Rather than the traditional end of year look back at 2019, I thought I’d focus on the future by running through how I approach designing a new feature for Combat Cards.
I’m going to use a ‘season pass’ as a case study for this because that’s what I’m working on right now, but I want to be very clear – just because I’m posting about a feature, it doesn’t mean that the final season pass will look exactly like this. It might undergo small or large changes (or even never be released) because our priorities might shift or the design below might end up not fitting with other features being added. Basically, I’m talking through how I approach adding something to the game, NOT confirming exactly what’s coming or when.
And to ensure everyone’s on the same page, what I mean by a season pass is a series of rewards that players earn in some way before that season ends and is replaced with another, usually with bonuses such as faster progression for players who choose to pay for the pass. What those rewards are, how they’re earned and where all this fits into the various Combat Cards UI screens is what I’ll be covering.
Every new feature has to start with why we might want to do it, because if we’re working on feature X then some of the team aren’t available to work on feature Y, so we need to be sure we’re prioritising the right things. However, it’s important to point out that just because some of us are working on something, the rest of the team can still be working on other areas – it’s rare that the entire team is working on the same feature.
This also varies by discipline (art, code, design, etc.), with different people working on stuff for right now or off in the future. For example, our artists have been exploring ways for players to customise their profile for a while because the current workload is more code heavy (more on customisation in a future blog post).
So what’s the ‘why’ for a season pass? Despite what some people will say, it’s not just about trying to extract more money from players, instead I’m looking at the pass as a good way to add structure and a sense of progression to disparate gameplay features.
Even a relatively simple game like Combat Cards includes a lot of elements for players to consider, with more being added all the time. For example, when you load the game should you build deck A and take part in a Campaign battle to achieve one of your daily Objectives and increase your Campaign + Mission score? Or are you better off building deck B to increase your Ranked score? And should you start pack A or pack B opening, or maybe before all that you should upgrade card X and add it to your deck?
So I wondered whether a season pass could help with these questions, though first I needed to decide if all these decisions really were a problem at all. Perhaps our player base likes having to make these sort of priority choices? In fact, I’d say that the type of players who are into deckbuilding card games and / or the complex lore of Warhammer 40,000 are probably going to be comfortable tracking short / medium / long term objectives and deciding what to do next (as opposed to, say, a casual puzzle game audience who just want to be told what to do).
With that in mind, I think the season pass should reward players for doing certain things (so you can choose to focus on those things right now) but not absolutely require you to do A over B (as that removes the enjoyment of setting your own priorities).
So step one of the process tells us that the season pass should be designed to help players decide which of the many actions they could choose to do right now, without being too simple (just turning up gets you a prize) or too restrictive (you must do X to get a prize).
There will be several more posts on this topic, digging deeper into the activities, rewards, menu design and so on. In the meantime, do let me know if there’s an area you’d like more detail on or if there’s something you love or hate about season passes that you’d like me to bear in mind.
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