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Simplifying Zems After Ludum Dare 29





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Simplifying Zems After Ludum Dare 29

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Ludum Dare 29 was a smashing success for us. We accomplished our goal of creating a basic early prototype of Zems, including online matchmaking. Not a lot of people found the matchmaking exciting since there was never really any guarantee of an opponent online, so we removed it and just stuck with single player.

You can play the final build we submitted to LD29 here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-29/?action=preview&uid=21296

The feedback has been amazing and there’s a lot of changes (besides improving the visual quality) we want to make for the next build.

Zems Is Too Complex

The number 1 feedback we received was “I don’t really understand this game.” Card games by default are complex games because they promote strategic choices and sometimes unclear interactions. Hearthstone has done a FANTASTIC job of taking the complexity of card games and making it appeal to the casual market. The target audience for Zems isn’t the Hearthstone audience – I’m not comfortable bringing the game to that level of casualness – but we don’t want to alienate people who might not have experience with CCGs.

In short, the next build is going to make a lot of changes for the sake of simplification. I’m going to go over them one by one, here.

‘Get Card’ will be changed to ‘Draw a Card’

The initial design of Zems had no variance because the player could pick any card from the deck and add it to hand. While we received a ton of positive feedback from players lauding over how awesome it is to never lose because of a bad topdeck, it’s important to filter out ‘feedback the players like’ from ‘feedback that is good for the game’. We believe variance is good – it means a superior player will not always win against a weaker player, and this fact makes the game much more exciting. With this change, we will reintroduce variance to the game.

The entire resource system will be redone

Shrines are super confusing. We had them in there because they are a major part of the lore and story, but for the sake of gameplay they just add unneeded complexity. Because of this, the next update will have all shrines removed from the game.

Zems will no longer disappear at the end of each turn. Players felt like the 3 actions system was really 2 actions because ‘Get Zems’ had to be used each turn. By having Zems stay each turn, we make the 3 actions really feel like 3 actions.

‘Get Zem’s will be changed to ‘Gain 1 Zem’. This means that higher-cost cards will actually feel like higher-cost cards instead of simply being the norm. Weaker cards are now more meaningful because they are easier to play and can be played earlier (early board presence is important).

In short, the action system following the LD will be changed to:

  • Draw a Card
  • Gain 1 Zem

Playing a card from hand will still cost an action. The action system as a whole felt really confusing to a lot of players, so we may end up tossing it as well and just giving the player the option to either draw a card or gain zems equal to the number of cards in the player’s hand for that turn.

Adding Randomness to the Game

Variance makes for exciting moments. This is very evident in Hearthstone, with Ragnaros ability hits, getting lucky with Mad Bomber, etc. Another important aspect of randomness is that it’s viral – some of the most popular Hearthstone videos and images revolve around effects that rely on randomness.

We’re going to be reworking many of our cards to have ‘fun through randomness’. One example in the current demo is the card Brawl:


The player who plays this card gets to pick which two creatures fight each other. This is not an exciting card, as the player is generally always going to pick two enemy creatures. We’re going to be changing it to something more like this:


The clause in parenthesis is important since we have some creature abilities that say ‘only takes half damage from attacks’. This is what we tried to convey in the original text of Brawl, but I admit the wording is insanely confusing.

You’ll notice the new way Brawl will work is much more exciting. What happens when you play Brawl? Will two enemy creatures fight each other? Will your creature fight an enemy creature? This sort of randomness creates very exciting moments, and we believe it’s part of the reason why Hearthstone is a smashing viral success.

No Date Set For New Build…Yet

We want to make sure all the proposed changes are implemented before we release our next build. I don’t know when that will happen so I won’t be setting a public date. However, you can definitely expect a new build within a month. It may sound like a lot of time, but we’re a small team, so please be patient!

  • user

    AUTHOR badivan1

    Posted on 1:14 PM May 3, 2014.

    What’s the reasoning behind “Get Card” as opposed to “Draw a Card” ? From what you’re describing, it sounds like a free search every turn, which is very powerful in any TCG/CCG.

    • user

      AUTHOR Zemsai

      Posted on 9:58 PM May 8, 2014.

      I’m not sure if you read the post correctly. We’re changing ‘Get Card’ (what it is now) to ‘Draw a Card’. In other words, we’re downgrading the ability.

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