Today I had an idea how to improve Faeria’s “catchiness”, both for new players and the existing player base. The idea came from a comparison between the two TCGs I played before Faeria: Hearthstone (which is very successful, as we all know) and Scrolls (which probably only a few people here heard of).
In the last days I thought about the reason, why so many people played Hearthstone and so few played Scrolls. For those of you who don’t know about Scrolls: It was a TCG with a more complex board than most of the genre, closest one in complexity to Faeria, I’d believe. However, Scrolls was shut down, some time after Microsoft bought Mojang (the developing company for Minecraft and Scrolls), due to being not interested and Scrolls because it wasn’t popular (read: selling) enough. (At least that’s the story I heard…)
If you knew Scrolls, you could argue a reason why it wasn’t so popular was the missing or wrong advertisment (compared to popular games like Hearthstone). You could also argue that a complex strategy game is much harder to get into than a casual card game, that relies on many rng-effects and often is just fun to watch. Scrolls also had a lot of text on each card, making it even harder to learn anything.
I think, to an extent, these might be the main reasons for the small popularity.
However, when I thought about it, something else came to mind. Some part that (together with some of the stuff mentioned above) prevented Scrolls from keeping its playerbase that Hearthstone does right:
Cards in Hearthstone have an incredibly big amount of character.
What do I mean with “character”?
Most of the cards in Hearthstone are very recognizable. They seem “alive”. And here’s how I’d think Hearthstone does it:
- First, it takes the characters from other games created by Blizzard, the Warcraft series and WoW.
- Second, and this is my point, each card has it’s own bit of what I’d call “flashyness”:
- Every minion (creature) has it’s own voice with a few lines of speech when summoning it, attacking with it, while dying. As a flavour, some even have a special line if they interact with a specific character (“You’re not fit to rule the horde, Garrosh!”, “Hello, brother…”)
- Every spell has it’s own (more or less) unique animation.
- Third, each card has some funny (catchy) line in your collection. (Well, Hearthstone wants to caricature the warcraft characters; it’s funny, especially if you know the characters)
- Fourth, if you deal damage with a big creature it creates some “oompf” effect, you can almost feel how a strong attack crushes the opponent or his minions.
Scrolls, on the other hand, had very few of this, if I recall correctly. It had some sweet artwork for the cards, but very few “flashy” things to recognize them. Spell effects and debuffs (e.g. poison paralysis, etc.) had almost no or very weak graphical effects. Very often you even had to figure out what the f*** had just happened, sometimes even if you know all the cards. Scrolls had another way to give their creatures some character: Every character on the board (creature or structure) had its own model and attack animation. (example: http://i.imgur.com/pJat1QF.jpg)
So, what can Faeria learn from all this?
In my opinion, a lot. In order to stay alive and competitive, each game needs a big (or at least growing) playerbase. You can achieve this by creating a deep game with complex and appealing mechanics, which feels very satisfying to play (at best: both while winning and losing). However, the best game mechanics alone won’t get player to play the same game over and over again. This is, where the game needs its own charm - which Faeria already has, but I think there are quite a few points that could use improvement.
Alright, what does Faeria have already and what might be missing?
Faeria, right now, has a beautiful, charming artstyle both on the existing cards as well as the board, background and even the interface in the menu. Graphical effects are more eye-catching than I remember from Scrolls, especially regarding events that affect creatures/structures on board (dealing damage, changing their stats, transforming them etc.). From what happens if you play a card, you can at least tell that something happens and to which figure on the board is affected.
However, you can not really tell the graphical effects from, say Seifer’s Wrath and Soul Drain apart. Because they’re basically the same. Firestorm, Plaguebearer, they all have basically the same animation with some kind of little spirit flying from your orb to the affected figure(s) on the board. I know what happened (which is already a lot more than often in Scrolls) and it’s something I remember mechanical wise, but I don’t recognize it graphically.
Basically the same goes for creatures or structures on board. Sure they have some kind of avatar, usually a close shot of the cards image. But it is (like in Hearthstone) always with the same kind of frame around it. All creature frames look the same (except that legendaries, flying creatures and mythical cards have their own type of frame). So, basically you have a body on the board and a very small image.
Regarding creature animation and sound, there is not much difference between different creatures, yet.
Don’t get me wrong here, I know Faeria is still in a very early state and I really appreciate how detailed the artwork and graphics are already. But this early state is exactly, where things like these need to be adressed, right?
So here are my suggestions to, well, fill the world of Faeria with art:
1.) Events need a recognizable animation.
Like Firestorm burning the affected creatures, you know, engulfing them in flames. Each of the colors should stay somewhat true to their related element (red = fire, yellow = wind/sand, blue = water, green = earth, growing stuff etc., grey = artifical, physical/metal stuff?).
2.) Each creature/structure could use its own model and, if possible, attacking/dying/moving animation
While this would be nice, I understand there might be some problems with this proposal.
First, it’s a big, nasty chunk of work and the Faeria team would probably need a lot of resources to make it happen. However, I believe this is something that would make the game more recognizable and (even more) charming.
Second, I’m not sure, whether everybody/the Faeria team actually wants a different model for each creature/structure. You want everything in the game as beautiful as possible, but on the other hand, you need to keep the board simple enough to understand the board situation easily. This needn’t be a problem, since you have a working and simple system right now (you know, frame around the figure + detailed picture of the card) and you can just leave the option to the player, if he wants the graphically more detailed option or rather the very simple option. (I’d suggest new players should start with the simple option by default in order to first learn the game)
3.) Give each figure on the board its own sound effects.
I know, this would be as much work as suggestions no. 2.), but at least it wouldn’t distract the players from the board. If you played Hearthstone for some time, you can tell what minion is summoned or attacking just by hearing it, like “DIE! INSECT!”, “Hah, this guy’s toast!” or the infamous oh my god, please no “Everyone! GET IN HERE!”.
Faeria obviously doesn’t want to caricature its own characters, hence such cheesyness wouldn’t fit. But taking it this far (to caricature) isn’t necessary, either. Any (fitting) line of text for a creature (with a fitting voice, of course) would work. It would help even newer players to remember it, and therefore give it more “character”. Right now, each creature almost feels the same, if not for the artwork and the different stats (body).
If you want to go this way, there are actually a lot actions each creature can make, that would deserve their own line of text: Being summoned, attacking, moving, dying are the first actions that come to mind. What about “signature moves”, like gift, last words, combat effects, moving/attack the first time with a haste creature? Or a different line, if you attack an orb? Think of the terror, when a Verduran Force is hitting your orb, shouting, with rattling, ghostly voice: “Get out of this forest, foreign god!”
4.) Improve the victory/loss screen and the animation when destroying the opponents orb.
Man, I produced a wall of text again!
Thank you very much, for reading through all of this. In case you didn’t, here’s a
- Amazing gameplay and mechanics need to be supported by recognizable, appealing animation and sound (which Faeria has quite a lot of already, regarding background, card artworks, board and menu design).
- Therefore, Faeria could use some visual and audio improvements regarding the animation and actions of the cards. (Voices, models and animation for creatures while attacking, moving, dying etc. Tornados, explosions, infernos, tsunamis etc. for events, you name it!) Not as excessive and cartoony as Hearthstone, but more calmed, serious and magical like, you know, Faeria-style.
So, what does everyone think about it? Let’s discuss!
Edit: Just to make it clear: All animations need to be kept short. They shall help the player to 1.) spice up the game and 2.) make it easier to catch what just happened. In a complex strategy game with a (necessary) time limit for each turn, there is no room for animations that distract the player or, even worse, prevent the player from his next action for like 3+ seconds.