Dev Diary #17 – Building the Campaign

November 16th, 2011 at 10:34 am

Hello, and welcome to this week’s design diary. This one is a bit more about our process of building the game than describing the game itself. In particular, I’m going to talk about what we’re doing at the moment on the design team, which is figuring out how to build the game’s campaign.

What is the Card Hunter campaign? Well, basically, it’s a series of modules of increasing difficulty. Each module presents a new set of challenges because it contains new monsters or new combinations of monsters as well as new maps. If we do our job right, that’s going to present new deck building challenges to you, the player. And, as you go, you’ll get new tools to build those decks as your characters level up and find new items to use. So, how do we go about figuring out what challenges to create and when to throw them at you?

One way we’re doing this is by starting with the player tools, that is, the things the player can do. Of course, being a card game, the tools are the cards. We have a big set of about 250 cards that we’ve been playing with for almost a year now, gradually refining and tuning. That set is not finished yet by any means, but it’s a pretty good starting point. So, what we do is look through that set and try to analyse what mechanics are represented by the cards in there.

Let’s take an example. Here’s a card you haven’t seen before:

OK, so that’s Devastating Bash – a nice card. Actually, it’s probably a bit over-powered and we’ve been talking about moving it up a quality grade or nerfing it a bit, but that’s another story. Anyway, what is there to say about Devastating Bash? Well, the way we analyse this card is to put it into a group we call “cards that penalize your opponent for having revealed cards”. Is that just another more long-winded way of describing the card though? No, well, the point is that there are other cards that basically do the same thing. So, there might be a “Slightly Less Devastating Bash” (not a real card) that has the same text but only does 5 damage. For our purposes right now, that’s the same kind of player tool.

More interestingly, we might also put a card like this into the same basket.

It’s a pretty different (and very powerful) card, but you can see that it fits the same theme of something that punishes your opponent for having revealed cards.

OK, so what’s the purpose of this? Well, the next step we take is to try to figure out what use that mechanism is to the player. How can they exploit it?

In this case, here’s the list we came up with:

  • Good with cards that force your opponent to reveal cards (a synergistic opportunity).
  • Good against enemies that use a lot of Armor, since Armor cards are revealed and put back into hand when they are triggered.
  • Good against enemies whose decks tend to reveal cards. For example, a monster whose deck contains lots of Bash or Crushing Gauntlet cards, since those cards also reveal themselves when they are used.

Now I think you can see where we’re going with this. We use this list to help us generate monster decks or challenges that we dish out in parallel with the tools for overcoming those challenges. So, if we decide that we’re going to first introduce these kinds of cards at, say, level 15, we might then decide to create an adventure at or around there which has a monster with a deck that is vulnerable to these kinds of cards.

For example, we might create an Ogre Bruiser monster whose deck contains lots of Crushing Gauntlets. When you first encounter this monster, he might come as a nasty shock as he dishes out lots of damage. Then you have a think, dig through your item set and find that Aureate Mace that you picked up a few adventures back and think “hmm… this Devastating Bash might be a nice trick to pull on that Ogre”. Later in the game when you find an Orb of Confusion with the even more powerful Dazing Bolt in its card suite, you have a better version of the same tool.

Of course, this being a strategy game, not a puzzle game, we’re never going to build something that requires you to use these cards. Instead, we’ll put the tools in front of you and provide you that option.

No doubt, many of you will find other ways to beat these monsters or you’ll find other more interesting ways to exploit these card mechanics. That’s the fun of strategy gaming!

10 Responses to “Dev Diary #17 – Building the Campaign”

  1. Wicked Awesome. This game is looking better and better… Keep it up!

  2. Man, i am far too excited for this game, I cannot wait for this to come out.

  3. I really enjoy these Dev Diaries, they just want me want the game more though! NOW! 🙂

  4. “Orb of confusion.” That’s what the world is today.

    Love little touches like that.

  5. Ditto on the NOW. Though I was surprised to see there were only 250 cards. If you figure each piece of equipment has a few cards unique to it, and different pieces of equipment (presumably) get equipped to something like slots, and there are 3+ classes with different equipment rules, And levels to boot…I guess what I’m saying is, how many melee weapons could there really be, say, that are practical for my 15th level fighter? Or are some of the cards scalable?

  6. @MustaphaMond: you are right, we will end up with more than 250 cards. We haven’t really expanded out to cover all the power ranges we’ll need for the full game yet.

    That said, there will be a lot more equipment items than cards as many items share cards.

  7. Even with 250 cards I can tell this will be satisfyingly complicated! Good work.

  8. I really appreciate the method you guys are using to unveil the new mechanics to the game. As one climbs higher in levels and gains access to the more difficult modules they will experience things set apart from what they have been dealing with. I feel that this will keep the game fresh as one levels and give them incentive to climb the ladder. I also like how the gradual exposure to these new game elements not only gives you another thing to think about when battling, but grants you the opportunity to utilize these mechanics at some point. Go deck building!

  9. Does “aureate mace” correspond to an item found someplace which these cards with that descriptor go into the deck? Or can they also be used independently? I ask because the picture of the mace on the Devastating Bash card is not golden, but more steel or iron.

  10. @Joe, Devastating Bash is a card that can be used in many weapons. This particular one comes from an Aureate Mace item, which is why that identifier is on the card.

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