Have you ever played a collectible card game? The internet is full of them right now. There are some pretty amazing options available to you right now, games like Hearthstone, Duelyst, Gwent, Elder Scrolls: Legends, Faeria and Chronicle: Runescape Legends all have solid player bases and can offer you a lot of fun, even without dropping money on them. But they all seem to suffer from the same issues, especially for players who are only now getting into the game. Here are a few things that these CCG makers need to address, or at least be aware of.
So I did the tutorial, now what?
So you took your deck into a ranked match. According to the matchup, you are the same rank. But your deck has two rares in it and something that resembles a strategy. It worked against the AI well enough, okay? Then Johnny69xxx proceeds to mop the floor with you, dropping power card after power card, stripping you down of every good card you have in your deck. You sit one attack away from defeat, you know this turn he will hit you with that big creature and end the game. But first he has to emote several times, destroy every card you have on the board, play his whole hand of creatures then, as the timer for the end of the round starts to tick down, he kills you. The next match follows a similar procedure, with you dying on turn 6, not really sure how or why you died. You did see a lot of legendary and epic rarity cards though, imagine getting some of those?
So you play a few games. You play a lot of games, find someone who goes AFK or DCs in the match and you make some gold by finishing quests to win games. (By the way, Duelyst offers quests to just play games with a certain deck type, rather than forcing wins, which works out a lot better really. The game also gives you a free common card every day, which helps when you have nothing.) You start to get a few rares and wow, that epic!
While most game companies will tell you that the system for matchmaking works well, pitting someone fresh out of playing against basic AI against someone who is just seeing if his deck of pain can still stomp noobs as hard as it should just doesn’t seem like the system is working too well.
The cost to get into ladder (and how)
At this point, most people will tell you to pick a class / attribute / race you hate, and disenchant / spirit shard / soul trap all the cards from that class. But how do you know really. Everyone keeps throwing around words like aggro, tempo, combo, control, but you don’t even know what these words mean, let alone if you would like playing that type of deck. If you are playing Hearthstone and making a deck if can suggest a few decks to try build, starting points on your long road to learning how this all works. Other games are not always that helpful, so you go to your favourite search engine and type in “(CCG name here) best cheap deck” or something like that.
Then you realise that the “cheap” decks for climbing the ladder cost 8,000 dust / souls / spirit and oh wow, really. That is cheap? Even if you tell someone to turn a class or attribute they don’t like to dust, a deck that costs even 6,500 soul gems in Elder Scrolls Legends would take 325 rares being turned into soul gems (you net 20 soul gems each). At at least one rare per card pack, unless you get higher rarity cards, which you probably want to hang onto in case they are good, this is going to take a long, long time.
While some players can work out which cards are solid choices and which are just complete rubbish, not all players can and CCGs need some sort of system that helps players know when one card would just be much better for their decks.
While this one isn’t something that a game developer can really combat, it definitely is something that can put off new players. Besides the grandstanding player from earlier that wrecked everything on the board, healed himself and played every card in hand before killing you off, a few pro CCG players and streamers have tried to showcase the “psychological edge” you can get over your opponent by being a dick. Spamming emotes, waiting until the timer is about to expire before passing the turn, these tactics get used by so many players that I have a friend who does them without even thinking about it. Play a card, say “That’s amazing!” or in scrolls, implore that the gods favour you. Yes you can squelch the noisy player, but they are still wasting time by taking every turn to time. As soon as a game starts wasting my time, I tend to go looking for something else to do. Of course a system for limited communication between players to greet and congratulate one another got turned into an irritation and showcase that you are actually a jerk. Amazing right?
There are many other issues that veterans face, like stagnating meta, lack of card design space, forced card picks to counter certain prevalent cards, but this is for the new people learning how to play.