It’s 11 A.M on a Thursday and I’m in the Griffon’s Nest; a conference room along the north edge of the Cryptozoic building aptly named for the wall sized mural of ... well, a griffon. To my left is Patrick Sullivan, WoW TCG’s development lead, and to my right is Ben Stoll, another member of our R&D team. He’s saying “jeeeeez” whenever a new card comes up on the screen, no matter if the card is good or not.
We’re doing my first file review for set 18. You know it as Tomb of the Forgotten. Drew Walker, the lead designer for Tomb of the Forgotten, sits farther down the table using a projector set-up and acting as a master of ceremonies. Kate Sullivan joins the four of us to consult on editing, grammar, and templating issues. This meeting represents our penultimate opportunity to make changes to the set before it gets finalized.
At the moment we’re embroiled in a debate about cost reduction. Specifically, if I have a weapon that costs three to swing, but some ability allows it to be free, should we write that as “pay 0 to swing” or “pay 3 less to swing?” On the one hand, it’s just simpler and more straightforward to say “pay 0,” but on the other hand, an opposing card that increases strike costs by 1 creates a lot of confusion with that text. Do I pay 1 or 0 in that situation? Such corner cases are clearer with the text written as “pay 3 less,” so there are benefits and costs to writing it either way.
Something I never really noticed before I started working at Cryptozoic was just how much effort goes into each card. Of course I noticed things like the art, flavor text and templating before, but until I started working on the game I didn’t fully understand the depth of thought that goes into each of those seemingly minor decisions.
By the time we’re at this point, we’re comfortable with how 95% of the cards function. Now we have to look at other elements of the card, like if the damage type matches the art/typeline, or if the flavor text makes any sense. On Wednesday, we spent a lot of time on flavor texts. We had more fun than we should have adding "S’s" to the flavor text spoken by a Naga, wedging in an extra “brudda” and “mon’s” on trolls, or having the dwarves call everyone “lad.”
I did have a moment in that meeting where the totality of the changes I’ve gone through in the past three months really hit me, and I felt this enormous gratitude realizing I’m in a position to help guide the course of the WoW TCG.
I had one more story I’d like to relate, from last night. Wednesdays are game night here, and we invite Blizzard employees and friends (who have signed non-disclosure agreements, obviously) to come to our office for dinner and games.
I spent the majority of the night watching players try the new Dungeon Deck we are developing. They were taking on one of the hard modes, and to compensate for the relatively underpowered class starter decks they were using they had added an additional raider.
The final game they played was truly epic. On turn two, one of the raiders threw up his hands in the air and declared that they were “dead.” On turn six, all the raiding heroes were not just alive, but were alive with zero damage on them. On turn eight, there were over twenty allies in play against them. Turn nine was the moment the first raiding player fell, but a topdecked board sweeper from the warlock cleared the board again. After the Dungeon Deck had its turn, the aforementioned warlock became the second victim, and the remaining raiders died a turn later. They needed a measely 12 more damage on the Dungeon Deck to win the unwinnable game. After the epic battle was over, one of the players stood and exclaimed, “Now THAT was a good game!” He had a smile on his face and it didn’t matter at all that they hadn’t been successful. It felt really good to know that I was, at least in part, responsible for creating that enjoyment.