CCGs Retention Model

Introduction

I play a lot of digital card games. When I was working on Runescape Chronicle, I played that, as well as Hearthstone, Duelyst, Faeria, Magic Duels, Elder Scrolls Legends, Infinity Wars, Gwent, Solforge and, most recently, Eternal. Recently, from a professional point of view, I’ve been fascinated with the different ways that these games run their free to play economies.

Hearthstone, of course, set the benchmark for generosity and card acquisition rate. It’s interesting to see the different ways that these games approach the problem of getting cards and currency to the player. Some run a similar setup to Hearthstone (Elder Scrolls), whereas games like Eternal are trying to innovate (offering players a mode where they draft cards, then keep all cards they draft).

One thing that strikes me is that, in general, these delivery mechanics seem focussed on the velocity with which players earn cards, rather than creating the core retention loops seen in games such as Clash Royale. I know that this was something we came up against when working on Runescape Chronicle. We had a very clear picture of card acquisition rates, but ended up leaning on Daily Login bonuses as a means of encouraging players back.

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Returning Inside (to the Zombies)

This is going to be a short post that relates to some of the experiments I have been doing recently with an indoor zombie level and an outdoor zombie level.

Long story short, the first experiment was the indoor level, where the zombies were massively powerful, both because their inherent stats (health, damage, etc) and because the nature of the level (tight corridors and short sight lines) gave the melee heavy hitters a huge advantage.

To compensate for that, I made an outdoors level with enemies spread further apart, with longer sight lines and a variety of low walls for the player to use as cover. The thing is, that didn’t help very much.

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Interlude: The Upside and Downside of UE4

This isn’t the blog post I promised but, whilst starting to put together my turn-based idea, I stumbled onto something that made me think about one of the big differences between UE4 and UDK.

When I used UDK, the Content Browser was a faithful friend. It wasn’t overstocked with meshes and objects but there was enough there to let you throw together an aesthetically interesting level without too much trouble. A far from profound, but certainly noticeable, adjustment to using UE4 is the bare cupboard of a content browser.  It took me a while to understand that, simply, the free content from UDK’s default content browser had been replaced by a shop.

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My default reaction, predictable, reasonably, was to be a bit put out. Swapping my free things for expensive things hardly seemed like a good deal. As is often the case (and with the help of a friendly “thank you subscriber, we’re free now” voucher) I was able to see the benefits of the new marketplace.

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Design a MOBA Character – Garrosh Hellscream

“Garrosh, always in your face, wanting you to hurt him, begging his healer to look elsewhere, ramping up damage until his dying breath.”

It’s been the year of Blizzard for me. First Hearthstone and now, improbably, Heroes of the Storm. Both games have been revelatory for me; bringing me rushing back into the brilliant PC gaming fold and opening my eyes to amazing game design.

Most of the posts I put on this blog are videos. I try and show a prototype I’ve made or tutorial I’ve completed. I wanted this post to be a little different. I wanted to design something on paper to show that I can be inspired by something and use that thing as a loose brief to create something which extends a game or changes it in some way.

My target was simple: to design a new hero for Heroes of the Storm inspired by the game most under-represented in Blizzard’s Nexus; Hearthstone! GarroshHellscream

Warrior has never been my class in Hearthstone, but I was fascinated by the Enrage mechanic and that could be applied to a MOBA character.

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MOBAs and Approachability

How Blizzard borrows from real sports to make their eSport more approachable.

What makes a sport (any sport, not just an eSport) approachable? Why has basketball spread around the world, whereas only a few countries know what a game of cricket even looks like. Obviously, there are a huge number of factors. Amongst them, as one of the key factors, must be approachability. People play basketball because all you need is a couple of people, a ball, and something to shoot into. The rules are easy; get the ball in the basket. Most baskets, wins. Cricket needs bats, a ball, stumps, a few more people and an understanding of a rule set that goes from quirky to outright weird.

So, my theory must be that basketball is more popular because it is more instantly approachable and, therefore, attracts more players. Which sounds great, until you look at eSports like MOBAs and RTSs which, as someone new to the eSports scene like me can tell you, are much more like cricket than basketball. They are a hive of jargon, complex rules and hardcore fans.

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Which is why Blizzard’s approach to the MOBA, Heroes of the Storm, intrigues me. I’d heard that Blizzard wanted to make MOBAs a little less terrifying and a little more inclusive. As a sports fan it was fascinating to experience how, when playing my first few games, similar playing Heroes felt to picking up and learning a new sport.

HotS, possibly unintentionally, seems to me to share much of its DNA with basketball. It is these parallels I want to explore.

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