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Tycho / 2 days ago

Coupon For 15% Off On The Store

Our Merchandise Manager, the incomparable Lidija Piper, has given me a code for the store.  The code is KTHRISSMAS.  It will give you fifteen percent off.  That’s real good.  The only question is what you’re gonna do with it.

You could…  explore Gavin Greco’s WASD Collection:

You could… grab a copy of LEXCALIBUR, now blissfully in stock:

You could… take a chunk off more elaborate purchases, like Thornwatch or The Dark Of Wood.  Any Eyrewood stuff, really:

You could pragmatically celebrate Penny Arcade’s 20th Anniversary for less!  Indeed, in my Father’s house there are many collections - Stocking Stuffers or Sale Items might be appropriate - and any one of them might be of interest.


Tycho / 2 days ago

When we wrote the strip, what I said wasn’t true - but when I went into the Epic Games Launcher just now to poke around for SuperGiant’s new roguelike Hades, it looks like it?

They’re not all tweens, of course.  But it’s non-zero, and if you haven’t been to a kid’s Birthday Party in the last few months you’d be forgiven for not knowing but Fortnite emotes are like a mind-virus with true dominion over the youth.  In a maverick fit of iconoclasm, Gabe’s son Noah performed these dances at PAX while dressed as Reaper.

I was deeply scandalized.

I think it really remains to be seen what type of vigor an Epic store would have; the “extinction level event” nomenclature is freighted with truculent ironicality.  I understand that the percentage it’s offering is better, 88 percent over Steam’s retaliatory, freshly goosed 75.  That’s a larger percentage of a smaller number, and it’ll be that way for a while.  More interesting at least to my mind is waiving the fees for games that use Unreal Engine 4, and bootstrapping a broader Support-A-Creator program.  I have a lot of questions, but it really looks like a good faith effort to me.  Greater revenue share for the developer as opposed to lower costs for the consumer is such an interesting narrative; “moral consumption” has been the overriding modus for a while now.  Steam’s 70/30 occupied the lofty same position, once.

What it really means, as a practical matter, is that now I have a fourth or fifth store client on this box.  The question at this point is really about which one is the first to be removed.

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / 4 days ago

The cards in a given Keyforge deck are pulled from the whole set, and the names are generated by some kind of computerized madness.  Occasionally it’s lead to some, uh…  Hm.  There’s a standing offer by multiple retailers I know where they just replace your deck if it turns out to be named in an incredibly offensive way, but if I were them I woulda been much more careful with my corpus.  Most names are just goofy though and I suspect we could make comics like today’s for quite a while and still find it amusing.

I’ve been carding the fuck out the last month or so and it shows no sign of slowing.  I want to talk about Thronebreaker for example, and go into why Warhammer Champions is like winding an evil clock, but I’ll have to save those for later.  Keyforge was the Thing at the show and I’ve been meaning to get to it so we’ll start there.  I said that it was the third part of a coherent Richard Garfield trilogy, and this is what I meant by that:

Magic: The Gathering is about making the most successful deck you can from an evolving superset.

Netrunner has this too, but two distinct supersets are competing against each other asymmetrically.  This is what makes it a conceptual sequel, in my opinion: this cleaving into two distinct wholes.

Keyforge is the opposite of both.  It is about making the best of what you have.

Now, you can say that the final entry in this trilogy is a “down note,” which often happens in narratives, but it’s an inversion of the premise.  In a way, it’s a kind of statement about Magic and CCGs as a concept.  It’s deeply heretical in ways that make it hard to explain to people who love the form:  there’s no health.  There’s no mana.  There’s no deckbuilding, and there’s no boosters.

I fielded a few questions online about Keyforge, and one of the odd things about the game in general is that it is designed as an answer to the questions you’d ask.  You can’t really think about it like a CCG.  Personally, I think you should play it like a boardgame: get five or six decks and play them against each other, and you’re done.  There’s a concept called Chains which are designed to weigh down superior decks through draw restrictions; they’re also used to bid for powerful decks.  Some decks are better than others, and this is meant to ameliorate that.  Sportsmanship is a virtue here.

I used to play the World of Warcraft TCG, maybe as hard as I’ve ever played collectible card game, and one thing they really pioneered was the Boss Decks: classic raids distilled into monstrous, unfair, cooperative encounters.  I was obsessed with that shit, we did comics and everything.  I don’t think that concept was really given its due again until White Wizard’s efforts in Hero Realms.  Anyhow, one of the things that made the concept so compelling is that there’s a lot of cards that don’t make sense in a lean, brutal deck you’d use for PvP.  But now, against this new foe, you’re parsing cards in a completely different way - you can even specialize decks to do things like Main Heal.  You’re using cards you never would have given a second look.

You want to play Keyforge as optimally as possible, but you do so within the bounds of your deck.  You’re trying to generate a resource called Ember, but of course it’s like Ember that starts with that “ae” thing because their parents didn’t love them or something.  You need six of these to “forge a key,” and you need to forge three keys to win.  So much of the game is like Tug O’ War or Keep Away, trying to grab or even just hold the opponent’s Ember away from them long enough for you to get your keys done.  Every deck you buy is made up of cards from three different Houses, and when your turn comes around you choose one of them and play all the cards you want from that House.  So there’s no mana, but there’s a sensible - yet gameable - limitation on what you can accomplish because you can only do things with a particular house at a time.  Obviously, there’s a couple keywords that let you muddy the waters a bit but generally that’s how you comport yourself.  In this way, it’s a race to get keys built, and it feels like it.  Cards and creatures operate traditionally, they have strength or whatever, but most of their interactions are about Ember and they can’t attack the player.  So, even if they look the same they do other things - for example, often the smaretest move isn’t to attack enemy creatures at all but to “Reap” - that is to say, Generate Ember.  They can all do it.  You want to kill troublesome, multicard Engines but you are not here to wage war.  You have a more glorious purpose.

Tournament-wise at PAX Unplugged, there were a few formats on-hand: some where you bring decks from home, some the Keyforge equivalent of “Sealed Deck,” where you pop open a couple decks and now you’re ready to play.  I think the latter is much more Keyforge, frankly - more harmonious with the thesis: this is what we got.  This is where we’re at.  And we succeed by making the best of it.

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / 6 days ago

The Keyforge discussion is very long and I won’t be able to do it right now because I have only partial access to my brain and also I was up playing Kill Team with some Germans until three o’clock in the morning.

I’ve been to a lot of conventions, thirty five just including PAX shows, and even in that wide river of experiences this show stands out.  I love it so much; I fully expect my bank to call me about suspicious activity on my card, and I’m gonna have to say to a grown-ass adult “No, I fully intended to purchase dice made from semi-precious stones and a legion of special, tiny boys.”

It’ll hit all the other channels soon, but if you want to feast on the freshest Acquisitions Incorporated morsels I’ve got them for you: if you’re looking for the main Acquisitions Incorporated game, what is sometimes called The “A” Team, that’s right here.  You will almost certainly want to catch its predecessor Switcharoo as the lead in.  Beyond that, we also have our Acquisitions Incorporated: The “C” Team K’thrissmas Special up for you as well.  Hopefully this will be a balm for those of you waiting for the premiere of Season 3 at PAX South.

The big winners of the show for me are Sagrada and Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Champions.  Champions is a CCG from the Lightseekers team, and it’s brilliant.  CCG fatigue is real, but the game has about five fascinating mechanics in it - any one of which would be somebody else’s whole deal.  They have an app of the game as well, and it’ll even scan your real cards for your digital collection.  Sagrada is about, be still my heart, competitive stained-glass making.  In practice, it’s about building a very satisfying puzzle out of dice.  If you see it, you should buy it because you deserve to be happy.

(CW)TB out.

Tycho / 1 week ago

It was the first ‘frame he’d ever made from blueprints, so I think he might have been extra excited to wear it?  In any case, paying to accelerate time is a core freemium notion and even though it’s not efficient to pay for something that would happen anyway, it does allow a very particular, very limited form of Time Travel.

I said I was gonna talk about Artifact after the strip, but I was much more focused that day trying to make sure as many people as possible knew about Gav’s WASD Line.  Now I have a second to talk about it.

It would be hard to list all the card games, digital or otherwise, that I’ve advocated for in these posts.  There’s plenty of servile adherence to Magic in the space, to be sure; the fact that people can still profitably duplicate Magic: The Gathering after more than twenty-five years must be seen as an index of Richard Garfield’s genius.  Indeed, people have taken the deckbuilding concept alone and created not merely games but a genre from it.  But, yes.  I’m obsessed with the form, and almost pathologically compelled to perform apologetics for it.

I couldn’t even choke down the Artifact tutorial.  That is incredibly bad news.

Note, please, that I am the one who tends to wounded fawns around here.  I can look in their glassy little eyes and see the bright thread that connects all living beings.  I feel like my pedigree for coming to the defense of misunderstood, fractional genius is unassailable after twenty years of it.  Except Artifact is what happens when you hire a rockstar designer, have functionally no budget, and nobody in their anarcho-syndicalist commune has the moral authority to say “No.”

There’s so much wasted effort here.  They need to completely revamp the tutorial process to start with a single lane, which then expands to their customary three and makes it seem like they’re adding something.  See, the big idea is that you are sort of playing three games at once in each of three lanes.  Which would be fine, except each lane is functionally an entire game and I’m pretty sure people aren’t looking for their digital card games to take longer to play.

They’ve spent a lot of time on these cutesy animations, I assume so they can sell you more of these little assholes that jump around on the screen, but it’s like an artisinal Clippy or something.  Imagine if you could buy an upmarket Clippy at a Farmer’s Market, between the Jam Lady and the Kombucha Dude.  They’re always getting in your fucking face.  The whole visual experience is just overwhelming and they need some fucking grownups over there.

You know what would be cool?  If I only had to do my lane.  If the card game were like Actual Dota - it’s about me cooperating with other people to succeed, and just like Dota surprise lane switches and camaraderie were the whole deal.  The universe where this is true sounds like a cool place, and I am going to spend the rest of life building a machine to go there.

The innovations here, and they do exist, are on the business side: the game costs money because the cards are more “real” than in other digital CCGs - they aren’t locked down to accounts as they are in the vast majority of these things, they’re your property, as a whole and individually.  I think that’s pretty cool and it would be even cooler if it was associated with a game I wanted to play.

I think it’s worth thinking of Richard Garfield’s work in card games as a trilogy, one that goes Magic: The Gathering, Netrunner, and ends with Keyforge.  I can explain more about that framework later, certainly hit me up at PAX Unplugged this weekend if you want to talk cards or Kill Team.  Artifact isn’t on this list.

(CW)TB out.

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