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Danielius
03-17-2014, 08:27 AM
Hi! I'd like to present an idea on how Hex could be made "moddable".

A mod, in the context of this post, doesn't mean a forum "moderator", but a modification that can be made to the game by practically anyone of its players or official staff members. (You can read more about what modding is from its Wikipedia article over here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mod_(video_gaming)).)

Table of contents:

Post #1:
Chapter 1 - How card games are currently moddable
Chapter 2 - What could moddable Hex be like

Post #2:
Chapter 3 - Benefits of "moddability"
Chapter 4 - Eventual "advanced" possibilities of the concept
Chapter 5 - Epilogue

Chapter 1 - How card games are currently moddable:

How can a trading card game be moddable? Well, let's start by looking at how things can be done in the physical world. With any card game that has its full card list available online, you can print out the cards with a printer and play with those cards on a tabletop with your friends. They aren't real cards, but rather just "mock-ups" or "proxies" of real cards. If you want to modify the rules or mechanics of the game, you can: just agree with your friends to play the game according to those modifications. If you want to create new cards or modify the existing ones, you can: just edit the card images with a digital graphics editing program and then print them out - or you could just take pieces of paper and draw the "new" cards there. If you want to remove certain cards from the "playable card pool", it's again just as simple as agreeing with your friends about it.

Hence, we can say that any physical card game can be considered to be moddable, in an unofficial fashion. But is it possible to do the same in the digital medium? Yes, it is: there are many applications on the web that allow their users to utilize a "virtual tabletop" that enables them to do the same things that would be possible with a physical game. Examples of such software are OCTGN, Vassal Engine, LackeyCCG, GCCG, and Magic Workstation.

Typically, when playing a card game with such an application, it doesn't enforce the rules of the game; instead, players are given the freedom and means to communicate with each other and perform all the basic, low-level tasks on their side of the virtual table that are required to play the game.

For example, at any time during the game, either player can freely adjust their own health and resource values (and any relevant "color" modifiers), shuffle their deck, generate random numbers, move the position of their cards on their side of the table or from one of their zones to another, give control of a card to their opponent, adjust freely the (attack, defense and health) values of their cards, "tap" or "untap" any of their cards in play, and so on. So the responsibility to "play by the rules" is on the players themselves, like it is in any physical card game session.

The deckbuilding aspect in these kind of applications usually works like this:

1. First, a "master" database of all the cards in the game is created. Whenever a new set for the game is released, that database gets updated with the new cards.

2. When a player wants to play the game, they first download the application and the card database. Then they run the application and, with a deckbuilding interface, build and save a deck (which basically is just a list containing individual cards from the master database). In the process, they may follow deckbuilding rules from a specific format of the game.

3. When a player goes online with the application, they can start a game with any other player who's available online and has, in a similar manner, built a deck using the same master database and format.

Chapter 2 - What could moddable Hex be like:

I'd like to suggest that the developers of Hex would make the game "moddable" by following the same principles that virtual tabletop applications use. It would mean that in addition to the normal, "rule-enforcing" version of the game, players could also create and play "mods". When playing in the "mod-environment", by default, the game wouldn't enforce rules, but instead would give the players the same freedoms to handle basic tasks like a virtual tabletop application gives. This way, any changes introduced by the mod to the cards, rules or mechanics of the game could be accommodated easily and fast, since the developers of Hex wouldn't have to program the game engine to handle the rule-enforcing aspect of the "mod-ified" elements. In other words, players would enforce the rules by themselves like they would in a physical game.

Here's an overview of what the mod-creation process could be with an "envisioned" mod-editor that would be accessible within the in-game client:

When a player (or "modder") would create a new mod, a new "mod card database" would be created. This would be a copy of the official Hex card master database, i.e. all the cards in the mod would be like they are in the original game. Then, the modder could add, modify and remove cards in their mod's database as they wish. The editor would allow the modder to change the numerical values and text of any card. Initially, simple placeholder art provided by Cryptozoic (CZE) could be used for any "modded" cards, though the "color hue" of any card could be freely assigned (to create cards of new color). Also, each mod would contain a rules-document (basically a plain text-file) where the modder could write the rules and mechanics for their mod.

In addition, the modder could also record a "tutorial"-session where they go through the features of their mod and teach the viewers "how to play" their mod. This kind of recording can already be done with third-party utilities found on the web, but could also utilize in-game technology, if it someday allows replays of saved sessions.

When a player would like to play a modded game, they could start up the client and choose to enter the "mod lobby", where each mod created would be listed along with a short description of that mod. The player could choose a mod, read its rules and create/join a mod game. During a mod game, like mentioned in the previous chapter, players would be responsible for playing by the rules of the mod, and the client would provide them with all the means to do so.

For example, the mod-environment would give the players the means to modify the text of any card that they control, for the duration of the game session. Imagine that a modder has created a new card with Escalation for their mod. During a game session in that mod, after a player would play that card and resolve its effects, they could modify the card text to change the value of the bold number, then choose to apply that modification to all the same named cards that exist on their side of the table, and then shuffle that card into their deck.

Danielius
03-17-2014, 08:28 AM
Chapter 3 - Benefits of "moddability":

- Any cards that would've been officially revealed (or "spoiled") in any set could be balance-tested right away. And if the testing would indicate that adjustment is necessary with a card, it could be done immediately. Hence, software engineers at CZE could start coding the rule-enforcing aspect of a card only after it's been thoroughly tested in the mod-environment. In the long run, this would save them a lot of time compared to the current approach where they first code all the cards and after that code all the modifications that are needed, and after that possibly end up removing cards (due to balance testing) that have already been coded.

- Any official formats and even AI-modes (for dungeons etc.) could be tested immediately, as long as there'd be a real person handling the tasks of the AI. To my understanding, this has been done, to some extent, in the physical world so that people have been invited to the CZE offices to play with mock-up cards. This process could be transferred completely to the digital realm, so that a "mod" of exactly the same situation could be created, and then CZE could "pick" people loitering in the main lobby chat (or choose them with a prearranged method) to enter their testing mod, where staff members would "mimic" the AI.

- CZE could use this same system for all their internal balance-testing of the game as well - they'd just need to make the particular testing mod unavailable to anybody else except chosen staff members. (And when the mod would be polished enough, it could then be revealed to the public, for example in the manner described in the previous paragraph.)

- All gear (in Wild West-style) could be balance-tested immediately (that is, if they're supposed to have any kind of "balance").

- CZE would have complete access to all the mods and their statistical data and logs, and could keep an eye on any modded content that would prove to be very popular - if people really like it, then it might become viable for CZE to implement similar content to the official game.

- Members of the community would probably eventually end up creating localized versions of the official game in several different languages, which would help promote the game in different parts of the world.

- With modding, even radical changes to the game's core mechanics can be easily tried out. For example, many players have expressed their frustration at the game's resource system (which is the underlying reason for lengthy forum discussions about mulligan and shuffling issues as well). With modding, players could create exactly the kind of resource system that they want, along with all the necessary modifications to the cards. Instead of debating about theoretic ideas, everybody could finally find out how those theories work in practice and "put their mana where their mouth is".

- From a player's perspective, creating and playing mods adds to the sheer fun-factor of the game. In other words, players find games that support user-created content more entertaining that games that don't. (You can read about a survey related to the topic from a Gamasutra-article over here (http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/GregLastowka/20131212/205990/The_PlayerAuthors_Project.php).)

Chapter 4 - Eventual "advanced" possibilities of the concept:

- Although the official Hex database could be the default "basis" for new mods, they could also be created "completely blank" (the modder would have to create all their cards from "scratch") or they could be based on any other mod. So if there'd be a popular mod that you'd like to make a "spin-off" of, you could choose to use that mod as the basis for your own. (In a sense, your mod could be treated as a "child" mod to the "parent" mod.) Everyone should be clearly informed of this policy though, so that it wouldn't come as a surprise to anyone if their mod is "copied".

- Instead of the mod-environment being devoid of rule-enforcing automation, the two could eventually be merged so that during a mod game, players could turn automation features on and off as needed, "on the fly". If a particular mod only modifies certain aspects of the game, then the automation related to those aspects could be disabled, and kept enabled for everything else. For example, imagine a mod that only adds a Constant card to the game which, while in play, radically alters the way combat is handled. While playing in that mod, players could have all automation features enabled, and when that particular combat-altering card would enter play, they could choose to disable automation related to combat, and handle combat-related tasks "manually" until the card would leave play, at which point they could enable the automation for combat again. "Modded" cards that require any extent of manual handling could be visually distinguished, for example with a yellow-black "barricade tape" or a similar icon.

- Cryptozoic could easily "digitalize" their other physical products by using the same technology that Hex modding would be based on. In the state where all automation is disabled, the mod-environment would practically work like a virtual tabletop application where the players "manually" perform all tasks. With this kind of system, any card game can be played, including all the deck-building games that CZE sells in the physical realm. To make any such game digitally available, they'd merely have to make a "mod" of it (all the cards could be scanned from their physical counterparts), and perhaps tailor a client for each game, or just have one big client through which all their digitalized games would be available. Even board games could be digitalized by following the same principles, and would need only minor adjustments (namely, custom boards, tokens and "dice"). This way, I presume that CZE could make any of their physical games available online that they have the proper licenses to (or could secure such licenses with negotiating).

Mods and digitalized games could be available only to paying customers, i.e. all Hex backers, and eventually to anyone who makes a purchase with real-life money over, say, a dollar or two. Also, physical products bought from CZE could include a coupon which would grant such access. (And if CZE products already come with a unique identifier that, for example, can be scanned with a phone camera, this access could also be given to current customers retroactively.) In time, automation features and "macros" for the mods and digital products could be provided to decrease the amount of manual work needed by the players.

Chapter 5 - Epilogue:

I believe that when people play a good physical tabletop game, a lot of them will seek out means to play the same game online. The first thing they will look for is an official means to do so - and if none exists, or if the official version is not satisfactory for the player (due to its high cost, for example), then they will continue to seek alternative methods. This is the reason why there's such an abundance of virtual tabletop applications available on the web; because "demand" exists to play those games online, and there's a lack of digital "supply" on part of the official people who make those games. I believe that CZE is currently in a position where they can accomplish "two goals with one solution" - making Hex moddable would undoubtedly make it a whole lot more interesting game, and the virtual tabletop framework which would be created in the process could be used to create the official means to play practically every other game by CZE online.

To my understanding, a lot of the "code infrastructure" that the mod-environment would require already exists, since the current AI-engine can already perform almost all the tasks that players would need to have access to. For example, the engine can already "shuffle a card into a deck", "modify a player's health value", "transfer the control of a card to the other player" etc., so I imagine that the amount of work needed wouldn't be excessive - mainly, creating the tools for "mod creation", the UI for players to perform the basic-level tasks and making the "automatic" execution of most in-game events either "disabled" or "toggleable" by the players. In any case, I wouldn't want the already-planned features of Hex to be further delayed, but should CZE choose to invest whatever resources they can into making Hex moddable, I very much believe that investment would eventually provide significant long-term benefits for everybody.

And let us remember that modding has given rise to such popular games as "Counter-Strike" and "League of Legends". If communities are given the proper tools, their creations can end up making history.

knightofeffect
03-17-2014, 08:32 AM
Now I have been accused of writing dissertations before, especially in the early days... But this, this is a book complete with chapters.

Looking forward to my new lunch reading of the day. Awesome engagement Danielius!

mach
03-17-2014, 09:31 AM
If I'm understanding the parts which I read correctly, someone could create a mod which allows players to play with all cards without needing to actually own them. That's probably enough to kill the idea.

Yoss
03-17-2014, 10:20 AM
I entered this thread thinking you'd be asking for an API system. Guess not!

I have two main comments, the first of which totally kills the idea unless you change it. The second one is just a minor point.

1. Allowing proxies is a no-go from me. Always force players to own the cards and equipment.

2. If the engine doesn't do it for you, how will you handle the "digital-only" type of rules that some Hex cards use? For example, Infernal Professor or Zombie Plague?


And let us remember that modding has given rise to such popular games as "Counter-Strike" and "League of Legends". If communities are given the proper tools, their creations can end up making history.
This kind of modding requires API support (and more than just informational); you're not going to get there with just Magic Workstation.

knightofeffect
03-17-2014, 10:33 AM
Obviously really well thought-out post, OP.

@Yoss #2 - As long as you give players enough open-ended tools really any digital rule set could be emulated. IE zombie plague would require players being able to demand a search through a deck and add counters to cards that are in said deck. (Searching and burying cards in a deck as well as unique card/token creation is already supported by several of the example programs the OP mentioned)

@ Mach & Yoss #1 - If Hex is successful enough there will be several fan-built engines that use a card database to play the game for free.

@OP - To that point, why does CZE need to bother spending the time creating such an engine when fans will do it anyway? For the analytics or beta testing of balance? Even if they were of the disposition to support something like that, it would probably not worth the time investment, at least not for a long time.

Yoss
03-17-2014, 10:40 AM
@ Mach & Yoss #1 - If Hex is successful enough there will be several fan-built engines that use a card database to play the game for free.

@OP - To that point, why does CZE need to bother spending the time creating such an engine when fans will do it anyway? For the analytics or beta testing of balance? Even if they were of the disposition to support something like that, it would probably not worth the time investment, at least not for a long time.

Seems you answered your own question. :) The fans will take care of things like the OP is asking for. That's why I thought the OP might be asking for 3rd-party API implementation so that players can make client modifications and add-ons. I'm not opposed to that idea as long as security is not compromised. Informational API is already on the wish-list in my sig. Stronger access API would need to be carefully considered for security risk versus various rewards.

mudkip
03-17-2014, 01:01 PM
Is there a tl;dr of first post? I'm impressed with the essay, but my patience is bad.

knightofeffect
03-17-2014, 02:04 PM
Is there a tl;dr of first post? I'm impressed with the essay, but my patience is bad.

My response to the OP is a pretty good tl;dr summary.

Daer
03-17-2014, 02:48 PM
the tl;dr version is he basically wants Magic Workstation built into the game for "testing purposes"

mudkip
03-17-2014, 05:02 PM
the tl;dr version is he basically wants Magic Workstation built into the game for "testing purposes"

Oh.

The only modding I think Hex should get is for visual stuff, such as deck management and the filtering in limited. People have so many different tastes it would be best for CZE to code an open approach rather try and cater to everyone. Similar to WoW mods.

mach
03-17-2014, 05:06 PM
Oh.

The only modding I think Hex should get is for visual stuff, such as deck management and the filtering in limited. People have so many different tastes it would be best for CZE to code an open approach rather try and cater to everyone. Similar to WoW mods.

Some other things which I think could work:

Custom formats
Custom tournaments (player-run events)
Economy stuff (for example, mod to turn the AH into a BAS)
Custom statistics

Stok3d
03-17-2014, 05:12 PM
The deckbuilding aspect in these kind of applications usually works like this:

1. First, a "master" database of all the cards in the game is created. Whenever a new set for the game is released, that database gets updated with the new cards.

2. When a player wants to play the game, they first download the application and the card database. Then they run the application and, with a deckbuilding interface, build and save a deck (which basically is just a list containing individual cards from the master database). In the process, they may follow deckbuilding rules from a specific format of the game.

3. When a player goes online with the application, they can start a game with any other player who's available online and has, in a similar manner, built a deck using the same master database and format.

Having a friendly format where ppl can alter their life totals, starting hand size, etc sounds like fun to me. However, I do not agree with the above. This would inspire quite a many ppl to not own their own collections and only play this. Obviously, this is bad for business and the future prosperity of this game.

Well thought out thread and thanks for sharing.

Yoss
03-17-2014, 05:18 PM
For those interested in the API/customization (which is off topic to the OP a little bit), there's already "•3rd-party Informational API" and "•User-Defined Modes" on the Features List in my signature (also linked below).

http://forums.cryptozoic.com/showthread.php?t=32188

Kami
03-17-2014, 05:40 PM
Having a friendly format where ppl can alter their life totals, starting hand size, etc sounds like fun to me. However, I do not agree with the above. This would inspire quite a many ppl to not own their own collections and only play this. Obviously, this is bad for business and the future prosperity of this game.

Well thought out thread and thanks for sharing.

Yeah, I brought this up previously but it's highly dependent on whether CZE will implement this.

I also added that in cases where 'custom' game modes were created that were popular, they could be converted to official formats by CZE. :)

Zomnivore
03-18-2014, 03:28 PM
I don't really think its a realistic expectation, would be neat, but probably not worth the hassle. It is an mmo f2p after all.

Svenn
03-18-2014, 04:57 PM
Having a friendly format where ppl can alter their life totals, starting hand size, etc sounds like fun to me. However, I do not agree with the above. This would inspire quite a many ppl to not own their own collections and only play this. Obviously, this is bad for business and the future prosperity of this game.

Well thought out thread and thanks for sharing.
This was pretty much my thoughts on the whole thing. I'm all for rules customizations as options for friendly games... but I think going to a place where you're essentially recreating something like lackey or OCTGN is not something Hex needs.

I wouldn't mind a moddable UI, though. It's not as necessary as an actual MMORPG but people do have different preferences and a moddable UI would allow anyone to be happy with the interface and the basic functions of it.

Gwaer
03-18-2014, 05:08 PM
Even league of legends has a modding community. They mod in custom skins that don't exist on the store. If hex supported some level of modding, they could even have those mods sold in their store and give the creators a cut in platinum. Make a draft mod that rates draft picks? Make custom skins for the boards and decks, etc. You could even sell game modes that only someone who has unlocked it by finding it in a chest or buying it can make that particular type of game. There's a lot of positive things that could come out of modding. And a lot of negative things. If you embrace it early you can have some control of what the majority of moderns can and can't do.

Stok3d
03-18-2014, 06:09 PM
I believe there is a distinct difference between what would be considered customization and what would be considered modding. I am particularly fond of being able to have a "sandbox" feature where one can customize starting life/hand size/player count for a friendly format. I would also be fully supportive of "add-on's" similar to what WoW allows. This could prove handy for AH, guild decks, record keeping, etc.

However, I am not a supporter of negating a need for owning cards to play a deck. Having an ongoing "Open Beta Section" for future card/bug testing, or any other way one wants to label having unlocked non-pve content has very negative business model consequences. As for allowing people to create their own: boards, sleeves, card art, flavor text, etc will simply open the flood gates to phallic objects, sexually explicit content, and a devalue of the beauty the artists are assembling for us and future expansions.

Realize this is a Free-to-Play game. There would no stopping someone continually upload all the unwanted graphics after banning. Mods would be playing Whack-a-Mole for every testosterone driven adolescent and this would alienate much of our mature audience. If people wanted to create custom skins, they should have backed as a Producer as that freedom was already available. Heck, these guys can even make their own dungeon! I truly believe fully opening those gates would be the beginning of the end...

However, CZE already stated that they are going to provide us the ability to create our own custom Raid Bosses. This type of modding DOES excite me. Read below as a refresher:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cze/hex-mmo-trading-card-game/posts/484901

Raid Lords! Imagine you get to act as the raid boss against other players and earn a raid boss ranking. And, as your raid boss ranking grows, the loot tables that you reward the player with (if they somehow manage to defeat you, bwa ha ha!) get bigger and better. If you are in high demand as a Raid Lord you can set up invites to challenge you and CHARGE players platinum to battle and potentially defeat you. Yes you heard that right, you could earn in-game currency as a raid boss for hire!

Gwaer
03-18-2014, 06:23 PM
It's more than possible to create a system to allow people to upload their own art with even community approval tools, and a small workload for employees. CZE may not want to go that route, however I think it would be quite lucrative for them and the artists. Heck, make submitting art cost plat so people would only submit what they expect would make them money back in commissions, or throw plat at CZE for moderation fees.

Im not for any system that lets you proxy cards as of yet. If there is ever cards that cost thousands of dollars I may change my tune on that to allowing proxies in for fun decks with friends or vs AI.

But some form of modding could be a very positive thing. It's certainly something CZE should put thought into.

Stok3d
03-18-2014, 06:39 PM
Im not for any system that lets you proxy cards as of yet. If there is ever cards that cost thousands of dollars I may change my tune on that to allowing proxies in for fun decks with friends or vs AI.


I don't mean to be such a Negative Nancy, but you will find I ALWAYS will support initiatives that protect card and collection values. I will be forthcoming and state that I am a collector at heart and will admit these type of suggestions are also self-serving. However, when card values reach hundreds or even thousands of dollars in value, the last thing we want to do is allow proxies. These cards would most likely only be playable in a classic type format for values to mature to these levels and allowing proxies would decimate the need to owning the "Power 9". To some people, half the fun of a TCG is collecting. It's comforting to know that this practice could also prove financially beneficial. It's healthy for the game to promote ownership and satisfying to actually be able to create that "Dream" deck. I mean, who wants to own a collection where it's financially wise to sell sell sell instead of buy buy buy?

Nothing personal Gwaer, I hope you understand where I'm coming from...

Gwaer
03-18-2014, 06:42 PM
I know exactly where you're coming from. We've talked about this before. However, proxying magic cards does not decrease value, and in many ways drives the price up. If we allow the cards to be played in limited instances and as a proxy not used for anything meaningful it keeps the cards in the public perception, it makes more people actually want to be able to pull out a real version of that card instead of a proxy. The art should be covered by a big bold PROXY and it should be absolutely obvious.

on the bright side I'm glad to see you talking on the forums. It has been a while, hope work is settling down, and you've had a chance to draft. =)

Stok3d
03-18-2014, 06:47 PM
Work is settling down a bit. I may have not been posting as much here, but I've got an agenda to bring people into this game by the masses. I'm waiting for the most opportune time to go full tilt, but I'm confidant I've made an impact with bringing in a lot of new faces here already. I'm positioning myself quite well though to make a much more significant impact. In time Gwaer more will be revealed. I've still got Hex on the brain though and still act accordingly :)

Too bad there isn't some type of referral system in place...I'd love to have an official count ^ ^.

Danielius
03-19-2014, 08:26 AM
I'd like to thank everyone for their replies and discussion so far, and I'll do my best to address the issues that have been brought up.

Awesome engagement Danielius!
Thanks! :D

...someone could create a mod which allows players to play with all cards without needing to actually own them. That's probably enough to kill the idea.

...the first of which totally kills the idea unless you change it...
1. Allowing proxies is a no-go from me. Always force players to own the cards and equipment.

...This would inspire quite a many ppl to not own their own collections and only play this. Obviously, this is bad for business and the future prosperity of this game.

If the mod-environment grants access to all the cards in the official game, will it hurt the prosperity of the "main game"?

Before delving into this question, I'll first go through some background:

Early in 2012 I discovered a free-to-play digital card game known as Shadow Era, and was an active player and member of its community for a year and a half. Shadow Era is a game where all rule-enforcing is handled automatically, and by the time I joined the community, the official folks had already put up a system where a "test server" existed in addition to the main game server. (Apparently, the test server had been established sometime in 2011.) Players could freely choose to play on either server, and most seasoned players had an account on both. On the test server, players could play with all the cards in the game, and like its name implies, new features and cards would be released first on the test server, and after sufficient testing and fixing, implemented on the main server. The two servers both enforced rules fully, had a log that displayed publicly all games that anyone had played on that server, and were completely isolated from each other, so that you couldn't "transfer" your card collection from one server to the other (though on the test server, you could actually build the same deck you owned on the main server and then "tweak" it to your "heart's content").

I quickly became a "regular" of the test server, and during my stay in the community, observed that the amount of players playing on the test server followed roughly this pattern:

- When new major features (excluding new cards), like a new game format, were available on the test server that weren't available on the main server, there wasn't that much traffic on the test server; during a day, you could generally find someone to play with, but it would often be the same "dedicated regulars" that "hanged out" there.

- When new cards were available on the test server that weren't available on the main server, the traffic on the test server was "at its peak" - you could find company to play with without any delays. Most people were building "the strongest decks they could think of", and the next largest group of people were "experimenting" with more novel deck ideas.

- After all the content on the test server was released to the main server, all the traffic on the test server practically disappeared overnight, and...

- ...Whenever the situation remained such that the test server (compared to the main server) contained either no new features nor cards at all, or it contained only minor improvements (like novel UI features), the test server was generally so devoid of traffic that during a day, you couldn't "spontaneously" find anyone there to play with. By reviewing the public logs, you could see that weeks would go by without more significant activity than some friends playing in a prearranged fashion here and a "random" community-hosted tournament there.

Based on this experience, I've drawn the conclusion that even when a free-to-play digital card game provides an alternative testing method to play with "all the cards", the vast majority of the player base still prefers to play in the "main game" with the cards that they "own", and for the most part, will only use the testing environment to further their own goals in the main game. (This manifested as people testing out new cards before they were released in the main game.)

While I'm unable to provide a thorough explanation as to "why" people behave like this, I'm willing to make an educated guess that the main reason is because the test environment doesn't provide the same competitive environment that the main game does. Most people won't "bother" with a testing environment unless it provides some tangible benefit for them, and it seems that merely the ability to "play with all the cards" isn't rewarding enough in itself.

In fact, the official folks of Shadow Era have recently made the test server (which currently contains new cards not available on the main server) only accessible to kickstarter-backers (much like I suggested for the envisioned Hex mod-environment to be accessible only to paying customers) and as a result, the test server has become so devoid of traffic that there's been an outcry from the community to open it up again for the general public, because the "paying customers" can't find enough company to play with! So their current problem, rather than being "how do we prevent people from flocking to the test server", seems to be "how do we get more people to flock to the test server".

Still, if this doesn't serve as good enough "empirical evidence" to counter the claim that giving access to "all the cards" might hurt the "main game", I hope that community members can provide any material, experiences etc. that they might have to back up that claim.

I will also add that the very "test server set-up" that Shadow Era has so successfully utilized is what inspired me to write my "grand" idea of modding in the first place, and since Cory of Cryptozoic has expressed his interest towards the general idea (of a test server) in his blog post number #2 (http://coryhudsonjones.tumblr.com/post/76449580127/blog-post-number-2) (which I'll quote below)...


How effective is the feedback on card designs from the community, are the designers listening?

YES! We have found the community feedback to be VERY valuable. As a matter of fact, we will miss this open testing process and we are actively discussing how to build this into the game moving forward. Perhaps a test server that we can preview cards on? This is something that would come much later, if at all, as it creates a host of issues. But it’s good to dream and this is something I would love to build into our eventual ecosystem.

...I thought (and still hope) that the ideas presented in the opening post would contribute something constructive and relevant to that discussion.

Onward to the next subject:


...If Hex is successful enough there will be several fan-built engines that use a card database to play the game for free...why does CZE need to bother spending the time creating such an engine when fans will do it anyway?


...The fans will take care of things like the OP is asking for...

Will an unofficial, fan-made means to play Hex be created, and what would its implications be for CZE?

While doing research for the opening post, I stumbled on an episode in the annals of Hex that had taken place before the alpha version was made available to the public: A pre-alpha Hex tournament had been planned to be arranged by using a fan-made Hex plugin for LackeyCCG. However, Hex employees had expressed their (apparently strong) disagreement with the idea, and as a result, the organizer(s) "pulled the plug" on the idea. You can read all about it from the linked article by Utopian Chaos (http://www.utopianchaos.com/hex-plug-in-for-lackey-ccg/). (And it is rather juicy material, I might add.)

From this I conjectured that the official stance of Cryptozoic is that they don't look favorably upon (i.e. "sanction") any unofficial means to play Hex, and may even take some kind of action against those who would endeavor to further such means. So I assumed that with this kind of discouragement, fans wouldn't be very motivated to create their unofficial means.

But let's assume that they would create them anyway. What then would the implications be for CZE? Here's how I see it:

Whenever people would play Hex, or any other game sold by CZE, with an unofficial application, CZE wouldn't gain any benefit from it. In a sense, it would be "money out of CZE's pockets" because if, on the other hand, CZE would've provided an official environment for those very same people to do the very same in, CZE would gain the benefit of balance-testing data (and in-game logs and statistical data that could be "mined"), and the money that they can charge for the access to that official environment (as I suggested in Chapter 4 of the opening post). So "if people are going to do it anyway", it would be more beneficial for CZE that they would do it in an official environment (that can be officially observed, controlled and "monetized") than an unofficial one. This, I believe, is especially true in the case of physical CZE games that are "waiting to be digitalized".

Danielius
03-19-2014, 08:27 AM
There would no stopping someone continually upload all the unwanted graphics after banning. Mods would be playing Whack-a-Mole for every testosterone driven adolescent and this would alienate much of our mature audience.
Like Gwaer replied (thanks, Gwaer! :D), uploaded user-created content could be "vetted" before it's actually made available so that regular users won't ever see that content unless it first gets officially approved. For artwork I suggested an even easier method in Chapter 2 - that modders wouldn't be able to submit custom art, but would have to use placeholder art provided by CZE instead. In practice, this could mean that every new "user-created" troop would have the same, vague silhouette as its artwork, and only the color ("hue") of that artwork would be modifiable. Also, the same Gamasutra-article that I linked to in Chapter 3 (here's the link (http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/GregLastowka/20131212/205990/The_PlayerAuthors_Project.php) again) explores the copyright-side of user-created content.

Yoss
03-19-2014, 08:32 AM
If CZE is strongly against the idea for fans to make Hex PvP available free, you think CZE will be OK doing it themselves? :confused:

As for having a Test Server, that has come up before and seems like a reasonable idea. (I was not really involved in those discussions.) That's not what the OP was about, though.

mudkip
03-19-2014, 08:36 AM
If user-created content is added, I'm very unlikely to use it. I'd rather only experience art and content that was 100% made by CZE artists and designers. Seeing cards with dicks or pop culture reference (cards with Mario are not clever) would get very old, very fast.

User-created content works great in some games (Skyrim, SC2 Arcade) but I doubt Hex is one of those games.

That said, custom PvP modes would be interesting, especially if a new mode is discovered that takes off.

Xenavire
03-19-2014, 08:37 AM
I fully support a testing environment for new features/cards, and I will participate every chance I get, because I want to give something back (aside from money that I will spend.)

However, a testing environment is worlds away from moddable content and proxies. I am for moddable modes (choosing life totals, deck sizes, custom set rules, etc.) But actual cards are already designed to fulfill our desires to make our own cards, without destroying balance.

So I think modding cards into the game etc is a bad idea. As for a test environment and custom game modes, thoae are good ideas. By and large, modding is a good idea, but which things to mod is important.

Danielius
03-19-2014, 08:55 AM
If CZE is strongly against the idea for fans to make Hex PvP available free, you think CZE will be OK doing it themselves? :confused:Like I said, I believe that if CZE would do it themselves, they could reap the benefits of that arrangement that they wouldn't be otherwise gaining.

EDIT: (And it wouldn't exactly be "free", but only available to paid customers who have submitted a very small sum of real-life money to CZE, for example in the context of buying a booster pack in Hex.)


As for having a Test Server, that has come up before and seems like a reasonable idea. (I was not really involved in those discussions.) That's not what the OP was about, though.It's true that the opening post wasn't specifically about the test server, but the test server could be implemented in practice by following the same principles that I presented in the opening post. Specifically, if CZE would create such a mod-environment, then the "test server", for all intents and purposes, could simply be an officially created "mod" in that environment.

Gwaer
03-19-2014, 09:00 AM
Also, unsanctioned hex tournaments with another program is a legal issue. It doesn't matter if they were really for it all throughout the company. Their lawyers would be having a fit. It should in no way have any bearing on the topic of mods or a test server.

EntropyBall
03-21-2014, 08:33 AM
I understand the desire to "make your own game" like you can with MTG cards, but I don't think this is a good idea for Hex.

I played Hex on Lackey before the alpha was released and I can tell you that this game does not work without rules enforcement. The digital nature of what Hex is trying to do makes many cards extremely cumbersome to work with, and a few become practically impossible. Yes, given enough tools, you could perhaps make the whole thing run without rules enforcement, but I can tell you that it is not an enjoyable game, and doesn't seem to provide any real benefit.

You seem to be making the case that most people wouldn't use this fake server, so it wouldn't hurt profits of the main game. But that also means it isn't a "feature" worth implementing. What you are asking for is not at all simple, and would have a lot of programming time behind it. If they want to have test servers, they will just have test servers that are a clone of the real servers and have beta code in them, and those servers will have rules enforcement and work like the regular game.

I think the best way to get "custom" game modes is to write up how they would work and get support for them from the community. If enough people are saying "I really want to play that game mode" then they are more likely to implement it down the road.

Hibbert
03-21-2014, 09:46 PM
I think the best way to get "custom" game modes is to write up how they would work and get support for them from the community. If enough people are saying "I really want to play that game mode" then they are more likely to implement it down the road.

I think this would only work for adaptations of current TCG variants. If someone has an idea for a completely new variant of Hex, I doubt it would ever gain enough traction to trump development over any number of other things CZE would be working on.

Consider DotA. If Warcraft 3 had been a closed system, without friendly modding tools, there's no way players could have convinced Blizzard to implement a DotA style map.

Player: "I have an idea for a map type where you don't build any bases, each player controls a single unit, and they spend a lot of time farming NPC units"
Blizzard: "Sounds interesting, we'll look into something like that"<Last thing ever heard from Blizzard on the issue>

I would love to see a fully customizable rule system in Hex. It would be neat to create new phases or zones. You could change the rules for when creatures die and what happens to them after they die. If you give players a robust enough system, I'm sure we could see something more interesting than "Commander, but in Hex" or "Two-headed giant, but in Hex".

I will admit that this should probably be WAY down on the priority list though.