top of page
  • Writer's pictureXeo Lye

Debtzilla - Game Design Diary Part IV: Villains

What is a good superhero game without proper henchmen and cool gadgets?

When we were working on Debtzilla, the design of villains changed many times as we had to adapt it to fit in with any changes to the game mechanics. There was no one focused theme until we settled on a final version of villains that thrive on cheating money from regular citizens. Here is a quick rundown of the evolution of the villains' design.

Ver 1: Villains who are reflected in recent news or movies Example: Fraud Insidious Football Association, The Man Who Killed Your Parents

Verdict: Rejected due to genres are only known to a specific audience.

Ver 2: Petty Villains who scam you of money to earn a quick buck The villains are divided by regions (Alley, Shopping Street, High Street) reflecting the amount of money they scam in real life. Example: Unethical Taxi Driver, Lonely Beautiful Lady, Senate of Lame Ducks

Verdict: Rejected as we threw out the regional mechanic and 30 over villains will cost us a bomb in illustrating them.

Ver 3: Corrupted officials What's worse than a scam artist than an official asking you for money in order to get official matters done. Example: Corrupted Police, Corrupted Custom Officer, Corrupted Taxman

Verdict: Rejected as the villains will all be humans wearing a uniform or another. Dreadfully boring and unimaginative as we are just putting some job names after the word "Corrupted"

Ver 4: Cthulhu influenced Civil servants.. with Hostages. In order to spice up the corruption theme, we decided to incorporate the Cthulhu theme with corrupted civil servants, with tentacles coming out of their bodies. We also added a hostage mechanic whereby your sidekick can be captured by the villains during a fight and kidnapped into the villain deck. We also added different ability points needed to take down the villains.

Verdict: Rejected as adding tentacles to a bunch of people in uniform is still boring after the initial laughs...

Ver 5: Just.. Villains... I realized that for every iteration of the game, I spent a lot of time and effort thinking about names and themes for the villains. Yet these ideas are dumped aside once the overall mechanics does not work out.

Verdict: Wasted too much time thinking about fun villains but did not focus enough on the overall gameplay. I decided to go back to basics.

Ver 6: Scammers and Financial Scandals. The key mechanics of the game was finally stabilized on version 9 and with that, I decided to adopt a theme for the villains based on the many ideas we had before. As the mechanics are much more streamlined than before, the number of villains was reduced from 80 over villain cards to just 12 at the current version. I designed the villains along with the same theme as the heroes whereby we combine financial people with popular culture.

Here are some examples:

Mad Oft is basically a mix of Benard Madoff and the Joker from the Batman franchise. For some reason, he has a strong resemblance to Christopher Nolan version of Joker and there was almost no doubt on the design of this villain.

Layman Brothers is a pun on Lehman Brothers, the investment bank that ignited the sequence of events of the financial crisis of 2007. Turning a company into villains requires a lot more thinking and we came onto the idea of the Mario Brothers from Nintendo. If you at the gameplay of Super Mario Bro, they are actually running around picking up coins... probably belonging to some poor citizens who dropped it.

Too Big to Fail is designed based on the famous red logo of Citibank, which is one of the primary beneficiaries of the bailouts given out by the US government during the 2007 financial crisis. We thought that a mega alien spaceship that comes invading earth is a pretty good analogy for this card. The aliens think that there is probably nothing that can bring them down until a seemingly insignificant computer virus destroyed all their well-laid plans.

The rest of the villains are designed with actual Ponzi schemes and money laundering cases all around the world as their base designs. Comment below on what you think some of the other villains are associated with.

bottom of page