again. The futility of these efforts made him rethink the way we assign dialogue to in-game characters. We knew we lacked the resources to flesh out a full ensemble cast, but we thought we could probably make one character pretty convincing, and came up with a way to make him present for the entire game. 

We love the impact he’s had on our fans. We briefly considered a different character in the role for the sequel, but it would have disappointed our audience as well as our team. And there was no way we were going to turn down another opportunity to work with the fantastic Anthony Skordi, who just completely inhabits the role. 

Why create a direct sequel instead of a new scenario?

Nothing like Hand of Fate had existed before we made it. Consequently, we didn’t really know how we should have made a Hand of Fate game until it was complete. We wanted to put our stamp on the sub-genre and create the definitive roguelike-deckbuilder-action-RPG for our fans. Finally, the team felt that we still had quite a lot left unsaid at the conclusion of HoF1. Questions remained regarding the Dealer and the Game of Life and Death, and we were eager to explore that territory in greater detail. 

What were your goals for the sequel?

Essentially, if a person liked Hand of Fate 1, they should LOVE Hand of Fate 2. We had a pretty good idea of what worked and what didn’t in the original game, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t remove anything that resonated with the audience. So the engagement with the dealer, the physicality of the boardgame, the expanding storytelling, all of that is back and better than before. The combat and the deckbuilding, those are elements that we took back to the drawing board, and we’re really happy with how they’re starting to turn out.  

Would you consider using the Hand of Fate template for other genres besides fantasy?

We absolutely would. Right now we’re focused on finishing HoF2, but once the project wraps we’re keen to bring our boardgame-hybrid sensibility to a whole host of settings and scenarios. A day doesn’t pass in the office without someone saying, “Hey, what if we did this next..”

Having allied companions is welcome addition. Was it challenging trying to balance the game with their inclusion? Does this make any impact on the difficulty? Will the combat areas be expanded? 

Balance is always a challenge, but the struggle with companions has more to do with whether they feel useful and unique enough to the player, rather than whether they make the game too easy. 

Combat areas are much larger in HoF2, with fewer bottleneck areas. 

What were some of the aspects you were unsatisfied with in the first game and how did you improve upon them in the sequel? 

We want players to engage with the deckbuilding aspect of the game at a much earlier stage, and we want them to explore their entire deck rather than simply stick with their favourite encounters and equipment. We changed the structure of the game (replacing the cabinet of 12 bosses with the Dealer’s Challenge Board) putting greater emphasis on deckbuilding. This, in turn, allows us to tell a more cohesive story with each challenge. 

The player has many more options leading into and during combat encounters in HoF2. The inclusion of heavy 2-handed and quick dual-wielded weapons means that players are much more likely to find an approach to melee that suits their personal fighting style. Combat, in general, is much more satisfying now, less twitchy and more rhythmic. Our weapon abilities and artefacts are more exciting and versatile this time around, too. Once you call down an arrow attack from one hundred ghostly archers you’re changed as a person.   

Was it challenging creating a balance between non combat encounters and battle scenarios? In what ways has this been tweaked in the sequel? 

The challenge-based structure of HoF2 gives us a couple additional variables to tweak, and our new chance minigames (the Dicebox, the Wheel of Fate and the Pendulum) provide us with other ways to resolve encounters without resorting to fisticuffs. 

Any plans for post launch DLC? 

Yes, but we’re keeping the details close to our chest for now. HoF2 is built in a more modular fashion than HoF1, which gives us more flexibility when it comes to post-release content. 

What kind of card games and RPGs does the development team enjoy playing? Do you guys play card games or RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons together?

Practically everyone in the office is a boardgamer after some fashion. Lunchtimes generally see a game of King of Tokyo or Netrunner in session, and our boardgame library is always growing. Just today we played the latest prototype of the Hand of Fate boardgame being developed by Rule & Make, and it’s likely to be an office favourite when it’s released next year. Most of our players have at least a background in late night roleplaying, though our RPG groups don’t have much overlap. 

William Hong

William Hong

I'm CFG's editor in chief. I also like cats.

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