Design – Traits, Keywords, Factions Oh My!

This originally started out as a FB post after series of points of contact in the last week or two but I figured I could turn it into a fuller design discussion post, so here we are! In the last few days I have had several folks hit me up requesting new traits be added to the MSE template. Being honest, I’m going to be something of an arbiter and gatekeeper here, partially by necessity partially by choice and I want to elaborate on that a bit here.

Traits, also called keywords, factions, and a few other colloquial terms, are the identifiers of a character’s skills, modes, and sub-affiliations. They are the icon + text line just below the name, in the black-backed fields. The cards have 1-3 traits, but all bots have some and no one has more than 3 on a face. These play an important role in the game in terms of flagging the character for the benefit of various card abilities; they are a kind of “hook” on which to hang mechanical hats.

So, why am I advocating gatekeeping on this? Seems kinda silly yea?

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MSE Template 1.02 Released

Small quick update went up today, fixing some bugs and what not.

  • Corrects an issue with the Junkion icon introduced in 1.01 where in the text box Leadership used instead.
  • Adds a filter to the Cybertronian text to filter out non alphanumeric characters so that there are no stray cubes or empty glyphs.
  • Further refinement of the background/faction selection script so it behaves better. Now mixed cards require the “Hybrid” selection to be made in order to select multiple factions at once.
  • Missing note from 1.01: Under “Set Info” you can turn off “Automatic Numbering” and manually assign IDs to the cards. This is enabled by default, so no existing set will be impacted but those hoping to be creative with their design and numbering have that capability now!

As always, the downloads are live at the Downloads page; this time, the only download required is the “Game” installer for those who already have the whole package.

Stratagems & Spoilers!

I’m cheating today, like a dirty rat! As an aside, no matter what, whenever I hear the word “Stratagem,” I want to break out in song as from “The Great Mouse Detective” and “Ratigan”…”TO STRATAGEMS (TO STRATAGEMS!)! OH STRATAGEMS!”

Hear “Stratagem,” start singing…

With the custom cards folks are designing, Stratagems, which debuted in Wave 5 “Titan Masters Attack,” are getting a lot of attention. For typically 1 Star, you get a boost to an existing card or for making a deck design choice. Custom Stratagems have been turning up, including here at Edge of Iacon, with no star cost to them which adjust minor aspects of the card.Today, I want to talk not just about Stratagem design, but I have the opportunity to spoil one of the fantastic Alpha Trion Protocol Stratagems as well!

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MSE Template 1.01 Released

As the title says!~

Version 1.01 of the MSE Template is uploaded; the documentation will be updated shortly as well to reflect some new elements as well.

Included in the update:

Updates to the “card_fields,” “set_fields,” “keywords,” and “scripts” files to:

  • Bot 1 Mode, Bot 2 Mode, Character Mode and Unit Mode are added as acceptable modes
  • “Stratagem” reminder text has been generisized to “name card or trait” and added
  • “Mode” is now a keyword group and can be disabled, eliminating automatic text for Battle Masters, Minicons, Weaponizers, Stratagems and battle cards with stars.
  • Cleaner blending script for card backgrounds
  • Quintesson and Junkion now factions in the trait drop down and symbol fonts
  • Adjustments for later features and functions (IE Custom card factions)

Bug Fixes:

  • Fixed a missing mask for the “character-head” style.
  • Adjusted the Normal Character trait placement
  • Adjusted the Traits so that “Titan Master” will properly select

Go to the Downloads page to redownload the installers or the complete ZIP file!

MSE Transformers…Create And Roll Out!

On July 20th, Unicron came for the Transformers CCG (…

Within the week, however, the fan community rallied. Survivors vowed to fight on. Factions arose, content creators banded together to devise their own material. “We shall carry on!”

By the end of the week, handfuls of members were drafting original content. New cards, ideas, characters, concepts. Some were gleaned from conversations with WotC official members and what they previously said they looked forward to; others were born of fevered dreams of madmen. And; on the fringes of Iacon, a lone programmer embarked on a quest to open the databanks to everyone.

Today, after a month and change of work…the gates are open wide.

Head on over to the Downloads page and grab the packages and install MSE and the Transformers TCG template for yourself and embark on your own adventures!

What does the future hold? Have a sneak peek!

Design – Selecting Artwork

While any resulting cards will of course be fan productions and in no way legal or official, I still encourage everyone to source their artwork responsibly; acquire art from as close to an official source as possible so the artist’s intentions and design remain intact, connect with the artist in some way to ask permission or alert them of your use, and credit the artist on the card featuring their work (that is why the artist credit line was added!) as well as any accompanying documentation or showcase efforts.

Beyond that. some norms have arisen in the five sets WotC gave us which are worth exploring for consistency with released product and general coherence as well. The links toward the end of the article are artists, collections, and some official channels for spoiler/preview/concept art related to Transformers properties that are good sources.

Transformers ’84: Secrets and Lies mini-series from IDW!
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Design – Average Bot Stats

Designing cards for any game will always be a matter of art more than science (or math), but the basic maths do help a lot.

Dinobot Slash – Bot Mode

I’ve crunched the printed Character cards (so this excludes the combiner forms) and produced a look at the general specs of the bot cards in the game. I hope to expand the data crunch to include some more intel on number of keywords/traits, be able to bust things down by those (What’s the average Dinbobot hit points? What’s the average Car-mode offense?) but this should give some idea on how bots can be designed and balanced.

One element factored into the spreadsheet is Rarity; while I realize with custom designs there’s no production to be concerned about, a designer working on a proper set will want to balance the whole set out and that includes the rarities; there will be far more commons than rares, so designing every card as a rare hurts some of the variety the game can showcase.

Caveat; the numbers here are guidelines and give a picture of what a bot looks like, they’re not hard-and-fast “plug me in” numbers precisely. Always balance what you want out of the character against and be wary of pushing the card’s values to the upper limits on all stats. If you have a beefy character, go light on the offense and heavier on hit points or defense. If you have a bruiser, lean on the attack, if you have a speedster go light on hit points (fragile) but give them a bit of a defense boost (they’re fast!!).

LOW value characters are typically “Heads” and are much weaker by comparison; 4-5 star characters are often the drones or “allied” cards for Metroplex and Tyrpticon though there are some in the wild.

As an example for everyone, lets walk through one of our earliest spoiled cards; “Dinobot Slash.”

I started with an idea that I wanted a smaller bot, both as a reflection of the character and the toy (who is much smaller than her compatriots) as well as to round out the Dinobot team; most of the other bots are BIG, star count wise and every other metric that matters.

As a raptor, small and fast, we wanted a lower star count as well, and a chassis to go with it. While we need to finalize specs, I pegged her around 5 stars then. We wanted her moderately powerful for her bracket, so tagging her as Uncommon gives us a bit more “oomph” to work with than a common bot.

For her overall Hit Points, I wanted to push her to the upper limit; it gives her a little more life on the board and makes decent synergy with Sludge, who’ll soak up damage counters for her as well. On Offense, we don’t want a powerhouse; she’s intended to be small, fast, utility, so we hewed closer to average for her bot stats: 2 Offense, 1 Defense. On the flip side, her sneaky raptor form we went a little heavier on the Offense, 3, for the “quick sharp attack.” Otherwise, Dinobot Slash is a fairly middle-of-the-road bot; we have moderate offense, average defense, and heavier hit points. This doesn’t ultimately account for abilities, such as keywords, activated abilities, and the traits/factions, however, all of which can shape how effective a character is.