When you hit 1000 cards, it’s time to shift things up. Cygames on how they got here and what to expect.
For fans of the anime-infused CCG Shadowverse, December 28 is going to usher in some massive changes. It will see an infusion of new cards, thanks to the Chronogenesis set, as well as a whole new class – Portalcraft – being added to the game. Even more importantly, however, it will also introduce formats to the game. From December 28 onwards, there will be two options for ranked play – Unlimited and Rotation. Unlimited is what you’re playing right now – every card in the game is allowed. Rotation, however, will drastically restrict the cards that are able to be played. Just Basic cards (of which there are 11 for each class, and XX neutrals) and the last five sets: Rise of Bahamut, Tempest of the Gods, Wonderland Dreams, Starforged Legends and Chronogenesis.
It’s a hugely exciting time for any card game – and a necessary step, too, as anyone familiar with Magic the Gathering or Hearthstone can attest. What follows is an excerpt of my conversation with Yuito Kimura, Game Producer and Executive Director at Cygames and Lead Game Designer Naoyuki Miyashita focused on formats. You can also read what they had to say about designing the new Portalcraft class here and IGN’s exclusive Bloodcraft card reveals here.
IGN: From a broad perspective, why are formats important for card games like Shadowverse?
Yuito Kimura: A couple of things we want to mention here. We want to make sure that players who pick up the game for the first time don’t have to collect and memorise tonnes of cards. And we also want the current players to get something out of the formats. Formats provide a healthy game environment and it also helps casual players to enjoy a gaming experience that’s always fresh.
IGN: So why is now the right time? Is it critical mass? Hitting 1000 cards?
Yuito Kimura: What you mentioned is definitely one of the reasons. When Starforged Legends came out, we had over 900 cards, and we knew that with the introduction of this new expansion we would go over the thousand mark. In addition to that, we also had a new class being introduced at the same time.
“We initially planned the rotation format to have the six most recent expansions…” – Yuito Kimura.
Another thing that we haven’t mentioned anywhere else is that we initially planned the rotation format to have the six most recent expansions, but while we were testing things out, we surmised that five expansions would be the better number. So when we had six in mind, with the introduction of Chronogenesis, the oldest pack goes out of Rotation. It made sense to us initially, but now that we’ve decided there will be five expansions in Rotation, as a result that kind of works out better, it provides a newer experience for the players, and we’re happy with what we came up with.
IGN: Were there many other ideas for how you could do formats along the road? For instance, Hearthstone’s structure for its Standard format is completely different. There’s obviously a number of ways you could implement it. Was there anything else you tested?
Yuito Kimura: We definitely thought of lots of different possibilities. We also thought about things being rotated out every half a year… about doing two expansions each, but what we have now is what we ended up with.
“If you do half-yearly or yearly base rotation then the period of time you can use a particular card is different depending on when the expansion came out…” – Yuito Kimura.
In physical, traditional card games, it’s very possible to accidentally have cards in your decks that are out of rotation by mistake. And it’s always a hassle to make a deck based on which cards are in rotation, but in digital card games like Shadowverse, the game will let you know if your deck fits the current format. It’s also very easy to swap out cards that are no longer in rotation, so we had those things in mind and wanted to come up with something that’s fun, and something that physical card games might struggle to do.
Another thing is that we wanted to make sure the cards in a particular expansion – the duration that you can use the cards, stayed the same between different expansions. Darkness Evolved is one exception here, but going forward, each set of cards in a particular card set, the time it takes until those cards are out of Rotation is the same, and if you do half-yearly or yearly base rotation then the period of time you can use a particular card is different depending on when the expansion came out, so that’s how we ended up with this format.
IGN: Will all Basic cards be included in the Rotation set and how many cards is that?
Naoyuki Miyashita: 11 per class and 8 neutral cards. These Basic cards, which are cards you can get without spending any money… literally make the base of the classes… so if we rotate them out, we would have to make similar cards, that also become the base of the classes, such as Dragon Oracle in Dragoncraft and Fairy Whisperer in Forestcraft.
IGN: Cool. The only reason I ask is because in the Shadowverse Next announcement video, Kimura-san’s subtitles said that ‘some of the Basic cards’ would be retained, so I just wanted to clarify it.
Naoyuki Miyashita: It’s a combination of mistranslation and the limits of terminology. In Japanese, the term for Basic cards also actually refers to several different types of cards, which also includes pre-built deck cards and other things, and so that was translated into ‘some of the Basic cards’.
Yuito Kimura: We knew from very early on there was a good possibility we were going to introduce something like this Rotation format, so these basic cards were initially designed to stay in the game. Long story short, all of the Basic cards can be used in the Rotation.
IGN: Another thing mentioned in that video was that some cards in Unlimited may be restricted or banned to maintain balance. How will you be restricting cards? What does that mean?
“If there are cards that are moderate in Rotation, but really strong in Unlimited then we’ll consider banning that card in Unlimited or possibly putting a restriction on it, meaning only one copy of the card can be put in a deck.”- Yuito Kimura.
Yuito Kimura: The type of restriction we’re thinking of is having only one copy of a particular card in your deck, and the reason we’re considering these things is because we predict there will be cards that are particularly strong in Unlimited, but not so much in Rotation and vice versa. If there are cards that are moderate in Rotation, but really strong in Unlimited then we’ll consider banning that card in Unlimited or possibly putting a restriction on it, meaning only one copy of the card can be put in a deck. We also think that by putting those restrictions in place, in some cases the actual gameplay experience might be better. It might make it more interesting to play those cards, and if it improves the environment or experience, then why not?
IGN: Will you also consider nerfing/making adjustments to cards that are only available in Unlimited? Are all options on the table?
Yuito Kimura: We would definitely consider adjusting cards that are only in Unlimited as well, but we’d also consider putting restrictions on them.
IGN: What classes do you think are going to be strong in Rotation?
Naoyuki Miyashita: Rotation is a whole new idea for all of us and it’s really hard for us to predict what’s going to happen, unlike with past expansions, when we knew every single card that was going to be available in your card pool, so we’re excited to explore and try out different things and try to find the answers along with the players.
IGN: Do you think Rotation is going to be where the main player base is? Or do you think it’ll be even across Rotation and Unlimited?
Naoyuki Miyashita: We would like both formats to be enjoyable for all players and that’s the goal we had in mind when we were making these formats. So the ideal answer would be for an equal number of players to be playing both formats, and in-game we’re not necessarily making Rotation out to be the main mode at all. When it comes to tournaments and other real life events we are doing both formats, so that’s what we have in mind.
IGN: Can you tell me about the tournament event for Arena that’s been announced? Is that a permanent new mode or is it time-limited?
Naoyuki Miyashita: It’s not something that will be there all the time, but we’re going to have limited time events at regular intervals.
IGN: How are the tournaments structured? Will it be a point system? You play preliminary games and if you get enough points you go through? You don’t have to be there for a block of time, right? You can play games whenever you like?
Naoyuki Miyashita: There will be preliminary rounds, and the players who win those rounds will advance to the final round. It’s not that we have a set time frame for those matches, you can just play them when you can play.
IGN: So you won’t be with the same set of players all the way through?
Naoyuki Miyashita: You’ll be matched up against other participants of the preliminary round as a whole.
Cam Shea is senior editor in IGN’s Sydney office and plays a lot of Shadowverse and Hearthstone. He’s on Twitter.