Hatchlings Games

Web Gaming 2.0 Revolution

Web Gaming 2.0: Trading Card Concept on the Web

Edit (May 2007): Quasr.com is now on Alpha Testing. Join us!


This article is the first of many; where everyone in the world can join us as we experiment with the concept of Web Gaming 2.0.Financial realities of Hatchlings Games have pushed us into a scenario where we must maximize Quasr’s chance of success. We should not leave anything to chance. The opportunity on the web and games are so great that the convergence of the two is probably too alluring for any entrepreneur and/or game designer to ignore [read insane competition].

Not leaving anything to chance might sound ironic since our game is based on user generated content; that is, we are already giving our users chances to screw up our game. After some soul searching, reflection and deep conversations, both Zie Aun and Slade came to the same conclusion – that we must trust our users if we aim to be successful in this user-centered future.

At this point, there is a big hoo-ha on the business & design world about the future of content. Pundits and web & game industry leaders insists that majority of content should be user created. Early adopters of such radical concept (i.e. Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, etc) have seen tremendous financial & branding success. Due to technological and an ongoing cultural shift, customers are now simultaneously the producer and consumer of content.

Games are heading towards the same direction too. It is getting harder to start a company, creating games for gamers for a living; but that forces us to think, to start our engine of innovation. We must constantly be thinking outside the box, to innovate and be a leader. Industry leaders (game designers, producers, studio heads) have been discussing emergent gameplay design (few years), planning for user generated content (more recent), and creating successful immersive worlds. The above together with the success of game MODs, MMOGs (i.e. WOW), web game worlds (i.e. Neopets) and even 100% user generated virtual world (i.e. Second Life) are pushing games towards the same direction as web 2.0 services.

The main platform for distributing such user generated content is the web. User created content requires a widespread and easy to use distribution platform. The web is such a platform. Services like blogs, YouTube, Flickr, and Digg wouldn’t be possible without the web. These websites are successful because they are disruptive. They maximized the web to beat their competitors, which are all traditional content publishers and distributors.

Trading card concept

Trading card games, a genre pioneered by Wizards of the Coast’s Magic: the Gathering (M:tG) has all the basic ingredients of an addictive game: good gameplay (pacing set by tempo, strategic depth, and control-decontrol) and game mechanics (goal-reward / collectability).

If the game is popular enough, it can be extremely profitable for the game developer. Trading card game players are driven by their primal urge to collect, compete and achieve. Pokemon and Yu-gi-Oh are two extremely popular trading card games since the release of M:tG. All three games are still making money for the developers.

The problems game developers face with physical trading card games were usually:

  1. Content creation; the design and illustration of few hundred cards per set, and the cost that goes into it
  2. Printing cost for those shiny cards.
  3. Marketing; as with most game genres, established brands are hard to compete against, even monopolizing.
  4. Distribution; the need to setup distribution channels all around the world.

Web 2.0

Go Digital: eliminate printing cost

By creating an online game (as a downloadable client), Quasr would have solve problem number 2 and in a way number 4. There would be no need for us to print cards. The cost equation for card has changed from the number of cards printed in volumes to the number of cards a person owns.

The more card a player owns, the more profitable Quasr is. The profit margin for a single player increases every time he buys a new card. The server cost remains a constant for that one player.

The Web: the most distributable platform

Having the online game as a downloadable client still doesn’t solve problem #1, #3 and it only partially solves problem #4. To further the solution for distribution, we place the game completely on the most distributable platform – the web.

Without having to download a separate client and asset files, we dramatically increase the chances for site visitors to click on “play”. “Play” wins vs. “Download”. Granting each account a sub-domain (e.g. http://johntan.quasr.com), we increase the desire of players to virally (via links / RSS) spread the game.

User created content

A web 2.0 site trusts its users. It allows users to create, edit and moderate content. The developers of the site are also its users. There is very little distinction between the developers of the site and its users; both are the producer and user of its content. The developers become platform creators or service providers. The concept of internet services can be extended to trading card games.

Quasr too will feature user created content: we allows users to create card and art based on certain rules. We give the players a set of basic cards that they can add abilities and stats to, obviously based on some card-modifying rules. Residents of Quasr can even draw custom art for a card, but they first have to let the community vote for style & quality.

Conclusion

Quasr.com is now up for Alpha Testing, so go and try it. It is still very crude (just like this article) and does not have the user-created features yet. As of now we are still struggling with designing the best gameplay

I hope someone finds an inspiration from here. If you do please leave a comment and start a dialogue with us. We need your feedback. We cannot take this on alone; fortunately we are joined by great game designers such as Raph Koster with Areae. Do join us as we experiment with this, to bring games and immersive worlds to the web.


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January 1, 2007 - Posted by | Entrepreneurship, Game Design, Game Industry, Quasr, Trading Card Game, Web, Web 2.0, Web Gaming 2.0

5 Comments »

  1. People have asked which technology are we using to develop Encephalon.

    For our initial release, we are going to use Flash + SmartFoxServer + PHP (or Ruby on Rails) + AJAX.

    Any suggestions?

    Comment by Slade | January 2, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thank you.

    Make this totally free to play and participate, and you’ve achieved a dream I once had myself in creating something truly everyone could be involved in.

    Why can I not enjoy TCG/CCGs? Well, for one, I don’t have cash available to dive in and get what I need. Two, I can never find anyone who wants to dive in with me. The net has always found ways to fix the second problem. Making the game free would fix the first.

    The problem lies in balancing. Will all cards be considered “equal”? As in, no card overpowering another?

    Comment by alraydius | January 4, 2007 | Reply

  3. Alraydius,

    Thank you for the feedback. I am very excited. One main purpose of this blog is to get interested folks to participate in the development of the game. We want to know what is important to you.

    As mentioned in the post, we are co-branding different ‘planets’ (websites) with various corporate partners (essentially it is franchising). Different planets have different pricing plan. However, there would be a planet, the starting planet, the home human planet where everything is free. This is related to the setting of that planet, which is based on a future Earth. In the setting, human beings are materially self sustaining; think Star Trek’s economy.

    In Encephalon, you use credits to buy cards (or maybe booster packs). You can earn credits by playing games (losing or winning), winning daily tournaments, exploring the website, commenting on artist’s artwork, replying on the forum, etc. Essentially the whole game is free to play. Well, at least on our starting planet.

    But if you want, you can convert cash to credits. It is going to be very cheap though. Let’s assume that 50 credits can buy you a pack of 10 random cards. We would charge only 1 USD for purchasing 50 credits. Note that we haven’t confirmed the means of collecting cards yet.

    The balancing of the game is an issue, especially since it is a *customizable* card game. In a future article, we are going to write about the balancing criteria and methodology. Please stick around.

    You might be interested in these other posts by our team:
    https://hatchlings.wordpress.com/tag/world-design/
    and https://hatchlings.wordpress.com/tag/encephalon/

    Thank you for your interest again.

    Comment by Slade | January 4, 2007 | Reply

  4. Hey Slade.

    Getting to this post after a google search for smartfox + ruby. just wondering how that ended up working out for you. did you indeed go with ruby for your back end?

    Comment by mike | September 24, 2007 | Reply

  5. Hi Mike,

    We did use RoR as our backend part of the application. The game logic for the trading card game is still written in Java as a SFS extension.

    We are working on some Ruby + SFS integration now. For instance, we want to start a game room (activating the flash client and SFS) from the html page.

    Let me know if you want to know anything else.

    Comment by Slade | September 24, 2007 | Reply


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