The Past and Future of SolForge

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solforge-preorderAs the New Year dawns, we here at Stone Blade Entertainment are excited for what 2014 has in store. We have an incredible amount of new features and new content that we can’t wait to bring you. But before we get to what the future holds, I want to look back at the past. Thanks to the passion of our backers and fans, SolForge has come incredibly far in a very short period of time. While some of you have been with us the whole way, others have only discovered the game recently, and we want to give you a glimpse into what this journey has been like.

SolForge began as the idea of making the best digital collectible game built for mobile devices. Our team here at Stone Blade Entertainment (then called Gary Games) had put a lot of thought over the years into how best to translate the fun of collectible strategy games to a digital medium, but it wasn’t until a chance encounter between Justin Gary and Richard Garfield, the original creator of Magic the Gathering, that things really started to move somewhere.

Both Richard and Justin were invited to speak at the Penny Arcade Developer Conference (PAXDev). During his talk, when someone asked Richard what his current favorite games were, he answered that he was really enjoying our deckbuilding game Ascension. Justin, a former US National Magic Champion and pro player, decided he had to talk to Richard about the possibility of working together on a game. He pitched the idea of co-creating a new digital collectible game, and Richard, who had been wanting to create a true spiritual successor to Magic in the digital space for many years, was very excited about the idea.

justin and richard

Richard Garfield and Justin Gary discuss game design

The original design for SolForge began as something quite different than where we ended up. We felt that one of the keys to making a mobile game work was the potential for it to be played asynchronously, so you could take your turns at your convenience while you were on the go, rather than forcing players to complete an entire game in one sitting. This led to an initial concept that was adventure and progress based, in which each player was competing for resources to level up and grow more powerful in order to conquer areas of a shared map.

Our early playtesting of this idea showed it to have a number of interesting elements, but it lacked real drama and excitement. We liked the idea of leveling, and your cards transforming and growing more powerful as the game progressed, but the “adventuring” part of the game was off.  It didn’t have the same visceral feel of a head-to-head battle. It was much harder to get excited about defeating neutral monsters, and made us feel less invested in what we were using to do it. If I’m going to summon a dragon, I want to be using it to crush my enemies! We redesigned the game from the ground up to be more directly combative, and after many, many iterations (which you’ll certainly read about on this site at some point in the future), we came to the game that you know today as SolForge.

We launched our Kickstarter for SolForge in August of 2012, and thanks to over 7000 backers, we reached and exceeded our fundraising goal in early September, with the promise of delivering a Beta version of the game in early 2013.  After seeing how much fun people were having with our early demo version, we decided to release a very bare-bones version of it on iPad in December 2012. We got a tremendous response, and knew that we really had something special when people spent countless hours just playing the two available pre-constructed demo decks against each other.

We updated the iPad version with four new preconstructed decks in time for PAX East in March, one for each of the factions, which offered players a bunch of new ways to experience the game. We launched an early beta version on PC via Steam in April, and expanded and updated it shortly thereafter with deck building.  We launched online play in July, and players got down to business trying to figure out what was the best deck they could build with the available card pool, a topic that was hotly debated in our forums and on our community sites.

Our playerbase was multiplying like Echowisps!

Our playerbase was multiplying like Echowisps!

That card pool exploded when we officially moved into Open Beta in early August. Our launch brought 180 unique cards across the four factions, along with collection management features, free-to-play daily rewards, cross platform support, and more.  Our user base exploded, and we began to have as many games played hourly as we’d previously seen completed in an entire day.

Before our own tournament features were implemented, community members organized their own events.  Many of these tournaments capped out in attendance hours before they began, showing a huge desire for competitive play. We supported many of these these events with prizes, but it was great to see the passion of the community who were competing largely just because of their love for the game.

We added a few quality of life features with minor update in the interim, such as matchmaking and the “Next Game” button, which allowed players to find competitive games and manage them more easily. Our biggest update since our open beta launch, however, came just a few weeks ago, with our iPhone and Tournament patch.

The most recent patch added a bunch of new features, including new cards, tournament play, draft mode, and the new iPhone client. This update brings SolForge that much closer to our vision of the game when we started – a complete digital collectible game that you can carry with you wherever you go.

What would you pick?

What would you pick?

The response to the most recent patch has been incredible. We’ve seen posts all over Facebook and Twitter talking about how much fun people are having with the new draft mode, and how much they appreciate being able to play on their phones while they’re on the road over the holidays. We’ve seen countless screenshots of great games, cool decks, and interesting draft picks all over. It has been great to see the outpouring of enthusiasm the new update has brought toward the game.  We’ve barely been able to stop drafting ourselves, and we’ve already been doing it for months!

That brings us to today, at the start of a new year. While SolForge has come a long way in 2013, it still has a long way to go before it lives up to our original dream. Here are some of the things you can look forward to in the new year:

whatsnext

New Cards – Fresh content is the lifeblood of any collectible game. We’re hard at work on another large set of cards that should really shake things up in Constructed and Draft alike! We have all kinds of cool new cards and effects that really take advantage of the fact that SolForge is a digital game, and we can’t wait until you all have a chance to play with them.

UI Improvements – We’re going to revisit the look and feel of the game client. Our existing interface was mostly built out from our initial demo version, and we have quite simply outgrown it.  New tools to manage your collection, filter items in the store, and provide more up to date news and information are all goals of this redesign.

Android Client – As you may have heard already, we are in the process of moving into our Closed Beta on Android. We’re excited to get SolForge into to hands of even more players, and can’t wait until virtually everyone with a smartphone can play SolForge on the go!

Card Forging – We know that you want to find a use for your fourth copy of a Legendary card, or your fortieth copy of a Common. And we plan to give you one! We’re in the process of working out the details of a “Forging” system that will provide you with the ability to convert excess copies of cards you don’t want into things that you DO want. Forging is one of the next big features we’re working on, and we’ll have more details about the system for you as its release draws closer.

Single Card Purchases – Many players have expressed their desire for more ways to get the specific cards they want outside of just opening up packs. In addition to the crafting system, we have plans to introduce more ways to acquire specific cards that you want. One of these ways is the “Card of the Day” feature, which will put a new card up for sale in our in-game store each day, and which will be going live very soon.

Auction House – On the topic of uses for excess cards and acquiring the specific cards you want, we are planning to launch an Auction House feature that will allow players to exchange cards between one another easily and securely. We do not have an ETA for this feature, but we know that it is highly desired by many players, and we’re working hard to make it happen.

Achievements – We have had an achievement system on our radar for quite some time, and we’ve done a lot of work on it already. Many players have asked for the ability to track their wins and other fun statistics, and we’re totally on board. The achievement system we have in mind not only gives players fun goals to strive for, but also the ability to earn rewards for reaching those goals.

Customizability – We know that players like to stand out from the pack. We already have the tools to create alternate art cards, and we’re working on the ability for players to have access to different game avatars – including the one that will be available to all of our Kickstarter backers.  Check out this alternate art version of Graveborn Glutton that players will be able to get in the not-too-distant-future!

GravebornGluttonAlt2

Alternate Art for Graveborn Glutton

Campaign Mode – Our initial vision for SolForge included the ability for players to explore the game world, overcome challenges, and battle against epic foes – including co-operative “raids” with other players. A single player campaign mode is a crucial central feature to the game, and also an immense challenge to get right. We’re working with a veteran game writer to build out the initial storyline that player will experience and the encounters that they will face. While we do not have a target for when the campaign will be complete and ready to play, we’re incredibly excited about the prospect of providing new and experienced players alike an entirely different experience and outlet to use their decks and cards when it is.

What secrets lie in the frozen world of Solis?

What secrets lie in the frozen world of Solis?

Organized Play – An incredible community has already sprung up around competitive SolForge play. In addition to our in-client events, the community site Forgewatch has organized a series of events that will be culminating soon in the first Forgewatch Invitational, which includes among its many prizes the right to appear on a future SolForge card for the champion. Be sure to head over to the Forgewatch site to learn more and follow along as the tournament progresses over the next few weeks.

This is only the beginning for SolForge organized play, however. Many of us here at Stone Blade Entertainment cut our teeth as competitive CCG players, ourselves, and we know how important a robust tournament scene can be to a game. While I can’t tell you all of the details of what is to come just yet, I can tell you that we will have an exciting announcement to share with you soon. Stay tuned for more…

That’s quite a lot, and we expect to have our hands very full over the next twelve months making it happen. We’ve had a blast making SolForge so far, and if 2013 is any indication, 2014 should prove to be quite a ride. We’re looking forward to it, and we hope you are too.

Have a Happy New Year!

Have a Happy New Year...or Chrogias will smash you!

Have a Happy New Year…or Chrogias will smash you!

-Brian Kibler

8 Comments

  1. Kindulas

    Wow, how did I not think of calling your crafting system “Forging” >.>

    Anyway, keep the updates rolling you guys! Can’t wait to see what new cards you have in store… and to forge them! I don’t suppose structures will be in the next set? Having them effectively become the space instead of compete for them or have their own was brilliant…

    …huh, never noticed Chrogias had those bestial raised ankles, I like that.

  2. Kindulas

    Oh, ha, I read that you guys have tools to make alternate art instead as the fact that tools for making alt-art being something you’re coming out with. Now I see that makes a lot more sense. Though I suppose uploading custom art for cards that only showed up on your end of the client would be pretty neat…
    anyway, will alt art copies be just a choice you make or will they be special copies, like foils? I think it would be really neat to have alt-art cards be a special commodity, not just a setting, though I can see arguments for either.

  3. MiguelII

    The most Appealing aspect of ascension for me was that both players played with the same deck making the game more about the players skill and planning rather than their ability to input specific cards making the game like a chess game.

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