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What Makes Online Collectible Card Games Fun to Play?


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Online Collectible Card Games is a relatively new genre of games that allow the players to collect cards, com-bine them into decks, and play the decks against oppo-nents through the Internet. Players get engaged in all these three levels of the game, and we relate these levels to the theories of what makes a computer game fun to play. The Eye of Judgment (EoJ) is taken as an example of such a game, and we compare the theoretical study to the results of interviews with former EoJ players to validate the models.
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What Makes Online Collectible Card Games Fun to Play?
Stefan J. Johansson
Blekinge Institute of Technology
Box 520, 372 25 Ronneby, Sweden
Online Collectible Card Games is a relatively new genre
of games that allow the players to collect cards, com-
bine them into decks, and play the decks against oppo-
nents through the Internet. Players get engaged in all
these three levels of the game, and we relate these levels
to the theories of what makes a computer game fun to
play. The Eye of Judgment (EoJ) is taken as an example
of such a game, and we compare the theoretical study
to the results of interviews with former EoJ players to
validate the models.
The Collectible Card Games (CCGs) genre is more
than 100 years old, starting with base ball card games
(of which the first one dates back as early as 1904)
In 1993, the first set of cards for Magic: The Gathering
set a new standard for the genre and as a consequence in
the mid 90’s there were a lot of new CCGs released
Although many of them did not survive the competi-
tion and have been discontinued, some of them are still
releasing new sets of cards.
So, how does this relate to computer games? In 1997,
the first Online CCGs (OCCGs) were released, — Chron
X, and Sanctum in which you play with virtual cards on
your computer. These games are still being maintained,
with servers running and new editions being released
and since 2002, Magic: the Gathering also has an online
Three levels of the game
A CCG can be seen as a three level game:
At the collection level, you buy, sell and trade cards
to get the collection of cards that you want.
At the deck building level, based on what cards you
have, you construct decks (i.e. a limited subset of
your cards) that you use for playing the game.
At the match level, you play one of your decks in a
game against an opponent.
We will first go through two models for enjoyment
in games: Malone’s and Sweetster and Wyeth’s. Then
we apply these models in theory to the OCCG genre,
and make a qualitative investigation of how they apply
to the OCCG The Eye of Judgment. We finish off by
discussing the applicability of the models to OCCGs,
and draw conclusions and line out future work.
Several previous attempts have been made to iden-
tify why players enjoy a certain game, i.e. what is the
fun part in a game. This study will neither cover them
all (a short, but yet informative survey of ways to model
player satisfaction is given by e.g. Yannakakis
). Nor
will it consider the design perspective in the sense of
e.g. Hunicke et al.
, Fabricatore et al
, Church
or Bj¨ork et al.
. Instead, we will focus on two in-
fluential theories for evaluating the enjoyment of games:
Malone’s principles of intrinsic qualitative factors for en-
gaging game play
12; 13
, and Sweetster and Wyeth’s
theory of GameFlow
. The former because of its
combined simplicity and ability to catch the key factors,
and the latter for its attempt to make a quantitative
weighted measure of the game qualities.
Malone’s view
According to Malone, there are three categories of
characteristics that are essential in good computer
Challenge it must provide a goal whose attain-
ment is uncertain.
Fantasy — it should show or evoke images of physi-
cal objects or social situations not actually present.
Curiosity it should provide the motivation to
learn, independent of any goal-seeking or fantasy-
Challenge The goal of the game is central here. All goals
may not be equally good; studies have shown that visual
effects, and performance feedback are important factors
in order for the players to apprehend the game as ap-
In addition, the outcome of the game should be un-
certain. If the player is certain to either win or lose, the
game play usually gets boring. The uncertainty could
be achieved through either variable difficulty levels, or
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multiple level goals. It could also be uncertain through
having elements of hidden information, or randomness.
The impact on the player’s self-esteem is also an im-
portant factor. Challenges that engage the self-esteem
of a person, tend to be more captivating than those not,
even when the success is the result of a pure random
element of the game.
Fantasy Malone differs between two kinds of fantasies in
games: Extrinsic fantasy, and Intrinsic fantasy. Both
of these relate to the skill of the player. In the case of
the former, the extrinsic fantasy depends on the skill of
the player, but not the other way around. A simple ex-
ample of this is Hangman, where the fantasy (i.e. the
man being hung or not) depends on your skill in guess-
ing the word, although your skill is not effected through
the outcome of the hanging. An intrinsic fantasy is one
where the skill being learned and the fantasy depend on
each other.
According to Malone, intrinsic fantasies in games are
more interesting and more instructional than extrinsic
ones. The reason is that there is a closer relation between
the domain being learned, and the fantasy, thus players
may exploit their existing knowledge.
Curiosity There are, according to Malone, two types of cu-
riosities. Sensory curiosity, which increases as patterns
in the media changes (e.g. light, or sound). This can
in turn be used in several ways: To decorate a game, to
enhance the fantasy, as a reward, or as a representation
The other type of curiosity is Cognitive curiosity
which is the desire to better structure the knowledge
about the game in terms of completeness, consistency
and parsimony. If you provide the player with enough in-
formation to make their existing knowledge incomplete,
inconsistent or unparsimonious, the players’ curiosity
will make her more motivated to learn more, which will
make their cognitive structures better formed.
Sweetster an Wyeth
Sweetster and Wyeth bring with their GameFlow
model a more precise, but also more complex way to
describe player enjoyment. The model consists of eight
elements: Concentration, Challenge, Skills, Control,
Clear Goals, Feedback, Immersion and Social Interac-
tion. The GameFlow model builds on Csikszentmiha-
lyi’s Flow model for enjoying experiences
. Each and
one of the elements in the GameFlow model below, are
then further defined by a number of criteria that are
used in the model to evaluate the game from a player
enjoyment perspective.
1. Concentration Games should, according to Sweet-
ster and Wyeth, ”... require concentration and the
player should be able to concentrate on the game.”.
2. Challenge The games should match the skill level
of the player in a way that make them sufficiently
3. Skills A game have to support player skill develop-
ment and mastery, e.g. learning to master the game
should be a fun part of the game.
4. Control The players of the game have to feel that
they have a sense of control over their actions in the
5. Clear Goals The games should provide the players
with clear goals.
6. Feedback The players must get feedback on their
progress in the game.
7. Immersion The players should experience deep but
effortless involvement in the game
8. Social Interaction The players of the game should
be able to communicate, build communities, etc.
supported by the game.
Is it at all relevant to use the described models of
enjoyment at all three levels of the game for CCGs in
general and OCCGs in particular? The answer to that
question is not obvious.
Malone’s model
CCGs may be challenging at all three levels of the
game. The collecting part involves, e.g. buying cards,
and often these are packaged in boosters, i.e. closed pack-
ages of around 10 cards that are not revealed until you
open them. You simply get a random set of cards in
each booster so in order to get a complete collection,
you will have to either buy lots of boosters, or trade for
individual cards. The fantasy category is far-fetched,
but the idea of having a complete collection where you
are able to build all possible decks and thus being able
to construct the best counter deck for each and one of
the opponent’s decks is of course appealing. The cogni-
tive curiosity though is embodied in the completeness of
the collection, and the sensory curiosity is fulfilled, espe-
cially in OCCGs, in e.g. animated sequences involving
the cards.
At the deck building level, the challenge is to build
a deck that will help you win matches. The fantasy el-
ement is present in the deck building in the way that
different card combinations are built on the charac-
ter(istic)s of the cards. It increases the enjoyment to
build decks where the effects of the cards co-operate to
defeat an imagined opponent set of creatures, compared
to building decks if the cards (although having the same
game mechanics) would just contain symbols. Curiosity
is at this level dominated by the cognitive aspects. How
will the deck manage in the environment of competing
decks it is assumed to face? What are the winning com-
binations of cards? What combination of cards are the
hardest to counter for an opponent?
When it comes to the actual play, the challenge is of
course to defeat the opponent. There are often random
elements in the games (e.g. decided through dice or coin
flipping or through drawing cards) which increase the
uncertainty. From a fantasy perspective, the players are
commanders, sending in their troops to fight down the
enemies and in the end one of them will be defeated. The
player skill and the game are connected in the way that
the outcome of the game depends on the skill, but also
that the game forces the player to improve its tactics.
The games trigger the sensory, as well as the cognitive
Table 1: The
enjoyment in OC-
CGs using the
GameFlow model.
Collection Deck build Matches
Concentration No No Yes
Challenge Yes Possibly Possibly
Skills Possibly Yes Yes
Control Yes Yes Yes
Clear Goals Yes Yes Yes
Feedback Yes Possibly Yes
Immersion Yes Yes Yes
Social Interact. Yes Yes Yes
The Model of Sweetster and Wyeth
The GameFlow elements are well tuned to fit to model
the enjoyment of many modern computer games. The
collector level of an OCCGs is not a typical such game.
One example of that is that the element of concentra-
tion is rare in the collector, and deck building parts of
the game which are typically done off line without any
specific opponents.
In Table 1 we present a short ver-
sion of a general analysis the enjoyment of OCCGs. Al-
though most of the elements may be fulfilled in one way
or another, some of them are worth an extra comment.
The challenge at the collector level is studied. By
letting the rarity of the cards vary, the less ambi-
tious collectors could aim for a cheap, but basic col-
lection, whereas others try to get their collections
complete. At the deck building or match level it
is by no means clear that you will face sufficiently
challenging opponents, especially if you play online
against randomly chosen players.
Building a collection may in many OCCGs be
achieved by monetary means rather than building
the skill needed for it, thus it is not necessary to
develop any skill at all at this level.
Although the feedback in the case of the collecting
and match playing is direct, it does not have to be
so in the case of deck building. The decks you build
may e.g. neither come in play, nor be revealed to
be seen by others.
The Eye of Judgment (EoJ) is an OCCG played online
where you use physical cards. A camera (the Playsta-
tion Eye)
is used to identify the cards through their
printed bar codes and to see their orientation on the
game board (see Figs 1–2). The goal of the game is to
1. conquer five out of nine fields at the 3x3 fields board,
2. deck out the opponent (i.e. to make the opponent
run out of cards to draw from the library).
The possible exception is the bidding in auctions selling
Playstation Eye is a registered trademark by Sony
Computer Entertainment.
Figure 1: The EoJ
equipment: cards,
a Playstation3 with
a screen and a
Playstation Eye.
The game starts by letting each player draw five cards
from their libraries (of initial 30 cards) to their hands.
The first player then starts the game by receiving two
mana points. The mana points are used in the game
to put cards in play. The player then either play some
cards, or end the turn. In each turn thereafter, the player
draws a card from the library to the hand and receives
two extra mana points. The player may then summon at
most one new creature at an empty field on the board.
As you summon it, you also activate its attack according
to its attack pattern printed on the card, and if any
opponent creature is within the pattern it carries out the
attack. Creatures whose hit points are reduced to 0
are removed from the board and put in the graveyard.
Unless there are cards in play that remove the effect,
each creature card that is removed returns one mana to
the player.
There has been three releases of cards, Set 1, 2 and 3,
of 110, 100, and 101 cards respectively that each have
an unique combination of properties such as attack and
defence patterns, costs for summoning, attacking and
turning, attack strength, hit points, blind spots, element
type, race and affiliation. There are both creature cards
and spell cards. The game is also rich of special abilities,
such as protection, magic protection, invisibility, posses-
sion, summoning, or activation cost manipulation, mana
steal, discard abilities, and manipulations of your own,
or the opponents library, hand and graveyard.
Interviews with (former) EoJ Players
We have, through the two communities EoJMan-
, and LBShooters
, got in contact with a
number of players with whom we held structured inter-
Figure 2: Callous
Gaiakhan, one of
the stronger Set 3
cards in EoJ
views through e-mail about their experiences from the
game (see Appendix A). When applicable, quotes from
these interviews will be included in the description of
the history below in order to put them into the right
context. The persons are numbered P
. The inter-
viewed players have been active for at least half a year,
have (with exception of P
) had complete collections (at
the time when they quit), and played a total of more
2000 matches.
The history of EoJ so far
The game was released in late October 2007 at the
same time as the Playstation Eye and they were sold
Set 1 The first set of cards was released at the same time
as the game itself. Players describe it as:
”... it was fairly balanced, but rather bland.” P
, or
”perfectly balanced.” P
There was however an issue concerning the online play.
If a player disconnected its Internet connection before
the end of a game, the game did not get registered in
the online honour scores. A trick that some players then
pulled was to play the match and if they won, fine, but
if they were about to lose the match, they disconnected
just before doing so. Thus there were players with a
perfect score, having 0 losses and only wins (but a lot of
disconnects). Players in the community found this very
annoying, or as one player put it, it
”... drove me insane.” P
This glitch was repaired in the release of Set 2 where
disconnecters were punished by getting negative scores
for disconnecting a game.
Set 2 The release of the 2nd set was bit problematic.
Since the game is played more or less entirely online,
often with randomly selected opponents from all over
the world, the timing of the releases of new editions of
the game is crucial. In the case of Set 2, the European
and Japanese markets got the new Set 2 cards in the end
of March 2008, about one month before they reached
the North American market. This was of course not
satisfactory at any level of the game. The collectors had
to wait for the cards, the deck builders could of course
build virtual decks, at least off line, but they were never
able to test them and calibrate them, and at the match
level, the North American Set 1 players were beaten by
players that had access to the new cards.
Set 3 Since the release of Set 2, the game had now
switched manufacturer of the cards from Wizards of the
Coast to Upper Deck. The players were hopeful for
things to improve concerning the global release, but got
their hopes crushed as it turned out to be even worse
than the problems of the release of Set 2. Europe an
Japan were again first out with the cards being released
in mid October. Once more, North America had to wait,
first until the beginning of November, then another delay
until the middle of December. Although the competitive
advantage of the new cards was probably less compared
to the situation when Set 2 was released, it still upset a
lot of players.
There has so far (March 2009) not been any updates
of the Set 3 cards, although there is especially one card
that is considered to be too strong. Many players do
however think that this update has brought new life to
the game, providing a large variety of new key cards
that strengthen alternative deck types that were not
competitive before.
”set 3 brings more decks to choose from. balanced
overall.” P
We will now look at how our example relate to the
perspectives of the models of enjoyment.
The collector level
The main problem at this level initially concerned
players who were cheating. It turned out that the cam-
era was not at all very sensitive to the authenticity of
the cards; meaning that you could easily print your own
cards based on pictures of the cards downloaded from the
Internet. There were even successful experiments made
showing that you could create your own cards using a
black felt tip marker (for the bar codes), and green and
yellow highlighters (for the green triangles). The grow-
ing communities of EoJ players all more or less worked
against the use of fake cards in general, and banned them
from use in events arranged by them in particular. Al-
though this trick in the short run could save players a
lot of money (a full Set1 collection costed about $300
at the time), there was a common understanding that
in the long run, new sets of cards were less likely to be
developed, if the players did not pay for them.
Lately, two issues at the collector level has concerned
the access to certain cards. First Dioskuri which is a
creature that cannot be summoned directly, but has to
be created through the combination of two other cards in
play. It is therefore more or less useless in deck building,
and was therefore released as a promo card only, which
made it very rare as it was not available in the ordinary
booster packages. This in turn made collectors value it
very high, over $500, especially before the North Amer-
ican release. The ones that had a few Dioskuri cards to
sell at that time made a decent profit at the cost of eager
collectors. Second, one of the Ultra Rare (UR) cards
the Mandragora Triplet was not restricted to one per
deck (as all other URs), but three. This increased the
value of the card about five times, since the collectors of
Master sets
try to collect three of these.
All of the interviewed players (except one, who had a
Master Set 1–3 collection) quit playing before the release
of Set 3, so none of them experienced any of these issues
as a problem.
Why is collecting EoJ cards fun? Do then players enjoy the
game at this level? Relating to Malone, there indeed
is a challenge in getting a complete collection of cards.
You have the element of randomness in the result, since
a large part of the cards are only available in booster
packs. Although there is no direct feedback in the game
that shows, e.g. to other players, the state of your col-
lection, some communities offer this. LBShooters have
used medals to award players that have completed col-
lections of full sets of cards and EoJManager shows the
players’ collections in their card collection area.
As for the element of fantasy, the collection game is a
purely extrinsic fantasy. The state of the collection is to
some extent a result of the player’s skill in trading cards
(but mostly a result of putting money into buying and
trading cards). There is no way that the collection as
such effects the skill of the player at this level.
Last but not least, we have the Curiosity factor. There
are elements of sensory curiosity expressed as the graph-
ical representation of a card, both at the card as such,
and the way the card is represented in the game, e.g.
when a creature attacks or defends itself. There is of
course also an element of cognitive curiosity in terms of
the quest to build a complete and consistent collection
using as little resources as possible.
What happens when a player gets a complete collec-
tion? One player expressed that he was:
”Feeling the relief and accomplishment of owning every
card.” P
Well, obviously, this part of the game may get less inter-
esting, since there are no more challenges for the player;
the fantasy of a complete collection has become reality,
and the curiosity decay. This may even be one reason
for some players to lose interest in the whole game. It
may possibly be one reason why Upper deck, who re-
leased the Set 3 cards, have been quite sparse with pro-
There are four levels of rarity of the cards: Common,
Uncommon, Rare and Ultra rare.
A Master Set is one out of which you can build every
possible deck.
viding the communities with promotion cards. The lack
of Dioskuri and Mandragora Triplet cards will keep play-
ers from getting complete collections, and possibly keep
them interested in collecting the cards for a longer time
in the game.
The deck building level
The deck building trends of EoJ is interesting to study.
Before the release of Set 2, the game was concidered to
”perfectly balanced.” P
”Extremely well balanced.” P
. There was no single dominating deck type, although in
the latter part of this period, a Mana control deck known
as the Polish deck gained popularity as a well working
all round deck.
At the release of Set 2, a new card type, Zealots, was
introduced and it quickly became the state of the art in
deck building to construct decks based on the maximum
number of these cards. Players describe this period as
”A disgusting and frustrating time to be an EoJ player.”
”When I first heard about those cards being broken and
everyone using them, I, like many others refused to play
ranked until something was done to balance it.” P
Other players regarded the criticism to be unfair:
”Personally I felt the balance was nowhwere near as bad
as others did. Despite not really playing the game I was
able to build a deck that wasn’t specifically anti-Zealot
but had a VERY high win% against Zealot decks..”
However, most of the players found the Zealots to be
too strong and in the end of May 2008, an update was
released that restricted the use of Zealots (and a few
other cards) and some of their effects as well as making
a number of adjustments and clarifications to the textual
descriptions in the game.
After the 2.01 update, a new kind of deck saw the
light of the day. By repetitively, and with good timing,
cleaning the board using heavy magic attacks, and at
the same time use cards that returned used cards from
the graveyard to the library, you could delay the game to
the point where you could win by library defeat (LD)
Those LD decks quickly became the most popular deck
among the highest ranked players, and remained in use
among the them until the release of Set 3, despite that
many players found them very predictable and boring to
play against. (Through the update...)
”balance was restored in the game, only problem was at-
trition playstyle was born.” P
The best counter strategies against LD decks were not
very successful against most other types of decks and
these other types were in general beaten by the LD
Why is EoJ deck building fun? Building new decks in the
game is not hard, but building successful decks is. The
collection of the player restricts what decks you can build
in theory, and the predicted type of decks your oppo-
nents will bring to play make set the environment in
Aka the attrition strategy.
which they will be evaluated through the games you use
it in. Deck building is thus highly connected to the other
levels of the game. Even though there are no random ele-
ments in the deck building as such, being able to predict
the strategy, even of a single opponent, is challenging
and so is the task of creating a good counter deck.
As a player, you are of course curious (in the cognitive
sense) about if your deck will work as you thought or
not. Often, a lot of testing and tuning is needed before
your deck is competitive, but when it is, it also returns
a lot of positive feedback. The players answers to what
they thought was their best experience from a deck
building perspective was e.g.:
”Building a sweet deck that was also fun to play.” P
”Pride of building a very successful decktype.” P
. Experiencing their deck working as designed in play is
a kick:
”Looking at my Corseo family stealing lots of mana
everytime one of my creatures dodged an attack was the
best moment ever.” P
The match level
There are three major types of matches:
1. Against the computer. The game AI of EoJ is not
very successful against good players; it has problems
to utilise the card combination bonuses in the same
way skilled players always try to do.
2. Custom games. These games are against another
player that you invite through internet (or play
against at home). This type of game is used in
community tournaments where you have to face a
certain player, but it does not affect your online
3. Ranked games. This type of game is played online
only, where you face another player waiting for a
ranked game (or you set up a room where you can
wait for someone to join). Standard rules apply with
the standard board setup, 3 minutes per turn, and
the player to start the game is decided randomly.
The ranking system consists of two parts: the honour,
which is a measure of your experience, and the rank
which tells how successful the player has been recently.
The higher rank you got, the less rank points will you
earn against a lower ranked opponent (and the more
you will risk to lose). Although it is more complex with
two measures, it is an improvement:
”A bit messed up, and highly addictive.” P
One player was not satisfied with any of the rankings:
”Honour was pointless so I wont talk about that. Rank
was good BUT there needed to be some sort of filters.
There is no reason that myself as one of the top 20
players anywhere should be forced to play a horrible
player that has no shot at beating me. It’s a waste of
both our time.” P
Why are EoJ matches fun? In the actual matches, the chal-
lenge is to be able to make the best possible out of the
state of the game, given the cards in your hand within
a certain time; a task that you share with your oppo-
nent. The game triggers extrinsic, as well as intrinsic
fantasies while you watch the game develop, learn about
the strategy of the opponent, and try to counter it in the
best possible way. There is visual, as well as audio feed-
back (especially if the game animations are turned on)
contributing to the sensory curiosity; however, since the
animations are deterministic, at the same time as they
boost the sensory curiosity, they also make the game
more repetitive. Although it does not decrease the cog-
nitive curiosity, it is unchallenging. Many top players
therefore turn off the animations in order to escape them
and save some time. It may even be considered to be bad
manner to have them turned on in official tournaments
in some communities.
Following the GameFlow model, we compare the three
levels of EoJ. This is done through evaluating a number
of criteria relating to each and one of the elements
(see Sweetster and Wyeth for a the details
). The
results of this evaluation is presented in Table 2. We
can see that the match level (denoted M in the table)
of EoJ reaches the highest score in this model, followed
by the deck building, and the card collecting. There
are also large differences in the different elements, e.g.
Concentration and Social Interaction. Especially the
social interaction outside the game has been important
for EoJ. There are more than ten Internet-based com-
munities for EoJ, many of them arranging tournaments,
and helping new players to get into the game.
”The community I joined in was great. People were
friendly, informative and was considered my second
family.” P
Even though the game as such does not provide very
much help at the strategic level, the communities play
an important role here:
”I also met my mentor through the LBShooters. It was
really something to have a great player teach me the ins
and outs his playing style and it was nice to tell him
my victory stories using the deck he taught me with my
own little variations. We had some great conversations
about how to assess certain situations given what we
have in our deck..” P
Ok, but if EoJ is fun, why do players quit?
There are a number of reasons why people quit:
”Internet problems, needing to own every card and
spending more than $400 per set.” P
”Money and time. I’m working towards my Bach-
elor’s degree ... Since EoJ was costing me the most at
the time, it was a clear choice as to which game I had
to cut.” P
”Too much money to spend on cards ... Too much time
needed to play it ... Too much space needed to keep the
cards, to set the mat and camera.” P
The cost of the game is indeed an issue for the top
level players. A complete Master set covering all cards
is valued more than $1000, well above the price of the
PS3 console itself
. Other aspects such as time, techni-
cal problems, or space problems were also contributing.
Since the game does not have a clear one player story-
line with a clear goal (other than at the collector level),
the bore that may arise through finishing the last boss at
the last level does not come. The investments made by
the players in their card collections also seem to have a
preservative effect; players do not sell their cards (unless
they need the money) if they get bored of EoJ. Instead,
there are several examples of players who got back to
the game to find that the deck flora has changed, giving
the deck building level a new challenge.
Finding former players of EoJ to interview was not
easy. Two of the larger EoJ communities were searched
for posts where members sold out their entire collec-
tions of cards. In total 29 such members where asked
to participate through mails forwarded through the site
administrators. Those interested contacted us and were
sent a questionnaire. There is of course a risk that the
five answers we got in the end were biased, since former
players who are fed up with a game also may be less in-
terested in investing even more time in EoJ by answering
a questionnaire. The reason for choosing former (experi-
enced) players is that they have both enjoyed the game,
and for some reason left it, i.e. they were expected to
have a balanced view of it.
The Gameflow evaluation was also bordered with is-
sues. How do you e.g. evaluate if the environment is
distracting or not at the collector’s level? Or what is
the reward in deck building as such? Often, these evalu-
ations include inter-level dependencies, such as having to
test the newly constructed deck in a number of matches.
The joy (or lack thereof) you then may feel, is it because
the match as such,
the indication that your deck holds certain proper-
ties, or
the satisfaction of being able to play the cards at
all (since they are part of your collection)?
The social aspects of games such as EoJ is very impor-
tant. The in-game support is limited to text and voice
chat with your opponents, and the ability to send in-
vitations for, and replays of, matches to other players.
However, the vast Internet-based support make up for
this, especially at the deck building and collector levels,
(e.g. special format tournaments with restrictions on the
deck building). These aspects are of course not covered
at all by Malone, and get bundled in a way that is not
adapted to OCCGs in the GameFlow model.
One may of course also question the three level con-
cept. Why think of OCCGs in terms of three layers?
There are three natural target player types. Some of
them are interested in collecting cards, others in just
playing matches (maybe using the starter deck they got
as they purchased the game). A third group of players
spend more time discussing decks and testing new types
of decks, e.g. in custom matches or against the game AI,
than actually playing serious matches. This last meta
level is sometimes described as a Rock-Paper-Scissors
game, where skilled deck builders try to lie ahead of
the rest (e.g. when a large part of the community play
”Rock” decks, you construct ”Paper” decks).
Now, of course the three levels are connected. In order
to use a card in a deck, you will need to have it in your
collection, and the use of a deck in a match presume that
you have built it (as well as formed a working strategy for
the use of it, if you want it to succeed in your matches).
Playing matches will also improve your knowledge about
how to use the cards, which will help you understand
how to build better decks. These decks will create a
demand for certain cards in your collection. Although
you might focus on one of the levels, all three of them
are inter-dependant.
Although OCCGs are games that need computers in
order to be playable, neither Malone’s, nor the Game-
Flow model are very well suited to cover all levels of
these games. The reason is primarily that the games
consist of several inter-dependant levels, of which not all
of them fit into the classical computer game template.
More research is needed to find out both how these lev-
els are related (in terms of enjoyment), and to integrate
support for such an analysis in the existing models of
enjoyment in computer games. Another possible trail is
to extend the study to other models of enjoyment, e.g.
the ones by Klimmt
and Lazarro
The author would like to thank the EoJ players who
chose to participate in the interviews, and Mark van
Setten at EoJManager and Piotr Starzyk at LBShoot-
ers respectively for helping me getting in contact with
them. I am also grateful for the comments on the paper
by various friends and community members, especially
Mark van Setten and Lennart Nacke. Last, but not least,
I would like to thank Sony for providing an interesting
object of study.
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1. When did you start playing Eye of Judgment?
2. When did you decide to stop playing (if you have
3. What was the size of your collection at the most (in
terms of unique cards)?
4. Approximately how many games did you play in
(a) in ranked?
(b) in custom mode against other community
members (e.g. in tournaments and leagues)?
5. I would now like you to comment on the following
(if you have an opinion about it):
(a) The communities of this game (please list the
ones that you were most active within).
Before the release of Set 2:
(b) The balance of the game
(c) The disconnection problem
(d) The honour points system
After the release of Set 2, but before the release
of Set 3:
(e) The card delivery problems related to the
worldwide release of Set 2.
(f) The balance of the game after the release of Set
2, but before the 2.01 software update (known
as the Battleship/Zealot nerf).
(g) The balance of the game after the 2.01 update.
(h) The honour/rank point system.
(i) The official EoJ world championships arranged
at PSN.
After the release of Set 3:
(j) The balance of the game after the release of Set
(k) The card delivery problems related to the
worldwide release of Set 3.
(l) The Dioskuri promotion card.
6. What were the primary reasons for quit playing
7. What is your best experience from this game?
(a) At the community level
(b) At the card collection level
(c) At the deck building level
(d) At the match level
Table 2: EoJ
Gameflow evalua-
Criteria C D M
Concentration Provide stimuli from different sources 1 2 4
Provide stimuli worth attending to 1 1 3
Grab players’ attention and maintain it throughout the game 2 2 4
Spare the player unimportant tasks 3 3 4
High, but appropriate workload 1 1 2
Non-distracting environment 5 5 3
2.2 2.3 3.3
Challenge Challenges match the players’ skill levels 4 3 3
Provides different levels for different players 4 5 3
Level of challenge follow players’ skill progress 2 3 4
New challenges at an appropriate pace 3 3 4
3.2 3.5 3.5
Player skills Players should be able to start playing without a manual 5 3 2
Learning the game should be fun 2 4 5
Game should include in-game online help 2 4 4
In-game tutorials 1 2 2
Increase player skills at an appropriate pace 2 2 5
Players should be rewarded appropriately 3 2 5
Easy to learn interface and game mechanics 5 4 3
2.9 3.4 3.7
Control Players should feel in control over their units and their interactions 4 5 5
Players should feel in control over the game interface 4 5 4
Players should feel in control over the game shell 4 4 3
Players should be able to recover from errors 3 5 3
Players should have an impact on the game world 2 4 5
Players should feel in control over their actions and strategies 4 4 3
3.5 4.5 3.8
Clear Goals Over-riding goals should be clear and presented early 5 5 5
Intermediate goals should be clear and presented when appropriate 3 NA NA
4 5 5
Feedback Players should receive feedback on their progress toward their goals 4 3 5
Players should receive immediate feedback on their actions 3 3 5
Players should always know their status or score 3 2 5
3.3 2.7 5
Immersion Players should become less aware of their surroundings 2 2 4
Players should become less self-aware and less worried about everyday
life or self 2 2 4
Players should feel emotionally involved in the game 3 3 4
Players should feel viscerally involved in the game 2 1 2
2.2 2.0 3.5
Social Interaction Games should support competition and co-operation between players 4 4 5
Games should support social interaction between players 4 4 5
Games should support social communities inside and outside the game 4 4 4
4.0 4.0 4.7
Overall 3.03 3.29 3.85
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