In our first alpha build, we used a turn system limiter. In short, each player starts a turn with 3 actions. A player can spend an action to either draw a card or gain 1 zem (the equivalent of mana). Our goal was to reduce the emphasis on card advantage by allowing a player to draw more than a single card per turn. However, we’re going to be switching to a more automatic and familiar system with the next build. In this post, I’m going to discuss the reasons behind this change.
Player Decisions and Feedback
One of the most important aspects of designing gameplay is concentrating player focus on the core mechanics of a game. In Zems, the core mechanics are playing cards to a grid, and positioning and moving those cards. Player decisions should be concentrated on these mechanics, and other features in the game should exist to provide supportive feedback that revolves around these mechanics.
In designing the action system, we wanted to reduce the emphasis on card advantage that most other online card games employ. However, in testing we’ve realized that the action system forces players to make additional decisions beyond the core mechanics – specifically, whether to draw more cards or gain resources. This sort of decisionmaking takes time away from the already complex decision tree of which cards to play in the turn, and is extremely punishing to players who are new to CCGs and may make mistakes. While we understand that more advanced CCG players may appreciate such a system, we believe the game is better off if we embrace an automatic system newer players can more easily enjoy.
Automatic Turn Systems
Most online CCGs use the following system: At the start of a player’s turn, that player draws a card, gains +1 maximum resources, and then gains resources to match this amount. In the next alpha build, we will be transitioning to this system. While we have tried a more innovative approach to CCGs with our action system, we believe the automatic system is a tried-and-true pattern that allows us to better design for player focus.