The Collectible Card Game Thread – Playing Online

Welcome to the *CG thread, where we talk all manner of Card Games – Collectible, Trading, Living, and otherwise! Feel free to chat amongst yourselves about the card games you’re playing or anything card game-related that strikes your fancy.

I’ve talked before about digital CCGs and how they’re capable of doing things that paper games cannot. This week I want to talk a little about how the digital landscape shapes digital CCGs in a way that paper games are not – how digital games are pushed in certain directions by certain pressures that paper games do not have.

Interface concerns – Even if a game isn’t designed to be played on mobile, it can be tricky to translate the physical experience of playing cards to a digital, mouse-based interface. Things that can be particularly difficult include spending resources, specifying targets, and anything else that might involve abstract groups that might be simpler to describe with language than by selection. Another interface issue is reactive interaction such as counterspells – it’s hard to make an interaction system that both flows smoothly, doesn’t leak hidden information to your opponent, and provides a fair window to react, even considering online lag. Where a paper game can use numerous verbal and nonverbal communication cues (relatively) smoothly and can (somewhat) recover in the case of miscommunication, digital games require much more stringent interactions.

Time concerns – A great benefit of digital games is that you can play them at basically any time without much overhead. You just go on the thing, hit a button and suddenly you’re in a queue to play a game. This means that it’s easy to just jump in or jump out of a game when you have free time, but it also means that there is a desire for shorter, less drawn-out games. As opposed to casual paper games, which tend to occupy a more organized, planned-out time window, or tournaments which are even more organized and tend to have strictly defined time limits for each match, digital games tend to want games to be a predictable, shorter length, and game and card design needs to match this.

Structure concerns – matchmaking, BO1 vs BO3 – Related to the jump-in nature of anytime queues you also have to consider the wider structure of how games are played. A balance needs to be struck between ensuring that players are matched up fairly against similarly skilled opponents and minimizing the amount of time that players need to wait before an opponent is found. Many digital games use public rankings to some extent, but often there are also hidden “matchmaking rankings.” There’s also the decision to be made for how matches (as opposed to individual games) should play out – in games where there is a distinct first-player advantage, playing “Best-of-One” may become frustrating, but “Best-of-Three” can also be a problem if the aforementioned time concerns are an issue.

This is only a basic overview – there are other concerns too, such as the technical rules engine, and the economic engine of the game, but those are probably each worth their own whole articles.

This week’s discussion prompt: What do you like about digital CCGs over their tabletop counterparts?

Or, as always, feel free to talk about anything going on with you in the world of *CGs.