EndCycle VS: The Story Beneath the Game | Interview with 12B3 Games

Introduction

Hello there everyone, happy to be back with another interview for you all. To put this plain and simple, I have personally been excited for the release of EndCycle VS for quite some time. It is not that often that we see games come out for such a unique and niche genre such as grid fighters. So, I just had to sit down with the minds behind this game and hear their thoughts on development and boy did I have a fun time talking to Gal Axis and Daniel Dorner about EndCycle VS, coming out the 20th of April 2022.

Before we dive into the interview itself I would like to preface this by reminding listeners and readers that I post the raw interview audio in its entirety. As always, text is edited for clarity or readability only. Hope all of you enjoy this fun and passionate chat about EndCycle VS and 12B3 Games.

Welcome and who am I talking to exactly today?

“Hi, it’s so nice to be here. My name is Gal Axis. I am the lead developer and one of the project leads on EndCycle VS.”

“I’m Daniel, I’m also co-project lead. I wrote the story for [EndCycle VS] and I’m also a game designer and sorry, dude, we have to correct your straight away because the name of the company is 12B3. it’s a word play of want to be free.”

(Yeah, I may have mispronounced the studio as 12 B3, but that happens sometimes and we had a good laugh about it.)

I didn’t quite get that word play due to mispronouncing it obviously. How did you come up with that?

“Well, way back, we were thinking well we’re gonna have an actual studio soon because we’ve been working together for like what nine years now or so.

So when we were thinking of what we’re going to call our studio, we were like, okay, well how about we call it something about one of our core philosophies when we’re designing games? When we’re thinking of what we want to create. And our core philosophy has always been to create games where the player can feel free.

You know, where we can also be free to design games in a way that make the player feel free as well. So that kind of core concept of being free has always been a big principle for us when making games. So we wanted to say, okay, well we want to be free and let’s turn that into word play.”

That is really interesting. So you guys, this is not your first game, your website says as much. What are some other projects you have worked on?

Assisted with porting the game to Android

“So, we’ve been actually developing and helping other developers with their projects as well. We were optimizing some games for other companies already. We were creating a few small games as part of game jams and for Android as well before. But, we haven’t done something in this grand scope. And, and the sheer size of EndCycle VS which is kind of our big, first major release.”

For those not following the game already. What kind of game is EndCycle VS?

“EndCycle VS is a deck-building roguelike with fighting game mechanics that you can play online. It works on a grid like battlefield where you can influence the battlefield in your favor during the battle Which leads to high intensity, high paced battles. They also have a very strategic elements to them considering you’re building your deck ahead of every battle with over 4,000 possible combinations in the game.

You can change the attributes of the attacks, though we have styles still being provided. Having, for example, a cannon that instead of dealing damage, heals your enemy, and now how you would use that, of course differs from player to player, but we always see players come up with the most incredible different strategies that utilize these kinds of styles to create crazy combos we haven’t even ever seen or considered in development.”

Well, isn’t that how it always happens when you hand something over for play testing, especially strategy games and other, other Roguelike deck builders and such. That’s how it happens with most of them. Most developers will tell you the same thing. We never thought they would use this card, this skill in that way?

So how do you guys anticipate like balancing after the game officially releases from early access?

“We actually talk a lot with our community from early access still. We have our dev streams where we present new attacks, new abilities, new characters, and we get some feedback there.

We obviously missed some exploits. Sometimes you just don’t see the forest because of all the trees But yeah, our community basically is our biggest pillar.

Before we send the game to our community, we play tested amongst ourselves a bunch. Though there’s only so many things you can test when you have 4,000. The attack combinations that are growing with every update.

So, when it comes to balancing, we’re always trying to involve the community in that even after launch, we’ll still talk a lot too with the communities. There’ll be adding more things, and really making sure that it’s a balanced experience for everybody.”

So this game really does fall into like a more niche style genre. We don’t get too many grid-based like deck builders these days. You yourselves even compare this game to the Mega Man Battle Network series. How exactly did EndCycle VS start and how do you feel it compares to that series?

“Well, the origins of EndCycle VS are actually that of a Battle Network fan project, believe it or not.

So, back then we nine years ago you’d have to imagine though that was the year, 2013 where we were, it was still fledgling game developers at the time. We were 15, 16 years old. We were like teenagers and we played Battle Network and I was thinking to myself.

Oh, wow. This game is incredible, but unfortunately it’s already, at that point, pretty old and there was nobody to play with. The only way to play together with other people was when the community was pea-sized, like, and not a lot of people would care for a online multiplayer because it was so hard to set up.

So I had to decide, you know, okay, well, why don’t we, why don’t I develop a game? One that’s kind of like Battle Network or maybe even a fan game and kind of push it to the online multiplayer. And that’s kind of when Daniel started working, and when we kind of full shifted into a RPG experience with online multiplayer

And with time, we kind of realized that having a fan game actually comes with a lot of restrictions. You have to hold yourself to what the core of the thing that you’re kind of inspired by it is you have to limit yourself in terms of what you design. You have a certain expectations you have to fulfill simply, and we said, well, but we want to be free.

So back in the day, everybody was playing the first builds of EndCycle through Hamachi as we know it now. Even started with me sharing some builds with the Battle Network community and asking them for feedback. And yeah, now that it’s kind of grown into its own thing where we’re very proud of it and with how far we’ve come, because we’ve strayed so far off from what what kind of made Battle Network Battle Network in the beginning that at this point, we’re almost only remembering it as a fond memory in many ways.

But, we still think that we innovated and improved on a lot of the concepts that Battle Network first provided us with, and you can still definitely feel those when you play the game. It plays very differently from Battle Network, of course, but the grid battles are still there. deck building’s still there be it in a different form.”

From all of the promotional materials, this game does give a different but familiar vibe that fans of the Battle Network series will certainly pick up on. And it certainly seems like something they would have a good time with.

“Thank you. I also believe that another reason for this whole saturation of games that are coming out after all this is that as an indie it’s sometimes really hard to stay focused on just the one project for more than a few months. And for us working on this project for nine years now.”

So it’s grown to be quite large in scope. Many of our players have more than a hundred hours in the game. Some more than 500 in EndCycle VS, so we also believe that’s kind of what makes sense likely to stand out is that it’s not just an indie game that you pick up and you’re done with it in four hours.

It kind of almost has gone the direction of a lifestyle game, almost where EndCycle VS provides you with content on end until you’re satisfied at the end of the day, Especially because the community keep adding mods which adds new game modes, new campaigns, new characters.

We see a lot of the characters coming out, which is awesome. And it’s great to try these out. It’s makes Endcycle VS. I just feel like a brand new game. every time I try out these characters.”

I have seen a lot of the modding content being developed by fans of EndCycle VS. Are you guys going to continue supporting modding after the game official launches?

“Oh, absolutely! We have inside of the game something called the toolbox, which lets you create mods without any programming knowledge beforehand through a simple, almost Mario Maker like, UI.

So everybody can really, as long as they have the sprites and the audio files, can add to their own favorite character to the into game. Without having to program at all and start sharing with everyone around the world, through the Steam workshop and even cross-platform.

Yeah. So, you can create a mod of PC, and play with your friends who are on Android, which is super neat and people keep adding their OC’s to the game, which we love.

Yeah. Great to see like all these characters from other people that are kind of enthusiastic about their own characters and then see those characters inside of EndClycle VS. It’s a bit of a shock at times.”

We did happen to get a little side tracked with talking about modding, which as most people can attest I can certainly discuss all day. So, we did have to move on, but suffice it to say that it was really interesting to discuss modding with Gal and Daniel, and to find out Daniel himself uses the toolkit to create content for the game.

You guys showcase a lot of updates on your Twitter, but you also do Dev streams as you mentioned prior. Where can people find those and at what times?

Image of Daniel playing EndCycle VS on Twitch

“Once a week, every Sunday at 7PM GMT we do them each week and we take turns. On special occasions. We’ll also both be doing it. We’ll sit together. Like we had our Christmas stream where we were streaming for four hours. I believe when we had our launch trailer we streamed for six hours.

It’s a great opportunity to chat with the fans live, to play the game with the fans. We have tournaments, which we enjoy a lot, which are great for balancing for community purposes. So we love doing them, when we want to continue on with that [after the official launch].”

So while the game is, or at least was conceived as a multiplayer experience, there is a story to EndCycle VS. So, what would be the story for EndCycle VS?

“So the story of EndCycle VS follows multiple characters and multiple points of view. In the world EndCycle VS called Anika. There used to be giant antique god-like machines that ruled the world and those have been buried now for millennia..

When those ancient powers start to resurface, two factions are start popping up in the world, those that want to actively destroy those powers and those that want to just ignore them and argue that it’s too dangerous to mess with. And these factions are Azure Shield and Crimson Force. We follow the start of a bigger conflict in EndCycle VS where we see the fate of different characters who suddenly get involved with the conflict, even though they didn’t want to initially.

And it’s ultimately a story about people finding their own place in this world and following their beliefs.”

And the story plays out through different modes right?

“Yeah. So the way that you experience the story is through two different modes. One is through the campaign mode where we kind of also introduce a lot of game mechanics to the player. The campaign wasn’t structured in the sense that you follow multiple different characters. As Daniel said, along their adventures in Anika, and you have like five to six missions, every campaign. We have I think five campaigns at the moment, but we plan to add a few more.

[The campaigns] kind of introduce you to the characters introduced to the story. So they’re also a bit of a tutorial for the player. Then you have the roguelike adventure mode, where you kind of adopt the viewpoint of one of the characters and take that character through a big journey through the world of EndCycle VS. Kind of stepping into their shoes and exploring the world as if you were them.”

So this is only the first game in the series right? Anything you two can tell us about other games for the series?

“Oh, I don’t think we can discuss that yet. We won’t start active development before EndCycle VS is finished and everything we want to add post launch is finished.

Yeah. So for us, definitely EndCycle Vs is one part of the the franchise We definitely will create more games in the EndCycle series. And this is as, as you said, the first entry in the franchise. And however, what we’ll be creating in the future is kind of still a well kept secret.

Yeah, I think we can say that we’re aiming to explore our characters even more in future installments and the world. . Because right now, there’s only so much you can see, but we are still proud of it.”

With EndCycle VS being like your first bigger game. What are some challenges that you had? Like what development hurdles did you hit?

“So one hurdle that we definitely keep hitting, actually is just the fact that things, as a professional indie developer, things need to be done on time. You need to push out updates when you announce a specific time and day for an update to drop. You need to have that done on time. And we’ve kind of faced that challenge already a lot of times where we always think, oh yeah, we’ll manage no problem.

And then we kind of end up almost delaying it by a day. So that’s definitely the biggest challenge for us. But luckily for us, for the official launch, we’ve thinking about our time and we’re making sure that everything will be perfect on launch.”

With all of the characters in the game you guys have to have some favorites. What is yours Gal?

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“So for me personally, well there’s 20 playable characters in the game as of the full release. And the reason why it’s always hard for me to answer that question is that as, as the as someone who always has to try to keep everything balanced, I always have to kind of make sure that all the characters are fun and kind of play differently and uniquely from each other.

And that not one character feels like they’re just a side pick. But if I had to pick, I would definitely play as either the Crimson Punk, Cress, or Tri-wing. The Crimson Punk’s ability let’s them stay alive for just a few seconds after they already died, which kind of enables a really cool comeback mechanic, where if your enemy thought that they already won you can kind of punch them in the face and say, oh, It was still my game all along. And I really like those moments where you still turn the tide in the very last moment

For the second character that I really like, it would be Tri-Wing, which is a guest character from another Battle Network inspired grid fighter. The unique mechanic about Tri-Wing, that we adopted from the Tri-Wing game, is that all your cooldowns refuel periodically every few seconds. So, it plays on a lot different than your normal EndCycle VS character. And that’s always interesting to see.”

What about you Daniel?

I have three actually. The first is Spark, who is hotheaded teenage girl, and I just love her character because she’s a real go-getter. She always bashes into the fight with no care at all, and I appreciate that kind of character. The next character for me is Cress which, similar to Spark, is a very offensive character. So, we have more strategic characters who want to keep their distance from the enemy, but Cress and Spark are characters that get in your face and I love that. Cress even gets a damage boost when she’s close to the enemy.

It leads to very satisfying combos. Cress, in the story, is the leader of one of the factions, Crimson Force, and she’s a caffeine addict, which I can relate to. She never sleeps, which I can relate to. She’s a no apologies kind of girl. I love her. And yeah, she plays a very similar to Spark. So, those are my two favorite characters from a story perspective.

And from an ability perspective, I’d have to pick Yven, which is our newest addition, who will only be added on launch. Yeah, and he’s got a very strategic tactical kind of ability, which you have to pair with his ultra ability, which can lead to very complicated combos. But if you hit it, it’s so satisfying and I love it.”

So that’s all I have to talk about with you guys today. If there’s anything else you would like to talk about before we sign off?

“We just want to shout out our community again to have made this all possible. Some of them have been with us for four or five years now, since we created the Discord. So yeah, it feels very interesting to finally be able to finish the [main] development cycle for EndCycle VS.

If we can say it like that, at least for the full version, because it’s been nine years in the making and we really believe that without our fans with our community without maybe even you, the person listening, the game, wouldn’t be where it is today. We can never really believe [we had] the chance to develop something that means so much to a lot of ours fans.

[Actually] due to the whole Ukraine conflict. We have had one fan come to us and say that in these tough times he wanted to thank us for creating one of his favorite games and that really touched us. It’s great to know that we’re creating something that means so much to people.”

Singing Off

That is such a sweet note to end on. I think people seem to forget until they hear stories like this that video games can sometimes be the only positive thing in someone’s life. I want to point out that going into this interview that I did not expect anything to come up referring the Ukraine conflict right now, but I want to express my own concern for those that going through that right now and wish all of them safely.

I want to thank Gal and Dan again for taking the time to sit down with me and talk about their upcoming game, EndCycle VS. It was a real pleasure and there is plenty more than what is written here to our conversation. I encourage you to give it a listen as we really dive into the modding aspect EndCycle VS. I encourage you all to get involved with this community via the links below and be sure to check out EndCycle VS out this 20th of April, 2022!

Steam | Twitch | Twitter | Discord

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