Low Hanging Design Fruit in Online Card Games

I’m trying Magic Duels, and the story mode is mostly bad. You do not get to pick your cards, and they change after every win, so you do not even know what they are in advance. In theory, this means the difficulty of your deck and your opponent’s can be finely tuned to face each other. Because luck of the draw is a large factor, you can do exactly the same thing two games in a row and either win undamaged or lose before you get a fourth land (or draw a fourth card other than a land). Part of the point of CCGs is that you control the randomness through deck design. When the game controls your deck and what random cards are available to each side, your skill as a player is dwarfed by factors outside your control. And then the white deck is tuned and stacked for guaranteed wins, plus tutorials inside in tutorials.

The particular bit of randomness that is galling me is mana flood/screw. Streakiness is an aspect of true randomness, more so than most people believe. It is a fact of life in physical card games because you cannot get a relatively even spread of land throughout a deck without stacking the deck. But you know what computers can do? Randomize within limits. They can be programmed with rules like, “If a deck has 20/60 lands, the deck should not have 5-card streaks of all lands or no lands.” The lands need not be evenly distributed throughout the deck; toss in a bit of randomness to keep it from being predictable, it’s a card game. But if you have a computer that can keep the most ridiculous extremes of randomness from happening, why would you let them happen other than thinking that is a feature of the game? “Yeah, the dice came up that you had a near-guaranteed win/loss. Great game, eh?”

I have won games because my opponent did not draw a third land until its health was in the single digits, and I have lost games because of drawing 12 lands by turn 10. Neither of these were good games, and these are entirely preventable problems when a computer is in charge of the deck.

: Zubon

One thought on “Low Hanging Design Fruit in Online Card Games”

  1. This is one of the reasons I feel that Hearthstone will eventually completely overshadow Magic in importance and popularity (if it hasn’t already). They just came up with a system that completely eliminates this issue altogether. I never realized just how frustrating land management truly is until I didn’t have to bother with it anymore. You can still get hosed (by drawing a bunch of high-cost cards in the opening draw), but it just doesn’t seem as ugly as the old Magic mana-hose.

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