As a brief disclaimer, I’m a massive fucking Dota fan. It’s my most played game. I watch TI every year, I play almost every other night. I’m one of like 12 people who loved Artifact, and I actually bought a playset of the cards in the game at like…. full price.
I do regret that last thing a little bit.
I mention this because I feel like some people might feel like I’m shilling here, and I’m gonna be honest. The odds of me shilling for Riot Games are abysmal. They are abyssal. I also suspect that the odds of Riot Games ever actually giving me anything ever are lower then the odds of me winning the lottery on the same day that the LHC creates a black hole.
So I don’t really have any special love for League of Legends, Runeterra, or the associated worlds/lore/etc. I only downloaded it because a friend told me that the games equivalent of drafting was way less expensive and you got to actually play it more.
So when I say that every single other digital CCG needs to steal these features, I mean it. I don’t mean “Oh these are cool.” I mean if you’re making a digital card game, just copy these straight over. So lets talk about them shall we?
The Oracle’s Eye
Right to side of the board for Runeterra is a small blue icon that looks like an eyeball. When you mouse over it, it shows you what will happen when the current game state resolves. Resolving in this case means spells on the stack, blocks vs. attacks, player life totals at the end of it, etc.
This is fantastic because it makes it much easier to see if you have lethal/will dodge lethal/board state when effects resolve, etc. And you have to spend a lot less mental time on those things. It’s also great because it makes it much easier as you’re learning the game to double check how mechanics will work and resolve.
Digital Card Games have the ability to really funky and complex, with neat and weird effects. There’s no reason not to take some of the mental load off the players for the boring stuff that the computer will do anyway, and to let them focus on the actual gameplay.
Actually Buy Cards Instead of Glorified Lottery Tickets
I like opening booster packs in the same way I like eating Oreos. Just because I want to do it doesn’t make it good for me. And one of the things that we should probably all just admit is this: booster packs are more or less just gambling.
Video games are at a weird place right now regarding in-app purchasing, whaling, and other bullshit. However, as regards physical games, Magic: The Gathering has been around since 1993, and it’s been selling boosters since then. And let’s be honest. Unless you’re playing a draft format, boosters are more or less just lottery tickets with a booby prize. Anyone who has been playing magic for any given amount of time has probably attended some sort of event where the excess commons and maybe even uncommons have just been left out on a table, or even just hurled into the trash.
There isn’t a real reason to port over the format of booster packs to online digital card games, unless you want to be encouraging those sorts of purchasing patterns. Runeterra does away with all this. While you still unlock and earn cards randomly, if you want to spend real money, you just buy the cards you want.
Maybe they did this out of selfless love for their community. Maybe they did it because Riot is smart enough to see the writing on the wall regarding randomized digital purchases, and is just making a smart long term choice.
I don’t really care why. I just like that if I actually want to buy and play a given deck, I can.
Run Two Drafts, Score Prizes for the Best One
I love drafting. I don’t mind if I get to keep the cards or not, but I do love to play the format on the whole. And one of the big downsides to drafting physical cards is that it’s always gonna cost money. Yes, you can put a cube together, but then you still need to find 7 other people who want to play a cube with you. So in theory, digital CCG’s would be great drafting, except most of them have put their draft mode equivalent behind a paywall.
Runeterra does sorta do this, but perhaps most importantly, each time you buy into a draft, you get to do two runs. You then receive prizes for the best one. In addition, you get to do three runs a week with payout rewards, and after that the drafts are free, letting you practice the mode.
But seriously, the two drafts thing per entry is great. Drafting is one of the few formats in CCG’s in which all cards, yes, all of them will get used. It’s a lot of fun to be able to play cards that might otherwise be too slow, ineffective, or die to removal in other formats. And letting you try twice means if you have a terrible early run, you get a chance at redemption. And if you have a great one, you can choose to use that second run to just mess around and try something riskier then you might otherwise.
That’s all for today, stay safe folks.