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CCG implemented as a single-player PC game

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I have a vague idea of the game's design, but I'd love to hear suggestions about what might be included in it to help me clarify my concept.

My two main inspirations are the old Magic the Gathering PC game Shandalar, and the Pokemon handheld games. I want to create a game where the player captures monsters and uses these to deckbuild, then uses the deck to capture more monsters, etc. with the overall goal of "catch em all". So the player would be the monster tamer, and the monsters would be their card collection, used in combat somewhat like that of Magic the Gathering. The player could also win as loot 1-use items which would allow them to convert a card to a variant (for example, a Fire Opal item might be used to convert a basic Cat card into a Fire Cat card) or to merge two cards together (a Humanoid card could be permanently bonded to a Cat card to produce a Cat Rider card). The cardset as a whole would be basically all creatures, and the player would be encouraged to build decks themed by type because most creatures would have some kind of bonus for having multiple creatures of a type in play on the same team.

Significant differences from MTG and Pokemon: the game would not contain different colors of mana, and creatures would not have elemental strengths and weaknesses (instead fire versions of creatures might have more attack and less defense than base versions of those creatures). Mana generated (probably from creatures, maybe every creature that did nothing else that turn would produce 1 mana) would carry over from turn to turn. Damage to creatures would also carry over from turn to turn. The online game Elements demonstrates that both of these work well in a computer environment. I'm also considering whether the player should refill their hand or draw a whole new hand every turn - I really like the way that works in Thunderstone.

So, questions:

- Should there be only one of each creature allowed in a deck, or how many should be allowed?

- What should the minimum deck size be, and should there be a graveyard or should dead cards be removed from the game or put on the bottom of the deck?

- Besides attack and defense, what other stats would it be interesting for creatures to have? Magic or Rage points which must be saved up to execute a special ability are one possibility.

- Any creature types or secondary types you'd particularly like to see? Secondary types might be elements, drain life, can't attack, must attack, can't block, biased toward offense, biased toward defense, etc.

- Should each player start with some mana or get a set number of mana per turn so they don't get stuck unable to summon any creatures?

- Anything I've forgotten? All comments welcome. :)

[Edited by - sunandshadow on September 27, 2010 7:50:08 PM]

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Iiii just discovered the original Magic: The Gather - Duels of the Planeswalker game. It's pretty excellent. I assume that's what you're talking about when you're referring to Shandalar.

Anyway, I don't normally like open world RPGs like Darklands, which is apparently what Shandalar's engine is based off of and essentially still plays like, but because M:TG's core gameplay is so strong and the RPG element is relegated to strict metagame stuff, it works.

So I GUESS my advice would be to focus more on the actual card game mechanics than the outer game. Not really what you're asking, but it's some general advice that I think would work well because I've seen the OPPOSITE case a couple of times and the end results aren't that great.

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What about making it something like the Vampire the eternal struggle ccg? Essentially you have two decks the crypt which is your monster deck no more than 10 cards and a second deck that contains all your action cards, equipment, locations, and other things. You also have a blood pool which is both your life and used to bring vampires into play, and certain other cards.

Vampires are also unique which makes it interesting as if you bring one into play that is already in play both go out of play and you have to spend blood every turn until one player forfeits their vampire. Vampires are also very difficult to kill and there only a few special ways to permanently remove one play. Taking away all of a vampires' hp(blood) resulted in it being temporarily unavailable until the player used one his other vampires to rescue it.

Action cards are tied to vampire abilities and have two levels basic and superior.

You could allow the player to take up to 10 creatures into battles have a second deck of say 30 cards made up of attacks, evolutions, mutations, etc.
So I might bring a cat into and then use the trickster evolution card to turn into the Cheshire Cat, which has the superior Mind Games, superior Illusion, and basic magic abilities. This would allow me to play actions like Mental Maze to redirect an attacking creature back at its owner, or if it gets in a battle I could play Falling Anvil to do 4 damage to the other creature instead of the usual 1.

Any way you get the idea VTES has probably the best system for interesting creature battles with small numbers of creatures of any CCG I've ever player you can read the rules online and see some of the cards on the white wolf website. It's all about making the most of each creatures, as opposed to magic which tends to be about either quick fire battles or massing large powerful forces.


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Would there be any cards other than monster cards and secondary effects that could be used in battle? If not, I would focus on ways to combine the cards temporarily to allow for diverse battles with a single deck, although in my opinion the permanent card-changes you mentioned are a must.

If the creatures are the central focus to every battle, I would even go so far as to remove the mana aspect of the game. If its only purpose is to summon monsters, which then have their own mana/rage/abilities, it may be worth developing a different mechanic for resources, like sacrificing monsters or combining them on the fly for various other monsters or effects.

Considerations like graveyard or not, number of cards in a deck, restrictions on multiple cards, depend on the resources a player has and the behaviors of individual cards, as well as your story for the game (such as, why are monsters in card form? Answering this will help decide what might be a fitting mechanic for removing cards from play, etc.).

Something I think could be cool:

Each player has a small secondary deck, which they use at the beginning of each game. The secondary cards are landscape cards/building cards, etc., and players take turns laying them out to create the battlefield. Landscapes can have different effects on their own (swamp restricts movement, castle ruins provide extra defense), and can affect specific properties of monsters (which can perhaps be modified in play by secondary cards).

Players can then summon monsters and modify them to fight, and possibly achieve various objectives depending on how deep the battlefield creation might be.

Of course, you'd need story mechanics to describe all of this too, but it would allow for some interesting customizations and play strategies without falling into the M:tG clone trap using land and mana. And whatever you do, make sure that the AI is less cheap/lucky than in Shandalar. Damned dragons with their fireballs and red mana counters!

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Original post by TechnoGoth
What about making it something like the Vampire the eternal struggle ccg? Essentially you have two decks the crypt which is your monster deck no more than 10 cards and a second deck that contains all your action cards, equipment, locations, and other things. You also have a blood pool which is both your life and used to bring vampires into play, and certain other cards.

Vampires are also unique which makes it interesting as if you bring one into play that is already in play both go out of play and you have to spend blood every turn until one player forfeits their vampire. Vampires are also very difficult to kill and there only a few special ways to permanently remove one play. Taking away all of a vampires' hp(blood) resulted in it being temporarily unavailable until the player used one his other vampires to rescue it.


That's very interesting. I've never played that particular CCG but it sounds really similar to Wyvern. It has two decks, dragons are unique, and you have a treasure pool which you have to use to bring your monsters into play. It's an extinct game, for fairly good reason - the rares were too rare, the order for actions was confusing, the art sucked, and you couldn't get much in the way of an interesting combo going, partly because the games were designed to be short. Although I did enjoy the mechanic that you start out with 6 cards face down, and the opponent has to gamble by choosing to attack a mystery card.

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Original post by Khaiy
Would there be any cards other than monster cards and secondary effects that could be used in battle?

I'm leaning toward no, although I haven't completely decided. What I want to avoid is the fact that actions/instants/enchantments/etc. are usually more abstract and lead to more math-flavored play than using creatures. I want the game to be concrete, easy for the player to visualize and roleplay.

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If the creatures are the central focus to every battle, I would even go so far as to remove the mana aspect of the game. If its only purpose is to summon monsters, which then have their own mana/rage/abilities, it may be worth developing a different mechanic for resources, like sacrificing monsters or combining them on the fly for various other monsters or effects.

Interesting idea. I kind of like the idea that otherwise unnoccupied monsters go foraging for food or other resources, it gives the game a bit of strategy flavor. And I also like the playing saving up for two turns to do something big. But perhaps removing mana will turn out to be better; I'll consider it.

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Landscapes can have different effects on their own (swamp restricts movement, castle ruins provide extra defense), and can affect specific properties of monsters (which can perhaps be modified in play by secondary cards).

I like the way has some 'landscape' creatures - walls or other creatures which can't attack, and some artifact creatures. If I do landscapes I want to do them as creatures.

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And whatever you do, make sure that the AI is less cheap/lucky than in Shandalar. Damned dragons with their fireballs and red mana counters!

Haha yes Shandalar was obnoxiously buggy, I'd like to avoid that.

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Given your reply, I had a few more ideas:

-The number of a given creature allowed in a deck shouldn't be the same for all creatures. Some might naturally lend themselves to swarming, and players should be encouraged to use them in that way should they choose to. More powerful creatures should be more limited.

-A limit to the number of creatures on the field at one time would force more strategic play, and encourage tactics involving combinations of creatures and abilities.

-A bonus for like-type creatures could be a combination ability of some kind, although this might quickly get out of hand from a design perspective.

-Multiple creatures of one type could be required to be in play in order to summon a stronger creature of that type, provided that such a card is in the player's hand. Having creatures generate mana for the player, as you described in your OP, would be a nice mechanic for this.

-I also like the idea of saving up power over multiple turns to do something bigger. Perhaps like-type creatures could pool mana together for a greater effect, or a shorter charge time (this might have the effect of making some abilities unusable unless a deck is organized heavily by creature type).

Just some ideas I had, let me know what you think.

And P.S. Is this in place of or an evolution of a previous idea you had, a creature-breeding type card game?

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Original post by sunandshadow
the player would be encouraged to build decks themed by type because most creatures would have some kind of bonus for having multiple creatures of a type in play on the same team
At least in MtG I feel this dumbs the game down, making the creatures unusably weak in another kind of deck and limiting creativity.
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I'm also considering whether the player should refill their hand or draw a whole new hand every turn - I really like the way that works in Thunderstone.
Drawing a whole new hand sounds bad because then, unless you can somehow manipulate the deck or play cards obscured, there is no hidden information. Whatever you go with, I suggest you make some creatures which are able to alter the overall game flow such as the draws/refills.
Quote:
So, questions:
...
- Should each player start with some mana or get a set number of mana per turn so they don't get stuck unable to summon any creatures?
One possibility would be that you discard creatures to gain mana. This could be an emergency mechanic, a temporary sacrifice to boost something out quicker, or the main way of funding creature output. Then, as long as you can draw, you are not stuck.
Quote:
- Anything I've forgotten?
Win condition(s) might be useful, this presumably being a game and all. :)

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Another thing you should consider is the length of play. How long do you intend a card battle to last?

Depending on how you want it work it might be worth having two sets of rules a quick and long version.

Quick for short battles like claiming ownership of new creature card, and long for tournaments and boss battles. Also you need to consider if you want battles to be 1 or 1 duels or built for multiple players say a 6 player battle royal. In which case you want to consider if players can attack anyone at any time or a predator prey situation where you can only attack a certain player directly until they are defeated.

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This is still the creature-breeding card game, a bit evolved. [smile]

Quote:
Original post by Khaiy
Given your reply, I had a few more ideas:

-The number of a given creature allowed in a deck shouldn't be the same for all creatures. Some might naturally lend themselves to swarming, and players should be encouraged to use them in that way should they choose to. More powerful creatures should be more limited.

No, I don't like that kind of inconsistency. I'd rather limit more powerful creatures by their casting cost, or giving them an upkeep of sacrificing something. At the moment I'm leaning toward only allowing one of each creature in a deck. This makes the creatures more individual, and like the Pokemon handheld games I could allow players to name their monsters, which contributes to roleplayability.

Quote:
-Multiple creatures of one type could be required to be in play in order to summon a stronger creature of that type, provided that such a card is in the player's hand. Having creatures generate mana for the player, as you described in your OP, would be a nice mechanic for this.

I'm considering the possibility that creatures can be played face down for free, and when face down they do nothing but produce mana. Then the mana produced can be paid to activate the creature, flipping it face up.

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Original post by Stroppy Katamari
Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
the player would be encouraged to build decks themed by type because most creatures would have some kind of bonus for having multiple creatures of a type in play on the same team
At least in MtG I feel this dumbs the game down, making the creatures unusably weak in another kind of deck and limiting creativity.


It does limit creativity, but I think all game rule sets do. If the player can be infinitely creative, they can probably find something game-breakingly good to do, like the many infinite combos possible in MTG. I do not want infinite combos to be possible within my game. The spirit of the game is collecting creatures, and I think it's very in keeping with that to reward the player for having collected one of each kind of cat and playing them together. Every deck should be built around 2-3 types of creature, and ideally each creature set should be equally strong. It's a much more simplistic design than MTG, with more limited strategic possibilities, but I think it will be fun to play for long enough to complete a single player RPG.

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I'm also considering whether the player should refill their hand or draw a whole new hand every turn - I really like the way that works in Thunderstone.
Drawing a whole new hand sounds bad because then, unless you can somehow manipulate the deck or play cards obscured, there is no hidden information. Whatever you go with, I suggest you make some creatures which are able to alter the overall game flow such as the draws/refills.

Good point, I agree. Refilling the hand each turn definitely seems like a superior choice to replacing it.


Quote:
Win condition(s) might be useful, this presumably being a game and all. :)

Heh. [smile] The game as a whole would have two win conditions - collecting one of every card, and completing the plot by winning a climactic battle. I haven't done a lot of brainstorming about what the story might be, but I'm tentatively thinking that the player begins as the inexperienced heir to a position as a nature deity, and can only earn their godhood by becoming one with nature, i.e. discovering and collecting every creature in the world.

For individual battles I was simply thinking that reducing the opponent to 0 life would be the victory condition.

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Original post by TechnoGoth
Another thing you should consider is the length of play. How long do you intend a card battle to last?

Depending on how you want it work it might be worth having two sets of rules a quick and long version.

Quick for short battles like claiming ownership of new creature card, and long for tournaments and boss battles. Also you need to consider if you want battles to be 1 or 1 duels or built for multiple players say a 6 player battle royal. In which case you want to consider if players can attack anyone at any time or a predator prey situation where you can only attack a certain player directly until they are defeated.


Good questions. I want the average game to be 20 minutes, and the range to be 10 minutes for a really unbalanced game to 30 minutes for a really balanced game. I don't really see any point in having more than 2 player duels. For the most part this is intended to be a pve game, with the player battling npc opponents. If there's a pvp function at all, it would be a bonus allowing players to use the deck they've earned within the game to battle an opponent over the network.

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What about combat? How will it work? I guess unlike MTG, creatures will have a position in space and the number of creature on the field will be limited. Maybe you can check Spectromancer (from our very own Richard Garfield) it is a 'kind of TCG' which features an interesting combat system.

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Quote:
Original post by Khaiy
Would there be any cards other than monster cards and secondary effects that could be used in battle?


I'm leaning toward no, although I haven't completely decided. What I want to avoid is the fact that actions/instants/enchantments/etc. are usually more abstract and lead to more math-flavored play than using creatures. I want the game to be concrete, easy for the player to visualize and roleplay.


On the other side, having too many creatures on the field can confuse players as well. Actions/instants/enchantments could help reducing number of creatures while still providing changing and complex gameplay.

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Very interesting topic from my perspective (I've worked on TCG/CCG for some time now)

- Should there be only one of each creature allowed in a deck, or how many should be allowed?
This solely depends on your theme. You've hinted at a Pokemon ripoff in terms of team (monster tamer, etc). If possible, choosing an original theme would probably answer this specific question rather easily. The VS system for the X-men makes a lot more sense if creatures are unique (you really don't wanna mess with Wolverine, imagine two of 'em!). But in MTG, you get generic names aside from legendary creatures.
Now, you have said the goal was to 'collect them all' therefore I would assume you wouldn't want to fight the same creature repeatedly (as it wouldn't help you collect them all in any way). In this regard, singleton is better.
However, if you want th eplayer involved in the deckbuilding process, you have to keep in mind singletons increases randomness and the player may feel cheated by this. If you go with singleton, you need to reduce the deck size considerably for the player not to be overly affected by his 'draw luck'.


- What should the minimum deck size be, and should there be a graveyard or should dead cards be removed from the game or put on the bottom of the deck?
As stated in my previous comment, this will depend on the singleton factor (whether each card can be used more than once or not within the same deck).
You have to determine your losing conditions. If you plan on using the deck as a 'life count' in some way (a depleted deck representing defeat) you will not want to put creatures underneath the deck. If you don't plan on bringing creatures back from the 'graveyard' you will simply put everything aside into a discard pile of some sorts.

- Besides attack and defense, what other stats would it be interesting for creatures to have? Magic or Rage points which must be saved up to execute a special ability are one possibility.
I've actually seen a game use the same singular value for attack and defense. I've also seen another game where creatures did not damage one another. They were either readied or stunned in some way. Damage comparison mattered only to say that the player on the loser end had to sacrifice cards equal to the difference. I think you are too much 'in' your influences for now. I suggest exploring a few other more recent CCGs. New mechanics have broadened the horizons of CCGs. Magic The Gathering has really overused the idea of attack vs defense, in my opinion.

- Any creature types or secondary types you'd particularly like to see? Secondary types might be elements, drain life, can't attack, must attack, can't block, biased toward offense, biased toward defense, etc.
I'm affraid your idea might be too close to MTG at this stage. You're referencing an exact series of ripoff mechanics. If your core gameplay is solid, mechanics will shine on their own. I've done the exercise myself to focus on a specific aspect of gameplay first (more below if you are interested) and the actual combat mechanics evolved on their own based on it.

- Should each player start with some mana or get a set number of mana per turn so they don't get stuck unable to summon any creatures?
Ah, my favorite point, and I will enlarge the discussion to 'resources' in general in a CCG as this is perhaps the most important of all points.

To sum things up, I will tell you why Magic The Gathering is good, and sucks, and specifically in that order.
Magic is a good game, it has a solid resource system. Yet, it occurs that players get mana-screwed (aka, having no resources or resources of an inappropriate color/alignment). While the latter brings frustration, it is an inherent part of the former's success.

Everything in card game must be measured by the quality of their resource systems.
There are two or more main resources (in mtg, 3: cards, mana, life).

If you are unable to predetermine or manually limit the cardflow (ability for a player to acquire new cards, for example, drawing cards) and the mana flow (ability of a player to deploy cards from their hands into play) you will be unable to build a balanced game (read: challenging, unbiased, interesting).

Magic The Gathering took the shortest way around:
- You draw one card (limitation)
- You add one land (limitation)

and then, it build around the idea of bending their own laws (you put two lands into play tapped, you draw 2 cards and lose 2 life, etc)

If you can always have access to the resource you need when you need it, you won't feel frustrated, but you won't feel any happier if you win (or lose).
The fact that Magic comes with a strong emphasis on a single card type (lands) makes it an inherent part of strategy. Putting 22 instead of 21 lands in a deck becomes such a decision into competitive play, and in terms of statistics, come bring up to 5% more victories for a player. Think about it, how many cards can bring an additionnal 5% of victories just by being added?

What Magic did right is make the single most simple card (their resource system) the most important card.

Now, your game really doesn't seem to be about anything besides monster hunting (that isn't a bad thing) but I'd most definately include some kind of resource management systems, otherwise, you will end up with another Yugioh (a game solely based on theme and wow-factor rather than decision and strategy (you can see it with the BIG numbers on each card which could all get divided by 100)).

If no resource system comes into mind, don't forget to tune your card flow.
Limiting to a static number is good, but finding a balancing self-regulating mechanic is even better. I wouldn't advise you to use the "1 card can be played every turn" counterbalanced with "you always have 5 cards in your hand" because I think it just gives poker-like options to a player with the inability to actually capitalize on their game (and thus, reduces their strategy).

Suggestions:
Based on the little I know about your idea, here are some thoughts I would focus on.

RESOURCES:

"MANA"
Since we're looking at a variety of creatures, and each of them looks fairly exotic, your idea to capitalize on these creatures as resources looks interesting.
My personal thought would be:
each creature can be played as a creature, or as though it wasn't one.
Creatures played as resources would slowly generate resources which would be persistent, with perhaps a maximum based on the creature (turn 1, has 1 token, turn 2, 2 tokens, turn 3, 3 tokens, turn 4, 3 tokens because it caps at 3 for example).
Optionally, resource-producing creatures could ultimately bought later on when the player feels confident with his resource-base.
This sort of avoids the MTG trap of lands, but it removes a bit of competition. The reason why I think it fits well is simply because this is a single player game and not a human vs human one. Competition is not emphasized, and we can cheat to make the player's experience better (the whole point of making a game 'fair' is to make the game more enjoyable for the 'losing player'. A CPU doesn't need to be cheered up ;))

"CARDS"
Since we don't want the game to hang indefinately, I would set a 1 card draw every turn, but have certain of your creatures affect this.
For example, a very cool dude with little to no strength whatsoever, could allow you to draw an additionnal card every turn. Alternatively, it could allow you to spend unused mana to 'buy' cards. etc

Feel free if you need more info or if you want me to have a look at your design ideas as it gets more fleshed out. I have a fair bit of experience with CCG theory (I've made my own) and I like the challenge of weighting the pros and cons of CCG design decisions.

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Arcomage, from MM7 and 8.

The game revolves around building your own tower and wall while simultaneously destroying the enemy's tower and wall.

Both players get the same standard deck, random draws and redraws assure different cards and outcomes and it's relatively unpredictable.

3 resource stockpiles go up every turn, bricks, gems and recruits, you can gain more every turn with certain cards and they act like a kind of 'mana'.

The game is won when you either destroy the enemy's tower, reach a set height with your own, or gain a certain number in any given resource.

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Actually, the game now incorporates a mode where you can customize your deck.
A friend and I attempted to modify the core deck by remove one of the core resources (not magic, obviously as it is the most helpful).
It fared rather well.

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Original post by Orymus
However, if you want the player involved in the deckbuilding process, you have to keep in mind singletons increases randomness and the player may feel cheated by this. If you go with singleton, you need to reduce the deck size considerably for the player not to be overly affected by his 'draw luck'.

Yeah, that's the main reason I don't just go with having monsters be unique, and instead I am torn about it. The only 'fix' I have thought of is that since all creatures of a type will have the same base stats and abilities, having a set of 12 variants on one type would be somewhat like having 12 of the same creature.


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- What should the minimum deck size be, and should there be a graveyard or should dead cards be removed from the game or put on the bottom of the deck?
As stated in my previous comment, this will depend on the singleton factor (whether each card can be used more than once or not within the same deck).
You have to determine your losing conditions. If you plan on using the deck as a 'life count' in some way (a depleted deck representing defeat) you will not want to put creatures underneath the deck. If you don't plan on bringing creatures back from the 'graveyard' you will simply put everything aside into a discard pile of some sorts.

I think this is something I will have to playtest. Because it _seems_ like there never ought to be an unbreakable stalemate between two players, which would mean no need for the ability to die by being decked, but in practice stalemate conditions might emerge.

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- Besides attack and defense, what other stats would it be interesting for creatures to have? Magic or Rage points which must be saved up to execute a special ability are one possibility.
I've actually seen a game use the same singular value for attack and defense. I've also seen another game where creatures did not damage one another. They were either readied or stunned in some way. Damage comparison mattered only to say that the player on the loser end had to sacrifice cards equal to the difference. I think you are too much 'in' your influences for now. I suggest exploring a few other more recent CCGs. New mechanics have broadened the horizons of CCGs. Magic The Gathering has really overused the idea of attack vs defense, in my opinion.

I have also played some games where creatures did not damage each other, but I found them boring. If creatures cannot defend it removes the interesting tactical choice of how to use each monster on each turn. I want that to be the central tactical choice of my game, and I want to make it a more complex choice by adding the dimension of gathering (mana generation) as a third option for what a creature can do each turn.

Quote:
- Any creature types or secondary types you'd particularly like to see? Secondary types might be elements, drain life, can't attack, must attack, can't block, biased toward offense, biased toward defense, etc.
I'm afraid your idea might be too close to MTG at this stage. You're referencing an exact series of ripoff mechanics. If your core gameplay is solid, mechanics will shine on their own. I've done the exercise myself to focus on a specific aspect of gameplay first (more below if you are interested) and the actual combat mechanics evolved on their own based on it.

I have to disagree, the examples I listed aren't specific to MTG at all. They can be found in the monster design of almost every RPG there is. An attack that drains life, for example, is found in Pokemon, Monster Rancher, all the Final Fantasy games, etc. Having a unit be biased toward offense or defense isn't limited to monsters at all, it's a staple balancing mechanic of all RTS and TBS games.

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I wouldn't advise you to use the "1 card can be played every turn" counterbalanced with "you always have 5 cards in your hand" because I think it just gives poker-like options to a player with the inability to actually capitalize on their game (and thus, reduces their strategy).

Could you explain this a little more? I understood and agreed with most of your description of resource management in CCGs. But I don't understand exactly what you mean by "poker-like options to a player with the inability to actually capitalize on their game". It's not a fun tactical choice to decide which of 5 cards to play each turn? When I'm playing a card game I always find deciding between multiple cards more interesting than if I have only 1 or 0 cards in hand. Top-decking is a degenerate play state, IMHO. I'd like to design to avoid the player ever running out of cards in hand.

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each creature can be played as a creature, or as though it wasn't one.
Creatures played as resources would slowly generate resources which would be persistent, with perhaps a maximum based on the creature (turn 1, has 1 token, turn 2, 2 tokens, turn 3, 3 tokens, turn 4, 3 tokens because it caps at 3 for example).

I think I've pretty much decided to go with the design that creatures can be played for free in gathering-only mode, then their 'casting cost' paid to activate them whenever the player has saved up enough mana (I'd like to change the name of this resource) to activate them. But I like the idea of caps; that's something I think MTG lacks, which is especially visible in ridiculous situations like infinite combos. If MTG had an inherent limit that any ability could be used a max of 10 times a turn, that would eliminate a lot of infinite combos and also eliminate the need for several banned and restricted cards to have had that sort of nerf-legislation applied to them.

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but it removes a bit of competition. The reason why I think it fits well is simply because this is a single player game and not a human vs human one. Competition is not emphasized, and we can cheat to make the player's experience better (the whole point of making a game 'fair' is to make the game more enjoyable for the 'losing player'. A CPU doesn't need to be cheered up ;))
Hmm. I do intend the player to be able to win most of the time. But, in general I don't like games where the computer has different options than the player does. This is especially true of a card game where the computer is really a stand-in for a human opponent. Ideally, I would like to have a 'bonus' pvp mode where players could use the decks they have collected and built in-game to battle a human opponent over a network. I'll have to think about why the player should usually win against the NPC opponents. Probably because the NPC decks would be unbalanced while the player's should be well-rounded.

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Feel free if you need more info or if you want me to have a look at your design ideas as it gets more fleshed out. I have a fair bit of experience with CCG theory (I've made my own) and I like the challenge of weighting the pros and cons of CCG design decisions.

Thank you, I'll keep that in mind. [smile] I work slowly, but I do intend to gradually develop this idea more over the next several weeks, and I will probably need more input later.

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Original post by Pencil Case
Arcomage, from MM7 and 8.

The game revolves around building your own tower and wall while simultaneously destroying the enemy's tower and wall.

Both players get the same standard deck, random draws and redraws assure different cards and outcomes and it's relatively unpredictable.

3 resource stockpiles go up every turn, bricks, gems and recruits, you can gain more every turn with certain cards and they act like a kind of 'mana'.

The game is won when you either destroy the enemy's tower, reach a set height with your own, or gain a certain number in any given resource.


Is the online version of that multiplayer only, or does it have a good AI?

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What about having instant redraws whenever you play card like in VTES. However this does tend to lead to high card turn over and bigger decks. For instance to give you an idea in VTES in a single some battle (1 vampire attacking another) I'd easily go through half dozen or more cards.

Also as a bit of random idea what about having creatures in play in reduce your hand size? Whenever you put a creature into play you don't replace that card until the creature is removed from play. Making the player balance quick play and controlling creatures


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Original post by sunandshadow
However, if you want the player involved in the deckbuilding process, you have to keep in mind singletons increases randomness and the player may feel cheated by this. If you go with singleton, you need to reduce the deck size considerably for the player not to be overly affected by his 'draw luck'.

Yeah, that's the main reason I don't just go with having monsters be unique, and instead I am torn about it. The only 'fix' I have thought of is that since all creatures of a type will have the same base stats and abilities, having a set of 12 variants on one type would be somewhat like having 12 of the same creature.


You would have to elaborate on your exact concept of 'creature type', and what you mean by common stats. Do you mean creatures from a certain types will roughly resemble one another (for example, this spiky thing will always have strong attack and weak defense and vice versa scaling up from tiny to large (5 attack 2 life, 12 attack, 4 life, etc)? Or do you mean they will synergically have a common tie (a keyworded mechanic for example which defines their general behavior). I think the latter is more consistent. For example, a well known MTG staple is to associate large beasts with Trample, which essentially help damage carry over to the player regardless of whether it is blocked or not (unless the blocker is radically large). Beasts are no longer thought of as 'large beings', in fact, a lot of them are very small (2/2s) but its not uncommon to see the trample keyword on the smaller and bigger alike. Of course, not every beast is entitled to this keyword, but I think its one easy way to make your species act as a whole while giving the option to the player to scale vertically or not.

The reason I think this strategy is good, is because it still gives the player freedom of choice over his tempo (aka, manage the average cost in resource of his creatures). It is undeniable that one player will want to go fast and small while another may choose to go with larger bulky types (and the infinite freedom of choice contained in-between). If your creatures of a similar type all shared roughly the same statistics, playing these creatures specifically would result in an expected tempo. Since this is a single player experience though, you may opt for that regardless. For example: Critters = fast, Beasts = slow, etc.


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- What should the minimum deck size be, and should there be a graveyard or should dead cards be removed from the game or put on the bottom of the deck?
As stated in my previous comment, this will depend on the singleton factor (whether each card can be used more than once or not within the same deck).
You have to determine your losing conditions. If you plan on using the deck as a 'life count' in some way (a depleted deck representing defeat) you will not want to put creatures underneath the deck. If you don't plan on bringing creatures back from the 'graveyard' you will simply put everything aside into a discard pile of some sorts.

I think this is something I will have to playtest. Because it _seems_ like there never ought to be an unbreakable stalemate between two players, which would mean no need for the ability to die by being decked, but in practice stalemate conditions might emerge.


If being decked is not an issue, you'd have to define the method through which the deck will get replenished (shuffling the discard pile? putting it as is?).
From what I think I understand you are using an environment closer to pokemon, where player life is non-existant, and in-play assets are all that counts. If you consider the option of a deck running out without being replenished and a game lasting until either player no longer has any in-play asset, I'd recommend defining a draw rule.
For example "If the game has elapsed 3 consecutive turns with neither player gaining the advantage (define advantage?) while both decks ran empty, the first player that did not draw wins the game".


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- Besides attack and defense, what other stats would it be interesting for creatures to have? Magic or Rage points which must be saved up to execute a special ability are one possibility.
I've actually seen a game use the same singular value for attack and defense. I've also seen another game where creatures did not damage one another. They were either readied or stunned in some way. Damage comparison mattered only to say that the player on the loser end had to sacrifice cards equal to the difference. I think you are too much 'in' your influences for now. I suggest exploring a few other more recent CCGs. New mechanics have broadened the horizons of CCGs. Magic The Gathering has really overused the idea of attack vs defense, in my opinion.

I have also played some games where creatures did not damage each other, but I found them boring. If creatures cannot defend it removes the interesting tactical choice of how to use each monster on each turn. I want that to be the central tactical choice of my game, and I want to make it a more complex choice by adding the dimension of gathering (mana generation) as a third option for what a creature can do each turn.


I'll have to admit that when I said "I have seen" I should've said "I did not play" and while it looked good on paper, I can relate to your apprehensions of this idea. I still have this fleeting idea in my 'toolbox' that I was unable to use up to now:
Give each creature an offensive and defensive value. These are the damages they will deal based on their role. Obviously, an attacking critter will deal its offensive dmg, whereas a blocking critter will 'counterattack' with its defensive attack. I've seen MTG card emulate this effect (CARDNAME is +2/+0 when blocking or when untapped) and I felt there was much unused designspace if you are willing to explore that. Of course, I don't know if you intend to let the defending player be the one to choose which creature to block with, or if you are using a scheme where the attacking player assigns each of his or her critters to specific targets (in the latter case, I think the idea is less efficient as it gives a lot more power to the attacking player in choosing which critter to eliminate first).


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- Any creature types or secondary types you'd particularly like to see? Secondary types might be elements, drain life, can't attack, must attack, can't block, biased toward offense, biased toward defense, etc.
I'm afraid your idea might be too close to MTG at this stage. You're referencing an exact series of ripoff mechanics. If your core gameplay is solid, mechanics will shine on their own. I've done the exercise myself to focus on a specific aspect of gameplay first (more below if you are interested) and the actual combat mechanics evolved on their own based on it.

I have to disagree, the examples I listed aren't specific to MTG at all. They can be found in the monster design of almost every RPG there is. An attack that drains life, for example, is found in Pokemon, Monster Rancher, all the Final Fantasy games, etc. Having a unit be biased toward offense or defense isn't limited to monsters at all, it's a staple balancing mechanic of all RTS and TBS games.


I think a damage rock-paper-scissor pie would do neatly. It could be elements (fire ice earth wind), or damage types (slashing piercing bludgeoning) etc etc Whatever fits best in your game. This would imply certain critters would do better resisting certain attacks and might demand that you add mechanics such as "armor 'type' (X)" (damage sources of its 'type' are reduced by X) ex Armor "FIRE" 3 means that the critter will not receive the first 3 fire damage every combat. However, you need to be aware that armor is a powerful game breaker if not handled well. You should not use armor 1 to counterbalance damage 1. There should be some sort of equation where 1 point of armor is worth 2 or 3 points of damage (as it may lead to late stalemate games where both critters have some attack, but the opponent's critter has the right set of armor to deal with it).
I think armor is just a good way for the game to get into the next 'tier' so to speak. If the other player keeps tossing small critters, at some point a player will feel he has no chance to get by, but adding one critter with an armor 1 value may suddenly deal formidably well against a series of smaller critters. Thus, the player is forced to change his or her strategy. This is what keeps a game reactive and adaptative rather than having a player impose his or her strategy and see if he or she wins or loses.


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I wouldn't advise you to use the "1 card can be played every turn" counterbalanced with "you always have 5 cards in your hand" because I think it just gives poker-like options to a player with the inability to actually capitalize on their game (and thus, reduces their strategy).

Could you explain this a little more? I understood and agreed with most of your description of resource management in CCGs. But I don't understand exactly what you mean by "poker-like options to a player with the inability to actually capitalize on their game". It's not a fun tactical choice to decide which of 5 cards to play each turn? When I'm playing a card game I always find deciding between multiple cards more interesting than if I have only 1 or 0 cards in hand. Top-decking is a degenerate play state, IMHO. I'd like to design to avoid the player ever running out of cards in hand.


The problem I wanted to underline is that, if you know you will draw up to a hand of 5 cards every turn, you will nearly always want to play your cheaper cards. Why? because for every card played you get to draw a card (and drawing cards in a card game is one of the most powerful mechanics). There is no real incentive to play 'card quality' and it will be about 'card quantity'. I think a fair and good game allows the player to choose either strategy and requires the player to react accordingly. I must confess I cannot name a card game revolving around this principle that has reached high competitive play or much enjoyment factors.

However, I see your point and entirely agree with it. Top-decking should be avoided whenever possible and this can be enabled through resource control. If the player is unable to play more than 1 or 2 cards a turn and draws 1 to 3 cards per turn, the issue could be solved. I have personally found a cunning strategy to balance card draw and resource together but I'll leave that one aside here as my game has yet to be officially published :S I'll be honest though, if *my game* is any good, I will put the entire credit on this singlemost mechanic as I believe it is responsible for 0% of the fun factor but manages to produce little to no annoyment whatsoever (which is not something a game such as Magic can claim when a player topdecks a land in the later stages of the game, as you cleverly pointed out).



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each creature can be played as a creature, or as though it wasn't one.
Creatures played as resources would slowly generate resources which would be persistent, with perhaps a maximum based on the creature (turn 1, has 1 token, turn 2, 2 tokens, turn 3, 3 tokens, turn 4, 3 tokens because it caps at 3 for example).

I think I've pretty much decided to go with the design that creatures can be played for free in gathering-only mode, then their 'casting cost' paid to activate them whenever the player has saved up enough mana (I'd like to change the name of this resource) to activate them. But I like the idea of caps; that's something I think MTG lacks, which is especially visible in ridiculous situations like infinite combos. If MTG had an inherent limit that any ability could be used a max of 10 times a turn, that would eliminate a lot of infinite combos and also eliminate the need for several banned and restricted cards to have had that sort of nerf-legislation applied to them.


The name of the resource will simply need to fit the environment you want to create. If I understand correctly, you are putting the player in a position of control over minions he has acquired. He thus brings his well tamed lackeys into the fray using some sort of cunning or leadership. I'd recommend using a word along that road (leadership, skill, cunning, etc etc). But terminology should really get settled for much later.

The problem I see with 'caps' is that it gives an arbitrary limit value which may puzzle the player and complicate things. In a perfect world, a card game would be so well balanced that no sch abuses would ever exist. The biggest issue behind MTG's infinite combos is the card pool size. The lead designers responsible for this product admit on occasion that they do not know every card by heart and that no one can. Thus, when they create new cards, regardless of their ability to look into potential dangers, players get more time to find weaknesses in the design. If your game does not plan to release as many expansions as MTG (admittedly over 1000 new cards get printed every year) you should not find yourself in such a tight spot anytime soon. I'd recommend neat design over arbitrary caps. If you reach the point where you need to ban cards, rewrite rules, etc, then you'll have succeeded: this means you have a strong enough fanbase to actually fix the game for them ;)



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but it removes a bit of competition. The reason why I think it fits well is simply because this is a single player game and not a human vs human one. Competition is not emphasized, and we can cheat to make the player's experience better (the whole point of making a game 'fair' is to make the game more enjoyable for the 'losing player'. A CPU doesn't need to be cheered up ;))

Hmm. I do intend the player to be able to win most of the time. But, in general I don't like games where the computer has different options than the player does. This is especially true of a card game where the computer is really a stand-in for a human opponent. Ideally, I would like to have a 'bonus' pvp mode where players could use the decks they have collected and built in-game to battle a human opponent over a network. I'll have to think about why the player should usually win against the NPC opponents. Probably because the NPC decks would be unbalanced while the player's should be well-rounded.


I tend to agree with your last statement. Presumably, opponent's decks will represent 'tribes' or 'species' of creature, and thoug they will share thematics and mechanics alike, they should feel overly focussed so that the player could uncover a weakness. This is a process often used in pattern-recognition-oriented games. This would feel a bit like an unclear tutorial: here is an enemy, they do X, how can you beat that? Oh well, I have Y which deals very well against X, so I'll just try that I guess... maybe I misunderstood what Y really did on the first occasion, let's try Z, he does something I've never tried and it feels like it could counter X well... etc




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Feel free if you need more info or if you want me to have a look at your design ideas as it gets more fleshed out. I have a fair bit of experience with CCG theory (I've made my own) and I like the challenge of weighting the pros and cons of CCG design decisions.
Thank you, I'll keep that in mind. [smile] I work slowly, but I do intend to gradually develop this idea more over the next several weeks, and I will probably need more input later.


I'll keep a look on this thread, but if I should fail to respond, don't hesitate to PM.

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