Designing for Flavor
One of the more under-appreciated aspects of designing content is matching the mechanics to the flavor of the associated character or object. Flavor in game design refers to the elements of a character or object that have no impact on the gameplay itself. This can involve a character's history, motivations, emotions, visual style — anything to give a player more context and make the character feel like a real person and not just a game piece. We’ll be taking a look at two examples from Collectible Card Games (CCGs) that showcase how matching a card’s mechanics to its flavor resonates more with players.
Magic: The Gathering (MTG) is well known for packing a ton of lore and flavor into the relatively small package that is their cards. Although most of MTG’s characters are unique to the franchise, they pull from a lot of tropes and existing material, creating characters that players recognize and identify with. Let’s look at the card Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration as an example.
This card is inspired by the science fiction horror short story, The Fly. The card starts as a human wizard conducting research, which is represented by checking the library. When the research goes wrong, the card transforms into a hybrid human insect that can fly. The entire package tells the story of The Fly that the player can experience by playing the card.
In Animation Throwdown, we don’t have the luxury of designing new abilities for every card. Instead, we rely on a wide array of generic abilities to line up with the qualities of an object or personality traits of a character. An excellent example of this is Linda Belcher from Bob’s Burgers.
Linda’s personality can be gleaned from watching Bob’s Burgers, but another useful tool is to look up what has been written about the character from her wiki. From that, we know that Linda is outgoing, enthusiastic, and supportive of her family. Focusing on that, we decided to give her the skill Cheer which raises the attack of another card thus demonstrating her excitement and support for her team. It may not be as deep of storytelling as MTG, but it does let us capture the personality of the character in the cards so players feel like they are really playing with their favorite characters.