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Protocols Episode 1 - ATP2 PT 1
Four members of the Alpha Trion Protocols breakdown the week of Spoiled cards, walk you through the design process, the whys? The how? And do our best to give as much information about the process of everything that went in with the set design for ATP-2.
This is a post I never thought I would have to make. The world is clearly a changed place, and now something very close to me has been affected by the COVID Crisis: the current incarnation of the Transformers Trading Card Game. Everything here is the honest, raw, unfiltered Scott Landis, not that you do not get that on a normal basis..
For those that do not know me, as this document may be shared to many, I am the creator and owner of VectorSigma.info, the strategy site and Youtube, and the co-host for Tech Talk, the longest running Transformers TCG podcast. I understand that many players are sad, angry, shocked, and/or upset, and I am feeling these emotions as well. I will eventually discuss my opinion on the reasons WHY this may have occurred (on Tech Talk this week), but that is not why we are here. Instead, I am here to discuss the future of this great game.
It is my belief that the Transformers TCG community is the greatest in the TCG world, and that community deserves to continue to play this game. You can play this game in any way you wish, and nothing is holding anyone back from continuing to collect and play the game in its current incarnation on your local level. That being said, I agree with the Wizards of the Coast direction for TCGs that for a game to exist in an organized fashion, you need a set of events to justify rules, new cards, and a reason to play and evolve the game. As with many other games the casual community is it's own pillar and if you disagree with the direction we are taking, nothing is preventing you from continuing as you are, you simply do not “need” a centralized body like this exist to adjudicate your kitchen table.
The role of the game company is to provide a product, and a viable outlet for that product to be used. In our future world, new cards are being provided is free, printable inserts for cards and the outlet is currently the digital space through webcams and a partnership with a supported client. We are not setting up any company to work with the Transformers IP through a purchase or license agreement, we are simply forming to keep the game alive for the players through tested new cards and events. In my 25 years of playing TCGs, this has been done successfully in the past (the ones I know are most successful are the original Decipher Star Wars CCG for example), and unfortunately I am also familiar with many of these that have failed because of the amount of time and effort that is required (as well as lofty goals like creating large card sets at once without proper playtesting, in shotgun methods that are essentially “fantasy card creation camp”). We learned from others mistakes and seek to emulate and improve upon what has worked in the past. .
My world is not changing with the Transformers TCG in 2020: I am not able to attend events locally or nationally; I am playing the game regularly online; I have a scratch pad of ideas for new cards. Therefore, the ability to keep this game alive has existed in this same form since the Global Pandemic began: all that is changing now is the distribution method of new cards and a formalization of how events will occur.
The role of the game company will be provided by a player base: a PLAYER base who cares about the integrity, fun, and sanctity of the game. This body, however, is not a card printing and selling business: there is no passive income to be generated from boxes of cards being sold (they will be free PDF based card inserts initially to adjust existing cards, see later) so the driving of players to a local level, when that is possible, simply cannot be the goal of an organized body. Can it be your goal? Absolutely! But you do not need any assistance with that (similarly you did not need WOTC’s assistance either..), what is needed is the creation of fair and balanced cards along with an outlet for the game to survive on a larger scale.
I say all of this to explain that this group when formed is NOT a gaming company, there is no ability to simply recoup labor costs through card sales: this is a labor of love. Currently there is not even any passive income through online viewership, so please before jumping to conclusions read and understand this document thoroughly and if you have questions afterwards, I am an easy person to find through various mediums.
Therefore, that is the focus of our continued involvement:
· Many players do not even play this game in an organized fashion, but let me ask you some questions: What is stopping you from continuing to play the game in its current form? What is stopping you from making your own set of rules or new cards to play with others? Any game can survive with a dedicated local scene, but that does not require an overarching rules or balanced card creation organization.
Have you played Monopoly with your friends and family? What do you do when you land on Free Parking? Take “all the money from the middle of the board?” Well, those rules are not actually in the game, yet literally anyone I have ever played Monopoly within a non-competitive fashion plays by those rules. So if some over riding body came in and said “those aren’t the rules” than are you just going to change how you played the game for the last 20-30 years? Are you going to no longer play the game because they replaced the Thimble with a different piece? My point is, none of these non-fundamental rules changes require any governing body, you can do all these things on your own.
· COVID-19 has changed our world. The Transformers TCG has been forced to operate entirely online since February. A dedicated group of players kept the game moving forward with content and events during this process and showed the rest of the community that a dedicated few can achieve great things in those trying times. The Transformers TCG existed competitively at large conventions (Origins, Gen Con, Pax Unplugged, etc.) and these events were cancelled in 2020. In my opinion, these events will not even return in 2021, and as such the current online play model for the game will continue for the foreseeable future. That is why I am not overly upset over all of this: it was not going to be much different for a majority of the player base for a long period of time, and expecting the player base to simply collect the cards for that length of time was simply impossible. This is the reason why VectorSigma.info has been supporting organized play through webcam play and I believe this will continue for the foreseeable future.
For those weary of playing the game online during these times: skeptical of the prizes, the legitimacy, or the cost I just want to say a quick statement: 80% of the tournament fees are given back to the player base as prizes. I will allow you to do the math with what is leftover, as we do not hide the numbers online, to determine how much this pandemic has affected us as well: we have been forced to change our business model as well, simply to keep the game afloat and provide what we feel is prize support that is fair to the players involved. This will continue in the new world. Again, events are the lifeblood of any TCG and they need to remain vibrant if the game is to continue (no different than the current world).
So that leaves me with two main conclusions: the game requires some semblance of organized competitive play to justify the effort required for this future existence (or you can just continue to play as you wish) and this effort needs to be spearheaded by dedicated individuals who understand the logistics involved in both online play and deep game theory. As such let me explain the plan for Transformers TCG going forward:
· A Players Committee formed by players who have shown deep dedication to keeping the game alive during COVID, and reached out personally to assist throughout these times, was selected to define the structure of the game going forward. Honestly, this is going to be a lot of work, and we do not want to fall victim to a “too many cooks spoil the broth” syndrome. This is not a committee that simply exists to create new cards, new formats, etc. It exists to understand the whys of cards that currently exist and how they can be modified for the future. The job of the player committee will be, and not limited to:
o Creating and coordinating playtesting of new cards
o Organizing events
o Determining if cards should be banned or restricted
o Inventing new formats
o Rulings on the existing and new cards
o Testing potential rotations (likely through format building)
o Incorporation of Transformers Lore into new and existing cards and game play modes
These players have proven their desire to keep the game alive and a dedication to hard work already in these trying times. They have proven to be an excellent set of working companions and already have brought concrete ideas to the table on many of the issues above, even before the announcement. They also understand the direction the game needs to go to survive, especially in this COVID world.
The current Alpha Trion Protocols Committee will consist of: Scott Landis, Daniel Arnold, Vince DeGulis, Cameron Ehteshami, Richard Wyatt, Kye Huynh, and Henri Yandell
Remember, the official WOTC team was four to five individuals, and this group will begin with double that amount. Others may assist in the playtesting of cards or gathering of opinions, but a close tight knit group will be needed to make effective decisions. Remember, this venture will require hard work and dedication by these individuals, filled with trust and compassion. It is simply my opinion that those selected have shown the strongest desire and ability to make difficult decisions, navigate uncharted waters, and take the game to the next level.
· New cards will be created, but not in the current way they have been released in the Transformers TCG. First of all, they will be printable, though we may be able to introduce some interesting ways of using them with current cards (in progress).
Unlike WOTC, who was forced to create some characters and battle cards for specific pack based or character reach reasons, we are not behooved to any mandate except to make each card created as tournament viable. We are not here to create bad or mediocre cards, and I can promise you that each card made will be “powerful” or at least very playable.
It is my belief that the Transformers TCG has already given us a wealth of powerful characters in their history that simply have become outdated, or were never playable enough initially. Titan Masters Attack introduced the exciting new Stratagem mechanic and the first set of new cards introduced will heavily rely on this mechanic to improve characters from other waves. It is simply easier and cleaner to “improve” old characters from older sets and make them playable in this new metagame. So many popular characters are simply under-represented in the game due to power level, and this can be changed. I have ideas currently, but we plan to release a small batch of these updated Stratagems in mid to late August after they can be play-tested (likely publicly on streams!) and available for competitive play in September. There is no reason these “Stratagems” need to have star costs, and in fact many will not, but it is much easier and cleaner to update existing characters with “modern and powerful” adjustments instead of creating new ones from scratch, although this is also a goal in the mid-term.
Our goal is to adopt a Living Card Game type model: 8-12 new cards being released on a monthly basis. The game has already proven that a small number of cards can have a great effect on deck building, especially if they are powerful characters. The focus of the Transformers TCG has always been its character interactions, and this will continue as we adopt this original idea into a new form. Though new Battle cards will also be introduced, they require more back-testing due to their modal nature, and it is our belief that the game already has a wealth of underused Battle cards that can be more playable and powerful if given a set of characters to work with.
For example, a Strategem that may make character “NAME WITHELD” into a Mercenary for no extra Star Cost, would allow the “Opportune” cards to see more play, without actually adjusting them.
· Online tournaments will continue. Tournaments are not for everyone, and we understand this, but as previously discussed, a lack of competitive organized play does not require effort from any centralized body, simply an active imagination. Any cards
From a webcam game perspective, our current tournament series will continue on a strict schedule. Prizes will be awarded to top eight participants and the tournaments will continue through the VectorSigma.info Patreon. In the past I talked about why the format is through Patreon and the simple answer is to provide a safe and fair way of receiving “tournament entry fees” the same as you would at your local store, for this online world. I can assure you this is not being done as some giant money making venture, as again a huge majority of the money is given out as prizes. We host events to give ourselves and the community an outlet to actually PLAY THE GAME in this new world. Again, if this is not your goal, you do not need a centralized body to govern your kitchen table or LGS.
The game will continue to have four Open events that lead to an invitational finals. We will partner our webcam based play with the folks running the OCTGN events where invitations will also be awarded. We believe that players should have varying outlets to play the game how they are comfortable. The goal is to expand these events and stick to a strict monthly schedule to maximize event time.
The schedule will be as follows:
July 17 to August 11: Titan Masters Attack Constructed
August 15 to September 20: Siege I/Siege II/Titan Masters Attack Only
September 25 to Oct 31: “New Cards Legal” Constructed (all Sets)
November 5 to November 31: Titan Masters Attack Invitational (Constructed)
Next season will be exist immediately following.
As stated earlier, new rules such as bannings and/or restrictions may occur in some formats, these simply need to be tested with the committee.
These events will be supplemented with OCTGN events as well, with more information and specifics to follow. All details will be posted in Facebook groups, our website, our Patreon site, our Twitter, etc.
In addition to the online presence, our goal is to continue to host convention level Open style events when those events resume nationally. This will be a daunting task, as again we are not Tournament Organizers, we are players, but we have already learned valuable lessons in hosting online events around multi judge systems, ability to make rulings on the fly, organizing players internationally, etc. More information will be provided when and if these large scale conventions resume, seemingly likely in 2022 (?).
I believe this setup allows the game to continue and thrive for the community. Again, an organized set of rules and even the cards themselves, exists to shepherd the community towards the goal of keeping the game alive, but that life requires organized play: otherwise we are simply playing fantasy camp with new characters and battle cards. Cards need to be rigorously tested, and more vitally, playable in this new world. Our goal is not to sell packs, but to advance the great game that the original design team had for the Transformers TCG, headed by a group of players that I believe are dedicated to its continued existence with a deep knowledge of TCG concepts and specifically the workings of the Transformers TCG.
I understand you may want to participate in the inner workings of these decisions, but honestly the thing you can do most to help the game survive is actively support the organized play structure. If that is not your desire, no problem, then simply enjoy the new cards as they are released and use them at your own pace, but remember, nothing is stopping you from landing on Free Parking and picking up that cash. For the game to survive outside of a collection of disorganized threads, it requires dedication to a singular purpose and an outlet for the purpose. COVID has taken the latter, but many have provided outlets for that to continue, thus most of the world of the Transformers TCG will continue to spin on its axis.
‘Till all are One.
Keep your eyes on the fan Facebook groups and/or our Facebook Page and Reddit when our next content goes live, and please hit me up with any comments on Facebook, email, Discord (AUStarwars#1576), or Line (austarwars).
Reach out with any questions on the event or anything to do with VectorSigma..and look for more exciting content this week and beyond!
“Till All Are One!”
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