Forums News and Information Industry News The Story of Epic PVP Part II


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    RPGMP3 Newsbot
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    • Owlbear

    Read Part I of this series here! Read more about Epic PVP here!

    Epic PvP: Critical Design Decisions

    When developing Epic PvP, there were decisions to make at various points, but the most important ones were done early. For us, that was our design goal and a set of 3 lists.

    • Goal: What will this game deliver
    • Things to Focus on from the Core Design? – Elements to put front and center. (remember: the core design was just numbers on cards.)
    • Things we Don’t Want to see in the Game? – Mistakes to avoid
    • What do we Want to Add? – List of features to put in

    The Goal: Deliver the fun play experience of a light CCG while being fast to learn, fast to play, and allow for lots of variety. This is a tricky goal. We wanted PvP to play more like a trading card game than other types of head-to-head fighting games. We specifically wanted there to be card-to-card combos across the ½ decks as opposed to just having two ½ decks smashed together. This game would have been SOOOO much easier to develop if we just made single decks with no mixing. We could have made crazy abilities and zany attacks forever because we would only have to balance each deck vs. each other deck. But we had to make sure all the ½ + ½ decks played well – that’s a lot of combos! It was a much harder path to take, but one that gives more player choice, variety, and much higher value to each new ½ deck we make.


    Things to Focus on from the Core Design: This is probably the most important of these lists. It is easy to develop a game away from the core new fun features in the design. How many times have you played a game and thought “this part was cool, I wish the game was more about that.” That is what we wanted to avoid. For us, we had three things we wanted to keep. First off, we wanted to keep was the drama around how many cards to draw each turn. The unique “mana” system of the game needed to come through and be a major focus of drama. That means we couldn’t create too many cards that didn’t land somewhere on the power curve when it comes to being blocked (special effects were a different thing). Next, we wanted to keep the focus on the Moves, and not the non-move special effects – so we limited the number of those in each ½ deck to 2 (while keeping up the ability for moves to become permanents). Lastly, we wanted to keep the very punch/counterpunch feel as that felt very immersive and like a real fight!

    Things we Don’t Want to See in the Game: Game designers like to add rules and features – the “curse of … and …”. We feel it’s important for a game to have a feel, which can be ruined by rules that allow players to ignore the normal conflicts to win. We didn’t want to see a non-Move strategy. We didn’t want to see a strategy of dealing damage outside of moves. We didn’t want to see a strategy that locks your opponent out from participating in the back and forth. On a smaller level, we didn’t want a player to have any knowledge about what’s in their Aggression pile to the point where it affects their draw strategy.

    Things we Want to Add: This was a pretty big list. One big goal was to ensure that all the ½ decks all had potential to combo with the other ½ decks. This is why about 1/3rd of each of the Class and Race decks were Basic Strikes. It makes it possible for ½ deck abilities like “all your Basic Strikes are +1 Block” – which will have an effect on a big chunk of cards from the other ½ deck. It also means if we make a deck that has 60% Basic Strikes, it won’t be “boring” – it’ll be combo bait! We also wanted to add a small number of tokens with unique powers as well as a method for random pairings.


    Probably the most important things on this list was that we wanted to ensure a game with a lot of discovery, without having terrible first play experiences. A lot of games have this bug/feature where the first time you play, you get stomped badly because the path to victory is so “cloudy.” This gets so extreme sometimes that you don’t even know all the ways to score VPs until the game is over – making it impossible for a first time player to change up their strategy or make intelligent decisions. Some people really like these games as there is a desire to play again now that the player “knows what the game is all about.” Personally, I’m not a huge fan of those games. When I play a game, I want to be playing, trying to figure out what to do, not just taking actions and moving pieces around only to find out in the end how I did when VPs are totaled up. I know lots of folks do like these games, and that’s great, but as a faster lighter game, Epic PvP needed to be something else. I wanted people playing the game right away – making decisions and taking actions that matter.

    To that end, the first 1-2 turns of the game are almost a tutorial if you haven’t played before (and super fast if you and your opponent have experience). There are only a few decisions you can make in the first few turns and they are fairly obvious (but still meaningful). When the game gets going by turn 3-4, even the first time player is right there playing – fully understanding if they are winning or losing. At this point, the first time player won’t know what each card does, but when they read them, they will understand how that card gets them closer to winning. Beginning players probably won’t be making the best decisions when they play, but at least they are thinking and analyzing with a clear goal towards winning. And with the game being fast, the desire to play again doesn’t mean “next game night” it means “right now.”

    This goal was not only a very fast learning curve, but also to make sure than a player can get better over time, and discover lots of new things. It’s clear from our playtesting that a better player will win much more often than a weaker player. Not only do experienced players make better situational decisions, but they also know the cards they are likely to see in both their own and their opponent’s deck. Knowing that the Dark Elf has a couple of Steel Dervishes (a Move that blocks three 4 or less strength attacks) really effects how you play the Dark Elf (or against one).  And with all the ½ decks, there is just tons to discover – and each additional ½ deck we make creates exponentially more discovery for players.

    Looking back over our development goals, I’m really proud of the job we did. We also left a lot of space for future development, some of which we are utilizing with the upcoming Epic PvP: Magic set. But for now, we hope you all enjoy the work we put in on Epic PvP: Fantasy, it was super fun to work on and watching it come together was a real highlight of my 20+ year career making games.


    Luke Peterschmidt

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