Something New From SOE
At Comic Con, Garrett Fuller had the chance to take a look at what Sony Online Entertainment is doing outside of the MMORPG market. What he found, were some new online card games featuring Sci-Fi, Pirates and Stargate.
As in anything, the progression of game play continues throughout all forms of both computer and regular styles. RPGs were really introduced in the 1970s and became hugely popular in the 1980s. The Card Game itself has been with us for a very long time. The classic deck of cards dates back hundreds of years. However, in the 1990s, Magic: The Gathering was launched and the phenomenon for a new type of card game grew out of control. Other companies were rushing to capture the popularity of Magic. The game itself was quite simple and actually a lot of fun. Players could sit down and compete with their decks of magic spells and monsters in a twenty minute game that was the one thing we all want, fun. Wizards of the Coast became a huge company and actually can be credited with the resurgence of Dungeons & Dragons as a role playing game again. The card game format for gamers was here to stay and 15 years later it shows no signs of slowing down.
Today in 2007, video games really do dominate the gamer market. Whether you play console games or MMOs, if you are called a gamer, it is usually in reference to video games. RPGs have moved over very well into the video game market, whether they are single player or MMO style, people love to quest through games that follow a storyline and allow for role playing. With the success of all these styles of game play in video games, it was only a matter of time before the new age of card games made the leap into the video game market.
Sony Online Entertainment Denver is a company that specializes in bringing those online card games to life. The company was once known as Worlds Apart and they have been working on several online card game titles. While this may not fit under the RPG genre; it does fall under gaming, plain and simple. It may not be as immersive as some games, but this is an option for players to get online and challenge opponents to a quick game or take part in a long tournament. With loads of players out there looking for games, it certainly falls under the multi-player category. This genre of games certainly touches on the sci-fi and fantasy elements, it just presents them in a different way.
We had a chance to see the games Star Chamber and Pirates Constructible Strategy Game. Both games had some very cool features. Star Chamber had different maps and planets to play through, which added additional features to the regular card style game play. The look and feel of the game still resembles a table top trading card game just with the additional fun. Plus, you don't have to play the same people over and over at your local comic book shop. The fact that you can challenge players all over the world really creates an open playing field. The game that SOE was most excited about was the upcoming Stargate Online Trading Card Game. Bringing in all the key elements from the hit television show, Stargate is a very popular IP right now.
The system carries an online lobby where players can meet and discuss setting up games. There is also a tourney room for players to check out events they may want to enter. There is a small entry fee for each sanctioned tournament but players can win up to six booster packs if they do well. We were able to watch a game of Star Chamber being played; it seems these tournaments get very competitive.
So how does this online card game system work? Well, it is pretty simple. SOE will allow you to purchase packs from the Station and begin playing with your own deck. The prices are very fair, about $3.99 for a booster pack. Once you have your cards you can download the game and begin playing. You can challenge players to individual,l games or jump into some of the tournaments that are going on. Usually there are lots of different games going on all the time. One of the great features is the online ranking system for players. Everyone wants to be top dog and SOE provides ranks for players to measure themselves by. Not only can you climb the ladder of ranking players, but if two top players are in a game, you can log in and watch. SOE added this in as a learning tool for players as well as a chance for spectators to watch the top games. The other great thing about tournaments is players can win booster packs as they go. Everyone except last place gets a prize in a tournament. So there is time to study the learning curve.
In regards to the Stargate Online Trading Card game (as well as several others), players can trade their digital deck for a real deck, which brings up the question of the secondary market. SOE said that it encourages players to take part in trading digital decks or specific cards. There is also a Trading Session where you can take part in looking for the cards you need to complete your deck. With the price point rather low for buying cards, it helps nurture the secondary market for players to look for the cards they need. Plus if you do well in some tournaments you can get even more cards to trade.
For fans of this type of game, SOE is certainly doing things right. There are a lot of options for players, and you can jump in and start without spending a lot of money. For people who also don't have a lot of time on their hands to run a through a large scale MMO, the online trading card game may be perfect for you. SOE Denver is also planning to release games under other popular SOE titles, although they would not give us any specifics yet. For now, check out Star Chamber and Pirates. Also if you are a Stargate fan with only a small amount of game time on your hands, the trading card battles may be the way for you to go.