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Mon no Oni

Lack of plot twists in cards

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As I have mentioned in other threads over time, I'm somewhat indifferent about this new iteration of the world of L5R. I jumped on the game at release, and I liked what I saw, but with time I just quit the game as I found it too convoluted... too many layers of mechanics leading to too many decision points that made it too much of a hassle for me to play a game to the end. If I ever summon the energy to play nL5R again, it will be something like Skirmish, not the "full" version.  I still keep buying the packs as they come out, more from brand loyalty that anything else.

But then, this is about the story...

With fiction I think something similar happened to me: I liked it at first. Unlike oL5R, where the story (and the world) was being hapzardly developed "on the go", nL5R takes advantage of what has been already built and aims to tell their own story better;  the plots are carefully built and taken to their eventual conclusion, avoiding many, many pitfalls. However, the developements are sooooo slow that it's easy to forget about the world for months. As it had happened with the gameplay, the world is more solid but.... it also feels somewhat lifeless to me. When a new story appears on the website I'll read it right away, and check this forum for analysis and some conversation... then I'll forget about it until next time. Honestly, I think this is more about the glacial rate of the story progression that the actual quality of the stories.

However, now I have realized other thing that bothers me... this is a game that (at least in theory) has a new (if small) set of cards every month. The old versión had a big set every 4 months or so? New card spoilers were a big thing back then, not only for the new cards themselves with their play mechanics, but because of the plot twists in them. Because the story was told in the cards, too. Characters did this or that, battles were won or lost, *things happened* that got you excited with the world of Rokugan. In theory, nL5R would do better for that reason.

However, this isn't true. Watching the complete last pack I realized... you can get a entire cycle spoiled and it tells you nothing about whats happening. You get some generic "events" that could fit any overall samurai-with-a-tinge-of-the-fantastic story; new attachments, some generic, some unique; and mostly generic characters, some unique characters. Of these, the more "exciting" may be new characters you recognize from the old version of the game ("look, they did Ikoma Tsanuri, yay"), but actually her card doesn't tell you anything about her story, or you get a new version of a character, which is not an "experienced" version, just an alternate. In my opinion, the loss of the experienced trait (forget about the mechanics) is, by itself, tragic because that was one of the most graphic and understandable ways in which the cards interacted with the story and drew the plot forward ("Zombie Paneki! No way!").

So, what's the point of this mini-rant? I'm not sure, to be honest. Maybe I had a brief illumination checking the spoilers of that last pack. I wish there was a middle way to tell this new story. I understand the need to avoid the sillyness in the old story, as it was compromised by the need to incorporate as many tournament results as possible. But I'd like something more alive, more exciting. I'd like to be able too look forward for the first person opening a new pack halfway around the world and post it on social media and be excited to know what has happened in Rokugan and to the heroes and villians that populate it.

 

Edited by Mon no Oni

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I don’t play the card game (mostly by the reason that Mon no Oni presentes of being so convoluted) but I agree that they are taking things slower. I mean, AEG put the entire Clan Wars to Second Day of Thunder in what? Two and half years? We took two years I think, just to get to the “Scorpion Clan Coup”.

I really don’t mind them taking things slower this time but I would argue that they take forever to release new short stories freely online AND take forever to release new novels. We have four so far, I think and one of them still doesn’t have a digital version.

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I would love more stories, but considering the short stories are free (to us) content FFG is paying writers to produce, I think their recent pace averaging every other week or so has been fine. We've had 5 clan novellas release so far, and would be on our 2nd full length novel if not for COVID delays...as is, we should have 3 full length novels released between now and end of January. 

As far as lack of card spoilers, that seems to be a deliberate choice on FFG's part, wanting the actual stories to show off the big plot reveals. Even in the case of the razed Kyuden Kakita, they were careful to release the story before spoiling the card. I can see that not everyone would necessarily be on board with that choice (I recall some people losing their minds when the Scorpion Clan Coup card was leaked and people started speculating what it meant), personally I enjoy the way they've chosen to handle this. *shrug*

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Yes, part of the reason AEG was able to put out stories more rapidly is that they didn't pay the writers. (They "paid" in cards . . . and, I am told, frowned on the writers attempting to sell the cards.) I also have the distinct impression they had a less thorough process for planning and editing the stories. So basically, they were able to progress the narrative more rapidly in large part because they didn't invest in its quality the way FFG has; they exploited their writers and flung things out there, trusting in quantity to make up for other lacks.

I can't speak specifically to the issue of the story being progressed via the cards because I don't have a window into the process there, but it wouldn't surprise me if trying to more fully mesh the two would introduce a lot of logistical problems. As we've seen, various factors can introduce delays on one front or another; when that happens, you risk weird things happening where the setup for an event appears after the event itself. And as someone who was always on the RPG side of things rather than the card game, I can see being irritated if it turns out the story I'm reading has odd gaps because a key detail was put on a card instead of into a story.

Having said that, I do see the loss of excitement around card reveals, and why that might reduce engagement. I just don't know if it's actually possible for FFG to replicate what AEG was doing in that regard, without introducing a lot of problems given their process.

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On 9/30/2020 at 8:13 PM, Kinzen said:

Having said that, I do see the loss of excitement around card reveals, and why that might reduce engagement. I just don't know if it's actually possible for FFG to replicate what AEG was doing in that regard, without introducing a lot of problems given their process.

I think you nailed what's missing and I couldn't put a name on. It's "engagement". For me nL5R, after the initial excitement, is just become another game that just happens to have a connection with the old game. I'm still around, obviously, because of engagement with the original iteration of the game (with all of it's warts and all). And objectively most things are better: art is consistently good, the card layout is hands down gorgeous, innovative game mechanics, way more solid plotting... but for me it completely fails at engagement.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I would argue that a card game that takes 90-120 to finish and wouldn’t support anything besides 1-1 was the main problem of the game to have a chance in gathering more engagement than the previous fans.

That it took them 3 years to finally fix this, tells me that L5R was never really something that they intended to take seriously. I mean, just take a look at the website, the majority of the news is always regarding other more famous IPs. Which I think it’s a shame, considering that L5R is actually owned by FFG, while SW, LotR, Marvel, etc. work under licences.

Edited by Diogo Salazar

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1 hour ago, Diogo Salazar said:

I would argue that a card game that takes 90-120 to finish and wouldn’t support anything besides 1-1 was the main problem of the game to have a chance in gathering more engagement than the previous fans.

But I think you're talking about two different kinds of engagement. One is about accessibility and drawing new fans; the other is about evoking emotional attachment and a particular type of excitement from the people who know and play the game.

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Sure, I get that, but I would argue that one is related to the other. If the game mechanics suck or are not that engaging, you might have people playing the game just because of nostalgia. It doesn’t mean the game is actually good and you will be able to get new players. I gave up completely to play the new card game and convince my friends when I saw that the time to finish a single game is almost the same of 4-players match of Terraforming Mars, for instance.

I would argue that FFG failed completely on the first kind of engagement you speak of and they succeeded on the second one. The story is really engaging and taking interesting turns. And for people who are familiar with the old lore, this kind of comparison is engaging the players.

But not because of the game mechanics...

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Given that L5R is one franchise among several, it kinda makes sense that the majority of news be about everything else, don't you think? We've had multiple times when L5R news was dominating the front page of FFG's site, aside from some occasional droughts (which is an issue they've acknowledged and IMO rectified in recent months) they've maintained a pretty consistent stream of content to rival the other IP's they design. I could see an argument though about L5R not being supported in their livestream content, it certainly gets left out more often than it's included. 

As for engaging players/fans in the story, well...from what I've seen there's two particularly vocal groups in the player community. There's the group who love the story, read every fiction when it comes out (or try to), and the recurring complaint is they want more lore/fiction content to consume. Then there's the other group who plays the card game and don't care about the lore or the story at all. 

There's always the repeated requests (largely from the first group) to see more flavor text on cards and more story decisions offered to the community through the LCG and RPG. There's even some excitement/interest in seeing the art used in the online fiction to make its way onto new cards. But that's about as close to what the OP is describing that I've seen from the community at large so far...and that's with having been pretty closely following community discussion up until a couple months ago. I suspect FFG sees even less of these types of comments and requests. 

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2 hours ago, Kaito Kikaze said:

Given that L5R is one franchise among several, it kinda makes sense that the majority of news be about everything else, don't you think? We've had multiple times when L5R news was dominating the front page of FFG's site, aside from some occasional droughts (which is an issue they've acknowledged and IMO rectified in recent months) they've maintained a pretty consistent stream of content to rival the other IP's they design. I could see an argument though about L5R not being supported in their livestream content, it certainly gets left out more often than it's included. 

Well, if there was, I am sorry, I have just been following from the end of ‘19 but yes, the lack of livestream content rubs me like they don’t care about L5R and only the rest...

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2 hours ago, Kaito Kikaze said:

There's always the repeated requests (largely from the first group) to see more flavor text on cards and more story decisions offered to the community through the LCG and RPG. There's even some excitement/interest in seeing the art used in the online fiction to make its way onto new cards. But that's about as close to what the OP is describing that I've seen from the community at large so far...and that's with having been pretty closely following community discussion up until a couple months ago. I suspect FFG sees even less of these types of comments and requests. 

Just to clarify my point, I'm perfectly OK with less story decisions; I'd rather have a solid plot. But it is all so slow, and so bland... and I also miss the excitement of finding story bits in the cards. Browsing pack after pack without seeing anything story-relevant is disappointing to me. Story-wise, the cards are full of "meh!".

And I don't think they don't for one moment think they didn't take it seriously; I think they are missing the mark completely in replicating what made L5R, L5R... And it's partly our own fault. I sort of remember, shortly after acquiring the IP, they asked the community what they expected from the new version of L5R. We wanted a thinking's man game (unlike that other game), with strategical depth, that took time to play... but we wanted to fix what we perceived as failings in the original game (the all-or-nothing battles, the snowball effect when losing a province, etc.) And we got what we wanted... a game that takes forever to play, with dozens of micro-decision at every step, where there is no "gotcha" moment where you have the cards in play to turn the game, only if your opponent overcommits... Likewise, regarding the plot, we got a blank slate, were we could finally fix the silliness, the continuous end of the world scenarios; less fantasy!, more human samurai drama! For good or for worse, we got what we wished for, like the Chinese curse.

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Posted (edited)
On 10/2/2020 at 3:47 PM, Mon no Oni said:

I think they are missing the mark completely in replicating what made L5R, L5R...

I disagree pretty intensely... I think the new card game is one I'm way worse at and can't find a group for, and I'm not wild about FFG's special dice fetish, but in both cases it doesn't feel invalid.

It just feels different.

 

I dunno, maybe it's just being a Phoenix fan who recalls the way AEG handled my favorite Great Clan, but this time around, I'm invested in what the Phoenix are doing. I have Phoenix characters I'm interested in, not because they can level mountains, but because of who they are and what they're up to. In many ways, I think FFG has figured out how to make the setting work for them- the 5th edition of the RPG is a perfectly solid game (it's apples and oranges different from 4th edition, but that's all right by me, even though I find 4th an easier system to just run with).

If the cards often feel a bit... generic, or not that story-relevant just remember...

It could be worse.

And it's nothing new.

For every nifty plot development or interesting fleshing-out of setting history, AEG gave us ream upon ream of cards that really didn't say all that much.

Edited by Shiba Gunichi

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On 10/4/2020 at 11:38 AM, Shiba Gunichi said:

For every nifty plot development or interesting fleshing-out of setting history, AEG gave us ream upon ream of cards that really didn't say all that much.

Lot of cards in single booster expansion got art and flavour connected with current story moment. Often there were just describing what's going on as simple descriptions or quotes. Not to mention really early part of the game (before release of 1st ed RPG) - cards' flavout texts were ONLY source of story background. 

Honestly i prefer thousands of flavour texts than blank cards of LCG, even if sometimes they feel forced or a bit cringe.  That was kind of  mark of L5R (along with all these non-mechanical flavour keywords) and writing thousands of such texts (even reprints got different flavours, more connected to current story) was awesome achievment.

It's not really hard to pick tens or even hundreds of bad examples from 12000+ (20000+ if you count reprints) card pool and put them as exemplars. 

Edited by kempy

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22 hours ago, kempy said:

Lot of cards in single booster expansion got art and flavour connected with current story moment. Often there were just describing what's going on as simple descriptions or quotes. Not to mention really early part of the game (before release of 1st ed RPG) - cards' flavout texts were ONLY source of story background. 

Honestly i prefer thousands of flavour texts than blank cards of LCG, even if sometimes they feel forced or a bit cringe.  That was kind of  mark of L5R (along with all these non-mechanical flavour keywords) and writing thousands of such texts (even reprints got different flavours, more connected to current story) was awesome achievment.

It's not really hard to pick tens or even hundreds of bad examples from 12000+ (20000+ if you count reprints) card pool and put them as exemplars. 

I absolutely agree that flavor text can be an awesome contribution to the story.

Who's going to write it?

FFG pays it writers, so the per-word rate would apply to flavor text on cards as much as it does to fiction. Assuming their budget for writing products is pretty much fixed through their fiscal year (and it almost certainly is), then it's a zero-sum game. In other words, how much fiction are you willing to forego, to get the flavor text put on cards?

Edited by DGLaderoute

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Yeah I can understand that expense being an issue.  I assume all the previous flavor text for FFG was written by the card designers.  Though that said I think they could lift stuff from the RPG material and fictions we already have to at lease give cool nods to people who are following the story.  I will agree that I always dislike seeing blank space on cards when flavor text could have been inserted to draw you into the theme.  The cards should almost be an advertisement for the fictions and RPG material. 

As to the pacing of the story I definitely fall on the side of this is a much much better presentation of the story over all.  Especially since it does try and shake off the things that were problematic or cringe-y about the old setting and old story.  Also it feels much more architect-ed rather than haphazard.  From an RPG player's perspective this is all great news since for RPGs I just need a well defined setting and some hooks.  I don't need the meta narrative to upend the story all the time.  Infact that would be problematic for running an RPG game.  From a card player's perspective a faster moving story is more attractive since you wanna have some element of plot discovery in the cards.  I know as a card player I do enjoy that quite a bit.  I will say under FFG you don't really get that unless you ignore the wider materials and only learn about the setting from the game since most stuff on cards has already been featured in the other materials.  In that way this game feels more like AGOT than Netrunner in it's relationship to it's theme.  Netrunner's cards drove it's meta narrative.  AGOT's obviously did not since it had a referential relationship to it's theme.

As to the concern that the game and story needs more excitement injected into it, I will say the big moments in the story have been very well executed in my opinion.  Though I would agree they could pick up the pace as far as showing main plot elements move along.  I for the most part enjoy every fiction they put out, but it is hard to ignore that some elements of the plot have been spinning plates since the game started.  Some of that might be just that there are so many spinning plates out there to work on.  I obviously can't be certain of the motive, but I suspect strongly it does ultimately tie into card game logistics as suggested.  I feel like the cards are holding up the story since the cycles and boxes are thematically linked to things that are happening in the story.  When we got the card spoilers for the Crane sibling civil strife we also got those fictions.   When the story started focusing on the emperor's children we also got cards depicting those story elements.  We may not be getting story spoilers in cards, but we are certainly getting cards that relate to the story.  Since the cards lag behind the story that might make the card reveals less exciting and that might be what Mon No Oni is latching onto here.  Would I want it the other way?  Not sure since that I believe was the major cause of AEG's story feeling so haphazard and disjointed at times.  The writers needed to address the wacky stuff happening on cards rather than the cards depicting characters and places from the story.

In the beginning it was a 1 for 1 since we used to get fictions right in the packs.  They've since took a step back from coupling the story and products since that was clearly setting too slow a throttle to the online fictions and limited when they could be released.  Though I assume there is still a throttle since they don't want the two to get too far away from each other.  If FFG is hearing a call to increase the pace then it will take a while to coarse correct that if they want to address the concern.  My understanding is products are designed and planned cycles in advance so they probably know what they are doing for this game well into next year if not further.

 

Edited by phillos

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My understanding is products are designed and planned cycles in advance so they probably know what they are doing for this game well into next year if not further.

With the caveat of, the further out you go, the less decided things are. The change in planned rotation is a good example of that. Speaking of which, more likely than not they are probably playtesting for cycle 7 about now, so we'll see what other changes may come down the pipeline in the next year with that testing and planning under way. 

As far as card designers putting flavor text on the cards, that's entirely possible, but it still means someone taking the additional time to select text for the cards, extra time for formatting that additional element for the cards...it would almost certainly add up pretty fast. From everything I've heard, I honestly doubt Tyler has the time to do that, and if he did somehow have spare time...I'd probably rather see it spent in more focus on fine tuning and balancing the cards. And that's coming from someone whose primary interest in the game is the lore. 

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2 hours ago, Asako Michi said:

As far as card designers putting flavor text on the cards, that's entirely possible, but it still means someone taking the additional time to select text for the cards, extra time for formatting that additional element for the cards...it would almost certainly add up pretty fast. From everything I've heard, I honestly doubt Tyler has the time to do that, and if he did somehow have spare time...I'd probably rather see it spent in more focus on fine tuning and balancing the cards. And that's coming from someone whose primary interest in the game is the lore. 

This. SOMEONE has to do the flavor text, and whether it's being extracted from other materials (since one presumes you would want the flavor text to match the card, at least to SOME extent; randomly-placed flavor text that doesn't reflect, or even clashes with what's on the card would actually be worse than having none, I think), or written from scratch, there is a cost--either in money, or in time (which is, ultimately, also money). Personally, I'd love to see flavor text on every card with room for it; I'd love even more for it to be unique flavor text, that adds yet more lore and contributes to the story beats. That would be a big job, though, and it would not be cheap in time and/or money. You really don't get something for nothing.

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while that's true I guess it says something about me that I care more about that then other aspects of the card design :)  If a card has good flavor and art I'll try and get it to work.

Edited by phillos

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