Gods Unchained - Deck looking from a game designer's perspective

Gods Unchained - Deck looking from a game designer's perspective

By Patch | Gods Unchained | 1 May 2023

Back in November of last year, I posted any thoughts on deck looking. And in that post I took a look at the pros and cons of doing it. And recently I have seen that the discussion has started back up. Therefore I think it is time for me to do a second post on this topic, this time tho it will be slightly different from the first.

The state of deck looking

Since my first post, there have been some things that have happened that have exacerbated the problem of deck looking. And yes I would argue that it is a problem. A problem in the sense, as it is something that I would argue, is not something that is intended to be a part of the game. And it is more in line with what is called emergent behavior.

Back to what has happened. The thing that has happened is the fact that there now are one or more apps that help you with deck looking. Meaning that it is close to impossible to avoid. At least in a reasonable way. And judging by the discussion on Gods Unchaind´s discord this little fact seems to have been able to sneak most people by. While I think most players were aware of the deck looking, I do not think they know the ease with which it now can be done.

Deck looking from the perspective of a game designer

I have taken part in the back and forth, and the pros and cons of deck looking. And the arguments I have heard seemed to center around what or what not "other games" is doing or that of fairness. If someone is able to do it then it should be available to all. And I have to say as a game designer I see what or what not other games are doing is of little consequence. What I instead like to do is look at it from the game's own perspective and look at it from the perspective of the designer.

If we then put ourselves in the shoes of the game designer for Gods Unchained. You have designed a game where both players design a deck picking one of 6 Gods, and then picking one out of three god powers unique to that god. And the deck then gets made up of a huge amount of cards. This deck then gets to compete vs a deck another player designed in the same way.


The 6 Gods, Light, War, Deception, Magic, Death, and Nature

This all paints a pretty clear picture for me. A lot of effort has been made to make the game extremely varied and variable. Putting a myriad of choices in the hands of the player. If we then apply deck looking to this we get a very different picture.

With deck looking applied instead of the uncertainty, and possible excitement, that comes with this big variability. We get to ask the questions while already knowing the answers. We now know exactly what cards our opponent put in their deck. This in a sense nullifies all effort they put into crafting a deck that can be competitive against the other decks. A lot of this comes from my opponent not knowing what to expect. Does my opponent have a relic in their deck, do I need to mulligan / keep my removal on hand or can I play it? Do I need to keep my removal spell because I know they have an even bigger threat, or can I use it right now to remove the threat that is in front of me?

Situations like this, this is what makes a decision meaningful or trivial. Or you can see it as you are playing the game, or the game is playing you. Meaning you are just going through the motions as you already know what to do against what your opponent is doing. In a sense, it is like playing Monopoly, but one of the players gets to pick what they roll. It makes the game and gaming experience very different. And in a similar, but not exactly the same way, this is what deck looking is doing to Gods Unchained.

The picture that gets painted when deck looking is applied becomes extremely different from the original picture. In this new picture variety no longer makes sense. And instead of using different shapes colors and compositions to paint different pictures every game. The players now are limited to using one color and painting the same picture over and over.

Why should players spend time making decks, I mean other than because they enjoy it. The game should just be two decks that players play against each other, the same decks over and over. Everyone knows what to expect.

Still not convinced

I have still not convinced you that deck looking should not be part of the game. Ok, let me try adding this then. If the designer intended for this very big "feature" to be a part of the game. Do you not think the game designer would have included it? Ok, we will ignore that one, it felt like too much of an open goal.

I would argue that people who deck look because they are frustrated not knowing if their opponent have a certain card or not in their deck. It is more or less the same as if I would be frustrated because I do not know when a certain of my cards will get pulled or what card will get pulled next. There is a very easy way to fix this. And that is to play with my deck face up and to be able to look at the order of the cards. And if I can look at my deck, and I already know what cards are in my opponent's deck, I might just as well be able to do the same with my opponent's deck.

Shure, I get that this is an apples and oranges thing. But the underlying issue, a player being frustrated for not knowing about the cards, is very similar. And you could also make the argument that if I know exactly what cards my opponent has, why should I also not be able to know what cards they have on hand? The problem-solving for the players would only change slightly. And from a game designer's perspective it would accomplish a very similar thing to what deck looking is doing.

What does Gods Unchained say about it?

I, of course, did the only obvious this, sent in a support ticket, and asked what their official stance on the topic of deck looking is. They promptly got back to me with an answer. Let us take a look at what they said.

As for your concern, the Gods Unchained development team is aware of the fact that there have been players who search for opponents' decks using third-party apps and that this might create an advantage for those using it. While it isn't illegal, it does go against our Terms of Service in regard to fair play.

While I was fully aware that they were aware of the issue. Simply because the discussion that has taken place recently in the Gods Unchained Discord server has been hard to miss. Regarding whether it is illegal or not to deck look or use a third-party app to deck look. I would say that is pretty obvious it is not. But let us take a look at the ToS and see what it says there.

You agree not to, or to authorise any third party on your behalf to, interact in the App in a manner that is contrary to any rules or guidelines we may impose from time to time, or in a way that we determine, in our absolute discretion, to be cheating, farming, or otherwise acting in a manner that may negatively impact the enjoyment of others in connection with the App. This includes, without limitation, using third party software (by injecting the software into the App or otherwise) to give you or another use an unfair advantage, or to automate aspects of gameplay, creating and using multiple Accounts, sharing your Account, participating in win trading with other users and otherwise acting contrary to the spirit of the App. For clarity, acting contrary to this clause will be considered a material breach of these Terms and may result in suspension and/or termination as set out below.

It is a bit long but it clearly states that at least using third-party apps to deck look definitely is against the ToS. Regarding deck looking in general I would say that you can argue that it is and it is not allowed according to the ToS. So that's not crystal clear. But maybe the Gods Unchained support can provide some clarity. Sadly they do not. They do however try and downplay the impact of deck looking.

Also, the possibility of wins does not only depend on the cards but on strategy or even luck as well, since the nature of the trading card game is randomness. Therefore, the issue with "deck looking" is still in discussion, and will require much more effort to come up with a final conclusion.

But while they try to downplay the impact of deck looking. They at least, more or less, confirm my argument above whether deck looking is or is not a part of the game. And I would say it definitely is not. They also mention technical difficulties with trying to stop deck looking. They do end with the following: "We are hoping to address the problem in a broader sense (such as open deck lists for all players); however, we are still exploring the best solution.". Not really sure how an open deck list would solve this for all the potential mobile users. 

One more argument

I will leave you with this one final argument against deck looking. And it is with the hopes that if looking at it from a game designer's perspective did not manage to convince you, then maybe this will do. And what is this final hail mary argument you might ask? Well, money simply put. Because if the game becomes more popular then the cards you have will increase in value. And no matter if you are into the game only to make money, because you enjoy it, or a combination of both. I would argue that very few people would not enjoy an increase in the value of the cards they have. At the very least it is only a bonus.


One of the oldest incentives?

The easiest way for this to happen is if the game becomes popular. And we are on the cusp of something that very much could lead us down the road to popularity. Mobile gaming. Currently, the pre-alpha version is in the testing phase, and last time I checked the developers were aiming for an end-of-2023 launch for the mobile app.

Having a successful mobile app is currently the easiest, and probably best way, for the game to increase in popularity. If nothing else the mobile gaming market is huge, and at this point ignoring it would just be plain stupid. Sorry for using some French there. One of the things that also needs to happen is the mobile version of the game have to be the same as the computer version. If not it will be hard to argue why the mobile version should include the computer cards, and not be its separate thing entirely.


Will the Gods Unchain App be popular with deck looking being a thing? 

There are a ton of examples of games that are on computers and then have a version on mobile or console that is treated as separate games. The best example of this is probably FPS games, first-person shooters. It would be impossible for mobile or console players to compete with or against computer players. This is simply because of the controls. 

Now imagine that Gods Unchained is pout on mobile and they get to play against the players on computers. How even is the mobile player supposed to deck look? Should they have to have a second phone for that? I would argue that it would be impossible for phone players to compete fairly against someone who is deck looking on the computer. Simply the fact that a computer can have multiple screens, not to mention the size of them, would put the computer player at an unfair advantage. 

If nothing else gets you to change your mind, I hope that the financial incentive is something that at least will make you rethink your stance on deck looking. 

Please share your thought on this topic in the comment section. And different opinions are perfectly fine, just be civil. If you would like to support me and the content I make, please consider following me, reading my other posts, or why not do both instead.



See you on the interwebs!




Picture provided by: https://pixabay.com/, https://unsplash.com/, Gods Unchained Media

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I am a patchy reader and writer of words... I also publish on Hive under @daje10

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