- Game Decisions, Features & Mechanics:
- What are my main goals?
- What are the primary thematic focus points throughout the ideation of concept?
- Why is art important?
- How do I achieve these goals?
- Why a game?
- Why not another form of media, such as: an interactive story or app?
- What type of game would work best in aid of achieving my primary goals?
- How to Establish Brand Image?
- Mechanical Considerations: How many players?
- Why Physical?
- Needs Further Consideration:
- Ethical Considerations:
- Choosing features and game mechanics for the project:
- dice rolling,
- area influence,
- set collection.
- What are my main goals?
- Psychology of Collection:
- Rarity and Power: Balance in Collectible Object Games
- Useful Game Examples:
- Top Tens: Top Trading Card Games
- More games to consider (need to research in future):
- les Legendaires
- Top Tens: Top Trading Card Games
Change of Direction : From Digital to Physical
16 Jan 2019
From November 2018 to Dec 2018 my intention was to create a digital platform style game; with similar attributes to Zelda and Mario (Click for example). The example given shows a brief look into the potential of physical assets as a tool for marketing and engagement – I believe this insight was the beginning to a realisation that my interests for the project lay in a more physical format.
After a short period of reflection I decided that a change of direction would benefit myself and my project as I transition onto the next phases of production. My primary reasoning for this change being a reflection on my personal strengths and abilities and my desired outcomes. My strengths lay more in illustration and marketing than they do in the more technical approaches needed to produce a digital game (due to the programming demands and difficulty in testing) – Producing a physical game provides more opportunity for quick and efficient prototyping than it’s digital counterpart due to the ease of creation of assets such as cut out card pieces and written text that can be changed instantly. This format also provides a creative outlet that lets me explore my illustrative skills in a format that I find much more compelling.
This change is significant for the project as it means I will need to explore new avenues of research. My previous research will still prove useful as it has given me the insight to change at this significant point in my project.
New areas of research need to be conducted in order to properly inform my choices, helping me to choose mechanics that are appropriate and viable for players. (All of which can be found in the purple folder under the orange – green tabs and throughout my blogs)
The ensuing documentation follows my inquiry into this project, exploring my goals, potential solutions and supportive research.
Game Decisions, Features & Mechanics:
What are my main goals?
- Create an interactive interpersonal experience (face to face),
- Explore the themes of Good and Evil, Light and Dark and Everything vs Nothing,
- Create a game that is fun and encourages strategizing and planning,
- Create a game that lets me promote my illustrations,
- Provide a creative outlet to players (Collaborative Design),
- Establish a brand image that has the potential to support further projects.
What are the primary thematic focus points throughout the ideation of concept:
Why is art important?
- Adds to the collectability to the cards,
- Allows me to express a creative narative,
- Art appreciation and value,
- Games & similar media tend to focus on what can be seen – putting an emphasis on visuals and visual narratives,
- Concretes brand position & identity through consistent stylistic attributes,
- Engages the audience visually, putting faces to concepts and providing a greater understanding of game narrative and themes.
- Producing a Card Game (Strategic, Combat, Narrative, Overarching Theme)
- Unique Mechanics (needs consideration & testing)
- Purpose for combat concept (needs a narrative – players will understand the characters motives and attributes better this way)
- Simplistic theme vs theme mechanic (promotes player vs player idea)
How do I achieve these goals?
In order to provide an interactive experience a system of mechanics need to be established that provide a reaction for every action taken. The most ideal way to achieve this is to produce a game; something that people can engage with on many levels.
Why a game?
Games are highly interactive and provide a large scope of potential (spinningclock, n/a). I am able to express a multitude of themes to my audience while also encouraging a response from them; one that ultimately affects the outcome of the interaction taking place. This is unlike other media, especially media that promotes set interactions, engagement on this level does not excite players as it leaves them with no control or impact over their environment (Klimmt, Hartmann and Frey, 2007).
Interactivity through the medium of gaming illicits feelings of joy, fulfillment and achievement (Myoung-Yong Um, 2013). Engagement leaves players with lasting memories, believing – in part – that they are important to whatever world the game brings them into.
Statistically gaming is the second most prefered media of young people between the ages of 8 and 18 – the average time spent gaming daily of this age range is 90 minutes – proving this media to be exceptionally popular (Rideout, 2016).
Why not another form of media, such as: an interactive story or app?
Gaming in my opinion is the most enhanced form of interactive media due to its ability to combine feautures seen in other media, such as: films and websites. Its limitless nature allows a game to take the form of any given situation, story or theme while providing the service of interactivity by allowing players to experience the story through their own actions and thoughts – rather than being led by a linear set of options often possed by other forms of interactive media.
Other mediums such as interactive stories, apps, videos and websites do not always provide real time interaction. A game often lets the player source solutions through exporation and thought; providing a sense of achievement through successfully applied strategy. A game would allow users to develop strategy and plan their route to success – this element would allow me to achieve one of my primary goals as well as providing an interactive experience.
An interactive story would allow me to achieve some of my goals as there are elements of gameplay within its’ structure. A story would give players the option to explore narrative, understand the proposed themes of good and evil and additionally I would be able to promote my illustration as an additive part of the media. However, this medium fails to engage the audience through strategy and removes an element of interaction that would allow for multi-person engagement. Interpersonal exchanges will be at the heart of my projects narrative, I want to encourage an environment that promotes co-operative planning and play. Ultimately I want my project to help foster genuine relationships between people – this is not something I feel any other media would allow for.
What type of game would work best in aid of achieving my primary goals?
Card Game (physical vs digital):
- Card games focus on an element of strategy, are often extremely visual – allowing me to include my illustrations – and additionally provide the potential for narrative and multi-player game styles,
- I would have to make a decision whether or not to make my product primarly physical or digital (this argument is discussed under the ‘Why Physical?’ heading),
- Custom Card Creation (Blank card sets) – provides creative outlet to players,
- Keeps play simple & focused,
- Social & Co-operative play styles,
- Appeal to large audience (hard to break through due to dominating games),
Story Based Game:
- narratives and visuals could be explored thoroughly,
- would perhaps work better as an addition to the main game – explaining certain concepts and themes in depth.
- niche audience appeal,
- life is strange makes the story narrative work well with the mechanic of providing the players options in which to go down,
- this removes the social-co-operative appeal,
- it also removes an element of strategy,
- semi-linear storylines must be followed,
- the needs of this genre need to be explored further in research.
- Main strategy becomes either problem solving (strategy element) or a – b level progression,
- Primarily Digital,
- Large audience appeal, (mobile users)
Sid Myers Civilisation Style Simulator:
- Main emphasis becomes strategy and domination,
- Easier on digital platform due to expansive rule and mechanic systems,
Tekken Style – Beat ’em up – Game:
- Main emphasis becomes combat,
- Could potentially collect characters and outfits (collection mechanic),
- Co-operative place – primarily digital – requiring players to have either mobile, console or PC ownership and internet connection,
Conclusion: needs to be considered further, however, at this time I am considering the card game avenue as the most likely and most prefered candidate.
How to Establish Brand Image :
Mechanical Considerations: How many players?
So far a 2 player system seems to the most popular choice for card games of this type, this is partly due to the restrictions of a 1v1 combat system. Other combat systems such as team vs team require an additional set of rules that may overcomplicate gameplay and produce the need for a different genre of game, such as: a ‘beat ’em up’ or another type of co-op online game. Simplicity and ease of play is important for physical games as players will be using their own memory to make sure playing rules and standards are enforced (Bolas, 2017).
- Additional rationale for this system comes from the emphasis on the ‘theme vs theme’ narrative – players take on the role of one of the theme positions and play against eachother; splitting up the narrative further would not fit within the limitations of a card game of this genre. Multi-player card games work, such as: any form of poker or ‘cards against humanity’, however, the narrative and goals of these titles differs from mine entirely – promoting the signifcance of group play.
- This choice is somewhat personal, having taken influence from game experiences I have had in the past. I believe the experience of playing something in the flesh, the necessity of understanding the rules, setting up the board and physically holding each card adds value to the play experience that is lost in the digital format.
- A digital adaptation to the game in the future would prove a good business move as there is a large market for online card games (evidenced below).
- I want to properly play test the game before considering a digital adaptation so that I know all of the kinks have been worked out – playtesting in a real space works best for me and the way I think and I believe doing this in digital would severly halt my progress.
- My assets are all initially designed and created digitally meaning that a move to a digital platform would be easy once everything has been established and refined appropriately.
- In addition to the value added by having physical contact with the cards, the cards and other components serve a secondary function, the ability to be kept, collected and showcased adding further value to the experience by extending the cards usefulness and purpose. Collecting for me is fun and reminds me of the journey I’ve taken, certain matches I’ve played and overall reminds me of the connections with people I’ve made along the way.
- One of my main project goals is to promote the experience and significance of face to face interaction and communication, a physical game encourages this mode of play due to it’s physical limitations (can only be played in one place).
Below I have written out for and against arguments for both positions:
Benefits of Digital:
- My assets – as they are initially designed and produced on a digital computer – would be easily manipulated in this space.
- Counterargument: Making my assets purely digital removes a highly significant aspect of gameplay, the physical feel of the cards is important for many reasons: it takes away the potential for emotional connection, the added percieved value of the cards, the collectability of the cards is reduced and it also automates play in a way that may feel dissatisfactory to players.
- Reduce cost of production
- Counterargument: the added percieved value of the physical card set (if produced correctly) could bring in more profit than the digital game alone; due to the players assumption of cost for physical items over digital ones and the collectability of certain cards.
- A digital counterpart would work best as an addition to the real game as it gives the players the opportunity to play the game when they are not near their physical cards. This adds an opportunity to make additional sales.
- Make gameplay simple and easy
- Counterargument: removing the necessity of understanding the rules of play could prove problematic as players may become frustrated by some elements of gameplay – feeling it to be unfair – knowing the rules through play provides mental stimulation for players.
- Counterargument 2: there is something in the necessity of knowing (in this case) that adds value to the experience of playing. Having to consider possible avenues becomes a strategic game in one’s mind that creates an experience that would be removed in a digital automated setting.
- 37 million people play digital card games (Playfab, n/a) vs 23.2 million who play physical card games (Statista, n/a).
- There is no physical equivalent for this – I could consider introducing NFC chips or QR codes to the cards in order for players to scan cards and see animations; this would also allow me to add in an additional collection mechanic – however this needs consideration further.
Benefits of Physical:
Ease of testing: I propose that initial testing would go well due to the ease of creation of assets through using cut out card and pencil for text. I can play test several times, removing or adding assets as I go all the while keep a log of this process through video footage.
Assets can produce a better emotional connection through play: creating value through play is a key element of why I think a boardgame of this genre would appeal greatly to a gaming orientated audience. The experience of setting up the game, choosing the deck orientation, planning a strategy and the added pressure of playing 1 vs 1 all adds to a physical experience and increased value of play that I am trying to capture.
The appeal of table games’ physical presence isn’t to do with the luxury of the objects themselves. Play is how we form emotional connections. The purpose of the game-as-object is to make it easiest to foster those connections, allowing everybody to invest in what’s on the table, right down to building it up and breaking it down, and in doing so, it gives you the path of least resistance to connect to each other. Put another way, that tiny plastic man isn’t a toy. He’s an emotional power adaptor.
An emotional connection to the assets, characters and other parephrenalia of the game all add to its’ marketability and overall ability to become something that a player might want to collect and catalogue in the same way someone might collect their Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh cards.
Product quality: Physical products can have attributes that add value to both its’ playability and collectability, such as: improving product look and feel to make it more appealing and enjoyable to play. By considering the effect in which attributes like: weight, dimensions, material and form can have on the overall ‘feel’ of the cards influences greatly the response players will give when handling the product; if players enjoy using the cards they will play the game again and again. Improving the quality of the product also increases its’ percieved value.
Percieved value is incredibly important as it will influence buyer behaviour, (Investopedia, n/a) buyers will be more likely to spend money on the product if they deem its’ value greater than the value of their money.
Collectability: this potential design pillar adds an additional element to the gameplay that goes beyond the experience of just playing. Collecting cards and other items is an experience of its’ own and creates a feeling of acomplishment for some players.
I want to focus on the idea of collectability as it is something I personally find interesting. Promoting the collectability of the cards works additionally as a marketing strategy, providing an incentive for buyers to create value for themselves by collecting and trading cards.
Portable & Accessable: Physical games can be played anywhere and require no additional equipment such as a computer with internet access. (livingmadeeasy, n/a)
Needs Further Consideration:
- Card Quality (Feel, Weight, Material)
- Audience Profiles (In-Depth)
- Game Rules & Mechanics (How to play)
- Design Features (Why current orientation, why font, text etc)
- Other Similar Games
“Handheld and free standing card holders allow playing cards to be held securely but discreetly, if you have reduced manual dexterity and are unable to hold an entire hand of cards.”
Choosing features and game mechanics for the project:
Below is a long – but not exhaustive – list of potential mechanics for ‘board-games’ sourced from ‘Board Game Geek’. Looking at this resource allows me to speculate what mechanics I might want/need to implement in my game. So far I have only thought over one or two examples on this list, those being: dice rolling, campaign, area influence and set collection mechanics.
- dice rolling,
- area influence,
- set collection.
1. Dice Rolling:
3. Area Influence:
4. Set Collection:
Potential modes of collection (gameplay mechanics)
Introducing this concept as one of the main selling points of the product will create a need for a mode of collection that is unique and fun for players. How and why do people collect items? How can I provide incentive to players to collect cards?
- Promoting the illustrative nature of the cards (Art Focus),
- Providing additional incentives to collect (ex: collect all of one type and unlock a new limited edition character),
- Collecting as an achievement (Graft, 2009)
- Physical Folders & Albums (released with specific card sets or with the base set to promote the idea that the cards are collectable),
- Digital Albums (potential) – scan your collection onto a digital database – this could be used to unlock content, promote trading or as a means to show off collections online,
- Produce different variations of certain cards with varying rarities (this is a method Pokemon use to promote card sales, different forms of the same Pokemon are released and their rarity increased – by reducing how many are printed – to establish personal and financial value for the new card)
A key example of this effect is the ‘Rainbow’ rare variations of certain GX Pokemon:
The stylistic difference is obvious between the two cards, one being overly colourful in the shades of the rainbow and the other being the standard yellow design. The difference in colour and rarity drives the value of these cards up. In this example the ‘Rainbow’ rarity of the Zeraora GX is worth £34.95 (MagicMadhouse.co.uk, n/a) vs the standard edition which is worth £23.95 (MagicMadhouse.co.uk, n/a). Including different variations of cards in this case has increased its’ collectability and market value.
Below I’ve listed a series of questions, these questions will help guide my research and provide answers that could establish for me the viability of concept in which to base the game.
- Statistics on board games:
- WHY do they sell – Why are they popular?,
- WHO buys them? Primary Audience Profile.
- Psychology of play, psychology of collection, etc,
- Current Market Share,
- Useful game examples:
- Find out what works in current games,
- What are their mechanics?
- Who are their primary audience?
- What is their platform?
Psychology of Collection:
Why do we collect?
Sometimes we collect because we just enjoy watching objects on a shelf, because it’s aesthetically pleasing and/or because we associate it to an essential part of our identity
There are many other reasons why people collect things, including: for fun, as an investment (McKinley, 2007), to create a sense of order and control (Radwan, n/a), to show off or lend items (Andronico, 2017), to create personal value and/or to create memories.
Rarity and Power: Balance in Collectible Object Games
“For collectible card games (CCGs), game designers often limit the availability of cards that have a particularly powerful gameplay effect. The conventional wisdom is that the more powerful a card is, the more rare it should be. The long-term implications of such an approach can have negative consequences on a game’s suitability for casual play.”
This study, led by Ethan Ham (Assistant Professor of New Media at The City College of New York) looks at many issues and concerns of balancing and defining collectability in CCGs. I plan to use the previsory information in this study to inform some of my game choices – especially considerations for implementing rarity.
Why this study? I have chosen this ressource based on it’s high relevance to considerations I must take in order to create a fun, balanced and exciting experience for players. Ham brings up lots of useful points about how different games implement strategies to combat issues within their games.
Headings I need to explore and consider (TBC):
- Fun & Balanced –
“Multiplayer games are trickier. At a certain point, one player will be advancing towards victory and the other(s) towards defeat. Losing is not fun. The mild consolation usually given to losing players is a sense of fairness.”
“Players with larger collections of cards have a greater range of options and therefore an advantage.”
- Suitcase Players
“After awhile he ruined the fun, a casual player can’t compete with a suitcase player. That’s what makes Magic kinda ghey. (Akronn, 2003)”
“There is a natural tendency for game developers to design new cards that do not offer more gameplay, but more powerful gameplay. Doing so ensures that the new set of cards will be relevant to the game, perhaps even required by players who wish to remain viably competitive. This can result in an arms race of collecting in which each successive set trumps the previous one in terms of gameplay power.”
- Defining an Online Collectible Object Game
“An online collectible object game is a computer based game in which players own virtual objects that have an effect on gameplay, persist between game sessions and are not equally available to all players. “
- Early Errors in Rarity & Balance
” These three cards quickly became a problem; they were too powerful and unbalanced the game. “
- A Philosophy Emerges
“power equals rarity”
Useful Game Examples:
Top Tens List: Top Trading Card Games (voted by players)
Using this ressource will allow me to explore relevant, popular games that gamers are currently playing.
The following games have been taken from this list:
Magic The Gathering:
“No competition here. Magic the Gathering has a community and competitive environment that destroys all other trading card games. You can walk into any game store across the world and find people playing MTG any day of the week.”
“I’ve played yu-gi-oh and magic for a very long time, and I prefer Yu-gi-oh because it can be very simple and yet very complex at times making your brain work for your victory. The best quality it has is that it has a huge variety of cards that can appeal to almost anyone”
“IT IS AWESOME! It has great structure in the style of gameplay, and there is a lot variety in strategies, players, cards, and much more. So yeah I desperately recommend this game.”
“Cardfight! Vanguard is unique. There is no limit to possibility. Such a clever way of dueling. Utilising the amount of damage you have taken (Limit Break), being able to pay that damage (Counterblast), doing the unimaginable like Megablast, different deck types and playing styles, new sets and archetypes released constantly, being saved at the last minute because of how smartly the game is set up like drawing a Heal Trigger on a damage check or completely destroying your opponent with Critical Triggers, Barraging and torturing your opponent with Stand Triggers, never running out of options with Draw Triggers, the well thought out and well implemented Crossride and the effects bought with them, losing yourself and going all out guns blazing with Persona Blast, its made like a watch. In Yugioh, you can mix anything to make a deck. But in Cardfight! Vanguard each piece of a deck is made to work together, its all been fitted precisely to allow the ultimate gaming fun. Unbeatable.”
World Of Warcraft TCG
“It offers a gameplay that is very similar to Magic, but with its own changes.
It’s easier to learn, gives you boss fights and the types of cards are fun.
The combat system is also entertaining.”
More games to consider (need to research in future):
FusionPlay Heroes (reason: mobile considerations)
GWENT: The witcher 3 (reason: mechanics)
the Elder Scrolls: Legends (reason: mythical themes)
Hearthstone (reasons: style, themes and popularity) (MCVUK, 2018)
- Primary Audience:
The photos below document my first encounter with les Legendaires, they were being showcased in the Comic Book Museum in Brussels, Belgium. I was impressed by the style and composition of the material on display, the visual style is very reminsicent of early 90’s Zelda – a style I admire – the game mixes traditional japanese themes with european sensibilites; showcasing a mixture of european mythological characters in japanese narratives.
Why les Legendaires?
I picked les Legendaires as a point of reference due to their notability (within Belgium and France – this is unique to their brand), their style, professionalism and for the similarities it shares with my initial proposals for gameplay style and mechanics. The game focuses on narratives from the comic and combat between players.
I find it very interesting that this title has used its’ comic book audience to fuel the subsequent board game release – it has used its’ notarity and established themes to promote and strengthen the narrative in the game. I find this concept exciting due to its’ marketability and potential as a strategy for my own project – concreting the narratives I wish to set.
The display in Brussels captured statistics about the game’s popularity, showcasing that it almost matched its’ rival – Asterix – in sales.
I’ve chosen Pokemon as a reference point for my project as it is a game that I both love playing and has high esteem in the card game world. The mechanic systems of play are unique to Pokemon and provide a challenging and fun experience. I want to explore the play style of this game in order to better inform my own choices.
- Playable Cards,
- Tool cards,
- Stadium Cards,
- Energy Cards,
- Energy must be applied to a Pokemon (once per turn) in order to attack, each attack has a different energy type and amount attributed to it; this makes it harder to attack the opponents Pokemon.
- The bench holds playable cards, which can have tools cards and energy cards attached to them while they are waiting to be activated – similar to the ‘defending’ playable Pokemon card.
- If no cards are held in the bench when the active ‘defending’ Pokemon card is knocked out then the game is WON by default.
- This system forces players to create decks with 2 or more Pokemon.
- GX Special Attack,
- Inventory (in the digital game only),
- Prize Cards (winning system)
- Primary Audience: 18-29 (VullabySaysHi, 2017)
- Physical Card Game:
- Each pack comes with 7-10 cards (depending on the type and age of the pack),
- You can also buy pre-made battle decks in which to jump start your play,
- An extension to the TV series,
- Digital Game:
- Every card pack or special edition box set comes with a digital code (QR and number) that allows players to open a digital version of each physical pack; this extends the playability of the game.
- Physical Card Game:
The basics of the Pokémon Trading Card Game will feel familiar to players of the videogames. You and an opponent face off, competing for six ‘reward cards’ that are pulled from the top of your deck at the start of each match. A player collects one reward card for knocking out one of the opponent’s team.
The only way to win a match is to either collect all six reward cards, or get to the point where your opponent has no usable Pokémon. This is some Mad Max stuff, right to the bitter end.
- Playable Cards,
- Tool cards,
- Stadium Cards,
- Transformation Summon
- Player Health (Lifepoints)
- Primary Audience: ?
- Physical Card Game:
- Physical card packs (? no of cards)
- Playable Character inspired decks
- An extension to the TV series
- Digital Game:
- Seperate to the Physical version of the game – physical cards cannot be put onto your online deck – unlike Pokemon (who in my opinion implement this system far better for players),
- Physical Card Game:
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