I want to write a bit about how I see certain aspects of designing games. This is my view, and does not necessarily represent Mojang or any other person at said company.
Playing a CCG competitively is all about the META. This is what I’ve heard. I make games more than I play them, and I never play competitively, so questioning what follows here is totally fair game. Meta comes from some ancient language and means something like “beyond”, or “after”. Meta-game refers to aspects of a game that goes beyond the game’s rule set. In CCGs, that roughly translates to; “What decks are people playing?”
At this point Wikipedia can no longer help me, because I want to reach practical use, and don’t feel like spending the night sifting through archaic e-parchments of academia babble. So, I’m gonna write about my view on what meta-game means to me, i.e. getting to the goddamn point! Always be vary of spending time on things other than what’s MOST important, because you’re always gonna have at least three things that are MOST important at any given time anyhow.
With a meta in a game we can make two distinctions of how it matters to you:
* You can FOLLOW the meta, meaning; play the deck that seems most popular/effective.
* You can PLAY the meta, meaning; knowing what is most popular/effective, and play whatever is most effective AGAINST that.
An ability to PLAY the meta is of utmost importance. If the meta can be played, then what is most popular/effective will always be shifting. In essence, there will always be something new to learn, and you are never certain of outcomes ahead of a game. For this to be true, EVERY deck, or deck type, must have a nemesis. For every deck, there needs to be another that will somewhat reliably, defeat it. If there is even one deck type that doesn’t have a weakness, a nemesis, then that deck will logically, inevitably float to the top of the competitive ranking. Now the game is stale, and stops being interesting. Top players will know the outcome. Or at least know that the last game in a tournament will be decided on what is more or less a coin toss, which is equally uninteresting.
This closed loop of nemeses (I looked it up. It’s not “nemesises”.) is in game circuits referred to as a “rock-paper-scissor” mechanic. A term that I find problematic because of how people often seem to think it must mean a simple, not challenging, game like the one from which it lends its name. Of course that doesn’t have to be true. You could have 20 rocks, 12 papers, 32 scissors, an assortment of other household items, and their power relationships doesn’t have to be symmetrical, and you could layer another loop of, say, foodstuffs on top. It doesn’t have to be about one “type” against another. It could be timing strategies, or power curves that are pitted against each other. Further, rock doesn’t have to beat scissor every time, but maybe just 60 % of the time. What happens then if the scissors player includes 25 % papers in his deck? It can be small and simple, or a gigantic construct, but it just HAS TO BE IN A CLOSED LOOP.
This is the most important aspect of the competitive side of games. Personally, I’d rather play a game with a loop that is easy to understand, but complete, than one that looks complex and deep, yet is incomplete. In either case, getting there isn’t easy, once you factor in the other aspects that are also important.