One of the Best Ways to Use Next-Gen Technology
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Recently, I’ve started getting back into card games. I’ve not actively engaged in card games in a long while, but over the past couple of months I’ve started to rekindle an interest in them, thanks to my piqued interest in Blizzard’s card collecting game Hearthstone. I began to reminisce about the fun I used to have with the Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh card games of old, as well as the recent introduction of Magic: The Gathering into my life at the end of 2012. As a substitute to not being able to play Hearthstone at the time, I bought Magic 2014 on Steam during the Winter Sale. I also bought it as some sort of means to get into the flow of digital card gaming, and to refresh myself with some of the basic card game tropes of which Magic and Hearthstone seem to share. Now that Hearthstone’s in Open Beta, all that practicing (and a lot of trial and error) seems to have paid off slightly.

It’s also because of Heathstone that an idea came to me. As I was reading over Blizzard’s announcement for Hearthstone’s Open Beta, I picked up on the sentence that mentioned “Android and iPhone support.” Out of nowhere, a creative spark hit me: card games could work on the Xbox One as well as being a physical game! I know I’ve expressed my mistrust of the console, but hear me out for a sec. Upon having that initial seed of thought, I spent the next couple of days mulling over the idea, figuring how it’d work.

The concept would utilise the Xbox One’s QR code reading capabilities via the Kinect to save that card digitally to either a dedicated game or an app. Similar to the way the Skylander franchise or Pokémon Rumble U works, this concept would function both physically and digitally. Physical cards would be available for purchase and could be used as standalone cards like any other card game franchise. On the back of these cards there would be unique QR codes for each individual card, which could be then scanned by the Kinect to create a digital copy of that card into a library of either an Xbox One dedicated app or videogame. You would have the ability to essentially have two copies of your deck: one physical and one digital. A physical copy for local play and a digital copy for online play, and maybe some cross-platform capabilities could be involved too.

I later sparred this idea with my Editor-in-Chief, who enlightened me to an older videogame that pretty much did the same concept as the one I was proposing. 2007’s The Eye of Judgement (and its subsequent expansion packs) on the PlayStation 3 utilized the PS3’s PlayStation Eye peripheral and a 3x3 mat to do  pretty much what I’ve already outlined above. The camera would scan the physical cards, which would then be digitally represented in the game itself. Since technology has advanced a hell of a lot since the year 2007, I believe a reiteration of this sort of idea could make itself welcome in the gaming industry today, especially now as we tentatively march into new-gen.

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I believe this concept is very feasible to integrate with what we have today: cross-platform, the Cloud, mobile apps, online interactivity, etc. Similar concepts have already been done, which may be used as a sort of benchmark, or even a sort of frame of mind to put it into perspective. So, let me explain this concept to you, and how I think it’d work.

The cards themselves will be like any other cards in a card game, with abilities, mana costs, rarities, etc., except somewhere on these cards (I envision it to be the back of the card) there’ll be a QR code of some description, or/as well as an IR and / or Bluetooth (or things similar) code (hereinafter referred to as “Codes”). In order to ensure as much of a broad a range of console compatibility as possible, the Codes would have to be versatile. For example, a Code would have to be able to be scanned by any compatible device that’s able to read that kind of Code, like QR codes for the Xbox One’s Kinect and mobile devices, and NFC (Near Field Communication) codes for the Wii U’s GamePad.  Having said that, though, this part of the concept is somewhat flawed--it leaves out the PlayStation side of things. The PlayStation 4, from what I’ve been able to look up, isn’t capable of scanning QR codes. To fix this problem there’d have to be a peripheral which cards would slot into. These cards would be available to buy as standalone packs, much like regular card games are sold today, with boosters and Intro Packs and Core Sets.

As for the console side of things, I think the concept would fit the mission description a lot more if an app was required instead of an actual videogame. Well, not a physical game, but perhaps as a digital game. I’ll just refer to it as “the Game” for consistency. The Game would be developed around the foundations of the card game itself, meaning it’d play as close to the physical card game as possible, only digitally. This Game would have an archive/library of all your scanned cards, where you’ll be able to find the digital copies of the physical cards you have. The more cards you buy, the more you can scan into the Game, if you so desire. I don’t think there would be any sort of in-game store involved, as that would somewhat defeat the purpose of the physical cards. If an in-game store is a must, it’d only be for cosmetic things, or to perhaps buy more physical cards to be sent to you. Anyway, once your cards have been scanned, they’d then be tied to your respective account for the Game. It’d have to be a unique registration to the Game, as I think doing so would make cross-platforming a lot easier. So, because your cards would be tied to your account, you’d be able to access them from any console--but probably not handhelds, I don’t think (besides mobile devices)--because your progress would be saved to the game’s dedicated servers, or “the Cloud” from here on out.

Okay, so let’s go over a couple of scenarios for this concept (I’ll be covering different platforms in this hypothetical story, so bear with me). I’ve gone and bought a starter pack for this card game for the Xbox One. The Xbox One version of this starter pack would have the number of cards deemed to be considered enough for starter packs (say 200 or so), and would also include a way to get access to the Game (probably in the form of redeeming a Code). The starter pack would include all the things you need in order to know how to play the game, including instructions on how to scan the cards to the Xbox One. What’s more, I would be able to just play the physical card game then and there if I so wished. I then redeem the Code provided by the starter pack to the Xbox One, which then starts downloading the Game. Once finished, I would be greeted with the same instructions provided with the pack (just in case I hadn’t bothered to read it) and a prompt to register an account with the Game’s Cloud service. Then, one by one, I’d scan the cards via the Kinect’s QR scanning capabilities, then afterwards each respectively scanned card would then be saved digitally to my account. The Game then notifies me that there’s a cross-platform app available for both Android and iOS. I’m going to meet a friend in a few minutes, I’d download this app to my tablet and play a couple of matches (either online or offline, depending on if the bus I catch has free wi-fi available).

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I have the app installed by the time I leave for the bus, and on the journey to my friend’s I’m getting to learn more about how to play the game. I reach my friend’s house later, and they’ve just bought a starter pack for the Wii U. They have already scanned the cards using the GamePad’s NFC feature. They want to have a game with me. We invite each other as friends though the Game, and--thanks to the Cloud--we’re able to have a game together whilst I’m using my tablet and they’re using their Wii U GamePad. I get a call from another friend. who tells me that they bought the PlayStation 4 version of the card game, the starter pack of which came included with a USB peripheral slot device. They’ve also already scanned their cards by using this slot device. They’ve asked me for a friend request, to which I promptly respond with my details. Even though they are not in the vicinity like I am with my other friend, I’m still able to game with them after this current match via the Cloud. There’d also be a PC/Mac version too, which would share the same USB slot device as the PS4 to scan cards.

Obviously the concept is still within its pre-Alpha days, but it’s the seed of thought that counts. Taking into account what this concept is, it’s safe to assume it’d be hella expensive, yes, but I think it could be still be  possible--even if it is a gimmick.

Of course, I’m far from the echelon of knowing the intricacies of marketing, accounting all the other business-related things that would relate to pushing this sort of concept to the masses, but I am a creative person, and I think that this concept, though woefully up in the clouds, is creative--a creative solution to an unperceived problem. Of course, there could be a grand Kickstarter campaign to back this concept, but I really don’t know if there’s enough demand/interest to warrant such development. So, let’s just leave this as it is: a concept. An interesting concept, yes, a concept that may appear in the future, but nevertheless, for the time being, a concept.

Not gonna lie though, I wouldn’t mind doing any artistic concepts for this card game. That’d be cool.

Kieran Mackintosh
Kieran Mackintosh
@KingSongbird

Contributing Writer
Date: 01/28/2014

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