Crafting a Hero - Lightmare Design Blog entry#4
This week I’m going to talk about how we design heroes, using the newly revealed Aberion as an example.
First thing if you haven’t already, check out Aberion’s Hero spotlight video:
Nearly every hero created so far has started from a preexisting character or art piece, meaning that one of the first things we do when designing that hero is research a character’s personality, story and any cards or events associated with them previously.
Starting from this information is a style of design called “top down design”, a term created by Magic designer Mark Rosewater to differentiate between designs that start from a mechanical gameplay basis, but instead originate from something’s flavor or creative elements. Beginning with our knowledge of a character we then design gameplay to match, rather than starting from a specific gameplay style and then writing the character to suit it.
For example Aberion as the leader of the flame dawn, the most aggressive faction in the original game and one of the most well know characters was decided from an early stage to be a fast, new player friendly hero. This fit his character’s fanatical views, his previous gameplay and thus player’s expectations.
A time to shine
After choosing the overall gameplan and theme of a hero, we need to design the specific cards very carefully. Unlike many other card games, the small number of unique cards in each hero's deck has to have a specific design goal, as a single card without a useful purpose can have a large overall effect on that hero’s play experience. Because of this we want every card to have at least one moment to shine, a single place were someone playing actively is excited to play or draw it. This lesson can be seen in the game Clash Royale where the designers have talked about wanting to make every unit feel overpowered, just each in a different situation.
So a card like Aberion’s Apprentice gives all your attacking units a small attack boost, which is usually a cheap effect that might deal a little bit of damage but not really swing a game massively in your favor. However combine that card with Aberion’s ultimate ability that creates three attacking units and suddenly your able to use the card to huge effect in just the right scenario. By building these moments both into the deck itself as well as using them to make players try out new hero lineups, which leads us to our next topic.
Synergy vs Cohesion
While Infinity Heroes doesn’t have traditional deckbuilding, we still want to design decks in a way to promote their use in conjunction with a variety of different hero lineups. However on the other hand decks want to have some level of cohesive synergy with themselves or else they neither feel like a cohesive package, nor play as well.
To achieve this we are sure to identify internal synergies during design but make a few cards that don’t necessarily fully commit to them but rather hook into strategies other heroes are using to promote these lineups.
Aberion’s Bloodbath card is a useful tool for him to removal a huge unit, but setting this up can actually be difficult with the aggressive gameplan his deck promotes due to the lack of direct damage options. However if you combine Aberion with a deck that has a small damage effect or plays more defensively, you can now use bloodbath for a powerful combination that might make you select Aberion in lineups he may not otherwise be used in.
Making a Hero have internal synergy is important to making it fun to add to any lineup however. If every card was like Bloodbath, with the deck having no cohesive themes then not only would the hero’s character feel scattered, but swapping to that hero would always become extremely risky as you have no idea what pieces you might draw. As with many parts of design, it’s about balancing each aspect to make the best overall product.