Alliance War Developer Diary – Making Mobilize
With each expansion to The Elder Scrolls: Legends comes also stories of trials and triumph that the team went through during its creation. In this Developer Diary series, we take a behind-the-scenes look at some of the learnings from our latest release, Alliance War, with commentary from card designer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa.
Of the five alliances in the Alliance War set, Daggerfall was the easiest to slot - the fact that the coalition was made of Orcs (which are represented in Warrior), Bretons (which are Sorcerer) and Redguard (Battlemage) meant it was clearly the choice for the Intelligence/Strength/Endurance triad. In fact, if the Intelligence/Strength/Endurance triad had already existed, we might not have been able to do the Alliance War as a theme, since Daggerfall is so strongly associated with this combination.
From very early on, we also knew we wanted its mechanic to have to do with Items. Strength, Intelligence and Endurance are individually the attributes with the most Items and the attribute pairs have strong associations to them already - the Redguard theme, for example, is Items and Item Sorcerer is a popular deck. That, plus the fact that there had never been an Item-exclusive keyword before, made it particularly appealing. So, we set to work on exactly what Item mechanic we would want.
One of the biggest issues with Item-heavy decks is that you might not draw any creatures, or your opponent might kill all of them and then you end up with a lot of cards you can’t play - there’s nothing worse than having two Items in hand just waiting for a creature and then drawing a third Item. If we wanted to make a mechanic that incentivized Items, we would have to find a way to solve that as to not punish the player for drawing too many of them. The simplest way we found was to make items that could just be played as creatures if you wanted, which in turn would let you equip your other Items if that was all you had in hand.
The first iteration of this mechanic had the “Animated Weapon” flavor - think a sentient sword that does the fighting on its own, or Dr. Strange’s cape. We thought that was pretty cool but it had one main problem - the Item version was just dominating the creature version. Items are naturally better than creatures since they effectively have Charge and can be used to set up good trades. Steel Scimitar is a very strong card and Solitude Stalwart sees little play, even though they have the exact same stats - if we ever printed a “Solitude Stalwart/Steel Scimitar” card, then it would be played as Steel Scimitar the vast majority of the time, and the creature option would just be a last resort if you had a ton of Items and nothing to equip them with - which was fine, but not ideal.
We left that idea dormant and experimented with a couple of different Daggerfall mechanics. One of them was Forge, which let creatures spend their turn to create an Item that they could equip somewhere else. Another was Refine, which let you upgrade all or some of your Items, (one version, for example, upgraded all your Steel weapons). We even played with the idea of Dual Wielding. Ultimately, we didn’t feel like any of these mechanics were doing what we wanted for Daggerfall from a game-play perspective, even if they were good flavor fits.
The breakthrough for Mobilize happened when someone suggested that, if the issue with the original mechanic was that the Item version was just better, we could simply create a 1/1 token to equip it. Suddenly you weren’t choosing between +2/+2 or a 2/2, but between +2/+2 and a 3/3, which was a much closer choice. The flavor also captured the Alliance War feeling much better than an “Animated Weapon” did - the Weapon here wasn’t sentient, but merely inspired someone to take part in the war. We felt that this flavor really conveyed the idea that the war was happening and it was happening for everyone - even elderly and young people were being dragged into the fight.
Originally, one of my favorite Mobilize cards was this:
- Orc Mail
- Cost: 3
- The wielder is an Orc.
I thought it was pretty cool because it would either turn a creature you already have into an Orc to receive Orc synergies or, more importantly, you would be able to play it in your Orc deck knowing that, if you Mobilized it, the Recruit would be an Orc. On the other hand, this drew our attention to an issue, because, if the Recruit wasn’t originally an Orc, what was it? It had to be something, it couldn’t just be a Recruit with no race.
Ultimately, we settled for just assigning a Recruit type to each Mobilize card, which unfortunately meant Orc Mail’s reason to exist was sort of gone. Instead, if you want to Mobilize some Orcs you can, for example, use Covenant Mail.
In the end, I think the coolest part of Mobilize for me is that it enables a completely new style of deck, as it allows you to play a critical mass of items that wasn’t possible before (because you would also need a critical mass of creatures). This might not seem like much, but some of the Item synergies currently in the game are very strong, so I look forward to seeing what players can do when they have the option of playing basically as many Items as they want.