Time and time again, this was the feedback I received on my collectible card game. Friends and family enjoyed it, but they couldn’t see a future in just a regular old plugin. How was I supposed to let the world know of my awesome creation if nobody else was willing to play it? The simple answer is to just make it a standalone computer game. The harder answer, which I will assume you lovely readers are actually here for, will require us to jump back in time three years.
I had started to work on a fan made project that would take the lore and units from Starcraft 2, and bring it into a card game format similar to Magic the Gathering. I wrote rules, I created card templates, and I stole a lot of art. It was ugly, it was unbalanced, but most importantly, it was REALLY FUN. My friends and I would spend hours online, using a program called LackeyCCG, playing this. It was the gameplay that hooked them, and the ugly and unbalanced part were just things that would get fixed a long the way, or so we thought.
were two very different things. In the three years since I began work on the original plugin, to this very date, where it is it’s own standalone game, Captivus has morphed into an extremely unique, complex, and fun card game. It’s combat is completely different from what was originally in the rule book. In fact, the entire set up of the board is so different, if you were to go back and play the plugin, and come back to play Captivus, you’d have no clue how on earth the two were even related. So how did we get here?
This is what I told Jake, a faithful playtester since day one of the project. It was the only way to really go about turning this into the game I wanted. I had to scrap everything, and slowly program in the essentials, and add in elements that made Starcraft CCG fun. I had come to the realization that if I took the same mechanics from SCCCG and applied them to Captivus, it would just be another Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone clone, and the market was already saturated with those. In my mind, Captivus would only appeal to the consumer if it was unique, had enough depth to be competitive without burnout, and was fun for the casual player as well. So I sat down at work, and talked it over with my co-worker Zach. We brainstormed and came up with a Ship Combat game, where you build a deck out of ship parts and units, and fight another ship. We came up with a unique board idea, and that was having certain parts of the board only field certain cards. This meant we had to come up with a lot of different card types so that players could field a unique ship each game. We started off with the attacking slots, and while most games would use creatures to attack the players health, we decided to use a different approach. Instead of our creatures being the sole workhorse for victory, we would require our players to field both units, and turrets. The units would be there to help destroy enemy components and other units that may kill your turrets. The turrets would be there to attack the players health directly. It would be impossible to come up with a victory unless you had both of these card types on the field. After that, it was time to add in Defenders, Tech cards, Shield Rooms, Hulls, Engine Bays, and Commanders. Each of these card types played a unique role, and while in theory, you could win with just a handful of Units, and turrets in your deck, these other card Types greatly improve your success when you chain them together properly. The layout for the board would be similar to an actual ship, with your boarding party facing the enemy ship, as well as your turrets, and your Defenders, and the rest of the cards, being towards the rear, where they can be defended by the Defenders(whatever.) With these core mechanics in place, I set a goal: Do not add features that will make your game more complex then it already is. The game is fun, it’s got depth, and any new gameplay mechanics will just bog it down and discourage players from learning the intricacies of the game, however cool they may seem.
We needed cards to test these mechanics. It’s hard to test game mechanics without anything to execute them with. With this in mind, I got to work. I mean I really got to work! Within a few weeks I had generated 50 cards, and we currently are aiming for an Early Access release of 100 cards to unlock. Each card of the 50 is pretty unique, with their own special abilities, while only a few are filler cards, meant to help you along in the early game without being too unique that they make no sense to put in a deck with other cards. This is where we currently are in the game’s development phase, 50 Cards, and 50 more to go. In my next blog, I’ll be discussing how I approach designing a card, and how many revisions it takes til a card is roughly balanced.