Editorial: Rise of the Digital CCG

Feed Blizzard more money!

Hearthstone looks likely to capture Warcraft subscribers.

Over the next year collectable card games will be invading the MMO space. One could be forgiven for thinking this had taken place years ago, what with Magic: The Gathering already having an online presence. Many other third party clients also exist to play other physical card games over the internet, but today we will be looking at a new breed of games that only exist in the digital environment. These games take advantage of their game clients to bring something new to the genre, so lets look at the three that could potentially be released this year.

Hearthstone

I have previously written about Hearthstone in a post a few of months ago, but here is a quick recap. Hearthstone is basically a simplified version of the existing paper World of Warcraft card game. Gameplay will be familiar to veterans of many of other games also, but the uniqueness of this title lies in ties to a players battle.net account.

Players of Blizzard’s other games that use the same service will be able to see which of their friends are online and playing the game, and as it is free to play, millions of people will likely drop in a try a game or two in the first couple of days. While the game will initially stand by itself, possible ties in with Warcraft and other franchises could be possible down the road. Imagine killing the final boss of a raid tier and unlocking an achievement that would allow the same boss used as the players character in a Hearthstone duel. Clearing PvE content in Hearthstone to unlock avatars in Starcraft. As blizzard further integrates their games into the .net account, greater possibilities for interaction occur. Expect a beta to arrive shortly.

Open lanes! Attack, attack!

SolForge is just as likely to grab the Yu-Gi-Oh crowd.

SolForge

SolForge plays more like Yu-Gi-Oh than Magic. The game field is divided into five lanes, each able to hold a single creature. There are no resources used to play cards, instead up to two cards can be played as long as the timing is appropriate. Each turn a new hand of five is drawn and any left over cards are discarded. The twist with SolForge come from the leveling up mechanic of creatures. Each creature in a deck starts at level one. Playing a creature increases its level. Every four turns, a players avatar levels up and his or her discrad pile is shuffled back into their deck.

It is from repeatedly playing creatures that their power increases. Strategy come from positioning creatures into the lanes. During a players turn, they may push a shiny red button labeled ‘battle’. During battle, creatures of both players will attack. Those with opposition monsters in the same lane will attack each other, those without will deal damage directly to an opponent. Each player starts with one hundred life, but that is really not as much as it sounds.

SolForge creators StoneBlade Entertainment have partnered with industry veteran Richard Garfield (originator of Magic: The Gathering) to ensure the final product is top-notch. The kickstarter for the game ended late last year, and a beta is currently available for iPad only, though PC support will be added in later.

I'd still pay to play it.

Hex is just happy to copy Magic: The Gathering.

Hex: Shards of Fate

Hex is currently shaping up to be the most exciting of the game, offering an MMORPG experience mixed in with Magic style battles. In fact, the play could not get any more similar to magic without using copyrighted terms. Cards are divided up into one of five ‘shards’ (colours) with artifacts and resources being neutral. Players start at twenty life each and take turns to summon creature, play spells, and battle each other in an attempt to reduce their opponents life to zero.

So, what separates this from Magic? Persistent effects. In M:TG all effects wear off at the end of the turn, or when a card dies. In Hex, an effect can persist through death. Even cards in the deck that are yet to be played could be made more powerful if a given spell affects cards in all zones. This does make seemingly innocent cards somewhat powerful if played correctly. Add to this cards that contain gem sockets allowing the player to tailor them to their own deck, and avatar equipment that could make cards in the deck more powerful and suddenly a range of new ways to play unfold. And this is all from an initial set of 300 or so cards.

The MMORPG aspect of the game comes from a dungeon crawling PvE experience in which player take on the A.I. in order to try and win loot – equipment for the players avatar. A talent and levelling system will also be included, as well as raids and PvP content other than straight card battles, though details on these are scarce right now. The creative team behind the game are Cryptozoic Entertainment, the same as those who currently run the Warcraft card game. Early alpha videos show the team has taken all their experience and created something that already looks amazing. As of writing, the kickstarter has two days left to run, but is already almost 700% funded. Backers can expect a Beta by the end of the year.

15 comments on “Editorial: Rise of the Digital CCG”

  1. Yes. I have played some extremely fun card games. Magic is one. Baten Kaitos is another. Xenocard is also great. I really want to play Hex. It sounds like tons of fun.

  2. Woah zoltan, baten kaitos and xenocard?! I didn’t expect anyone else to mention those. I once rented xenosaga just to play that minigame. Fun times.

  3. That reminds me about that one time when I collected this card for a game. Ah, what fun I had.

  4. Hex is the game I plan to spend time with, though Hearthstone is sure to get some play as well. Might even drop some cash on one of them.

  5. They better test the hell out of it. Balancing is even more important in card games than it is in RPGs.

  6. Haha, this is the closest to a podcast that a comments thread has come.

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