Archive for category: System Crash


04 Jun
June 4, 2015

The last two days’ work have mostly been playtesting the Criminal and Yakuza decks. (Yakuza are sub-faction of Criminal)

The synergies between Criminals and Deception (a type of Event) cards are pretty fun. Particular this card, Treachery. Waiting for the enemy to play something big and stompy and then forcing it to smack its neighbors is always satisfying!


Brain Pain

26 May
May 26, 2015

Man, but balancing System Crash is a gigantic pain in the ass.

Just impossible to handcraft ~100 missions. All I can do is setup distribution tables and hope my maths works out.

If it doesn’t, the difficulty ‘curve’ is gonna look like something a lie detector machine strapped to a politician would spit out. :p

If I could time travel, I’d go back and slap the younger me who thought “Yeah, a card game, that’ll be an easy project”. -_-

Screenshot Sunday

24 May
May 24, 2015


Reward screen now colours rewards by rarity, more exciting.

The psychology of presentation is interesting. Giving people a rare reward isn’t that exciting unless the game makes a fuss about it. Blizzard are great at that kind of thing, Hearthstone has a bunch of little cues that add up to a juicy experience.

I’m still learning. 😛

Talking to Make Games

20 May
May 20, 2015

I was out of town last week, flying up to Joburg for the day job.

It wasn’t ALL business, though. I got in some great board gaming, Cyclades continues to be fantastic and I finally played some Dominion, which was enough to put it on my “future buys” list.

I also gave a talk on System Crash to the Joburg Make Games community, discussing development, design decisions, challenges faced, etc.

Luckily it was recorded (thanks, Eugene!). So, for your enjoyment, dear blog reader, I present my talk. 🙂

(It picks up once we actually get the game running properly, past the text intro bits)

Those Cyberpunk Vibes

10 May
May 10, 2015

Writing is an interesting activity. It’s fairly close to acting, I feel, in that when I write I have to try to put myself into the mindset of my characters in order to write them. I have to try to feel their emotions, perceive their world as they perceive it. I have to reach deep down into myself and draw out the mood and tone of that imaginary place somehow, weaving it out of my own memories and imagination.

Good music helps. Music has a tremendous power to evoke emotion, we react to audio on a very primal level. Before I start writing, I like to load a selection of tracks tailored to opening up the pathways to those inner spaces.

Since I’m writing cyberpunk at the moment, that means a selection of electronica, 80s nostalgia synth, and urban-tribal grungey beats. Not forgetting soundtracks from classic cyberpunk movies like Blade Runner, of course. 😉

Here are some of the artists/tracks that I like to write to.


Blade Runner Blues

Carpenter Brut

Dredd Soundtrack

Tron soundtrack

Pseudo-Card Sets

04 May
May 4, 2015

System Crash doesn’t have card sets in the same was as other CCGs.

The cards are not divided by colour, like Magic the Gathering:


Nor are there character classes with class-specific cards, like Hearthstone:


I wish I could say that choice was made for the sake of a clever design, but no; the real reason is a far more tawdry one – money. I tried to split cards according to faction, but that always left me with too few “common” cards. There were always gaps in deck-building options.

In the end the approach I decided on was to allow any card in any deck and to try and encourage the idea that certain cards go together through the use of synergies. In other words, certain card combinations work much more effectively than others. Canny players, once they learn these synergies, will gravitate toward building their decks around them. And since there are more cards than can fit into any one deck, that will mean they need to make trade-offs.

Which should help avoid the primary problem with allowing any deck to contain any card – that people could simply build a deck with the most effective cards for any situation. The best Agents, the best Direct Damage, the best Resources Boosters, the best Crowd Control. That’s not what we want, that isn’t fun.

So synergy sets form what might be considered “pseudo-card sets” in SC. And core to those synergies are the card subtypes.

Each card is one of the basic types: Agent, Event, Modifier or Support. The basic types are then further sub-divided into subtypes (although certain subtypes are represented across multiple basic types).

One Agent may have the Law subtype, indicating that it is part of one of the game world’s law enforcement agencies. Another Agent may be a Criminal, a member of the criminal underworld. I try to differentiate these subtypes through mechanics.

Law Agents, for example, get group synergies for having other Law agents in play, and have strong armor. They also synergize well with the Mech subtype.


Whereas Criminal cards involve a high-risk, high-reward strategy. Criminal agents are powerful for their Credit cost, but playing one often invokes an extra cost for the player, representing the “Devil’s Bargain” you need to enter into to call on those treacherous allies. They synergize well with the Deception subtype (an Event subtype), and have ways to debuff opponents.


The Anarch subtype are raiders, terrorists and street gangers. Their mechanics focus on speed and overwhelming an opponent with early aggression. They’re the Rush archetype. The Haste ability features in their set, and they have a number of powerful synergies for getting Anarch Agents on the board quickly and buffing their attack.

They don’t have the staying power of other Agents, long-term, but they can dominate the early game.


Subtypes can also be further specialized by additional subtypes. Yakuza cards, for example, are a subtype of the Criminal set.


Importantly, the more narrow/specialized a subtype, the more powerful the synergies between cards that focus on that subtype.

A card that affects Agents generally won’t be as powerful as a card that affects only Criminal Agents. And a card that affects Criminals won’t be as powerful as a card that affects only Yakuza Criminals.

For example:

Take Cover affects all Agents, and isn’t particularly powerful.

MetroSec Blockade affects only Law Agents. It’s the same cost as Take Cover, but the effect is twice as strong.

Little Tokyo affects only Yakuza Agents. It’s more specialized than Blockade and it’s also more powerful. It costs 33% more, but the effect is twice as strong.

For interest’s sake, I’ll end off with the full list of card subtypes in System Crash (so far):

Multi-Type Keywords
Program – all software cards
Deception – cards which aren’t direct attacks or buffs/debuffs, but which manipulate the player or enemies’ resources and agents. Tricksy tricks (support or event cards)
Connection – cards which represent an ally or resource the player can call on indirectly for support or resources (support or event cards).
Deck – a device for enhancing hacking abilities (support or modifier cards).

Support Subtypes
Security – security systems and devices. Cameras, turrets etc.
Tactic – battlefield manoeuvers granting buffs and debuffs to agents in combat.
ICE – long-term cyberspace defenses, firewalls etc.
Virus – code that infects an enemy system over time, to that enemies detriment.
AI – Intelligent programs.

Modifier Subtypes
Implant – a cybernetic upgrade for an Agent
Chem – any kind of chemical agent, whether a stim, poison etc.

Event Subtypes
Assault – Cards that destroy or directly damage other cards.
Exploit – Cards that exploit weaknesses in computer systems but which aren’t programs.
ICEBreaker – code that destroys or damages ICE.
Utility – a software tool.

Agent Subtypes
Criminal – Agents who corrupt or circumvent societies laws for profit. Syndicates, assassins, burglars
Anarch – Agents who spit on societies laws and conventions, living off-grid and making their own rules. Free spirits, street gangers, terrorists, raiders and reavers.
Corp – Agents of the megacorporations who run the world. Zaibatsu men and women, corporate security forces etc.
Law – Agents of law enforcement. MetroSec, detectives etc. Some upstanding, many corrupt, selling their services to the corps.
Runner – Grey and black-market mercs and soldiers of fortune, characters who make their living in the shadows cast by the glass and steel towers of the megacorps.
*Media – Agents of the media networks, celebrities, journalists.
Mech – Robots, androids.

Agent Sub-Subtypes
Yakuza – Members of the Japanese Yakuza crime syndicate.

*Media agents aren’t in the game yet, but are planned for future SC expansions.

Scratching An Itch

03 May
May 3, 2015

Ahhhh, much better! That’s been bugging me for ages.


Screenshot Saturday

02 May
May 2, 2015

Been testing out some new cards and mechanical tweaks…

Match 1, Metropolitan Security Forces (MetroSec) vs Yakuza.

MetroSec rallies a bit toward the end with that Special Response Team and a few Support buffs, but multiple Wei Lees buffed by Little Tokyo prove too lethal. Like a meat thresher. A meat thresher made of sexy, vat-bred Japanese assassin chicks.

You can’t win with control of only one lane, Practice Opponent.


Match 2, Metropolitan Security Forces (MetroSec) vs Anarch rush deck.

Too much pressure, too quickly. MetroSec goes down. I think I need to nerf Kim Kardashian, I mean Selina Monroe. Her +2 Attack for every other Anarch card in play ability is hellova strong.


Match 3, Metropolitan Security Forces (MetroSec) vs Yakuza again.




09 Apr
April 9, 2015

I somehow managed to paint Kim Kardashian as an urban punk completely by accident. 😐

(I swear, I didn’t use her as reference. I reckon it’s because her features are so generic that if you draw “generically attractive” with that skin tone it just kinda looks like her.)


Here are a few variants of her costume that I considered before settling on what you see above.






The (Not So) Final Countdown

17 Mar
March 17, 2015


As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m busy spicing up the beginning sequence of System Crash, making sure there is an early conflict to motivate the player and drive the gameplay forward.

Making the early game interesting is important for convincing folks that it’s worth buying the demo to see what happens next. 😉

Paying Miriam the Loan Shark her money back before time runs out is the driving factor in the early narrative. But that new plot device, of you needing to pay her back in 30 days, added a complication – namely, that System Crash doesn’t track game time at all.

It would feel fairly limp, slapping the player with a big “You’ve got 30 days, go go go!” narrative and then failing to actually exert any genuine time pressure. We’ve all played games like that, right? The world is in desperate peril! But oh, you want to do 30 or 40 side quests and pick some herbs before tackling the Evil Necromancer? Sure, no problem bro, the Undead Hordes will wait patiently over here…

No, that won’t do. So I thought about adding some sort of actual time tracking mechanic, before remembering that I’ve been working on this game for over 3 years now and fuck that. So instead I (mostly) used the systems that I’ve already built, creating a simple script variable that tracks the countdown toward Miriam’s deadline, and adding a little bit of code to be able to display dynamic script vars in the objective/mission text strings.

And, to keep things simple, I’ve made it that doing a mission, any mission, ticks the counter down by 1 day. Easy to setup in the XML scripting system I’ve built, and viola, genuine time pressure.

(From this point on there will be spoilers for this early section of the game, don’t read if you want to go into System Crash completely fresh.)

But that brought up a different problem. I have intentionally designed System Crash to be fairly ‘casual’. By casual I don’t mean simple, I mean that it’s something you can play casually, here and there. Pick the game up, play for 20 minutes, unlock a new card or two, try a new deck and progress the narrative a few beats.

What I specifically don’t want is for a player to play for a while only to realize that they’ve screwed their campaign progression because of some decision they made 10 missions ago, unknowingly. I want missions to challenge players, but I don’t them to get really stuck. And that includes losing the game because they fail to gather Miriam’s money by the deadline.

So what I’ve done instead is added a little branching. You can fail that objective. In fact, you can simply refuse to pay up, even if you have the money. The game won’t stop. Instead, Miriam sends her goons after you. Wave after wave of them. And, at a certain point in the storyline, you won’t be able to progress in the main plot arc until you deal with them.

But you can deal with them. The fights aren’t very rewarding, in that they don’t drop much in the way of rewards (you may still enjoy the battle, regardless. I don’t want to make them dull). But if you beat enough of your attackers, Miriam eventually decides that this whole endeavor is proving too costly and calls off her dogs. And you can carry on playing the main arc again.

So those are your options. Either pay the money, or beat a number of optional fights. Pay some of your in-game currency, or pay with your time.

You might be asking, at this point, “well, why would I ever pay her, then?”

Well, I’m not going to actually tell you (outside this blog) that you can ignore her threats. So some people will do it just because it seems like it’s the game’s designated path. Or because they want to skip the goon fights and progress the story quicker. And for those who refuse/fail to pay, it might be kinda cool to see that the game responds to that, you don’t just hit a game over screen.

I think it’s kinda cool, personally. If I had the time and resources, I’d flesh out the rest of the campaign with interesting branching choices and long-term consequences. But, as I said, I’ve already sunk a huge amount of time into SC, so I’m holding those ideas in check for expansions/sequels/new games built using these systems. With the core tech built, expansions will focus more on doing interesting things with content and fleshing out the world/characters in System Crash.

Something I’m really looking forward to. 🙂