Rise and Fall

As the only CCG I really play anymore, I suppose I have to say something about V:TES having gone out of production again.

I’m neither terribly bothered nor terribly concerned.  It’s not nearly as stunning as even Wheel of Time stopping production.  As I said on White Wolf’s forum, there’s plenty of variety, so my primary concern is rules consistency for the next year or two.  I’m not particularly interested in fan sets as I think there are plenty of cards in the game already, players often aren’t good designers/developers, and there’s still some hope that someone eventually resumes production.

The thing is is that I see CCGs in general withering until there’s maybe around 5 that actually sell at a given time with 3 or so being dominant.  Looking at the calendar for the nearest store, a pretty strong one, I see only Magic and Pokemon as regular events.  I would imagine that it will look like something like those two and Yu-Gi-Oh! being the three bigs and L5R and whatever else that I’m missing because I’m no longer plugged in to CCGs being the relevant survivors.

On the one hand, this makes sense to me because CCGs are such massive investments … not of money – compare to the people who buy electronics, work on cars, have kids, or whatever … but of thought and time and commitment to a play group.  The last being something that popular CCGs don’t need to worry about since you can always find players, whereas I’m so burnt out on CCGs because I just don’t have the energy to build playerbases like I did in the past, not because I find them any less desirable from a gaming standpoint.  Usually, the market was oversaturated, from the 1995 explosion to when just ludicrous ideas would show up on a regular basis that you knew were DOA … and some that weren’t dead on arrival to great surprise.

On the other hand, CCGs have, as far as I’m aware, done quite well monetarily.  Certainly, they seemed to be a source of revenue far and away superior to RPGs, which is why so many RPG companies seemingly dipped into CCGs.  Even if the market for CCGs has shrunk significantly and the fadness of CCGs, to a degree, ended up getting proved eventually (if a lot later than some expected), there are so few CCGs that appear to be relevant these days that you would think that there’s a big enough player pool to sell a few more.

Maybe it really is true that the CCG model is inferior to the NCCG (non-collectible card game, I believe usually referred to as LCG) model that some games have gone to.  As a Mr. Suitcase for games I play, it’s not like it really makes a difference to me in terms of being able to build decks, compete at the highest levels, or whatever.  So, I might not be the right person to see the benefits of the LCG model.  I do think the gambling aspect of opening packs and the hunt for scarce cards are going to be missed for those people who give up on CCGs, while the companies are going to have missed out on a lot of sales that scarcity generated.

Do I really think V:TES will leave torpor again?  Seems like a real coin flip with, on the one hand, Dragon Dice still being a living game and V:TES having been revived previously, and on the other, numerous CCGs having permanently gone out of production and the messy licensing situation for V:TES being a major hurdle to someone else deciding it’s worth reviving.

So, why so little concern?  I’ve always been someone to desire more cards.  The reality has been that, while every CCG pretty much has technical “infinite” variety, in competitive play, the game will become staid fairly quickly.  V:TES, though, is odd for a CCG.  Even other multiplayer CCGs, Babylon 5 for instance, have needed new cards to keep the game varied.  V:TES is the one CCG where I don’t find that deck strength matters a whole lot, add in that there’s far greater variety in building decks due to no card limits, and that the game just has a really big card pool already, and I don’t see playability dropping off a lot.  Okay, Dominate may end up being permanently broken, but that’s nothing new.  Okay, Quietus will be permanently pretty sad, but that’s nothing new.  Okay, Laibon will always have too few crypt options, well, if Ebony Kingdoms didn’t fix that, there was always questions to whether anything would.  V:TES players have been conditioned to expect little change when new sets come out in ways that other CCG playerbases could not fathom.

There’s no end in sight to decks that I should build.

Meanwhile, the biggest complaint from players seemed to be new sets.  As an older playerbase, perhaps, at least in certain places, constant newness wasn’t the draw that it was for other games.  People want group 5 filled out, well, how much do people really care versus it just being something that was expected to be done eventually?  The draw of the game has not been rooted, as far as I can see, for quite some time, in more options.  The draw has been in the strong multiplayer dynamic and the tremendous variety of options already available.

Do I want to see someone pick it up?  I guess.  Do I want more sets?  Wait, what’s the difference?  The difference is that someone can manage a game without printing new cards, even without printing any cards.  Anyway, I guess I want to see new sets.  I still want to see the underpowered and underdeveloped get their rewards and Dominate and all of the other boringly overeffective crap get their comeuppances.  I’m certainly the type to buy anything new, even if I don’t care that much about it.

V:TES has not been doing well around here, and that’s because growing niche CCG playerbases is a bitch.  I don’t see anything change for locals.  They already tended toward apathy or playing the game more like a boardgame than they were into it competitively or for newness.  I think the game can deal with having a break where those of us who are motivated constantly to build new decks will and those who aren’t won’t be in any different of a situation.  Already, we are talking about how to grow the playerbase, what to do about tournaments, and whatnot – nothing has changed, and I don’t expect much to change for a while.

Two years down the line?  Maybe it will be another dead CCG that I own massive quantities of.  Another game with no opponents.  I’m often amazed at how much RPGers care about RPGs being supported when I consider RPG stuff to just be reference materials, and reference materials never become obsolete.  Certainly, once you lose a sense of community, things go downhill.  Perhaps, with RPGs, it’s the feeling that nothing ties together the players anymore rather than the truth about what sort of materials you need.  I could easily run a game of D&D using nothing but the red book, could probably run an AD&D 1e game with just the Player’s Guide (no Monster Manual, et al).  But, the existence of new options likely precludes either from ever happening.

In the end, I don’t see V:TES being dead.  I don’t know if it will ever go back in production.  But, for the moment, whether it does or doesn’t has no effect on my plans with the game.

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5 Responses to Rise and Fall

  1. finbury says:

    I’m curious as to what will happen when print-on-demand technologies get good enough that they can produce CCG cards interchangeable with existing stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of old publishers giving this a shot, ramping up with fixed sets of old cards at first (where playtesting costs are zero and art is possibly not much).

    I’m not sure if this would work for VtES, as I don’t actually know who holds the license at this point…

  2. Brandon says:

    I was just thinking: how do I get copies of Isabel Giovanni now? Proxies? Finbury has an interesting idea; a company might just re-print old cards. Development costs are nil, a few royalties can be tossed around, and new/newish players get cards to keep the game going and expand their collection. Short of that, a giant database for proxy cards that you can print out and sleeve over junk like.. Shape Mastery might be good.

  3. Azel says:

    Strangely, as I did feel sad for a moment, I also did not worry too much about VtES. You covered essentially the main points as to why I am not overly concerned, so there is no reason to belabor the point. Having time to play would be nice, but when was that not an issue for me? As long as the community keeps going I anticipate returning to a nice “undead” group of players.

    The only worry for me is to snag some TW and LotN before they are gone. After that, if I get interested in KoT or HttB, I might snag a box or two of that. With the amount of card redundancy per set and sheer number of veterans with desires for complete sets, we are an area likely flush with all the resources for new players who are curious. Heck, a new player just needs to print up a Decklist and at least 2-3 of us can probably supply the entire deck out of our own collections, without any borrowing from other sources.

    I’d love a comeuppance to DOM, OBF, et al. and love an improvement to all the weaker ideas, but alas that is for another time. I still have old MtG & L5R cards, but for some reason I just cannot care as much in comparison to VtES. So I anticipate that I’ll be playing this game for years to come, even as I grumble about the obviously glaring issues. The hard part will be trying to keep my inner card designer from trying out ideas to proxy. Other than that, le roi est mort, vive le roi.

    • iclee says:

      TW being Twilight Rebellion? Makes sense, it’s the only good 60 card set and there’s still a lot of interesting things going on in it. LotN is strong. KoT new cards are incredibly important. HttB has tons of things going on that people haven’t done stuff with. Of course, what you really want is more Ebony Kingdoms and Third Edition … which I just happen to have some extra boxes of.

      As for why still feel like doing something with V:TES and not another game, I think it’s because decks aren’t as important to where our ridiculous ideas still do something much of the time and the game plays so differently from others. I never enjoyed deckbuilding for Magic, which is why I never got that deeply into it. L5R, I imagine, suffers from a need to keep up even more so than Magic, since Magic has so many casual players.

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