Why are there suddenly 861 roguelike deck builders on Steam?

Urich Lawson

In a deck building game, you start with a basic set of cards, then upgrade them over time, looking for synergies and compound effects. Roguelikes are games where death happens often, but each random “run” opens up options for the future. In both types, and when combined together, the key is to stay simple, shrink your deck and optimize your strategy so that each card and upgrade is working toward unstoppable momentum.

“Lean” doesn't quite describe the current landscape of roguelike deckbuilding games, but it certainly has momentum. As of this writing, Steam has 2,599 titles tagged by users with “Deck building“and 861 with”Roguelike deck builder“In all languages, more than enough to feed a conversation Shipbuilding Festival. This glut has left some friends and co-workers complaining that every indie game these days seems to be either a cozy farming simulator or a card-building roguelike.

I, who have been completely obsessed with deck builders for nearly five years, wanted to know why this was the case.

What appeals to developers and players about single-player card games designed for screens? How do developers differentiate between their deck designers? How do you promote a title in a niche but crowded niche?

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In search of these answers, I spoke with a group of roguelike developers, read interviews and watched group chats from others. Some common themes and trends revealed themselves. Like a well-polished deck, each element fed and supported the others.

But first let's go back to the beginning, to the single most powerful ingredient in a roguelike deckbuilder's success: two college friends in their 20s, tired of working quality assurance jobs.

Slay the spireStarting point

Slay the spire It represents what is arguably the beginning of modern single-player roguelike deckbuilder video games. some games maybe Technically Owns sum Combat-oriented deck building combined with the procedural generation and death/improv/repetitive nature of roguelike games, but the 2019 game was the first to break the formula and build a large fan following around it. Slay the spire It also fostered widespread enthusiasm for single-player card games on PCs in general – other than Windows games Solitaireat least.

The video was directed by Justin Wolfson, edited by John Cappello. Click here for text.

in Video interview with Ars Technicaand at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) talks in 2019 about marketing And ArbitrageDevelopers Anthony Giovanetti and Casey Yano narrated the game's story. Giovanetti and Yanno had met in college, played a few one-off games, then graduated and got jobs. Giovanetti was an aficionado of card and board games, and even briefly ran a game store. He was definitely familiar with the deck building master DominionBut his main game was Netrunner-He still maintains the community website StimHack. Yano worked at Amazon, where he said he acquired the company's “customer obsession” mentality.

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In mid-2015, the two reconnected and put their efforts into creating the cross-genre fusion concept, which they initially called “Card Crawl”. Starting from the stick figure drawings, a progress chart is procedurally generated FTLand input from some advanced Netrunner They've been working on playtesting until the game is ready for Early Access on Steam. One of their most important discoveries during development was broadcasting enemy intentions to the player and simplifying the visuals and indicators until they were readable at a glance, even in a foreign language.

Slay the spire It was released into Steam Early Access after over two years of development in November 2017. It sold 200 copies on the first day, 300 copies on the second day, and 150 copies on the third day, declining from then on. The developers made trailers, sent out more than 600 emails to news outlets and other media, and in the crucial first two weeks of release, they sold just 2,000 copies.

Things looked bleak, but in the end, some of the 200 keys they sent to streamers led to some live gameplay. An influential Chinese streamer slaughter The session garnered over a million views, pushing the game to the top of the best seller list, which led to more sales, which led to more streams, etc. Grateful for the second wind, the team released new patches every week and used statistical feedback from early sessions to fine-tune the game further. They were careful not to remove “false” strategic discoveries because they understood the joy of the “powerful Rube Goldberg machine.”

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Despite critical acclaim, a 99 percent positive Steam review rating, and more than 1.5 million sales by September 2019, Yano told the GDC audience: “We've never improved how we sell the game. I would say it's still really word of mouth. But things It's going well that way, so I think we'll keep going that way.

Many developers I spoke with were cited Slay the spire As an inspiration; One of them had over 1000 hours in it. The game's design and success have multiplied many times over, creating new starting points. BalatroDeveloper He claimed he did not play deckmakers Before he made his own, he was fascinated by streams Luck be the owner. That roguelike slot machine was, According to the developer blogdeeply affected Slay the spire. Even if you don't know it, you probably do.

<em>SpellRogue</em>from a team of two, has cards, but you use them by rolling dice and putting the results in the card slots (Yahtzee!).” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/ Screenshot_EarlyAccess_3840x2160-2-scaled.jpg” width=”2560″ height=”1440″/><figcaption class=

SpellRoguefrom a team of two, has cards, but you use them by rolling dice and fitting the results into the card slots (Yahtzee!).

Guidelight Games/Ghost Ship Publishing

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