19 October 2010

Zynga does Magic: The Gathering - by Jake Akemann

      Posted 10/18/10 08:09:00 am  

Many agitated developers seem to have given up on social games completely, even before they’ve had a chance to develop into something real and awesome. I think social games have potential, much of which is drowned out by the cookie-cutter click-click games that are popular right now. I’d like to shed light on a few of them I’ve stumbled across that use innovative social game design.

First up to bat is Warstorm. With a measly 1.6 million monthly users, this Zynga title (originally by Challenge Games) is the 147th most popular facebook application according to www.appdata.com.

Warstorm is a duel-based trading card game with beautiful graphics, much like a facebook-style Magic: The Gathering. The rules are simple to grasp, but are increasingly more complicated and interesting as you play. The overall strategy the player takes to create the “unbeatable deck” can take many different directions, from an untouchable flying deck of dragons to a horde of raging orcs.

Winning duels wins you gold that allow the player to buy more cards. Booster packs give you random cards, but you can also buy single cards when available. If you give the game real money, you can buy special booster packs, which are not necessarily better cards, but cards that use different strategies not available in the free decks.

The innovative design is simply an implementation of trading cards into social gaming, which is a perfect platform for this type of game. Buy cards and duel your friends. Amass a collection of rare cards. Show off an unbeatable deck. For Warstorm (currently still in beta), there is room for improvement. A trading system was recently implemented, which was long overdue, but it could still use some work. Per friend, a player can give one card every day, and as there's no means to find other players who want to trade with you, trading is limited.

What I do like about this game is that it doesn’t seem money-hungry. A player who doesn’t have exceptionally good cards can still fare well if the deck is in their favor. After I’d been playing for a few weeks and considered myself experienced, I convinced my neighbor to start playing and was very irritated when his deck of rapid-kill low-level cards beat my own. Of course I slaughtered him after re-configuring my deck, but was secretly impressed that the length of time spent playing does not necessarily mean victory.

What separates this game from being a Magic: The Gathering clone might also be its critical flaw. The duels themselves are not actively played, but merely watched by the player. There are no tactical decisions the player makes during a duel itself and any strategy is only found in the set-up.

Yes, this is very frustrating sometimes, and ultimately what pushed me away from the game, but compared to the dominating design styles currently in social gaming, Warstorm is definitely a step in a promising direction. And as it is free-to-play, the game is worth taking a look at.

If you have a facebook account ->  http://www.facebook.com/Warstorm


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