August 15, 2019
This Dev Insight is a bit different from the previous ones we’ve done. Instead of talking about things we have already released, we want to talk about a few big things to come, and the reasonings behind them. This primarily covers two subjects:
1. Card balancing changes.
2. Changes to our ‘Standard’ mode.
As can be expected for any competitive games with a lot of moving parts and customizability, there are always a lot of discussions going on about things players consider too weak, too strong, frustrating to play against, and, in our case, there have been a few discussions basically just asking the questions, “why aren’t we changing more of these things?” So let’s start there.
One of the goals of Lightseekers has always been to try to keep its physical and digital counterparts as closely connected as possible; so that players of the physical game can replicate a majority of their physical experience in a digital environment. This has often been a primary drive behind why things have not changed as readily as they could have -because it causes rifts between the two versions of the game.
However, when it comes to card balancing and what we can and cannot change, we have come to the decision to simply do what we feel is best for each version of the game individually. There are already some major factors that the physical side of the game supports that the digital game doesn’t and, as a result, the digital game has had to wait for physical parity.
When we have designed and balanced waves of cards from a competitive point of view, we have historically done so in two ways:
1. With 1-vs-1, best-of-3 match-ups in mind, where players can utilise sideboards and play under time restrictions.
2. From early days, we also balanced a lot with multiplayer in mind, where the dynamics of playing three or more players simply solved many issues that could crop up in 1-vs-1.
None of these apply to the digital game. The former (best of 3) is because we don’t want to impose long best-of-3 sessions on a user base whose play patterns don’t align with it. Players typically have multiple, but shorter sessions in a day, and we don’t want ‘Ranked’ play to become a big time commitment and suffer longer queues as a result. The latter (multiplayer) is simply a massive undertaking in regards to workload, and also fragments queues further.
This means that the ability to counterplay stronger decks is much more restricted, meaning that certain playstyles become less viable, and the variety of decks is lower than we’d like it to be.
The card pool of Lightseekers is split into ‘Standard’ cards and ‘Legacy’ cards. There have been a few reasons for this, in order to improve the competitive environment:
1. To “get rid” of some cards that are simply too strong.
2. To make it easier to open up the design space for new cards, without overcrowding certain areas, making it too easy to build “perfect decks”.
3. To generate some enforced variety and change-ups of decks.
However, this has created a lot of heated debates and some rifts between players. People that invested time or money into getting cards that are now ‘Legacy’ don’t necessarily want to see that go to waste, and they have decks that they enjoy and want to keep playing.
As mentioned previously, there will be a ‘Casual (Standard)’ queue coming in a future update. For us, this is not really enough. One of the reasons why these players use their decks in Casual is simply because there are no other environments to use them in. A problem with creating a second ‘Ranked’ mode for Legacy is also that we fracture the player base further, and it also suffers from the things that the above bullet points are trying to solve.
First of all, everything listed here is already well in development, and is currently being playtested. However, it’s still some time away from release (we can’t give any exact dates yet), but we’d also like to hear any feedback on these changes before we get too far, so that we can make any further changes or adjustments if we can improve it further.
We are going to apply a lot of card balancing changes to cards in the digital game. These will not apply to physical erratas (a few erratas might be cherry-picked for physical as well, but it will be treated separately). This does mean that a lot of cards will be behaving differently in physical and digital play. We know this isn’t ideal at all, but as mentioned before we have to do what we feel is right for both games in their own ecosystem.
Since we are still in the process of playtesting this, we’re not too comfortable to outline exactly which cards are changing. But, to give you an insight into just how big this endeavour is, we can share some details with you:
– At the time of writing, 401 cards have changed in some way (not including any of the upcoming Wave 5 cards).
– Some of these cards have simply changed rarity (due to the ‘Changes to Standard’ as described below), but a majority of them are mechanical changes.
– Most mechanical changes are simply minor adjustments to the balancing of cards.
This includes anything from increasing or reducing values, changing which Elements are Superior on a Hero, changing the weights of Items, or changing around some of the corners on Buffs.
A number of cards have received complete redesigns.
While we can’t share a full list of cards right now, here are some of the objectives we’ve had behind these changes:
– We want ‘Removal’ to feel a bit fairer between the Orders.
All six primary ‘Removal’ cards (Pathfinder, Shadow Puppet, Crystal Leech, Reckless Spirit, Thunder Slug, and Hammerdown Enforcer) are currently being tested as ‘Burn’ cards and all of them have a conditional way to increase the Remove amount to 2 or apply a negative side effect if it’s always a flat 2 (similar to what Hammerdown Enforcer currently does).
– We want to encourage a greater variety in Hero use.
A common trend you will be able to spot is that we are removing a lot (but not all) of the “this can’t be increased by effects” clause from Hero cards. It’s Leo’s time to shine!
We are looking at ways to make some of the straight-up ‘Draw’ Heroes a bit less straightforward in their playstyle.
There’s a lot of manipulation on Heroes that we don’t feel is up to par (or might even be too good).
– We want to open up some new avenues for ‘Family’ play.
The use of Family tags in effects was first introduced in Kindred (Wave 3), meaning Awakening and Mythical cards have no such tie-ins. This means that a big chunk of our card pool was designed without these things in mind. This is something we want to rectify, so you will be seeing some ‘Family’ related effects making their way into older cards.
– We want to encourage more Buff play.
Some of the design choices we’ve made with the upcoming changes are focused around making it less efficient to run decks containing nothing but Attack and Defend cards, alongside offering some more different incentives for combining such cards with Buffs, while also toning down the “blind spikes” a bit.
– We want to trim down survivability.
One of the very first things we decided in regards to balancing when the game was first created, in order to make the game feel a bit more swingy, was to have healing balanced around an extra point compared to damage. This was alongside the idea that we’d just have less ways to generate perpetual healing and fewer raw healing cards in general. However, the options of ways to survive and recur cards has increased a lot with time, so we are toning down some of the survivability options slightly.
– We want to rein in recursion a bit.
Recursion and stall has always gone hand in hand, and we want to reduce the raw amount of defences that can easily be brought back from the discard pile in order to somewhat reduce the likelihood of a player “running out of damage”. (Without simultaneously devolving into ‘all aggro’.)
We are taking a completely new view on what ‘Standard’ is and how it changes. One of the exciting things about new Waves coming out is in how it affects ‘Standard’ play. However, these things tend to settle down relatively quickly, after which point changes take a bit longer to evolve. Additionally, players always have the previous Waves of Standard cards to rely on, and many simply adjust their existing decks a bit, as opposed to making new ones, which often leaves the game feeling quite samey despite the influx of cards.
We want to make these shake-ups happen a bit more frequently, without always having to rely on new Waves, and without leaving players without decks or the–to some–daunting task of having to build new decks from scratch.
With this update, and alongside the digital release of Wave 5, we will take our 5 Waves and effectively split them into 9 smaller Sets.
One of the Sets will be the ‘Core Set’. This will always be part of Standard. The remaining cards will be divided into Sets numbered from 1 to 8. In many cases, cards from the same Waves will be kept together, but this will not always be the case, and a fair amount of cards have moved around quite a lot. This spread of cards will even include some of the Wave 5 cards (even if most of them will come to live in Sets 7 and 8).
At any given point, Standard will consist of 5 of these numbered Sets, while the remaining 3 are Legacy. Every two months, Standard will change up; the previous 3 Legacy Sets will become Standard, and 3 of the Standard Sets will become Legacy. This means that no card will be out of Standard for more than two months. The two Sets that got to stay around are then guaranteed to be among the 3 that move into Legacy in the next change-up.
For example, the first Standard Set is most likely going to be Sets 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. After that, Sets 1, 2, and 3 will become Standard while 4, 5, and 6 go to Legacy. And it keeps on mixing up every two months. This leaves players with one Ranked Season of “new Standard” and a second Season of “probably more stable Standard” before we change it up again.
One of the challenges going into this is that a lot of decks will end up containing Legacy cards every 2 months. While some players enjoy the challenge of building new decks every two months, some players find this quite daunting. So, to alleviate this a bit, along with every change to Standard (i.e., every two months) we are also going to create 6 new starter decks; one for each Order. All players (new as well as old) will be able to take one of these 6 decks for free, to guarantee that they have a Standard viable deck at hand to play with or customize in whatever way they want.
Battlepacks will have their own little Set; simply known as the Battlepack Set. These will also be part of Standard. If any Battlepacks are discontinued, they will temporarily belong to the Core set (so that players who might just have acquired them can use them in Standard) for a little while before they become redistributed into any of the numbered Sets (which may or may not be part of Standard at the time).
For new Waves that come out, they will, for the most part, create brand new Sets. These Sets will be part of Standard upon the Wave’s release. Although, there may be some exceptions where a new Wave also brings in a couple of cards into older Sets (in case something needs adjusting).
One of the big statements we want to make with the above changes is simply, “if we feel something is detrimental to the game, we will address it.” Cards will most likely change from time to time after this big sweeping change. We will have gotten a few things wrong, some new cards may turn up that are too strong or too weak, etc.
One thing we haven’t really done in the past is improving cards that have been too weak. The reason for this has been to keep digital and physical in sync, and if we didn’t perceive the changes as “absolutely required”, we didn’t do them. With this new approach to how we balance the digital game, you will also start seeing some of these improvements coming in. As a matter of fact, many of the aforementioned changes have been to make weak cards stronger.
Additionally, cards may be moving between Sets from time to time. We have put a lot of effort into trying to find suiting Sets that cards can belong to. The goal has been to have them in Sets where they have enough synergies to be viable, but we have also purposefully separated some synergistic cards in such a way that how you play them and what you play them with might change from one Standard composition to another.
Finally, please be aware that this doesn’t mean we will go after and nerf every single deck that is “good”. Each case will be evaluated individually.
As usual, we would love to hear your thoughts on this! None of the above is set in stone yet, and some things are bound to change over the next couple of months.