Designing and building “Carded Hard”

Carded Hard was made with a skilled team of game design students at Sheridan College, This includes Aaron Sutton, Jesse Baker, Johnlee Cooper, and myself, Matthew Murchison.

Carded Hard title screen
Carded Hard title screen

The Basics:

Carded Hard was made in one week and is the first of several proofs of concepts that our team will make in the coming months. We had the choice of aScrolling Shoot ‘Em Up, a Card Game, or a Platformer. We chose to build an action card game, here is how that went.

Personal Log:

My duties for Carded Hard were actually fairly simple. I was in charge of the merging mechanic. When two cards collided the low card would steal the value of the high card, such was my main contribution.

This went through a few phases and challenges.

V1 – After our first design meeting we broke up duties and headed home to code. My original code made the cards each sendMessage each other value on collision. This quickly revealed that only one card would actually send/receive the card value. My solution was this: Set default OtherCardValue to 0, then run a comparison for the 0. Whichever got the value would execute logic, whichever stayed 0 would destroy itself. Then the cards would stop and could be picked up again (that part wasn’t my code).

V2 – We mixed the code together from each team member and decided we wanted the cards to continue moving, this meant the removal of two variables, nice and easy!

Card Merge mechanic
Card Merge mechanic

V3 – This was the hardest part for my scripts, we decided we wanted the lowest card to always survive, and the highest to always die. Seems simple… but not with the logic I had. That is why we work with a team though and when my logic failed they had my back and shared this handy bit of code. “coll.gameObject.GetComponent<CardProjectile>().cardNumber;” This means that both cards get the value of each other, and can execute the great-than, less-than logic, and they always get the right result!

V4 – The final adjustment was to add an identifier for 0 cards and equal cards. This lets the game give special results for these scenarios. The logic for an equal collision is actually a death race, both cards kill each other and the first one to do it lives! That solves that (:

Card Merge mechanic
Card Merge mechanic

And that was my code, from then on my duties became playtesting when we began to doubt that our game was really fun. It turns out it really was, we were just too close to the code and intricate workings to see it anymore. To test the game I sought out players we had never talked to about the game, both in and out of our program. At this point, we were pretty down and out about it and I didn’t want that to influence our testers. Once I found some suitable candidates it quickly became clear it was still a very fun game, the smiles as they figured out controls were enough, but they also gave valuable feedback on the ‘funniness’ of the game.

Critical Analyses:

When we chose to make a card game we wanted to make something unique. We wanted a fun multiplayer game where the cards still mattered. We did not want a game where the cards were just bullets in disguise. So we chose the merging mechanic and healing element to make the card values important, and the pickup ability made gave the player a chance to express choice with the cards. W built a combat game where you have to consider your next throw, will it hurt the enemy, or do you use that card to heal yourself?

Heart Card mechanic
Heart Card mechanic

I believe that the merging, pickup, and health were the strongest points of the game. These elements gave the cards meaning, which was our intention all along. They went always strong, the merging mechanic started out pretty arbitrary, and pickups were anecdotal in our first run (health didn’t exist). But by scaling up the cards the values on the pickups became easy to read and gained a lot of meaning; by changing the merge logic the card reactions and mixes gained meaning to the player and became an asset that they could use. The thing that brought it all together was adding health, that really force the players to consider every card.

A heart particle
A heart particle

Through our development we had a bumpy ride, we love the game on the drawing board, but after two days of work we hated it. THats when we play tested, we know that we could be to close to the game, so we sought out people far, far away. The successful test and promising feedback got us into the groove again and we considered 3 alternate formats for the game, but finally stuck with what we had built. From there we tweaked scales, adjusted readability and pushed in some juicy effects.

Level Design
Level Design

Overall I would call this game a success, it was fun, and it proved that our card mechanic would work in a larger game. Though we are all in agreement that this is only a component of what would be needed, not the main game. The greatest success would be in our early failure to build something fun, we learned a lot of lessons about design, team organization, work scheduling, and the importance of perspective while we built Carded Hard.

Card Collect mechanic
Card Collect mechanic

 

Thanks for reading, feel free to comment about your biggest game design failures, successes or lessons!

-Matt

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