Pharaoh - Solitaire Deckbuilder (Need Beta Testers)

Discussion in 'Pre-Orders, Soft Launches, and Upcoming iOS Games' started by BarkingDogInteractive, Jul 16, 2016.

  1. #1 BarkingDogInteractive, Jul 16, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2018
    For the 2015 Global Game Jam, we came up with a fun solo deck builder concept, and I've been polishing it up, balancing it, and play testing it ever since. Now, it's getting pretty close to being ready, and I thought I would share it with you all.

    It's called Pharaoh.

    Current Status - I am working with an artist to get all my terrible programmer art replaced. Here are some samples of the art I'm getting from the artist:


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    Here are some screenshots of the game in action:

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Here is a video we made (old art):



    It's a solitaire deck-building game, where you have a deck of cards representing your kingdom. You draw hands of four cards from the deck at a time, and choose which cards to play. There are many different cards that do different things, and many ways to add new, more powerful cards to your deck, but you will also need to manage the amount of "Reign" you earn. Each time through your deck, you need to earn more "Reign" than the time before, so if you spend all your "Reign" on cards, your game will be over quickly!

    There is an endgame, too. Build your empire, construct your pyramid, and enter the afterlife. Ascend to the throne of the gods to win!

    How Hard Is It?

    Be warned: this is a challenging game. The game is easy to play, but the "long game" is difficult to get to and survive.

    There are also some mysteries to solve in the game. When and how certain cards appear is left as a mystery for you to solve. How do you take a queen? How do you build the pyramid? You'll have to experiment to find out!

    How Much Will It Cost?

    Originally, we were thinking of a pay what you want model, but on the advice of some trusted industry professionals, we're switching to a premium model. We haven't decided what the cost will be, but it will be in line with other premium titles. We're still finding our way in this industry, clearly.

    We're also trying to decide whether to leave in the "tip the developer" special cards that we designed for the freemium version. Not sure how people would feel about a "tip the developer" feature in a non-freemium game.

    Beta Testing (Status as of Jan 6 2018)

    We have completed the first round of beta testers (thank you to all of our awesome TouchArcade testers!), and beta testing is currently closed. However, once we get done with the current art pass, we'll be opening up some more beta testing slots, so subscribe to this thread if you want to be notified of the new round of testing.

    Below are some early prototype screenshots with my terrible programmer art, back when it was a landscape game. (It's now portrait for easy one-handed play - you can see screenshots above.)
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Armadi

    Armadi Well-Known Member

    Mar 24, 2016
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    This game looks right up my alley! Please announce it here when its on sale.
     
  3. Misguided

    Misguided Well-Known Member

    Jan 27, 2009
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    Looks like a great concept. Been looking for new deckbuilders on iOS. Recently played Cthulhu/star realms and while I enjoyed them, I'm really in it for single-player/campaign. They have it, but not terribly inspired. From that standpoint, as strictly a solo affair with a bit of a puzzle/mystery aspect to it, color me intrigued.
     
  4. vectorarchitekt

    vectorarchitekt Well-Known Member
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    Dec 29, 2013
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    Thank you for the invite!
    I like it. I am still learning how to get enough reign while also being able to upgrade other stuff.
    It's definitely a game of balance.
     
  5. Armadi

    Armadi Well-Known Member

    Mar 24, 2016
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    #5 Armadi, Aug 2, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
    Thanks for the invite.

    I've played three times, still getting my feet wet. My last game went 11 years (the crossed rods symbol on upper right at 11) with chamber card added to deck. I also got a lucky thoth hit to save my game, otherwise it would have been 8 years.

    Really enjoying the game!

    Here are my early impressions:

    This game has a distinct feel to it. Most deckbuilders have a lean deck as a goal, but here the bigger the deck the longer the year- so maybe adding weak cards to the deck is good?

    Not sure how to measure how well I'm doing. I'd like a score of some kind at the end of a game.

    I'd like a way to see what cards are in my deck and discard, it would really help deciding what to do when adding more cards to deck.

    I'd also like an undo button. Inaccessible when you get a new hand, just for misclicks.

    Caught a typo on the masons card description. Sophisticated is misspelled.
     
  6. #6 BarkingDogInteractive, Aug 2, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
    Glad you're liking the game!

    Yes, one of the game's central challenges is the push and pull between needing to buy reign and needing to spend reign. Walking that tightrope expertly allows you to accelerate your deck quality, but doing it poorly can leave you in a lot of risk from the deck shuffle.

    Once you get to the point where survival isn't the issue as much, you have other challenges, like which "silo" in your deck you want to develop. Do you push forward with religion, or commerce, or military, or governance, or construction? WHERE do you spend your reign to get the most benefit?
     
  7. Getting to year 11 on game three is impressive! You're clearly getting the hang of it quickly.

    Glad to hear it!

    Well, that was something I actually thought a lot about. Yes, it turns out that weak cards don't "pollute" your deck like they do in games like Dominion, say, because it doesn't matter how many turns you take. A hand that comes out with only weak cards in it is not a weak turn. It's just another turn, and you take as many turns as you need to in order to get to the end of your deck.

    The nice thing about the "always needing more reign" mechanic is that all your cards remain worthwhile in your deck. Every single card in Pharaoh - with the sole exception of the "Plague of Locusts" card - has a tangible benefit and a role in making your way to the win condition. (Even thieves and fanatics, which at first blush seem negative.)

    Hmm. That might be a good addition, to help people judge how they're doing.

    You've already mentioned perhaps the best way to measure how you're doing - the number of years you manage to get through. If you can survive 11 years, as opposed to 8 years, that's good. But perhaps I need to add in a measure that looks at how many card types you managed to unlock, too.

    In the mean time, one measure of how you're doing as a player (as opposed to how you're doing in a particular game) is to look at how many cards you've managed to unlock in the Almanac.

    I've been discussing this exact issue with some other playtesters. One thing we're thinking about doing is letting you see the deck composition at the end of each year so that you can strategize, but you cannot see what has already been played so that the game doesn't devolve into "analysis paralysis", where the gameplay grinds to a halt because players keep feeling like they need to check their deck contents before each decision.

    That sounds like a good idea. I'll add it to the to-do list pile. May not make it into the next build, because I might have to do some refactoring to get that to work.

    Nice! This should be fixed in the next build.

    Thanks for your thoughtful feedback. Looking forward to hearing how things go as you delve further into the game.
     
  8. Armadi

    Armadi Well-Known Member

    Mar 24, 2016
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    #8 Armadi, Aug 2, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2016
    Thanks for listening!

    re: deck composition, what I'd love to see is when I click on my deck instead of drawing new cards is a list of cards currently in deck + discard pops up.

    I get not wanting analysis paralysis, but hate having a memory element in the game that involves trackable information. I feel like playing well without such a list involves writing down cards and tracking them on each go through- something I don't want to do.

    I understand that a usual solitaire game doesn't track cards for you, but it also doesn't punish you for gaining extra reign that you thought you could spend later that year but forgot you already played your priest or that you only added 2 priests to deck at this point and not 3, etc.

    Edit: I love your monetization choice btw, if i "test" the purchase button will my purchases be around in the actual release?
     
  9. Well, let me think about it. I may do a quick-and-dirty mock of that feature and do some solo testing to see how it feels after I get this next build out. I'm sympathetic to the point about having a memory component, because I personally suck terribly at memory games!

    What I've found is that playing a precise game is possible in the early game, but isn't actually all that necessary in the mid-to-late game. What you end up doing is getting a "feel" for your deck and then playing based on that. It's actually pretty good - it feels like it has good "flow" when you get into that state. So I'm kind of adverse to breaking that, but maybe that's a problem that good UI conventions can solve. I'd hate for people to have to feel like they have to play that precise game throughout in order to succeed, because if that gets tedious, it makes the whole game tedious.

    I also kind of like the trepidation of "Dang it, should I buy that reign? I only have two hands left - do I have anything I can buy?" That's a memory component, but it feels like it's one of the compelling risk/reward gambles you encounter in the game, so making it so that this is not an issue feels like it might remove a lot of the tension from the game.

    I don't know. Clearly, it's something that needs to be mocked to see what effect it will have - I can see it going either way.

    Thanks - it's an experiment! We'll see if anyone actually tips. My faith in humanity says that they will, but that could just be misplaced optimism.

    However, I don't believe you can test-purchase those items right now, or even for-real-purchase them, because they're only available in the sandbox environment currently, and your real AppleID's are not sandbox ID's.
     
  10. Misguided

    Misguided Well-Known Member

    Jan 27, 2009
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    Just wanted to say I really appreciate the thought and consideration you are giving feedback while staying true to what is clearly a clear vision of what you want the game to be. Really encouraging.
     
  11. Thanks! I appreciate that. It's kind of a passion project, so that's good to hear.
     
  12. Armadi

    Armadi Well-Known Member

    Mar 24, 2016
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    #12 Armadi, Aug 2, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
    This game is difficult and seems pretty deep, I think I'm only scratching the surface.

    Tried a few games ignoring the quarry and focusing on other card paths. With the idea that I'll improve my deck before messing with those cards.

    Best game so far is year 12 with a couple extra niles and a scribe added to my deck.

    Edit: just married my queen. So cool!
     
  13. Ha! Nice. Sounds like you're progressing well.
     
  14. vectorarchitekt

    vectorarchitekt Well-Known Member
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    Dec 29, 2013
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    Coins you collect are not supposed to carry over each draw? It seems like you would get to keep the ones you collect....
    After reading the comments on this board unrealized how bad I am at strategy games sometimes...I can't get past year 4.
     
  15. No, it works similar to games like Dominion and Legendary, where the coins you draw in a hand are the resources you have to spend for that hand. Reign is the currency that endures between hands.

    However, there just might be a way that does let you keep some of that currency between hands. Maybe when you take a Queen, she can give you an idea of how to add longevity to your empire's wealth...
     
  16. Armadi

    Armadi Well-Known Member

    Mar 24, 2016
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    #16 Armadi, Aug 4, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2016
    This game is brutally hard.

    Vector- I would suggest not getting cards from the quarry til you get a better handle on just surviving.

    My current early strategy is:

    year 1, try to get an extra reign card and a farmer from the 2 farmers in the starting deck.
    year 2- try to buy all 3 available cards from farmers (coin, extra farmer, reign)
    year 3- try to pick up an upgraded gold card from merchant
    -- as far as other stuff to do, you can go in many different directions you might want more farmers, you definitely want to keep adding reign to your deck but it isn't dire
    year 4 and beyond- all the priest options are great, except you may want to hold off on having a more upgraded gold supply before adding too many double reigns to deck

    Edit: but I'm still exploring the game, there are a lot of cards I don't know how to unlock yet. I have a feeling the quarry is key to advancing in the game... but balancing the quarry cards with cards that give gold/reign is really difficult.
     
  17. vectorarchitekt

    vectorarchitekt Well-Known Member
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    Dec 29, 2013
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    I find myself getting quite addicted to this game.
    It's s great idea!

    I understand why not, but I am still holding out hope for a portrait option.
     
  18. Armadi

    Armadi Well-Known Member

    Mar 24, 2016
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    I just built a temple! so cool. Ignore my advice about ignoring the quarry.
     
  19. I am jazzed to hear that you're enjoying the game! Glad you like it. I should be getting a new build out to you guys this weekend.
     
  20. Heh. Yeah, I had another play tester tell me that he couldn't get anywhere, and that the quarry was useless.

    I'm working on some messaging in the next version which will hopefully help with this disconnect for players.
     

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