The last place I expected to discover a fully realised online trading card game, complete with duellist animations, experience point rankings and animated duelling effects, was the virtual world of Second Life.
I wouldn't have discovered the LOGOS Collectible Card Game at all, had an email from the game's creator arrived a month ago. Fortunately my on-again, off-again relationship with Linden Labs' virtual world recently entered on-again status, just in time for Kraner Florian to drop us a line.
LOGOS is a cyberpunk-themed trading card game in which players do battle using the will of the universe, a power that resides within all things. Scientists with the Society of the LOGOS have created technology that manifests these forces in the form of cards and members of the society use these powers against each other in an attempt to find a path to the soul of the universe.
At the core of the game is a simple rock-paper-scissors mechanic. There are three main card types: Matter, Energy, and Information. Matter beats Energy, Energy beats Information, and Information beats Matter. Each card has attack, defence and speed values. If a Matter card is played against an Energy card, for instance, Matter attacks and Energy defends. If the same types are played, the fastest attacks. Each player gets 100,000 life. Lose it all, and you lose the game.
That's just the basics. There are special Neutral cards that apply effects, and rare purple Life cards that are extremely difficult to play. Some of the more powerful cards require a certain colour combo be present, with a three-space combo bar filling as you play cards. The system allows for quick and dirty beginner play, while leaving room for deeper strategy in both how you play and how you compose your deck.
And it's only found in Second Life.
"SL as an online 3D environment is completely unique in that it allows its users to create almost anything their minds can think of, that turns it into an ideal platform for testing game prototypes and present them to a broad audience that is longing for entertainment," says Florian, speaking to me through his Second Life avatar, Oni Horan.
Unlike other online trading card games, where you are simply a disembodied player hovering over a virtual play mat, LOGOS uses Second Life's technology to put you in the game. A futuristic heads-up display attaches to your screen, showing the virtual battlefield, while still delivering a view of the players involved. Your avatar gestures when cards are played like something you'd see in a Yu-Gi-Oh cartoon. When damage is done or special abilities activated, particle effects flash on your screen.
It's a trading card game come to life, at least virtual life.
Cards, many of which feature pictures of science fiction-themed Second Life avatars, are purchased via an in-game store using Second Life's virtual currency, lindens. A starter deck and everything you need to play runs you around a dollar in US currency. Additional cards can be purchased, but you can go a long way with the initial set.
Once you have your cards you load them into your HUD, register with the LOGOS website, and you're good to go. Using Google technology, the website lets you shuffle through your cards, manage your deck, and keeps track of the experience you gain by defeating other players in game.
And you will find plenty of other players. As I type this I'm sitting in on a player-organised tournament, watching gameplay unfold in an arena built just for that purpose.
That's the other benefit of LOGOS being available only in Second Life: The strong community that's gathered to help Florian and his creative cohort Darien Caldwell shape the direction of LOGOS.
"With a project like logos it is possible to reach out to a community and bring them into the process of building something," Florian tells me.
The passion of the community shows. Since joining the LOGOS group in Second Life, not a day has gone by that I've not see a discussion on game mechanics or received an invitation to play a quick round with someone.
A long-time Second Lifer, Darien Caldwell, is taken aback by the overwhelming community support. "I've been in SL for nearly four years now, and I know how hard it can be to get a community started. But the people here are really passionate about LOGOS and it shows."
Caldwell tells me that many long-time players are surprised to find something so creative and new in the virtual world. Having been in SL for close to four years myself, I echo the sentiment. I find the player response overwhelming. Darien agrees. "We really didn't know how well the game would be received. We hoped for the best. But so far it's exceeded our expectations by quite a bit."
Hopefully LOGOS will continue to exceed the expectations of its creators and its players, and hopefully it will help prove to the naysayers that there is gaming to be had in Second Life, and it's the sort of gaming you can't find anywhere else.
Says Florian, "It's true that the game itself would work on many other platforms and probably find a bigger audience, but i truly believe that SL has a lot of undiscovered potential for gamers, and it's always exciting to set your foot on fresh territory."
To learn more about LOGOS and to find out how to play yourself, visit the LOGOS Collectible Card Game website.