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More thoughts on Digital Card Games

Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows a few things: I really like Solforge, and I really like thinking out loud about game design. Combine the two and you get a sort of unofficial, impromptu series about digital card games.  This is going to be looking at elements of games in an online space.

At the end of the day, MTGO has one problem that will never, ever be overcome. Magic: the Gathering is a terrible game to play online cause the most common action you do is hit a button passing priority. It’s boring and produces misclicks. You can’t really do anything else that doesn’t mangle the game in the process, since even DoTP suffers from the problem to some extent. And everyone else has instead decided that you should only be able to do things on your turn. There’s no reason why it has to be that way. Case in point: Dominion

Dominion has a fair amount of potential interaction, mainly in it’s Reaction cards and some attack cards. Isotropic showed that Dominion as a game works well enough with limited interaction. The biggest problem was always waiting on someone who was afk. Now Dominion is arguably not the best example given the nature of how decks are made, it’s all open knowledge. The point being that on some level it does work well enough. This does demonstrate the key problem: the need to maintain hidden information and having an impartial, impersonal interface. Although let’s be clear here: the problem is quantity of clicking and how that can produce mistakes. Spending time is no different than any game in real life where someone is making a decision. This has the question become: so what does work?

Answer: something that has minimal amount of clicking in order to minimize players zoning out and clicking through something they wanted while at the same time gives the design space of being able to act when it isn’t your turn. I feel like something along those lines exist in some fashion already: the very, very basic rules of FFG’s LCGs. In particular I am referring to the Response keyword. For those who are unfamiliar it’s how they already work in things at “instant speed” and on board tricks. It’s at best a subset of cards within any supertype and is sparsely used. The trick going forward would be to operate on self imposed in order to stop the game from becoming MTGO.

At the end of the day is all speculation though, I don’t have a fully minted prototype to test out these ideas. It’s just something that game designers should keep in mind going forward.

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