Tobold's Blog
Monday, August 06, 2007
Legends of Norrath

Ooops, I nearly missed this one: SOE announced Legends of Norrath this weekend. Didn't anyone tell Smedley that this might not be the best weekend to announce a new online game? Legends of Norrath is an online trading card game. At first I thought somebody had finally taken up my trading card MMO idea, but in fact Legends of Norrath is just an ordinary online trading card game, just like Magic the Gathering Online. What it does have is a link to EQ and EQ2, so your character in one of these games can sit down in a tavern in Azeroth Norrath and play a round of that card game, by having the card game client included in the EQ/EQ2 client. You even get a free starter.

What you don't get, as far as I read the announcement and website, is trading card games found when adventuring in EQ/EQ2. [EDIT: I read that wrong. John Smedley said there would be card packs dropping in EQ/EQ2.] It's the other way round, if you buy booters in Legends of Norrath for real money, you get some free virtual items in EQ/EQ2.

Well, I'm certainly going to have a look at this one when it is released, which will be in one month. Downloading the client and doing the tutorial is going to be free. As I said, if you already play EQ/EQ2 you'll get a free starter deck. Everybody else will have to pay $10 for a starter, and $3 for boosters. That is 20 cents per card. At 375 cards, probably a need to have cards more than once, and in all likelyhood some rarity distribution of common to rare cards, it would cost you a bundle to get a good collection going. Well, as I said, just like MtGO. Having sunk thousands of dollars into MtG and later MtGO, I don't think I'll bite. But the idea is a good one, and I'll certainly give it a chance.
Why would you need to 'get a good collection going'?

A "free to download - free to play - pay for added cards" model could be very popular, as it enables everybody to play according to his financial means.

Tell me, did you 'sink thousands of dollars' in to MtGO because you wanted to spend that much money, or because you felt you had to in order to be competitive?
You obviously never played a collectible trading card game, Elf.

*Playing* the card game is only half of the fun. The other half is building decks, and that is the more strategic part. You need a good collection to have strategical options. If you need 60 cards in a deck and you only have 60 cards, you have no option than to put all of your cards in. If you have every card 4 times (in MtG that's the maximum number of times one card can be in a deck) you have the maximum number of options.

Whether you want deckbuilding options "in order to be competitive" as you say, or just to have fun is exactly the same question of whether you raid in order to be competitive with gear, or just to have fun. The purpose is different for different players, but the way is the same.
You obviously didn't get, or didn't read, my e-mail, Tobold.

I know full well why a good collection is needed, I'm pointing out that the statement is at odds with your stated fundamental assertion that this type of game allows players to play according to their financial means.

I'll ask again: did you want to spend so much money on MtG/MtGO?

If it's anything like my experiences, the answer will be 'no, but I did it because I enjoyed the game and wanted to keep playing', much like many players don't want to dedicate so much time to raiding, but they do so because, essentially, they enjoy that part of the game and only by dedicating so much time can they participate in it. It's a necessary evil.

Basing a game on money instead of time and assuming that people will play within their financial means is as erroneous as the current situation, where people simply do not play according to how much spare time they have. There are far too many stories of people wasting their lives away by playing more than is healthy for them or the people around them. If you change the focus to money, people will be motivated to spend more than they can reasonably afford.
I didn't get any e-mail from you, Elf. I wonder if GMail in error sorted it into the spam folder, because I erase that one without checking. I *did* spend the money on MtG out of my own free will. I never played competitively, so I had no need to keep up with the others just to win. Most of my decks were good, but not tournament-good, and slightly outside of the usual archetypes. I don't really regret having spent that money, but that doesn't mean I would spend similar amounts on another TCG which isn't as good as Magic the Gathering. And it will be hard to produce a game which is as good or better than MtG.

People spending more time or money than they can afford on a game certainly happens. But why would you consider spending money to be worse than spending time? A student spending $1000 a year on a game might be bad, but not half as bad as him failing all his exams because he spent all of his time playing a game instead of studying.

Please note that in my "Shandalar" concept I foresee the option to not spend money, but only time. Just like in EQ/EQ2 you can apparently play Legends of Norrath with only mob-dropped boosters. The assumption behind that is that this method will be too slow for most people, so take a shortcut and buy boosters instead. Over time that can rip a visible hole in your wallet, but not exactly one where you'd mortgage your house for.
What is also possible - although not planned for the release - is to have cards drop that give game-time. Smed mentioned that.

All in all I like the concept and would enjoy meeting old Tobold again for a card-game ;).

Hopefully the game will be interesting an balanced well enough to make it worthwhile.

Another nice thing is that - besides giving everyone a reason to continue their subscriptions - this game integrates EQ1 and EQ2: One can challenge players from all servers and you can choose for what game the ingame-items will drop. Thats really cool, especially from a technical perspective.
Tobold, old friend... Norrath is the setting for the EverQuest games, not Azeroth! ;)
Ooops again. I fixed it, Grimwell.
Being able to choose to adventure for cards or buy them is a good start, depending on how likely or often the cards are to drop in-game. It also opens the option of buying them on the auction house, I would assume.

As for your idea, how do you forsee levelling up? Would you get cards at certain levels, similar to training in WoW, with the opportunity to buy cards in-between levels to 'twink' your character?

Having been through the whole CCG pahse, I am not in a position where I want to experience it again. Well, not the spending, I enjoyed playing the games tremendously. I actually really like the idea of having combat similar to a CCG, with a 'deck' of options available that you stack to be as favourable to you as possible within your strategy and the rules. Just don't make me pay through the nose to get the best cards, particularly when combined with the artificial scarcity of card rarities, like common, uncommon and rares.

Only one CCG I know, and my favoured CCG, coped with rarities well. The common and uncommon cards were the useful cards and needed in multiples, and the rare cards were far more specialised in nature, only useful in certain situations and decks, and not the all-powerful, must-have cards that plagued most other games. It was possible to make powerful decks without rares at all, as long as the player was skilled. That's what I want from a game ideally, a challenge where skill, and not time or money, is the deciding factor.
I would either keep leveling separate from the card system, or remove levels totally from the game. Just like you don't get free gear in WoW for leveling up, you shouldn't get free cards just for leveling up. And I think the card system would be easier to design if it wasn't level-dependant. You could have a sword card having a damage factor, which is then multiplied with a factor based on your level, if you want to keep levels. But you should be able to keep the same sword card from level 1 to 60.

Agreed on the importance of making rare cards specialized instead of more powerful. And I so wished that games like World of Warcraft would work that way too, so that epics would have fancy specialized functions without being all-out more powerful. As you said "not time or money" should decide, but skill. This isn't the case in the current crop of games, where time decides all.
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