"Hand of Fate might just be one of the most instantly-atmospheric games this reviewer has ever encountered" - Chris Brown, Game Planet
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We are as keen as you are to find out what’s going on with the impending tabletop adaptation of Hand of Fate, so we sent our communications manager, Lee, deep into enemy territory (or at least a hostile Slack channel) to get this interview with Rule & Make’s Michael “Barantas” McIntyre, designer of Hand of Fate: Ordeals!

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Lee: SO! Who are you, exactly, Michael?

Michael: I'm 26, male, live in Brisbane with my lovely wife. I would describe myself physically as soft.

Accurate. How did you end up designing the Hand of Fate boardgame?

Well, the first time round or the second time? There is a fun story there. Well I think it's fun.

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Tell me the story!

Well, sit back and let me spin you a tale like silk from chaff.

A year or so back, maybe more... through the grapevine we had heard word that Defiant were wanting to make a board game from their super great game Hand Of Fate.

At this point I had only played a little Hand Of Fate so I was intrigued. I was discussing the prospects of this with Brendan Evans, the designer behind Skyward. We were throwing around a few ideas but nothing really came of it aside from me playing a whole lot more Hand Of Fate. I got really into it.

Fast forward a few months I'm working in a computer store and in walk some members of staff from Defiant. I end up serving them somewhat purposefully. (My co-worker regained consciousness later on) and I pitched them a concept right then and there, dropped them my details and waited for a response.

I never heard back. Was I crushed, destroyed, heartbroken? Nope. This was a reasonable thing. I think I had come across as somewhat of a raving fan who wanted to show them how I had all the red string connecting pictures in my garage to explain who the Dealer really was.

But no loss here. I always think, take every opportunity.

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But clearly, all that hard work and obsession eventually paid off.

35% hard work 60% obsession 5% desperation.

Moving further down the road, I'm working with Rule & Make. Doing conventions, spruiking merch and doing some design work when they mention Hand Of Fate. So I was like "Oh yeah they were looking for a boardgame right? I was working on my own thing for that at one point." For a couple of weeks I didn't hear anything about it until I get a call one night. "Hey, we would like you to work on the Hand Of Fate board game for us." I was so excited. But in a totally professional and reasonable way.

From there everything has been a massive blur as we have been hammering out iteration after iteration of Hand Of Fate: Ordeals.

Seriously, one day we will get to release photos of all the versions we have. It's crazy.

So let's talk Hand of Fate: Ordeals. There's a guy in the videogame, and he's clearly sitting down to play a boardgame. Why couldn't we just print that?

Short answer, the dealer really disagrees with being put away in a box every night. I have the scars to prove it.

Long answer, so much of Hand Of Fate comes from your interactions with the Dealer and we wanted to bring you something newer and a bit different. Since we wanted the game to be multiplayer and we didn't want the game to run itself, we needed to reimagine the Hand Of Fate experience for you and your friends on the tabletop.

Plus if you've already played Hand Of Fate you know the outcome, you know the story. So we're making something that builds on that and becomes its own beast.

Okay, next question! Videogame-to-boardgame adaptations are becoming increasingly popular, but a good videogame design doesn't necessarily translate cleanly into a physical game. What are the pitfalls you've had you avoid with the adaptation?

Combat and Literal Magic.

We are really fortunate that Hand Of Fate is such an awesome genre mash of action combat and card game that we have so much that we can draw on to build this board game.

That said, we can't have straight combat like HOF has. It just wouldn't translate right unless we strapped some sort of rockem sockem robots to the side of each game. So we have opted for something a little different. That's all under wraps at the moment, but our playtesters have given us some very positive feedback.

Our other issue is that in HOF the dealer is literally magic. While we have tried our hardest to add the ability to make cards fly around the table into perfect piles, using incantations to defy the laws of physics by drawing energy from alternate dimensions was not within our budget. So we have had to capture the same deck building and board setup in a smooth and easy to do manner but sans the flying ball of cards.

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What have you done to capture the unique feel of HoF in the boardgame?

The feel of Hand Of Fate I think is two fold.

First is the genre mash that is deck construction + turn based dungeon crawler.

Hand Of Fate has an amazing and rich world that is told through the encounters you discover and the cards you earn. We wanted to bring out that emergent storytelling within the board game as well.

The meat and potatoes of Hand Of Fate is a punishing and gruelling trek against the odds in which the player is constantly tempted to push their luck in order to claim victory.

In Hand Of Fate: Ordeals you are still driven to push against the odds and take risks, but you also need to be doing this faster and better than your opponents.

Oh. And you will probably die.

Nice.

Obviously, I've been tremendous to work with, but what has it been like running playtest sessions with some of the designers from Defiant?

It's been great. Stepping into the offices for the first time kinda made everything real for me. Everyone at Defiant has been really eager to play it and they give great feedback. Having Morgan play and watch the game had been pretty intimidating, but luckily he is a nice guy.

It is really interesting to see people so involved in the property get cards and be surprised and excited as they realise what they are or how we have tweaked things for Ordeals.

How has the game changed between playtests? Which battle plans failed to survive contact with the enemy?

How long do you want this interview to be? laughs The game has changed so many times. It never started with a board, we went through so many iterations of how to get cards. I would be very keen to show all the steps we went through once people have had a chance to see it.

Last one: what's your favourite thing about the HoF boardgame? What is it that you personally can't wait for the audience to experience?

I really like the bit where you get to draw cards. Drawing cards is just my favourite thing.

Hehe.

But really. The style of the game is what I like most. It's the combination of rogue-like and deckbuilder that I enjoy the most. Being able to change up, each game, what I will focus on building while trying out new card combinations.

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Excellent. Is there anything else you think fans of Hand of Fate should know?

I think that people should know that this game isn't just Hand Of Fate the board game. It really is its own thing. You can play this to get the same kind of experience as Hand Of Fate but also something new and interesting.

Thanks so much, Michael. We'll have much more information on Hand of Fate: Ordeals soon!

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Given that Colbjorn and Estrella each received a proper press release and debut demonstration at PAX West and PSX16 respectively, I was a little sad that Malaclypse the Bard missed the debut announcement boat. Some time ago I mentioned this to our concept artist, Nick, and suggested we do a blog post detailing the design process for the character. Nick agreed and then proceeded to pester me about the timing of the blog over the next couple of months, despite the fact that I was clearly distracted with complicated matters like trying to figure out how to fit a thousand HoF2 buttons and magnets into my carry-on luggage ahead of an international flight.

Eventually, my schedule opened up, so I walked over to his desk to conduct an interview. Clearly, there was a story here. Why else would he keep bugging me? This was going to be one of those amazing creative journeys full of branching paths and interesting dead ends. I was excited.

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NICK: They told me he was a wizard pretending to be a bard, so I just drew these. They liked this body and this hat, so I drew a new one combining the two. Then I did the finished one.

ME: That’s it. That’s the whole creative adventure. You nailed it first go, everyone was happy, so they made a 3D model of it and put it in the game.

NICK: What do you want, man? I’m very good at my job.

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Damn that man.

Anyway, that’s Malaclypse. He’s a mage disguised as a minstrel, and he doesn’t mind using his gifts, both natural and supernatural, to part fools from their money. In battle, he provides the player with enchanted shields while peppering his foes with magic missiles. On the board, he grants a free respin on the Wheel of Fate, one of HoF2’s new chance minigames. He’s street-smart and world-weary, and his chapters of the story tend to reflect this.

Apparently, he was very easy to design.

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Fun fact: during my first week in the office, our audio engineer asked me to provide scratch dialogue for Malaclypse (Scratch dialogue is a placeholder asset used internally by the dev team to work out action timings). To this day my hilariously nasal bard remains in the game, shaming me every time we test a build. I’m not saying this was definitely a hazing ritual… but it was definitely a hazing ritual and the games industry is populated entirely by black-hearted monsters.

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Being located on the other side of the world to most gaming news outlets means our press releases tend to get distributed while we're asleep. The upside of this is waking up to a pile of positive responses. It's like Christmas!

Hello, yes, we are releasing on the PS4 alongside the PC and Xbox One in 2017. We'll have a new demo on display at PSX 2016 this weekend, and you should come say hi! We're also showcasing our latest companion, Captain Estrella Fiore.

We'll have more to say about Estrella on the weekend, but the feedback so far has been fantastic. As an added treat, here's a couple of pieces of early concept art our character artist begrudgingly (very begrudgingly) gave up.

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Our full announcement follows:

BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND – Nov. 29, 2016 – Hand of Fate 2, Defiant Development’s upcoming action RPG that blends roguelike dungeon crawling, tabletop roleplaying and, collectable card games and roguelike dungeon crawling, will launch on PlayStation 4 in Q1 2017 simultaneous alongside the previously announced Xbox One and PC releases. Defiant Development will showcase a brand new demo of the game at PSX 2016 in booth B1008, debuting the third companion, Estrella Fiore.

Captain Estrella Fiore is encountered by the player in the midst of her third military campaign to the North. She is a terror at range, and while her interests align with the player's, she'll be a fearsome companion. Should the player find themselves on the wrong side of the Empire, however, Estrella will have some hard choices to make. On the tabletop, her unwavering persistence will also grant a second attempt during the new Pendulum minigame, designed to test precision and timing.

Our heroine will lean on Estrella and other companions for support as she clashes with all-new enemy factions, including the new Greed and Frost suits. The Greed faction employs deadly assassins and alchemists to hound the player with swift attacks and evasive manoeuvres, while Frost’s Northerner giants leverage brute force and deadly homemade weapons to deal massive amounts of damage.

Hand of Fate 2 builds on the original game’s distinct RPG storytelling and combo-driven combat with the addition of companions, new fighting styles to accompany the addition of two-handed and dual-wielded weapons, new level objectives, a map-based meta board game, and powerful new cards which can instantly sway a game in the player’s favor.

In Hand of Fate 2, the magical dealer returns to train a new heroine in the game of life and death so she can exact revenge on the protagonist of the first Hand of Fate, who now rules as a xenophobic tyrant.

The game’s challenges will be built from collectable cards. Players will create a deck from these cards, which the dealer then adds his own trials to, before laying out a hand to create a board game. Our heroine will travel from one card to the next, revealing new challenges to overcome including fierce third-person combat, dangerous locations to explore, tense minigames, and Dungeons & Dragons-style decision making. The original Hand of Fate garnered more than 2.2 million downloads.

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We’ve been sitting on this news for a little while now, but we’re finally able to announce that, yes, we are absolutely working on a physical, for-real, tabletop version of Hand of Fate. If you’re excited by this news, imagine how WE feel. The videogame that plays like a boardgame is finally getting a boardgame that feels like a videogame.

We’ve partnered up with local boardgame publishers Rule & Make, responsible for Burger Up, Rise to Power, Entropy and Robots & Rockets, to develop the game. R&M have an excellent track record bringing well-designed games to market and we couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. It’s always been our intention to produce a boardgame based on Hand of Fate (our Creative Director has had handmade components littering his desk for months) and to be working with the incredible designers at R&M will ensure we all get the best possible version of the game.

Why isn’t it out already?

We'll have more info after PAX Australia, so stay tuned!

The full announcement from Rule & Make follows:

Defiant Development has partnered with Australia’s leading tabletop games publisher, Rule & Make to produce a Hand of Fate tabletop game based on their award-winning, multi-platform franchise of the same name.

Rule & Make - publishers of Burger Up, Rise to Power, Entropy and Robots & Rockets - will develop the official Hand of Fate tabletop game, drawing on elements from both the original game and the forthcoming sequel.

The tabletop version combines deck building with key aspects of the video game and translates these into the physical space.

Hand of Fate is an action role-playing video game that combines deckbuilding, choose-your-own-adventure storytelling and real-time, third-person combat. Players take on the role of a nameless hero and challenge the enigmatic Dealer, a powerful sorcerer and master of the Game of Life and Death. With over two million copies, Hand of Fate has built a cult following of players across Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac and Linux.

Morgan Jaffit, Creative Director for Defiant Development, said the partnership for the project was a natural fit. “We've been aware of Rule & Make since Rise to Power, as they worked with Nick Smith, who's also the concept artist for Hand of Fate.

“Since then, we've kept in touch and watched their titles - and enjoyed them. Ninja Dojo Fight is one of my son's favourite games, and we've played plenty of Entropy along the way as well.”

“When we started thinking seriously about a physical version, we spoke to a few different people in the space, but it was Rule & Make who we really wanted to work with, largely because they were local, passionate, creative, and knew our game inside out.”

"In terms of the tabletop version, we’re really looking forward to having an actual game we can unfold with friends, and we’re excited by some of the mechanics ideas Rule & Make have in mind.”

Rule & Make’s Head of Production Alistair Kearney said that the collaboration of two Queensland-based games production companies was an exciting one. “Being based so close to the Defiant offices is only going to help the development process and ensure they are as involved as possible. We’re confident this will mean the end result will be an excellent representation of the HoF universe, bringing the vision of both companies to life.”

“To be able to see the digital game come to life in physical form, and take advantage of what physical games can offer over the digital medium.”

“We’re big fans of the original Hand of Fate game and can’t wait to the sequel when it lands early next year.”

Hand of Fate 2 is currently in development and is expected to be release in early 2017 on PC and Xbox One.

Rule & Make’s latest game, Skyward, was successfully funded on Kickstarter late last month, with 903 backers raising nearly $38,000.

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Hello!

Lee the Communications Manager here. We’re one month away from showcasing Hand of Fate 2 at PAX Australia and things are eerily quiet around the studio. This miiight just be the calm before the storm, so I’d better take advantage of this moment of peace to give you a brief update.

If you follow our social media channels, (and if you’re not, you should, we have excellent gifs) you might be aware that we took an early build of Hand of Fate 2 to Seattle for PAX West. Perhaps we saw you there? While we were confident in the quality of the game we had, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little anxious about how the attendees would receive the sequel. Were fans going to appreciate our changes? Would we convince sequel skeptics that it was worth returning to the well? Would anyone even know about the first Hand of Fate?

The answers were yes, yes and mostly. Gotta work on that last one, obviously.

The demo was a hit; players loved the idea of customizing adventure decks to deal with specific objectives, and they embraced the options now available in our combat encounters. I mean, look at this. Who wouldn’t want to be able to do this on command?

Or this?

I don’t know what’s going to be in the PAX AUS build yet, but as soon as I sneak it out of quarantine I will at least vaguely allude to new features here. Dual-wielded axes? I saw that from the other side of the office last month and it looked amazing. I don’t know if I’m allowed to mention those, but who will stop me? The creative director who has to approve my posts? Ha!

Okay, since you’re here, let me give you a semi-exclusive. A few people, after witnessing our PAX build, have asked whether we’re planning on including any more monstrous enemies in the game, to which I have to respond, “Have you seen this incredible ogre?”

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Finally, if you have any questions or requests you should get in touch! We love, love, love hearing from the community. Well, I do, at least. You can find us on our Steam forums, our Facebook or Twitter! Want to know what the Dealer’s legs look like? Need to know the HoF1 hero’s name? Starting a petition to make sure Mr Lionel is included in HoF2? Send us a message, we are always watching.

ALWAYS. ...

(Alright, since you asked... he’s wearing pajama pants and little slippers, the hero’s name is Kallas, and please sign me up to your petition)

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Welcome to the Defiant Development blog! Now that we're a fair chunk of the way through production with Hand of Fate 2, we figured it was time to stop playing our cards so close to our chest. Watch this space to receive regular updates on the dev process, and to learn more about the exciting new features and improvements being built for the sequel. We're extremely proud of how HoF2 is shaping up, and we can't wait to share it with you. -Defiant