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How the Pokémon studio’s unlikeliest mashup came about

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pocket card jockey, an unlikely mashup of horse racing and solitaire from Pokémon developer Game Freak that became a cult favorite on the Nintendo 3DS, is back. just released Pocket Card Jockeys: Ride On! Apple brings this inexplicably more mix to iOS via the Arcade subscription service. I’ve had the game for the past few days, and it’s a pleasure to be reacquainted with its chibi racehorses (look at them, they’re trying So difficult), fast-paced card-clearing, flippant sense of humor and unexpected tactical depth.

Playing the game also awakened in me the desire to know the answers to two burning questions. Who on earth came up with this bizarre idea for a video game? Why else?

Enter Masao Taya, a programmer at Game Freak who worked on most mainline Pokémon titles since the 2002s. Ruby And Sapphire for 2016 Sunday And Moon, he is the director of the original pocket card jockey And ride on!, a horse racing fanatic who dreamed of somehow combining his passion with a game of cards. But, Taya tells me over email, it was a friend and fellow horse-lover from Game Freak who had a last-minute inspiration.

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“I was already a horse racing fan and had been making horse racing simulators and similar programs. I was proposing ideas within the company that combined horse racing with card games. However, I also don’t think they The views were great,” confessed Taya.

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The starting gate of a pocket card jockey race, with a set of cards in which

Image: Game Freak/Apple

“Then one day, my colleague – Go Ichinose, composer of the Pokémon series and fellow horse racing fan – recommended that I try a certain solitaire mobile game. Solitaire instead. The key to Ichinose’s suggestion was the particular solitaire app he recommended. Solitaire is generally a relaxing and thoughtful game, but pocket card jockey The player clears the tableau quickly against a time limit in the middle of a race to determine how well the jockey is balancing the horse’s energy and stamina levels. This is weirdly exciting stuff.

“Solitaire App” […] There was also a leaderboard where you would compare your completion times to players from all over the world,” says Taya. “I was hooked on getting a high ranking on that leaderboard, to the extent that I wanted to one day be in the rankings. Also got second place in the world.

“To achieve this, I needed to both ‘think of efficient plays’ and ‘move cards rapidly, accurately without wasting a second.’ was in. So I imagined that a jockey riding a fast racehorse, who is constantly analyzing the situation and making decisions to win, is probably under similar stress and when things go well So experiences the same kind of enthusiasm.

Taya and Ichinose got together with programmer Toshihiro Obata to hash a prototype. “none [Ichinose nor I] wanted to make a horse racing simulator,” he says; instead, he planned to smuggle a cohesive and authentic horse racing game into something different, so that he could win unfamiliar players into their hobby while satisfying fans of the sport. The design they eventually settled on has surprising depth.

Pocket Card Jockeys: Ride On!

Image: Game Freak/Apple

a pocket card jockey There are several stages of the race. The hands of solitaire determine how well your horse starts at the gate, how much energy you build up, and the strength of the bond between horse and rider. Between these rounds, you need to cleverly keep your horse on track, balancing several factors: the horse’s comfort zone, which determines the difficulty of the solitaire tableau (and how much energy they accrue); the stamina it would cost to move the position; a horse’s preferred position relative to other horses; distance to the inside of the turns; and the location of power-up cards that litter the track. Finally, there is a sprint down the home stretch, when the jockey’s riding crop needs to be used with careful timing to egg their horse.

This is pretty involved stuff. I asked how deeply Taya and Ichinose had studied the game in preparation for the game. “When you are deeply engrossed in something, it may seem to others that you are working hard, or studying, or training, but sometimes a person who is engrossed Just enjoying myself,” Taya said curtly. “I guess it was like that. Looking back now, I remember that we both spent a lot of money on our ‘studies’, but I’d really prefer not to remember that part.

ride on! not the first time pocket card jockey Appeared on iPhone. Following the game’s original 3DS release in Japan in 2013, a free-to-play iPhone release followed in the country, but it did not work out. “We couldn’t adapt the game to the F2P model, so it didn’t work from a commercial perspective,” says Taya. “Since then, I’ve been thinking of ways to make Pocket Card Jockey a successful mobile game in the back of my mind, but I had a lot of other (fun) work to do, too, so I wasn’t able to put my thoughts to rest.” able to execute.

“While this was happening, Apple Arcade started to take hold in Japan. I figured that since Apple Arcade doesn’t have any in-app purchases other than subscription fees, there would be no need to implement a F2P model on the game. Instead, we can offer the core fun experience of the bus. pocket card jockey, We decided to give it a shot.

Pocket Card Jockeys: Ride On!

Image: Game Freak/Apple

ride on! In fact the 3DS is very close to the original, with only a few additions. Race scenes are now rendered in 3D, making it easier to track the relative positions of horses and power-up cards, while the balance between stamina and energy is more clearly defined thanks to the addition of stamina recovery cards to the solitaire tableau. depicted through. Taya says that there are plans to add all new elements to the game through updates as well. When asked about the possibility of a Nintendo Switch version, Taya says he’s focused on getting feedback from Apple Arcade users and giving updates for the time being, but he doesn’t rule it out. “We want to see what response we get and then we will think about the next step.”

while it’s a shame ride on!While the audience will be limited to Apple Arcade customers, Taya’s story illustrates the value of Apple’s oasis in the freemium desert of mobile gaming. pocket card jockey Always made perfect sense as a mobile game, but the prevailing business model won’t allow it. Apple Arcade creates a space where developers don’t have to bend their ideas out of shape to fit the mobile market — and where a pretty weird and weird idea for a game can find a home.

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