A few weeks ago, I spoke about the origin of Sigils of Kairos. I knew that I was onto something unique with the game from the beginning, but the following days were filled with thinking through how the game would feel. Originally, I had seen Sigils as a mix of a Fighter game and a Collectible Card Game (CCG) and this is how I framed my ideas for development. When I put some thought into the actual game loop, however, I realized there were going to be some glaring design challenges not native to either of those genres. By adding a real-time element to cards, Sigils had to introduce a new way of pacing that was foreign to the turn-based CCG landscape. Also, by limiting actions to randomized card draws, Sigils removed a great deal of the freedom that makes fighting games so intense. Below I'll discuss these design problems that I saw going into the game development process.
This is the first and most obvious issue that a real-time card game like ours would have. In a standard CCG like Magic: The Gathering, the player has a resource pool (mana) that builds gradually turn by turn. These resources are limited, so players have to choose what to play carefully. Every turn gives access to more mana, allowing the player to use more expensive and powerful cards later in the game. This keeps the game in check by limiting the amount and type of cards a player can use early on, while slowly ramping up the power.
With our game, there are no turns and so I didn’t feel a resource system would work. If resources entered into a real-time game, both players would be sitting around waiting for resources before they could play a card. I felt like this would break the flow of a game as players would end up waiting around for resources for most of a match. This style of real-time card game did end up being made years after Sigils of Kairos was conceived, and can be found in games like ‘South Park Phone Destroyer’. Though these games are fun in their own right, they still don’t have the same action-pacing that I wanted for ‘Sigils of Kairos’ due to the mana system they use.
By turning away from the mana-system, the issue of hand dumping became a worry. With no turns or resources to wait for, there is nothing stopping a player from just unloading all cards in hand from the beginning of the match to the end. This would make for horrible matches as it would remove all strategy and the game would be a glorified dice roll.
Hand Size Limits
This is a design challenge that I was really worried about, that seemed like less of a problem as the game evolved. Using a sheet of paper as a rough for dimensions of the screen, I wanted to give enough space for readable card descriptions without eating up a lot of the room. This gave about 6 or 7 cards maximum, which would normally be a decent sized hand for most CCG's. Unfortunately with our game, a team would be comprised of three characters with their own distinct cards. Instead of having all of the cards available for use at all times, a players hand would get clogged up with all the different character cards. This was on purpose, as it encouraged players to switch up their characters, but with no actual demo to play, I wasn’t sure if the 7 cards would be enough buffer for players to build a strategic hand.
And that’s where I think I’ll leave it for today. Next week will be the second part of this post where I’ll chat about more of the initial design problems that I was anticipating with the game.