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Author Topic: Designing Collectible Card Games: How do rarity and booster packs work?  (Read 1465 times)

Deozaan

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I've never gotten into trading/collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering, etc., but many of the CCG gameplay aspects have found their way into various video games over the years, so I've had some exposure to some of the concepts.

One of the concepts found in CCGs is the idea of certain cards being much more common than others. Some of the terms I'm used to seeing in the videogaming world to refer to the different tiers of rarity are Common, Uncommon, Rare, Legendary, etc. This is pretty easy or arbitrary in video games where there's just some RNG and other RPG-esque stats which affect your chances of getting higher rarity items, but that brings me to the next half of the relevant aspects I'm interested in.

Another concept in CCGs is that building a good deck is often a small form of gambling; you have to buy a booster pack which contains, say, 5 cards, and you won't know what they are until you buy and open the pack. (AKA Loot boxes in video games.)

So essentially you end up with a bunch of "junk" Common cards that don't do a lot on their own, and very rarely get a Legendary card that is very good/powerful in the game.

My question is, how do these CCG companies decide what the proper ratio of each tier of card is to the others when printing and selling booster packs? Or in other words, how do they balance the frequency of obtaining the common, low-utility cards with the ultra-rare, high-utility cards, (and everything in between) so that people get just enough good stuff often enough to keep wanting more booster packs?

Does anyone who has any experience with these types of system have any knowledge on the subject, or know of any resources they could point me to that will explain some of these things?

To be clear: I'm not asking because I'm interested in creating some kind of "Free to Play" (Pay to Win) game with exploitative loot crate IAPs that milk thousands of dollars from "whales" who buy into that kind of thing. But rather my intention here is that it seems that the concepts of different rarity levels/proportions and (unpaid) "booster packs" could be used as a fun way to progress in a video game. But so far the only examples of these concepts I've seen involve IAPs (because they lend themselves well to it). So I'm curious if there's something about how the rarity and booster packs are designed fundamentally that require money/IAPs or if you could strip the money away from it and still have it be a fun, rewarding experience for the players.

I also kind of feel like I'm not doing a very good job of putting these thoughts into words. I'll blame that on it being 4 AM and this whole thought process kind of being one of those late night crazy ideas that my brain just can't let go of and let me sleep until I do something about it. So feel free to ask for more clarification if you need it.

Thanks.

mouser

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I don't have an answer to your questions, BUT I can point you to a board game that simulates a collectible card game ecosystem..

"Millennium Blades is a board game about a fictional collectible card game, which is also called Millennium Blades. You begin the game on pre-release night with just your starter deck. You’ll open new packs, form collections, and sell your junk cards on the aftermarket to buy hot new cards. Trade with your friends, build up your deck, and prepare to compete at Millennium Blades Worlds for the title of World Champion!"

https://www.kickstar...simulator-board-game
https://boardgamegee...47/millennium-blades

Maybe it can give you some insights..

There is video on the kickstarter page that explains.

And here's a review:


wraith808

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My question is, how do these CCG companies decide what the proper ratio of each tier of card is to the others when printing and selling booster packs? Or in other words, how do they balance the frequency of obtaining the common, low-utility cards with the ultra-rare, high-utility cards, (and everything in between) so that people get just enough good stuff often enough to keep wanting more booster packs?

I think that's proprietary and guarded information; people try to extrapolate it, but who knows how their results line up.  A couple of articles on this:

http://www.gamestudi...rg/1001/articles/ham

https://remptongames...ctible-card-games-2/

Deozaan

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I don't have an answer to your questions, BUT I can point you to a board game that simulates a collectible card game ecosystem..

https://www.kickstar...simulator-board-game
https://boardgamegee...47/millennium-blades

Maybe it can give you some insights..

That review video, and perhaps the board game as well, seems to assume that the viewer/player is familiar with CCGs, how they play, the culture and aftermarket stuff, etc. I got about 10 minutes into the video before I realized it was probably a bad place for me to start. Maybe after I finish checking out the other links I'll go back and watch that. But for now, without the prerequisite knowledge, it doesn't seem relevant to my interests. Or at least I'm not understanding it well enough to see how it is relevant to my interests.

That said, I realize now that I only looked at the review video and didn't check out the game itself on Kickstarter. So maybe I need to give it another try.

I think that's proprietary and guarded information; people try to extrapolate it, but who knows how their results line up.  A couple of articles on this:

http://www.gamestudi...rg/1001/articles/ham

https://remptongames...ctible-card-games-2/

I'm kind of surprised that this kind of information would be considered a trade secret. As much as I've seen these mechanics appear in various forms (or even the many different actual CCGs that exist), I figured it was a "solved" problem.

I started reading your links, for some reason starting with the second one. I think I'll have to come back to it later because I'm really tired (since my brain wouldn't let me sleep last night while thinking about this stuff) and I'm having a hard time staying awake while reading it, but so far it seems really helpful and informative. He analyzes the issue in terms of EP, or Expected Packs you'd have to open to have a 50% chance of finding any given card. Thinking about it in these terms and seeing how these numbers compare across the different rarities really helps give me a better idea of how it works.


I still have more reading and research to do, I but wanted to express my thanks for the help so far.
« Last Edit: December 17, 2017, 02:48 AM by Deozaan »

mouser

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Maybe you would be better off reading some articles on the history of Magic the Gathering, which is the iconic collectible card game.

wraith808

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I back kickstarters habitually- more to help worthy causes rather than for the product.  As such, I backed the White Box (https://www.kickstar...gn-workshop-in-a-box).  It has some interesting views on the collectibility aspect as used in games.  You might look at picking it up.  I haven't looked through it, so I can't say for sure it will be useful.  I just thought about it when I received an update from them.  The essays within are from industry veterans.  There is a chapter on B

A short excerpt from the chapter What to Do When You are Worried About Your Game Being Balanced that seems fair use, and might give insight as to whether you want to purchase it or not:

(Not a) Balance Option: Collectible Components
One way some designers try to craft balance is with collectible components.
Mechanically these systems are usually the same as the point or slot systems
discussed above, with added monetary costs. Where they aren’t, they generally
allow players to substitute as much real-world money (or, perhaps, time) as they
want for skill at gameplay.
This highlights the key issue with collectability — it’s a marketing and sales
tactic, not a game design element. While it may well sell more product, from
a design perspective, the sides still need to be balanced apart from rarity,
because if you use rarity as a measure of power, someone can always go buy
or collect as much of a given game element as they can afford, and if this gives
them an unstoppable advantage in play, your game breaks. In collectible games,
having more components should give you more options, not a better chance to
win.
Regardless, adding collectible components makes producing your game a
nightmare. Best to skip it.

Deozaan

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There is a chapter on B

Did you intend to write more there? Maybe just "Balance"?

I don't really care about the box (pips and cards, etc.), but I may be interested in the book. Any idea where I can get a (digital) copy of it? I'm not finding anything on the Kickstarter that leads me to a place I can get it.

The Atlas Games website says the digital version is sold by Gameplaywright, but I can't find The White Box Essays on Gameplaywright's site.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2017, 01:39 AM by Deozaan »

wraith808

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There is a chapter on B

Did you intend to write more there? Maybe just "Balance"?
I was going to write out a summary on the chapter that I took the excerpt from, then realized quoting that would probably be fair use.

I don't really care about the box (pips and cards, etc.), but I may be interested in the book. Any idea where I can get a (digital) copy of it? I'm not finding anything on the Kickstarter that leads me to a place I can get it.

The Atlas Games website says the digital version is sold by Gameplaywright, but I can't find The White Box Essays on Gameplaywright's site.

I sent them off a message on backerkit, as it appears that their backer kit is closed, to see about the answer to that question.  I'll let you know what I hear back.

The link on the site to it is http://gameplaywright.net/whitebox/

wraith808

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I received a reply from them.

There are three options for the digital editions of The White Box Essays:

   DriveThruRPG (all formats)
   http://www.drivethru...&pfrom=&pto=

   Warehouse 23 (all formats)
   http://www.warehouse...says&x=0&y=0

   Amazon (Kindle only):
   https://www.amazon.c...ebook/dp/B077VYMGX2/

Deozaan

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Cool. Thanks! :Thmbsup:

mouser

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Re: Designing Collectible Card Games: How do rarity and booster packs work?
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2017, 04:48 AM »
Those look very interesting.