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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: Power, Skill and Magic. A mini "Attack Position" chart which explains how each type of card may attack! And lastly a "Special Ability" for each card which relates to other cards in play, making the overall game VERY strategic.

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.

I'm really ITCHING for an "Update" to this Blog entry...

I'll work on the latest "Card Preview" (in an earlier thread above) and take some time to UPDATE this Blog with more relevant and up-to-date information.

I also want to playtest the most recent iteration of the game. I currently have designed all 12 Micro Deck Cards, each one with a "Special Ability" which just ADDs one (1) more layer of strategy to the game.

In addition, I've taken the time to refine the cards themselves... And in their newest version, I'd like to present them and see what all you good folks think about the design.

So maybe I'll find the time to update this Blog entry TOMORROW!

Finally have managed to UPDATE the older cards

Here is the HTML link to the comment with the most recent cards:

Sample Card Previews for Monster Keep

I'm very pleased with the "LOOK" of the cards. A reminder that the artwork is not mine, it's just sample art I found Googling for characters. Can't wait to see what the ACTUAL "artwork" will look like...

Also I need to do some more playtesting with the "Special Abilities" to see if the game is well balanced and the Abilities ADD to the strategy and are not too "cumbersome" either.


Other notable NEWS!

I've come up with an interesting "Reward Level" for this game's Kickstarter. Specifically what I am looking to do is OFFER a "complimentary" Print-And-Play (PNP) version for all backers. This also includes a "Preview" of the game for people unsure about how FUN the game may be.

Although this means that I DON'T have a $1.00 USD pledge, I have something more substantial which is the PNP version at about $7.50 USD... Granted this allows you to also post in the comment section too... It's kind of a way to encourage people to TRY the game for a small fee and then hope that those same backers decide to purchase their own cards at a later time from the website...

Obviously the pricing will be different and it won't be as "flexible" as the Kickstarter, everything will be on the webstore for sale (everything and anything that was offered during the KS).

This is sort of me ensuring that IF you LIKE playing the game and only decided to get the PNP version to TRY. I don't want these people left out with no way of choosing to get more involved with the game and "customize" their gaming experience with the REAL cards (as opposed to the PNP trial).

Anyone have any thoughts/concerns/questions???


More SOLO Playtesting ... And

I've done quite a bit of playtesting in the past 48 hours and the game is really EXCITING. The game STYLE varies according to the cards you get in your initial hand and obviously which cards you play into the Keep.

The game is really moving along, so much so that I've contacted my ARTIST and asked her to see when she can start working on a few sketches to establish her OWN style for the illustrations. I'm not looking for realism in this design, something a bit more "cartoon-ish" and I've submitted her some samples to work with ... and see what she can come up with!

I am also planning to discuss matters with a Local Store Manager and see her take on things (when it comes to sales and local tournaments). I know that "CCGs" live and die based on their "Community Appeal". As such if I can convince a local store (based on however the discussion goes) to carry the product and reserve one (1) table on Sundays for "Monster Keep" (MK) Tournaments... That could be real great...!

Anyways I'll provide the summary of that discussion after it happens. In the meantime, let's hope we can bang out some ART...


Note: Also I TIMED a game and it takes about 20 minutes to play a 2 Player duel. This, IMHO, is the shortest time since the game was rather quick ... even though there were some "calculations" required.

So I would guess to say 20 minutes for 2 player Duel and 45 minutes for a 4 player Versus match.

Whichever art style you

Whichever art style you choose, I still TRULY believe your cards should all be monsters. :)

About the "Monster Keep"

Tim Edwards wrote:
Whichever art style you choose, I still TRULY believe your cards should all be monsters. :)

Although at the present moment, I have no LORE to share (written) ... I can explain that the "Monster Keep" is a Nexus to travel between lands of many different Races. To be precise, nine (9) Races each with their own Nexus.

Currently there are TWO (2) Nexus: The Kingdom of Calahan and the Badlands of K'hor. Only the first one will be made available via the Kickstarter ... The second one will be available to purchase ON-LINE if the Kickstarter is successful. We'll have to see how the game does on KS ... And then see if we can translate that to more sales via the webstore.

So it's not ONLY about "Monsters" it's about all of the Races of the land. Some races may seem more "monstrous" than other ... however History is re-written by the Victorious! So if the Loyal Human Order defeats the Treacherous Orc Clan ... Well it stands to be so. However if the opposite is true... Shame to the Cowardly Human Tribe! (LOL)

Cheers Tim!

Note: I asked the question and while most felt it would be most appropriate to ONLY have "Monsters", a few designers felt (like myself) that it would be good to include "Heroes" AND "Monsters"... I personally LIKE the nine (9) Races and the archetypes included in the game.

Here is the link to the POLL I had which only 6 designers participated in:

4 Voted Monsters only. 2 Voted Heroes & Monsters. It's not like I got A LOT of feedback with only 6 participants!

First draft of sketches for the "Phoenix" are completed

I've received three (3) separate sketches for the "Phoenix"... I'm partial to one and will recommend going with that version.

We'll see how the card is rendered (inked & colored).

I'm already beginning to see what I hope to be the "style" and "look" of the cards. We'll see once this card is completed ... I should have a good idea about what to expect from Madison!

I also need to ensure that the artwork is in the right size too.


Testing of the 2nd Set of cards

Well I'm REAL HAPPY that I coded the Monster Keep Calculator! It has saved me by NOT putting out "crappy" cards which seem logically good (based on the stats alone) but are actually TERRIBLE in play.

Why is this?

Well the convoluted mathematical formula is naturally hard to PREDICT. Yes all the cards had "varying" stats and that would seem to lean towards a set of cards with different "game" outcomes. But this is further from the truth than what I could have anticipated.

The 2nd Batch of cards is SO TERRIBLE, that most cards produce 0 to -2 MPs. The stats are on an AVERAGE and they just don't have sufficient difference to produce INTERESTING "Game Results".

So what does this mean?

Tomorrow I will go painstakingly CARD-BY-CARD and see what values are good for the Calculator leading to more interesting "card play". This will be an interesting experience... Since I am unsure why the existing cards are so lousy!

But that's for another day (tomorrow) and I'll for certain post an update following the experience of tweaking cards one-by-one!


Wow... That was much easier than I thought!

Well in about 1 HOUR, I have managed to FIX all of "Set #2" cards for "Monster Keep" (MK). Still with an AVERAGE "Score" of 10, most of the cards required some minor adjustment to work BETTER with the "calculator". In essence, those cards needed to have their Power, Skill and Magic stats "corrected" to work in tandem with the other cards in the game.

I thought for sure it would have taken more time and that I would need to wait until TOMORROW to write this update. But ... it was smoother sailing than I thought it would be...

So as I write this comment, please note that the cards for Set #2 (Volume II) have been designed (from a game perspective). We are still working on the art for Set #1 (Volume I) of this series... It's been amazing working with Madison, she really is a TALENTED artist.

Unfortunately I cannot divulge any art at this time... Yeah I do have one card that is "production-ready"... But the cards will have to WAIT until the Kickstarter to SEE the cards and decide who wants to back and support this NEW initiative!

Good-nite all...

Next piece of ART

I am anxiously awaiting the NEXT "piece of art" (or illustration) which is "Mike Operetta" (the Bard). I've e-mail Madison and she replied that the card is almost completed ... and that she can send me a "preview" of the final version.

Why am I so "anxious"??? Well she did an AMAZING job of the "Enraged Phoenix" ... It looks so freaken cool. From the rough sketches and color palettes, I'm a bit worried. The sketches and the color roughs were "okay", but I'm hoping that the Bard also makes me go: "Wow, this is fantastic!"

From what I saw, there looked to be a lot of work that needed to be done. And the rough colors look very rudimentary. So this is it: the test to see if the art will be stunning enough to "WOW" backers into falling in love with "Monster Keep" (MK).

Keeping my finders crossed. Hopefully I should get the preview either later tonight or tomorrow in the morn.

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