As we mentioned previously, the idea for SteamWorld Quest came from an internal pitch session among staffers. The next question is, how did the card game mechanics actually get worked out? According to Image & Form's Peter Johansson, the whole process started with three paper prototypes.
After we discussed our options, we decided to sit down and make some paper prototypes to see if we could nail down a workable concept. There were three designers at that time, so each of us went off to a corner alone with some paper and a pair of scissors and made three independent paper prototypes for a card battle game that fit what we wanted for the game.
We played the prototypes for a while -- essentially simulating a boss battle with one person “playing” a computer-controlled enemy -- and evaluated each in terms of what we felt worked and what didn’t. Then, we made a fourth prototype that combined the best ideas from each, and once we felt it was a strong enough foundation to work from we made a computer implementation of it.
We knew from the start we wanted five heroes each of their own color, so that was in the fourth prototype. As mentioned, there were three card types. The rule at the time was that you would draw a hand of cards, then you could play any number of cards so long as they were either all from the same hero or all of the same card type. Each card also had an initiative value that determined whether it was a fast attack or a slow one, to incentivize the player to think about whether to gamble on slow but powerful attacks or try to sneak in quick ones before the enemy could react.
Monsters acted almost exactly like they do in the final game, except for the initiative values on cards. They also didn’t have finisher cards at the time; that only came after we added steam pressure to the game.