The Matrix CCG

Information about a fictional customizable card game based on The Matrix.  This game could have been awesome.  I always thought that Decipher should have made the game.  Back in the day they had multiple great licenses including Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.

InQuest Gamer had an article where they detailed what a Matrix CCG might look like.  Here’s the article, transcribed from the magazine:

What is the MATRIX?  It’s the coolest card game you’ll never see.

It’s a crime.

“The Matrix” is the best sci-fi movie in recent memory, two more sequels are in the works, and the closest we’ve come to a collectible card game is gluing Keanu’s head on our Masticores.  How can there not be a Matrix CCG, when it seems like nowadays all we get are licensed properties like MLB Showdown 2000, WWF: Raw Deal or the upcoming Harry Potter CCG?

But all that doesn’t stop us from making our own Matrix card game.  We called upon the imaginative powers of top designers Dave Williams (Doomtown, Legend of the Five Rings) and Jim Ward (Spellfire, Dragon Ball Z) to help us cook up the way a Matrix game should work.  Our database was brimming with so many cool ideas, we decided to lay down the foundation for the game we’d most like to see.  Who knows, if not a card game, maybe it’ll show up as an online game first.

TRUE TO THE FILM

What if Legend of the Five Rings didn’t have fighting samurai?  What if all Magic creatures had the same power?  The games just wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t play off the fun elements of their subject matter.  With that in mind, we asked our designers the first question: What’s the one thing you would do to make The Matrix CCG true to the film?

David Williams: You need to reflect accurately the dual nature of the Matrix’s realities.  In the “real” world, the humans have a severe limitation of resources, but they are capable of so much while they are in the Matrix.  Regardless of which reality they are in, however, the humans are fighting a guerrilla war; they will always have less firepower, but they have the advantage of surprise and flexibility.

Jim Ward: There need to be two levels of play.  In one level, you are hooked into the Matrix; in the other, you are in the real world and your cards react in another, very different manner.  I think I would have some sort of storytelling element to the Matrix cards.  The out-of-Matrix play would be much more of a numbers game with warlike combat and unusual cards thrown in to spin the battles in all sorts of storytelling directions.  Perhaps I would use both sides of the cards.  Having no backs, one side would be Matrix and the other would be real world.

InQuest:  The coolest things in “The Matrix” are the nigh-unstoppable AI Agents.  To simulate these cards, we’d give them killer-high numbers to take out virtually any threat and the power of “transformation,” to steal the appearance of any other being in the Matrix.  However, their true strength would lie with their ability to jump in and out of play at the speed of an “instant” and appear at any location in the blink of an eye.

CARD POOL

Enough cards for strategy, but not enough to overwhelm your wallet, we’d shoot for about 300 in the mix.  Which direction should the card pool go?  Lots of action cards to match the rapid-fire pace of the film?  Or maybe the character cards would be our big guns?

David Williams: There certainly need to be character cards; the characters are the core of any licensed product.  But “The Matrix” is an action movie and the cards need to project the feel of raging gun battles; last-second escapes and the warping of realities.  There should be special action cards that can only be played depending on the character’s “understanding of the Matrix.”  Different humans would have different ratings; Morpheus would be quite high, of course, but only Neo would have a higher rating than the AI Agents and access to the powerful “Matrix cards.”  Of course, the Matrix cards are completely worthless when the conflict takes place in the “real” world.  There would be characters that could not cross over the realities; the Agents couldn’t go to the real world, just as the humans Tank and Dozer couldn’t enter the Matrix.

Jim Ward: My perfect mix would certainly go deep into the surreal aspect of the Matrix.  Anything can be programmed into the Matrix and the cards would reflect that.  At the very least, I would have players meet characters out of history as allies and enemies.

InQuest: Our action cards would be dual purpose – real world on the top, Matrix on the bottom.  A powerful Matrix card would be a weak real-world card.  For example, the card .38 Bullet could prove deadly as a surprise attack in the physical world, but might be much more easily dodged inside the Matrix.  When deck-building, you could stack up on powerful Matrix cards, but then if the conflict suddenly shifts to reality, you’re out of luck.

CARD DRAWING

When it comes to the ever-valuable card-drawing, you can take it slow like Magic‘s one card a turn or fast like Sailor Moon‘s refill your hand every turn.  The high-octane action of “The Matrix” says lots of cards to all of us.

David Williams: While Star Wars and Netrunner have shown that a good design can be hampered by “I don’t want to play that faction” concerns, a two-faction design for the Matrix seems like the best starting point.  I would like to see the Agents as an overwhelming force that the human player has a hard time dealing with; their stats and resources should be much higher than the humans, but the humans should have greater card-drawing capabilities to represent their flexibility.

Jim Ward: I would consider doing a “matrix” of cards placed face down on the table.  Each section of the matrix would have a different meaning and use.  Whoever moved there first would get to draw the card.

InQuest: Everyone starts out a prisoner of the Matrix, only drawing a single card a turn.  Once your true identity emerges – say, after you play a special character card – you get to draw extra cards.  The deeper your awareness level in the Matrix, the more options you have – i.e., the more cards you draw; Neo might draw up to five cards a turn to Trinity’s three.

MAKING IT DIFFERENT

With over 100 CCGs out there, do we adapt one of the currently available game mechanics or come up with something entirely new for our Matrix design?  Since we’re all big fans of innovation, the answer would be “expect the unexpected.”

David Williams: Tough question.  I’ve always considered my strength as a game designer to be in taking other people’s great ideas and combining them in new and innovative ways, rather than the complete innovations of something like Magic: The Gathering or DiscWars that create an entirely new genre.  I think the combination of dual worlds, like in Heresy, and unequal equals, as in Netrunner, and even more so in Games Workshop’s Space Hulk, would lead to a game with a different feel from anything else out there.  Then again, over the course of the design process, it’s entirely possible that our team would come up with something that is completely unlike anything that’s been done before.

Jim Ward: I love to put in gameplay features that other companies haven’t tried yet.  I could imagine several important situations in the game where you had to actually drop a small plastic CD onto the playing surface for a specific effect, making the game a skill-and-action game as well as a CCG.  The feature would have to fit the theme of the game, but I like visual elements as well as pretty cards.

InQuest: Every game of The Matrix has a built-in mini-auction.  You start play with your main character, one enemy card – which you’ll control to hunt others – and 100 credits.  With these 100 points, you “buy” your abilities.  For example, in a four-player game where you’re playing Neo and Agent Smith, there would be four Matrix Awareness skill cards to bid on.  Operating like “danger sense” and perception, you decide Neo needs Matrix Awareness and shell out 64 points for a champion-level skill rating, the highest.  You might only have enough points left over to be average in the rest of your skills, but your godlike Matrix Awareness will sense Agents in the phone lines and spot a gun before it’s even drawn.

There are as many directions to take a Matrix CCG as there are circuits at Norad.  The second film is due out in 2002, so maybe some game company will snatch up the rights before then.

Of course, who’s to say this game isn’t real already?  We’re dealing with the Matrix, after all; you could be trapped in it right now, being force fed Pikachu instead of Trinity…