Generation 4 – Coming Down The Peak

Orginially posted by Chippy on 6/25/09

With the quick removal of Chaz Elliott, there were a lot of changes that are in

store for the games division. But to understand the beginning dynamics of these

changes and how things came together, you have to look at things from Bill Dully’s

(our new CEO) perspective. Bill and Chaz hated each other, mainly because they were

from different worlds. Bill thought Chaz was an idiot, a smelly leech suculing on

the teat of the success of the games division. So if Chaz was an idiot, then who

were responsible for the games division being such a success?


It turns out that Bill Dully thought that IQ and I were a pair of geniuses. Dully

came from Upper Deck where they had already tried to establish a games division

which had failed miserably. Upper Deck’s games division at the time came out with

tons of games, but none of them were a success (They would eventually find a group

that would succeed in the form of Mike Hummel and Your Moves Games). So the fact

that Score’s games division had 2 critically acclaimed successes (Dragon Ball Z

was banking and Yu Yu Hakusho just won the Best New TCG fan award from InQuest Gamer)

made him think about what the differences were between the two divisions, and the

only thing he could think of was IQ and myself. We were the gaming gods, made of

solid TCG gold. Dully would practically promise us the world and would give us anything

we wanted, like a new “War Room” just for ourselves and our design work. If we continued

our “excellence” there may even be a promotion, with which came <i>more power</i>.


But we were still really young, and Dully quickly figured out that we needed someone

to reign us in, keep an eye on us if you will. So the games division went out to

hire a Game Design Manager, someone to keep us in check and make sure we were staying

on task. And as usual Score tradition, we pretty much hired the first guy that applied

– Dan Tibbles.


IQ and I already knew of Dan Tibbles from the Magi-Nation game designed by Interactive

Imagination. The game actually wasn’t that bad, and if they had actually moved the

Draw Step from the end of the turn to the beginning of the turn, the game would

have been balanced and hassle-free (With the draw step at the end, you could design

a deck that would discard your opponent’s hand before his turn came around, keeping

him from ever playing another card again. This was the basis of the Or-lock deck

that won Magi-Nation’s first World Championships). Dan was also a very charismatic

person, which helped with his individual interviews that IQ and I got to have with

him. We knew the guy and he didn’t seem that bad, so he was quickly hired onto the



Little did we know that hiring Dan Tibbles would have a huge impact on the entire

division and our success. For it was Dan Tibbles that brought in many new things

to our division, both good and bad, which would have a very profound impact on us

all. Yes, Score would never be the same again…

Playtesters! Hooray!

Before I get into what happened with the transition from Dragon Ball Z to Dragon

Ball GT, I should talk about one of the best impacts that Dan Tibbles had on the

division – playtesters. Dan was pretty good with working on financial figures and

quickly found a way to cheaply open up the budget to hire on about 8+ contract playtesters

to bring in house. Before this point, the only playtesting we had were from IQ and

myself, the yahoo playtest list for the Buffy TCG, and our Kid Buu Playtest. So

hiring on people that would be playing our games FULL-TIME and be able to give us

good feedback…My brain squealed in delight about how much improvement and polish

our games would have because of this staff increase.


Many of these playtesters were hired from the Dragon Ball Z crew, but there were

some people that Dan brought onto the team from his Legend of the Five Rings world.

Honestly, it was because of this Crew that made me the happiest I had ever been

since being promoted to Game Designer. In the past, the only other person that was

even near my age was IQ, with everyone else in the division (and company) being

much older. But all of these playtesters we hired were slightly younger or around

my age! People I could better relate to, who’ve experienced the same culture and

played the same games. I loved bring each and every one onto the team (although

purely in a heterosexual way).


I won’t forget these people either, because for once it really felt like I had a

little family in the company. Sean Poestoke (The Asian counter to Aik), Jimmy Watson

(”It’s Time For Some Spinach!”), Rob Halucha (Online Hold’em Addict), Ryan Carter

(Atkins Man), Cole Hutto (Beefcake), David Fashbinder (Fastest talking Jew on Earth),

Jesse Zeller (”All you need is the ground”), Rich Bondi (The Mad Bomber), Geoffrey

Brewster (Any man that doesn’t like music is scary), yeah… I’ll never forget you

guys. There are other names that appear in the playtesting list for Baby Saga, but

their impact will be talked about in a little bit. There were 3 people that were

hired onto the playtesting team (or stuck around) that would totally change my life

as I knew it, from a personal perspective. I personally would not be the person

I am today without meeting these men, and I have absolutely no idea what I could

have become without them.


Sam “Garrett” Wilkinson – Garrett and Michael Gibson had somehow stayed onto the

crew after the Kid Buu playtesting (honestly don’t remember how). I think maybe

it was because they were still in town long enough that when we needed people they

were already there to be taken in. Garrett would definitely be someone who would

change my life. My intelligence is more logical focused like a computer. But Garrett’s

intelligence was social, being able to network and bring people together, and I

learned many things from him. He taught me how to network, taught me how to get

yourself known, and how to “fight the man!” with style. I personally felt that Garrett

was a marketing genius, always knowing how to spread the word in our new technological

age and knowing what would work and what wouldn’t. Indeed, I felt that he was my

mental yin to my yang, and I learned quickly to see what his perspective was when

it came to social matters, work-wise and in our outside life.


Garrett also opened up my musical ears, taught me how to match bands with the songs

they played (or suffer ridicule), and just introduced me to a wide variety of culture

I never thought existed. If you’ve never heard of the psycho billy genre like Necromatix’s

“Struck by A Wrecking Ball”, you are definitly in for a treat. And Troma movies!

I’ve you’ve never seen a Troma movie like Terror Firmer… well, maybe you shouldn’t

see it so you can keep your innocence. But most of all, Garrett was a good friend.

Even though I don’t hang out with him anywhere near as much as I like (I mean, we’ve

got over 50,000 zombies left to kill in Left 4 Dead for some wholesome genocide),

I will always remember what he has done for me and hopefully will be able to return

the favor.


Eric “Kunk” Kunkle – So all gamers have an ego, not excluding myself. We think we

are the smartest and the best, that nobody could even come close to matching us,

that we are the cream of the crop. For myself, that all changed when we hired Kunk.

I knew of Kunk from the TopTierGamging/Fanatics message boards, a writer of eloquently

harsh worlds poised from a venomous tongue yet filled with intelligence instead

of just flame bait. But Kunk has a whole different side that I got to experience

when we hung out in person. I admit that there are many people that are smarter

than me in other areas, like Garrett is when it comes to marketing and social stuff,

but when it came to generally logical intelligence I often felt unequaled (even

to IQ). <i>Kunk shattered that reality.</i> He was just as smart, if not smarter,

than me (although once your genius reaches our levels, it really is hard to compare).

He could solve some puzzles faster and better.


The best part was I could bounce ideas off of him and actually get logical feedback,

even if it was a little sarcastic. At first it made me feel a little crappy, but

that quickly subsided into joy. ‘I’m not the only smart one!” my brain screamed.

A mental equal… and for someone who is as mentally driven as myself… fantastic!

Kunk was able to make me feel good about being smart and that there actually were

other people out there smarter than myself. And most of all, Kunk was able to make

me feel comfortable with myself. From being white (”You can be proud of being white

without being a racist, you racist!”) to knowing that you see things differently

than everyone else, Kunk helped me grow. And all this is not counting the thick

skin grown from resisting the scathing way he can phrase some things. I had to try

to be better than him, to be one step ahead of him if I could. He made me push myself

like noone ever had before, plainly because now I had someone as smart as myself

looking at my game but without the prejudice of actually having made it. Thank you,



Keith Hwong – Last, but not least, was a small Asian man by the name of Keith. Keith

was brought in as part of the “Tibbles Crew” and had actually went to the same High

School as Dan, so he was very unfamiliar to people from the Dragon Ball Z world.

But he was a fantastic addition having a very very different perspective while also

still being smart. When it comes to life in general, I try to be the optimistic

person: The glass isn’t half empty, it’s half full! For Keith the glass isn’t half

empty, it’s actually completely empty: You just don’t understand that yet. Things

didn’t exactly start off the best between us as well. In fact, I’ll always remember

one day that I dropped him off at his apartment. I was picking him up and giving

him rides to the office because he didn’t have a vehicle yet, having left his car

up in Seattle. Keith had assured me that he was going to quickly get a car. But

one afternoon when I dropped him off, he asked if he could get a ride again. My

jaw dropped, because I thought that Keith had his stuff together and, unlike the

rest of us “kids” he would have had a car by now. I didn’t have a problem picking

him up and taking him to the office and back, but Keith took my jaw dropping a different

way and thought that I didn’t like picking him up. “Ok, I get it. Don’t worry, I’ll

find another way to get to the office,” he said. It took me at least 3 minutes to

convince him that wasn’t the case, and I still felt like crap for the rest of the

day. Luckily we got over this and started to become good friends. He was fun to

hang out with, and an avid fighting game addict.


What Keith really gave me, what changed my life, occurred outside of the office.

He gave me a sense of culture, or at least the awareness of my lack of such. Keith

came from Seattle where “everybody speaks at least 2 languages and there were tons

of culture everywhere. But down here in Texas, you’re a bunch of rednecks.” We had

no culture that he spoke of, so he slowly started to inject some of this said culture

into me. From the wildly abstract movies (like this weird anime movie where the

egg is somehow symbolic to Jesus), to the different drinks and foods he would eat(his

fridge was ALWAYS full of stuff I’ve never tried before), to even teaching me how

to play Marvel vs Capcom 2 (I really, really such at combo execution), he had the

patience to show me there was a lot more to this world than what I saw in Texas

and what I had seen at conventions. Heck, I personally blame Keith for giving me

the “travel bug” and the yearning to actually get out of Texas. Before Keith, I

didn’t know where I would go. But now I know – anywhere but here. The entire world

has stuff to offer. Unfortunately, I’ve lost contact with Keith over the years and

I wish that I could get in touch with him again. I’d love to see if he’s found his

“true meaning in life” which was part of the reason he came down to Texas and playtest.

While he didn’t know what he was going to do in life at that time, I hope, no I

believe, that he has finally found found that goal.


But all in all, every member of the playtesting team impacted me and changed me

into who I am today, including the ones that would arrive later like David Bauer

and Josh Morris. To finally have “brothers” in the office was amazing, and I will

never forget all the fun and the experiences we had. Thanks for everything, guys.

You guys will never know how grateful I am for having to meet all of you and work

with you all.

Yes Men

Also before the most pivotal meetings for the Dragon Ball GT TCG, it is probably

best to have an understanding of how politics were in the office in this very short

period after Chaz had left. Without a head of the games division, a power vacuum

formed within the team. There were going to be 4 people vying for that position

of power that was created. The two leading men in this quest were Jonathan Quesenberry

and Dan Tibbles, wanting either more power, or to even take over that position.

Tibbles was quickly able to rise through the ranks and secure new positions and

responsibilities, like being in charge of the TCG inventory. Jonathan had a newborn

on its way and wanted to establish a good career to support his child. Both men

were very ambitious. IQ and I would eventually label them as “Yes Men”, because

that’s all they ever said to Bill Dully. “Yes sir! We can do that sir! May I wipe

your buttocks sir?” But when Dully wasn’t around, they quickly asserted their influence

down the chain, much to IQ and my dislike.


But what they didn’t know was that Dully didn’t want them to run the games division

– he wanted either IQ or myself to take that lead. As I prefaced at the beginning,

we were his golden eggs from the goose. We knew what needed to be done to be successful,

so who else to better run the division than one of the masterminds? Now I cannot

speak for IQ here (but I’m 95% confident that it happened to IQ as well), but Dully

was prodding me to be the head of the games division. He brought both of us into

the company meetings for the higher ups, letting us see all of the pivotal numbers

and fact sheets (and they were very surprised when they found out we already KNEW

that stuff since Chaz taught it all to us). He even promised me ludicrous stuff,

like my own gaming room and pay raises and a multitude of other stuff. But I didn’t

want that seat. Beyond Chaz, nobody could last longer than 6 months in that position.

Plus, I was already where I wanted to be. I was designing games for a living! The

frickin’ dream job! Since I’m not a money-focused man, why would I e-v-e-r give

up designing games to be in a position where I was basically everybody’s babysitter?

I believe the proposal for IQ was slightly different as IQ started to go through

some changes. But I’ll get to these changes later because we have something a bit

more important to talk about now – How Dragon Ball GT became the way it was.

Decisions, Decisions

Shortly after Dan Tibbles was hired onto the team, Dully brought the entire division

into one of the conference rooms for a little “pep” talk. Dully had more of a corporate

mindset compared to the small business perspective that Chaz had been running the

games division with. So it was in this meeting that he decided to establish a few

changes and to let us know a few things about how everything will be handled in

the future. One of these decisions – each game designer would have only 1 game and

would be the only designer for it. This way we could be focused and not have our

attention spread out, which would cause us to make “worse games”. Since I had seniority

over IQ, Dully put a fork in my road: “You are the Lead Game Designer so you need

to make a decision: Design Dragon Ball or design Yu Yu Hakusho.”


This was an extremely hard decision that I would have to make. On one hand, I had

always been working on the Dragon Ball Z TCG. I was there in the beginning, I helped

develop it through Trunks Saga and Android Saga, and I handled all of the design

from World Games and on. My work took that game off the ground into the small beast

that it had become. On the other hand, Yu Yu Hakusho would provide me with something

unique: I would get to design and develop my own game. This was something I had

yet to do and I yearned for. All of the other games made by Score before then were

designed by someone else and I either developed it or overhauled it. Dragon Ball

Z was originally designed by Jim Ward and we (myself, Josh, Josh, Chaz, and IQ),

fixed it up in Trunks Saga. Buffy was originally designed by Christian and Owen

from Last Unicorn Games, even though I overhauled the game into something that was

very little resembling what they had given us (you definitely don’t want to see

what their original design that we payed buckoo bucks bucks for).


But Yu Yu Hakusho was designed by me – and people liked it! Hardly anybody knew

what the show was about (It was quickly canceled off the air after the 2nd story

arc because of low ratings), but people like it so much that it won an award! People

were buying the game not because of the show, but because it was a good game! I

had to think long and hard into the night on this decision. Do I keep working on

the same game that I’ve designed for so long, or do I work on my new baby and actually

have the chance to design a game and continue to work on it for its entire life

cycle. I already had everything set in place, with all 6 sets having a preliminary

design and a plan in place that, if the game was still successful after the 6th

set, how to convert it to handle ANY IP we wanted to get our hands on so that the

game would continue to stay alive. Work on something old, or something new? Work

on something you are known for, or a completely new avenue? Cinnamon or Sugar? Tough,

tough choices.


The next morning I walked into the office and I had a small conversation with IQ

before our meeting. “So which one are you going to take?” IQ asked. “I’m going to

stick with Yu Yu…”

The Meeting That Changed It All

So we all walk into another group meeting lead by Bill to wrap up everything about

the organization and flow of things and to set us forward with our tasks for the

future that was discussed the previous day. The very first thing he said was, “David,

you’ve worked on Dragon Ball the longest time. Dragon Ball is your baby, and so

you are going to be the designer for it. IQ, you get that Yu Yu game.” Both of our

jaws dropped. IQ was pissed because he didn’t get the game he wanted, the one I

told him he was going to get before the meeting. I was pissed because of what I

had to go through. Choosing between both games was really difficult. If I was not

going to get to make the decision, why make me think of one? My mind was screaming!

I was given the opportunity that I wanted and it was stripped from me, as if the

option never existed! What a bastard! But that anger quickly became quelled by fear

from what Dully had to say next.


Dully started to rant how brand extensions never work. Not a single brand extension

has “ever been successful”, even though expansion sets to TCG’s ARE brand extensions.

He just didn’t understand TCGs. So I was given an ultimatum – I had to create a

brand new game, different than the Dragon Ball Z card game. But it still had to

be completely compatible with all of the old Dragon Ball Z cards. And he would have

Dan Tibbles be my point man to make sure that this would happen – Dan was given

the ability to approve *MY* games, and it was Dan’s job to make sure I succeed in

this task. Immediately both Dan and Jonathan jumped up, going “Yes sir! We can do

that sir! May I chew your food for you, sir?” Without any say from myself, that

decision had become locked into place.


The room began to stink with an awful smell radiating from my pants from all the

bricks I just dropped. I had been in this position once before, and I knew how impossible

it was. Back before Buffy was canceled, Chaz wanted me to do the same thing for

an Angel TCG. The idea was to make a totally different game but to be able to still

use all of the Buffy cards in it. This way all the people that had been buying Buffy

cards could play this game nearly for free, and we would have cards that could criss-cross

both games (just like in the show! Hurr hurr!). My first and only attempt at this

was really pitiful. The engine didn’t have holes, but the game really sucked because

I was strapped to having Buffy cards be compatible I tried some tricks like flipping

around Locations and Challenges, where your Challenges were the places you “moved

to” and the locations were like Enchantments from Magic that you could put onto

Challenges. But it was a really terrible game, one that I’m nowhere near fond of.

It took me a week just to come up with a preliminary design that everybody liked,

and it tanked heavily. But now, I had to do the same with the Dragon Ball franchise.

I was in for a painful ride. We already had plans for what we were going to do with

Dragon Ball GT, but now Dan would make sure that we went down a different path.

I couldn’t even fight back because of the Yes Men and how Chaz left – I was already

walking on thin ice because I was “Chaz Jr.”, and I was in no political position

to start a fight. So there was nothing I could do except make a new game.

Dragon Ball GT – Making the Game Engine

There was much work involved in creating the Dragon Ball GT game, so I am going

to have to section it off in parts. The first and major part was remaking the game

engine. Now, this new ultimatum really screwed up my plans, but I still tried them

none-the-less. I cleaned up the Dragon Ball Z rules, cutting out the multi-colored

drill reshuffle rule, axing the “When entering Combat” phase (it’s an effect timing

window like “at the start of your turn” and not an actual step in the game), and

just polished it all up. Trying to be sneaky and knowing that Dan hadn’t played

our games much, I tried to pass this game engine by him. “Chippy,” he said, “this

is basically the same game. There’s nothing different about it. Go and make a new

game.” Damn…


My first two rehashed game engines didn’t turn out too well. Frantically trying

to throw the first one together, Dragon Ball GT 1.0 had tons of holes in the game

engine. We couldn’t get through a single game without having to add 2-3 rules to

the game. It was just a poor, poor game design, and so it was immediately shucked.

The second game engine faired better, but it was too drastically different. I changed

the game where both players participated in every turn, and there was no “declaring

combat” – it always happened (take that stasis! Haha!). Furthermore, I was on a

little kick from Yu-Gi-Oh, being fascinated by the “face-down” mechanic. I thought

it was pretty amazing to have the ability to play cards without your opponent knowing

what those cards were. The whole mind game of “I know its there, but what could

it be” really got my mind buzzing. So I applied that mechanic to all Non-Combat

cards – They were initially played face-down and flipped whenever they were used.

Drills would have “instant speed” while Non-Combat cards would take an action during

Combat. Oh, did I mention there was no Non-Combat step either? Instead, playing

a Non-Combat card took an action during the Combat phase. So if you wanted the effect

of a Non-Combat card, it would take 2 actions vs. the 1 action of regular Combat

cards. The active player was handled differently as well – The player who passed

last during Combat was the new active player. So if you kept flushing your hand

and finished before your opponent, you would never get to “go first”. But since

it was a simultaneous turn game, you would never be purely shafted. You just never

would get to go first. But in the end, this engine didn’t work out too well either.

It was too different, and a lot of our playtesters despised the game engine. So

it was back to the drawing board for Dragon Ball GT 3.0.


I knew what I had to do – I had to emulate the same change that Magic: The Gathering

went through. For those unfamiliar with Magic’s history, the game’s engine went

through a change as they shifted from the 4th Edition rules to 5th Edition. The

introduction of the stack as a way to handle the effects in the game was a very

good one, but it introduced a subtle change to how effects resolved, which is best

highlighted in an example. Your opponent has a Prodigal Sorcerer (aka Tim), and

taps him for his effect to deal 1 point of damage to you. In response, you Unsummon/Terror/Lightening

Bolt/(Insert your choice of removal here) Tim to remove him from play. With the

rules of 5th Edition, Tim’s effect would go onto the stack and your removal would

go on top of it. Your removal would resolve first and get rid of Tim. But since

Tim’s effect is on the stack, it goes next and still resolves. But in 4th Edition

your removal would still get rid of Tim, but Tim is no longer in play to use his

effect causing his 1 point of damage to fizzle and never reach you.


Not much has changed from a normal standpoint (especially in the eyes of a beginner),

but this had a very big impact on high-level play. Certain loops and chains could

be created that did not exist before, and it was MUCH harder for a variety of decks

to stop effects. This changed basically reduced countering “in play effects” from

any form of removal in the game to just the Counterspell variants themselves. But

you couldn’t see this at the surface level. All you saw was a very rigid and logical

way to handle the whole “in response” stuff in Magic. This would be the type of

change that I sought for – something that was basic yet definitely changed the game

at a high-level of play.


The first change came to mind pretty quickly, hang already been tossed around the

office for awhile. Letting Carl Braun go free with designs on Dragon Ball GT cards

let him play around with a few things like how many power stages could fit on a

personality card. From this spawned the idea of the increasing numbers in the game.

As the power escalation goes in the Dragon Ball storyline, the fighters should be

stronger than ever before, slinging attacks that made Frieza and Cell look like

they were flicking peanuts. But if we allowed this to happen just by raising numbers,

then a player with a 75 card Life Deck could easily die in just a few attacks. <i>But

this would be mitigated with Endurance if it were added to every card.</i> If

every card had an average endurance of 2, then each card would be worth 3 cards

in your Life Deck. You could take an energy attack to the face for 15 life cards

of damage, but it would only result in you losing an average of 5 cards, the same

as the standard energy attack damage in Dragon Ball Z (since Endurance was rarely

played in most top level decks beyond the super amazing ones like Champion’s Aura

and Are You Tuff Enuff???). I already knew we were going to have somewhat of a Type

II and Type I tournament format, which this change would play greatly into. Now

players in “Type I” would have to choose between using the amazing effects in Dragon

Ball Z coupled with a now tiny attack, or play with a GT card with an effect that

may not be as amazing but it would deal a higher amount of damage and come with

Endurance. This change would also make capturing Dragon Balls more dramatic, as

you won’t know if an attack is 5 Life Cards of damage until that 5th card is flipped

over from the Life Deck.


While this change seemed full of win, it wouldn’t be enough to constitute as a “change”

for Dan. He liked the direction, but he wanted more. So it became time to look at

what issues were plaguing the game and how they could be resolved. This lead into

cleaning of the rules (as was originally planned for the beginning), but it also

took a hard look at one of the mechanics really interfering with the game – Anger

and Leveling. The Level 1 Theorem (due to the amount of anger hate, you will never

leave your level 1 MP without Aura Clash or being an Anger Deck yourself) really

hurt the refresh rates and values of many cards we produced in the game. We could

make all these awesome level 2-5 personalities that would never see the light of

day except for being a placeholder towards your MP’s overall levels. Only once in

a blue moon would they come into play for your deck. After much thought, there was

just no easy way to handle Anger and keep it in the game.


The issue comes for the core mechanic behind Anger itself. In order to raise your

Anger level, you must play cards that specifically raise your anger level. If no

anti-anger is added into the game, then to win by the Most Powerful Personality

Victory you just needed to use X cards, where X is the amount of anger it takes

to reach your top level (at this time in the game x = 20, and cards that raised

your anger 2 levels count as 2 cards for this). So once you used 20 cards that raised

your anger, you won. You could always put in effects to lower anger, but players

would have to specifically pack these cards into their decks. This makes the MPPV

victory different than the other 2 natural victory conditions in the game, as you

can interact with Survival and Dragon Ball victories with Combat (you don’t have

to play with Dragon Balls to deal 5 Life Cards and steal one). Even with anti-anger

cards, it basically turns the 2 players into fighting over a bean pile – 1 player

is filling it with beans trying to get to X while the other is taking out beans

trying to win before that happens. Indeed, MPPV vs. MPPV is the most boring matchup

in all of Dragon Ball Z, purely because its whoever reaches X anger, completely

ignoring the rest of the game. At least a Stasis vs. Stasis match could have players

trying to steal Dragon Balls with Blue Betrayals (like the North Carolina Regionals).


So I made the decision that it needed to be removed, but a leveling system would

still be needed. That’s when my brain clicked onto removing cards from your Discard

Pile. In the show, the characters NEVER started off at their highest levels or transformations.

Only after fighting each other for a bit would they then dramatically make their

change and release their inner strength. The choice of removing 10 cards was decided

on the idea that it should take a little bit more than an average combat, or 3-5

non-active turns (depending on what you decide during the Rejuvenation Step). The

strategy would be perfect for the game’s combat. Do you remove the card and take

less damage from the attack and protect yourself from Dragon Ball theft, or do you

keep it in your discard pile and use it to level to a stronger personality level?

Furthermore, this would be a drastic change from a high-level play perspective,

as top decks could climb levels and even the level 5 personalities could see play.

This also gave me much more freedom to create new effects and ways to gain and lower

player’s levels. Content with my change, I went back to Dan with my results and



Not enough? What do you mean not enough? We don’t need to change anymore. I like

this rule set, and we know the engine works as a whole. Not ambitious enough? Tiny

changes? The idea is that they are supposed to be small, but have a rippling effect

towards high-level play. Huh? Fine, I’ll go back to the drawing board. I’m telling

you that this works… no, you are the boss. I’ll get back to work.


Well pansy sticks, what am I going to do? Well if there needs to be another change,

what still needs to be fixed? The brain juices flowed into the ether thinking long

and hard about what to do. After a few hours, I was getting nowhere. So I turned

to the players. What did they not like mechanically in the game? Many issues could

be resolved purely with a good card set, but there had to be something in the way

the game played that they didn’t like… Nope, not getting anything. So what do

they complain about? Well, the most common complain with any card game is bad hands.

“Oh, you won because I drew a bad hand at the wrong time.” or “Oh, you were just

lucky that I didn’t draw X card” or “I just don’t have any luck today” could be

overheard at many conventions between players arguing with each other…


Right at this moment, one of those huge epiphanies slams into my head like a freight

train, the exact same feeling way back in Android Saga when we “solved” the issue

of ending combat as a defense. The PROBLEM with the game engine was that there was

no hand stability in the game, both in drawing cards and keeping them. But players

flocked to Android 18 like she didn’t wear clothes, and it was because she gave

them some of the stability lacking within the game. Being able to choose your hand

from the next 6 cards better ensured that you never drew a bad hand, or at least

the odds were really minimal. Instead of having a 1 card hand after discard, you

actually had 7 that you just got to use 4 from. It also added strategy because the

better players would pick better hands. Indeed, the sign of a good player from Cell

Saga onward until Buu was how he selected his cards from Android 18. Sometimes it

as a no-brainer, but many times there were subtle tricks and better choices that

could be made, allowing the consistently better and smarter players to always get

an advantage.


And so the most drastic change was made to the game by giving everybody Android

18’s power (without the card draw). This would change the game to be unlike any

other TCG. Nobody else lets you pick your hand. Nobody else could offer a game without

Mulligans and truly be safe (Pokemon and YuGiOh come close, but you can still get

hand screwed). The best players would then be able to forge their own destiny with

consistency becoming the key word. In order to help with this hand stability (and

to make card advantage matter more), I increased the number of cards kept in your

hand from 1 to 2. Now not only would the size of your hand matter (if you timed

things right you could go into combat with 5 cards without drawing from effects

against your opponent’s 3, definitely giving you an overall advantage during that

Combat), but it could also help us get around “heavy” cards that often clogged up

hands. Through all of Dragon Ball Z, the card kept in people’s hands the most after

discarding was Trunks Energy Sphere. Easily 70% of the time you naturally picked

Sphere, with only the strongest of the strong making you decide otherwise. If that

would become the case again, they could still keep their Sphere but also 1 other

additional card. More strategy, card advantage mattering more, stability… And

most importantly such a big change that Dan couldn’t say it was different.


I couldn’t have been more right. Dan literally crapped himself when I introduced

the “simple but elegant” change to the mechanics, and he thought it was perfect.

I had failed to keep the change small like Magic, but the goal was achieved none-the-less.

The game would naturally play the same, just with a few modifications. But these

few modifications would completely change how the game would be played on a strategic

and deck building level. Looking back in hindsight, I think I still hit the goal

really well. There would be only 1 thing that I would change (and if I could, I

would release it as an official errata for the game) – You do not get to look at

the top 6 cards when entering combat as the defender. While the “foresight” ability

was great, it really clogged the pace of the game. Once the game would be released,

there would be matches where players looked and determined their top 6 cards more

than playing the entire rest of the game! Removing the lookup on defense puts a

greater emphasis of decision making on your turn – which 3 do you want to draw for

the turn and <i>which 3 would you like to draw for your defense?</i> The pace of

the game would dramatically speed up and a player’s turn would completely feel like

his turn – he gets all of the advantages while his opponent gets none. While many

players that loved how the old Dragon Ball Z mechanics worked would loath these

changes and scream to the heavens, the rule changes are not the real reason why

everything would crumble. Nay, the transition itself would be our downfall.

Where We Failed: Type I and Type II

While it should be said that all of Score (including myself) failed with the transition

into GT, it was this decision and meeting that destroyed it all. If drastically

changing the direction of the game for GT is the wrecking ball, the change to our

tournament environment would be the arch stone knocked out causing the entire bridge

to crumble. If we handled this any differently, I believe that the transition would

have been a lot more successful and the game would have lived a much longer life.

Especially for those that are wanting to design TCG’s or are currently in the industry,

I cannot stress this point enough. Please learn from this lesson, because repeating

it will assure your doom.


First, let’s go back to that pivotal meeting with Bill Dully where it would be decided

that Dragon Ball would be “rebranded”. Immediately afterwards there were some discussions,

especially about the tournament scene. It was then that we knew that we were going

to shift into a Type I/Type II environment (for those that are still scratching

your head, this is 2 different tournament formats. Type I lets you use any cards

in the game while Type II only allowed to most recent sets to be playable). But

if we handled this correctly, this would be a boon instead of a fault. What I didn’t

understand was what everybody’s perspectives of this split would be, or more importantly

how we would handle it.


So lets speed back up to the present part of the Score storyline. In the corporate

umbrella, the organized play department fell under Marketing which was Jonathan

Quesenberry’s domain. So one day he sets up a meeting with Dan and I to go over

the changes to the game and to talk about how we were going to handle this transition

from a general format to Type I/Type II. As soon as the meeting started, Jonathan

was already laying out his plans and little did I know that he was already enacting

those plans as we spoke. Jonathan wanted to place the Type II format on a prominent

tier, leaving Type I in the shadows. And we’re talking really really in the shadows.

EVERYTHING would be Type II and would would have 1 tournament a year for Type I,

possibly having it take over the Grand Kai Invitational. He was effectively trying

to ignore the previous 3 years and start everything fresh, which was in line with

the “new game” philosophy that Dully was speaking of.


Now this is a very, very bad idea. Once a TCG has matured to this level, the players

have invested a great deal of money into the game. We’re talking hundreds of dollars,

more than just a single booster pack or even a box of them. To effectively say “All

that money you spent is only worth being played once a year” greatly devalues the

investment. It also brings a second specter of “reinvestment”, as a player would

have to buy a whole ton of new cards. While this would happen regardless, this brings

the notion to the forefront because you are forcing them to buy the new cards, not

releasing them and players wanting to buy them because the cards are better.


Instead, it should be a gradual shift into Type II where they both share equal time.

When Type II is first introduced, <i>it</i> should be the light one. The game isn’t

even fully fleshed out yet and you have tons of players still wanting to play with

all the old cards. Once you have reached your first or second expansion should Type

II tournaments become a bit more common, giving players at least 6 months to slowly

embrace the new format (and in our case, the new rules). This also gives the Type

II format to mature by the card set size doubling with an expansion or two. But

your old cards MUST always have some value to them, and therefore Type I can never

go away. Sure, you’ll always lose a few players making this type of change, but

slowly changing the format would let you retain a much larger percentage than just

practically throwing them out. Plus, why would anybody want to buy your cards again

if you were just going to make them worthless a year or two down the road?

The Company Line

I tried to explain this concept to Jonathan, unknown to having lost before I begun.

Dan entered Yes Man Mode and completely went along with the idea, turning the meeting

into them shooting down why the above mentioned strategy would be the WORST thing

we could do and that their idea of practically shunting Type I from existence was

the best (and in Dan’s eyes, the most profitable) decision the company could make.

Anything said and any tactics employed in the meeting did not budget either of them

from their position. I would have made sure IQ was at my side for this meeting had

I known what I was walking into, if anything to even the numbers instead of it being

a 2-on-1.


Since Organized Play was under Jonathan, the only way to set things straight was

to make him change his mind. If Jonathan thought otherwise, he would do otherwise.

I was not his boss and had no authority in his realm. Dan backing him up further

solidified that his mind would never be changed. Remembering again the political

position I was in (”Chaz Jr.”), this would be a battle I would have to drop for

my own job’s sake. Jonathan was becoming the power player in the division, and he

could easily get me ejected since there was still IQ and Dan Tibbles himself. I

was expendable, he was not.


Jonathan’s decision would have a great impact on how nearly all the decisions would

be made from that point on for Dragon Ball GT. The idea wasn’t ejecting the old,

but that they would stick around regardless. “If they love the game, they’ll stick

around no matter what we do.” As far as design decisions were concerned, this meant

leaving Type I as the open wacky world, the high-powered playing field where decks

were monsterously powerful, wicked fast, and just downright crazy (like Magic’s

Type I format).


But just accepting this fate was not enough for either gentleman. What they really

wanted was to make sure that I would say the company line, that I would be complete

“in” with the plan. Not only would I have to say the company line to the outside,

but I must also resiliently defend it inside the company as well – it would not

succeed unless everybody at the top were saying the same thing. If Dan and Jonathan

were sending one message and I was sending out a different signal, it wouldn’t hold

up in the office and therefore “would fail on the outside”. I was heavily resistant,

because I still felt it was a plan for failure. But none of us would get up from

our seats until it was beaten into me that I *will* say and do this. After a long

period of time trapped in the corner with nothing on offense left, I finally crumbled



To this day this feels like my greatest failure. Politically I made the right decision,

as I would stay with Score long after both of them would leave the company and have

the upper hand. But I still feel like I could have tried to fight more. Maybe hop

the corporate ladder, or rally the troops. Something, anything… One of the worst

feelings in the world is doing all you can do but still feel like there was still

more that could have done, somewhere or somehow. Or worse yet needing to defend

and fight for a cause you didn’t fully believe in. I had many heated discussions

with playtesters and other designers with some of the decisions I had to make because

of this meeting, and how I had to keep saying “the company line”. Felt a little

dirty, actually. That feeling will probably never go away. I’m sorry, guys.

Dragon Ball GT: Making the Card Skeleton

With the rules in place and a fair idea of the direction of the game, it was time

to get down and make the cards for the game. Dan wanted to be a part of this process

and we went over to his apartment to map a few things out. This meeting fleshed

out how big the card set was going to be overall, how many cards of each rarity

would exist, how many promo cards, and other basic logistics The personality list

was filled out, starter deck personalities were picked, and we knew exactly what

levels each character in the game would get. How many Freestyle cards do we make?

Do we do just one set of Dragon Balls or two (since we could do the Dark Balls and

use the Style Guides for regular Dragon Balls). We even got into the nitty gritty

for the fighting styles: How many cards do each fighting style get? How many of

those cards are Physical Combat, Energy Combat, Event, Drill, etc? Of the combat

cards, how many are attacks, and how many are blocks? Will they be physical focused,

energy focused, or mixed? Layout this initial structure gave many fighting styles

different feels straight out of the box, and helped give each style a different

feel. Blue had very little attacks but tons of Non-Combats. Saiyan had barely any

Non-Combat cards at all making it totally focused on beating someone up.


Another one of Dan’s good ideas came out in this meeting as well – 2 Masteries per

style. He initially culled it from the Legend of the Five Rings TCG he was so fond

of, but the idea had wealths of advantages. This would allow us to give each fighting

style two different avenues and ideas to work with, ideas that would be similar

and cohesive but also go in drastically different directions. This also had an added

bonus of stability: No designer is perfect and there have been some pretty terrible

Mastery cards. If I accidentally created a pure stinker, the fighting style would

still have at least 1 “good” mastery to rely on keeping the entire grouping of cards

from being non-competitive. And if they both were good, then that’s just 2 different

deck types for that style from the very start! I believe this is the very definition

of “Win/Win”.


The change to the high-techs was spawned from this meeting as well. We were on a

discussion on personalities and what their effects in general would be and the idea

just popped up. At first it was just having a “variable” card effect for the personality

chosen by the effect of your choice, but it seemed a little bland. Once I added

the ability to change the PUR and some power stages (basically any part of the personality

besides who it is and its level), the idea gained more traction.


There was one surprise up Dan’s sleeve, which arouse when I mapped out the slots

for STAR (Stance, Time, Aura, Resistance). I brought up I wasn’t sure how I was

going to MRP the Nappa cards, since Nappa never shows up in GT. There just wasn’t

going to be an elegant way to handle it. “Actually, no MRP’s.” My brain was boggled.

“But we need to reprint these because Type I could get a little disastrous,” I responded.

“This is a part of what we talked about with Jonathan. All of these cards have to

be new. If we just reprint a bunch of cards, the players won’t have to buy as much.

Besides, its Type I. It’s supposed to be crazy.” Once again this was a point that

Dan would not budge on and I had to live with. But unlike the previous meeting,

this was something I could rebel on. For while Dan knew of what the most popular

cards were in DBZ, he was not a player of the game and did not know of the entire

card pool. So quietly I snuck in a few MRP’s like Vegeta’s Quickness Drill and Saiyan

Planet Explosion, just in spite. Let me tell you, it was quite difficult explaining

to the playtesters why STAR wasn’t getting MRP’d but a few others would be while

making sure that Dan never got wind of it (because if he did, they would have to

be taken out). At this point preparations for the design were made to help combat

this in Type I – With new recursion decks and a “Blitz” deck that could help get

around the “Block for the turn” cards should hopefully allow survival decks to have

a chance.


At the very end, all the information was gathered and put into a big access database.

Every single card slot was mapped with what card type, fighting style, and card

number it would be. Images were also matched up since I knew what each card was

going to be. All information was filled out for the card except for the title, the

effect, the rarity (assigned at the very end) and how much damage the attack on

the card would do (if any). All that was left was to fill in the blanks.

Lunacy begins at Hour 32

So the weekend rolls around and the deadline to turn the cards over to the playtesting

group is Monday. So Dan and I decide Friday night that we would meet up on Saturday

and spend the weekend knocking out the card effects. Saturday rolls around and Dan

is nowhere to be found, even with me blowing his phone up all day. He finally answers

that night and says that we’ll just meet on Sunday morning and split the list in

half so we both could get it finished. Sunday morning rises and Dan once again uses

his power of invisibility leaving me stranded. So I get into the office at 11am

and start working on the entire card set.


Things started off pretty smoothly as I had already assembled an “effect pool” over

the past few weeks. Whenever I just had some random ideas I threw it into a Word

Doc to cull from later. Starting with the fighting styles, each card was given a

title that matched with the image and an effect. Slowly but surely the entire list

was slowly being put together. The Mastery Card was first cards finished for each

style, and the personality cards were worked on once every colored card was complete.


Having the fighting styles finished before working on personalities helped since

I knew which styles I wanted the characters to be compatible to. But having to assemble

all of the information (Title, Power Stages Math, PUR, Effect, Which are windows

if it is a high-tech) took a much longer time than the other cards. It was well

after midnight and I was still working on them. But the list MUST be finished by

tomorrow, so I needed to continue on. I focused on the list creating cards for 55

minutes, then taking a quick 5 minute break for some nicotine and taurine to stay

awake. As the surfers in my generation would say, I was “buzzing it hardcore”…

But I would think that would happen to anybody after their 4th Red Bull.


If there was an award for endurance game design, that night would have gotten me

the gold. I nearly tapped out the entire effect pool and then some. The sun arose

and I was in the midst of the huge collection of freestyle cards and promos. Everybody

came in to see my zombie-looking eyes as I diligently continued to work on the list,

focused on keeping my eye on the prize. The afternoon strolls in and I’m about to

almost lose it at some points. Things started to look a little funny and the Red

Bulls tasted like water. I didn’t need to smoke any cigarettes anymore, needing

only to blow upwards towards my nose to get some smoke. Am I awake or is this a

dream? AHA! What a perfect card effect!


while slightly exaggerated, the feeling was very much the same as I finally reached

the end of the list – Dragon Balls. Saving up the last of the “hit ideas”, I knew

that the Dark Dragon Balls were going to be the lynch pin for the set. These cards

needed to rival the Earth Dragon Balls and may even be preferable over them, without

making them totally game breaking (time to dance the line). I still wanted to keep

the general themes for each of the Dragon Ball numbers, but they needed to be awesome

effects that everybody would want to throw into their decks so everybody would always

be fighting over Dragon Balls. Delirious, sketched out the base ideas for each of

them on a white board, erasing a few if I didn’t feel they were strong enough or

fit in well. Surprisingly, the hardest Dragon Ball to make an effect for was Number

2. Can’t remember why, but that was the last one to get made. Happy with the results,

I typed the effects into the card list and hit save. At 6pm I handed over the card

list to the playtesters, stumbled out of the office and into my car, crawled into

my apartment and slept on the floor until the next day. Carpet Face never felt so


Over the Edge

You can say that I’m a bit of a liberal designer, wanting a more open game than

a restrictive one. Sometimes this is about effects, and sometimes its about the

flavor of the card. But one of these cards never saw the light of day, thanks to

Will Harper. What’s even more amazing is that he would let cards like Red Mouth

Shot through or sayings like “Lord Slug Gets Huge!” (that was actually his idea).

So here’s the story of my favorite card that never made it: Black Parental Guidance.


Now if you’ve actually watched the GT series in Baby Saga, you would understand

the premise of the storyline – Baby has the ability to plant his seed in orders,

forcing them to become his mindless slaves. Towards the end of the Baby Saga, Goku,

Pan, and Uub/Buub/Uubuu/(Pick Your Combination), were on Baby’s planet. There’s

a specific scene where Pan confronts her parents Gohan and Videl. But Gohan and

Videl had Baby’s seed, and therefore were under his control. Pan tried to snap them

out of it to no avail, with Videl slapping Pan and saying “We have become accustomed

to this, and so will you” or something along those lines.


Now the image of the slap was a great image overall, and so it was thrown into the

first set, with the above quote for its flavor text. But my mind is a bit more devious.

The card setup the pun way to well, and so I named it Black Parental Guidance. I

thought if I were going to get any backlash, it would be people calling me a racist,

not the fight I was about to get in…


So I am suddenly called into the conference room where Will Harper, Juddy, and Dave

Nichols. “What’s going on guys?” I said. “What were you thinking when you made this

card?” they responded. Will was no fan of child abuse, and was completely appalled

that I would ever even lean in such a direction. Everything on the card was offensive

to him: A child was getting beaten by her mother, the quote was “awful”, and the

title just sealed the deal.


So I concede, as I guess it was a bit overboard. I told them that I would change

the title of the card, but that wasn’t enough for Will. No, Will wanted the entire

card scrapped. Everything. The image, the card effect, the quote, the title, everything.

While I understand the changing of the title, there was no reason to change anything

else, so I fought back.


We started to get into an argument about the image, which I was clearly winning.

If I wasn’t allowed to use this image, then we need to recall EVERY previous set

we’ve ever produced. Goku kicks the crap out of Gohan ALL THE TIME, are we never

allowed to use another image of Goku and Gohan fighting? According to Will, yes.

Score should not promote child abuse. “Have you even watched the show, Will? It

is not child abuse. You are taking the entire scene out of context.” Then Juddy

raised his voice, the first time of the entire 2 times he yelled at me while working

on the game’s division. This card was clearly abuse and would get scrapped. Period.

Will would leave with the biggest smug face I’ve ever seen, as this battle let him

become the “Creative Editor” forever giving him to ax one of my cards just because

he felt like it (and it would happen in the future).


After the meeting, Juddy pulled me aside and talked to me about the meeting. I thought

it was utter BS and that I was being restricted, that Will went overboard. Juddy

responded that it was my fault – Had I put any other card title, nothing would have

happened. But the title kicked everything into gear and Will had the moral upper

ground. That’s why the card got axed. “Choose your battles better next time.” And

thus Black Parental Guidance… Sorry, I had to get a tissue, my eyes teared up.

Playtesting – The Good, The Bad, and the Stupid

Coming off of my experiences from the Kid Buu playtest, I had a fairly good idea

how I was going to utilize everybody on the team. R.J. had come back briefly to

help out with the playtesting of GT (and being the awesome center of morale that

he is), and with other key testers I had a good feeling that we would get a lot

of work done. We had a good mix of old and new players, but some people worked out

well and some people did not.


When you receive advice from a playtester, you must always keep how they are seeing

things in perspective. You don’t necessarily do everything they say, but you try

to see how they look at it so you know what to do. This can vary for every playtester

on the team. Playtesters can come in a variety of flavors, each requiring different

action. Some playtesters were high-level general players, like Kunk. These players

were great for overall feedback for the game, if things really were working at a

high level, and if there were any gross imbalances in the game. These playtesters

have great feedback and should be listened to well.


Then you have your combo artists. These playtesters are actually average or a bit

above average in general skill, but what makes them amazing is the combos they can

find. Rob Halucha, heck the entire Michigan crew, fits this bill perfectly. Rob’s

overall decks are a bit average, but he could find tons of infinite loops in the

game. They were the ones that originally found the loops with Trunks Sword Position

4 in Dragon Ball Z, and they kept many loops from ever being released. When you

are trying to create deck archetypes based around recursion or engines, these playtesters

are the best to make sure that they cannot get totally out of hand.


Another group are the specialists. Like combo artists, their general playing skill

is average but they are really amazing with specific deck archetypes Cole Hutto

being the man with the plan for Ally decks and later on Dan Posey are good examples.

It is these players that you have to treat their advice with caution. It’s not that

they are bad, but that their perspective is limited. If something is “broken”, it

may just be an effect that wrecks their deck but is actually perfectly balanced.

The tricky part lies in knowing when it’s just a card that is really good against

them and when its something so pivotal that the deck is unplayable. A good indicator

is how biased they are towards their archetype and what type of effect they are

complaining about. If Cole came to me and said “There’s too much Ally Hate”, then

that’s fine – He’s just been playing against decks filled with a good amount of

Ally Hate (which often is opted against in a live format), and an Ally deck can

be kept in check if a player prepares for it enough. On the other hand, if Cole

told me “Well, the format is too aggressive and I just never get enough time to

get my allies setup and get an advantage” or “Well, I have tons of guys in play

but they all suck, so I don’t effectively do enough damage” then the issue gets

looked into to see if I can make Allies better or tone other things down. Unfortunately,

bias can often severely cloud this type of playtester’s eyes. Dan Mosey would cry

“Wolf” nearly every single time he lost a game because some card or some deck somehow

beat is deck flavor of the month and therefore the deck was “overpowered and broken”.

At first it was ok, but after while you really can’t rely on their input too much

because it becomes hard to decipher if it really is an issue or not, and that time

could be better spent getting advice from a playtester who was not as biased/tainted.


The final group of playtesters are what I would call “Other Realm” playtesters.

These are players that are new to your game, but not to TCGs. What marks a great

distinction, though, are the drastic difference in game engine design. If a player’s

experience is only from Magic: The Gathering, he’s only going to see things in M:TG

terms. If he’s from the world of Legend of the Five Rings, he’s used to the pace

and mechanics L5R takes on. This could be a testament to how unique the DBZ/GT TCG

is, because these playtesters had a really hard time getting to a high-level. It

wasn’t that the mechanics were confusing but that they were so drastically different

than what they were used to. This happened very frequently with Scott Hadsal (Leader

of the Samurai), Jake “The Lumberjack” and Ryan “Atkins” Carter, as well as their

other L5R buddies. While Ryan and Jake sped up in front of the pack, the rest of

them were severely lagging behind.


A great example was how they actually made themselves a laughing stock of every

playtester that had ever touched DBZ before entering the building. During one of

our earlier playtest meetings, they announced they had found something “extremely

broken” with the game, all excited like they found the next Stroke Deck (If you

get that M:TG reference, two points for you!). What they revealed were that cards

like Power Up The Most were too broken in the game. Why? Because you could never

deck out. You could just keep recycling cards like Power Up The Most and always

be able to put cards back into your deck. Every single DBZ player in the room bursted

out into laughter. I myself even needed to hold back my smirk.


Every Dragon Ball Z player knows this is a terrible idea. Sure, you can constantly

keep yourself afloat from naturally drawing yourself out, but all it takes is a

single attack and your screwed, or you will in no way be able to stop your opponent

from completing his Dragon Ball set or winning combo. But in games like Legend of

the Five Rings, this is extremely powerful. Having the chance to recycle cards back

into your otherwise empty fate deck or play deck drastically changes your position

in the game. Doing the same in DBZ does not.


It’s not to say that their comments did not have worth… well, not these specific

comments, but other things that were brought up did have value. A good game designer

just has to recognize the perspective his playtesting advice is coming from. Some

things may not be so bad, but their previous experiences may paint the situation

differently in their head. Take with a grain of salt anything that seems to come

more from a previous game than your game. For example, if they start talking about

The Stack (and your game doesn’t have one), you know that’s a Magic taint. If your

game works without a stack and you don’t have a pseudo-stack predominantly through

the game, don’t add one. (And for the record, I do not count Trunks Energy Sphere

as adding a Pseudo-stack to the game).


In the end, it’s all about recognizing what type of person each playtester is, so

you can evaluate their advice and apply it best to your game. Beware of ownership

of decks, as a playtester could be unnaturally biased towards what defeats those

decks. Always listen to everyone’s advice before reacting, as the general consensus

may be drastically different than one single person crying wolf. And most of all,

learn when to listen and when to stand your ground. If everybody in the room is

complaining about something, it probably needs to be changed, regardless what you

think of it. But if only a portion want to set your game in a certain direction

because that’s what they feel it should be, resist them if it is not your vision.

Not every game needs a stack, or resources, or card advantage, or many other standards.

It’s up to YOU if you want those to matter or even see the light of day in your


Dragon Ball GT: Graphical Revamp

So Carl Braun was practically giddy with the thought about experimenting with the

card designs. Without any gameplay input, he tried all sorts of interesting ideas.

While most didn’t see the light of day, some of them were a bit remarkable. It was

because of Carl’s experimentations that gave me the idea for 16 power stages and

endurance on every card. He even found a wicked cool way to combine the Z-Scouter

and Anger Sword into 1 piece, having a little window tucked in the Z to show your

anger level.


But once the experimentation was over and it was time to solidifying the card designs,

the story changes its pace. Jonathan, being the “man in charge” wanted to help out

one of his friends: Todd Cowden. Now Todd was a pretty cool dude and made tons of

neat websites for us (all of the original DBZ and Buffy sites after Trunks Saga

were his). So Jonathan allowed Todd to also experiment and come up with a few card

designs. Then we would pool Carl’s designs and Todd’s designs together and pick

which we thought were best. This did not go over so well, as it was obvious to everyone

that Carl felt his territory was being impeded upon. He was the Lead Graphics Artist,

Todd just did websites. Who was this guy to step up and challenge his designs?


At the fated meeting, there were 8 designs total that we got to choose from. Todd

Cowden presented 3 different styles and Carl had 5 different card sets with the

help of Garyt (the most he’s ever made for a TCG, then and now). The look on Carl’s

face as priceless, a golden Kodak moment. While we eventually went with one of Carl’s

designs, he was clearly flustered from what Todd had produced. Worse yet, the room

was initially warming up to Todd’s artwork, with Jonathan leading the way (surprise).

In fact, it probably was Jonathan trying to lead the charge to pick one of Todd’s

pieces that made me not only side with Carl but made sure his design got picked.

This was clearly a power play by Jonathan and I was going to make a stand somewhere.

I also started to feel a bit bad for Carl. While a small part of me was smug because

Carl was being shown up at his own game (should have taken Chaz’s advice as lessons,

shouldn’t ya?!?), this just wasn’t right. Carl was our Lead Designer, and he alone

should be the one making those artistic calls. A game designer should have some

input, but he’s the one lifting the weights and doing the work. Carl shouldn’t be

going through this – Todd should be giving Carl the designs and Carl makes the call

what to show us. I really felt for him. I mean, how would I feel if someone was

trying to show me up and take my job?

Oh wait…

Yu Yu Haku and the IQ Coup

While it did not exactly happen at this time, this is probably the best place to

talk about the departure of my dear friend, IQ. While I placed a disclaimer before

I started writing, I just want to repeat again that this is all from my perspective.

Anything I say about what IQ was thinking comes from my view, and I will try to

do so as little as possible. If he feels I took him the wrong way, IQ is free to

post in the message board (or even this site) his perspective of the events, and

I will modify the following to fit such. But this was a big stepping point in the

company, and I feel my writing would be incomplete without mentioning these events.


It would also be helpful to have a little bit of perspective into IQ’s ideas of

Game Design. While I eventually moved on to different philosophies, IQ primarily

held our “Androids Saga” methodology intact, not only through the end of the Dragon

Ball Z TCG playtesting but in the Yu Yu Hakusho TCG as well. This idea is based

on the “Triangle” theory, involving 3 top tier decks. Probably the easy philosophy

to fit into your game, the premise is all about the “Best Deck” and what beats it.

So let’s say there’s a super powerful best deck in the game (Deck A). Well, if you

design your set right and tweak the cards correctly, you should have some deck that

could beat the super powerful deck (Deck B). But Deck B isn’t that super powerful

deck and therefore has to lose to something (Deck C), otherwise it would be Deck

A. So Deck B beats Deck A, Deck C (and others) beat Deck B, and Deck A beats down

Deck C and everything else in the environment.<


The reason this is such a big issue is not because of overall game design (because

there are much better philosophies), but in how you had to prove things to IQ himself.

IQ’s greatest strength is deck building, and because of these deck building skills

he could easily take another deck list and find its weaknesses. So whenever you

had some “broken” deck, IQ would create another deck and play your deck against

his. If IQ beat you, then you were obviously wrong…


So let’s rewind back to the meeting where my decision was taken away and was put

onto the DBGT TCG. Because Bill Dully put me onto the Dragon Ball GT revamp, IQ

was given Yu Yu Hakusho. It was no secret that he did not like the decision at all

– he wanted to be the designer of Dragon Ball. Chalk it up to the disagreements

we had when designing Yu Yu Hakusho, and mix it with the expectations that he was

going to get the Dragon Ball GT game, and its easy to see why he was pissed. The

way IQ reacted though, seemed that he felt that he hadn’t proved himself enough

to Dully, which is why he was given the “weaker game”. So IQ was set to go prove

his worth.


At first I thought it would just be him coming into the office in business clothes

and a tie every day, but how little did I know what was going to happen. IQ took

the entire box set of Yu Yu home to watch and brainstorm ideas over the weekend,

and he was supposed to come back Monday with most of Set 2 completed. When Monday

came around, though, he went way overboard. Not only was Set 2 finished, but he

had finished Sets 3 through 6 as well! He left 10-15 card slots open for each set

so he could add new cards as the game develops (and possibly make silver bullets

for decks being a problem), but other than that it was done. He just needed to do

the image capturing, and all of his work was practically complete.


I brought up to him that it wasn’t that good of an idea. You should see how your

game grows and design to that, and what you see now is not what your TCG will be

like a year from now. So how are you really going to know what’s going to be good

or not in a set released 1 to 2 years from now? But IQ didn’t care, he didn’t want

Yu Yu. If he could finish all of his work with Yu Yu Hakusho, then he would be in

line for whatever new game would be coming down the pipes, one he could call his



While it was a major accomplishment to complete that many card designs in such a

little amount of time, it was apparent that the quality of his work would suffer.

It wouldn’t help that he didn’t want to use anything I had already made for the

game, like the 6 set plan listing out the new mechanics and card types for each

of the sets until the end of the show’s time line. He kept the limit of 6 sets and

what general periods that would cover, and threw everything else out the window.

That’s not to say that all of his ideas were bad, as the “King Cards” mechanic he

thought of was pretty ingenious for the game. But you could see in the effects after

awhile that his brain was exhausted, and he was just taking effects from previous

sets and just making them slightly stronger. But with all of his effort, IQ would

never be taken off of Yu Yu. Both Dan and Dully asked him to sit down and think

through his sets more, to more develop them. Try as he might, he was stuck to Yu

Yu for good.


Fast forward to the end of Dragon Ball GT playtesting. Except for Ryan Carter and

Keith, all of the L5R playtesters were sent home. But that would not be the last

time we would see them. Going into Yu Yu playtesting, Dan proposed using an outside

group to handle some playtesting for us. with the way he juggled the numbers, it

would be cheaper than having in house playtesters. But little did upper management

realize that this “company” was just Scott Hadsal and other L5R players forming

a playtesting group. IQ and I quickly got in the way of that happening, because

we felt our in house playtesters were much more valuable. But IQ took things a bit



It only took Dan being in the office 2 weeks before he started butting heads with

IQ. They would disagree about things constantly, but Dan would always end up the

winner playing the “Game Design Manager” card. But with Dan now trying to bring

in his buddies again, IQ felt threatened. Not that he was going to lose playtesters

he liked, but that Dan could just as easily replace HIM with one of his other friends.

Within 2 months, IQ was convinced that was Dan’s plan. Dan was going to come in

and replace him AND me with his friends and be completely running the show. In IQ’s

book, Dan just got promoted from adversary to mortal enemy. IQ was not about to

let some new guy take his game design position from him.


As instructed by Dully and my own conscious, I stood by IQ when the battles were

right. While he was being paranoid, some of his comments were very valid. We both

knew he had a silver tongue and was doing some shifty things, and always took his

L5R friends with more esteem than who we felt were our good players. At one point,

IQ became really fearful for reasons unknown to me. But it didn’t matter, because

Dan was beginning to get on my bad side as well. It wasn’t hard to see during Yu

Yu Hakusho’s Set 2 playtesting that he was trying to rally the troops on his side,

which could be used against both of us. So it was time to take things up to the

next level.


I go with IQ into a meeting with upper management, where IQ lays out his complaints.

While I did not agree with many of them, I never said a word. I was there to have

IQ’s back, just like he had mine. We were in this together, even if IQ didn’t want

it to be that way. The head of upper management below Bill Dully was a man by Dave

Nichols, one of the new men in upper management I had respect for. IQ was half way

through his speech when Dave ripped us 2 new holes in our backsides. Dave not only

couldn’t believe what IQ was saying, but felt we were being childish and let us

know that at the full volume of his voice.


What IQ didn’t know was after the meeting, I went up to Mr. Nichols and apologized.

After the apology, I explained my position and what my perspective was on the situation,

completely and truthfully. “Hey, I know some of the things IQ is saying is BS, but

there’s a political battle happening here. Dan does not have a halo, and has done

things to have IQ’s fear justified.” I explained some of the power plays I saw in

Yu Yu playtesting, where Dan would override IQ whenever his buddies wanted him to.

I come to find out a few months later that my speaking to Dave saved IQ’s job that

day. Why? Because Dan had already beaten us to the punch and had talked with them

about IQ, and it was my stepping out as the “third party” that Dave start to see

what the situation was really like. But things would just constantly heat up between

Dan and IQ, much to IQ’s detriment. It would become his Archilles’ Heel and how

he would fall during Yu Yu Set Three playtesting.


When a game designer’s brain becomes exhausted, often the new ideas that come to

his head deal with archetypes that he often utilizes as a player. This is just natural,

because that is what they are used. For example, my deck preferences have always

been aggro and tricky decks, like hand disruption (explains a few things, doesn’t

it?). IQ, on the other hand, is a control player, and will always be a control player.

That is the deck he can play the best, and few can rival his abilities in that area.

So when playtesting for Yu Yu Set Three happened, it was natural for the set to

have a decent amount of control cards.


What IQ didn’t realize was that he went a little overboard. Sure, control decks

need to exist in a game, but they were too strong. All of the decks in the game

were some control deck or another, and it was really hard to have a plain aggro

deck. But IQ never saw eye to eye with anybody on this. Every time a playtester

would come up to him with some overly powerful control deck, IQ would sit down and

build a new deck that could beat whatever was presented to him. This happened consistently,

giving IQ the impression that his playtesters were inferior. I mean, if they were

really finding broken stuff, then IQ wouldn’t be able to beat it so easily, would



But the game was becoming a very sour point for all of the playtesters. They started

to hate playtesting the game, and were always complaining about the game. Dan took

advantage of this, and rallied the playtesters together. Soon they all had a common

enemy – IQ. I would say that things would have changed if IQ understood this, but

in a weird way I think he did because he definitely thought of them as the common

enemy after some time. He thought the playtesters were inferior to him (see Buffy

playtesting), so how could he be wrong and they be right? This was all that Dan

needed to leverage most of the game’s division against him.


So we come to a fateful meeting with Dan, IQ, and all of the playtesters. The were

going through the entire set, card by card, talking about if it should stay or not.

And as the third party, I could see both sides a bit screwed up. On one hand, this

was IQ’s game. If IQ wanted it to be control focused, then it’s going to be that

way. The playtesters do not get to choose the direction of the game, the game designer

does. On the other hand, IQ should have been the better man and understood that

nobody is perfect, including himself. Just concede a few battles, change a few card

effects that they are all complaining about, and the entire situation would have

been quelled. But it didn’t go that way. The meeting lasted all day, and when they

walked out of the room everybody looked like someone pissed in their Cheerios. I

don’t know everything that happened in the meeting, only the hearsay of both sides.


Now during this entire time, I had been doing my best to be the good friend to IQ.

Even though he had pushed me away before and we have had our conflicts, I tried

to be there for him. But IQ at this point was ignoring me. I would give him my input

and advice, and he would just nod his head and forget it 5 minutes later. So this

one time, I didn’t step in. This was something that needed to happen, I thought.

IQ and the playtesters needed to get this off their chest so the game can be better

and get over this hurdle. Oh how wrong I was…


So when I come in the office the next morning, you could see the shock on my face

and the smell of my recently stained pants to see IQ’s desk completely empty. As

in, everything is all gone, not even a pen cap or card left on the desk. So I immediately

go to Bill Dully to find out what’s going on, because this was normal. Apparently,

IQ had talked with the HR people the previous night about his situation, and he

took his stuff home to think. At that time, he really thought he was going to quit,

thus why his stuff was packed. But by morning, he saw the folly in his thoughts

and came back to the building with his stuff.


But clearing his desk would be all upper management needed, or more importantly

Dan. The company didn’t want to put up with the “drama” anymore, and they were not

about to let IQ pull off some play where he’s “threatening the company that he is

going to quit”. IQ already did most of the work for them, so all they needed to

do was turn off his key. And like that, IQ was no longer employed by Score Entertainment.


One of the oddest feelings in life is to be the saddest person in the room while

everyone else is filled with glee. I felt so bad and sorry because I should have

been there for him. I should have been in that meeting and diffused the situation.

I would be the only one that would miss IQ in the office, even to this day. But

no time for that now, I had a new mission. Dan would slip up, some way, some how.

Nobody hurts one of my friends, and the vengeance would come ten fold. I didn’t

know how I was going to do it then, but I was not going to let IQ go unavenged.

And then I was approached by “Macho Man”…

Super 17 Saga

Because of all the drama with IQ and Dan filling my brain, I actually don’t remember

too much about this set. In fact, it would probably be the least memorable set that

I could think of, as all the other expansions are a bit more vivid in my head. But

here is what I do remember.


Since the first set had been released, the goal was to just generally expand upon

the first set and solidify decks that needed some improvement. But there were 2

decks that I focused on in making sure they were kept in check: Red Rush and Orange

Ally. The Red Rush deck is pretty obvious – it was one of the fastest decks in the

game. Based on our playtesting, it was at just the right level. But if Red Rush

gained anything more powerful than its current arsenal, it could be too overpowered.


But there was a much larger focus on Orange Ally. From Set 1 playtesting and the

cards designed in set 2, I knew that the Orange Ally deck was setting the bar. There

was some ally hate sprinkled throughout the sets in order to fight it, but if Orange

Ally was left unchecked it would be a powerhouse in the late game. I resisted every

urge to put a “The Plan” card in Set 2 to wipe out all allies, mainly because of

how I wanted the environment to play out at the time. While I could prevent Red

Rush from gaining power, I could not do so with Orange Ally because there’s no way

to not make new personality cards. So instead, I made sure there were multiple decks

that could beat it, and playtesting showed that there were ways to do it. It basically

came up to winning before Orange Ally could get too setup, so it had issues with

Red Rush and Saiyan Blitz (although Blitz had a much harder time than Red Rush did).

And funny enough, just about any variant of Blue Dr. Myuu seemed to make Orange

Ally cry. So by the time that playtesting was finished, I felt that the deck was

really strong but had other decks in the environment to keep it in check.


The only other major memorable memory from this set is my view of Kieth. It was

around this time that I began to gain a great amount of respect for Kieth. He was

part of the L5R crew, but didn’t act like it. He actually learned DBZ/DBGT and was

better than the entire rest of the group. What raised my respect was how fast his

gaming ability was growing. He was the only L5R player that could see DBZ at a high

level. Now, he couldn’t play at that high level with someone such as Kunk, but he

could at least see things at that level. Unknown to everybody, he became one of

my key playtesters – I finally had someone that could talk theory yet was new to

the game and therefore not “tainted” completely by DBZ from years before. This different

perspective was invaluable to the game, and I think DBGT would be a much poorer

game without all of his input. He won’t tell you, but he really is a badass.


Last but not least, I was already preparing for the Shadow Dragon Saga. Many really

good ideas were pushed back to the third set in preparation, and no new mechanics

were designed specifically because what was about to happen with the set. If things

went as they should have, Shadow Dragon Saga would change everything people felt

about the Dragon Ball GT game, and Score itself. I was right, but for the wrong


In The Shadow Of Darkness

When I first started working on the Dragon Ball GT TCG, I knew exactly how much

content we were going to get out of the set. After watching the entire (horrible)

series, I knew that we had exactly 5 sets to get out of the episodes. Since FUNimation

released the Baby Saga first, we would follow the story arcs with them, thus providing

Baby, Super Android 17, and Shadow Dragon sets. We could then go back to the first

16-some-odd episodes that FUNimation skipped and make another set from that. The

5th set would then be an “Anthologies” set reusing anything from the show he hadn’t

used, upon which we would be back to where we were at the end of Kid Buu.


With this in mind, I knew that the “cycle” needed to end on that 5th set. Furthermore,

I became tired of hearing the player’s complaints about our sets coming out too

fast to collect and get used to. So I was determined to fix this with Shadow Dragon.

Starting with Set 3, game would change its release schedule. We would slow down

to 3 sets a year, with one major big set and 2 much smaller sets very similar to

Magic’s block structure around the Tempest and Urza Saga blocks.


But didn’t Score already do that? In a way, but now it would be much more focused.

To emulate Magic, ALL of the new mechanics for the entire block would be introduced

in the core set, and the next 2 expansions would just expand upon those ideas. If

we kept all of the new mechanics in Set 3, we wouldn’t need to print out new rules

fliers and the rulebook for Shadow Dragon could actually be valid beyond the set

it was printed in! Amazing! This idea evolved into the 5 mechanics you see in the

Shadow Dragon Set today. With 5 new mechanics, one focused with each fighting style

(although they would all get sprinkled around all the styles), there would be plenty

of mechanics to play around with and create new effects off of for the following

two sets.

Things didn’t go too well with the playtesting group when this idea was first introduced,

but once many of them understood my “master plan”, they began to more focus on the

mechanics themselves. There were only 2 of the new mechanics the playtesters had

a problem with – Masked and Augment.


Many of the playtesters rejected the masked mechanic as soon as they saw it, mainly

because of cheating. I was still on my “playing cards upside-down kick” so I really

wanted this mechanic to exist in the game. The idea of making your opponent block

BEFORE they knew exactly what the attack was inserted a cool mind game. We eventually

worked out the kinks, although I think that some playtesters such as Kunk still

hated the idea.


The problem with Augmenting wasn’t so much that the mechanic had too many problems

or was over powerful. Nay, the playtesters never fully understood what the mechanic

did, in partial thanks to Will Harper. The Blue Fighting Style was heavily focused

around Non-Combat cards, so I wanted them to have some type of card advantage that

focused on Non-Combat cards. Since Blue was also a bit of a “Late Game Color”, something

that gained more power over time seemed to fit well. But even after I clarified

to the playtesters what the mechanic did, they became confused because of the wording

on the mastery card.


For those that are STILL confused as to what this mechanic does, here’s a great

example. Let’s say you have a card that says “Augment a wish card.” So what you

would do is choose one of your cards in play with “Wish” in the title and then play

any copies of that card directly out of your discard pile. Simple, no? So how does

the Mastery fit in (aka what the hell does that card do)? The Mastery grants 2 effects:

The first effect was that the card you wanted to augment didn’t need to be in play.

So with “Augment a wish card” you could name “Blue Underwear Wish” without it needing

to be in play. The second effect would let you search your deck for the cards instead

of the discard pile… Yes, the Blue Mastery turned Augment into a tutor effect,

allowing you to name some card and play all 3 copies directly from your deck. No

waiting for your discard pile to fill up, just go get those cards! But Will Harper

NEVER liked my wording of the card’s effect, so he kept constantly changing the

text while trying to keep the effect the same. Every time Will changed the text,

nearly all the playtesters asked me what the new effect was, followed by a face

palm when I told them it did the exact same thing as before. So thanks, Will, for

making this the most confusing Mastery ever. If I could show a middle finger in

writing, I would.


The entire goal was to shift the game into this new block structure, and to do so

would require Shadow Dragon to be huge. The Shadow Dragon Saga would need to be

able to “feed” the game for at least a year, if not longer. To compensate for the

size, Sets 4 and 5 would be smaller than they previously had been. It was because

of this decision that some changes were made in the set, the biggest of which was

doubling the number of Ultra-Rare cards from 4 to 8, which would become one of the

most complained about aspects of the set. This was done to compensate how future

expansions would be “drawn down”, with the plan of only having 1 Ultra-Rare in the

future expansions. The first 7 Ultra-Rares were pretty easy and, for the first time,

attacks would be made and designed to be Ultra-Rares instead of picking the best

out of the bunch. The level 6 personalities were thought of because in the story,

Goku and Syn Shenron would be the most powerful fighters in Dragon Ball Cannon,

and therefore deserved a level that only they could reach. The next 5 Ultra-Rares

would be designed for the fighting styles, each one getting something awesome. I

also finally caved and made a “The Plan” card because of everybody’s comments about

Ally decks, both Blue and Orange. I really didn’t want to, but it eventually had

to be done. But I made the effect a Combat card instead of Non-Combat for other

effects in the set, like the new Trunks Energy Sphere cards.


These new Trunks Energy Sphere cards caused the most uproar in playtesting, and

definitely sparked some philosophical debates about the game. The main issue was

not that the new Trunks Energy Spheres were made, as the playtesters had been asking

for them since Baby Saga. Instead, the issue was that not a single one of the cards

had “If you declared a Tokui-Waza”. On one side were people that hated the idea

of Freestyle, with Kunk leading this group. These players did not want Freestyle

to gain this much power, as packing 15 Trunks Energy Spheres to shut down Combat

cards AND gain effects was really really good. “Freestyle’s advantage should not

be that it gets to play whatever it wants”. The other camp was headed by myself,

which completely contradicted the previous statement. One of the things I didn’t

like about Dragon Ball was that you had to have a Mastery card to have a good deck.

There was not a single good deck in the entire game since Mastery cards were introduced

that was top tier and didn’t need a mastery card or a Tokui-Waza. I wanted players

to be able to actually make one of these fabled “Masteryless decks”, and I felt

that Freestyle should have the advantage of playing whatever it wants. In effect,

that was its Mastery Card (”You can ignore fighting styles when building your deck”).

This debate raged for weeks, until I finally compromised. Three of the Trunks Energy

Spheres (the most powerful in the freestyle decks used in playtesting) would gain

“If you declared a Tokui-Waza” while the two others would stay “clean”. This let

Freestyle decks still play with double the number of Spheres, but would appease

those like Kunk. Too bad we would never find out how it would play out.


The last of the major cards were the new Cracked Dragon Balls. Like before, my goal

was to keep in the same power level as the Earth Dragon Balls. This time, I wanted

to have a bit of a twist. With all of the Dragon Ball sets before it, Dragon Balls

were effectively one shot effects. Once you played the Dragon Ball and used it,

the Dragon Ball would simply be a token in play for your opponent to steal from

you. I wanted these Dragon Balls to have more of an impact, to actually have something

going on while you still controlled them. Personally dubbed the “Drill Dragon Balls”,

these cards were given good initial effects but then a “Constant Effect” so you

would continually gain bonuses from them. The idea worked well, but I did too good

of a job with the previous set of Dragon Balls. A few decks used the Cracked Dragon

Balls, but most others deferred to other sets.


The final major goal was to complete the Three Set Theorem Baby Saga was already

out on the market and I could see how players were reacting to the game. Taking

player feedback from Baby Saga, Shadow Dragon was molded to help fix what players

had issues with. Yet another reason for “The Plan” Ultra-Rare. But it was at this

point that I wanted the game to be fully balanced. Unfortunately, some of the Mastery

cards were falling way behind and would need some type of good boost in order to

help them out. This is why there were many personalities specifically designed towards

deck archetypes – I made sure that every Mastery got a new personality that would

specifically benefit. Examples would be Naturon Shenron for Ally decks, or Nappa

being a beast with Saiyan Supreme. In fact, Nappa Supreme ended up being my favorite

deck out of the Shadow Dragon Saga. It jumped around to all of his levels launching

tons of attacks, taking advantage of Nappa “forgetting” to use his power to change

levels, all the while constantly refilling his Life Deck again.


At the end of playtesting, we rounded up all of the playtesters and sat down to

rate all of the decks. “If you were going to play in a tournament today for lots

of cash, what decks would you consider Tier 1?” was the focus of the meeting. While

not everyone agreed, we eventually fleshed out a list. All of the fighting styles

had at least 1 deck considered “Tier 1″ except for the Blue Fighting Style, which

apparently was still getting the gimp end of the stick. But there were only 4 decks

listed as Tier 3 or below, with 2 decks being listed as “Tier 1.5″ (They were beefier

than all the decks listed in Tier 2 and below, but it just had terrible match ups

against the 4 decks considered “Tier 1″). With this response, I felt appeased that

all of my hard work was for naught, that this set would fully realize my vision

for how the Dragon Ball GT should be. Too bad most of the players never got to play

the set.


In fact, I almost was fired by Jonathan personally. Jonathan and upper management

had set the release date of the Shadow Dragon Saga to be 2 weeks after the World

Championships at GenCon. He “didn’t want to screw the players by releasing a set

a month before Worlds” was his excuse. But I wouldn’t have it. We did not spend

so much time working and tweaking the Shadow Dragon Saga to get pushed off. I, like

many, were hearing that many players were going to quit after the World Championships

because of everything Score had done, from the “Type I/Type II” debacle to the way

the sets were playing out. The player base felt the Ally decks were the best and

nothing could stop them, and they were losing patience. So I fought for the Shadow

Dragon Saga to be released 2-3 weeks before Worlds. The environment needed it, and

if the set didn’t come out before the World Championships, nobody would ever see

the true Shadow Dragon environment. By the time any new tournaments would have come

around, new sets would be released and the Shadow Dragon environment would cease

to exist. So I fought, loudly and vocally. The set was finished and could have been

release, but Jonathan held it back. Eventually both Jonathan and Juddy got tired

of it, and in the middle of the office in a wide open area specifically told me

if I ever brought the issue up again, I would be fired. As in kicked out the door,

don’t look back. Jonathan valued my skill as a game designer, but “you kids are

a dime a dozen, and we have an entire group of players that would die to design

the game they loved. You are not, and never will be, needed and are easily replaceable.

So what’s it going to be, David?”. I quietly sat down at my desk, never again to

forget those words that came from Jonathan’s mouth…

Gen Con and the Mezzo Disaster

So GenCon was coming up fast, and everybody in the office was making preparations

for our biggest convention stop of the season. Normally this is the convention that

we have to work the hardest, game designers included. But Juddy came over told us

that we didn’t really have to work at GenCon – The Game Designers (now including

others like Garret since IQ was fired) didn’t have to work. Our only responsibility

was to judge the finals match at the World Championships. Aik would be running the

show, and we were free to do whatever we wanted.


“So does this mean we get to play in tournaments?” Juddy let me know I could do

whatever I wanted, even get a hooker if it wasn’t on the company dime. “So, to restate,

I can play in a TCG tournament, even if it is a competitor’s?” I was given a green

light. Finally, I could get back into the scene and flop some cardboard! Not only

that, but I could prove to some naysayers that I was actually good, if not better,

than them. My ego wouldn’t allow any other conclusion.


At the time, the development group had been cracking into Upper Decks’ VS System

(before all the bad decisions). If you don’t know much about this game, you’re going

to want to skip the next 3 paragraphs. We really tried to break that game, but to

no avail. Instead, we found the best deck in the environment. This super deck came

in the form of what was termed at the time “Big Brotherhood”, but our variant was

different than what was on the Internet, and it was the best. 7-8 copies of every

duped character, and every single Plot Twist upped ATK or DEF except for Salvage

and Overload (We knew about Savage Beatdown/Overload 1-2 months after the game was

released). The most contentious points of the deck beyond maxing out the number

of copies of Mystic, Sabertooth, Quicksilver, and Magneto was the very late inclusion

of Savage Beatdown and 2 other characters: 4-Blob instead of the bird dude due to

the 9 defense and everybody crying when Lost City Pumps him, and 2-Pyro. The deck

consistently beat every Doom variant by turn 6 (Thank you Pyro and Flying Kick),

beat “Small Brotherhood” because of its natural beef, had about a 70/30 win rate

against Fantastic Four, and beat X Men every single time (but I guess any deck could

do that). Here’s a perfect example: I’m playing against Garret’s Fantastic Four

Deck. Garret was at 40 HP to my 3 HP with a 5-Thing, 6-Invisible Woman, 7-Thing

all with Fantasticars staring me down. All I had was 4-Sabertooth, 5-Magneto, and



This was my planned deck for the VS System Pro Circuit, which I qualified for in

a local tournament with Wild Vomit (Longshot/Sentinel). But with the inclusion of

the DC set, there was one deck even our Big Brother deck couldn’t beat – Teen Titans…

Or more specifically, that damnable Roy Harper. without Roy Harper, it would have

been a non-issue, but I could not get around those guns. I could out pump him during

combat, but he could just gank them once combat was over and Lost City lost its

effect. So I changed to the new “Best Deck” – Batman.


Batman really broke the flow of how the VS system worked. Packing 4 Fizzles and

4 Utility Belts won you games on their own. All you needed to do was counter whatever

character search effect they used, forcing your opponent to miss playing the biggest

character he can for the turn, therefore losing the game. Easily 1 out of 3 games

were won because the opponent was denied tutoring for a character and meeting his

curve. This wouldn’t be an issue in a game where 2+2=4, but VS is more like 2+2+2+2=4,

a mechanical flaw my deck was trying to take advantage of. Utility Belt was also

the bane of Teen Titans, which would be prevalent at the Pro Circuit Toss in 4 Savage

Beatdown/Overloads, a few Kabooms, and the rest of the standards and I had a mean

aggro/control deck that had a fairly good win percentage and didn’t have a single

bad matchup.


All of us that qualified felt pretty confident for the tournament, primarily because

of our friend IQ. While he was no longer at Score, he wasn’t totally out of our

lives. He picked up the game and built some average control deck with the Fearsome

Five and done so well at a Qualifier to make waves will all of Upper Deck’s press.

Back home we actually playtested against that deck, and repeatedly stomped it into

the ground. If they couldn’t take IQ’s deck, they couldn’t handle us. While I don’t

remember the records of others myself, I went 7-3 losing 1 game to utter stupidity

on my behalf (”Yeah, 4-Doom shuts off your resource row, so I better keep this Savage

Beatdown/Overload in my hand”), 1 game to missing my curve (No 2 or 3 drop, 4-Batgirl

has loyalty, so I lost with my lone 5-Batman), and one really close match to Arkham

of all decks (No character tutor to counter).


My most memorable match was against DBZ’s own Tim Batow, who had jumped out at GT

and as playing VS. Once I was the game designer of his game, now I was his opponent.

Both packing Batman decks, we took the game to the 11th inning. I think it was turn

14, both of us with the ridiculous 8-Superman and 7-Batman in play when I finally

poked through enough damage and sunk Batow below 0. It kinda feels good to prove

to someone you rock when they’ve been thinking/saying you suck for a long time.

I ended up walking away with $750 after going 5-4 in the draft (would have done

better if I had actually done a VS draft before). I even had my “nemesis” matchup

against Scott Gerhardt’s girlfriend/wife which lasted 1 1/2 hours and delayed the

tournament by going into sudden death, only to scoop it from her with Teen Titans

Go. You have no idea how refreshing it was to finally be able to play in a major

tournament after all of those years. I was so focused that a barely kept in mind

our own major tournament…


Barring checking in from now and then, I was pretty much hands off with the World

Championships. When the Top 4 came around, Tim Mezzo (sp?) came up to me. One of

our more vocal and passionate players, he was begging to be a playtester. He asked

that if he won the World Championships if we would hire him as a playtester. I told

him that I couldn’t say yes or no, but we had culled playtesters from our best players

before. I wished him good luck and wandered into the attention of other players.

Because the Shadow Dragon Saga had not been released (and because somehow all the

Red Rush decks lost), Ally decks were conquering the top cut. It came time for the

finals match, and I was summoned to judge.


The finals matchup was against Tim Mezzo and some other guy who’s name escapes me,

so we will call him “Bob”. Both Tim and Bob were packing Ally decks, so it was going

to be a long set. We had three judges for the match – Aik watched over Tim, Garrett

supervised “Bob”, and I was the center judge. Aik and Garrett were both writing

down every card drawn by their players, but I was oblivious to each player’s hands

and instead focused more on the general play on the board. The games were generally

close. Tim won the first match and barely lost the 2nd by not drawing defenses.

Tim eventually scooped out the final game and was the new World Champion, winning

our new Champion Card, money, and other prizes. Hoorays for all.


I come to find out that this ended up being a fixed match, and that Tim Mezzo was

willing to give “Bob” all of the money and prizes if he would throw the match, just

so that he could be the winner and use it to try and be a Score playtester. At first

I was shocked. How could this be? There were 3 of us watching! But then Garrett

mentioned how he did think some plays were a little fishy, but chalked it up more

towards “Bob”’s bad playing than him throwing the match, especially at certain times

where “Bob” had Epic Battles but didn’t use it to stop a barrage of attacks (Garrett

thought he was saving it for another turn). But, there was enough proof in the pudding

to condemn Tim, so his title was revoked and prizes withdrawn, including Super Dragon

Fist. The very last World Championships of Dragon Ball GT would end in utter failure.

What a terrible way to go out.

There’s Villainy Afoot!

We conclude this generation with the departure of our Game Design Manager, the first

and the last. While I could not have done this alone (and indeed, it would not have

been possible without others), I feel good inside for being involved with this.

Some things may be considered “dirty” to some, but I was able to avenge IQ with

tasty blade of sweet, sweet justice. So IQ baby, if you are reading this, this one’s

for you.


So we’re out at The Church, which is the Lizard Lounge in Dallas on Thursdays and

Sunday nights. You know, the local place where Goth’s go drink and the drama queens

can try to be outcasts amongst outcasts. The general crew had gone out drinking

for the evening, with Dan Tibbles bringing his current fling along, busting it out

epic style on the dance floor. I remember Cole, Garrett, and I were sitting in the

balcony people watching when I received a text message from “Macho Man” (name changed

to protect the awesome). Macho Man told me that some devious things were going on

at Score that I should be aware of. I ask why this is over text instead of the phone

or in person, and Macho Man responded with paranoia of Dan finding out. So we agreed

to talk at a later time.


What Macho Man had to tell me was huge. Dan Tibbles had been working to steal Dragon

Ball GT cards and sell them over Ebay. During his tenure at Score Entertainment,

Dan had worked his way around to pick up additional “responsibilities”, one of such

being the Inventory Warehouse Manager. Everyone was so oblivious to what was going

on, especially since so many people had trusted him, that Dan was literally walking

out the front door with boxes of Ultra-Rares. He was even on camera, waltzing out

the front door. He had gotten so busy with his “business” that he had to get additional

help, which is where Macho Man came in. But after a short period of time, Macho

Man started feeling awful about everything and wanted to come clean. He knew what

he was doing was wrong and he wanted to right it.


I was so pissed, thousands of angels were incinerated from being too close to the

heat coming from the depths of my soul. Not only did this little dwarf changed everything

up with the Games Division (including getting IQ fired), but he was stealing off

of us and making a heaping profit too. Dan’s actions flooded the market and kept

the general prices of GT cards, including Ultra-Rares, at very low prices. With

an unlimited supply, Dan could hand out whatever he wanted at his prices. So he

got my friend fired, stole from my company, and was damaging the value of my game?

Oh nonononono. It was time to smite that bugger off the face of this Earth. I was

pissed at Macho Man for 3 seconds, but then realized how much of a man he was coming

up to me and confessing. Tack on that he gave me the iceberg I needed to sink Dan’s

Titanic, and I couldn’t help but want to snap into his Slim Jim (two points if you

get the reference).


But I had learned from the battles in the past, and Dan would not go down easily.

He is quite wily and as soon as he would get window of this, he we surely try to

find a way to stop it. I couldn’t just go up to Dave Nichols and say “Dan’s on camera

stealing cards”, because that’s to easy to dismiss. Dan could play it off that he

needed to take some promos for a convention or some other ridiculous reason, his

silver tongue lashing away at his defense. No, I needed more hard proof to present.

Something that would tie Dan to everything and mark him as the Mastermind. Macho

Man wouldn’t be enough, but with the help of others a plan was formed.


In the end, you can’t imagine how great of a plan this ended up being and how well

it worked. With the help of Garrett and Kieth, we were able to have Dan’s apartment

willingly unlocked while he was away. Under the guise of “getting some D&D books”

so Dan wouldn’t freak if anything moved, a group of 4 of us entered Dan’s apartment.

Inside was a wealth of DBZ, DBGT, and L5R cards and, well, not much else. Dan didn’t

have any furniture except for a bed, table, and 2 chairs I think. We took pictures

of all the cards, making sure that they were not only visible but within picture

shot of things that was clearly under Dan’s ownership, as to not think we fakes

the pictures. In less than 7 minutes we were in and out with all the evidence we

needed. That evening we toasted and drank for victory!


My only regret is what would happen next with Macho Man. One of the assurances with

Macho Man coming forward is that he would be protected from any trouble, no police,

no nothing. Unharmed if you will. Because he had been such a man coming forward,

I gave him my word I would do anything I could to protect him. The next morning,

I take Dave Nichols and Juddy into a conference room and show him our evidence and

spill the beans. I repeatedly focus that we would not have caught this without the

help of Macho Man, and he should not be implicated. In fact, if he would be, he

wouldn’t step forward with his information and a good chunk of proof would be lost.

Dave had a very grave look upon his face, and after 15 minutes asked me to leave

the room as he talked this over with Bill Dully. I asked if he understood about

Macho Man, and Dave told me he would be safe. I walked out of the room all stout

and chivalrous, because I knew I started knocking down the dominoes that would fall

on Dan’s head.


When Dan got into the office, the upper management took him aside to one of the

rarely used conference rooms for a “talk”. Dan would end up confessing, knowing

what was happening as soon as they asked to talk with him. They seized his laptop

and found only a month’s worth of records, clearly in the thousands. Dan would be

fired and forced (so I’m told) to repay the full amount that they found on his laptop.

His laptop was then cleaned of any and all company information, returned to him,

and he was sent packing. Unfortunately, the two other people involved (”Macho Man”

and “The Dude”) would also be fired, and quickly kicked out the door. As soon as

I saw them doing this to Macho Man, I tried to stop it. But it was under direct

orders from Bill Dully himself that anybody involved with the mess be quickly evicted

from the building. The sugary taste of win was filled with the sour taste of a kick

in the balls. I gave him my word. And now, after being so awesome, he was forced

to pay the price. I drank myself to sleep that night and would never be the same.

If you are reading this Macho Man, I owe you one. It’s the least I could do.


Funny enough, there were no charges pressed against any of the three individuals

involved. While I was glad that The Dude and Macho Man were to get some respite,

I was very puzzled as to why Dan didn’t get reamed even further. Why not make an

example of him, to scare away others from doing the same thing? He did the heinous

crime, so he deserves the maximum penalty. But Bill Dully himself had stepped in

and strictly forbade this from reaching the ears of police and investigators. Dully

mentioned that he didn’t want the image of the company to be tarnished, and that

by firing all three of them and having Dan repay the money he made (although it

was only 1 month’s worth of cards and he had been doing it for at least 3) was a

suitable punishment to keep others from doing it again. But as I would soon learn,

people that high in power always have ulterior motives…


Next time on Score Anthologies: Dragon Ball GT: Beginning or Middle of the Semester


With the Don given the boot out the door, Score now has to come together and regroup

to pick up the pieces. But with Dan and IQ gone, who would fill in those positions?

Who is this new Titan that has come to be the new leader of the division? And what’s

so special about some guy with pointy ears and really long silver hair? All this

and more on the next Score Anthologies!

3 Comments to "Generation 4 – Coming Down The Peak"

  1. Darthwahl says:

    Wow! I read all of that and it did not disappoint. This kind of stuff reminds me of my days playing the card game in high school and Walmart bureaucracy(when I worked there)all rolled up into one.

  2. I really enjoyed this read. Is there anywhere I can read the prequel or sequel to this? if it exists of course. I would love to know more.

  3. Thomas says:

    is it possible for the first articles n this series to be posted? they can’t be found online any more

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