I last took a look at Yomi when I was a complete newbie to the game.
Here’s some continued thoughts on the game, the interface, and well, just about anything about it, as I’ve continued to play and enjoy it more. In case this seems overly critical, I have to say up front that I consider Yomi to be the most interesting 1v1 competitive game around right now!
1. Interface/tutorial issue – It took me far too long to figure out how to view the entire discard piles – in fact I played a load of practice games vs the AI before I found it & was about to forum search for it before I eventually figured it out. I’d been using “hold right click” as that seemed logical to me, because that was the way to enlarge the cards in my hand; whereas instead for the discard pile a simple left click was all I needed to browse the whole pile. It’s the kind of thing that seems immediately obvious once you know it, yet it was surprisingly unclear to me! obviously this would never be an issue with real life cards, but is another area where Yomi needs to remove the extra ‘puzzle game’ into figuring out how to play it online! 😉
2. The subscription payment model is also not clear what you get if you stop subscribing – this is actually covered on the forums, but it should be clear, up front, and encouraged surely? Conversely, what do I get if I buy some characters, and then subscribe? – any recompense? What happens if I then stop subscribing? In the end, I decided on buying an individual character instead because I doubt I’ll have enough gaming time to do a subscription ‘justice’ at the moment.
3. The game really needs some more audio & visual ‘engagement’. A few basic sound effects would go a long way to enhancing the experience of playing it for many I feel – even just some basic ‘combat’ sounds or graphical effects like the ones in Magic Duels of the Planeswalkers would be great. Also, critically I think there needs to be some sound “bloops” & “dings” when phases change to assist understanding; especially at the start of the combat phase to avoid the confusion of, for example, when you are playing an effect from card in the draw phase and when you are using one in the combat phase. Also some visuals would make it clearer who has won the combat in both-attack, both-throw type situations would really help (Note: The in-game text log has been enhanced to improve this recently). In fact the whole interface of DotP would be a fantastic thing to model on – especially the way it does control pad support, to make that a sensible option for a card game. As others have said, it would be really cool to get these awesome OC Remix Fantasy Strike music tracks into Yomi somehow too.
4. Along these lines, but more in the ‘nice to have for the future’ than immediately crying out for it, would be some much more detailed graphical effects of the actual characters – ie: show the characters actually fighting. It would also help visualise what’s going on & give the game a huge boost in appeal I think. Even something as basic as Kongai style graphics would be fantastic, or you could start to add more and more ‘frames’ of animation to these, especially if these are assets that can be re-used potentially in a later fighting game (which I assume is the intention with many of the card art assets too).
5. I lost my first quickmatch to the timer, and I struggled with it for quite a while before I got used to it. At first it was way too fast for me to play – I’d barely even read or understood my cards or options before I was timed out. I’m not sure what the solution is here, as you want to keep the game reasonably fast-paced for experienced players, but one thing that would really be nice would be to be able to practice vs the CPU with the timer on to help get used to it and how it works & what happens when you do run out of time. Or perhaps allow newer players a longer timer by default?
6. I was really struggling with information overload at times when trying to understand what was going on. Trying to play new characters on the “freebie rotation” definitely isn’t the most helpful way to learn the game, which is a shame as it’s the most likely way new players will try it. At one time when I was very new the two available free characters were Lum and Setsuki, who both seem to be extremely weird and bad for learning the basics (although I feel like I figured out Setsuki quite quickly in the end mainly by being rofl-stomped by a master rank player using her in a quickmatch!). I ended up wanting to buy a single character just to aid learning in the end – which maybe the intention of course – but it’s still a slightly “unfriendly” way to learn or to be motivated to spend. My earlier concerns about having to try to learn all the “poker” information were a bit of an issue too. It’s taken me a long time to “see” cards as 3s, Jacks etc; I just used to see them as just the individual moves, so I always had to concentrate really hard to work out what it actually means in terms of the rest of deck etc.It’s not that I couldn’t do it at any point, it was just really difficult & took me a lot of time to think through – way more than the timer allows. Looking back though, I think it would’ve help me massively too if I had the actual physical cards in hand. I think having some physical visualisation would really help me regarding what’s been ‘used’ and what’s left in a deck – and it would also really help me understand the decks themselves. I’m wondering right now as I write this, what % of face cards there are in a deck, and I realise I have no idea. Conversely I know exactly what a 24 mana-base or a 20 mana-base means & ‘feels like’ in Magic – so I can imagine to other people with a normal understanding of a deck of cards probably instantly get the same kind of understanding I have of a Magic deck. This problem has just gone away with increased playtime of course though; and it’s sort of fun to think that playing Yomi is probably helping me should I ever go and play any games that use a ‘normal’ pack of cards.
7. I think that having some ‘vanilla’ characters to learn with would be really helpful to Yomi. Call them “Red” and “Blue” or something. Two characters (decks) with perfectly average stats on everything and identical moves and zero special abilities at all. Obviously they’d be far weaker than the real characters – training dummies if you will – but I am sure it would’ve really helped me to pick things up to do with the actual cards & game system, whilst not having to simultaneously take in umpteen special abilities, relative strengths and weaknesses, and matchup information. You could even build a story around these ‘non playing’ characters into the Fantasy Strike mythology (new students of Midori?) and have them be part of a fully fledged tutorial.
8. Matchmaking & Ranking – Matchmaking is a bit of a problem purely because the community is quite small right now. When I was the starting Level 1 (Flower) rank I was still up against Master ranked players most of the time. It appears it would work great though if there were more players queued up, as when myself and another new friend were both in the matchmaking pool, it almost always matched us together. The ranking system seems to be extremely good though as I’d commented on Sirlin’s article about it. However it would be much better if the ranking system was more clearly explained in the game somewhere, rather than having to go to Sirlin’s own website for it. I also have some concerns that it might be slightly possible to ‘game’ the matchmaking system a little bit due to their being some abilities to ‘cherry-pick’ your opponents or avoid certain other opponents; however this is clearly likely to be ineffective at higher ranks, so it’s not really something worth worrying about. If someone wants to ‘cheat’ their way through the Student ranks I guess that’s their prerogative. I’ve probably done a little bit of that, just due to deliberately wanting to face my friends in a ranked match rather than a player match (to earn gold and ranks of course!) and being able to easily set that up by matchmaking at the same time and declining any other opponent’s games.
9. Having watched a couple of other new players start playing Yomi, even after a ‘tutorial’ from me rather than the in-game tutortial itself, the biggest point of confusion was definitely the bluff/Joker combo-escape mechanic. In the physical game rules it recommends that you play without this rule at first, and I can see why; however that isn’t an option in online Yomi at the moment. Perhaps it could be added to the training dummy mode though – options to train with or without Jokers maybe? I also note that the slightly confusing text “Play a facedown card?” when you got hit, that practically implied you had to do it, has been changed to “Play a combo escape card?” which is better, but could still perhaps be clearer with something like “Do you want to play a combo escape card? (Joker or bluff with any card)”.
10. Playing with the awesome Fiery Biscuit has really “unlocked” the game for me so much more, it really got me over the “intimidation” stage thanks to this. As I suspected, playing a bunch of ‘local’ games (laptops side by side) vs a friend with only 1 or 2 matchups played over and over definitely feels like the best way to start to learn the game itself, without being overwhelmed by all the information. This is clearly how I’d learn it if I was playing with the physical Yomi cards too. Also one of the best things was that when we did this, the characters in the rotation were Geiger and Argagarg who seem relatively simple to understand (at least compared to Lum & Setsuki anyway!).
I’m having a ton of fun with Yomi, so I recommend any Agoners should give it a try! It looks like it’s going to get even better in the near future too, even without all of these suggestions, as changes are afoot to improve the game when the expansion characters are added.