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Top 5 Mistakes Designing Your Card Collection

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This talk collects practical lessons on designing cards, heroes and other collectibles from my past 2 years working on F2P midcore games at Rovio.

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Top 5 Mistakes Designing Your Card Collection

  1. 1. Rovio © 2018 . All rights reserved Show me the Loot! Top 5 mistakes designing F2P collectibles Elad Drory, 2018
  2. 2. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ I’m Elad Drory ❖ Senior game designer at Rovio 🎲 ❖ Focused on F2P RPGs ❖ Previously at TabTale and SideKick ✡ ❖ Just had a baby 👶 About me
  3. 3. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ What we mean by “Collectibles” ❖ Our top 5 mistakes ➢ Cards that are too useful ➢ No use for duplicate cards ➢ Drops that are too random ➢ Emphasizing drops instead of upgrades ➢ Reducing complexity and limiting yourself ❖ Q&A What are we talking about?
  4. 4. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ Items the player can use in the core game ❖ I’m going to call these Cards, but in some games they can be Heroes, Gear pieces, Runes, etc! ❖ Not resources like currencies or craft materials! What are “Collectibles”?
  5. 5. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ We’re going to talk about the elements that feed into the “collection” part of this loop ❖ What makes players want to continue collecting and enjoying for years? Collect The Collection Loop PlayUpgrade Collect GachaExchangeEvents
  6. 6. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ We will focus on mid-core F2P games, such as: ➢ Angry Birds Evolution ➢ Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes ➢ Clash Royale ❖ Many lessons are relevant for any game with collection loops, including more casual fare: ➢ Idle Miner Tycoon ➢ Pokemon Go What do I mean by “RPG”?
  7. 7. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed Let’s get going :)
  8. 8. Rovio © 2018 . All rights reserved Mistake #1 Making some cards TOO useful
  9. 9. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ A classic mistake is allowing players to get through the game with only a few strong cards ❖ If you make cards that are UNIVERSALLY USEFUL, or overpowered, all other items will be less desirable #1 - Making some cards TOO useful Overpowered Cards
  10. 10. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ You should also make items DISTINCTLY USEFUL ❖ Even if your cards are balanced, you don’t want any good card to fit any challenge ❖ The fun in an RPG is collecting, upgrading, and strategizing about best teams - if that stops after one good team, players become bored ❖ We made this mistake at the launch of AB Evolution - players only needed one team of 5 birds #1 - Making some cards TOO useful Non-Distinct Cards
  11. 11. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ Give players the incentive to keep enjoying collection and progression ❖ We do this via game rules: ➢ Gates ➢ Boosts ➢ Meta Balance #1 - Making some cards TOO useful Encourage collection diversity
  12. 12. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ A “gate” is a hard requirement, for example “Only red birds can enter this dungeon” ❖ Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes uses this extensively ❖ It’s also how the AB Evolution team solved the initial diversity problem! Suddenly players needed 5 teams (1 for each color) #1 - Making some cards TOO useful Diversity via GATES
  13. 13. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ A boost is a gameplay bonus for a specific card ❖ For example, “Red birds get double damage in this dungeon!” #1 - Making some cards TOO useful Diversity via BOOSTS
  14. 14. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ Gates are easier to understand for players, “You need this to play” ❖ I recommend using gates most times ❖ However, boosts are better for multiplayer or leaderboard based competition ❖ When you want as much participation as possible, it’s best not to gate players ❖ Legendary Game of Heroes uses boosts really well in their Raid Boss events #1 - Making some cards TOO useful What to use - Gates or Boosts?
  15. 15. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ “The metagame” is the strategies players create around the game - what are the best cards for what situation? ❖ Creating a diverse metagame is the toughest, but most rewarding way of encouraging collection diversity ❖ Special abilities, counter-attacks, and synergy all create need for diverse cards ❖ Every new card increases the matrix of possible teams, and breathes life into your old cards #1 - Making some cards TOO useful Diversity via metagame balance
  16. 16. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ It’s easy to introduce new cards that are better than the previous ones, creating power creep ❖ Power creep is inevitable over time, especially in more PvE based games, but keep it contained ❖ Players won’t want to keep collecting if you keep making their hard-earned cards obsolete ❖ Make sure to re-use older cards in your event schedule #1 - Making some cards TOO useful Try not to de-value past cards
  17. 17. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed Summary: Don’t make cards broadly useful, encourage a diverse collection through new rules
  18. 18. Rovio © 2018 . All rights reserved Mistake #2 No use for duplicates
  19. 19. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ If your game has no use for duplicate items, getting them again will just be frustrating ❖ If you remove duplicates from the drop tables entirely, you’ll mess up your economy ❖ So we need duplicates, but what do they do? #2 - No use for duplicates Your Economy Needs Duplicates
  20. 20. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ Each time a player gets a collectible, it has value, even if it’s a LOWER EXCHANGE VALUE ❖ There are 2 basic models of doing this: ➢ Fusion Model ➢ Token Model ❖ Each of these models requires additional layers in the end-game, which I’ll discuss #2 - No use for duplicates Exchanging Cards
  21. 21. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ In a fusion game you can get multiple copies of the same card ❖ Cards can be sacrificed to power up others ❖ In theory, any card you acquire but don’t use, is still useful as fusion material #2 - No use for duplicates Fusion model
  22. 22. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ The token model only allows owning one copy of each card ❖ Cards are unlocked, then upgraded when duplicates are collected ❖ Heroes aren’t transferable and don’t tie into each other’s progression, so there is more risk of getting a “useless” drop ❖ Token games use more collection diversity features for this reason #2 - No use for duplicates Token model
  23. 23. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ No one actually uses high end gacha monsters as feed ❖ In Puzzle and Dragons - rare monsters can be sold for Monster Points, which can be used to purchase valuable items ❖ In Summoners War you can “Craft” awesome monsters out of other monsters #2 - No use for duplicates Fusion model - endgame
  24. 24. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ What happens when you go past the max tokens on a card? ❖ Need an overflow currency ❖ For example - “Shard fragments” that you get for every token above max ❖ Not having this in the early days of your game can be a disaster to fix in Live ❖ You can also add exchanging of cards as in Clash Royale #2 - No use for duplicates Token model - endgame
  25. 25. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed Summary: Don’t forget to make duplicate cards useful, and make sure you plan for end-game
  26. 26. Rovio © 2018 . All rights reserved Mistake #3 Drops that are too random
  27. 27. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ Your players aren’t stupid - and they don’t like throwing money away ❖ If the gacha is too random and frustrating, you’re going to see very low engagement with it ❖ This relates to the above mistakes! Less need to roll if drops are “worthless” or I don’t need new cards #3 - Drops that are too random Players understand value
  28. 28. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed #3 - Drops that are too random Safety Nets ❖ A safety net is any system that mitigates risk. In this case the risk of random spin, ❖ We want to help players progress towards the collectibles they’re chasing
  29. 29. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ Hidden pity counter - behind-the-scenes, ensures you will get something valuable after X spins #3 - Drops that are too random Example safety nets
  30. 30. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ Hidden pity counter - behind-the-scenes, ensures you will get something valuable after X spins ❖ Visible pity counter - same, but players can see it counting #3 - Drops that are too random Example safety nets
  31. 31. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ Hidden pity counter - behind-the-scenes, ensures you will get something valuable after X spins ❖ Visible pity counter - same, but players can see it counting ❖ Guarantees on 10-spin - encourages buying higher amounts, and guarantees certain item like 4-star+ hero, or featured/event hero #3 - Drops that are too random Example safety nets
  32. 32. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ Hidden pity counter - behind-the-scenes, ensures you will get something valuable after X spins ❖ Visible pity counter - same, but players can see it counting ❖ Guarantees on 10-spin - encourages buying higher amounts, and guarantees certain item like 4-star+ hero, or featured/event hero ❖ Currency drops - dust, ether, credits, etc. This currency will allow you to buy specific items directly #3 - Drops that are too random Example safety nets
  33. 33. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ Gacha is never truly safe, and everyone prefers a guaranteed item ❖ This is where the fear and random nature of gacha acts as a value anchor for real money offers ❖ If I know I could spend real money to buy a collectible that takes forever to drop randomly, I’m more likely to find the value #3 - Drops that are too random Gacha as a value anchor
  34. 34. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed Summary: Don’t make your gacha so scary, help players chase cards with safety nets!
  35. 35. Rovio © 2018 . All rights reserved Mistake #4 Focusing on drops instead of upgrades
  36. 36. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ Chasing something for a long time, then not being able to do much with it, leads to a disappointed feeling ❖ This feeling gets worse the longer you chase the item ❖ It’s better to be generous with your drops - But how do we do that without damaging monetization? #4 - Focusing on drops instead of upgrades The drop is not the goal
  37. 37. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ If you design your systems right, you can afford to be more generous ❖ Upgrading the card to useful state requires more time and money than unlocking ❖ Getting the drop is a hook - now you have a shiny new toy to play with and upgrade ❖ Hook for new synergy opportunities, so you want to unlock more cards to match #4 - Focusing on drops instead of upgrades Make it about the UPGRADE
  38. 38. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed #4 - Focusing on drops instead of upgrades Example Unlock vs Upgrade costs Tokens Level Gear Skills Low Unlock 3 days Level 45 250k gold Tier 5 4 days Beta 2 days Mid 5 star 19 days Level 60 1.1mil Tier 9 14 days Gamma 15 days Max 7 star 42 days Level 85 6.5mil Tier 12 89 days + Raids Omega and Zeta Raids + Events ❖ Total: 131 days worth of stamina, 6.5 million gold, months of raids+events ❖ For a simple farmable character - rare characters cost much more time!
  39. 39. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed Summary: Don’t make getting the card the goal, let players enjoy it, and invest in the journey to upgrade!
  40. 40. Rovio © 2018 . All rights reserved Mistake #5 Limiting yourself for simplicity
  41. 41. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ The reason players want to spend in the first place, is that the cards are powerful and desirable ❖ You want to see your players theory-crafting around the best teams and combos! #5 - Limiting yourself for simplicity A Deep Metagame is Key
  42. 42. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ At Rovio, we think a lot about how to make approachable games for the whole world ❖ With our mid-core games, we have to find a balance between approachable and deep ❖ It’s easy to mistake “dumbed down” for approachable, but you should never sacrifice depth #5 - Limiting yourself for simplicity Don’t confuse simple with approachable
  43. 43. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed #5 - Limiting yourself for simplicity Example of deep but approachable A wealth of parameters lets Clash Royale introduce fresh, interesting cards
  44. 44. Rovio © 2018. All wrongs reversed ❖ There’s really no easy fix to making your own game great ❖ Make sure you create enough depth of parameters to play with, upgrade, and make choices around ❖ If you’re having fun with your design, your players will too! #5 - Limiting yourself for simplicity Give yourself a big enough toolbox!
  45. 45. Rovio © 2018 . All rights reserved Good luck & Thank you!

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