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Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

Unfortunately, I Really Am That Nerdy

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How not to write a virtual CCG
plummet, headfirst, crash, ouch
kistaro
One of my guilty pleasures: collectible-card-game-based video games. The reason why this is a guilty pleasure is because they are uniformly meant for a younger market than I, in part because the sweeping majority of them are Yu-Gi-Oh. Duels of the Plainswalkers for the XBOX 360 doesn't totally count (although I do have a copy), since the adjustments you are allowed to make to your decks are extremely limited; it doesn't have real deckbuilding.

(Why do I like CCG video games? Because I like CCGs, but not the amount of money required to play them.)

It's apparent to me why Magic: The Gathering and "grown-up" games of similar complexity don't make it in. They're too complex for a computer to figure out- especially if that computer is just a Game Boy. This is apparent in Duels of the Plainswalkers- even with the AI set to "best" and the hugely restricted cardpool designed to make the computer do a passable job, while it makes reasonable blocking decisions, it is not aggressive enough about making attrition-based attacks when it really should and is completely incompetent at tactical spellcasting. (Tip: If you're playing Giant Growth at a time it would be legal to play a sorcery, you're doing it wrong.)

So for full deck-building-friendly CCG games, a simpler game is required, and in the current market, that's Yu-Gi-Oh. Duelmasters (Wizards of the Coast's attempt to compete with Yu-Gi-Oh) failed in the market, and the Pokemon card game seems to have sort of quietly faded out of prominence. Maybe I just don't pay enough attention.

Anyway, because I was curious, I bought one of the Duelmasters GBA games off of Goozex for the equivalent of $6. (100 Goozex Points plus a Trade Credit, technically.) It is unplayable. From the booster pack that was included (the thing was shrinkwrapped new-in-box), so is the card game.

Which is a shame, because the mechanics are fundamentally good. Get rid of mana screw by making every card both a spell and a mana source; if played as a mana source, it's out of the game for all other purposes. Clean, interesting, and it might be an interesting variation of Magic: The Gathering- all lands that have no abilities other than providing mana are banned (this includes all basic lands), but one card can be played each turn as a mana source, where it provides one mana of its color for the remainder of the game, as though it were a basic land. This would result in very different mana curving, actually, because the ability to gain one mana per turn is a lot more reliable, rather than tending to fizzle out at about 3 or 4 (and drop to 1 every 3 turns, on average, for most decks). The combat mechanics are rewritten to be pretty much the wrong way lots of totally new players try to play Magic: The Gathering rather than how they actually work, and I like them marginally better than Yu-Gi-Oh's; they're certainly cleaner. And because it's using mana pools, decks are much better balanced than Yu-Gi-Oh.

On the Game Boy Advance, the game is fundamentally painful to play for three reasons: game navigation, the deck sorter, and the game screen all suck. Given that these three things are the fundamental backbone of a CCG, the game is self-evidently unplayable.

On the game navigation front, every window change takes three seconds: one second fade-out, a one-second loading time, and a one-second fade-in. Given that this includes loading the details screen to read the special abilities for a card, that's bad. This is really the one I'm losing patience for.

The deck sorter has all the personality of Excel, if Excel had no sort options and only three filters: the cards already in the deck (gee, that's helpful), the cards in your collection, and all cards in the game. With three seconds of switch time to actually read a card, and no way to switch the card in the card view without going back to the menu (always true), this is... unpleasant, to say the least.

Game screen: It should be able to show more than five cards in one zone at once. That, by the way, is all you can ever see: five cards in one zone. Use the L button to switch between zones, which have completely different interfaces. The creature view shows slightly-animated creature sprites growling at each other, which is about what's expected, but once again, three-second switch time to read what they do beyond stat numbers and canned ability symbols...

Let's contrast this to the Pokemon Card Game for the GBC, which had a view of the entire playfield, zero delay on card view (which let you switch between cards in the field easily and immediately), a hand list that made a lot more sense, and, for all that, a computer that played better.

Heh. Makes me wish they'd do another portable implementation of the Pokemon Card Game as a video game. I'm hardly the target age group, but I'd probably pick it up anyway.

I've migrated to DreamWidth. The original post is at http://kistaro.dreamwidth.org/454075.html. View comment count unavailable comments at http://kistaro.dreamwidth.org/454075.html#comments ; go ahead and use OpenID to post your own.
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