The devs on the new set and on how formats will change the game.
In less than a week, Cygame’s anime-infused CCG Shadowverse is going to change forever. Yes, on December 28, the 138 card Chronogenesis set will release and introduce a whole new class – Portalcraft – to the game. At the same time, Shadowverse’s ranked play mode will split into two – Rotation and Unlimited – with the former having a pool of around 500 cards and the latter more than 1000. I’ve already covered Portalcraft in depth and spoken with Cygames about what introducing formats will mean, so today, we’re going to take a bit more of a look at Chronogenesis and also briefly examine the year that was.
What follows is an excerpt of my conversation with Yuito Kimura, Game Producer and Executive Director at Cygames and Lead Game Designer Naoyuki Miyashita.
IGN: Portalcraft and Chronogenesis really do feel like they go hand in hand. Tell me about building out a set that would complement Portalcraft coming into the game so well.
“We were initially concerned about the number of cards for Portalcraft being fewer than other classes, but we think at this point that might not be that big of an issue.” – Yuito Kimura.
Yuito Kimura: More than we expected, there’s a lot of presence of Portalcraft in Chronogenesis. We were initially concerned about the number of cards for Portalcraft being fewer than other classes, but we think at this point that might not be that big of an issue.
IGN: Can you tell me about the broad, overall theme for the set?
Yuito Kimura: There are four themes in this set. The first one would be the characters that are already in the game coming back as different cards, as you may have seen in our trailer. The second one is – we started doing this from Wonderland Dreams, and there were a lot of these in Starforged Legends, but – cards that give abilities to the leaders. We also have something we mentioned already – the restoring play point gimmick, and we are also introducing two new abilities for Shadowcraft.
IGN: Can you tell me about those?
Naoyuki Miyashita: One is Burial Rite. If you have one or more empty spaces on your board when you play a card with this ability, then you also need to sacrifice another follower from your hand, which triggers the Burial Rite ability. There are Burial Rite abilities that let you draw a card, or that let you destroy an enemy follower.
“We wanted to introduce something that makes the player care about something other than the number of shadows they have.” – Naoyuki Miyashita.
The card that is sacrificed from your hand is destroyed without triggering any Fanfare or Last Words abilities, but if you have another card in play with an ability that activates when an allied follower is destroyed, those abilities will be activated if you destroy a card through Burial Rite.
IGN: And the other ability?
Naoyuki Miyashita: The other ability is called Reanimate, which kind of goes hand in hand with Burial Rite, as well. It’s written as Reanimate with a number, so if it’s “Reanimate (10)” then you can summon an allied follower with the highest cost that was destroyed this game – with a cost up to 10. You don’t get to choose, so if there are multiple cards with 10 play point cost that had been destroyed then it would be random, and a copy of one of the cards would be summoned. It’s kind of similar to Ceridwen, which was introduced in Darkness Evolved. Ceridwen’s ability was ‘when this card evolves summon a card with the highest cost that was destroyed this match’, but this Renanimate ability has a cost restriction.
IGN: What are your goals for Shadowcraft in this set?
Naoyuki Miyashita: Necromancy is one of the key abilities of Shadowcraft, and the way to activate necromancy is a core part of the class. There are necromancy abilities that summon tokens, there are ones that deal damage, there are ones that buff your followers. We wanted to introduce something that makes the player care about something other than the number of shadows they have. We wanted to introduce new hooks to the gameplay of playing Shadowcraft.
IGN: More broadly, what are your gameplay goals overall?
Naoyuki Miyashita: The fact that we are introducing Rotation at the same time played a big role in deciding what kind of goals we wanted to achieve with Chronogenesis. There are close to 500 cards in the Standard card pack and the Darkness Evolved card pack, and those will not be usable in Rotation, which meant a lot of cards that play a key role in the classes were going to be gone, so we needed to put a lot of thought into that, because it could possibly mean that the deck types and the classes will not be what we consider them to be if we don’t think about this properly. So we… have cards in this card pack that act as support to the class types. That’s something we had in mind.
IGN: How different does Rotation feel? How are your playtesters enjoying it?
Naoyuki Miyashita: In terms of the Rotation matches, considering the cards that are available to each class, it’s not going to be as easy to make very fast aggro decks, so we predict the game speed itself will be slower compared to Unlimited, and also compared to the current environment – the Starforged Legends environment. So that’s one thing we noticed from testing.
IGN: How difficult has it been to balance Chronogenesis across Rotation and Unlimited, plus with Portalcraft coming in? Have you expanded your play test team?
Naoyuki Miyashita: Both in terms of quantity and quality, we have definitely expanded. We have had some of the top card game players join the team to help out. Another thing we’re doing is digital debugging by AI, and considering how the card pool is going to increase, especially for the Unlimited format, we are preparing a team that could test things utilising the fact that this is a digital card game.
IGN: You’re moving on from physical testing?
Naoyuki Miyashita: In combination.
IGN: How soon is that digital testing environment going to be up and running?
Naoyuki Miyashita: Somewhere in 2018.
IGN: You mentioned that Rotation is slower and it’s harder to build fast aggro decks. Does it feel like it’s at a lower power level in general, just because there’s fewer cards? How does having Rotation change the way you approach designing cards now that power levels can reset a little bit?
Naoyuki Miyashita: In general we need to be more careful when we’re designing faster cards, but that’s not necessarily because of the Rotation being introduced. We had a lot of huge changes to lots of cards in Tempest of the Gods and Wonderland Dreams, so our core design philosophy, in a way, has been changed since Starforged Legends.
And in terms of how designing has changed due to Rotation, since there will be new cards every three months, and every three months old cards going out of Rotation, we need to have in mind what kind of new deck types will be emerging, what kind of deck types will be going out of Rotation, so we’re thinking about things in a three month, six month span, about what kind of types there’ll be for each class.
IGN: Chronogenesis is significantly larger than previous sets – what makes up the 138 cards?
Yuito Kimura: In the upcoming expansion there will be 42 Portalcraft cards, and there’ll be 12 cards each for other classes. But going forward, from the next expansion, the number of cards for each class will be the same.
IGN: Is it possible that you’ll add another new class in the future?
Yuito Kimura: It’s in the realm of possibility, but Shadowverse was initially planned to have a total of eight classes, with the addition of Portalcraft coming out this month.
Looking Back at 2017
IGN: Looking back at the year, the monthly schedule for card adjustments and the transparency from Cygames about the thinking behind any changes being made has been great. How has the community responded to that schedule?
Naoyuki Miyashita: In terms of the content of the reaction, there are obviously lots of different kinds of reactions, and in terms of the volume there’s a lot of reaction from players. There are people that are complaining that we make the changes too often, and there are people who complain that we don’t make changes enough, but when you look at the overall reaction and what the players are saying, what we gather is everyone wants the environment of the game to be optimised at a pretty moderately high pace. It’s not that we are just doing what the players are telling us to do, though, or absorbing opinions and just reflecting them directly onto the game, but we definitely think it’s important to optimise the environment, and going forward as well we’re going to do what we’ve been doing every month at the predetermined date – we’ll make adjustments to the game when and where necessary to make sure the game is fine. And we also announced last time that we may possibly in the future make changes outside of that schedule if it’s deemed necessary. If it’s an urgent type of situation.
IGN: What has been the most contentious adjustment for the community this year?
Naoyuki Miyashita: It wasn’t exactly contentious, but probably Princess Snow White, which was changed on July 31st and generated a lot of reaction from our players. Back then, Neutral Bloodcraft decks were the thing – it was very powerful, it was the one deck that had the highest win rate, and as a result of that, a bunch of Bloodcraft cards, including some Legendaries, were adjusted, and we anticipated that Princess Snow White would be overpowered after those changes to Bloodcraft cards, so that’s the reason why we changed Princess Snow White at the same time as the Bloodcraft cards. Not many people really thought of Havencraft as being strong at the time, so there were a lot of “why are you changing Princess Snow White?”
IGN: Were there any cards you changed that you wished you didn’t have to?
Naoyuki Miyashita: There are no cards. We think it’s important to have a balanced environment and the reason we adjust cards is for that sole reason – to effectively balance the game, based on the data that’s taken from people playing our game, so we don’t give any special treatment to any particular card. They’re all subject to change. Again, the reason we change the cards is because when we’ve deemed it necessary to make sure the environment is healthy and optimised.
IGN: I’m curious about the intention for the Dimension Shift change. It seems like it was changed just enough to reduce its popularity but not enough to make it unplayable. Is that accurate?
Naoyuki Miyashita: The goal for adjusting Dimension Shift was to lower the use rate and we’re happy that we’ve achieved that goal. In terms of the strength itself, when we look at the data after the adjustment, in matches with Dimension Shift, the turn when the winner is determined has been delayed by one or two turns on average, and one or two turns means a lot for Dimension Shift decks. It affects the outcome of the match greatly, so we consider we’ve managed to, in a way, weaken D-Shift decks by this change. It’s definitely possible to win using Dimension Shift decks, but we consider it to be okay as long as not too many people are using Dimenion Shift decks.
IGN: In the notes about card changes, any references to play rates and win rates are always about data from high level play. How much attention do you pay to lower level play and is there often a big discrepancy between Masters players and other people?
Naoyuki Miyashita: The short answer would be – there isn’t that much difference. In terms of the usage rate, when a particular deck is being used in high rank matches it’s very rare that those are not used in lower rank matches. When we write the note for the adjustment we use the data for higher ranked match-ups because those numbers are more reliable. However, we also, at the same time, look at lower ranks data and also the average data, we just don’t mention those in the note is all it is.
Cam Shea is senior editor in IGN’s Sydney office and a big fan of CCGs. He’s on Twitter.