The Inspiration for Cybermancy, Part 1
Updated: Mar 12
Ever since the news got out that I had designed a game, people have had a myriad of questions for me, including whether or not I have lost my mind. While that remains very much to be seen, one of the most common questions I have gotten is, "What was your inspiration for designing this particular game?" Anyone who has known me for any period of time knows how much I love Hearthstone, an on-line collectible card game based on the World of Warcraft universe created by Blizzard games. I have been playing it since it was in beta, and I have put more hours into it than any other game I have ever played; I play it daily, and while my interest in the game waxes and wanes depending on the current state of the meta, I always find myself drawn back to it. But why? I have always been a lover of card games: I've played nearly every kind of game it is possible to with a regular, 52 card deck of playing cards, and I am almost always up for a game of Hearts, Spades, poker, or bridge if someone feels so inclined. There is something about the random, yet somewhat predictable nature of card games that has always fascinated me (I mean predictable in the sense that there are a fixed number of cards of a certain value; this means that by paying attention, you can calculate the odds of what cards are still left in a deck or hand). So, a card game that allows you to do battle with fantasy creatures? Sign me up! Of course, Hearthstone is far from the first collectible card game on the market. One of the earliest, and by far the most popular, is of course Magic: The Gathering. Magic is arguably the greatest card game ever created, and the fact that it still has millions of players nearly 30 years after it was released is a testament to the brilliance of its design. Of course, nothing is perfect, and though I dabbled with Magic in its early days, there was one aspect of its design that I couldn't get past: the fact that it is a collectible card game. What is the problem with collectible card games? Simply put, they are designed to get players to spend money collecting the cards they need to be competitive. To do this, the designers create a number of cards that are intentionally weaker than others, and then design other cards that are far stronger but more difficult to find. That means that not all players are on an equal footing: players who have been playing longer or have been lucky in collecting their cards will often have decks that are much better than other players, which in turn allows them to dominate other players with weaker decks. While I don't necessarily mind losing a game, it can be extremely frustrating to be beaten, not because you didn’t play as well, but because the other player simply had a stronger deck. Yes, one can play casually for the experience, but playing at any level competitive level means that you have to acquire the better cards, and that means spending money. Hearthstone, being a collectible card game, has the same issues, but unlike Magic, it allows you to acquire new cards by collecting gold, which one can earn simply by playing the game. Since I started playing the game before it was officially released, I had the opportunity to build up a substantial quantity of gold, which in turn allowed me to craft the stronger cards, which allowed me to win more often, which meant more gold, etc. Still, it was obvious that many people were frustrated by the high barrier of entry the game presented to new players (to their credit, Blizzard is aware of this problem, and have tried to correct it, with varying degrees of success). So, even though I found both games to be a tremendous amount of fun, I realized that there were things about them that I didn’t like. In my next post, I will explain the issues that detracted from the fun of these types of games for me, and how I set about trying to correct those issues in Cybermancy.