Theseus Protocol Developer Interview – What Goes Into a Game With Over 200 Cards?


Theseus Protocol is a rogue-lite deckbuilding card battler that came out for early access on January 17 and continues to be an enjoyable ride with its assortment of over 200+ cards, multiple characters, weapon system, progression, and strategy offering something new every playthrough.

We got to talk to the producer and head of Starseeker Studio to learn more about the game’s development process, what kind of mechanics are hidden in the game, and what they’ve learned from Theseus Protocol’s beta and early access, They told us about the most important feedback they got from the beta, and what it really takes to make a game in this genre with so many cards, variables, and playstyles.

So read on if you’d like to learn more about this year’s newest rogue-lite deck builder that seeks to make itself stand out from others like Slay the Spire, while also being an incredible amount of fun.

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What is Theseus Protocol?

Q. Would you like to introduce yourselves to the readers at home

Cath: Hi everyone, I’m the producer of the game Theseus Protocol and the head of Starseeker Studio–Cath.

Q. What is Theseus Protocol and where did the name come from?

Cath: Theseus Protocol originates from a famous ideological experiment: The Ship of Theseus.

The earliest historical record comes from Plutarch, a philosopher from ancient Roman times. It described a ship that could sail on the sea for hundreds of years because of the ongoing repair and changing of body parts. Any wood would be replaced once it was rotten until all the original ship parts were replaced. So, the question is: Is this ship still the same boat at the very beginning? If not, when did it become another ship?

We thought this experiment perfectly fit the main idea we wanted to show in Theseus Protocol. (Of course, we’re still working on the story in the game)

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Q. What inspired you and the team to make a deckbuilding roguelike game the first game for Starseeker?

Cath: I’m a big fan of TCG. I spent a lot of time playing MTG. Later I play Hearth Stone for a long time, and it has a great impact on me. And most of the members in our studio are also TCG or strategy games players.

From the studio perspective, making a TCG is not easy, which requires a lot of experience and of course, money. We decided to make a deck-building game first, to try out different mechanisms and possibilities of the cards.

Trial and Error, Just Like a Rogue-lite

Q. When it comes to Deck building games a big part of their success comes down to accessibility and interface. I noticed in the early test footage from mid-2022 that Theseus Protocol looked very different from how it does today. How many iterations did the team go through Theseus Protocol to get to its current Early Access look?

Cath: We tried to design some interesting mechanisms in the game, which makes UI designing more difficult. We iterated almost every month aiming for a more balanced UI that is easier to use. And we won’t stop the iteration during Early Access, especially to adjust the UI according to users’ suggestions. 

Q. On that note, what changed the most during development from your original vision?

Cath: I would say visual effects and cards reward mechanism. Although most deck-building games encourage the player to downsize their deck, Theseus Protocol does the opposite. I think it’s a cool thing to get more cards in one run, and we would design more mechanisms to fit this core strategy.

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Q. At what point did Theseus Protocol “click” for you and the team, and you were fully confident in your team’s vision?

Cath: For me, it was at the project approval, I’m always confident with my vision. And for the team, I think it was the second beta test, the game received mostly positive feedback.

Q. One of my favorite parts of Theseus Protocol is the character and enemy designs. They’re so varied and easily get across how dangerous they can be. Is there one person who comes up with the character and card’s designs or is this something the team brainstorms first, then artists iterate on?

Cath: I think this is the result of great teamwork. At first, I would give a character some basic characteristics, weapon styles, and even a short biography, then our art team would start drawing based on these rough settings. Of course, our art team nailed it, which was beyond my own expectation. This is definitely a great surprise for me. 

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Lessons Learned From Loads of Testing

Q. Are there any hidden mechanics at play behind the scenes that influence a run? For example, I had certain sections where I amassed a ton of credits but couldn’t spend them because shops wouldn’t appear, whereas other times I had fewer credits but the shop was more frequent.

Cath: In the current version, most of the elements in the game are purely random, which would result in some extreme circumstances like you just described. We would adjust some settings in future updates to avoid this issue gradually.

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Q. Theseus Protocol held a beta test a couple of months ago, how many players managed to complete a run during that time, and what kind of lessons did you learn from it?

Cath: In the beta test, approximately half the players had completed a full run. A lot were learned in that test, especially bad enemy designs, unclear function demonstrations, and a lot of other small details. We cherished every single word our users said to us because they always help us to make the game better. 

Q. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned from player data that was positive, and something the team had to work on urgently?

Cath: A lot actually. Like on the first day of Early Access, a player had played the game for almost 20 hours. As it was still an early version, we didn’t even think there were 20 hours of content at that point. He had taught us valuable lessons in completing a run-in different style. For example, 13 pistol shot combo, a combo we didn’t even know existed.

So for now, we would push forward some of the functions players need urgently, like the Compendium. And to make some balance adjustments while maintaining the fun and surprise for players to try out new deck builds.

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Q. How does the team go about designing cards and balancing them? It seems a lot of work would go into working on over 200 cards, and even now I see players arguing over whether certain cards like the Metal Beasts are too strong.

Cath: It is truly a difficult task. But I think this is why we must go to Early Access first. We can check out data from different players to adjust balance more objectively. We would avoid overpowered cards like Metal Beasts while maintaining core gameplay in the future.

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Q. As Theseus Protocol started off as a project entirely in Chinese, what challenges did your team face when it came to localization?

Cath: Mainly the translation problems. We have to translate the text from Chinese to English first, and then from English to other languages. There were a lot of revisions and adjustments in the early stage, and reworking the translation of all languages is a frustrating task.

Q. I’m very excited to try out Antiope when she finally gets finished. She’s likely a while away, but does the team have a rough idea of how overall playstyle, and could you share that with us?

Cath: For Antiope we’re trying a more ambitious design, which we hope would change the whole concept of deck-building game character designs, like more movement combos and flexible action point plans, combining position shifts. It is a big challenge, but we’ll try our best.

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Q. Which feature of the Theseus Protocol is your team looking to work on now that the game is in Early Access?

Cath: For now, balancing cards and adding new functions is our main goal. During Early Access, we would update more possible builds, more equipment, more challenging enemies, and new difficult mode.

Q. What are some of the dev team’s favorite deck combos/play styles?

Cath: That is, of course, when you kick the enemy with Nena.

Q. Any message you’d like to leave for the readers and players?

Cath: We hope you all like our game. And thank you for playing our game.

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Theseus Protocol is available now on PC via Steam in Early Access

Read More

Theseus Protocol Early Access Review – A Roguelike Gem with Tons of Potential

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