Update: To Grind or not to Grind

The short version of this post is that our newest update (3.8) increases coin rewards in all game modes by 30% and adds coin rewards for losing to all game modes (even Normal AI and Friend games).  Now you can gain access to all the content even faster!  We also fixed some bugs.  Read on if you’re curious about why we even have card packs in the game.  

So one of the more controversial aspects of our game (from a player feedback perspective) has been the fact that you have to unlock all the cards and playable characters (rivals) over time.  Some players don’t like that a premium boardgame does not come with all the content available upfront.  Others appreciate that the game grows more complex and varied over time and that there are long-term goals to work towards.  

Even when I was debating whether or not Age of Rivals should be a premium or free-to-play game, I was reluctant to have all the content available from day one.  I knew from early play-testing that that would have been overwhelming, and that the starter deck of 71 cards made for a good game.  And I thought it would be fun for the game to evolve over time, encouraging players to adapt to the changing deck and to try new strategies as they gained new cards.  Also, I had too much fun watching my 5 and 7 year old daughters opening cards packs.  “Daddy, I unlocked Arsenia!”.  It was (and still is) too priceless.  

Most games (premium or not) do this.  As you progress, you gain new skills and and weapons and encounter new challenges.  The metaphor varies from genre to genre.  Sometimes it’s leveling up, sometimes it’s getting to a new world, sometimes you earn a new seed packet to counter a new type of zombie.  And the paces varies as well.  Sometimes it’s steady and linear, and sometimes it’s fast at first but then slows down to something more tedious.

And that’s where Age of Rivals runs into problems.  Our metaphor is the dreaded card pack.  And it’s normal to assume that card packs equal a slow and tedious grind.  Many CCGs these days are free-to-play with card packs, and it takes forever to unlock everything.  

Our original metaphor long ago was a linear progression of unlocking cards one by one as you won games.  But we switched to the more easily recognizable card pack system so we could release a free-to-play version of the game on Kongregate.  And when we switched back to premium for Steam/iOS/Android, we decided to keep it.  (The whole premium vs free-to-play thing can be a future blog post).

Maybe this was a bad idea, but by then it was fully developed and we didn’t really want to redo it.  The important thing was that we changed the pace of content unlocking to linear by eliminating redundant drops.  You never get a card you don’t need, so you’re unlocking content as quickly on day 30 as you did on day 1.  

But while the pace was pleasingly linear, it was definitely still too slow overall.  We still had one foot in free-to-play-economy land.  Our early Steam players gave us some great feedback, and so we quickly doubled the coin rewards, added rewards for more game modes, and added unlimited missions.  

Today we’re going the rest of the way.  We’re speeding up the pace again by increasing coin rewards in all modes and (more importantly) adding rewards for loss in all modes.  Everyone should now be able to earn all the Level 3 Rivals and all cards after a pretty reasonable number of games.

Hope you all like the new update.  As always, keep the feedback coming!  

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