by Ken Pilcher, Lead R&D Designer
Community Card Game. This is a name and direction we have chosen to take The Spoils. There are a few things associated with this concept and we are one of the few, possibly the only game to ever use it in the way we are.
One of the biggest parts of our Community Card Game concept is Open R&D. A good number of players have asked about Open R & D lately, so I figured that touching on a few topics surrounding this special forum in this month’s Blarg seemed to be the natural choice.
There are a few things to talk about regarding Open R & D. I will likely not go into the full depth of each topic because that would make for a very long read, so instead I will just touch on some overall concepts. Let’s walk though the life of an Open R & D concept that you, the players, can post on the forums.
The first section is a place to post overall game mechanic concepts. Posts here are not card ideas but instead are ideas for abilities, rules text, or keywords that could be used across multiple cards. The determining factors that influence whether a mechanic could be used or not is a mix of things. Timing is a big one. Will this mechanic fit the concept of the set we are working on? It doesn’t matter how good, unique, or fun a mechanic is if it doesn’t fit the overall idea of the set. The mechanic has to fit the mechanical theme as well as work with flavor based ideas.
The “What is Too Good/Bad Right Now?” section is there for you to post what you think needs to happen in future sets to help make the game better for everyone. Many people post cards they think are too weak or too strong or strategies that need help. We encourage everyone to give feedback here but remember, what is too good in your playgroup/meta might not be too good in someone else’s. Regardless, we love feedback, on both things too good or too bad!
Many people may think that by having the community provide ideas and concepts to us in our “New Card Ideas” section actually makes it easier to produce cards and full sets. The truth is this just isn’t the case. While the ideas that come from submissions are valued, the biggest task of set production (from a card design stand point) is the interaction and synergy of the cards. The individual card ideas are easy and in fact the most fun part of creating sets, however making those cards feel like they fit the set concept and testing the interactions are really about 90% of the production efforts. Regardless, we still want to give players the opportunity to get their ideas immortalized in the world of The Spoils. The “New Card Ideas” section is by far the most popular area of the website.
Before any card is even considered for a particular set we go through and put many cards from this section into a database where we save them for future use. Not every card idea makes it into this database. While going through the forum we try to select cards that have new and unique ideas. Mind you, this does not mean ideas that haven’t been used in The Spoils yet. There are sometimes “obvious” ideas that get posted into the forums we generally don’t add to our database i.e. ideas that we just haven’t had time to explore yet.
One of the most common offenders of this are Subtype based cards. Everyone loves subtype based cards like “All of your ‘Lawyer’ characters gain 1 life and 1 strength.” Cards like this are simply just waiting to be created. We know that they are wanted and, in time, we will have them for you.
The cards that usually make the cut do something unique, fun, exciting, or cover a concept we haven’t yet thought of. They also are the easiest to read and understand. What I mean by this is twofold. First, KISS (Keep it simple stupid) really helps here. The more simple the card text , the better. Less text is more and having a neat, interactive concept that is fun and exciting that works with few words is key. Second is simply the format you post the card in. If you have text that isn’t formatted correctly and has the numeric cost and threshold at the bottom below all of your rules text, we will likely skip over it.(unless something else really grabs us.)
Here is card fitting our model template:
Cool Guy Duder
Warlord Character – dragon
UNIQUE Cool Guy
When this card enters play, draw a card.
[R][R][R][R]: This card gains 1 strength and 1 life.
COST: Pay 3. Pick a character. Destroy this card.
EFFECT: Inflict this card’s strength to that card.
As you can see, I have bracketed all of my Rage threshold icons. My card then has its combat stats and then its trade, card type, and subtype. Then we move onto the rules text. Because it has the keyword “unique” I have capitalized it as all keywords should be in caps. Any triggers go first and then-non ability rules text. The “This card gains 1 strength and 1 life” is a threshold required rules text and so we show that with the thresh and then a colon. Last we have an ability. Abilities always have a capitalized flavor name and, if threshold is required, again use a colon and bracketed letters. Cost and effect are always capitalized with a colon and then the actual cost and effect rules text.
The cleaner your posting is, the easier it is for us to throw it into our database to be used later. I will do a full styling and formatting guideline in the future for those who really want to understand how we format things before going onto a card.
Now, the following is not nearly every detail of what we do when designing a set but it will give you a basic idea in regards to how we include your ideas for cards. Every time I sit down to start work on card selection for the next set, I take a look through the “New Card Ideas” database and try to see what I can use that fits. For the ideas that have made it in, this is where they have a chance to shine. I have a set skeleton that I layout long before any cards make it into the set. This is a guideline of how many of each trade, type, rarity, and costs will be in the set. This is also where I lay out the ideas of the set. For example, I will label card slots with things like “removal” or “uses tokens” or “covert.” This helps flesh out the set and make sure each idea I need for that set is covered.
Once that skeleton is done I will then go through and look at older card notes I may have taken while thinking of set concepts as well as an “in house” database that is filled with hundreds of card concepts that have not yet been used. I will select cards to fill my slots and as I do, I also check out the “New Card Ideas” database. As I go though the database I will tag cards that I think fit the set idea and fill any current “holes” I may have.
Once the set is about 80-90% fleshed out with card selections we will begin basic testing. As the testers test, we tweak cards and completely cut cards. As cards get cut, we still need cards for the other 10-20% and cards to replace the cut cards, so we will refer back to the tagged cards (both our in-house database and the Open R & D database). We go back and forth with this until we feel like we have a solid “set” of cards. Once we get past this we “lock them in” and begin to really balance things. From this point cards can still come and go, but it is usually very few that do. I aim to get at least 15-20% of a set to be player made cards. Sometimes there just aren’t cards that support what we are trying to do with a set, though, and sometimes there are plenty.
The last part of Open R & D usage is flavor and names. This works similarly to selecting the rules texts and is usually done while we are selecting cards for testing. Creative names and flavor texts are noted and we apply those as we are finishing up the set’s artwork and flavor. Some things are tagged to go in even before there is rules text for a card.
With The Spoils, our design space is nearly unlimited. The key is using that design space efficiently and getting the most “bang for the buck.” We want to give back to the community and allow them to be a part of the game in more ways than just playing it. No other card game does this and we are proud to let you, the players, also be the creators, even if it increases our work load! Keep posting your ideas and concepts to the forums and until next time…
Let’s get out there and build something!