Post news RSS From concept to reality - details on the first game of Project: CARDS

From a vague conjectural discussion of game mechanics to a definite set of programmable routines - play testing has been a fundamental part of the Project: CARDS design methodology - way before any code was actually written!

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In the cold wintry months of February, Inko and I had been in deep discussion over a hypothetical card based strategy game. Just think - a game of “Magic: The Gathering” with several players ganging up on a guy with an Über deck, with locational information and procedural content thrown into the mix. It was awesome, it was amazing. It was clearly the Next Big Thing.

Long lists of card attributes and skills were copied and pasted between us. The central part of the game is the battle system, but with all these mechanics and thoughts being thrown about and with the coding workload shared between us, however were we going to formalize our awesome set of rules? The answer was glaringly obvious.

We would play the game without coding the game. On the 6th February 2011 the first ever game of Project: CARDS took place on our internal wiki. Using nothing but simple wiki formatting, and a lot of hurriedly coloured in hex sheets we saw our game turn from a fuzzy system of ideas into a definite set of rules.

See our amazing high resolution hex maps! hehe

This experience, for both of us, was a very valuable one. We both learnt what the other truly expected from the combat system and actually started to have more of an idea of what the attributes we had spoken about actually meant in game.

To start we both constructed ten cards each – a mixture of spells and creatures. We both had an identical deck of 20 cards but shuffled randomly. We kept the map environment small in order to get to combat faster. Mana (used in summoning the cards) would grow at a steady rate for each player. We both agreed to keep our hands public and at every turn explain why we were doing what we were doing. Decided by random coin toss, Inko had the honour of making the first move, which consisted of him running towards me at full pelt conserving his mana to lay on the proverbial smack down.

My overall strategy, as I had been dealt a number of nice creatures was to, well, summon them all and hide behind them like an abject coward and hope they wiped the floor with Inko before he reached me. I kept moving away from the ever-closer Inko, and as I moved I cast creatures between him and myself.

Inko kept advancing, ignoring my ever-growing collection of creatures, hell bent on doing nothing but wiping me from the face of the world. Monster after monster was being cast now, from both sides, Inko opting for fast moving creatures, whereas I preferred the larger monsters (mostly because they are easier to hide behind). Fireballs started flying towards me, melting my creatures and most of my health in the process. As a last resort, I summoned the Ultimate Creature: utterly powerful, ridiculous health, and a mana cost which put even England's level of debt to shame – I summoned the uber powerful…

Daemon Mole Of Utter Doom

Well, yes, really, the name isn't so important. It was my last chance. In a massive flash of mana I summoned the most stupidly over-powered creature Inko and I had conceived. Unphased by this avatar of death standing in front of me, Inko cast one last fireball and I watched as it sailed toward me, hitting my ultimate creation (which shrugged off the blast) and then realized that when it hits, it turns into an area effect spell, and promptly melts my face off, causing the last of my life to trickle away and leaving Inko to celebrate his victory. Probably by desecrating my melty remains or something.

Pretty epic stuff. But, aside from being a lot of fun, how useful was it?

In one word – exceedingly.

Firstly, and most importantly in my mind, it helped established that the game we were playing was actually fun. The rules were simple, the action fast and yes, it really was a lot of fun. You can have all the graphics in the world and all the complex game mechanics you want – but unless it is enjoyable to play what is the point of making a game?

Secondly, it helped us see how the game mechanics worked together – some things which looked really good on paper were either pointless in game or massively over-powered. One example of this was attack range – initially a large percentage of the creatures could attack things not directly next to it. This proved massively over-powered, as a small pack of Inko's wolves managed to take out several of my more massive creatures before they had a chance to react.

Thirdly, it helped us cement our visions of the game together. Small things which we hadn't actually discussed became very obvious issues on play through – initially, Inko imagined a summoning range around his character in which it was ok to summon creatures, I had assumed that creatures would be summoned right next to my hero. Little things like this, spotted at this point in development, helped save potential headaches down the line.

Finally, and I think this is probably just as important as my first point, it gave us a game. We had actually played the game we had been talking about. As silly as it sounds, this helped stir both of us into an even bigger frenzy than we had been initially. It gave Project: CARDS an almost physical form. We had stopped just talking, and actually played the game which had so consumed us. What I am trying to say, I guess, is that it gave Project: CARDS a tangible form. It was real to both of us now.

So, let this be my advice to anyone out there who is in discussion about an uber hypothetical indie game – play it. Before you code, before you get into design decisions or discussions about art style or lore, just play it :)

The conclusion of the playtest

To reward Inko's victory over me, I thought I would create this wonderful bit of artwork so we could both remember who beat who in the first playtest :)


Very nice story. Looking forward to the release of your game.

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lamentconfig Author

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it :) We are looking forward to release as well, finally letting people play our game :)

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cool keep it up cant wait for this game :)

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=.= I stopped at magic the gathering.

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looks very promising,tracking ;)

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seems alot like might and magic (the old strategy games, M&M 5 is no where near as addicting as M&M 2), but everyone runs around with a deck of cards, so its more like yugioh. still a cool concept, gonna need some heavy math work for balancing correctly

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