PAX Prime is in the books! It was an amazing show – we demoed Nova Blitz to 1,000 people, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. And, we won our first award! Curse Media (the folks behind Gamepedia, and hundreds of other gaming fan sites) awarded Nova Blitz their “Uber TCG of the year” award. We’ll post pictures of the glassware when they mail it to us!
We’re all a little wiped out from 4 days of solid demos, so there’s no game update this week. There will be one on Tuesday September 8th (more info at the bottom of this post), which will require players to download a new client version.
Best of all (for our development, at least), we got to watch lots of brand new players interact with the game, and see what tripped people up. In general, people understood the game play by the middle of their first game. There’s still a lot we can do to make the new player experience smoother and easier. Here are some of the things we found, that we’ll be working on in the next few months:
Click and Swipe
We’ve been building the game on PC for so long that we missed an obvious fact: On tablets, players like to swipe to attack. Our tap-tap interface for combat wasn’t helping players out. We’ll be implementing a swipe/drag UI for attacking to make sure it’s as intuitive as possible on tablets.
A lot of our identifiers (Initiative, start of turn, start of combat) aren’t nearly clear enough. We’re working on a UI redesign over the next few months. As part of that, we’ll be upgrading all of those so they’re really clear (and look cooler).
Attacking and Blocking
The UI for attacking and blocking isn’t nearly as clear as it could be. The alpha has buttons for “attack” and “block”, and those buttons were tripping up new players. As we talked about it, we realised we don’t need those buttons at all – we can do the same combat mechanics without buttons. Instead of using buttons, we can highlight your opponent with a big animated “attack” icon, and their units with big animated “block” icons, and then let you drag a targeting arrow from your unit to either the opponent’s unit (for a block), or the opponent (for an attack). We’ll test this UI as part of our overall UI redesign, and assuming it feels good and tests well, you’ll see it as we roll out more UI updates.
There’s bunch of UI improvements we’ll implement on the tablet client – mainly centered around making sure your finger doesn’t obscure key pieces of information as you’re playing the game. The biggest offenders were targeting arrows, which need a targeting reticle over their end, and tap-and-hold to zoom – cards were popping up with your finger covering the card text; the exact opposite of what we want!
This was a big realization – the presence of energy cards is a barrier for new players picking up the game. Playing resources in order to play more cards was a common play pattern 20 years ago. It’s now unusual – most players coming in from modern TCGs and card battlers haven’t ever experienced the concept of a resource card. Effectively, including energy cards in the game makes the game less accessible for everyone who hasn’t played Magic, and only 30% of the people who played Nova Blitz at PAX had previously played Magic.
We’d already been looking at some ways to adjust this system, because it had other suboptimal effects on the game – most noticeably making players make less-than-interesting decisions during each turn, and providing a less fun experience in the end game when players are in top-deck mode. Add that to the accessibility issue, and it’s clear there’s a problem.
We’re playtesting a couple of options internally, so expect to see a test of a “no energy card system” in a future system update. The systems we’re testing are variants of “you get one energy card every turn, and you get the Aspect of the card you drew” – so far they feel good, and it’s just a case of finding the best one for a live test on the Alpha server.
Next Update: Tuesday September 8th
We’ll be updating the game next Tuesday (September 8th), including some card changes to test new card mechanics, and our next big feature: Friend challenge play. This build will require all players to download a new client version – we need everyone on the same version of the client for the friend challenge play to work. In addition to mechanics and friend play, we’ll have some new server tech that increases the number of concurrent games we can handle. We don’t expect any significant downtime for this update, other than the time you’ll need to download the new client.