MMORPG.com: Can you expand upon customization and why it’s important?
Sweatman: I think one of the things that the competitive environment lacks, is your presence. If I get matchmade to someone, who am I? That comes from your cards, but when you get to the top end of the competitive arena, the cards are more ‘he’s playing this deck, he’s doing this.’ What his character, who is that person? What we want to do is make sure that comes through. Like a great RPG, the way your character looks, the way your cards look, and the way you’re presenting yourself, is something we’re going to be delivering in Chronicle
The card backs themselves you’ll be able to customise. The characters – we have full 3D characters – little board game pieces – that will be customisable. Your character actually stands opposite your opponent in full 3D at full scale as an opposing figure, and you’ll be able to customise them.
Also you’ll be able to unlock prestige. We’re bringing in Skilling from Runescape, and everything you do in the game will be able to unlock XP and challenges which you can overcome, and earn yourself titles. So you’re going into a game being a Warlock, and giving yourself customizable titles, emblems, and pets which you can take in.
So when you’re playing in the competitive arena, maybe when you’re streaming on Twitch, when you’re in a tournament, all of those things are coming through as ‘I am this person. I might be running this deck or this style of play, but that doesn’t characterise me. I am characterised by the choices that I have made within the game.’ This is something that we hope Chronicle can bring, which others aren’t doing.
MMORPG.com: How do you earn Prestige points?
Sweatman: It’ll be everything you do in the game. More like an RPG, your character has stats – attack points, health points, armour. When you augment or change those stats, you’ll earn XP in those areas, just like in Runescape. The more attacks I do, I earn attack XP. The more cards I draw or spells I play, I get magic XP. You’re growing a character much like in an RPG, and unlocking prestige and things that you can show off because of those things.
It’s also interesting because it shows your style of play. So when I get matchmade against someone I can see ‘Oh, they’re a magic user, they’ve got all these magic emblems and titles on their character,’ which characterises you much better. I think that’s the RPG aspect of the game that we wanted to bring to Chronicle, which neatly weaves into the questbuilding and PvP gameplay.
MMORPG.com: Is the familiar look and feel a deliberate design choice?
Killey: There are certain tropes which exist across all card games. What we found across building prototypes was that the core mechanic was unique enough in itself to make the game stand out. If you made everything completely different, it was actually alienating to card game players, so we’re trying to find the happy medium. The game itself, the board presentation, is quite unique and unlike any other card game, and the core mechanic of the game is also quite unique.
We feel that’s enough of a differentiator, and we feel that it’s actually easier for card game players to actually try the game out if there’s certain tropes that they’re familiar with as they play it.
MMORPG.com: What led you to that particular style of play?
Killey: The way the game originated was as a physical card game, based around the idea of creating quests. We tried to find a mechanic for doing that, and cards seemed to be the most natural from the prototypes that we tried out. The reason it ended up in chapters was really just from usability. We’ve experimented with different numbers of cards on the page, different numbers of pages, and even had different versions that have gone on indefinitely until someone dies (but that was impossible to balance).
MMORPG.com: What ways has feedback from players influenced the game?
Killey: The most pronounced thing during closed beta was how we approach the crafting system. Previously, we tried to create something unique. Cards of different rarities were represented by precious stones, and you could collect stones via gameplay to craft new ones, and there were various mechanics and exchange rates between them. What we actually found out was that, rather than being unique, it was actually confusing. Players didn’t engage with it, and didn’t understand how it worked, because it deviated too far from what the expectation was. It’s fine for the core gameplay to be different, but as soon as secondary systems try to be too original, people start to get confused by them. We actually completely gutted that during closed beta and reworked it, and that was based soley on player feedback.
And also on the way we did a lot of balance changes to reflect player feedback. We’re community and data driven. We have an analyst embedded within the team, who goes through a lot of balancing data every day.
It’s a combination with card games. You have to base some of it on experience from playing the game, it might be mathematically right but feels unfair. And then you have to look at the maths, and see if cards are being used or not, or if they lead to an unsatisfying game experience. We have a weekly meeting, where we go through it with an analyst, our community manager, and some of the designers, and they have a data and subjective interpretation of what’s going on in the game. We try to reach a happy medium.