Tuning Tutors & Manic Monsters

Developer Diary

Welcome back to another Dev Diary! Last time, we looked back on the design of double cards and how to design a lane condition. Next, we thought it’d be interesting to take a look at specific examples of some of Isle of Madness’ recognizable cards and delve deeper into their creation!

Crucible Blacksmith and Wake the Dead

An important design goal is to make every game unique - we want each game to feel different and present players with new game states and decisions. Cards that let you draw a card of choice from your deck, commonly referred to as “tutors” by the card game community, are inherently problematic because they potentially allow decks to consistently do the same thing each game.

However, tutors also have the potential to lead decks in the opposite direction. They can cause players to run single copies of cards they wouldn't normally play, expanding their options to search for with the tutor. This can greatly increase the diversity of cards you play with and against. For Isle of Madness, we set out to find tutors with restrictions that would keep players sticking to the latter strategy over the former, with the goal of including a tutor in each attribute.

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Sadly, we failed in that goal. We tried a wide range of different restrictions, including magicka cost, power, health, keywords, creature types and even rarity. However, most suffered either from being too broad and exploitable, or too restricted to be interesting. Two tutor designs managed to hit the sweet spot between those extremes, Crucible Blacksmith and Wake the Dead, and I’m optimistic that ideas for even more tutors will become viable as the card pool for Legends continues to expand.

Giant Chicken and Tiny Dragon

Giant Chicken and Tiny Dragon had a troubled upbringing. They started life not as collectible cards at all, but as cards created by an early version of the Intelligence attribute’s double card, then known as Manic Jack & Demented Jack.

Manic Jack was a creature with “Summon: Transform a card in your hand into a Giant Chicken”, and Demented Jack did the same for a Tiny Dragon. At this point, Giant Chicken and Tiny Dragon were “vanilla” creatures (they didn’t have any abilities) but we fell in love with them nonetheless. Manic Jack and Demented Jack were problematic, though. While either would have been fine designs on their own (and you can find a similar card in the set in Fortress Guard, included because of how well it played with doubles), they didn’t work well as a double card.

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It was incredibly unclear what you were supposed to do with Manic Jack & Demented Jack - how to evaluate it, what decks you might want to play it in and how to best use it when playing with it. The sheer number of choices the cards presented was overwhelming, doubly so because the value of each half was dependent on the value of the other half since they could transform each other. Because double cards inherently give you extra options, we found that they were a bad place to do designs that provide further flexibility.

Thus, we transformed Manic Jack & Demented Jack into Manic Jack & Manic Mutation, killing our beloved children Giant Chicken and Tiny Dragon. We couldn’t live with the guilt, or in a world devoid of the cards, so we struck a deal with Sheogora-I mean, set out to design cards to do these delightful concepts justice.

That’s all we have for now – we look forward to shedding more light on what it means to work on Legends at a later date and in the meantime, we hope you enjoy playing Isle of Madness!