Monthly Archives: November 2013

Collectible card games: Terms and concepts.

Hello, welcome back to Geek Generation.

There are a number of terms and concepts that are commonly used when talking about collectible card games (CCG). Some people, particularly those new to CCGs, might not know what some of the terms or concepts are. Today’s post will talk about some of these terms and concepts.

CCG is an acronym for collectible card games. Basically it’s a game that consists of forming a deck (deck of cards) from a pool of collectible cards. Usually these cards are from opening booster packs. A booster pack is a packet of randomized cards which you buy from the store. TCG is an acronym for tradable card games. Basically it means CCGs where the cards can be traded. So basically all real life physical card games are TCGs. If an online collectible card game does not have the provision for a trading system to trade with other collectors, then it’s called a CCG.

Library is the deck of cards that you have when you play a game. Typically, when we draw cards, we draw from the library. Library death is usually about losing the game by running out of cards in the library to draw.

Board is where the game cards are placed when a game is played. When a card is said to have board control, then it means the card is capable of affecting game cards on the board, likely to the favor of the player playing it. Board control can come in various forms, like dealing 2 damage to a creature, destroying a creature, returning a creature to owner’s hand, status effects causing enchantments, or even reset cards that affect friendly creatures too, like destroy all creatures, etc.

Initiative. Different people have different ways of saying initiative. Some call it board advantage, some call if inevitability. Based on the state of the board, if you would win the game so long as nobody interferes with the board, barring other game mechanics like library death, then you’re said to have the initiative. Using Magic the Gathering as an example (does not take into account winning games via means other than the board):

Game begins, you play a 2/1 Jackal Pup. If nothing else happens to the Jackal Pup, then you’ll win the game in 10 turns by attacking with Jackal Pup. You now have the initiative (because you’ve seized the initiative). Your opponent have to deal with the Jackal Pup or lose the game. On his turn, he plays 3/3 Rogue Elephant. Now he has the initiative, because the Jackal Pup cannot win the Rogue Elephant in combat. Even if both players chooses not to block with their creatures, your opponent is going to win in 7 turns by attacking with the Rogue Elephant. Since he’ll win earlier, he has the initiative.

In most games, playing cards require some form of resources. These resources are usually mana. In Duel of Champions, the player needs to juggle with hero stats as a form of resource as well. Usually, cards with larger resource costs have bigger effects or better creatures. With resources, comes resource curve, or commonly known as mana curve. Arrange all the cards in your deck according to their resource costs. Putting the lowest costing cards on your left ascending to the highest costing cards on your right, you’ve built your mana curve, similar to what you can see in google images.

Typically you want a normal (bell shape) curve so that you have some low costing cards to play in the early turns and some high costing cards to supplement the bulk of your mid range costing cards. If over the course of several games you find that you always have trouble with playing cards due to resources, then probably your curve is stacked too high and need to swap some high costing cards out for lower costing cards. Similarly, if you find that, after some time, all your cards are out-classed by your opponent’s cards, then you need to swap some lower costing cards for some higher costing cards.

Generally, you want a normal curve because you want to play a card (or more) every turn to generate tempo. Typically, unused resources do not carry over to the next turn, hence every resource unused is wasted.

One more thing before i finish, that’s card advantage. Card advantage is one of the concepts that i’m always mindful of when i’m in a game. When considering cards, creature trades, when playing board control cards, i always try to achieve card advantage or tempo. If you do not have cards, then you cannot affect the board’s outcome.

If a card says, “Draw a card.”, it basically says spend the resource cost to replace itself. This does not generate card advantage. That’s not to say it’s useless, but it might see play in decks that wants a higher chance to draw some other cards. If a card says, “Draw two cards”, then you’ve generated +1 card advantage. If a card is a creature card, and has some ability to let you draw a card, that also gives card advantage.

If a card says, “Opponent reveals his hand and you choose a card. Your opponent discards the chosen card.”. Since it costs both you and your opponent a card, it does not generate card advantage. But it reveals information about your opponent’s hand and let’s you remove the best card he has in his hand. So these cards are also very useful.

If a card says, “Deal 2 damage to a creature.”. You play it and killed one of your opponent’s creature. While no card advantage is generated, you’ve exercised board control which could help you gain initiative. If your board control card costs 2 resources and kills your opponent’s creature which costed him 4 resources, then in addition to board control for initiative, you’ve also generated tempo. That is assuming the game has not lasted to the stage where resources are abundant and in excess. The same goes with a card that says, “Return a creature to its owner’s hand”, which can generate alot of tempo in certain scenarios.

Ok so much for now. I’ve only touched very generally on the concepts of mana curve, card advantage and tempo. I’ll revisit these concepts with actual examples in the future.

Nightbanes Review

Hello everybody, welcome back to Geek Generation. Today, i’m going to do my first game review. In my game reviews, i’ll generally talk about the game as a whole, the things that i like or do not like, the viability of free to play competitiveness and the hungriness of cash shop.

In this review, i’m going over a collectible card game Nightbanes by Diviad, the company that brought Ghost Trappers to ask via Facebook. Well, i assume it’s by Diviad since it uses the lore from one of Diviad’s games. At some point in the post i might be comparing it with Duel of Champions, also a free to play collectible card game but developed and published by other companies.

The game does not have any form of mana and each turn, the player can play only one card. It appears that the player cannot choose to not play anything in a turn. The speed of different cards are determined by the pips of bloodlust in the top of the card. Each creature fill a pip of bloodlust at end of turn and creatures can attack if they enter combat with all pips filled (meaning creatures cannot attack on the turn they’re summoned unless they do not have bloodlust pips or some other effect fills their pips).

The game complexity is rather simple, there are no lanes in the game. Or rather, there’s only one lane for summoned creatures to queue up in. Creatures attack the enemy hero during combat unless there’s another creature directly opposite of it in the enemy’s queue. In that case, the opposing creature is attacked instead.

Turn order of the game is as follows. Draw 3 cards (initial), play a card/hero ability, enter combat automatically, clean up phase + draw a card if a card was played. It seems that the player cannot choose not to play anything in a turn. Which kind of implies that mechanics like entire board clearing effects and disruption of cards in hands are not present in the game. Actually there might be cards that deal some damage to all enemy creatures, because i saw atleast one card that goes something like heal 2 to all creatures you control.

The mechanics in the game does seem a little limited. I’ve never managed to struggle to a win once the initiative was lost. Perhaps this is not the case in higher levels of gameplay with pools of rarer cards.

The game has a large variety of currency. There’s PVP tokens, blood pearls, blood rubies, blood diamonds. Quests gives pearls when completed and rubies when the quest level ups. You level up a quest by completing it a number of times.

As always, different currencies have different value. By value, i do not mean currency conversion. The shop sells a booster at 15 rubies or 30 diamonds. While this puts the conversion rate at 1 ruby to 2 diamond, diamond is still the more valuable currency since it’s a cash currency (bought with real cash). For some unfathomable reasons, there’s a cap on the amount of PVP tokens and rubies you can have in storage. I guess, possibly at a later stage, that there might be items for sale at a price higher than the cap and a way for players to unlock higher caps with diamonds, thereby generating more sales. I’m not sure if you can still earn rubies once you’ve hit the max levels for all your quests. There’s a daily login bonus that gives rubies though. Rubies are used to purchase boosters. So rubies are kind of the bread and butter currency for free to play players.

I played a PVP match and was paired with someone who’s deck doesn’t look like a starter deck. Perhaps i need to lose ELO rating to get paired with other players with starter decks. I lost the game, and earned a total of zero PVP tokens. Apparently i need to win a match to earn PVP tokens. That effectively puts PVP reward cards out of reach until i get the deck in order through the slow process of accumulating rubies.

Looking at the cash shop, i see the starter deck that i began with on sale for diamonds. You can’t even get other starters for in game money! In another section of the cash shop, labelled premium, i see cards sold for diamonds. And these cards have a logo that’s not part of any of the boosters. Does it mean that free to play players can never hope to own any of these cards?

In the end, comparing Nightbanes’s cash shop to Duel of Champions’s cash shop, Nightbanes has a very hungry cash shop. With exclusive cards and pvp reward cards locked away until later, competitiveness for a free to play player does not look optimistic.

Last but not least, the game has an energy system. A legacy adopted from facebook games. It could be used to limit the players from earning too much in game currency from the quests. This depends on whether rubies can be earned once the quests are at max level. If rubies can’t be earned from max level quests, then the energy system only serves to limit pearls, a currency that is much less valuable compared to rubies.

Edit: The issue of pvp matchmaking could be due to the game not having alot of players. I don’t have the numbers, but it is a possibility.

What is freemium?

Every now and then, regarding games, the terms subscription, free to play or even freemium gets bandied about quite often.

What do these terms mean?

Most people would have no trouble understanding what subscription and free to play means. Subscription means the game requires a periodic payment, usually monthly payment, and free to play means that the game is free to play. That is until the developers adds hidden costs to a free to play game, which would turn it into a freemium. A portmanteau of free and premium.

How freemium works varies from game to game. Mostly it means that the most basic parts of the game is free to play while certain other content would be inaccessible to a player until he/she pays for it. As a payment model for a game, by itself, i would say that it is a pretty valid scheme. Problem arises when the marketing department starts to call their product a free to play game. After all, if it is free, why are certain content not free?

Sometimes, some content can be unlocked in more than one way. The quickest way would be to pay for it. The alternative could be using some form of in-game currency (generated within the game) which would provide for a slower, but free-er, way to unlock the content. Often, whenever such alternatives are available, there would be players complaining about it in the forums. complaints could range from how it’s not free to play, to how the in-game currency that’s used to unlock the privileged content takes too long to accumulate.

And then to these complaints, sometimes we hear the words sense of entitlement. Usually it goes like this:

Mr Apple: “Why is this content a paid-for content with no alternative way to unlock in-game in a free to play title?”
Mr Banana: “Kids’ these days are so full of a sense of entitlement. Developers don’t make games for free. This is how they earn money. It’s a free to play title. If you don’t like it, play something else.”

Unfortunately, it’s pretty much question begging. Mr Banana avoids answering Mr Apple’s question and restates the whole problem as a fact and uses it as his premise. The why do you need to pay to play in a free to play title remains unanswered. But of course, no developer is ever going to call their game a if you don’t like it, play something else title. Free to play sound so much better.

Ah.. but it’s such a touchy subject, i shall not go too in depth into it.

For the sake of completeness, there’s one more mode of payment for games. There’s subscription, free to play, freemium, and there’s also buy to play. In buy to play modes, players make one time payment for the game and the player gets to play the game for free for as long as the game remains playable.

Geek Generation Begins

Hello everybody. Welcome to Geek Generation. In this blog, i post about my personal gaming stuff. I blog at lbandit.wordpress.com, but since nothing much interesting is happening in my life these days, i decided to start a blog to pen down my thoughts on gaming stuff. I’ll still blog at lbandit if i manage to think of anything interesting to write, but all gaming related stuff comes here.

I wanted the blog name geekgeneration in the url. But it’s been used. Geekgen was reserved. I decided to go with l33t speak and decided on G33k Generation for that extra dose of geekiness. Probably throughout the lifespan of the blog i’ll be referring to it as G33k or Geek interchangeably.

How did the name Geek Generation come about?

Well, i wanted a name that had the acronym GG, which as a gaming lingo means ‘good game’. I’ll use a little back story for how i decided to use the name Geek Generation. At this time, i’m pretty interested in Korean variety show, Running Man. In several of the eppys, the guests were the Korean girl group SNSD members. And yes, another name for SNSD is Girl Generation. Anyway, i eventually became fascinated with SNSD and decided that Geek Generation would be a good name to use. For guild names and stuff in games. And of course, blog name.

Ok so much for now. Cya all soon.