Such is the slow-churning nature of game design that, no sooner has some clever so-and-so thought, ‘Hey, there aren’t many good digital CCGs about, are there?’ and spent six months prototyping one, another two so-and-sos will inevitably emerge from the woods of development sheepishly clutching their own. It’s thanks to this phenomenon, which for the purposes of this afternoon I’d like to call Sluggish Synchronicity, that we’ll likely see three CCGs ushered in by the end of this year: Blu Manchu’s Card Hunter, Blizzard’s Hearthstone, and Mojang’s Scrolls – and the latter by the close of next month.
“We are aiming for release at the end of April and it’s looking pretty good,” Mojang co-founder Jakob Porser told Polygon. “We’ve been wanting to release it for a while because we want to have the same sort of development as Minecraft.”
Ah yes, that. The April release will sensibly follow the Ambitious Indie Plan as first laid down by Notch’s cube-relocation sim. Customers will be invited to purchase access to a beta version of the game at a generous discount, and won’t have to pay for the game again upon its eventual full release.
“With the help from our community, we’ll take the game to the next level and see what we want to do and what they expect out of the game and you can work around that,” said Porser.
As Scrolls trundles into beta, it’s impossible to ignore the shadow of Blizzard’s Hearthstone, the free-to-play CCG announced last week.
“My initial reaction was ‘Awwww,’ because it’s Blizzard,” said Porser. “I’m a huge Blizzard fan, they make great games. But at the same time you can view this in so many different ways. This could potentially be something that could broaden the market. Also, if Blizzard believes in this genre then maybe we’re moving in the right direction.
“In the end the consumer gets multiple choices and we have to step our game to try and make the best possible product, the best possible game we can. If Blizzard makes the better game, then all credit to them and we need to move on to something else.”
Which is a hell of a thing to say about something you’ve spent years working on. But Mojang’s expectations are tempered, says Porser – Scrolls is a passion project, and it doesn’t have to sell even a fraction of what Minecraft has.
“The way we approach it is this is the game we wanted to make,” he said. “We realize it’s a narrow genre compared to what Minecraft has become. I have no expectation that Scrolls is going to sell way beyond Minecraft, absolutely not. What I would like is for the game to find a core, a bunch of players that actively love the game.
“The beautiful thing with Mojang and the success of Minecraft is that we really don’t have that pressure, that every game has to sell x amount of copies or we’re going to go bankrupt. So we’re in a good position that we can experiment and try some of the stuff that we want to do and we are going to do that.”
That key quote again:“If Blizzard makes the better game, then all credit to them and we need to move on to something else”. Gosh, really? It may be financially unfeasible for players to heavily invest in more than one CCG at once, but Hearthstone and Scrolls aren’t even especially similar games, are they?