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Monster Keep — Refactoring the Design

Well it's been humbling that I've worked on yet another Design that was just "not exciting". Sure it had a lot of "Novel" ideas which I am planning to re-use... But I couldn't see the "Game Experience" as being original enough even with all of the "technical advancements".

"Monster Keep" (MK) has been on my design "bench" for the last two (2) months... Since "re-vamping" the design, I had some basic ideas about what it is that I wanted to "accomplish".

1: The first thing that I wanted was a "Customizable" Card Game (CCG).

This was because I had worked HARD on resolving issues with failed CCGs. Many of them because of poor adoption or plainly not enough players. But that's the thing about CCGs, most players abhor the "Customization" aspect, while hardcore players LOVE IT. So I really think that I had a SOLID model to please BOTH "hardcore" Deck Constructors and the Average "Fantasy" Gamer.

2: Solving the Mana problems in most CCGs.

Although I had some fresh and novel ideas in this aspect of game play... But this meant that in a way, the game required "Battling" or "Combat". I have since taken a "step-back" from that aspect of most CCGs. So let's move on to the NEW direction I am deciding to follow...

In thinking about the game, I wanted to have "Mathematics" as a CORE element to the game. And as I pondered over different version of MK, one struck me (Version 10.0) to be an earlier design with the original three (3) stats BUT no Operators or Operands. This design was PRIOR to me being so FORCEFUL with the math, that this earlier design offered a unique simplicity: what if instead of having operators and operands, the cards themselves could be used to generate them ON-THE-FLY!

So no more would you SEE the "Math" ... But indeed it would still BE THERE hidden in plain sight with the stats of the cards themselves. It's SO BEAUTIFUL, it brings a tear to my eye! (LOL) No but seriously it's cool to HAVE MATH but not expressively require cards to have math elements.

All there is now is THREE (3) Original stats of MK: Hunger, Bloodlust and Greed. Given some basic rules of "placement", the operators and operands can be determined "on-the-fly" (as mentioned above). So you don't see them, but when you compute the score... They POP-OUT and the computation is like magic!

Moreover my STRUGGLE with Division as being one of the Operators is SOLVED... Now you can have Addition ("+"), Subtraction ("-"), Positive Multiplication ("x+") AND Negative Multiplication ("x-")! But no more Division: it's gone and the cards are "unaffected" by it's disappearance! Which is FANTASTIC and miraculous at the same time!

Just an explanation,the Multiplier can now be POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE. It's very COOL because aside from racking up all kinds of "Tribute" (Points), now you can stand to LOSE some too! It's just so satisfying that I know NOW how the design stands to "evolve".

I know, I know... I've been at this crossroad before... Just thinking about a NEW DIRECTION for MK! And yes, I'm sure I've blogged about all kinds of "exciting" ideas, novel direction and all of that. The point that I want to make is that in this specific case, because everything is "abstracted" the cards look SUPER SIMPLE and the only thing left to do is "tweak" them with some FONT adjustments and NEW "abilities" (for most of the cards). The true fact is that the Version 10.0 cards have TERRIBLE abilities... They really don't make sense in the PRESENT context.

Therefore what needs to be done is a "refactoring" of the cards in Version 10.0 and adapt them for this new version. And using what I have learned from version 5.0, I will see how to MERGE both designs into something more balanced and BAD-ASS!

Some other details is that the game will support two (2) Players with Micro Decks of twelve (12) cards plus the Nexus card which is the starting point for the game. That means "The Keep" will be comprised of 25 cards (12 x 2 = 24 + 1 = 25)!

What's even more interesting is that it can accommodate four (4) Players with the same size Micro Decks plus the Nexus card... And that means 49 cards (12 x 4 = 48 + 1 = 49)!

Amazing how that all worked out... Which is really NEAT! I am also using a NEW format of cards: they will be 2.5" x 2.5" SQUARE Cards. This will allow the four (4) players to play more seamlessly without the odd sizing.

So the CHALLENGE will be to "craft" abilities that work with the design. And see where that takes me. The Game Play WITHOUT abilities is already a REAL IMPROVEMENT. I know that Tile Laying game with Math is not necessarily the most NOVEL idea... But trust me, this one is a REAL THINKING game. Perfect for novices that just want to play to people who enjoy MASTERING games and the "possibility" of tournament play (because of the additional impact the dynamic math has a way of making the game more competitive when the right players play the game).

Anyways I'm super excited! I'll let you guys know how things will progress as I move forwards and make more tests about the game itself!



Congratulations on making

Congratulations on making what seems to be a refreshing breakthrough. I really like the premise of this game and hope you succeed with it.

My journey seems a little similar: revisiting abandoned ideas from (very) old iterations - with a different twist. Some might say I am going round in circles. I prefer to think of it as a cyclical design process! :)

Thank you Tim

Indeed a "Customized" Card Game (CCG) WITHOUT a "battling/skirmish" mechanic is somewhat NOVEL. I've playtested it and it's more FUN than my previous iteration. Sure I was playing dumb and blind just lying tiles out into the play area... But it felt more "natural"!

Indeed "Cyclical Design" is a reality. When I go back into my BLOG, I usually find NUGGETS of "wisdom" or some ideas that I can re-use for my current Work-In-Progress (WIP). Sometimes it's as stupid as an image... and then I'm like: "Yeah, I think those sample cards looked COOL!" And then I am taken away into exploring something DIFFERENT than my current WIP.

For me I guess it's the Developer in me: I'm used to programming things and then re-factoring later for tidier code which is usually less lines and more SIMPLE than some of the previous iterations. Iterative programming is more and more the norm nowadays.

My only concern NOW is "ART". I have an artist in mind who RENDERED the "Monster Keep" (MK) logo... But I'm not sure is she is capable of more "complex" illustrations.

If you want to see some of the cards (remember they're only SAMPLES). Check this out:


They of course need "fine tuning", like I mentioned the abilities are all "useless" on these cards, some of the text needs resizing and some of the iconography is useless too. But never-the-less it's not like those cards aren't COOL looking. Just some minor tweaking!


Note: And what I mean by SAMPLES is Art taken off of Google. I don't know the artists of these illustrations, nor do I have permission to use them (to manufacture and reproduce this art). I'm hoping her (my artist) own level of intricacy is similar to these SAMPLES. But I don't know ... Yet!

I've ordered my "Blank" cards from TGC

It's going to ALMOST take an "entire month" to get my "Blank" Monster Keep (MK) cards from The Game Crafter (TGC). Basically I ordered 96 SQUARE cards with the "cardback" as you see above (Brown Leather effect with Logo) and will use "card sleeves" that will be CUT to match the SQUARE size of the cards.

Instead of printing the sample cards at home, I've decided to have them printed at Staples since they have Laser color printing and I'd just be printing 12 cards per sheet on regular paper once I get everything in order.

When I say in order, it's because I need to DESIGN more of the cards, find more placeholder artwork too... We'll see. The good news is that I don't have to spend too much on the "rough" prototype that I am working on ... and it can look a little bit more "sophisticated" with unlicensed artwork for the time being.

I'll be getting to work on the MK spreadsheet tomorrow (where I merge the ideas from v5.0 and v10.0) Keep you all informed about my progress and the outcome of this MERGER!


Updated all of the samples

I've been working on re-editing the images for Monster Keep (MK). Now in the above preview, all four (4) samples have been UPDATED. In addition, the updated samples also contain the "correct" abilities.

I took the time to think about each card and figure out what ability to apply for those that I have edited. "Flame Wind" is a unique card and is also a "Command" Card (from the Command Block). "Command" cards are used as "multipliers" ("x?") and affect scoring.

If you have any questions, feedback, advice, etc. Feel free to post a comment below.

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blog | by Dr. Radut