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War of the Fallen

Zynga Unveils New Card Battle Game
by Matt Miller on Mar 22, 2013 at 07:18 AM
Platform iOS
Publisher Zynga
Developer Zynga

The new title from Zynga introduces a card battling universe built from the group up for digital devices, and we’ve got an exclusive interview on the details.

Blizzard isn’t the only company announcing a new card game today. Zynga is stepping away from more casual fare with a brand new project for iOS and Android. War of the Fallen is a card battler game set in the newly crafted fantasy universe of Tyreon, and Zynga has big plans for the franchise. War of the Fallen began as a side project from several passionate enthusiasts for the card game genre who work at Zynga, and grew over time into a full-fledged release. We spoke with lead designer, Brian Tinsman, whose background includes work as lead designer on several of the Magic: The Gathering core sets. He details a breadth of features for the newly announced game in his answers below. 

What is the top level story and fiction concept for the game?

Our team has put a lot of passion into the story of War of the Fallen. Compelling fiction is a staple of great collectible card games, and we wanted to bring it to the card battler genre. The game starts off after a comet, once a prison of ancient evils, crashes into the world of Tyreon, scattering shardstones throughout the land. As a dark power grows in their midst, players take on the role of a Shardbreaker to free ancient gods trapped in stones and command the creatures found within against demonic forces. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but we’ve also tried to take the story a level deeper by introducing new twists and turns as players’ advance through the game.

For those unfamiliar with the genre, what is a CBG? 

A Card Battler Game focuses on building the best combinations of cards to beat in-game enemies and other players. You start out moving through a series of quests. Progress is extremely simple and the most interesting part is what kind of loot you get – usually new cards. The fun part is seeing your progress and discovering cool new cards. Then you have some strategic choices to make about which cards to keep and which to spend as resources to increase your cards' power. Once you've refined your deck you can battle other players (and in the case of a map progression like War of the Fallen’s, battle bosses and other enemies). Combat is automatic but the outcome relies on the combinations of cards you've chosen. The genre is a great mix of simplicity and complexity – you can play it mindlessly just to see the new unlocks, or strategically to minimize or maximize your deck.

Is War of the Fallen meant to be played only competitively against other players, or does it have any solo elements as well?

It’ll have both. We’ve really set out to provide a balance between solo and competitive play. On the solo front, players engage in map-based progression, encounter quests and engage in PVE and boss battles. Along the way, players train cards to strengthen their deck, craft and forge new cards to increase their power. In PVP, players win treasure to forge new cards, increase deck power and earn points to climb the leaderboard. Matchmaking allows players to battle others at similar levels/strength, but players of course have the ability to take on stronger competitors for a shot at bigger rewards. Events will allow for battle against and with others to achieve common goals.

How does War of the Fallen compare to other games like Magic: The Gathering? 

I was lead designer on seven Magic sets, so I have some good insight here. The biggest difference is that games like Magic have a great deal of decision-making in the battles. That back-and-forth would take too long for most players on mobile platforms, so we’ve sped up the process, making War of the Fallen's combat ultra-streamlined. In War of the Fallen almost all the interesting, strategic decisions happen while you are building and refining your deck. This lets us capture some of the strategic interest intent of more traditional collecting while letting players play at their own pace.

What are the different card types you’ll see in the game? 

We have 500+ cards in the game with over 100 unique skills. Cards represent creatures, as opposed to spells or weapons, and range across three kingdoms with a variety of character types associated with each world. Creature types range from human heroes, warriors, angels, demons, wizards and dragons, to vampires, giant insects and really bad vegetables—like the Evil Carrot. The characters are designed in such a way that every player will find something that they identify with and can leverage for deeper deck personalization. 

[Next up: How does the game play, and how will it be monetized?]

Walk us through the turn of a battle. What’s the general arc of a turn? 

Whether battling in PVP or PVE, the core loop is very much the same: one player is the attacker and the other defends. First the game adds up the attack stats of all the attacker's cards. Then it adds up the defense stats of all the defender's cards. If the attacker's total attack is higher, he wins, otherwise, the defender wins. Seems simple, but the really interesting part comes in when special abilities trigger, which can change the stats and rules. For example, the Hellfire Dragon has a breath skill that says "This card's opponent gets –30% defense. This has a 40% chance to affect adjacent units." So this is where strategy comes into play: there's a choice about where to put the dragon in your lineup to maximize its effect on the enemy and increase your chance of success. 

How does the game’s guild mechanic work? 

When players join or start a guild they activate what we call Guild Force. Guild Force boosts a players’ abilities in their deck. The more active and engaged you and your guild mates are, the higher chance of success you’ll see in battle. Guilds can even challenge other guilds to achieve higher rank on the leaderboard. Players can also invite friends to battle and help you get past tough bosses. We’re always listening to players and will be looking at integrating additional social elements down the line, too. 

What are some of the cool visual features you’re taking advantage of being a digital card game and not just a tabletop game? 

Animated cards are something that I, and many other card game designers, have thought about for years, so we’re excited to bring that feature to War of the Fallen. When you raise a high rarity card to its maximum evolution, one of your rewards is a nice ambient background animation in the card art. It looks awesome and helps give a special feel to the collection you've worked hard to build.

What can you tell us about the in-game UI and progression system? 

The UI has been designed to be intuitive to the non-card battler player as well as someone more familiar with the space. The map provides an easy way to track progression as well as understand how close you are to receiving completion rewards. The UI has also been designed to minimize scrolling and clearly call out the action the player is about to take, as well as provide power players quick ways to perform actions with a large number of cards.

How do you introduce beginners to the game? Are there in-game tutorials?

We’ve spent a lot of time designing War of the Fallen to be more accessible for players who are new to the genre. Right off the bat, players are introduced to Lexa, a spirit guide, who explains the mechanics of map progression and how to build deck; the simplified interface with on-board icons certainly helps, too. We’ll give introductions to new mechanics as players encounter them, like crafting and forging, for example. But that’s not all; within combat as each skill is deployed, you will see the name and score during combat animation, giving players a better idea of what’s going on right within the action—so they could identify a weakness in the deck to be improved before the next battle.

On what platforms can we expect to play War of the Fallen, and when are you hoping to release?

War of the Fallen will launch worldwide on iOS in the coming weeks, with Android to follow. Right now we’re testing the game in regional markets to improve the overall experience. 

Will War of the Fallen be free-to-play? Does it include microtransactions included in the game? What other approaches to monetization are you exploring?

War of the Fallen is free to play, but anyone can progress and compete without paying. We really want players to feel a sense of control and not fall into a pay-to-win scenario, so you’ll see us balance the ability to do things like speed up card training or acquiring limited treasures with skill and strategy. The beauty of running a live game is having the ability to listen to player feedback, so we’ll continue to make adjustments based on player input. 

What other features set War of the Fallen apart, and make this a game that you hope dedicated card game enthusiasts should be excited about? 

Card game enthusiasts will find that we’re bringing a new layer of depth to card battler games, allowing players unparalleled freedom to build and enhance decks based on preference and strategy. We have made your deck building a key part of both PvE (single player) as well as PvP (multiplayer). The game offers countless combinations with over 100 unique card skills and in-battle animations to keep PVP and boss battles exciting. We also think the overall production value and art quality is something players have long asked for, but really hasn’t been made a priority within the genre. The UX is smoother, we’ve done away cumbersome scroll text and feature single-touch attack to bring players in closer to the action that matters most. Character art evolves as the cards strengthen and new animations appear in some higher-level battles, which we think should please players, too. 

To read more about War of the Fallen, check out the game's official Facebook page

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