A review of the Dragon Clash card game introduced me to creator Marc Aranha, who took some time to discuss game development, the world of Shalkith, and working with The Game Crafter.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us a little about your gaming background.
Marc Aranha (MA): Games have always been part of my life. When I was five or six, my mother brought me to our local bookstore. While browsing there, I was drawn to this brightly colored box with unbelievable dragon artwork, and of course I had to have it. She was hesitant at first, but persistence paid off and I walked out of there with the Dungeons and Dragons “Red Box” Set. I still remember my first encounter with that rust monster in the introductory adventure and the dismay I felt when it chewed through my armor, but I was hooked. My mother probably remembers the early mornings I woke her with my requests to trace a new character sheet from the back of the manual. Little did she know then, that years later she’d be playing Magic: The Gathering and Hero Quest with me, and loving it!
My father was also heavily into games. He was an actor and traveled a lot, and I remember he had this boxing game called Title Bout, that he carried with him everywhere. He had folders and folders of stats and match results, creating a sort of solo-league. That sort of love for a game and its world rubbed off on me. Trying out new board games ended up being a family passion. I think my favorite of the bunch was Mystery Mansion, because of the way the board literally changed every game. As a kid, I found that fascinating and it’s remained a sentimental pick of mine. I’ve since begun playing the game with my own daughter, so it’s become multi-generational.
My father also bought me my first video game system (Nintendo) and we discovered computer games together. I still remember the arguments over computer time when Civilization was released and we used to geek out over baseball and football games (we preferred coach modes). Needless to say, I’ve been playing games of all kinds for a long time. They have always been an integral part of my life and my family.
MT: How did you get into game development?
MA: Game development was a natural progression for me. As I played more games, I naturally wanted to tinker with them, fix rules that didn’t make sense, write expansions, or even do mash-ups of my favorite games. The design of a game fascinated me. However, I didn’t try my hand at publishing games for profit until college, back in 1998, when I designed a tabletop game manual called Shalkith: Last Kin. That was my rookie effort, warts and all, but I learned a lot from the process, not least of which is don’t do your own cover art if you can’t draw! Still, the game was fun and garnered some fans that have remained with me for years. It actually remains the foundation for a lot of my recent designs, including Dragon Clash.
I later worked as a web developer and game designer at Riddler.com, an online gaming site that’s since changed hands, and also developed my own online gaming service for Shalkith Online, back in 2005. More recently I’ve been active in the Blood Bowl community, developing an online league application for the game at OldWorldFootball.com while of course working on Dragon Clash.
MT: What is the World of Shalkith?
MA: Shalkith is based in an alternate-Earth setting. After being ravaged for centuries by the abuse of mankind, Gaia, the dying spirit of Earth has called out to her last defenders in a desperate plea for balance. Those defenders are the dragons, each tied to an elemental type and born from the destruction wrought by man. Red dragons may be born from raging wildfires or nuclear fallout, blue dragons may appear from an oil spill, silvers from the noxious smoke of an industrial factory, and browns from the polluted cesspool of a toxic waste dump. In the tongue of dragons, Shalkith means “Last Kin”. The title is an honor bestowed upon the dragon that has proven its worth, the one dragons believe will become the physical will of Gaia and the shaper of the world.
MT: How did you come up with Dragon Clash?
MA: CCGs have always interested me. I collected baseball cards as a kid, but they just sat in a binder. Magic: The Gathering came along and blew my mind. To be able to collect cards and actually play a game with those cards was pretty much my gaming nirvana. So, creating a card game has always been something I’ve wanted to do. I’d been dabbling in online game development for years, but reached the limits of what I could do independently. I wanted to get back to basics, get to the core of design and writing, and create a tangible game that I could touch and interact with directly.
Over the years I had collected quite the stable of artwork for Shalkith Online from a group of stellar artists that I worked with. I already had established the game world and many of the basic mechanics and themes through previous games. It was just a matter of translating that to a physical card game and evolving the strategies for that medium. Thankfully, it all came together rather smoothly once I had committed to the design.
MT: What has been your experience with publishing through The Game Crafter?
MA: Companies like The Game Crafter are a godsend for independent developers like me. Creating a game like Dragon Clash, at a professional quality, simply wouldn’t be possible without them. When I started this process, I evaluated several potential publishing partners and while each had their own strengths, what sold me on The Game Crafter, specifically, was their service. Their owners are all over the chat rooms, social media, and forums. It’s that kind of accessibility, in addition to their quality products, that are invaluable and put them at the top of the industry in my view.
MT: Where can fans find out more about Dragon Clash?
MA: At this time, Dragon Clash is only available online, through our website at DragonClash.com or through our publishing partner at TheGameCrafter.com. Fans are also encouraged to join our Dragon Clash community on Facebook (DragonClashGame) and Twitter (@DragonClashGame).
MT: Anything else you’d like to add?
MA: The excitement and positive reception to Dragon Clash has been very humbling and gratifying. I’m happy people are finding and enjoying the game. It’s often difficult for independent developers with small budgets to follow traditional marketing methods, so the fans become an essential partner in the success of the game. I’d like to thank our fans, old and new, for supporting Dragon Clash. Happy gaming!
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