Design Thoughts: The Clever Card Art of Shadowverse

In game design, there exists a problem of providing important information clearly to the player in a timely fashion. For example, when designing a character’s appearance, silhouette is a very important consideration. The reason for this is to make sure that this character is immediately recognizable by the player in a quick glance, or from far away. This is especially important in fast-paced multiplayer games such as League of Legends or Overwatch. When an enemy appears on your screen and you only have a few precious seconds to react, it’s important that you recognize who the enemy is right away, so that you can make informed, skill-based decisions. 

Character Silhouettes from Overwatch

But why would this matter in a turn-based, 2D card game? Well, clarity is important in any game no matter the genre. Space is especially important real estate in Shadowverse, as it is optimized to fit on a mobile device. The cards need to be recognizable quickly without the aid of bulky text to clutter the board. It’s important that the player uses the time allotted to him on his turn to make strategic decisions rather than try to decipher the plays of the last turn. After all, you want your players playing against each other, not your game’s UI. 

So how does this relate to Shadowverse specifically? Shadowverse has this cool mechanic called “Evolve” where a player may spend Evolution Points to upgrade their Followers. The game also has certain effects that trigger or come into play on a Follower’s Evolution. So the question becomes, how do you ensure enough clarity on the game board so players can differentiate regular Followers from Evolved Followers?

Shadowverse adds a thicker border around the Evolved Follower, but also changes the card art in a rather clever way. 

Unevolved:                                                          Evolved:

If you had two of the same Follower next to each other on the board, it would be important to quickly recognize which was Evolved and which wasn’t. At a quick glance, the thicker border might not be enough to differentiate the two. Making completely new art for every single follower is a huge burden on your art team, though. It effectively doubles their workload for every card you add to the game. Further, where do you even begin? What changes can you add to a character to give them the appearance that they have become stronger in some way?

What the team at Cygames did was mirror the card art for its Evolved version and add a few extra details that can be done quickly, while still distinguishing the two from one another. Now there is no mistaking the differences between these two cards. Being a good developer means being able to solve tough problems, and game development never ceases to provide those. Being able to look at other studios and recognize their solutions is just one way of many to learn and better your own development practices! 

This was an excellent solution which not only solved their design problem, it also led to a much more efficient workload for artists on the team!

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