DWWA has a lot of advantages towards success. Doctor Who, as an IP, is very popular and has been for a very long time. CCGs have been successful for nearly 30 years. NFTs have been going strong and show no signs of stopping anytime soon. But there are certain things that CCGs need to truly succeed in that particularly brutal market. There are only 3 CCGs that can truly be called successful, MTG (Magic: The Gathering), Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh!. Even Yu-Gi-Oh! has been troubled the past decade or so. Every year, a great many CCGs are produced, marketed, played, and then they all fade into memory. I can probably sit and name a hundred or so such games. So what makes the big 3 sustain where others die out? More importantly, what can the designers at DWWA learn from these games and what can we expect?
As a game, Pokemon is very straight forward. For anyone to learn the basics takes a few minutes. Two players each have a deck of cards and each must start with a pokemon on the field from their starting complement of cards. The idea is to knock out your opponent’s Pokemon and take your “prize cards” or have your opponent run out of cards in their deck. Simple, right? Not once you get to the competitive scene. Once you’re sitting down with analytical players, the game gets very complex. They sit and think about things like optimal turns and card advantage. They will anticipate what your moves will be 2-3 turns before you do them. Against a skilled opponent, the game becomes chess-like in it’s complexity. Players will sacrifice a lesser Pokemon to save one with a more useful ability, much like you might sacrifice a pawn to save a rook.
Pokemon has another advantage over other card games in the presence of the cartoon. The card game reflects the actions and characters in the cartoon well. They feel the same, resulting in a congruence that is unmatched in the industry. The fact that the video games have a similar reinforcement only adds to how good the design team for this game really is. The entire IP is based around a single concept, and that concept is reflected fully in all applications of the company.
DWWA has some similarities to Pokemon. Right now, I can see the frames in DWWA as a direct reflection of the foils in Pokemon. Also, DWWA has a restriction on how many characters you have on the field at once, a limitation it shares with Pokemon. Pokemon and Doctor Who are both world-wide time-tested IPs.
From Pokemon, DWWA should take away one important idea: compatibility. The main purpose should be to reflect the feel of the Doctor Who shows in the game. Doctor Who, as a series, has a very constant and unique flow to it, and that flow needs to be reflected in the game.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Is a game that is based on a cartoon, much like Pokemon. The connection in Yu-Gi-Oh!, though, is that the card game is actually played in the cartoon. You would think this would make the connection between show and game stronger, but it actually weakened the game. In the show, the characters abuse the rules as if they don’t exist. Cardfight Vanguard did a better job of showing a card game in a cartoon. But Yu-Gi-Oh! remains one of the top 3 and Vanguard comes nowhere close.
I’m going to be honest, out of the big 3 games, I’ve spent the least amount of time playing Yu-Gi-Oh!. Now I see similarities in that Yu-Gi-Oh also has a limited board, and several types of special aesthetics for cards. But I don’t feel the attraction for Yu-Gi-Oh! That I do for the other games.
I will say that Yu-Gi-Oh! waited several years before its players received a codified rulebook. This forced many players to change the way they were playing. You could not, in the early days of the game, go outside your social circle and expect other people to play the same way you did. DWWA will not have this problem, all games will be within a server that will set the rules and force players to abide by them. Consider this lesson learned.
The advantage that I see Yu-Gi-Oh! having over the failed games is their focus on deck types. They design cards to function specifically together in sets. All Dulche cards, for instance, all work specifically to a single end. Usually, the decks focus on bringing out a single, superior monster that should win the game at that point. It is very difficult to have a deck for this game that does not have this focus, but it allows a simplicity in knowing what cards to look for.
Out of the top CCGs, M:TG is unique. It’s the only game that is not backed by a well-known and marketed IP. Instead, Magic relies on it’s immense playability to keep it going. M:TG is not amazingly fast to pick up, but once you understand the basics, it’s a rabbit hole that never seems to end. It’s a resource-based game (Like DWWA), where players take the role of a Planeswalker and pit their spells and creatures in a battle for control of the planes themselves. Each resource type (and therefore it’s associated creatures and spells) has strengths and weaknesses to be pressed and exploited.
The true strength of M:TG doesn’t lie in it’s theme (even if the theme just seems incredible), it’s in the variety of play. M:TG has many formats. Standard format uses the cards in the current rotation in a normal deck and plays by the original rules of the game: reduce your opponent’s life total to zero or have his deck run out of cards.
In different formats, there are different lists of cards you can use. “Modern” format uses cards dating back to the Eighth edition, which was released in 2003. “Legacy” format uses cards released as far back as 1994. Now these just change what cards can be in the deck, but other formats, like Commander, dictate a different deck construction.
In “Commander” format, your deck consists of 100 cards, all within the color identity of your commander and you can only have one of each card (excluding basic lands). Aside from the difference in the deck (Which honestly changes the entire flow of the game), “Commander” format is standardly played at a table with 5 players. The ability to play one-on-one and multi-player matches with the same basic game is a strength that should never be ignored.
The most amazing format for M:TG (in my humble opinion) is the “Limited” format. The “Limited” format has two types, Sealed and Draft. In both formats, each player in the tournament uses packs of random cards to create a deck and then everyone competes for a prize. In the case of M:TG, the players get to keep the new cards they opened.
What should the designers at DWWA learn from these three games specifically? What can we already see, and what can we reasonably expect?
I look forward to seeing how DWWA functions. The applications of the advanced game will either keep the game as history-making, or it will kill it entirely. The basics need to be learnable in a matter of minutes (like Pokemon). The game itself has to give a feeling similar to that of the Doctor Who show (like Pokemon). The cards need to function together as sets or types (like Yu-Gi-Oh!). There needs to be more than one way to play (Like M:TG).
It looks like the game should be easy enough to learn. I can kind-of figure out how the game operates without a real rulebook, so it’s fairly intuitive already. The details of choices they make for specifics will lean DWWA towards being a clone of one game or another, but enough is variable so it can have its own feel and flow. This flow just needs to feel like reminiscent of the rest of the Doctor Who franchise to keep Whovians happy.
From the cards, we can tell that same-race cards will work together. The Planets will restrict the deck building enough to provide guidance on what cards to look for, and those cards look to be designed to work together. Now we just need to find which ones are the best within those restrictions.
The next piece is a bit more difficult. Multiple formats will be extraordinarily complex to program, especially when they all need to reference the same collection data. We’ve already seen videos that show a two-player experience, and they’re already announced that tournaments are planned. This is a good start. I, personally, don’t expect more than that. The programming needed for that much is already a pain to write. But… If they could bring in either a limited format or a multi-player format, that would keep DWWA at the forefront, beyond the imaginings of any other digital game on the market.
The final piece is that all three of these games have a pro-tour. Many people mistakenly believe this to mean professional tour, but it actually stands for promotional tour. These games, unlike most failed games, are played on large stages for big prizes. These prizes inspire players to spend more time and money on their decks, creating a sense of importance. If the makers at DWWA are to learn anything at all from these games, it is that you need to promote. These games spend more money every year on promoting their game than they do on actually making it. The design part is easy when compared to the idea of staying relevant. If the same deck wins games for more than a month, the meta is usually considered stale and players will either just wait for the next rotation or quit a game entirely. It is key to have an ebb and flow be possible for the players to stay interested.
But that’s just my two cents.
Where can I learn more?
Of course, one of the best places to learn about DWWA is the official website.
There is a comprehensive wiki for the game here:
HSY wrote some articles on the functionality of the systems in DWWA. Links to these articles are here:
My other articles also holds some information (I hope):
Images provided by various artists at Pixabay.