The Unique Journey of Balatro: A Different Approach to Deckbuilding Roguelikes

When looking at the success of the poker-themed deckbuilder Balatro, it is interesting to note that its creator actively avoided similar roguelikes to engineer the best game possible. In a recent Q&A session on Reddit, Developer Localthunk spoke about their influences and how they shaped Balatro. Surprisingly, the game’s biggest influence was not from traditional card-based roguelikes, but from Luck Be A Landlord. This unique perspective came after watching YouTuber Northernlion play the game and falling in love with the concept of a non-fantasy themed score-attached roguelike. This unexpected source of inspiration led Localthunk to modify the card game they were already working on to fit within the roguelike structure.

Avoiding the Genre

Despite the popularity of card-based roguelikes like Slay the Spire, Localthunk consciously decided to cut themselves off from the genre. By doing this, they aimed to make their own mistakes and explore the design space naively, finding joy in the creative process. While they admit to hearing comparisons to Slay the Spire, Localthunk had never actually played or seen footage of the game until much later. This intentional avoidance of popular titles in the genre allowed Localthunk to approach Balatro with fresh eyes, leading to a unique and innovative gameplay experience.

Uncharted Territory

The decision to avoid traditional influences paid off for Localthunk, as Balatro’s unconventional research process yielded unbelievable results. By taking a different approach to deckbuilding roguelikes, Localthunk was able to create a game that stands out in a crowded market. Balatro’s success is a testament to the power of thinking outside the box and daring to explore uncharted territory in game design. With its poker-themed mechanics and fresh take on the genre, Balatro offers players a truly unique gaming experience that sets it apart from its peers.

Balatro’s journey from concept to success showcases the importance of breaking away from traditional influences and charting a new course in game development. By embracing unexpected sources of inspiration and approaching game design with a sense of curiosity and experimentation, developers can create truly innovative and engaging experiences for players. Balatro’s story serves as a reminder that sometimes the best creations come from daring to be different and pushing the boundaries of what is expected in the gaming industry.


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