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Council of Elrond • View topic - INTRODUCING: THE VIRTUAL CARDS

INTRODUCING: THE VIRTUAL CARDS

Moderator: VC Admins

INTRODUCING: THE VIRTUAL CARDS

Postby Frodo » Sun Feb 04, 2007 6:44 am



OR: A Brief History of Virtual Cards, and Why We Are Even Making Them

Hello dedicated players of Middle-earth!

Joe Bisz and Mark Alfano, your representatives from the Council of Elrond, which is the player-elected governing body of MECCG, have a present for you. What’s that, you ask? Money? Power? Better deck-building skills? Not exactly; but how does a new card expansion for our beloved game sound?

Virtual Cards are a way to produce expansions for the Middle-earth card game without publishing new physical cards. Essentially, we have taken 50 existing cards and invented new game texts for them that have utilize completely different strategies and open up the possibility of brand new deck types. Since these card texts exist in a downloadable form on the internet, they are called "Virtual." Have you ever wanted to play Pirate as a Minion player? Ever dreamed of defeating Sauron by keeping the One Ring and using force of arms? Well, both these decks are possible now. Think that Sauron and the Balrog are too powerful? Wish you could do something more about squatters and Fallen-wizards? We've added some cards that might rally to your aid. Keep in mind that this is an unofficial expansion to MECCG—it is not an actual released set, nor is it an Unofficial Errata Proposal (UEP). However, it is our hope that tournament side events (such as the one at Worlds 2007!) and GCCG play (yes, they are now on GCCG!) will generate lots of player feedback from playtesting these cards, so that in the future an official expansion to the Middle-earth game can be seriously contemplated.

Of all the projects the Council could be doing, WHY are they making these Virtual Cards? WHO exactly gets to design them? WHAT are our objectives?

I’ll answer all of these questions. First, the why. There are two major problems happening with the game right now. The first problem is that many players (we know you’re out there!) are lusting for new cards and strategies, especially given the fact that so many cards in the middle-earth game rarely see the light of play, and they feel very frustrated that the game is not being used to its full potential. We hope that these Virtual Cards might begin to satisfy their lust. The second, probably more serious problem is simply that we are losing players. These are players who are fed up with the tournament scene (or the GCCG scene) of certain deck types that will always dominate, again and again. And even players who remain, even good players (like myself) who are in love with this game, dearly wish that somebody could give us a reason to play a deck that is a bit more… creative. Fun. (Call me crazy, but I was actually thinking of bringing a deck other than Fallen Radagast or Balrog to Worlds this year. I know, I know; I’m crazy.) Just, different. So the COE would, ideally, like to increase the threshold of decks that are considered “strong,” partly by directly bolstering certain resource strategies, and partly by directly attacking certain deck types, such as squatters. You could argue, Well why don’t these whiners just make a fun deck and not play to win? but you have to understand that many players would like at least a fighting chance in their games, and it’s a rare player who can get continually crushed and still feel like he or she is having a good time.

Rather than hearing about these complaints year after year, and feeling some of the game’s stagnation ourselves, the Council decided to take some action. And so, a Virtual Design Committee was created by two of the Council’s representatives, and charged with the task of fixing these problems. At present the Virtual Design Committee includes Joe Bisz and Mark Alfano as Head Designers, and Jonathan Yost, Karmi, and Brian Min. (We are looking for new members as well.) We decide on new cards by looking at what is missing from the game. For example, Mark and I literally looked at the Middle-earth map, at all those pretty little regions and sites, and asked, “Where is it that hero decks rarely go? Where is it that minion decks NEVER go?” We also think about existing cards that represent a good idea (like Pale Sword), but are just too weak to see consistent tournament play. Finally, we think about cards and strategies that PLAYERS want to see made… and strategies that they are getting quite tired of facing.

Although we are actively seeking comments in the forums from all players on these, we believe that the actual design committee should be kept small, so that decisions can more easily be made. But like the Council of Elrond itself, the Design Committee exists completely for the players. If the majority of players decide they don’t care for the work we’re doing, we’ll stop. (We can think of other ways to spend whole weekends!)

I just mentioned that one criteria for making the V-Cards is whether or not that card’s strategy will enhance the overall field of play, including tournament play. Does that mean we want these Virtual Cards to become completely tournament-legal? Sort of. We plan to work very hard playtesting these Virtual Cards until a first set can be agreed upon, then we’ll “release” it officially. At this point, depending on the set’s reception and player interest, we would hope to introduce a new tournament format called “Virtual Format” or “Second Age” or something like that. Similar to Type 2 or Extended format in Magic, and the various formats of other CCGs, there would then be two ways to play two-deck games of Middle-earth: a way that involves only pre-Virtual Cards, and a way that involves ALL cards. Again, this is what many other CCGs have done. Why are we aiming for this “Virtual Format” as opposed to just making the new expansion completely legal for all play? Because, we’re playing it safe. We want to make sure the players and the players’ national councils have the final say. After all, the game exists for you. It is possible, it is even likely, that if enough players embrace the format, more and more players will become uninterested in playing the “pre-virtual cards” format, because they will see that format as the weaker, more unbalanced environment. At that point, after much consideration and polling, we would consider eliminating that format, and the Virtual Cards would be completely legal for all gameplay. Either way, it would be our dream to see these Virtual Cards take off and have players excited by a new, hopefully more balanced tournament environment.

Personally, I don’t think this is just a dream. At North American Nationals 2006, I was surprised by the enthusiasm and delight the players had in playing in the first ever Virtual Cards tournament. A great deal of fun was had, and it’s not an exaggeration for me to personally say that that was the most fun tournament I played in all weekend; and tied for the most fun in my life!

But why can’t the Council just publish brand-new cards, with new titles and new art, even if only on GCCG? Won’t Virtual Cards be confusing, with all these new texts on the table for a player to read?

Good questions! As far as making new Middle-Earth cards, it’s nice to dream and hope, but right now IT IS ILLEGAL for us to publish new cards, artwork, and (I think) card titles at this point. That’s not to say things might not change, and we’ll do what we can to explore the matter, but it would be an expensive and difficult proposition to regain the license.

Virtual Cards would not be illegal. The difference may seem slight to players, but to copyright lawyers, we are not *inventing anything new that was copyrighted*, such as new card art, new templates, etc. Now I must appeal to another game that went through something quite similar. The company Decipher lost the license to the The Star Wars CCG and was prohibited from making new cards. Thousands of players left the game. A dedicated player’s committee sprung up to take control of the game, like with us, and they introduced “Virtual Cards” into the game to satisfy the player’s desires for new cards. When they were designing the first expansion, I had my doubts. I was thinking that real, new cards would be so much cooler. But quickly I realized that to a large degree Virtual Cards *are* new cards; yes the art and title are the same, but it’s a completely different interpretation of Tolkien’s story, new card effects on the game, etc. We have to stop lamenting for what we can’t have, and be happy for what we can have.

These Virtual cards became enormously successful with the Star Wars game. The tournament players embraced it, and probably most of the casual players as well. They were declared fully legal and official in ALL tournament formats. Were these new cards that had different texts than the original annoying? Not at all. It doesn’t take much effort to lean over and read an opponent’s card, as you might do with any card normally. You could argue that since it’s a card with new text, that means it’s one more card you’ll have to remember about what it does; but you could make the same argument about a new physical expansion with new titles and art, right? And how many of us can see a card title in GCCG or real life and instantly recall all of its card text without having to reread it? Now if we were going to make many alternate texts for each card title, I think we’d have cause for complaint. But there will only ever be one virtual version of a particular card title. That’s really not very hard to keep track of.

There will be some challenges on GCCG for a while since, as was pointed out, GCCG plays card titles underneath cards so people might not know a virtual version is being played, even after the text itself becomes changed on GCCG. But there are easy ways around this, such as not stacking your virtual permanent events. Peter had some interesting visual suggestions that we’ll keep in mind if it becomes a problem.

The only problem the Star Wars game ran into was that they were releasing so many virtual cards without full playtesting that some of the game’s mechanics and deck types kept ‘swinging’ back and forth between being overpowered and underpowered. They also rewrote a lot of cards that probably could have been better served by just making one new card that enhanced a whole class of cards, e.g. like our Nazgul Are Abroad (V) which enhances many Nazgul hazards, rather than virtualizing each of the Nazgul hazards themselves. But the designers realized a unique way to remedy their mistake. They remembered that these expansions were “Virtual”, so rather than creating heavy lists of Errata, they simply recalled some of the Virtual Cards already published and instantly put up a new version of that card on the internet. That card became the official legal version. So you see, even if we make mistakes with cards, the fact that they are virtual is a *great* advantage, because it allows us to do something that could never really be done with MECCG cards before—just rewrite the text to fix it.

That’s it! Now make your decks, and start playing!

-Frodo and the Council of Elrond

Last edited by Frodo on Mon Jan 05, 2009 10:17 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Postby Jambo » Tue Feb 06, 2007 2:10 pm

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Postby zarathustra » Tue Feb 06, 2007 2:11 pm

http://www.alfanos.org
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Postby BoderHamster » Sun Mar 25, 2007 8:01 pm

Who is part of the main design team?
how many people are the few you mentioned before???
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Postby BoderHamster » Tue Mar 27, 2007 12:50 pm

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Postby Jambo » Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:49 am

Joe Bisz (aka Frodo) is the person to contact regarding the VC team.
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