As you might have guessed by my taste in games and the fact his site is linked on the sidebar on this site, I find David Sirlin a very interesting fellow. I’ve actually locked horns with him in the past as long back as the heyday of usenet and alt.games.sf2 – although I was hardly a regular poster, having never been able to play fighting games at anything approaching a ‘serious’ competitive level until the very recent advent of decent online play. (Although I’ve always been a potent Theory Fighter 😉 ) But it turned out over the years I actually have far more in common with him and far more that we’d agree on – especially in matters of gaming taste – than we would disagree. In fact I suspect that most of my early disagreements have been down to poorly worded interpretations of his points by others; rather than his actual argument when explained in detail. Anyone who thinks that “playing to win” at Street Fighter involves kicking their opponent in their real-life shins so they can’t play properly, or who quotes Sun Tsu as a defence for why they pressed their opponent’s Start button during a fight has really missed the point somewhat.
In any case, one of the games I’d been following the progress on with a great interest mainly due to David Sirlin’s involvement is Kongai. It’s a ‘Collectible Card Game’ (CCG) meta-game for the free-to-play webgames site Kongregate. And an intriguing game it is too. It’s actually more like a Vs turn-based RPG battler than a card game though. I’ve played quite a variety of virtual and non-virtual CCGs too, but this doesn’t readily compare to any for me. Also the ‘collectible card’ aspect is only really about the cards you get to select your team of characters from. You can call your team a ‘deck’ as they do if you prefer, but as you’re only picking three characters it feels more like a King of Fighters team selection than a 60-card Magic deck to me. I also ought to mention the fact the art for the game is very good and is done by, the often-fantastic, Udon.
Since Sirlin was on the case with the balancing, I had pretty high hopes this game would be interesting fun & also not suffer from the usual drawbacks of collectible card games.
Sadly, that does not seem to be the case at all.
The big problem is that as a new player who just wants to play Kongai (and then potentially get interested in the rest of Kongregate and its meta-game antics) you simply can’t even begin to COMPETE on a level playing field. Firstly your more ‘well-endowed’ opponents will be picking from a wider field of characters – which is not necessarily a problem if all characters are balanced – but does become a problem if certain combinations of characters are not so well balanced, which the game itself indicates is the case. But secondly and far more problematic is that there are also “item cards” which are essentially power-ups for your characters. So even with the same cards, you end up playing what feels initially like a Ryu vs Ryu match… until you realise your opponent’s Ryu also has a regenerating energy bar!
Can you imagine being introduced to playing Street Fighter like this?
You mean we can’t even play fairly until I’ve UPGRADED? I can only play as Super-Saver class, except at weekends, when I Upgrade… UPGRADE TO DONKEY!?
*sigh* I do expect to get whupped by an experienced player at a game like this, and I don’t mind losing at all, but I expect to at least have a level playing field apart from my (lack-of) skill & knowledge -especially since this is a major thing Sirlin appears to stand for in games. If there has to be some kind of handicapping health items or whatever in a game like this, it should be given to the new player, not the more experienced one.
So for me right now, this appears to be a total waste of what could be an interesting game by Kongregate. 🙁 They have recently introduced some “newbie-friendly” changes which I need to research to see if it has made things any better… but unless it lets me at least have the same chance at abilities as my opponent eg. – is a matchmaking system so I can play people who only have a similar size card collection & lack of item cards as me too much to ask?… then I’ll still see this as a waste of time sadly, despite how fun the game appears to potentially be. Luckily they do seem to have added a way to play a specific opponent, so I will have to try and get a few equally “noobish” friends to play against at this. 🙂
But at the moment I can only recommend it if you are an existing fan of Kongregate and have lots of cards to play with already.