Disclaimer: LoLDDCG is an independent fan project, it is unaffiliated with Riot inc. or any employee of Riot inc. Use of Riot’s graphics is intended for the purposes of prototyping and makes no attempt to challenge ownership of those graphics. All original graphics, system and design are displayed under a CC-BY-NC licence. League of Legends is (c) Riot inc.
This is an introduction to my current major design project, not so eloquently titled the League of Legends Dedicated Deck Card Game. It’s a challenge project to convey the feel of a game of League of Legends on the tabletop, an exercise in aesthetic and kinaesthetic design and generally just a hell of a lot of fun.
How does it work?:
LOLDDCG is a primarily two-player game designed for both casual and competitive play. It has many similar properties to major CCG lines, but has enough of its own feel that it can’t really be described in terms of any of them. The game uses three kinds of cards:
Champion cards are persistent, remaining in play at all times. They’re double sized and have a variety of abilities and stats that are designed to be easy to use and track. They are designed to mimic the playstyle and strategies that their digital counterparts most frequently employ, sometimes even their more niche builds. Their main resource is tokens, which represent both gold and mana, energy, fury etc. So tokens are used both to buy items and to power abilities, meaning players have some hard choices to make.
Summoner cards are held as a hand and used at specific times in the same way as instants or sorceries in Magic: the gathering. They represent summoner spells, big plays, strategies and gambits. They don’t cost anything to play, but have specific limitations as to when you can play them. You can also cash them in for tokens
Item cards are used to add stats and abilities to champions. They’re designed to be slotted under a champion card to create an easy to track stats section. They are bought by using resources champions gather over the course of the game.
Playing the Game:
The game begins with a drafting and setup phase, then plays out over a series of cycles, each of which contains 10 turns, one for each champion. A champion’s turn consists of selecting an action to perform- farming minions, attacking their opposite number or heading back to buy an item for example. Alone this process is fairly predictable, but every cycle each player gets randomly drawn summoner cards they can use to tip the scales or surprise their opponent. As the game progresses, players earn victory points by slaying enemy champions or completing summoner card based objectives, representing them taking out towers and pushing to victory. The game is designed to be elegant but allow for the depth and colour of play that made League the success it is today. Easy to learn, near impossible to master.
The Game Design:
LOLDDCG’s ruleset is tailored to promote gameplay which matches a digital game of League of legends. There’s constant tension that slowly builds and then climaxes in waves, with a slow upwards trend in how important each major conflict is. Most of the character archetypes remain as they are in the digital game- supports work well without many resources, AD carries need to farm up but become terrifying late game, AP carries are powerful playmakers but are vulnerable if they lack resources or get behind the curve. Everything was designed so smart play in the card game roughly parallels smart play in the main game.
The other key element in the mechanical design was balancing elegance and simplicity with remaining true to the original game. I think I’ve managed this very well at this point. Not perfectly, there are still some mechanics I think I need to tweak, but the game still ‘feels’ very much like a game of League of Legends. Players don’t have to keep track of much in their heads, which is very important when deep strategy is important, and the flow of the game feels fairly intuitive. It’s a little more complex than MTG or Pokemon or the other big CCG formats, but this is compensated by a smaller overall card pool to familiarise yourself with.
LOLDDCG is an attempt to show off some ideas about kinaesthetic design. Kinaesthetics is the merging of visual design and physical mechanics. In this case the primary element of kinaesthetic design is the stat system. Item and champion cards have graphics designed to mate with each other easily, allowing for easy tracking of statistics and scaling damage mechanics. Item cards also have colour tags that indicate their type, allowing a player to page through their library quickly to find what they’re after.
The overall graphic style is based off the season 3 ingame UI, a mix of the store UI and the HUD. I added some unique textures to the background and some contrasting colour flairs that help the design transition nicely into a printed format.
The overall system is designed to be a DDCG. DDCG is a catch-all term for card games with unique cards that don’t necessarily have a collecting/trading element. While the game could have worked fairly well with a CCG format, removing the CCG model makes balance easier and really suits the goals and ethos of League of Legends more closely. Players will always have access to exactly the same cards as their opponents to build their deck with, so no theoretical ‘pay to win’ model here either.
The result is a game system that is really quite versatile. There’s the ability to share cards when playing with friends, or stick to a clearly defined formal ruleset for competition. It’s quite capable of accepting newcardsets of any of the three types and integrating new mechanics without much difficulty.
I think at the moment perhaps the weakest element of the system is the game length. A projected game may last 40-60 minutes, compared to the 5-20 minutes for most CCG formats. Admittedly this is giving generous time for each move, so I think expert players may be able to cut that down significantly. However, such a time commitment for beginning players means it will take some time to achieve comfort and basic mastery of the cardsets. This is mitigated by the DDCG format, which isn’t as fluid as CCG norms, but it’s still not optimal.
Where things are at:
The game is currently in pre-alpha stages. This means that the ruleset is largely complete, as is the initial cardpool. Most of the work between now and the first testing will be actually building the cards from the templates I have developed, which may take a few months. I’m hoping to begin some testing by the end of may, but I’m still wrangling with both how I’ll go about it and the insecurities that messing with someone else’s IP brings. If anyone from Riot ends up here, I’ve been knocking on your IP folks’ door for ages now! Tell them to kick the door down if you don’t like this, mk? I don’t want to piss off the company that’s allowed this project to happen, so I’m hesitant to open up the project beyond what is necessary for the time being.
Still, I thought people might enjoy this attempt to bring a wonderful game to a new medium. I’ll be posting new progress from time to time, including how to get involved if you want to here, so subscribe or bookmark or write the URL in blood upon your forearm, however people these days get things done ^^.