Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Prismata Cup: Why it happened, how it went down, and what Blizzard can do to improve Organized Play 1

Last weekend, we ran the Prismata Cup—a merit-based Hearthstone tournament open to high-ranking players. It featured 32 of Hearthstone’s top Legend-rank players, and likely had the strongest field of any Hearthstone tournament that has taken place thus far.


“The best matches ever recorded in Hearthstone history.”

“Everyone who plays Hearthstone has to watch these games.”

-Two of the six finalists from the Prismata Cup


The playoff rounds of the Prismata Cup, featuring the top 6 players from the tournament, will be broadcast this Sunday, August 3rd, with Trump and Hafu commentating.

You should watch them. Because the games are unbelievable.

The Prismata Cup wasn’t the first competitive tournament that I’ve directed. But it was the first time we’ve run a Hearthstone tournament of this scale. Though things generally went well, some hiccups inevitably had to be dealt with on competition day. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the more amusing things that happened, along with some of the problems that arose, and what Blizzard could change to help organized tournaments run more smoothly.


Prismata unit art and concepts 1

In designing the combat units for the game Prismata, there are a number of important considerations relating to gameplay, narrative, and artistic style. The look and feel of the game units affects how users feel when playing the game, how they perceive the story, and how well they intuit the actual game mechanics. We began by designing the most important and difficult units: those in our base set. These are the units that users can purchase in every single game of Prismata, and they are among the first units that users encounter in the single player campaign. We needed their look and feel to be perfect.


Stepping Away From Unit-on-Unit Combat 58

making prismata ma


Armies fighting Aliens. Warriors teaming up to land a hit on a Dragon. Almost every RPG, strategy game, and card game containing battle of some sort has the concept of unit-on-unit combat—the notion of “I am commanding friendly unit A to attack enemy unit B”. After all, it makes perfect sense given our understanding of how warfare proceeds in real life. And it works extremely well as a gameplay mechanic.

Prismata is different. Our combat system contains no unit-on-unit combat at all. Given its traditional role in competitive games, why on earth would Prismata choose to abandon unit-on-unit combat?

In the Making Prismata series, we’ll explain our decisions in the design of the core gameplay mechanics and units. As a hybrid strategy game incorporating many different elements from real-time strategy games and card games, every element of Prismata’s final design has been endlessly scrutinized. Nothing was left unquestioned because it “worked”.


The Role of Luck: why competitive games like Hearthstone NEED luck, but RNG isn’t the only answer 197

The topic of luck in competitive gaming always ruffles a lot of feathers, leading to never-ending complaints and hostility from many different types of gamers: players whining about losses caused entirely by randomness, fans whining about their favourite pros being knocked out of tournaments due to bad luck, and everyone else whining about all the whiners. The subject arises frequently in discussions surrounding card games like Hearthstone, where the issue has become a hotly debated topic in the wake of serious complaints from professional players concerning the role of randomness in the game.

In developing Prismata—a competitive turn-based strategy game sharing many features with card games—we’ve questioned whether the presence of luck was really worth all the fuss, raging, and drama. Could a game like Hearthstone still be as popular and fun if the element of luck was removed?

Over the years, we’ve talked to many professional gamers and expert game designers, including folks from Hearthstone’s design team, about the role of luck in card games. When asked whether it would be possible to design a card game without luck, they all told us the same thing:

“Bad players will never think they can win, and they will stop playing.”

“Your game can’t thrive if it doesn’t have luck.”

“You’d be fucking crazy to try and make it a commercial success.”

Challenge accepted. I guess we’re fucking crazy.


Gameplay Videos

With the release of the first wave of Beta keys on the horizon, we thought it would be a good idea to show off some Prismata gameplay. In the following videos, Lunarch Studios founders Elyot Grant, Will Ma, and Alex Wice commentate a few friendly games and explain their decision-making and strategy.

While much of the look and feel of the game is rapidly changing as development continues, the core gameplay remains as it has been for years.

Subscribe to us on Youtube to be notified about all the new video updates. We plan on posting new videos weekly.


Setting the Bar: featuring comments from Prismata writer Mike Fong 2

As the guy at Lunarch Studios who does most of the work that a producer would do at a larger studio, I get to interact with a lot of very talented people—artists, musicians, and of course our very own writer Mike Fong. Mike lives 1000 kilometers away in Boston, so I often consult with him over video calls or instant messenger to ensure that the art we commission agrees with the intended story details.

Elyot: What changes to the bar do we want the artist to make?

Mike: Make it less purple.

Elyot: I like purple.

Mike: Swade’s only friends are the demons inside his head. I just don’t think his regular hangout for drinking alone is a purple bar.

Elyot: At least it doesn’t look like a place where one goes to pick up chicks.

Mike: No, it looks like a place where one goes to pick up dudes.

Elyot: Yeah, yeah, whatever, we can mess with the hues later.


Origins, Part 1: Why I quit my PhD at MIT to start a gaming studio 1436

[This article contains actual instant message conversations from the founders’ Google chat histories]

It was 6:52 pm on Tuesday, September 28, 2010. I had just sent my good friend Will Ma the following message over Google Talk:

me: current temperature in waterloo according to if it’s odd, I’m black.

For the next several hours, Will and I exchanged a series of cryptic alphanumeric messages resembling this:

Will: W9: hhebcy ns 13plg 3f2aw

These incomprehensible strings of characters were punctuated only by occasional, marginally less cryptic messages like the following:

me: B11: gg wp
me: re?

It was the beginning of a 4-year-long obsession with the game that would eventually be known as Prismata, though at the time, we referred to it only by the codename MCDS (in honour of 4 other strategy games that inspired its creation that we stopped playing in favour of it). Prismata was, and still is, the most addictive strategy game I have ever played. But my choice to throw away my promising academic career in favour of full-time game development wasn’t an impulsive gamble fueled by obsession. Rather, it was a calculated, market-driven decision born from a series of remarkable coincidences.

In the Origins series, we’ll share some anecdotes from the early days of Prismata: the fierce arguments we had over the game’s design, the insane development choices we made when building the game, and the highly unconventional ways we went about building our studio from scratch and funding the game’s development. This article shall give a brief overview of the game’s history, with a focus on the factors that convinced us to withdraw from our PhD studies at MIT to found a full commercial game development studio. ]