Ever wonder how your favorite cute creatures go from the small screen on your DS to becoming a real-life Pokemon card?
Creatures Inc can be recognized for their contributions to the Pokemon Franchise, with titles such as Pokemon Stadium or more recently Detective Pikachu. Creatures Inc is also responsible for much of the Pokemon Trading Card game. Gamespot recently toured Creature Inc’s Tokyo, Japan office to find out just how these collectible pieces of art are made. They sat down and spoke about the process with Atsushi Nagashima, game director for TCG, and Mitsuhiro Arita, a long-time freelancer who’s done the artwork on over 500 cards. They also spoke with Satoru Inoue, the lead playtester at Creatures Inc, about how cards are tested and how they insure fairness across each generation.
There are a lot of steps involved in making a card but Nagashima broke it down into 3 main steps for us. The three steps include picking the idea behind the card, getting the art done, and testing it against the current TCG rules. Between the design team, the artists, and the playtesters there are over 90 people who work together to make the cards.
Picking The Card
Nagashima goes on to say that the most important part of creating cards is variety. The reasons why someone would want to collect Pokemon cards varies person to person. Nagashima and his team have the hard task of trying to appeal to all of them. Some cards need to appeal to the competitive players, others need to appease collectors, keeping a balance in variety is the key to keeping the card game going.
He had this to say about how cards are made, “Near the beginning of a new series [based on the latest video games], we really try to take care to stay true to the video games that we’re basing the card series on–for example, the Pokemon that were featured heavily in that video game or had a big role in the story, we’ll make sure they’re kind of at the center of the set we’re making,” Nagashima said. “But once we’re kind of mid-way through the series, we start focusing more on play environment overall…and decide which Pokemon to put in based on that.”
What the game needs is the biggest factor, in creating Pokemon cards but the team also has many other things they need to consider. The team likes to consider what Pokemon players have latched onto. They also look at what Pokemon don’t have a big highlight in the anime or game. And of course, they like to include their own favorites when possible.
Passing it onto The Artist
There are about 73 illustrators and artists who work with Creatures Inc on the art for the cards to ensure variety. They give as much detail as they can to the artist. Some of these details include which Pokemon, what moves they have, and backstory that would help the artist visualize the character. Though not known to the fans, when picking the Pokemon a small backstory is given to help give more detail for art.
Artists seem to have a good amount of creative freedom. Arita says that he even specifies where the foil should go on a holo card. We have Arita to thank for two of the most iconic cards, original fat Pikachu and holographic Charizard. “Specifically this Charizard and that Pikachu are some of the most memorable cards for I think a lot of people who played the game originally, and I always thought that I’d probably never be able to draw cards that people would like better than those two,” Arita said.
Before the card’s art is even finished, a card will go on to be tested by a playtester. There are 19 playtesters at Creatures Inc who spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week testing cards. Because a card is often new and never before seen the testers must use stickers with the card’s information on it, stuck onto older cards. This way they can be hidden seamlessly in a deck for fair use. Inoue explains that a card will go through at least 2 or 3 revisions before making the final one.
Nagashima noted that sometimes competitive players use cards in unforeseen ways, causing cards to be put on a ban list. Even with all the tests done beforehand, players are able to keep playtester’ on their toes.
Once a card has past testing and the art is done, the card is ready to be made and shared with all Pokemon Fans!