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Online Card Game - What is too much - automation

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I have started development of an online card game that will run in the same vein as Magic Online or YuGiOh. We are creating a downloadable client, as opposed to a web based game. The marketing strategy is the same strategy that farmville and League of legends uses...the f2p with optional purchases.

I have presented the idea to this site before, and was met with interesting feedback, that I personally disagreed with. However, I wanted to make this post to get some MORE insight, and try and really wrap my head around the idea.

I had wanted a complex game where players were able to "React" to their opponents plays. This theory also allows the player to react to their moves too.

The suggestion from this site was that, in an online card game environment, it is a better idea to avoid that reaction system, and allow each player to take their turn without input from the opposing player. While I understand the reasoning behind that, I feel like the negatives of that kind of system easily outweigh the positives, but I would like to get some more input on the subject.

I'll first explain my reasoning to create a reaction based card game, then I'd like to ask you guys for comments, criticism, agreements, and disagreements.

I believe that when you remove the ability to react to your opponents moves, and the ability to interrupt their turn, you are removing strategy from the game and creating a system where two players constantly beat each other on the head until someone loses. You essentially remove the idea of card synergy and effectively kill strategy...ie, saving cards for a specific moment, the idea of trap cards, card combos, etc.

As a card designer, you also have a lot more variety that you can work with, albeit, its much more complicated to program (unless you come up with a great way to handle it...thanks MTGO! ~stacks). You don't get this with a cause/effect system. You are far too limited because you can't have an intricate interaction between cards. The MOST complicated event that will EVER take place is: Player1 uses ability, ability instantly goes off, targets requirements for reaction take place, target reacts. The problem i have with that, is that you never have to worry about whats going to happen, as it is ALWAYS controlled and visible when you are playing. Therefore, you are simply trying to draw the best cards, and simplistic strategies are born.

In Magic, the amount of combos you can do are unreal. The different card synergy is staggering. Even yugioh, while simplistic at the core, can get crazy with just the simple addition of quick play spell cards and trap cards.

Another reason I like more complicated games with more complicated cards is because it makes each card feel much more unique. I have tried shadowera, but do not feel compelled whatsoever to purchase cards or boosters because each card feels the same. When looking through the cards i'd like, I don't get that sense of, "wow, that would fit perfectly in my deck" I only get the feeling that, "oh this card is a more powerful version of all those other cards"

As such, getting that feeling where people are dedicated to your game is a hard one. Though i feel it is easier to do if you have a game that people can really dig deep into. You need customization for that.

Anyway, i'll keep my spiel short.

In order to facilitate discussion, I'll ask a few questions

1) What is your opinion on how online card games should work
2) Do you play any online card games?
-which ones?
-is it reaction based (MTGO) or cause and effect (shadowera)
-have you made cash purchases for that game?
3) Would you play a game where you have to wait for the other player to react
-In the game we are designing, it will work similarly to pokerstars. After every play that goes to the stack, and allows for a response, it will appear in a status window. Our scanner will figure out if you can respond or not and will display a clickable button labeled, "react" All the while, next to the button there would be a timer(5-10 seconds) counting down. If you do not hit react in time, the counter will time out, and the stack will be played out.

thanks for the input. I look forward to having a nice discussion.

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[font=arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif][size=2]
I've played the following card games - Pokemon, MTG, YGO and WoW (yes, they have a card game!).[/font]

1) It doesn't necessarily need to have a "reaction" window. Go to Kongregate and take a look at 2 flash card game there: Elements and Tyrant. Neither game allow "reactions" from the player on an opponent's turn, but they are still fun to play with. The thing about online card games (or any computer-run card games) is you must code every single possibility of card interaction. Just take a look at YuGiOh's and MTG's single-card-ruling section. A majority of those cards with effects (in fact, I dare say all cards with effect) have specific rulings with regards to how it interact with certain cards. Player creativity will always trump whatever ruling you can come up with. Playing physically, players can pause their game and look up rulings when they encounter a problem. However, with an automated client running it, I can't fathom what would happen if players come up with a really good "combo" (and it is legal to play it) only to be foiled by the client because the "combo" wasn't programmed into it. (Or, god forbid, the client crashed due to the combo. Worst case scenario)

2) Besides those two mentioned above, I have Pokerstars installed as well. I also use Yugioh Virtual Desktop to play YuGiOh. The client has very little automated actions. All card "movements" (draw, putting cards into play, putting cards into graveyard, etc) are manually done by the players. This type of "manual client" allows for more freedom between player interaction, simulating a live play, but you run the risk of players cheating in the game (if there is a reward involved in your gameplay) since every action is controlled by the player, and the opponent cannot stop them from cheating.

With regards to cash purchase, no. I didn't spend a single dime on these games.

3) It depends. Live play and online play is different. In live play, you (probably) know your opponent, and you don't mind waiting abit before they make a move (and you are allowed to smack them if they take too long, a big advantage over online play :) ). In online play, lag and latency issue coupled with random disconnections will turn off a player. Its made worse if there is a reward system for winning.

I used to play Gunbound (Worm-ish game, but with pretty looking "tanks") which runs on a turn-based system. No problems when the game runs smoothly, where winning and losing is determined purely by player-action. The problem with the game is when the lag hits and freezes the game completely (which happen every once every 4-5 games). The game will not resume unless the winner is determined (meaning everyone on one side leaves the game). Imagine a 4v4 situation, where you are on the winning side. You have 3 players still alive, while the opposite side only have a single player left. The opposing player will die in 1 hit. Lag hits, game freezes, and no one can move. The honorable thing to do is for the losing team's remaining player to leave and give the win to the other side with 3 players still remaining. But no, 9 times out of 10, the losing side will simply stay in the game, forcing everyone on the winning side to leave because the freeze is wasting their time. Reward goes to the player who did not deserve it. How can you solve such problems?

Now, Pokerstars is abit different from these card games. If you have made a substantial bet in the game, the game will not fold your hand. Instead, you remain in play, but your share of the winnings are calculated from the pot before you timed out. That is a good system because the timed-out player does not automatically lose due to connection issues.

However, both MTG and YGO runs a different stack system. MTG allows you to respond and target any card within a stack (assuming its legal). YGO, on the other hand, only allows you to respond and target the newest card added to the stack. This is apparent when activating triggered abilities and using counter-traps. If you choose to pass and not respond, you cannot later come back and respond to it/target other cards on the chain. Once you miss the window of opportunity, thats it (yes, there are exceptions, but they are few in numbers). Another thing about these games is that you can leave yourself defenseless and respond to threats from your hand (in MTG) or your trap/magic zones (YGO). That means a player does not die just because he appears defenseless.

How is this different from Pokerstars? In these type of games, "Burn Decks" are a viable choice. Burn decks force the opponent to respond all the time. Failure to respond can result in a game over. The same applies to "bluffing" players, who choose to leave his/her board empty by choice to lure the opponent into overcommitting. If the timer runs too fast, it may rob the defending player the chance to defend him/herself. If the timer is too long, the attacking player is left with a long wait time whenever he/she summon a creature or cast a spell. And then there is ambiguously worded cards like "return target creature to its owner's hand". If my monster somehow attracted too much attention and its getting targeted by destruction spells or another monster's attack, I would like to have that card target my monster-in-danger to save it for some other purpose later on in the game. I'd be damned if I can't do that when I need to if the card was worded in such a way.

P/s: I disagree that you have nothing to worry about in cause/effect system because everything is visible. Your opponent's hand is not, and they are full of surprises. Cause/effect system is much more complicated than it looks. It also forces you to play better. Its just like chess, but with extra pieces in your hand to surprise your opponent.

P/p/s: With regards to "drawing the best card", the problem lies with the game designer and their method of balancing cards. Its not the players fault if the designer themselves created such an uber-powerful cards that wins the game every single time. Uber-powerful cards are just like game-breaking bugs. They need to be squashed before the game goes on sale.

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