How to design and create a card game

A lot of people who heard of (or played) Potato Pirates wanted to know why, and how we developed the game. So we decided to write this article on how we created the game and also share with you resources you can tap on to create your very own card game. (To find out why we created Potato Pirates, check this out).

The Early Ages

When we first conceived the idea of Potato Pirates, we wanted to use card games as a social medium to bring kids and parents, students and teachers, beginners and experts together so that they can have fun while learning something meaningful — programming.

We listed down the concepts that we wanted people to learn: conditionals, loops, variables and sequential logic. This was our first prototype:

Poker cards scribbled with words; crushed pieces of scrap paper as HP counters. Within 45 minutes, we began play-testing our game. The mechanics were simple. You can attack other players using attack cards. Using coding cards like ‘for’, ‘while’ and ‘if-else’ enabled use of your attack cards multiple times. The objective is to destroy the altar which has a variable health.

In this 3-hour rapid prototyping session, we managed to figure out the upper and lower bounds of the starting health of each player, the variation of each card type (e.g. for 2 times, for 10 times) and what are the actions that each player can take during a turn. The coding mechanics felt right, but there was more to making a card game than we realized.

Top 3 considerations when developing a card game

Game world
What is the story? What is the objective? Who are the characters? What are their abilities? How do you link the cards to the theme of your game?

Artwork & Production
If you cannot draw, can you still design a card game? Is it possible to outsource? What is a reliable source? Where or how can you prototype your card designs game and at a cheap price?

Game mechanics
To what extent is the game dependent on luck? How do players win? What actions can players take? Are there opportunity costs for every action? How do players interact with one another?