The last article I put up was about my first real experience with Power Up, and not everything I said was positive. The game is still in development, and with the current trend in gaming of releasing early versions for public consumption, the final products rarely look much like the first public offerings.
This means that the state of Power Up now is probably not going to be the state of Power Up in 6 months or a year’s time. If we want to see a better game, now if the time to talk about it, and out the ideas to the developers.
I’ve been playing video games for even longer than I’ve been playing poker, and the one thing I’ve seen in long term successful games year after year is a skill edge. While it may be fun to be randomly blown up for no reason during a run through of your favourite first person shooter, I can imagine the Counter Strike fraternity going insane if more randomness was put in their game. For those who may not be aware, Counter Strike is currently one of the biggest competitive esports in the world, with many hundreds of thousands of people regularly watching events live on Twitch.
One of the keys to Counter Strike’s success is the high skill ceiling, but relatively low skill floor. What I mean by this is you can play and enjoy counter strike from pretty much the moment you download the game, it’s easy to learn, but can take a lifetime to master. Remind you of any other game?
Power Up seems to have missed the sweet spot that Counter Strike and No Limit Hold’em seem to sit in. Enough randomness to be fun, but a high enough skill ceiling to let them be competitive at the highest levels. Now, I like Power Up. I think it’s fun, but in it’s current incarnation, it’s never going to be an esport, and it’s unlikely to keep players attention for a long time. However, I think the idea behind the game has merit, and with a few changes, Power Up could be a viable contender to Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering and even Poker before long.
Where I think Power Up has missed a trick is the balance of information. Poker is a game of incomplete information, and No Limit Hold’em has been described as the “Cadillac of Poker” because of it’s balance between known and unknown information. Power Up, for me, has too many unknowns for a player to make consistent plays. The Hole cards are usually hidden (unless you play an X-Ray power), but we also have up to an extra 3 hidden cards with the power cards.
If I don’t know what I might be up against, how can I plan for it? How can the skill edge that is so important to poker players and esports aficionados be realised if my planning can be wiped out by a single power card I didn’t know my opponent had?
Well, I’ve had a few ideas about that.
- Deck Building – A key part of most card games is deck building. Whether it’s Hearthstone, Gwent or Magic: The gathering, building the perfect deck is not only part of the meta, it’s a big part of the fun! Coming up with new card combinations and variations on existing decks is the way these games advance. I’d be really interested in seeing a deck building meta implemented in Power Up. It would add another layer of skill, and if these cards are properly balanced, the spectre of “perfect” cookie cutter builds won’t be cast over Power Up.
- Exposing Power Cards – Just as simple as it sounds. Maybe in combination with deck building above, or maybe just as a change to the game as it is, exposing the power up cards gives information to work with. It could be as the cards are dealt rather than all the time, or could be a power card all by itself “Expose Powers” etc. Information is power, and maybe information could be Power Up?
- Hero Powers – I touched on this in my first article for Play Power Up, where I looked at the lore that had been written for the profiles of the Power Up Avatars. The universe looked to be well developed, with Nations, Corporations and societies all represented in the text. Why not add “hero” powers for these futuristic characters? It makes picking an avatar a much bigger deal, and not only allows players to tailor their play style, but also gives more information to others at the table if they know which hero power you’re packing.
- Something Completely Different – ??
I’m not claiming to be an oracle. I’m not a seer, and my name is certainly not Nostradamus. I am a poker playing gamer who watches far too much Counter Strike, but it does make me part of the target audience for Power Up. Maybe I have got something to revolutionise Power Up, maybe I haven’t. What I do know is, some tweaking is needed to the game to help it achieve the goals being set for it by PokerStars. As with so many ideas, the core is good, it’s the details that need to be worked out.