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Interview with the creator of Gate Ruler

Posted on 17th August, 2022 at 5:09am CST
Hello everyone! This is Orenji_Reiji, delivering you a very exclusive and unexpected scoop! I was honored to have an interview with the creator of Gate Ruler, Ikeda Yoshimasa aka Iketchi-tencho himself! I've asked him a bunch of questions about his history in the TCG industry and, of course, about Gate Ruler. Believe me, you don't want to miss it, as he gives us a lot of insight knowledge and vision, and even a little teaser in the end to look forward to in the future!

Disclaimer: the translation of Ikeda’s responses was done through DeepL from Japanese into English, with some editing by me. I tried my best to keep the responses as authentic as possible, but there is always a small possibility of mistranslation.

“History and Development” block

Q: Not many people overseas know exactly who you are, so please, tell us about your background in TCG, and how did you end up creating Gate Ruler.

A: This is a very long story. I started working in a toy store at the age of 16, and from the age of 20 I joined the toy store as an employee and became an expert in video games. But when I decided to start my own business when I was 30 (in 2000), video games were already not a minor hobby that required expert knowledge and did not require me to "teach" as an expert.
My purpose in life is to deal with a highly specialized hobby and spread the joy of it. Therefore, I decided to create a specialty store for trading card games, which at the time were just beginning to spread in Japan.

I started a blog about the strange and fun things that happened at the store with customers and staff, and it became a big topic of conversation. The Internet was not developed at that time, but still, about 5,000 people would view my blog every day. In today's numbers, that would be equivalent to about 100,000 people.

Later I published a series of articles introducing Yu-Gi-Oh and Duel Masters decks. At the time, there were people who published deck recipes, but no one explained in detail how the deck worked or why certain cards were necessary. As a result, I became famous (perhaps the only one at the time) as someone who promoted Duel Masters decks in particular, and my blog and articles were read by many more people.

Later, I met Mr. Kidani, then chairman of Broccoli Co. (now chairman of Bushiroad), and we opened a store in Tokyo to help each other's businesses.
Soon after that, I started making videos of trading card game matches on YouTube. This was the first attempt of its kind in the world. I don't think anyone would argue that I am the originator of all card game videos. There are many card game videos now, but at that time, there were no "deck explanation videos" being made, as there were with me, and some of my videos started to reach a million views.
At this time, there was no system on YouTube to get paid for advertising, so my videos were completely volunteer. I became very famous, and when I did live talk shows, I would get hundreds of people, but I never received any money for it.

In recognition of such activities, Bushiroad asked me to become the author of a card game. However, I am forbidden by Bushiroad to talk about this matter, so I cannot say anything about it. I am very sorry.

After that, I started a new card game project with Force of Will co. It is called “Dominator”. This was a big project that was going to receive an anime series, but due to budget constraints, it was abandoned and the rights were transferred to Bushiroad. I spent a year working with Bushiroad on this project.
I spent a year working with Bushiroad on the Dominator project, which unfortunately had to be suspended for various reasons.

During the time I was working with Bushiroad on the Dominator project, there was no contract between Bushiroad and myself. I was completely independent and worked with the sole intention of realizing the Dominator project without receiving any money from Bushiroad. It was clear that if Bushiroad was not going to use the results of that work, then I was free to use them elsewhere.

So I decided to partner with Daiko Printing, the manufacturer of Fow, to develop Gate Ruler while reusing some of the ideas from the Dominator that were no longer in use. Gate Ruler was thus launched.

Q: When did you first get an idea to create Gate Ruler? How did it come to life? What ideas did you want Gate Ruler to convey?

A: If, as I explained earlier, it was Dominator that became the original Gate Ruler. I dreamed of creating "my idea of the best and most interesting TCG", and I was able to make that dream come true.
I realized that I had an idea for a new ideal TCG. That is the ruler system, and also the drive system with no cards in hand.

Since I came up such an interesting idea, I really wanted to make it real. I wanted to share this interesting game with as many people as possible.

The part of Gate Ruler that I find particularly interesting is the mixed balance of luck and skill. On one hand, if you think carefully, you will be rewarded for your play, but on the other hand, no matter how hard you try, if you have bad luck, you will lose because you cannot pull the trigger, just like human fate itself. In life, there are times when your efforts are not rewarded and misfortune strikes. The Gate Ruler system allows for such unreasonableness, and the fact that it can be enjoyed as a game in itself may be "training the muscles against life" (laughs).
I am somewhat influenced by Buddhism, and I sometimes look at the big picture of various events and feel a cynical laugh at the “impermanence of all things”.

In Gate Ruler, hard work pays off. I find it amusing that hard work pays off, but sometimes you also suffer a terrible betrayal.

Also, enjoying the speedy game of Berserker and Apprentice is a great way to relieve stress.

Q: Why did you decide to make GR a TCG, and not LCG for example? It’s easier and less expensive.

A: I wanted to create the best TCG I could think of. It was not an LCG.

Q: What was the hardest thing during the initial development?

A: We had no difficulties in development. I was blessed with an excellent staff and Daiko Printing was a great partner. All I had to do was just keep making interesting cards that came to me as endless ideas.

Q: How do you come up with new Rulers and game mechanics?

A: When Pablo Picasso was told that his originality was appreciated by some as "a mosaic of something I saw somewhere else," he replied, "I'm not borrowing. I am stealing it!"
I believe that originality is not about creating something from scratch, but about "combining unexpected things" and "reusing existing things in unexpected ways.
Borrowing" is simply using something, but "stealing" is "understanding something in one's own way and making it one's own.

Whenever I am moved by a movie, or feel excited by an anime, or enthused by a game, and, after all, whenever I am exposed to a new idea from another TCG, I think about applying it to Gate Ruler.
Gate Ruler has a big idea called the "Ruler System" that can take any TCG idea, reconfigure it, and sublimate it into "Gate Ruler fun". I am a craftsman who has created the canvas of the Gate Ruler, and I am now happily painting on that canvas as I see fit.

Q: When the game launched, you said that it will not have rotation like in Magic the Gathering or Pokemon TCG. Why so?

A: This may be a "unique Japanese allergy". In Japan, there is an assumption that rotating TCGs do not sell well. And in fact, few Japanese domestic TCGs have been successfully using the rotation system, and each time the number of users decreased.
Currently, Pokémon is successfully rotating because the mature market allows it and because Pokémon has a history of doing so.
For me personally, I think it is a good thing to adopt rotation in TCGs.
However, as for Gate Ruler, I don't think rotation is necessary. This is because it is not a TCG where new cards are released every month, and the game design does not require a reset against inflation for a long period of time.

Q: Usually, games without rotation need to do constant power creep to sell new sets, as well as make ban lists when certain decks become too popular or powerful and make the format stale for too long. Aren’t you afraid that eventually Gate Ruler will become like those games? How do you manage to keep everything in balance now, and what do you think about the future of the game?

A: When we launched Gate Ruler in Japan, I made it clear: we are not afraid of making banned or restricted cards. I explained to everyone that it can be a risk.
The successful TCGs in Japan, Yu-Gi-Oh and Duel Masters, both use bans and restrictions to control the game environment, instead of rotation. Since this has been successful, Japanese TCG users are very aware that rotation is not the "only right answer".
At first, I said this was a "Japanese allergy," but I may have overstated the case. Japanese TCG users strongly dictate and consider the way Yu-Gi-Oh and Duel Masters are doing things to be the right way.
One can imagine that this is strange from a global perspective, but that does not make it wrong. The rotation method and the prohibition/restriction method - both are correct. And we just have to decide which one we’d like to use.

Q: Why Exvaders get so little cards per set? By set 4, they have 25 cards total, while every other faction gets about 30 new cards every set, and those few cards are not really strong or scary during the actual game. Exvader decks are very hard to build because of that. Why are they getting such treatment?

A: I envision Exvaders to be gradually looming and gradually increasing in numbers.

Q: Do you plan to add new factions in the future? What about cards that have 2 or more factions?

A: We believe that cards with more than one faction should naturally be "weaker" because of their versatility. In other words, the card will likely not be used by either faction, and I don't think it can be made attractive.
If the idea is that it can be used by two factions, but with some sort of penalty in exchange, I think it is worthy of adoption. However, just because there are two-color cards in other TCGs, I don't think it is necessary to easily adopt them in Gate Ruler as well.
Simply put, it is a very common idea, so we don't see the need to create it unless we are really stuck for ideas. (laughs)
Or conversely, I might make it when I get a flash of inspiration for a very interesting "binding" idea.

“Game Lore” block

Q: Gate Ruler’s lore is very interesting and vast, but it’s hard to follow its storylines when it’s all scattered between flavor texts of cards. What do you think of making some kind of story compilation, where you can retell the key points of the story in a form of a novel?

A: I am also very keen on that.
If there were five of me, one would be making Gate Ruler, one would be spending time with family, one would be passionate about TCGs and TRPGs, one would be making videos, and one would have written a novel about Gate Ruler.
But I am only one person. If someone is willing to edit the Gate Ruler story and tell the missing parts of the story, I am willing to help.

Q: Anime production is, of course, very expensive. But what about manga or light novel? Did you have any thought of making a manga or light novel adaptation of Gate Ruler lore? Who would you want to write story and draw illustrations?

A: I am very attracted to the idea of presenting stories in the form of light novels. But I am only one person, so here goes. Somehow, I would like to make it happen. I am not giving up.

Q: The story of sets 1 to 4 are based around Exvader’s invasion (ATLAS and Yomajin Front), Yamada’s trip to Wescalot (Volnar), and Wonderverse was simply kind of there not participating in any of that and just focusing on Ed’s adventures and his battle against Crimenauts. But at the end, Azariah appeared and sent Heddie Headhunter to Volnar, making all the worlds linked together. Those story lines we have seen in sets 1 to 4 seem to be near their end. What can we expect for the future of the game’s lore?

A: This is a bit of a roundabout and difficult answer, if you don't mind.
It was once believed that diversity was a beautiful thing, something that made the world strong and developed. It was also believed that in order to maintain diversity, it was important to have a spirit of tolerance, to understand and accept other cultures. Now, however, the world seems to be struggling with diversity due to immigration and a variety of other factors. There are countries that are successful economically and in terms of quality of life, even with autocratic social systems. And that should not be assumed to be a "bad thing". It is also true that it is "one way to succeed." (Rotation is right or prohibition/restriction is right ......)
To "believe" is dangerous and can immobilize one's thinking. I believe that we must always keep an eye on reality and be flexible enough to adapt to the moment.

I do, however, wish to "believe" in diversity and tolerance. That is my personal ideal, and I don't have to share it with everyone, nor do I intend to impose it on anyone. But in the world of Gate Ruler, diversity and coalition should prevail. The Exvader, who has no concept of tolerance and refuses to communicate at all, exists as absolute evil.

Why? The answer is simple. Because Gate Ruler is a TCG.

Every card has value. There is no such thing as an unnecessary card. That is the ideal of TCG. And if that is the case, I believe that the worldview depicted by TCG should affirm diversity.

Therefore, in the end, humanity will triumph, even with Gate Ruler.
But first, we must face the bottomless fear of the Exvaders and what they really are.

“Marketing and Production” block

Q: Overseas players are very concerned about the lack of promotion of Gate Ruler. Because of this, a lot of people have quit the game, and we can’t get new players. I’ve gathered the most frequent questions that were asked a lot over the game’s lifespan. Can you please answer them?

A: You have asked many questions and made several suggestions, but unfortunately I am completely powerless with regard to the deployment of gate rulers overseas.
That is the part I have no authority to speak on. It is all a matter for Eye Spy to deal with, and for me to express my opinion would be a betrayal of Eye Spy.
However, I think it is possible to hold a discord tournament in English-speaking countries if the last piece of the puzzle is found. We have received permission from Eye Spy to have the Japanese development team work for this purpose, and they are willing to cooperate with us.
The last piece is a staff member who speaks English and Japanese and is very knowledgeable about the rules of the Gate Ruler.
Is there anyone out there? If we can find this last piece, we can have an English version of the official Gate Ruler tournament on Discord, and eventually we can have a world tournament including Japan.

Q: All the products now can only be purchased by shops through a very little number of distributors. An unpleasant situation happened with Set 4 – one of those distributors made a mistake in their order, ordering way less than they should had, making Set 4 very underprinted and not giving players enough product to open, because set 4 was “print-to-order”. Will there be any second printings of any of the older products, most important one to reprint being set 4, and can’t anything be change to how distribution works? Maybe players should be able to submit preorders directly to the manufacturer?

A: This is the first time I have heard that Set 4 was not enough in other countries. I am surprised. I think all these opinions should be sent to Eye Spy. I can't give you any advice from me, but I think you all need to strongly explain what you need to do to Eye Spy. Maybe it's not my place to say this, but good luck!

“Miscellaneous (unsorted)” block

Q: What do you enjoy and find interesting in TCG genre as a game designer?

A: Deck building. Japanese TCG designer Satoshi Nakamura (Hatman) once remarked, "All TCGs are interesting when you can freely build a deck." Now that we have LCGs, this is no longer a TCG-only pleasure, but I think it is a great statement. Also, TCGs have something that LCGs do not: the single card market. As someone who originally owned a card game store, I find the fluctuating value part of TCGs interesting as well.

Q: What do you think of making a digital platform to play Gate Ruler? Similar to MTG Arena or Yu-Gi-Oh Master Duel.

A: It would be wonderful to have, but I don't think it is physically possible, since Gate Ruler evolves into a completely different game every time a new ruler is created.

Q: Official Deck Maker is currently in development. When can we expect it to be released? Is it going to have English translation?

A: As for the deck maker, we had a series of truly horrendous problems. I am not kidding, but it was a case of drama. And it is being resolved.

Q: Which faction in Gate Ruler is your favorite? Favorite ruler? Deck? Card?

A: Of course, I love them all, but Wonderverse is a lot of fun because you can create a world without thinking too hard, and the right way to create a world is to empty your head. I think retro-futuristic worlds are rare even in today's TCGs.

Q: When Booster sets 3 and 4 were announced, you publicly posted an image of a card named "The Answer". He was going to appear in set 4, but as we all know, he is not there. Will he be included in any future set?

A: It’s very complicated.

Q: We were also shown a new art of Golden Sword Dragon. As we can see from the image's URL name, he is Astro Racer, and Racers is the theme of Wonderverse in set 5. Should we expect him to appear soon?

A: Yes! That card is a Racer. But due to set composition issues, that card will be included in the 6th set. We'll have a bunch of Racers in the 5th set, but unfortunately Golden Sword Dragon will be in the 6th set! Sorry!

Q: Can you give us any teaser of what can we expect in the future of Gate Ruler? Maybe any new mechanics? Unique rulers?

A: We will soon announce in Japan that a system called "Geas" (not official English name) will be implemented. This is a change to the ruler, but it is not a system to make a ruler stronger. It works as a "slight change"
For example, a small change such as Apprentice's ATK going from 4 to 5, at the same time lowering its HP to 10 is not a new ruler. This is what the Geas system that gives these "flavor changes".

Also, in the 6th set, there is going to be a major change to the resources.
5th set has a ruler with 4 attack zones, and since Gate Ruler "expands horizontally," the 6th set will "allow you to play bigger cards with bigger resources," which can be said to "expand vertically". We are also considering a ruler that pays resources completely differently than before, or a ruler that specializes in Exvaders.

As long as there is a ruler system, Gate Ruler can employ an infinite number of ideas. Ideas can be taken from any game and reimagined in Gate Ruler.

There are many things that the Gate Ruler can only do if sales grow. It is a pleasure to know that international users have made an effort to "do something" and send me questions. This is about all I can do. Thank you for your continued support. And for the overseas promotion, please contact Eye Spy.
Edited by Orenji_Reiji on 21st September, 2022 at 3:27am CST