The creator of cancelled-then rebooted-then cancelled again-then resurrected card game Netrunner has expressed his delight at seeing the game’s community keep it alive - and revealed that he had considered designing some new cards himself.
Richard Garfield originally designed Netrunner as a trading card game with randomised booster packs. Released in 1996 - just a few years after Garfield’s Magic: The Gathering revolutionised the idea of a collectible card game - the asymmetric cyberpunk card game couldn’t quite match its acclaimed gameplay with commercial success, and it came to an end just four years later.
Over a decade later, Netrunner was relaunched as Android: Netrunner, relocating the card game’s hackers and megacorps from the original’s shared setting with tabletop RPG Cyberpunk 2020 to new publisher Fantasy Flight Games’ own Android universe. The game also switched format, replacing randomised booster packs of cards with expansions with fixed, identical contents as part of FFG’s living card game series.
“A lot of things were done right with Netrunner. But one of the things that wasn't was that, from its outset, it would have been a better living card game than trading card game,” Garfield recently told Dicebreaker. “I don't think I really understood what made a good trading card game then as well as I do now. So that was a much better place for it to be.”
Despite once again seeing acclaim for its gameplay, Android: Netrunner barely outlasted its predecessor, running for six years before being cancelled in 2018. The following year, a community project, Project NISEI - since rechristened as Null Signal Games - took up the mantle for keeping the card game alive. Null Signal has released a number of original cards, expansions and starter sets since, introducing brand new mechanics and running tournaments and other organised play events.
“I always love to see the community take ownership of games,” Garfield replied when asked what he thought of the fan-driven afterlife for Netrunner. “It's gratifying when something you've created can be the tools which people work with to create what they're looking for in games. I love to see my games being used in that way and I love modifying and abusing other people's games as well for my own interest and gaming habits.”
Asked whether he might one day return to his design and create more cards for the latest evolution of Netrunner, Garfield revealed that he had “considered” it and praised the passion of fans for making it “satisfying” to revisit his older games.
“Certainly I have considered going back to Netrunner and any of my old games,” Garfield said. “It's very satisfying to design within a framework where there's an audience built-in.
“When you're coming up with a new game, which is certainly what I probably love to do most, the downside of it is that it's an awful lot of work. You don't really know how good something is or what communities are going to like it and what they're going to like about it until it really matures a bit. But when you design Magic cards or Netrunner cards or Vampire: The Eternal Struggle cards or whatever it is, if there's a fanbase out there, they're a fanbase because they love that framework. It's really easy to sort of build on that and add another annex to the house which it is.”