5-Point Proposal for New Card Game

Hey! As you probably know, we did a large-scale survey of CCG players (more than 1,000 active players). It showed players have some major frustrations about the top CCGs.

Chris and I love to play CCGs ourselves, and our top frustrations are in sync with those of the survey participants. To solve these frustrations, we’d like to propose an idea for a new game (iOS and Android) – and get your feedback.

BTW, this proposal doesn’t go into a lot of details, because Chris and I wanted to get your feedback on the high-level points first.

This proposal has 5 points.

1. For CCG Players, By CCG Players

So, what makes this game different than the top CCGs in the market today?

First – we’re building this game, from the ground up, based on our large-scale survey of very active CCG players. 

So this game is designed for CCG players, to solve their top frustrations:

  1. Gotta spend lots of money for good decks
  2. Too much RNG/luck
  3. Some cards seem totally unfair

What about other answers in the survey?

Although this post is focused on the top frustrations listed above – Chris & I learned a lot from ALL the answers from every survey participant. Your answers were invaluable and will help us develop a game that you can enjoy for many years!

Second – this game will be designed by CCG players (Chris and me, together with players like YOU).

As you know, large game studios are required by their investors to maximize revenue. But we (Able Apes) are a small, 4-person indie developer. So we can do some things that large studios simply cannot do. See the next 2 points for what I mean.

2. All Cards Are FREE

All the cards in our game will be free! Yes, you read that right – ALL cards will be FREE.

Plus you get all the cards when you download the game. So you don’t have to grind for them either, you can enjoy them right away.

When we release new expansions, all cards in that expansion will also be free. You get all those cards as soon as you update your client.

So does this mean we’re completely removing the Collection mechanic from our game? Short answer is “No”. The game will still have the Collection mechanic: Card backs, Card trims, Heroes, Hero trims, etc. But when a match starts, neither player will have any deck advantage based on how much money (or grinding) he has spent in our game.

That makes this a fair game for everyone, including new players.

Top CCGs: Want good decks? Pay up, or grind forever!

via GIPHY

As every player knows – if you want good decks in the top CCGs, you have to either:
  • Spend a lot of money (in fact, a lot of players in the survey called the top CCGs “Pay to Win” games), or
  • Grind endlessly
Then with every expansion, you have to spend a lot – or grind a lot – all over again. And again, and again… and again!

In our game, you get all the cards right away, for free. No need to pay through the nose, and no need to grind. So you can spend more of your time doing what you really enjoy:

  • Playing a match (many fun game modes)
  • Deckbuilding
  • Strategizing
  • Collecting card backs, card trims, heroes, hero trims, etc
  • Socializing
  • Everything else that’s fun in the game

If all cards are free, how are we going to make money to keep the servers running?! Through sales of:

  • Cosmetic items (heroes, card backs, card trims, boards, and so on)
  • Other in-game virtual items that don’t give any advantage at the start of a match (extra deck slots, etc.)

Of course, we’ll make a lot less money because of our decision to make all cards free – and we’re totally fine with that.

3. Controlled RNG (Luck)

Chris and I have discussed this a lot. We feel the best role for RNG is when it’s used like spices in a meal. What does that mean?

As you know, the taste of a meal is enhanced tremendously by using a small amount of spices. However, when too much spices are used – the entire meal is actually ruined! I should know – I once ordered a 5-topping pizza with 5x olives … and trust me, it was not edible for me 🙄

Enough about food, let’s get back to RNG! Every time my opponent plays a card that casts 12 random spells to suddenly end a 15 minute game – a tiny little part of me dies 😧. And based on the survey, I know I’m not alone in feeling this.

via GIPHY

Then why do the top CCGs have so much RNG?



This brings us to an inside secret (maybe not so secret?) in the gaming industry:
  • Did you know that Vegas casinos make more revenue on Slot Machines than all other casino games combined? And Slot Machine games have been among the most popular genres in the App Store (iOS, Android) Top-50 revenue lists?
  • Why is this? One theory is that more RNG (Slot Machines are pretty much pure RNG) makes a game more addictive. As a result, adding more RNG to a game can lead to higher revenue from that game.

BTW, we’re not proposing eliminating RNG from our card effects – that’ll be like eliminating all spices from a meal. Our game will still have RNG card effects to create unpredictability, fun, and variety. But it won’t have cards with massive RNG that flat out wins games.

We’re okay with lower revenue because of this decision.

4. Better ‘Balancing Philosophy’

Many players brought this up in the survey – the need for a better balancing philosophy. In order to solve player frustrations caused by cards (and mechanics) that are unfair or OP.

Here’s the 3-step approach we’d like to propose for our game:

  1. Each card will be properly balanced – i.e. no crazy OP cards, for any reason.
    • All cards are free in our game, so we don’t have any reason to have OP cards (and get players to pay for those cards).
  2. We’ll do regular balance patches, once a month.
    • So when we mess up & release a card that’s OP, our balance patch will fix it quickly.
  3. Balance patches won’t require you to update your client.
    • So you won’t need to download another 2GB to your phone just to get a balance update!

This approach will also help with the problem of meta going stale because of OP cards/classes.

How will we decide which cards are OP? We’ve developed a proprietary formula that works consistently well when tested against dataset from a top CCG. We’ll combine this formula with community feedback to decide which cards are OP.

5. Community-Powered

Last but probably the most important point…

Our team will develop this game working closely with the Player Community – i.e. YOU and players like you. What exactly does this mean?

Our team at Able Apes will set & drive the core vision of the game, and perform all the tasks game developers traditionally do.

But almost every major decision will be made only after getting feedback from the player community. Our team may not always be able to do exactly what the community wants, but will always listen and try our best.

In every expansion, a good % of cards will be community-created. Our team will set the vision for the expansion, and may tweak these cards if necessary for balancing – but by and large these cards will be community-created.

Our community will be able to playtest new cards in a PTR (Public Test Realm) before they are released into the game.

We’ll set up an online platform for our community to suggest and vote on ideas – everything from cards to game modes. This will drive the direction of this game.


To recap the 5 points:

  1. For CCG Players, By CCG Players
  2. All Cards Are FREE
  3. Controlled RNG (Luck)
  4. Better ‘Balancing Philosophy’
  5. Community-Powered

So that’s the proposal from Chris and me for the new game. What do you think? Post a comment below (it’s very easy, no registration etc). Let’s together define a great game!

P.S. I’d like to thank Dawson, Kyle, Henry, and Andy for reviewing an advanced draft of this post and providing invaluable feedback – thanks guys! 🙂

About the Author:

I'm your Game Designer at Able Apes, I live in California. My favorite video games have been puzzles, RTS, and CCG. I love mobile games and SciFi. Thanks for stopping by!

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Jason
Guest
Jason

This sounds like a very interesting proposal and I all looking forward to seeing what you guys make. It’ll be interesting to see a CCG where the cards themselves are all free and equally accessible to players I can’t think of any other game in the genre that does this so I wish you the best of luck and will give all the support that I can

Chris Madden
Able Apes
Chris Madden

Thanks Jason! We really appreciate it!

Richard Rightmire
Guest
Richard Rightmire

I’ve gotta say. This is, frankly, a really promising proposal. Saying ‘hey! The gameplay is free, but you can get cosmetics for money!’

That’s what I’m talking about.

Chris Madden
Able Apes
Chris Madden

Thanks man, appreciate it!

Jason
Guest
Jason
I think there are a lot of big and interesting ideas here. This will be a pretty interesting experiment to follow. Some comments: On RNG: “But it won’t have cards with massive RNG that flat out wins games.” I think this a hugely overblown “problem” with online CCGs (especially Hearthstone). Besides pre-nerf Yogg, I can’t think of any card that fits the quoted portion here. Approaching RNG as a spice is definitely the right move, but don’t be afraid to push the envelope a bit just because some very loud members of the community blame their losses on RNG instead of getting better at the game. On OP cards: There’s a difference between powerful and OP that the community seems not to understand. The focus should be a fun and balanced GAME not on individual card power levels. If /r/hearthstone had their way, every single good card would be nerfed… Read more »
Curubethion
Guest
Curubethion

Sounds really intriguing right now! I’m a particular fan of the even playfield approach and the data driven balance, along with the commitment to good cards.

Hopefully purely cosmetic monetization works out; to be honest, I’d be fine with an Overwatch model where you buy the game and can purchase cosmetics afterwards.

My only big concern at this point is system requirements; I have an low end smartphone, and a game like Hearthstone runs poorly on it, lagging and sometimes causing me to be unable to play all the cards I could if I were playing on PC. I don’t want this to suffer from high system requirements.

Chris Madden
Able Apes
Chris Madden

Looking forward to hearing everyone’s input & feedback! smile

Andy Keener
Guest
Andy Keener
About all the cards being free/available at the start 1) Yay, free cards! 2) This might mean players overlook certain cards because on the surface others are much more powerful. Some hidden synergy might not get explored and the meta could possibly be defined by very exact decklists. Not that it doesn’t happen now, but unless you want to drop lots of money to make it, you get to be creative with other cards. On better balancing philosophy I like to hear this but I don’t know how it will work. OP is usually pretty subjective, so I’m curious as to your formula to determine it. If one card can kill instantly kill an opponent and/or wipe their board, then yeah, probably OP. But if it takes a long setup and very specific cards in a very specific order, is it bad? Or what if it’s super good but can… Read more »
Steven
Guest
Steven

In theory it sounds great with a single caveat. If there are 0 rewards outside of cosmetic stuff I feel like the drive to play will be reduced.

It’s part of what makes playing fun. Knowing you can earn meaningful rewards. Cosmetics can be cool but they typically won’t drive me to play more.

Maybe it would be worth considering giving everyone a single set of the cards with the opportunity to earn additional copies? Assuming additional copies would be useful.

Rurisk
Guest
Rurisk

I really like the direction this seems to be going. I’m definitely excited to see what comes of this. I’m also interested to see how having community input directly influencing cards turns out.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

This is very ambitious! Best of luck! (RNG)

Chris Madden
Able Apes
Chris Madden

Thanks! smile

Tripl
Guest
Tripl
Please do it!!! I’m a Hearthstone grinder for more than 2.5 years. I love the game, suck at playing it, and have only an average collection. I see all those cool legendaries and epics that I’ll never have, smacking my face, and start thinking about bottom right. I started playing MtG this year and love that I can ACTUALLY collect and trade cards, then quickly realised I’ll never have all of them and still be able to pay the bills. I’m old, with a family, but I get a chance every evening after the kid is in bed to play some CCGs. Think about a trade system. Maybe I’ve had a particular cosmetic for a while and want a different one that someone else has. Let’s trade. Or, maybe my buddy wants to gift me a cosmetic. Of course that’s a whole other thing that will definitely have to be… Read more »
Joel Castle
Guest
Joel Castle
I love the idea! Very cool. As someone who has played TCGs, CCGs and other non-collection-based card games for over ten years somewhat competitively, I can see that you seem to have addressed many of the most irritating bits of card games. That being said, I do have a few ideas from my time playing games: 1. Not collected these cards puts a huge burden on card quality. The excitement of ripping open a pack is gone and therefore you’ll need other elements to make people card more about their collection. People get invested in “pet” cards in CCG’s a lot (for example, when I played Magic: The Gathering I found myself building decks based on a couple of really good cards I pulled during events, making me more personally invested in the game). The best way I can think of to recreate this feeling without opening packs is to… Read more »
Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Sounds wonderful! Maybe you guys should put a single super expensive microtransaction in that makes your character say “ooh la la” When they spawn. $500 for the Ooh La La emote.

Kidding aside, this sounds like a great time! I like your take on the role of RNG and am eager to see how it’s implemented.

Also with all deck combos pretty much being available for the beginning, how likely is it that you’ll see several under used cards right off the bat? Admittedly I don’t know how many cards y’all have planned and such, but I do know that in Hearthstone there are just several cards that might as well not even be in the game.

Thanks for your time and eagerness to create something for US!

RRmasters
Guest
RRmasters

lol these gifs hit home esp the cat

Brian
Guest
Brian

I appreciate the honesty and passion you guys have for making a CCG that will be made for the players. As much as I enjoy Hearthstone, it always a bittersweet moment during expansion season as I am excited for the new cards, but sad for the cost. I hope you guys will deliver on your promises. I just want to add that the reason I always come back to Hearthstone versus Shadowverse, Gwent, or Elder Scrolls: Legends is the smooth UI, character, and fluidity. This is something I look forward to seeing in your CCG. Best of luck!

Meritone
Guest
Meritone
There is a lot of good game design philosophy going on with Able Apes. From what you’ve been talking about, you seem to be one of very few CCG devs that aren’t terribly anti-consumer. If your game ends up working out well, I would love to have some aesthetic options for spending $ on the game, because you deserve to be payed for you work without compromising the game itself. Do you have any thoughts right now on the theme of the game? Fantasy, Sci-Fi, etc? I’ve played a ton of physical and electronic card games, and would love to have more in depth discussions of problems I have with most current games and how you can avoid them. Especially with my current favorite, Hearthstone. As much as I love it, it has very serious problems that Blizzard either isn’t fixing or its literally taking them years.
Jakob Williamson
Guest
Jakob Williamson
Hi, just wanna say that I love Card Games like y’all, been playing them since I was like 10, and I love most of your ideas here, EXPECT for the “All The Cards Are Free”. To me, that removes part of what a Card Game is, a game where you collect cards and do cool shit with them, now I understand why, but I think there are ways around it, if you guys want to make every card free, a REALLY Cool thing you guys could do is have packs for ALTERNATE Art works of certain cards like in Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon for example, which would keep that feeling of opening a pack but itd still put everyone on the same level. Anyway, I love what yall are doing and I hope this suggestion helps, one more thing though, If this game is Sci-fi Based, I want a Mechanical Hedgehog… Read more »
TripleH
Guest
TripleH

All cards being free is a really good idea. This is something only online CCG can do.

Chris Madden
Able Apes
Chris Madden

Thanks for sharing your input smile

kevin
Guest
kevin

point about rng = spice is right on. wish more games understand this too. I like strategy not slot machines.

Bo Armstrong
Guest
Bo Armstrong
All of this sounds good in theory, but how fun the game is will come down to your card mechanics. For example, in poker, blackjack, goldfish, solitaire, etc., everyone starts out with the same cards. You buy one deck and everyone has equal odds of drawing the cards they need to win. Some people like those games, but some people don’t. I think there’s something to be said about making plays that feel powerful or strategic. Players enjoy attributing their success to the plays they made, which is why RNG bugs a lot of people. Giving everyone all of the cards and all of the same cards from the start levels the playing field, but you’ll really need some dynamic mechanics and card interactions for people to be strategic about. For example, in poker or other card games, the strategy isn’t in card interactions – it’s in reading other people,… Read more »
Nick
Guest
Nick

Are there any ideas on the lore/theme for the game? I think your structure will be great.

j craemer
Guest
j craemer

I like the idea of just straight up negating the need to grind like crazy.

I really like playing ccgs but I got to say I just don’t have enough free time to commit to collect all the cards and I don’t want to spend too much money.

joey
Guest
joey

Anyone else keep watching the gif thinking the cat will get that food? haha

Chris Madden
Able Apes
Chris Madden

Yes. I’m still pulling for him lol

Matt
Guest
Matt
* All cards are free. While this sounds pretty cool, I wouldn’t mind a “living card game” model where you buy the whole set at once. Maybe have the base set be free and charge for expansions. You could even use the traditional card pack method and just allow for a set to be purchased fully and cheaply. Having packs only for golden/animated/foiled cards might be a good trade off that allows everyone to be on an even playing field while still allowing the collection aspect. * Controlled RNG While I understand the appeal, RNG isn’t something that NEEDS to be in a card game. Things are already random enough due to draws. * Better Balancing Philosophy To be blunt, perfect balance is something full teams of people can’t get right. These same teams have more stats and likely better algorithms to boot. Being OP isn’t something that is decided,… Read more »
HappyLittleRadishes
Guest
HappyLittleRadishes
Cards shouldn’t necessarily be free. Part of the enjoyment of card games is the experience of building your collection and discovering new cards. That being said it is very nice when pack acquisition is accessible. Unfair/Overpowered cards are a very delicate matter. The other side of the coin is that power is intrinsically fun to wield. Bashing vanilla minions that perfectly adhere to a power curve is no fun, but getting blown out by cards that are overstatted or hold ridiculous and uninteractive effects is no fun either. You cannot and should not promise a complete absence of overpowered cards because that is what draws a majority audience to a game, being able to concoct powerful and cohesive strategies that efficiently dismantle an opponent. The line between Overpowered and Fun Because Powerful is a very hard one to toe. Piggybacking on my previous point, being so careful to not release… Read more »
dashaman
Guest
dashaman

You guys on the right track here. Especially with the last point. I wish more developers would actually build their games with more player feedback. Sometimes it seems like devs just completely ignore what players are saying about their games. Smh

Chris Madden
Able Apes
Chris Madden

Agreed. I would be nice wouldn’t it!

Thanks for giving us your input. We really appreciate it.

tango
Guest
tango

What’s your guys timeline for releasing this game?

Tyler
Guest
Tyler

While the idea of getting all cards at the begining is enticing it does however remove one of the longest term goals in a card game, to keep players interested there should be something that they are working towards

Brandon Gibson
Guest
Brandon Gibson

Here’s what I think will really sell this game for me –
Facilitation for face-to-face interaction. If that ends up being pass-and-play mode, or some kind of detection for people playing near you (like a fireside gathering but not busted) than I think I’d love to play this with someone. If I can say to my friend during a lull in conversation “Hey, download this game, I’ll send you a deck and teach you how to play”, kind of like I’d introduce someone to netrunner, than I think that will be the strongest driver of people playing the game.

I am a little worried about your monetization strategy, though. I hope it works out.

JimmyGames
Guest
JimmyGames

#2 and #5 are really major and will differentiate your game from the other CCG’s. Making all of the cards free is a game changer IMHO. Even in LCG’s you have to pay upfront.

Your theory on why there’s too much RNG in the popular CCG’s is quite plausible.

I have certain questions regarding how you’ll execute on #4. But Iwill be reserving those questions until later.

All that being said if you guys do #5 properly I think that will be the your trump card. I like what I see so far from you guys and will be looking forward to your next move.

Mike
Guest
Mike

More freq balance updating is what makes sense for digital only CCG. You have that advantage use it

Wei
Guest
Wei

Any info on what types of game modes you’ll have in your game?

Chris Madden
Able Apes
Chris Madden

Thanks for asking. We’re making a video that will cover some of this. We should have it ready in a couple weeks.

Gregory P
Guest
Gregory P

This sounds like a real promising card game. I look forward to the next phase of the process.

Chris Madden
Able Apes
Chris Madden

Thanks and we’ll be sure to keep you updated!

Ian Lakin
Guest
Ian Lakin

Looks very cool, excited to see how it turns out, any idea when it will be released?

Scott Schultz
Guest
Scott Schultz
Those are all admirable goals but they say nothing about the game. Frankly, I’m not convinced that taking the “Collectible” out of CCG is going to produce a satisfying game, but if Fantasy Flight Games can make a living at it, maybe you guys can. I’d just note that you don’t see twenty other companies doing what Fantasy Flight does. That’s an indication that there’s not a lot of “wiggle room” for getting it wrong and still holding onto your players. Generally speaking, selling “factory sets” ruins a CCG experience rather than enhancing it (though, of course, the sorts of players that have no intention of ever financially supporting a game would have it otherwise). In the end, it comes down to the game. The “manifesto” presented here is pretty short on details about what game is going to encourage all of those cosmetic micro-transactions that will support the keep… Read more »
Matt
Guest
Matt

I don’t think releasing everything for free is that good of an idea. Nothing to work for and unless the game just runs with ads I don’t see how you will make enough money. If you want to release packs just make them extremely focused on certain archetypes/class/spells so people can either spend on something they really want or focus in game currency on that.

steveo
Guest
steveo

Where’s the post about the results fromthe survey you guys did? I really wanted to see those results

Chris Madden
Able Apes
Chris Madden
Ricardo S
Guest
Ricardo S

Michael just curious what factors do you use in your formula for detecting OP cards? Are you focusing on mainly card stats? Or something else?

ccg lover
Guest
ccg lover

Keep it up Able Apes, I think you are onto a good game here.

Chris Madden
Able Apes
Chris Madden

Thank you very much, we think so too.

Serpentfrog
Guest
Serpentfrog

I love this idea and wish you all the best in making it a reality.

bushka
Guest
bushka

thanks for making a card game like this plus can you make a pay once get the expansion type of game. Like making it about 10-20$ per expansion smile

johnathon Chu
Guest
johnathon Chu

this game is sounding more and more awesome lol i can’t wait for it to come out

wpDiscuz
Share
Tweet
Reddit
Email