Card Frame Update
Morning all! My name is HitcH and I’m the Art Director in charge of, well, Art! I’ve been working in the entertainment and gaming industry for over a decade and joined UVS Games about a year ago (how time flies!). My first two projects were to get cracking on the art direction for Set 6, “JetBurn ”, and also look at how our card frames could be improved.
These two projects went hand-in-hand, as when art directing a set, you need to know the space you’re working within - so I’m going to walk you through the hows and whys of how the new card frames came to be. Buckle up!
First off was to write down all the information on a card and identify what the hierarchy should be based on when it is used during the game. The things you need to be aware of first should be more prominent when you first look at a card, working down to the things you don’t really need to pay much attention to during gameplay such as legal lines.
We identified our 21 pieces of information, and then needed to group it based on the type of information it is relaying to a player.
*Note: 1st Edition is removed from the exercise going forward, as starting in Set 5 we no longer split our releases into editions.
Finally we had to break it down one last time to show the order something happens during a typical gameplay phase.
*Note: This is not meant to show that collectability is more important than gameplay needs - it sits alongside it, but visualizing a hierarchy works better as a linear graphic!
I took this assessment and ran it by our internal teams to see if everything checked out, since a change of this magnitude needs to be a team effort and nobody knows this game better than those guys! We all felt pretty good about the direction, and so next up was to take this research and start wireframing the actual design.
As you can see from the wireframes - we’ve significantly reduced the amount of visual clutter, providing us with more space to show that beautiful art from all these IP’s we love. Below you can see a V1 comparison of the existing cards, and the new wireframe layout…
Look at all that lovely space we have for art! One of the bigger changes you’ll notice is the Resource symbols have been moved from the left side, to the card footer. This is for an important reason - while the previous UniVersus frame limited our game to only three symbols, the final design allows for 1-6 symbols (shh - you’ll have to watch this space for more information on that in the future!) This change also let us slide the card text to the left and move the Speed/Damage icons down, which gives us the benefit of containing all of that game information in the same area of the card.
BUT, it’s obviously not all about how the card looks, it’s about how it plays - so we took the cards to the Hero League Championship and did some user testing. Feedback was extremely positive around the artwork visibility ( ✅), but concerns were raised about the sizing of the core gameplay icons on the right side, as well as the keywords now being left-aligned were pulling more focus than they needed.
Moving things around is all well and good, but the first thing players care about when they draw a card is “What type of card is it?”. Well, fear not - this was also something we spent a LOT of time iterating on. We had added some strokes of color around our card title and our ability text box, but with moving the card type icon down to the footer and making it only an icon meant that in low light situations it’s almost impossible to tell what card you have (unless you’re one of our hardcore players who knows every piece of card info by just looking at the picture!), so definitely not good for new player onboarding. We took all of those notes, and applied them to V2, which you can see below.
More user testing told us we were onto something good here. So far we’ve improved two of our core criteria - we’ve reduced the visual clutter, and we’ve reworked the eye flow/hierarchy. Next, we needed to address card rarity and being able to tell your commons apart from your Rares. Up until now, the only difference to our cards has been Attacks having full art, Foundations usually using screenshots, and a variety of different foil treatments.
Going back to our hierarchy explorations, the thinking was that a rarer card, the more impact it should have when opened from a booster pack. When you open a rare card and show the room, everyone at the table should know it's rare without having to look for the rarity marker in the footer, and so we prioritized that whole experience with the new frame designs.
How do you make a card feel more special? Well, there are plenty of things you can do like applying foils and new textures - but by applying a structure to how we do these things, it allows us to scale the awesomeness in a way that makes sense.
With that in mind we made the decision to restrict the art to the top ⅔ of the card on our lower tier rarities - we get to show the fantastic art from our licensed partners in the top half of our Commons with a color fill behind our ability box, and then to make the Uncommons a little nicer, we spice things up by adding some more texture to that box, slowly adding more visual interest to the cards as we move up rarities.
Now we move on to our higher tier rarities. We start to reveal more of that art and make the cards feel more special. Rare cards and higher get full card treatments using unique, never-before-seen art which you can start to see through a semi-transparent card ability box, and then Ultra Rares are given even more full art treatment and the border is changed to foil (more on the borders in a second!).
TLDR: More art = rarer card.
With the ethos of more art = rarer card, we also needed a way to differentiate our extra rare (XR) variants. We also wanted to pay tribute to our lineage and decided to include a narrow frame on all the ‘base’ tier cards (C, UC, R, UR), and then for our XR variants, remove the frame to get that edge-to-edge, full bleed awesomeness with the art - so even XRs Commons provide a premium experience. When you combine all of this, with the addition of new foiling treatments in the various rarity tiers, we have a methodical rarity system we can build on as we continue to grow the game.
Coming back to the resource symbols - since these were moved down to the footer of the card frames, their size had to be reduced and we wanted to make sure that deckbuilding and symbol referencing wasn’t affected as a result. We know there are many of you who are symbol players who always dig through a new set to see what new Earth or Chaos cards there are - and we needed to keep that information easy to read at smaller sizes.
With that in mind, we simplified the design of each symbol and changed the coloring to a 3-color system, for easily identifiable icons. We know this is a big change, expect more conversation in this space in the coming weeks!
Finally, all of the wireframes, exploration and methodology was handed off to our amazing production team and the end result is something I’m confident the community is going to be excited about.
Overall, our goal was to solve a set of problems around making an awesome looking frame that helped with better defining rarities, new player onboarding, and keeping a familiar enough design where existing players could mix new and old cards together and play them without too much adjustment needed. From the feedback we’ve received so far, I’m confident we’ve achieved that and I’m excited to hear what you all think when you get your hands on them in “Jet Burn”. Until then, Game On!
(Newly Added 7/24/23 at 12:30PM PT)
What an exciting day for UVS Games! We’ve already seen an overwhelming amount of feedback from UniVersus fans, and we’ve been loving every passionate response. We wanted to provide a few quick clarifications based on some questions you’ve been asking. In no particular order:
All UniVersus cards are legal for play in their respective formats regardless of which card back they have. Tournament policy already requires opaque sleeves which will allow all cards to be used from your local game store to the highest echelons of worlds competition.
Set and format rotation announcements will come at a later date. It’s important to us to support formats fans love, including classic formats, My Hero Academia Block Constructed, and others. We’ll have more information on that front in the coming days, but rest assured: the UniVersus cards you pick up today will be relevant tomorrow!
Challenger Series decks are designed for tournament play and will be legal in formats once they’re released. They may be restricted from specific “block constructed” formats that feature only one world’s characters; for example, Trigun Stampede and Cowboy Bebop Challenger decks won’t be legal in My Hero Academia Block Constructed but will be legal in our more Universal formats.
This is one of the most exciting moments in UniVersus history, and we’re excited to have you along for the ride!