A Match of Cards

I’ve always had a love for card games. This includes both standard deck games like “Thirteen” and “Slapjack” as well as complex fantasy games like “Magic: The Gathering” and “Yu-Gi-Oh!” While these games are somewhat frowned upon by a considerable amount of society for my age range, the rewards from playing these card games, especially the complex thinking methods that arise from competition, become very apparent when trying to solve a problem with several people.

A lot of people might disagree with me when I say that card games make you smarter. Many people abhor these games simply because they seem immature or childish. However, I believe there is nothing to lose by playing these games.

Naturally, if you do something long enough, you start to notice flaws and find ways to improve upon them. Thus, Zems was born out of the frustrations apparent in popular fantasy card games such as Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh!

The Flaws of Physically-based Card Games

Most of the flaws in popular physically-based card games are outlined in my ezine article “The Flaws of Yu-Gi-Oh!

However, for those who want to jump straight to the flaws, I have outlined them here:

  • A lot of money must be invested in order to stay competitive.
  • Most vendors who sell cards have used pack examination techniques to determine which packs contain the rarest cards and thus have already claimed them.
  • Game balance is hard to maintain since cards have to be mass-reproduced in addition to cards rulings’ changes.

My proposed solution to remedy the above is to reestablish the card game scene in a virtual setting. This would bring about the following benefits over a physically-based card game:

  • Card access is eliminated since desired cards are easily accessible through an online card database.
  • Tournament location problems are no longer an issue as users simply need a computer with Internet access to compete.
  • Game balance problems can be easily fixed as there are no cards to mass reprint.
  • Topdecking (a form of cheating in which a player secretly places desired first turn cards on the top of the deck) is eliminated, as well as other forms of cheating.
  • Since the server handles all calculations, gameplay elements not possible in a physically-based card game are possible in a virtual setting.

The biggest drawback is that many players like the feeling of physically holding cards in their hand, which I completely understand. However, I believe the possibilities present within a virtual card game are enough to outweigh this familiar and traditional setting so many players are used to.

Basic Lore

Everything has to have a foundation, otherwise there wouldn’t be any logical reasoning behind it. For games, that foundation is either lore or familiarity, but often both. Thus, for those interested in a basic overview of the Zems lore, it can be found below:

In the beginning there existed a group of all-powerful beings called Colossals. These Colossals lived in harmony with each other for several millenia, using their vast powers to create spheres of existence based upon their  imaginations. These spheres were the first realms, and the Colossals interlinked them through an ethereal network drawn from each Colossal’s power. This network ensured that these first realms could never be destroyed without the combined powers of all the Colossals.

These early realms were:

  • Spectral Realm, where emotions were given living existence.
  • Elemental Realm, where the different elements of nature were represented.
  • Gilded Realm, where the dreams of Colossals and their future creations would be housed.
  • Physical Realm, where the physical, living creations of the Colossals would live.
  • Divine Realm, the home of the Colossals.

After creating these early realms, the Colossals each found joy in creating physical, living creations similar to themselves. These beings, housed in the physical realm, matured and evolved under the direction of their creators. Over time, the expansion of the different races eventually led to racial interaction. While the Colossals tried their best to mediate conflicts and tensions among the races, they could not prevent the inevitable. As generations passed, the Colossals began to bicker amongst themselves in order to earn advantages for their personal creations. Thus, it was the Colossals, the creators and mediates, who first declared war on each other, and every physical creation was dragged into the ensuing Colossal War.

Delving Deeper…

For those curious about gameplay mechanics and what is definite in the game, the place to look is the Zems Wiki.

For people interested in participating in the discussion and development of the game, please join the Zems Forums.

I am looking for help from anyone and everyone interested. No technical skills are necessary – I’m mainly looking for ideas and feedback. Forum participants will also be among the first invited to test the beta version of Zems peer-to-peer live matchups, so please check out the forums and get involved!