Commuting Cognition: Eminence: Xander’s Tales

What is this?

I’ve never been a big mobile game player, but I ended up working in a mobile games company (opinions are my own etc), so I’ve been trying to expose myself to more games in this market and attempt to gain an ever-better understanding of them. One of the ways I’ve been doing that is in trying out new games, seeing what they do wrong and right, and try to draw conclusions from them that I can use in the future to make our games better. One of the resources I’ve been using for this is TouchArcade (not sponsored), and their columns listing the new iOS games of the week.

This resulted in me playing a lot more new games during my daily bus rides, but I also feel the need to discuss them somewhere and keep a log of my thoughts instead of just internalising them. So, Commuting Cognition. These will be brief, bus-ride-long thoughts on these games, and should be seen less as reviews and more as first-impression brain dumps. They also may not be daily, depending on how full the bus is that day.

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Eminence: Xander’s Tales

Eminence is Triple Triad. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s analyse its monetisation.

Triple Triad, if you’re not aware, is a card game created as a mini-game for Final Fantasy VIII. You’re given five cards, each with four numbers arranged in a losange, corresponding to the four directions. You play one of these cards on a board with nine slots, and your opponent follows suit. If a player plays a card adjacent to an opponent’s card, compare the adjacent numbers on each card (for example, one card’s left number to the other’s right number); whoever has the highest number gets control of both cards. The game continues until the board is complete, at which point the player that controls the most cards will win.

Now, imagine you knew none of that. As the game opens, the first thing you’re prompted to do is to open a card pack. A few cards fly off, and you tap on each one to reveal a creature with four numbers. Some of the cards even have different colours. Of course, given that you haven’t even had the chance to learn the rules yet, none of this means anything to you and what could potentially be an exciting moment is just things in the screen. But it’s VERY important part that you learn how to open card packs ASAP, as you’ll be doing a lot of that in the future.

When you win a match, you’ll get to permanently take one of your opponent’s cards for your own. The same also applies to your opponent. Players will usually take the opponent’s best card; given that this game is pretty much all about who has the best cards, losing a match makes you more likely to lose future matches. You can’t lose cards if you’re down to five, meaning that you’ll never be unable to play, but all your good cards will be gone by then. This cycle is worsened by the fact that, as far as i can tell, you gain no virtual currency at all after losing a match. So if you’re in a losing streak, the only way you’ll have a fighting chance at all is to buy packs for real money. One might call this an incentive to spend money; i call it browbeating.

The matches themselves are played in a best out of three fashion, but always using the same cards. This means the matches will end up being pretty similar and encourage memorising cards from one round to the next, which i feel gives advantage to the second player if they can be bothered to do that (i can’t). All matches i played ended up being pretty long too, the latter of which had two ties before a final narrow win. I’d be interested to tweak the game in a few ways and see how that impacted flow: single match instead of best out of three, to speed matches up; ability to swap cards between rounds, to overcome your perceived weaknesses or exploit your opponent’s; open hands, making it more of a puzzle game; have every single card add up to the same number of points with different distributions, to remove pay-to-win and ease the card loss penalty.

As i understand, just like with the original Triple Triad, there are different rules you can play with, but i didn’t have time to delve into them. It’s possible they may address some of the issues i’ve raised. As it stands, however, i’d rather stick to my single-player versions.

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