Saturday, April 5, 2008

Kongai: Card Get

As I've said in the past, one of the big concerns with Kongai is card acquisition. How players will gain new cards - and, more importantly, how rapidly - could well make or break the experience for them.

There are, at the moment, 47 cards in the game. 20 character cards divided equally into four different color-coded groups. And 27 item cards divided unequally into five different groups. A pool of general cards that anyone can use and four of different colors that can only be matched with the appropriate colored characters. Hence, since Gem of Souls has a dark background it can only be slotted to a character with a dark background, like Vanessa Voss. While Healing Salve has a neutral background meaning anyone can use it. (Note: Don't pay attention to the text on the cards. It often doesn't match what's in game and it's likely to change anyways.)

You may have noticed the little R1 symbol on my fresh new Healing Salve (The funky background on Gem of Souls is because it was a special holiday card, offered on Valentine's Day.). That means it's from the first re-release. They've gone through all 47 cards and now are going through them again to give everyone a chance to unlock the ones they've missed.

You can unlock multiple versions of cards - as I have with the titglasses and the normal breastplate. With character cards it doesn't matter since you can only have one of each character in your deck. But duplicate item cards can be slotted into multiple characters. So, if I had two Vanessas it wouldn't do me any good. But having two breastplates means two of my characters can wear them when I'm putting together a deck.

Item cards give the character it's played on an extra ability - like extra armor in the case of the breastplate - while character cards have their own natural ability along with attributes and the skills you use to attack. Thus, character cards are a lot more valuable to get than the item cards. A good character makes your deck while a good item only rounds out that character. But there's more value in getting item cards since you can double or triple up or more whereas any character card past your first is a waste.

Now, as for unlocking them, the current method - I think everyone testing can agree upon - isn't adequate and needs to be changed. At one extreme you could give away all the cards at once, making everyone UAX. But that rather defeats the purpose of collecting cards, learning the game as you go, and driving players to come back over and over again. At the other extreme is what we have now where a single card is doled out once a week and you have a limited time to snap it up by meeting some goal in another of the site's many games.

Speaking of which, today's challenge (These things tend to come out on Thursday night, by the way, and with the exception of a few one-day only holiday cards give you a week to complete them.), as you may have noticed, is for the Healing Salve. It's not a very good card since it doesn't heal for very much. Ideally, a card like that would be buying your character an extra combat turn or two but, in my experience, it doesn't. And, in the math I've run, it doesn't either but I'm not sure if I can publicize that kind of thing yet. The best thing I can say about it is that every character can use it so it's very flexible.

To get it you'll also have to play deep into the execrable Thing-Thing 4 (Which, I guess, I shouldn't say because it'll make Greg cry which leads to droughts in the third world. Or something.). Which, for me, is a laggy, repetitive, grueling bore. I especially liked how when I was fighting the helicopter since my gun hand is pushed away from my character with the recoil from every gunshot that, after a short time it was nearly off the screen and I had absolutely no chance of aiming my shots. But, then, that's just me and I wouldn't touch the game except to get the card. And I'm just obsessive enough to want a card I don't really need.

A better unlock system, though, lies somewhere between the two extremes - namely, giving everyone too much too fast and giving everyone the same thing too slow. A happy medium which combines self-direction with a sense of achievment, I think, rests in what's been proposed: a way of earning unlocks as you play along. How fast or just exactly how it works (I'd imagine some kind of token system where you could exchange points or geegaws from your winnings for new cards.) I don't know. But that would be what I'd want, myself.

There's also been talk of an option to flat-out purchase new cards. I don't have a problem with that, either, as long as there's also an effective way to earn them. And earn them in a reasonable amount of time.

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