After approximately five months of work and lots of playtesting (particularly from folks at the office; thanks guys!), Fatal Frame: the Card Game is online and ready for your perusal.
I probably would have had it all up sooner - in fact, I've had the website fully built for over a month now - but I spent far too much time working on the damn PDF files and tweaking rules and cards at the last minute. When you do something like this, creating a game from scratch, the internal idea is always that somebody else is going to play it. I could make games all day that only me and my select group of friends would understand, full of absurdities and in-jokes and complicated rules that would all but require my presence to explain (which reminds me of that awful Killer Bunnies card game, actually)... but part of the fun is releasing the game into the wild and seeing how it survives.
In this case, it turns out the wild was coming to me. I finalized the website late last night: 1:15am according to the modification date on the last file I uploaded. I planned on a soft launch, more or less. Get the site up and running for a few days and then send word out to Beyond the Camera's Lens this weekend that I finally got the game finished. Well, before I even decompressed from an average workday, I had some appreciative emails waiting in my inbox. Less than 12 hours after the site went live, the Fatal Frame faithful had sniffed it out, spread the word to BCL, and commenced to downloading! It is gratifying to make something that people actually want. There's a big Fatal Frame fanbase out there (bigger than I have experienced with TaleSpin, to that game's chagrin) and that's who I made the game for. I'll be lurking in the BCL forums ready to discuss the game with anyone who has a question!
Which just reminds me how vital it is to make something that doesn't suck. One of the delays to getting the game online was all the time spent making sure the PDFs worked and the rules made sense. I like to test my websites on the crappiest Windows machine I can find, so I used my office PC to see if it could view and print the PDF files. It's a slug of a box running Windows 2000, and if I could install a font and print a fairly large PDF from it, I'm confident almost anyone could do the same.
As to whether the rules make sense, well, I hope that they do. I try to take a third party approach when I pen the "official" rules for a card game... because I know how frustrating it is to want to play a game but have to suffer through a crappy rulebook. I'll be awaiting feedback to see if I have succeeded in making sense.
As far as the cards go, I made changes right up until this very week. One late (and major) change involved how you play cards... originally, you would draw 1 and play 1. I thought this was making the game slow, so I tried draw 2 / play 2 for a while. That was crazy fast, plus a little non-intuitive... how many card games have you ever played where you drew 2 cards and played 2 cards? (Although I did like the whole twin angle to that.) So the compromise became draw 1 card, play 1 card... but if you play a Ghost you can play another card. This makes the Ghosts a free play, thus encouraging players to drop Ghosts on the table since they won't suck your entire turn to do so.
The card base had some ups and downs as well. The first playtest deck was 80 cards... then it ballooned up to 100... then ruthlessly cut back down to 85. I can thank my pal Mike for that one. We had a truly evil night where we eliminated entire card concepts, re-allocated artwork, and completely reworked all the weaker cards into much stronger ones. In a game like this, where all the players draw from the same deck, it's all about your card ratios. Are there enough Spirit Orbs in the deck? Does everyone have a good chance of getting a decent Film card? Are there plenty of Ghosts - that's the whole premise, after all - without feeling like there's too many Ghosts? Does it work just as well with four players as it does with two? Balance is a tricky thing, and at some point after a hundred playtest games you just go "Yep, I guess" and call it done.
So I have called it done. I may return to it to clarify rules (especially if I get a lot of WTF? comments), but on the whole, it's a done deal. Visit the site and see for yourself. It would be interesting to create another edition, based on the first Fatal Frame game... although that seems unlikely since there just isn't as many art resources out there for it as I found for FF2. Plus, it's been longer since I played through FF1, so it's not as fresh in my mind as Crimson Butterfly. (Although I do still verbally quote that one priest who would moan "Kirie, poor girl... why did she have to become so attached to this world?" I loved that guy.) And, of course, I'm eagerly anticipating the third game in the series, which could inspire me in the future.
I guess that's really what the whole project was about. I was inspired by these games, to the point that I wanted to find a way to re-experience them without having to fire up the PS2 again. (Not that that's a bad thing!) It's why people write fan-fics, or why they cosplay or do their own artwork. It's why we hope the movie doesn't stink. My venue preference just happens to be card games. As fans, we're motivated to share that spark with others, whether they have the same feeling or not. If they do, hey presto, you've got a community. If they don't, maybe they'll sense the passion behind it. Every time I play this card game, I'm reminded of what I loved about the video game... the characters, the themes, the storyline, the tension. If you're a Fatal Frame fan, I hope my design and presentation do the same for you.
And if you've never heard of Fatal Frame, that's okay too. Of course you should... third-person survival horror with a cool first-person gimmick, one of the darkest psychological storylines ever seen in interactive media etc etc. But the card game will make sense to you unto itself, perhaps you'll just miss the intricacies of the backstory.
Enough high-falutin' pontificating. There's a new fourhman.com card game out there, and the only cost of admission is a lot of printing, a lot of cutting and a lot of sleeving.