The Future of Faeria


While many of us await the exciting new developments of another 6 cards in the coming week, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a growing discussion about direction and deployment of a card game like Faeria. To my thinking, Abrakam is on a good path. One of the more significant choices remaining is whether to pursue large content updates (i.e. expansions), small content updates (i.e. monthly or bi-weekly updates), or a mixture. Following some contextualizing remarks on Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone, I will consider what each might mean for a small studio like Abrakam, and a small playerbase in the context of the video game scene (especially CCGs)


Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone offer two useful touchstones for product development from a CCG perspective. The former began as a physical card game which included distribution in stores, attracting a wide-ranging following over many years. MtG has recently moved to digital environment, but is largely falling to the wayside in this medium in part due to the overwhelmingly analog nature of the mechanics of the game (permissions, passing turns, etc…). The main point I wish to draw out for MtG is that the balance of the game necessarily followed the distribution cycles which were established by this physical aspect of the game. Though cards were initially released as additions to the core set, it was impractical and costly to release content which did not occur in a block format. They have followed a model of releasing different kinds of sets (core, expacs, and combination/compilations), which in some ways mirrors what Faeria is poised to do with Oversky. The difference for MtG has been ironing out the timing of such releases. Generally their blocks are roughly 300 cards, and subsequent xpacs which share key-words and mechanics are 100-150. Such a large volume of cards is supported by the “ban” system within the competitive scene, where tournaments are governed by certain legal and illegal cards according to which “blocks” are being utilized. This allowed WotC to introduce power-creep without worrying that the tournament scene would be harmed by combinations of extremely powerful cards native to one block or another. It is also the reason why many cards in each block are virtually unplayable in a tournament setting – being so poorly “balanced”. Taking this broad approach (due to the inability to change cards once mass-printed), MtG is balanced on a block-by-block basis, and has generally thrived in this mode.

Hearthstone has pursued a similar path, albeit in a digital format and with the added benefit of being able to balance and tune cards, since players do not purchase a physical card, but only access to the pixilated version. In terms of art and design, they have remained committed to a heavy investment of time (as MtG did) which is seen in all aspects of animation in the game – from boards to special card effects to the “golden” version of every card produced. Thus, in many ways, Hearthstone has taken the best of both worlds (quality of physical foil cards and access of digital environment) and appealed to the masses of players. Like MtG, they have chosen to pursue a block release, modifying the original formula to diversify the kinds of expansions: pay for a block of cards versus buying individual packs to gain them. Notably they have removed any aspect of trading, so that players can only increase their collection via Blizzard. Finally, Blizzard allows the base game to be “free” to play, giving enough in game currency for average-to-good players to slowly build up a collection (of course, they will not have access to those expansions marked for purchase). Like MtG, Hearthstone now includes a great deal of power-creep, so that if you play a wild deck (all cards available) there are some seriously potent combinations from each block. Part of my argument going forward is that this system of expansion-based content, released in a 6 month – 1 year cycle inevitably leads to such power-creep. In addition, it is part of the design of Hearthstone (though not MtG), through the class system, to include steady power-creep, as new cards available to the classes is limited by the lore of the WoW world. The flavor potential is far more narrow, and key-word/mechanics tend to be minimized and limited (this is also the reason for severe amounts of RNG, because of the audience).

In addition to the philosophy of design and deployment for these two large CCGs, there are many more both physical and digital CCGs (like Yugioh, Eternal, Hex) which follow a similar pattern in terms of game design, game board, and play style. The ones on the digital side tend to be developed by small studios competing for the MtG audience (cf. Eternal); the chief marker of most of them is that they have simplified (almost copy-cat) gameplay, are generally free-to-play with micro-transactions, and are relative skeletons on the artistic/story side of the equation.
Faeria enters the scene as an innovator – card and board given equal development and strategic importance – and maintains a high degree of quality in terms of art and animation (quite strong for a rather small studio). But now they are in that crucial period of attempting to forecast how best to develop the game over the next number of years. Should it be a similar cycle to Hearthstone/MtG, which means blocks of content stretched over many months, or very brief but relatively small additions to the card pool? Before weighing each, I will say that I take for granted all the Solo aspects of Faeria. By this I mean that I take it as a given that such content is a necessary part of establishing solid storylines and lore for the future of the game. Without it, Faeria would sink back into the realm of the copy-cat types mentioned in the previous paragraph. Without a doubt, the solo experience must continue to be developed regardless of the overall strategy discussed for the release of cards, because it gives much needed substance to an otherwise easily discarded shell (and the solo stuff is quite fun, especially the puzzles). It will however take some of the available work-load (especially any animation) away from other content development, which we must consider in the following comparison.

Large Updates

Large releases are exciting, drawing both newcomers and those who have lapsed back into the Faeria scene with renewed vigor. They are also a more efficient use of advertising dollars, since you can get behind one project, target the audience and potential seed-carriers (i.e. Twitch users), and shine the product into a polished work. Moreover, it is easier to balance the release of 30-50 new cards over a short period (i.e. leading up to the release and shortly after) than it is to constantly monitor the impact of a monthly release of a small run of cards. It also comes with some drawbacks. Large releases are the most susceptible to stagnation, meaning that players solve the inherent “puzzle” of the best cards and decks, post those results into the community channels, and wait out new cards while experimenting on the fringes. With such stagnation comes the gradual departure of the player-base, either waiting at the highest ranks so as not to lose position until the monthly tournaments, or disappearing altogether until fresh cards enter the scene, or a balance change occurs. For the developer of Abrakam’s size, such lulls are dangerous to their growth and exposure, since it is difficult to advertise or advance the reach of the game when there is no content to promote.

Small Updates

At the opposite end of the spectrum, relying only on small developments without any plan for large “block” releases brings its own set of pros and cons. On the positive side, it frees up resources to truly balance the cards, and if it were Abrakam’s desire to make every single card relevant in the competitive context (looking at you Krog), the small-update approach offers the best opportunity to do this. It also allows a small studio to remain in constant contact with the player base, increasing the gains of loyalty while also maintaining a constant presence in other media (like Twitch, Youtube, Facebook) without sacrificing large amounts of time or development in other areas. On its own, this approach tends to generate a take-it-or-leave-it approach to the game for the non-hardcore crowd, as best seen in the App scene for tablets and phones. All those mini-games share a very similar development strategy to keep people addicted and unaware that simple algorithms are being constantly re-hashed to give the appearance of freshness. Without a large update/expansion to look ahead to and give shape to the narrative of the game, products like Faeria engender another kind of stagnation, this one associated with fatigue and burnout. Sameness and lack of inspiration – lack of punctuation by serious development and additions – lead to such sterility in game quality, and push the player base away faster even then the droughts of a long cycle.

Blended Updates

What, then, of a blended approach? It is likely no secret at this point that I would prefer just such an arrangement, but let us consider what it entails and why it is perhaps superior to the others. A blend would include content on a short term, monthly cycle(i.e. new cards each month, notwithstanding – as I said earlier – the solo/lore content necessary to give the game substance and lay a foundation for new mechanics), and large additions on a 6-month or yearly basis. The 4 weeks would include a regular balance cycle every 2 weeks (once with the release of new cards and once mid-way through the month). This would allow Abrakam to keep any outliers in line without being overly intrusive, allowing the meta to develop and change. It also would keep a quick pace of development in the professional scene, allowing players who excel at deck-building to leverage their advantage for the major tournaments; more to the point, it negates the problematic side of the growing trend of net-decking while offering potential avenues for greater structures to form in the faeria community (coaching, writing, youtube content, streaming, discussions, community tournaments and contests, etc…), precisely because there is always a fresh intake of content to be digested, analyzed and commented upon.

Such an approach would necessarily curtail the extent of large updates. In particular, the movement toward very large blocks of cards (ala Hearthstone and MtG) would become neither possible nor truly beneficial. But it would give an opportunity for a targeted development of the direction of Faeria. These yearly efforts would not be under as much pressure to shake up the meta and would be free to move forward key-words, mechanics, lore, and structural changes. It would also coincide with the professional development of the game, which I believe has high potential for excellence: year end tournaments which usher in a brand new season of mechanics.

Why Write This?

I write not so much to convince Abrakam – though my hope is to contribute to productive and reasonable discussion in this regard – as to bring to light my own observation of the changing landscape of gaming, especially in the CCG market. It is quickly being flooded via platforms like Steam, and opportunities for sustained marketing via popular places like Twitch depend very much on a new paradigm: consistency, regularity, optics. In a phrase, staying on top of the pile. My argument is that such consistency is a necessary part of a complete package, and the best way to achieve this is to provide enough monthly additions to the card pool (I have suggested 5 cards on Stream, in other posts, and in discord discussions) to keep the meta of the game unsettled, though not imbalanced. Faeria remains in a precarious position due to the converging audiences in the CCG genre – a position which becomes exacerbated by droughts in content.

If Faeria took a lesson from developments in the MMO genre (a dying breed), where a game like WoW has steadily increased the consistency of its content deployment (recognizing that keeping players interested on a monthly basis is the new metric), it might remain flexible in the emerging gaming environment. But, I also think such consistency needs to be buffered by exciting climbs to expansions where a large number of cards are introduced. MtG and Hearthstone have released such blocks in the 100-300 range; I don’t think this is the way forward for Faeria. Rather, a more modest approach (such as the 30 they are contemplating with Oversky) makes far more sense because it allows them to attempt to keep 85-90% of the card base balanced and valuable. I am convinced that moving to a full-block approach, where cards are banned from future tournament scenes represents a very real pressure to abandon the regular release of content, which (I must say emphatically here) definitely is the bread and butter of the new paradigm in gaming.

Cheers ~Zfox


Thanks for your well-worded thoughts, I very much agree with the blended approach.

My thoughts regarding consistent monthly updates: at the very least slightly buff the 3 most unused cards, and nerf the most overused one each month. That would slowly unlock card options as those bottom 20% cards actually become viable.

And then they could spice it up even further with a 2-3 new cards. These micro-releases should be designed to synergise with an underused mechanic (for example, the higher-attack-than-defense thing in red, or a 4-color deck).

One problem I’m imagining with introducing a small number of cards however regards how players would acquire them. If they’re added to the same card packs as the base pool then some collectors close to completion might be highly annoyed that they have to earn or buy several more cards they already own before they will find (or craft) the new ones. They will feel that ‘if this had been in the base game, I’d have it by now’, I think. Have you given this any thought?

(My current thinking on this would be to give every player 1 copy of each new card for free, and then have some kind subscription option that gives you the full 3 copies of each new card. Something like $12 and you get all the new cards in these micro-releases for a year).

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Great and thoughtful post! I with most of the points that you made. The only real concern I have for Oversky is the sizeable amount co-op content. Let’s face it a lot of people play this game solo. Putting so much of an emphasis on co-op pretty much reduces the size of the content people are getting with Oversky to half. People are going to have to start building up their friends list in time for Oversky as a result.

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I generally agree with your thoughts, Zoat, except[quote=“Zoat, post:2, topic:6811”]
at the very least slightly buff the 3 most unused cards, and nerf the most overused one each month.

It will be difficult do decide what the most overused cards are, without analyzing several hundred games every month. Plus, “overused” doesn’t mean “overpowered” - it means “useful”. And do you really feel the Farmboy needs a buff? :slight_smile:

Giving people one copy of a new card for free sounds like a great idea! But please, no compulsory, rolling subscriptions! Goki already functions as such, and the best thing about him is that he is optional.

I don’t think it’s as much as half, honestly. And how can building up your friends list be a bad thing in a Multiplayer game? :slight_smile:

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I am just aware of the fact that some people like to play multiplayer games solo. Back in the early MMO day it was “What class can I play that I don’t have to depend on other people” (Usually some hybrid class that could self heal). In Diablo people would multibox. (Also people get mad that solo play isn’t as efficient as group play in pushing the leaderboards)

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Also some people are busy and can’t play often, or play during irregular times. And mobile gaming has never really been about playing co-op with your friends, so there is also that. I should have asked in CSS #2 but I’m curious to see how many players are actually playing with other people they know, How many people are on their friends list, and if they have any intention of playing with them during Oversky. I certainly can’t wait for the co-op stuff in Oversky, I’m just curious as to how much of the playerbase will be experiencing all it has to offer.

MMO’s are very different. There, the multiplayer content is PvP battlegrounds (niche at best) and dungeons (time consuming and grindy) If you were not “pulling your weight” in a group, people would hurl verbal abuse at you…
In Faeria, it isn’t even possible to verbally abuse anyone who isn’t on your friends list, and playing with friends doesn’t give xp. So chatting and spectating is the only reason to have friends in this game. I love this arrangement!

I have about 20 people in my friends list right now. Only one of those is a person I know IRL - all the others are friend requests I’ve accepted! Please ask the question in CSS 3 - I’m curious to know if my situation is in any way unusual.
When I get Oversky, I will play it with the 3 or 4 people I chat with regularly in-game

I definitely will ask that question. I have a running list of questions that people want to see for the next one, so anyone who comes up with something can PM me. Since it will be after the launch of Oversky I’m hoping to see a lot of new players respond with their input as well.

There were no block builder players until minecraft came around. It didn’t aim at pleasing a very specyfic subset of players - it knew what it wanted and the players came to it.

I do feel your worry, and I share it - nevertheless, I am of an opinion that co-op is worth the try. What genre doesn’t have a solid co-op representation these games? We even see more and more non-symmetric co-op / comp games, including survival horror. We see GM enabled games, with AMAZING showing recently by Divinity Original Sin. Co-op, team battles, multiplayer in general - are areas that grow year by year, but so far card games keep to safe and sound 1v1 format. No doubt this is the mainstay, but does it have to be the only mode?

This is a good point. I’m just bracing myself in case there is a influx of negative posts on the forums related to Oversky not having enough content. Oversky’s release is critical, the summer is rolling around and a good release can really help boost it. Co-op content might just be the niche that attracts more people to Faeria. I’m sure Abrakam is aware of all of this, but I still think it’s a good discussion to have.

I’m super excited for co-op content. I just want people to be aware that co-op content is a big part of Oversky, and that if you don’t have friends to play with you have to start looking or else you won’t be able to enjoy all Oversky has to offer.

It will be difficult do decide what the most overused cards are, without analyzing several hundred games every month. Plus, “overused” doesn’t mean “overpowered” - it means “useful”. And do you really feel the Farmboy needs a buff?

It’s extremely easy to track which cards are used the most through through the magic of coding (not human analysis), and there is no doubt Abrakam already has this data.

Agree ‘overused’ doesn’t mean ‘overpowered’ but I used that word for simplicity because it is the closest proxy (its the main variable the Clash of Clans devs use to track their OP cards). A better programmer than me could easily create a formula which meshes card usage with winrates, color usage and such to get a more accurate sense of the OP ones.
In particular, the formula would make a big allowance for neutral card usage, since they could be in any color deck.
It wouldn’t need to be 100% accurate. If we mistakenly ended up nerfing the 3rd most OP card one month, that would still be a win for the playerbase.

Giving people one copy of a new card for free sounds like a great idea! But please, no compulsory, rolling subscriptions! Goki already functions as such, and the best thing about him is that he is optional.

This idea was a little rough, but I meant it as an optional subscription for those that didn’t want to grind. The new cards would crop up in packs and be craftable like all the others. There might be a better way to release a handful of cards, like through SP missions or somesuch.

Lots of good discussion here. I think Zoat’s query about the nature of acquisition for cards released on a small-cycle and in small batches (i.e. 2-6 cards a month, or like the ones we are expecting next week) is a good one. I don’t think the model in which they are added to the potential pool of the base game (or in the case of a number of expansions from now, the entire collection) is a problem, since new players won’t know the difference (just that the community is excited about new opportunities), and older players will be well on there way to craft small batches. It rather encourages regular use of the crafting portion of the game.

But, as Zoat mentioned, there may be other ways to do it - some free additions, some perhaps hidden behind a co-op situation or puzzle, etc… I agree with Nettlesoup that subscription is probably the wrong route for this sort of thing. I think Zoat has since elaborated on this point, so it may be moot!

Abrakam will likely have to be quite creative as they evaluate how best to monetize going forward (part of what I was gesturing toward in the article). If things like Oversky are too expensive, it may sink the game because Faeria is not in a situation where they have enough of a card pool to minimize the effect through bans.

The intriguing notion of nerfing/buffing “overpowered” or “overused” cards seems good on paper, but I wonder if it requires a commitment to making an extremely high percentage of the cards “viable” or at parity with one another. It will be interesting to see (given MtG and Hearthstone’s approach to this) if Faeria is suitable for that kind of approach. Personally, I would encourage this sort of take on balance, but it does take on a cumulative upkeep of sorts as more cards enter the scene. The added time is not so much in evaluating which cards are overpowered or underperforming, but how best to modify them in light of the entire pool. Bigger pool = longer process.

I am also of the school that buffing/nerfing belongs in a “maintenance” category when assessing how to spend developer time on the game. People often say things like, “I just want them to buff or change these handful of cards, I don’t need any new ones.” But these kinds of adjustments do not have the same kind of impact as completely new concepts and cards. This is in part due to the fact that the larger structures of the meta do not shift quite so dramatically when 1 or 2 cards become suddenly better or worse. Players are able to identify which direction such a change pushes the game (i.e. when Blue Engine - Stormspawn+Failed Experiment+Lore Thief - was nerfed) since you are playing with the same pieces. But stick a new piece into the mix on top of what is already present, and you get a lot more mileage for time invested.

Thanks again for continuing the conversation.

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What about Aurora Mythmaker? She is used in virtually every self-respecting blue deck, yet her ability is less powerful than that of Ruunin’s presence - just more controllable. Similar examples include Wood Elemental and Grim Guard.

The videogames that include a subscription option let you decide whether you actually want the subscription in the first place. However, once that option has been taken, the subscription automatically rolls over to the next month, until you actively cancel it. That’s what I meant by a “compulsory, rolling subscription”. Goki, on the other hand, needs to be re-purchased on a month-by-month basis, giving more flexibility to the user. Even though an option to purchase him for several months in advance (let’s say 3 months) would be very nice!

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great post zaldin. I like the blended approach as well. I want at least 1 new card every month (2-3 would be amazing), announce it at the end of every monthly cup event, that will keep the meta unsettled as you say. Then a large update every few months. I took a break because the meta became settled to me, predictable, and stale. I was never going to come back to faeria until there were new cards, and so they announced it ,and here i am

I come to the same conclusion in terms of large or small content/game evolutions, though I think for purely my own reasons and I don’t know if they translate to market survival.

I don’t have much of pc strategy or ccg background, but rather come at it from a competitive perspective. I love battle, period. Me vs. you or my team vs. your team, that’s the attraction to any game for me. Be it sports, canasta, chess or faeria, to me a game is all about I’ve got my resources, you’ve got yours, let’s battle tooth and nail and winner buys the beer kind of thing.

And this a game that lets you do that, with a satisfying amount of creativity, both on the game makers and gamers part.

So the dilemma Zaldinfox brilliantly outlined is between offering large doses less often, and then managing it’s effects on gampllay, or small incrementals of content and refinement of gameplay, followed by some people dropping it for something newer and flashier.

To me balance is everything in this game. It absolutely has be in the multiple paths to victory zone to be valid as a game. Having a massive card expansion of 300 cards would have no appeal to me at all. I have no interest in power creep or sectioning off cards for this or that tourney. Tweak, refine as you go, and push the competitors to solve increasingly intriguing puzzles their opponents present.

The best path forward I see is a monthly or so release of well tested relatively small quantity of cards and solo content. The solo content can be dressed up as a storyline or whatever, but the intent is “skills” training. How to use the pieces and board creatively and cohesively. A storyline isn’t for me. The only thing relevant about a story line is giving the cards character. For me, they just need to be instantly identifiable and the relationship between name, artwork, stats and abilities does that for me.

In many ways, this dilemma sounds like it comes down to marketing or gameplay. It’s not black and white, but in essence that’s what it sounds like. I want the game to retain it’s character as opposed to re-invent itself. If collecting cards gets me an enhanced gameplay experience, I’m all over it. If collecting cards just means this batch is more powerful than the last, I’m gonna feel like I’m being manipulated for financial gain. I want the game to grow wider, not taller.

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I definately agree with the above poster except on one point: I think a rich story can be a lot of fun, and even some form of repeatable PvE content can help to distract and alleviate frustration if PvP doesn’t go your way for whatever reason.

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Not only is a rich story a lot of fun and an important aspect of gameplay (CCGs included), but as I argued in the initial article, I think single-player/story elements are absolutely essential no matter which direction Abrakam takes Faeria. Without a deep and lasting story - rich characters and solid lore - the bones of the game will never get connected to the muscle. Story is like sinews; it is tough to craft well, but it bridges the gap and creates an environment you want to spend time in. That’s why humanity has written and enjoyed literature for millenia.

One of the tricks is how to manage resources for a limited studio, so that the gameplay, mechanics, and balance of the cards is addressed while the story is developed. Not an easy task!


For sure a story can help people become more immersed in the game. I guess it goes back to my opening statement. I’m not sure how relevant my point of view is from an overall marketing perspective. I just don’t find myself engaged that way, and I guess my point is, yeah it becomes the same exercise over and over at some point, but the processing power required to solve opponents questions is where it’s at for me.
A fantastic discussion that was very illuminating for me. The takeaway for me is that it seems more resources than I’d choose to would be wisely spent on what to me seem like unnecessary frills. 3 to 6 new cards a month, the occasional new ability or some such, all tested and seamlessly introduced would be perfect to me. That, and on demand match play, where you form decks to counter your opponents during a best of 5 or 7.

Fantastic discussion guys, I certainly don’t think my take is a recipe for commercial success, just laying down my baseline for playing.

I wouldn’t want to see more than say 3 cards per month on average as it eventually becomes overwhelming, and may even put people off. I’m not too concerned as to whether it’s in bulk or spread out, but I’d like to see them beta tested first. The newer card quality seems a bit variable.

I really like trying different meta things like co-op campaign (the only money I’ve spent so far). I’d like more varied gameplay - perhaps 2v2 or free-for-alls, different maps, etc. Of course this makes balancing really hard. But it’d be fun to try.

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Whatever they end up doing I think they should keep making card releases in line with solo content and more importantly LORE updates. Tying solo content stints into card releases for a decent price will help newer players keep up with future card updates and make them more invested in the lore of Faeria.

@Zoat "My thoughts regarding consistent monthly updates: at the very least slightly buff the 3 most unused cards, and nerf the most overused one each month. That would slowly unlock card options as those bottom 20% cards actually become viable.

And then they could spice it up even further with a 2-3 new cards. These micro-releases should be designed to synergise with an underused mechanic (for example, the higher-attack-than-defense thing in red, or a 4-color deck)."

It’s funny you mention the “Attack matters” cards as your example for an underused archetype, for the first six months of my gameplay midred and red rush were the strongest decks in the game using that archetype. I think your plan is a good idea for making the most stable meta however I don’t think people would like their decks being invalidated that often, with the only reason being “too many people were using this”. Not to mention what’s the plan for when the top most used cards and the bottom three least used cards actually end up just being trends in the playerbases gameplay, which -if left alone- would’ve changed on it’s own next month?

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