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Thursday
Oct092008

Designing Kongai

This article explains the origins and design choices of my virtual card game called Kongai, which you can play here:

http://www.kongregate.com/cards

The First Inklings of Kongai

While Jim Greer was the technical director at the casual game site pogo.com, one of the things he oversaw was the pogo badges system. This allows players to earn icons in various games on that site, and show off their achievements to other players. Microsoft used this same idea with their aptly named Xbox Achievements. Now Jim is stealing his own idea back at his new casual game site Kongregate.com.

This time around there's an interesting twist. When you complete the challenges for various casual games on Kongregate.com, you don't *just* win an icon; you win a card that's part of a metagame that ties the whole site together. Jim asked me to design that game. I told him there are many pitfalls in this idea and I could think of at least one hundred ways to do it wrong. Jim asked how I'd do it right.

This is supposed to show that MTG's mythic rare rip-off scheme is ok.The first thing that came to mind was avoiding the style of game where we have artificial rarity for a few very powerful cards. There are going to be some players who get caught up in the fun of collecting cards, and there will be others who actually want to play this metagame. For that second group, I want them to have relatively easy access to all the cards. This doesn't conflict with Kongregate's business plan because the challenges aren't meant to be incredibly hard--they're meant to be interesting enough to bring the average player back to the site. We *could* make some cards extremely hard to get, but only if they have no gameplay differences from the easier-to-get version. For example, a very difficult challenge might get you a different border on the card, or different art, or a different icon for the edition of the card.

Along these same lines, I wanted all the cards to be approximately the same power level. I'm aware of Mark Rosewater's stance over at Magic: The Gathering that there should be a lot of bad cards on purpose to give players the fun of not choosing them. Mark is brilliant and I love his work, but on this point I disagree. I like the Guild Wars philosophy that as you gain more cards (or abilities in that game), you are gaining the ability to create a wider and wider variety of decks, but not more and more powerful decks.

Another thing I wanted to avoid was a game that required a lot of cards to play. So-called constructed decks in Magic: The Gathering have 60 cards, but winning 60 challenges on Kongregate.com just so you can try a new deck would be way too hardcore. Even if we gave you 60 to start, winning 60 ore to make a totally different deck is way too many. I wanted a game that could be played with relatively few cards.

With these ideas in mind--not too hard to get cards, no intentially bad cards, and small deck size--I needed to actually create a game. I had several candidates, not to mention three other card games I was already working on for my own amusement, but one idea rose to the top: Pokemon Netbattle.

Pokemon For Adults

Years ago on sirlin.net, I created a thread asking people to name a game that satisfied my long list of requirements for a good competitive game. I could not really think of any game that met them all, so I asked my readers. An unusually high number suggested Pokemon Netbattle, and it took them a while to get through to me that they didn't mean the Pokemon trading card game, which is a totally different game. What they meant is the turn-based battle system that's inside all the Pokemon role playing games on GBA and Nintendo DS. The fans of the game extracted the combat portion only, including all equations and stats, and created a PC online version that removes all the rpg stuff. Even though I do not have much experience playing this game, when Jim asked me for a metagame for Kongregate.com, I remembered all the good properties of Pokemon Netbattle, and it seemed like a good fit. It has good strategy, requires only one action from the player per turn (simple), and has small decks of 6 cards.

Here's a more complicated version of Kongai, for kids.

Here's a quick note on "good" versus "new." If I copied the Pokemon game exactly, it would not be new. I personally don't care at all about new, I only care about good. Besides, this game would be new to the vast majority of our audience at Kongregate because most people are not familiar with Pokemon Netbattle. That said, I decided to make lots of changes to how the game works, but they were all in the interests of creating a better game that's easier to learn. None of the changes were made for the sake of being new.

I'll tell you how the game actually works, but first I'll list the major areas I changed from the Pokemon game:

  • Character switching mechanic changed
  • Attack type system vastly simplified
  • All math equations vastly simplified, replaced with simple arithmetic
  • Mechanic for multiple hits added
  • New mechanic for fighting at close range / far range
  • Meter management system added/revamped

Most of you probably have no idea how these game work in the first place, so here's a quick explanation of the Pokemon game first. In that game, each player has a deck of 6 characters. Each turn, each player makes only one decision, but it's done in a double-blind simultaneous fashion. Your only choices are a) do one of your character's four possible attacks or b) switch to one of your remaining characters. So you might decide to do your attack A and your opponent might do his attack C. Then these choices are revealed simultaneously. The faster attack hits first, then the slower attack hits second. If one player chose to switch out, then his incoming Pokemon will get hit by the enemy's attack. When you lose all your characters, you lose the game.

Pokemon Is Really Complicated For No Good Reason

These mechanics are very simple, but learning the game is actully not simple so there was a lot I thought I could improve on. To understand this, let's look at how a Pokemon player should go about deciding what to do during his turn. Why choose Attack A over B? Why switch characters instead of attacking? A lot of the strategy of the game comes from a concept called resistence. There are 17 attack types in Pokemon (such as fire, grass, psychic, dragon, etc.). There is a 17 x 17 chart telling you how good each attack type is against each other attack type. In some cases, you'll do double damage, others you'll do normal damage, others you'll do half damage, and in others, no damage at all. If you understand and internalize this chart, you can use attacks that are very effective against your enemy's resistance, and force him to attack with attacks that are weak or have no effect because of your resistances.

Just internalize this chart and you're ready to play Pokemon.

On top of all that, each move is classifed as either a normal or special attack. Your character might have good resistance to normal attacks but weak to special attacks, in addition to the layer of resistances provided by the 17 x 17 chart. When both players understand this, it leads to interesting mind games. If your current active character has a very favorable mathup against my currently active character, we both know I'd like to switch out. But will I? Because of the metagame (players know which Pokemon are popular and tend to be in decks), you can probably guess which exact Pokemon I'd like to swtich to in order to counter yours. If you're really clever, you'll do an attack that's strong against the Pokemon I might switch in (that you haven't even seen yet!) instead of doing the obvious move of a strong attack against my current active character.

The problem is that none of this is interesting at all until both players have internalized an unreasonable amount of data. Ironically, little kids have a better chance at this, because they have been explosed to so much Pokemon media (games, tv show, movies, card games) that they already instinctively know whether grass-type beats bug-type or not (nope) and whether dark-type beats ghost-type or not (yep). We need a simpler system that doesn't require a 17x17 chart.

I decided to go with only three attack types: physical, light magic, and dark magic. Each character has three resistance numbers, one for each attack type. I also got rid of all complicated math that goes on behind the scenes. If you attack with for 15 physical damage and your opponent has 4 physical resistnace, then you will do 15 - 4 = 11 damage. Very straightforward. Note that it doesn't matter how much or little resistance the enemy has to light or dark magic when you do a physical attack.

This makes the game much easier to understand, but it removes too much strategy. There isn't enough "play" in dancing between three attack types as there is in dacing between 17. I needed to create more nuances. The first was the concept of multiple-hitting attacks. The rule is that resistances are subtracted from *each hit* of a multi-hitting attack. For example, if an attack does 10x4 damage (that's 10 damage four times in succession), then a resistance of 3 would make it do (10-3)x4 = 28 damage. But if that same attack had been a single hit for 40, then a resistance of 3 would only take it down to 37 damage. So all things being equal, you'd rather do a single hit for 40 than a multiple hit that adds up to 40, because the single hit is less susceptable to the enemy's resistances.

There are a couple other factors to consider though. Each character has a health meter and an energy meter. The energy meter is similar to a Rogue's energy meter in World of Warcraft. It holds 100 points of energy, starts full, and refills quickly (20 points per turn). But moves cost energy to perform, so now you have to coniser not just how much damage a move does, but also how much energy it costs. As part of the basic game design, it costs less energy to do a multi-hitting move for X damage than it does to do a single hit move for X damage. So the best possible case for you is if you fight an enemy with, say, no resistance at all to your multi-hitting move. You will then get to do all damage from every hit, and you didn't even have to pay the higher energy cost of a single hit. If the enemy *does* have resistance to whatever type your multi-hit move is though, it will probably be very ineffective. You'd be better off paying a bit more for a single hit move that isn't effected much by resistance.

A second thing to consider is that any bonuses you have (such as +1 damage) apply to each hit of your moves. So a multi-hit move can be powered up much more than a single-hit move. The point is, this system creates several nuances, but all of them are goverened by straight arithmetic and no elaborate chart is needed.

These days you can play games on the web with chat built right in.

Character Switching

One of the major changes I made was the character switching mechanic. As always, when you switch character, you gave up your chance to attack that turn. But Kongregate's game needed more ways for you to maneuver around attacks. Without the vast design space of the 17 x 17 chart, you needed some extra ways to avoid stuff when you know it's coming. This is why in Kongregate's game, switching characters lets you COMPLETELY AVOID all damage from your enemy's attack. If you know they will attack, you can make them waste the energy they paid to attack, and make them deal zero damage. Of course, they'll need a counter to this if they know you will switch, which is why I added the new mechanic called intercept.

Intercept does nothing at all if the enemy attacks--you just get hit. But if the enemy switches characters, your inercept will prevent the switch AND deal 35 damage, a huge amount. That means your opponent skipped his attack (because he chose to switch characters instead), he doesn't get to switch, and he takes a huge amount of damage. This intentionally creates a game of paper, rock, scissors with highly weighted outcomes. If you have an opponent down to very little life, everyone knows he wants to switch out (he'll heal one hit point per turn while switched out, by the way). Or, if your opponent's character has little or no energy left to pay for moves, everyone knows he wants to switch out. So the "textbook" thing to do is to intercept him in this case. This creates a good mind game where you have to read how crazy your opponent is. Is he crazy enough to actually attack when his character has 2 hit points left? Is he crazy enough to attack two turns in a row? Three turns in a row?!

Fighting at Close or Far Range

So far, we have energy meter management, we have paper/rock/scissors system of attack/intercept/switch, and we have single/multi-hit attacks and three types of resistances. This almost gives the players enough wiggle room to use good strategy, but I wanted players to have one more tricky way to influence the fight: attack ranges.

Each turn, the fight will take place at either close range or far range. Each attack in the game is designated as either a cloes range attack, a far range attack, or both (can be done at either range). Some characters must be far to be most effective, others must be close to be most effective, and others are able to fight at both ranges. This mechanic lets you try to change the range in order to get an advantage, but it's intentionally expensive to change ranges: it costs 50 energy points (half your energy meter) to attempt to change it.

This brings the total number of decisions per turn from 1 to 2. Now, you must first decide wheither you want to try to get close (50 energy), try to get far (50 energy) or just go with the flow (0 energy). If you decide to go with the flow (which you usually will because spending 50 energy is a lot), then you're allowing the enemy to pick the range for the turn. If one player chooses close and the other chooses far, then the choices cancel each other and the range is set to whatever it was last turn.

The double-blind nature of the choice can make it a hard decision sometimes. Imagine that you are playing a character who is great at close range, but poor at far range. The range is currently close (yay!) but now you must choose which range you want for this turn. You'd like to pass (go with the flow), so'll get to keep your 50 energy and fight at your optimal range. But your opponent might move to far and then you'll be very unhappy. To guard against this, you decide to choose close range (50 energy) even though you're already at close range. This guarantees you'll fight at close range, because if the enemy chooses far, that will just cancel out your choice and the range will remain the same. So you choose close (50 energy). Remember this choice is double-blind, so after you committed your choice, it's revealed that your enemy chose to pass (0 energy). You psyched yourself out into spending 50 energy for nothing. The fight would have been at close range even if you passed.

One good thing about the range mechanic is that it's visual. Your characters on-screen are either standing far apart or close together, and it's obvious which range you're at. It's also a lot easier to deal with three resistances in your head than it is to deal with 17. It's easier to deal with simple arithmetic that you can easily compute yourself before you attack, than relying on a hidden algorithm to determine stats and damage. And finally, it's easier to actually participate in the paper, rock, scissors part of the game with attack/switch/dodge than it is to participate in the 17 x 17 version of the paper, rock, scissors in Pokemon.

Focus on Strategy and Reading the OpponentCan Kongai improve your yomi skills?

And yet for all this simplification, you still have a lot of opportunity to be smart and sneaky. I've only told you the basic skeleton of the game, but there's also a lot of twists and turns added because every character has his own special ability (that automatically takes place--you don't have to click anything to make it happen). Also, every attack has a chance at producing an extra effect of some sort. And finally, as in Pokemon, you can equip one item card to each character which gives him even one more automatic ability. None of these require any extra clicks from you, but they create more opportunity for strategy.

With attack/switch/intercept, resistnaces, changing ranges, and automatic special abilities, you can really size-up what kind of person you think your opponents is and start to outplay them by reading what you think they will do. There's enough going on that players tend to develop patterns you can use against them. And most importantly of all, it's relatively easy for players to go from beginners with no clue about anything to intermetidates who grasp enough of the game to develop decision tendencies.

Head over to Kongregate.com, win some challenges, and try it out for yourself.

--Sirlin

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Reader Comments (43)

That's a really good explanation of the rationale behind the game design decisions. Maybe put this in the description on Kongregate to cut down on some of the whining?

November 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEktheleon

I'm actually a member of the community described and I found the site through a link to another article of yours. I was playing Kongai the other day and thought, hmm, this is very similar to Pokemon. It's nice to be right :D

November 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterguoguo

Really enjoy your explanation of your process and I also am liking the game very much. Well done. I posted a featurette about it on my gaming news site so people who haven't heard of it can get to know it a little better.

November 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEighth Ronin

Thanks to Kongai , nothing in my life feels as good as hitting a perfect killing blow intercept. Better then masturbation because you get to have sex, with someone's mind.

November 30, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjendzel

I like this game but I have to admit I love games where you can get something very few other people have in the game. Without the rare item feature and the goal of getting them, this is just a game that will become boring fairly quickly. It provides no incentive to keep playing.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRod

Rod: it sounds like something is wrong with your approach to life in general. If you derive fun only from having things that other people don't, ask yourself why that is? Is it only the misfortune of others you enjoy? Is it that you only enjoy a game where you have an unfair advantage over other players--that is, you lack a true competitive spirit? Or is it not to do with gameplay advantage and it's just that you want a social shuffling of heirarchy's so that you have something (meaningless) to brag about in a simulated world, such as owning items other people don't have?

In any case, that's all wrong thinking. Enjoy what you have, don't worry what other people have, and in fact wish that other people have the same as you so that you can compete on a level playing field.

January 13, 2009 | Registered CommenterSirlin

I think he was going more along the lines of people liking to be unique.Everyone wants to noticed by something distinct about them.

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDH

Hey Sirlin!

I agree with almost everything that you say in your other articles, but I don't like Kongai. I think the attack/switch/intercept-guessing adds more luck to the game than it does strategy. I mean, is rock-paper-scissors really a balanced strategy game? Isn't it all just luck? Mind games are fun, but they emerge naturally in balanced games (such as StarCraft, DotA, Counter-Strike, whatever). I don't know, but it seems to me that you try too hard to create mind games.

Another thing, why do most attacks have 90% hit chance? Why allow them to miss at all? I don't undestand the reasoning behind this.

January 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertufflax

Hey tufflax I think it's because the payoffs for rock/paper/scissors are different, and they are not trivial or easily calculated. Miss rates add to the difficulty of calculation. Also, they are fun!

January 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergarcia1000

I agree with Ekth, this should be linked from Kongregate so that people understand more about Kongai. I didn't know Kongai was based on Pokemon! Who woulda thought pokemon would be so complicated.

February 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPiousFlea

One important hidden algorithm in Pokemon is the Same Type Attack Bonus system.
Frequently abbreviated to STAB, this rewards players for using attacks with the same type as the pokemon using them. For example, if a Fire-type pokemon uses a Fire attack, they will receive a 50 percent bonus to the base damage. What about dual-types? If, say, a Ground/Rock-type uses a Ground move they will get a 25 percent bonus to the base instead. Will the opponent go for the bonus damage or will he use another move to negate your attempt at changing the situation?

Also, what do you think of the critical hits system? It adds a layer of unpredictability, but is it fair?

I look forward to trying Kongai!

February 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterParasepsis-Ezza

A Kongai Suggestion:

Rather than the random card drop, winners should be able to choose one of the loser's cards to add to their own deck. The loser wouldn't lose the card, the winner would just gain it.

The biggest problem is that certain items seem more powerful than others. I have a fine record (something of 36-11), but one of the bigger problems is that at higher skill levels, you're really crippled by poor item drops (I have two or three items I can't even use).

If the game is really supposed to be about *strategy*, I think it would make sense if the cards were more available.

But, overall, as someone who played Magic as a kid and has been a gamer for a long time, this is an absolutely fantastic design. Great job.

Response by Sirlin: You're kind of barking up the wrong tree on that. I designed the game, not the collecting. That said, consider this. First there was only 1 challenge a week, then 2 per week. And you get 3 cards per week to start. And fighting the AI like 3 times gives you a card. And then you could win the cards by playing Kongai itself. And then the rate of earning cards inside Kongai went up a lot, dramatically if your total collection of cards is small. Then you got the option to buy the cards, one by one, so you know exactly what you're getting. I'm not against your idea or anything (nor is it even my department to say or implement) but at least there are a lot of ways to get cards.

February 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDan

Ha, I didn't even see that they were buyable. Well, not that I'm going to be buying (now *that* seems silly), I feel dumb for suggesting an easier way to acquire cards!

One last thought to improve game design after encountering it twice in a row:
I've just twice now absolutely demolished opponents (very good guesses on interrupt with Higashi = very much win). And then, they get to the last character. And, knowing they are going to lose, they stop responding.

What does this mean? It means I need to sit there and press "attack" for a while while they simply pass every round. This is boring. And annoying. I miss with attacks and it just prolongs the stupidity. Etc.

I think a quick fix for this would be to have some kind of rolling clock. It's true that there are some times where it's nice to be able to think for a minute ("Hmm... should I go with intercept or chi blast?"), but, on balance, there are very few times where you need to use up all of your time on many consecutive moves. It would make sense if you had some kind of penalty for using so much time on so many consecutive turns.

February 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDan

To: Sirlin
Re: Reply to Rod

Enjoying misfortune of others is a perfectly normal reaction.
Please read:
http://www.pinktentacle.com/2009/02/brain-thinks-your-pain-my-gain-and-vice-versa/

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterenvy

The fundamental issue with Kongai is longevity. The concept was interesting, people like me who got into Kongregate almost a year before Kongai came out and started earning cards were really excited to see what came out. Did every challenge, earned a lot of cards, and then Kongai got delayed time and again. Got into the beta, found an incredible amount of issues, (I do QA testing for a living, so I understand how it's done) most of which were never resolved. Then came the play. It was entertaining for a total of...maybe 2 hours. Then you were done. You've experienced the whole thing, wasted a year on getting cards, and there's nothing left interesting about the game. And no expansions? No new cards, or interesting gameplay or a story, no single player mode, no rpg element, nothing. It's just a really simple card game that loses your interest really fast. I fail to understand how something can get as much hype as Kongai has, and yet disappoint so thoroughly. There's simply nothing of interest anymore.

--Erik A. Corvis

Response by Sirlin: Here's a few things I'll agree with. The game should have had more bugs fixed in a faster amount of time. Kongregate prioritized other issues on their site above that (such as migrating to new servers so the whole site didn't crash). I also would have liked to see the next set of cards come out faster, but for a different reason from you. My reason is just that they were all designed like over a year ago. The last thing I'll agree with is that if you don't want to gain a good understanding of a game or to actually be good at it, then it gets boring fast. If you only seek extrinsic rewards like pointless "achievements," and pointless rpg leveling up, then a game that asks you to actually get good will be boring. I also will guess you think it's impossible to get good because the game is too simple. I would ask you to play garica1000 and get your ass handed to you repeatedly. Incidentally, I found chess boring because once you have all the pieces, there's no more unlocks or rpg modes and after a couple hours, you realize chess has nothing more to offer (right?).

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCorvis

I have to agree with Dan here. When I first played Kongai it felt like luck was dictating every battle. Only after a while I started to enjoy the guessing game, just to get bored by waiting times on people lagging or simply no responding. Maybe the time mechanisms of chess, like say X moves in Y minutes would be better, even in it's rewarding of fast decisions.

On a different note, I enjoyed the article on the decisions behind the making of this game. As a mathematician who spent most his time in college studying games, it gave me a new appreciation for Kongai. And to cement your ranting to that Rod fellow; it's the childish notion of "winning is fun" that drives him. Many a good game have been spoiled just to accommodate that notion. Those have trickery, hidden stashes, demand intrinsic knowledge of the rules behind the scenes, or generally make the effort to apply oneself to the game (via time and, often, money spent) trump strategic superiority. I find it further interesting that most of these awful deviations are said to make the games "newbie friendly". Just look at Warcraft III's extensive set of rules that lead to a few optimum strategies and relentless clicking...

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAldo

The PA link reminded me that this post deserves a link from the game page - just added one!

Response by Sirlin: Awesome, thanks Jim!

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJim Greer

I intuitively felt the brilliance of Kongai when I started playing it, and that was borne out by 27 wins in a row after playing the computer three or four times to figure out the mechanics. Bragging? Sure, but it gets the point across that a complete neophyte can quickly master the game to the point that he can destroy far more experienced players, despite a crippling lack of cards (not having equipment cards for all your characters is a decided disadvantage, as well as the predictability of having to serve up the same characters). If anything, the biggest hurdle was overestimating other players.

However, I question the decision to have hit chances for all the attacks. I understand the reasoning behind it, but when you're aiming a 98% chance to hit, this has no practical differentiation from a 100% chance to hit except every now and then you will be absurdly unlucky and blow half your energy for a critical miss. I have no probably whatsoever with an attack that a 50%, 70%, or 100% chance to hit, that is a calculated risk. But a 98% has no difference at all from a 100% chance to hit in tactical terms except when you have a choice between a 98% and a 100% chance to hit and both will kill him just fine (and they both have functionally same speeds in Kongai). I may be slightly bitter because my first loss was due to three 95% chances missing in a row out of four used.

I am somewhat amused to be revealed that I've been playing modified pokemon all along.

Response by Sirlin: That isn't the reason for those percentages. If things were 100% in such a simple game, you could enter unwinnable situations and many turns before the game ends. The way it is now, you can at try to play well to maximize your chance for a comeback. Also, non 100% numbers mean you will sometimes find yourself in different situations than you otherwise would have (bad ones you have to recover from). If you allow me all the flexibility of a real-time game, there would be other ways to achieve those ends. But in a simple turn-based game with 2 clicks per turn, I still no of no other way to do it. I think if we set everything to 100% you'd realize you'd like the game even less.

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSinai

Well, lets look at it like this:

Kongai was designed based off of Pokemon, a mainly single player experience, where it didn't matter what happened (as much) to the other trainer/Pokemon.

The system of the actual game is more simplified and allows for greater game balance. I'm about 16-12 W-L with 13 cards and a deep appreciation of the game mechanics.

The GAME MECHANICS, also known as the reason that this article was written, allow for fairly balanced play and a fun experience. No one card is overpowered, minus Tafari, Popo and 1-2 others, and the gameplay makes the strategy become MUCH more important than the grind effect (Although the grind effect never hurts).

Although the reasoning behind the game is solid, no one game besides rock-paper-scissors or something of the like will be completely fair and unbalanced. Once other factors get in there, you get a non-balanced game.

Bottom line: The game is pretty dang balanced, the mechanics are simple as heck and it is pretty enjoyable.

Response by Sirlin: A very important point to clarify there. Kongai is *NOT* based on the RPG version of Pokemon, as you said. It's based on Pokemon NetBattle, which extracts only the competitive part of the RPG. You just pick your pokemon with whatever moves and powers you want. No grind, no XP, no external rewards. And that game proved that it's fun on its own. That's the thing Kongai is aiming at.

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMewyabe

I enjoyed playing Kongai. After a while though it seemed that once you and your opponent could read the game really well the make or break factor became whether you could predict when your opponent would switch or not.

This was especially prominent when one player has a move that will obviously beat anything the other player has remaining and it becomes a case of bluff or double bluff. It seemed that the psychology aspect overwhelmed all other strategic elements in my opinion at which point you may as well be playing rock paper scissors.

I was wondering if a small cost associated with withdrawing might help integrating into part of the overall strategy rather than a more or less separate element that can overwhelm it. Is this something you considered when designing the game?

Response by Sirlin: Yes, and I did incorporate a small cost: that once you switch you cannot switch again next turn. You can bait a switch even with a weak move (rather than an intercept) to get into a situation where you can guarantee land a powerful attack sometimes. Putting even more of a penalty on switching would probably be bad for the game. I would entertain maaaaybe a 2-turn duration on the no-switch penalty, rather than 1 turn, but even that would be a big change.

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris_D

Personally I do not like that chance plays so much role in Kongai. I would prefer if skill did .As it is in 3 card game one wrongly called intercept (or switch) can easily cost you a game. And there is total BS with random misses/crits which can ruing a perfectly played game

Response by Sirlin: I've explained it and explained it to death by now. If this were a real-time game with lots of nuance of timing, such random things would not be necessary. But to remove all randomness form Kongai would result in a game you like even less than actual Kongai. It would be too deterministic, too solved, and have too many situations where you have literally zero chance of winning even though there are several turns left. I think this randomness is necessary evil if you want the game to be as incredibly simple as it is (2 clicks per turn).

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMax

My only problem is a seemingly complete inability to get any new cards. I'm now 5 and 1 with 3 cards and an item I earned doing the special unlock challenge. None at all from the 5 wins yet.
No card earned yet, which is frustrating as I'd like to have 5 or 6 'champions'. Just so I'm not stuck using the same 3 over and over again. After that, I could care less if I have to play 50 games to get a card, but early on, the game gets REALLY repetitive REALLY fast when the only way to get a new card (seemingly) is to go pay for them.

Other solution would be allowing 4 or 5 cards at "newbie creation".

Response by Sirlin: As I have stated before, Kongregate added more and more ways to get cards. 3 for free from the start. 1 more for beating the computer like 3 times. They used to have challenges every week, then 2 per week. Then they added the ability to get cards while playing Kongai itself. Then they increased the rate you gain cards from that, radically so if you have few cards in your collection. And finally they let you buy the cards outright now, instantly.

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScott

In response to Sirlin's comment to Rod:

While having fun at the expense of others may be the wrong way to look at life, I think you may have over-simplified the concept of rarity driven mechanics. There are beneficial things associated with the system, its not simply having something that others do not, its having something that you worked for that is valuable because others deemed the cost too high. Whether it be time expended, or money, there is value in acquiring something that is hard to obtain, if only to prove to yourself that you could. If the only thing that means anything in competition is to enjoy the event itself, then track meets would be very boring jogs and times would be irrelevant. That is obviously not true, as the cultures of the world consider martial feats to be applaudible, why should the digital equivalents be any different?

Getting something rare in itself is not bad, if the only way to get it is through doing something that you deem isnt fun, fair or rational, then maybe the system for distributing the rare items needs to be re-examined and not the rare items themselves.

Response by Sirlin: I think there is an important distinction. When you work hard to win the track meet, that's fine. It's great. You developed your own skills and those are "scarce" in that you can't be infinitely skilled at everything. No problem at all there and that sounds like a good life lesson and a type of fun. That is NOT the same as artificial rarity of cards or MMO items which are purely extrinsic rewards.

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAg

ROD: "I like this game but I have to admit I love games where you can get something very few other people have in the game. Without the rare item feature and the goal of getting them, this is just a game that will become boring fairly quickly. It provides no incentive to keep playing."

SIRLIN: "Rod: it sounds like something is wrong with your approach to life in general..."

Collecting in video games is a game all to itself. Wanting a rare card, item, achievement, trophy, etc. is the collector's equivalent to wanting learn that killer combo in a fighting game, and the collecting is just as much a competition as the fighting is. It takes a good set of strategies to be a good fighting game player and it takes a good card collection to be a good card collector. I don't think Rod is playing the Kongai core game you devised. He is playing the Kongai *collection* game that he devised. By saying that a lack of rare cards "provides no incentive to keep playing" what he really is saying is that "It provides no incentive for me, a collector, to keep playing." I don't think he has a bad outlook on life, he just chose to play a game that doesn't have as much emphasis on collecting as he'd like.

March 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJWK5

You turned Pokemon's extended Rock, Paper, Scissors back into normal Rock, Paper, Scissors.

The relationships between the various elements in Pokemon work because they make a certain kind of logical sense. Ice beats water. Bug beats grass and so on.

In Pokemon, the complexities are where the beating heart of the game lies, because it allows for a near limitless number of approaches in collecting, raising and training your group, which makes the battles significantly more interesting than they might otherwise be.

Response by Sirlin: sigh, whatever, your claim is absurd. So you think Kongai's payoff between attack, intercept, switch is 33%, 33%, 33%? Oh and does that mean within attacks, they are all pretty much equal too, so it doesn't matter which one? That is what actual rock, paper, scissor means. In Kongai it's extremely complicated payoffs, so much that you usually cannot even calculate them, and they change constantly depending on the situation. Nice attempt at insult though, I guess.

March 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheTurnipKing

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