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The Path to Beta

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The Path to Beta

Introduction

Pursuing the Dream

Zems is a passion project for us. We aren’t giving up on it. But we have a long way to go.

Our closed alpha events gave us a lot of good feedback, but progress has been slow after our Kickstarter did not pan out. Several members of the community contribute monthly to our Patreon in the hopes this game will someday finish and be everything they imagined it to be. In this post, I lay out the steps we intend to take to ensure the beta will have the features we expect.

Redesign the Main Menu

The closed alpha menu featured a background that was dark and made some users feel claustrophobic. Players asked if the game would feature the environment art shown in the Kickstarter description. Our goal with the main menu redesign is immersion – we want players to feel like they are in Delnoa (the world of Zems) when they look at the main menu.

Increase Card Pool

We originally planned for the original set to have 6 colors, with 30 cards in each color.
Decks can be built using cards from up to two colors and must contain exactly 40 cards.

We’re still keeping the two-color restriction for decks, but now we are reducing the colors from 6 to 5 and increasing each color’s set to 40 cards. We are also adding a neutral color set of 20 cards that do not count against the deckbuilding color restriction. This increases the initial card pool from 180 to 220, and this count doesn’t even include hero cards.

What does this mean, timeframe-wise? It means the game is not going to reach open beta in 2016. We have a lot of card artwork to do and we have a high standard for the quality of that work. We want our beta to be beautiful and representative of the final product, as a beta should be.

Replace Confusing Cards

Fountain_Overflow_(small)

Certain cards in our closed alpha gave new players confusion. In order to make the card pool more intuitive, we are replacing those cards with simpler ones.

For example, Fountain Overflow creates a wet area around it as part of its Enter effect. New players often would attack the construct, thinking that destroying it would remove the water (it does not). To prevent this confusion, we are acknowledging Fountain Overflow as a card with confusing design due to the ability being placed on a construct. We are instead replacing it with a spell card called Precipitate that creates a wet area. Since a spell card does not put a unit into play, we remove the confusion associated with the construct while keeping the effect the same.

Add a New Attack Type: Charge

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A charge follower. Attack type is indicated by the border around the attack number in the bottom left. Here, multiple diamonds are used to indicate the ‘Charge’ attack type.

 

A subset of melee follower cards were particularly confusing to new players in our closed alpha. These were followers with the ability: “Moves to melee range when attacking on your turn.” We intended this to mean the follower can attack like a ranged unit but will run to melee range of the target when executing the attack.

As part of our initiative to rework confusing cards, we are introducing a third attack type called Charge to represent units that run across the field and attack their target at melee range. This lets us introduce these units to the player early on when teaching unit types. It also opens up card design space since we can specifically reference Charge units.

Gameplay Feature: Play a Follower or Construct next to any allied unit.

The current game only allows units to be deployed next to the player’s hero. Based on feedback from Duelyst players, we believe we should follow suit in allowing units to be played next to any allied unit.

Gameplay Option: Swap A Card Each Turn

replace_card_proposal_1

Early UI proposal for Swap Card mechanic. Actual implementation will likely look different.

This is a favorite feature in Duelyst. We are going to add it as a gameplay feature.

Each turn, you will be able to swap a card in your hand for a random different card in your deck.

Add Basic AI

When we sent the game to journalists and reviewers, many of them were put off by the lack of an AI mode. We took their feedback very seriously and before we will release the beta we are going to add a basic AI for players to practice with.

Just so it is known – we do not have plans to develop sophisticated CCG AI in the near future. We want players to hone their skills against real players after mastering the basics.

Add a Tutorial

This is a necessary component in the new player experience, which we mostly neglected in the closed alpha. We are looking at the way similar games such as Duelyst have implemented their tutorial and will be following suit.

Finish the Launcher

zems_patcher_preview

Preview of the completed launcher design.

The current launcher is only partially implemented and does not verify user login or pull the latest news from this site. In addition, it does not actually patch. Instead, it downloads the latest build as a new download and overwrites any previous version on the user’s computer.

Finishing the launcher involves:

  • Verify login on the site and pass credentials to the game client when game is launched.
  • Pull latest news from this website and display it as a title and excerpt in the launcher.
  • Patch from the local version to the latest version.

Add Ranked Play

After we have a polished new player experience, player retention is our top priority. Players want a way to measure their skill compared to others, and we want to recognize them. In addition, a ranked system can be internally used for casual game mode to ensure good matchmaking.

Add Pack Opening

We think opening packs is an experience and needs to be treated as its own feature separate from the in-game shop. We intend to tune the pack-opening experience so it feels exciting.

Add In-Game Shop, Gold System, and Personalized Collection

Once pack opening is polished and ready, we will add an in-game shop where players can purchase goods for gold or real money. At this point, players will be able to build their own personal collection.

Add Quests and Rewards

The final feature for player retention before we go beta is the quest system. We intend to reward players for their first win against a live opponent each day, in addition to the gold rewards from completing quests.

Timeline and Learning From Others

The earliest we might enter beta is late 2017. We need time to complete the aforementioned features and ensure they are done with quality. Along the way, we will be watching other games in the genre and incorporating their funnest mechanics. These inclusions will likely impact the development schedule, but we believe they will be worth the effort. Our goal is to create the best experience that falls in line with the game’s vision and we aim to provide that experience by beta.

If you are interested in being part of the process, please sign up for future alphas by registering at zems.com.

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