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Dear HeroClix players,
As part of our ongoing efforts to communicate with you more openly, we are using this Design Insight post as an opportunity to pull back the curtain on a few major initiatives that we have underway. Under each goal will be an example or two to illustrate how we plan on delivering on those goals.
Goal 1: Make the game easier to learn for new players
When we first started talking about what is important to improve HeroClix, everyone agreed that making it easier to learn for a new player would be great, but we also heard a lot of worry about taking away what makes the game fun in order to make it more accessible. The work we are doing is directed at making the game more accessible (easier to get to the best parts) while keeping all the interesting, fun and challenging depth for the veteran HeroClix player.
The first initiative under this goal is specialists vs. generalists. Let’s start with what we mean by “specialist” and “generalist.”
When we look at designing a dial for a character, we look at the capabilities of the character from the source material as the palette from which we can choose. A generalist dial is a collage of all the colors on the palette, while a specialist dial highlights and accentuates a select number of colors from the palette. Internally, we call this a “slice” of the character.
Why do we think specialists need to be a more important part of the game?
Specialist dial designs offer players (especially new players) options for characters (especially popular characters) that are:
- Easier to build teams with/around — as they will tend to have relatively low point values
- Easier to determine their role — as their dials will be economized towards a specific set of powers or game functions
- Easier to “pilot” — as their dials will tend to have fewer powers and abilities to track
Specialist dial designs can focus on a standard power, special power, power combo, strategy or just designing a team so you can field more of your beloved characters, each with their own place in your strategy.
Conversely, a “generalist” dial design offers a wide variety of HeroClix powers and abilities encompassing much more of a character’s abilities from the source material. There will of course be dials between these two extremes, but in any given set there will be some from each end of the spectrum. For those HeroClix players that have been around a while, you’ll recall there were many dials that would have met these criteria in previous sets, so really this isn’t a new idea, but rather an idea that needs to be reincorporated into the game.
Additionally, we believe the idea of specialists also helps us with our next goal…
Goal 2: Provide more interesting choices
Providing specialists provides interesting choices for an expert player in team building; specifically, the points vs. utility tradeoff. Perhaps it’s more important to have the flexibility of a generalist figure with more powers, or the precision of the specialist.
It also allows for different slices of a character to be featured, which will keep the characters themselves interesting set after set. Instead of choosing which one or two generalist X-Men you get to put on a team for a game, now you can field a team of X-Men, each with their unique specialist role.
Additionally, since specialists will also tend to be lower point values, teams can have more figures which offers interesting tradeoffs in force construction and map positioning. Which leads us to the next goal…
Goal 3: Make maps matter
With the plethora of resources, high point cost characters and other game effects, actual positioning and movement on a map has in some instances become less important. It is our goal to ensure that maps always matter and are built into the game with everything we do.
Tactically you’ll see more selective assignment of Improved Movement, Improved Targeting, and any other traits/powers/abilities that circumvent the core game aspect of movement and positioning.
Incidentally, we also looked at the player’s interaction with the actual physical maps on the table. This led us to develop a program to bring premium maps to the market that we hope players will find to be a nice upgrade from paper maps. Below are a few photos of the 3’ x 2’ roll-up maps that will be coming to the market in the summer of this year at a price of $24.99 MSRP. These durable premium maps are printed on non-slip neoprene, do away with the creases found on our folded maps and provide a great rolling surface.
(click image to enlarge)
If you want to get your hands on them early, at Worlds we’re planning on having a few opportunities for players to win a map at select tables.
This leads me to the last goal that we’re going to talk about today…
Goal 4: Clarify the language of the game
This goal, which also helps with Goal 1, is the one we’ve been working on the most and we hope to roll out the results this year. From using consistent language across the various documents to cleaning up information that is no longer valid, we hope to make it easier to learn and keep up with the game.
To be clear, we are not making major changes to the mechanics themselves, only how they are described. In some cases, we’ll split apart the essence of a mechanic from the details for edge case situations to a more in-depth document so new players do not get bogged down in issues they don’t need to worry about. There will be keywords added for key concepts to help communicate the game to all players that will help make the game easier to explain. We will roll out specific examples in the coming months so you can better understand the work we’ve started.
This goal clearly has high overlap with Goal 1, but to summarize: let’s make things easier to understand, up to date and easy to access.
Back to Goal 1:
And now let’s return to Goal 1, with what many will find is the most important change of them all, and before we introduce it we want to share with you how seriously we take it.
We’ve been thinking about implementing this change with the current team for going on six years now. We have talked to retailers and players and asked what we can do to make it easier for new players to get into HeroClix. Much of that has been incorporated into the goals above.
But the final hurdle we’re going to talk about today, the one that turns off a large percentage of what would otherwise be happy new HeroClix players, is the dread of having to memorize the dials. Yes, we’re implementing visible dials.
In order to implement visible dials, we are also taking the opportunity to update the look of our HeroClix Character Cards—click the image below for a sneak peek at our new card design direction (and a special preview as well!)
(click image to enlarge)
*Please note the following: The above image uses a figure from the upcoming Marvel HeroClix: Uncanny X-Men set, however the Marvel HeroClix: Uncanny X-Men set will use the current HeroClix card layout. Also note that the new character cards will be the same size as the current character cards.
Some may argue that memorizing dials isn’t that important (then why not make them visible), or that it is important but at their store they let new players look at their dials while they play.
But ask yourself: do you actually enjoy memorizing dials? Do you feel it’s at the heart of what makes the game fun? We believe the joy of the game is in team-building, thematic recreation, and the actual decisions one makes during the game.
Picture a store with an active and vibrant HeroClix scene. A customer walks into that store and sees a fun, raucous good time happening. The player walks over and is naturally intrigued by the cool figures and the idea of the game. Inevitably the dial and the need to know what’s on the dial comes up. It feels like homework, like a chore that must be overcome, and it’s at that moment that we have forever lost that player to another game.
This is not the first time we’ve done visible dials. Halo, a very popular release, had them and we were constantly asked about our intention to include them in HeroClix. We’ve felt visible dials was something that would help the game for a long time, but we’ve taken years to talk to stores, judges and players to ensure our understanding was accurate.
Once rolled out, our tournament rules will allow any set that has printed visible dials on the card to be used in a tournament (cards prior to this will not have the luxury of a visible dial). We understand the fear that this may slow the game down, but we feel that good judges will strike the right balance of referencing vs. stalling.
As we work through the goals above, we plan on posting updates to our progress and sharing with you the exciting things we have planned. We feel that for the vast majority of current and future HeroClix players, this will result in a vibrant and healthy game for decades into the future.
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