Innovating beyond Clash Royale

Some short thoughts here, after sampling Netmarble’s Star Wars: Force Arena, which can be described as a hybrid between Clash Royale and Vainglory.

First of all, it’s no surprise devs are looking at Clash Royale and trying to build upon its success formula. From the initial wave of cheap Chinese knockoffs, we are now beginning to see the more serious attempts to innovate. Aside from Star Wars: Force Arena, there’s also the recently announced Smite Rivals, which we can get a sense of from this teaser video:

Both Smite Rivals and Star Wars: Force Arena implemented the idea of 3 lanes. In Force Arena’s case, the 3-lanes setup is tied to 2v2.1

Force Arena also went the extra step of the MOBA-like camera angle, which likely went hand-in-hand with the addition of the hero gameplay. I’ve mixed views on this concept. On one hand, having unique hero characters per deck is intuitive and awesome (and ties in closely to the fantasy); on the other hand, actually controlling the heroes feel cumbersome. There might have been another direction with making the heroes just unique cards that anchor the decks.

This camera angle adjustment also required a battlefield map that needs panning to navigate around. In my opinion this was a high cost to pay – it costs the player time and energy to move around the battlefield, and a lot of the action is happening off-screen.

Another issue I have with Force Arena is the units design. Being a IP-licensed game, there are basic rules around what units could be. Granted, this is a lot of the fantasy that drive fans to play this game, but at the same time, it is likely limiting game design. At least in my limited play-time, the action does not look as intuitive as Clash Royale, and many units feel “meh” (a lot of humanoids, and the shapes look similar).

The net result of all this is a game that’s more exhausting to play, and less satisfying to watch. To me it’s still a worthwhile experiment, and doing the comparison to Clash Royale helps highlight some key design insights (e.g. such as keeping the action on one fixed screen). I also still think as a general space this area is ripe for further innovation.

 

  1. Incidentally, this was also a direction some coworkers brought up in our water-cooler talks, so it’s exciting in that sense to see the idea brought to life and tested.
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