Hey everyone! Like many of you reading this, I am a very regular player of the Pokemon Trading Card Game Online. Inspired by Andrew’s recent article where he wrote about the features he’d like to see added to the game, I decided to write down my own wishlist of how the game could be improved. I agree with his points, and thought it would make sense to talk a bit more about the topic.
I believe the best way to reach TPCi and whoever is responsible for the online game is to continue voicing our opinion and to offer a perspective on what the community wants. If you agree with what I’m writing about, please send in a support ticket and share your thoughts on the game, and maybe one day we will see some of these ideas become reality. There’s also an official forum for game feedback!
The current state of PTCGO
First of all I’d like to say that generally I like PTCGO, and think it’s a decent and fun representation of the physical card game. Games are fast and look nice, so for just playing some games with friends it does a fine job.
However, I believe it is missing many features that could make it interesting for a wider audience, and also missing many features that would further improve the experience for the existing player base.
The main reason that I and many other players aren’t happy with the state of the game client is that for the past few years, it basically hasn’t been updated anymore. Every three months the new set is added, but other than that, there’s no progress. At some point in the past the game has been very actively developed, but then they stopped even though there’s still so much that could be done, which is disappointing to see.
I hope the current situation with the cancelled season will motivate the ones in charge to take another look at their online game, now that it’s effectively the only way to play. It’s not hard to see that the implementation of the TCG Player’s Cup isn’t very fair for the players, and I imagine the main reason we got such a system is that PTCGO doesn’t have any better built-in way to select participants for the final bracket.
In my opinion it’s unlikely the people responsible for the Player’s Cup are happy with this system either, so maybe it’s a good time to present some possible improvements.
Here are 10 ideas that I think would drastically improve PTCGO, mainly from the perspective of a competitive player, but also taking other player groups into consideration. They are not strictly sorted by importance, but let’s start with the most obvious one.
This is easily the most requested feature and it’s not hard to see why. Basically every online game offers some kind of ranked mode, where players can test their skills and gain or lose points depending on the outcome of their games. PTCGO offers a fine casual player experience, but neither the ladder nor the tournaments provide a competitive environment.
Many players want to have some goal to achieve, like reaching a certain rank, and would be motivated to play much more if that existed. It would make for more entertaining stream content if people could watch the best players fight for the top. Most importantly, it could also be used as a path for online players to get into the offline circuit.
Pokemon is trying something like this for the first time with the Player’s Cup, where the top finishers will win travel awards to Internationals. In my opinion, this should be a regular thing! Give the top players for each ranking period travel awards to the next International Championship, creating a reasonable connection between online and offline play.
The game seems to be designed with the intention of always rewarding players for just playing, instead of winning, but I don’t think the introduction of a competitive mode would hurt the casual experience at all. There should still be a casual ladder that doesn’t affect rankings, and with players instead trying to rank up in competitive while playing with proven meta decks, the casual ladder would be a much nicer place for trying out all sorts of other decks.
Best of 3 matches
To further prepare online players for tournament play, the online game should also implement the official best of 3 format. There should be a ranked ladder for both bo1 and bo3, and it needs to be an option for friend challenges as well.
A good implementation of this would allow external online tournaments like our Limitless Series to run the best of 3 format, whereas currently there’s a lot of problems involved when trying to do that.
Another addition that would greatly benefit online tournaments, but also be useful outside of that, is a spectator mode. It would allow players to invite friends to spectate their games and improve the social side of the game. Currently players need external software and a reasonably strong internet connection and hardware to share their games with others, which isn’t a great solution. I wonder if this is something that will come up during the Player’s Cup. The event is supposed to be streamed, but without a spectator mode there’s many possible problems with that.
Getting footage of interesting games isn’t the easiest right now. Content creators need to start recording, play some games, and hope they end up with something good. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead, after a game you could be like “Wow, that was a great game, let me save the replay!”?
This may sound hard to implement at first, but isn’t, as the game already keeps a log of everything that happens, and would just need to save that and then recreate the actions when loaded back.
Players could use that to analyze their games, share it with others, or record the replay and upload it for the whole world to see. I’m sure the quality and quantity of game play content would increase by a lot. This would in my opinion be an incredibly easy and effective marketing move while improving the player experience by a lot. It would also open up more possibilities for coverage of online tournaments!
Expand the tournament mode
I like the idea of the in-game tournaments, the system is very smooth. However, best of 1 single elimination is not a very competitive format, and it would be great if there was more done with the concept. Why are there only 8 player events, why not also have some in best of 3? The way they are presented makes me believe that originally there was more planned.
Something like a big weekly event where players can win unique in-game items would be amazing. Maybe give away some special event-specific tournament tickets to players that reach a certain rank on the ladder? There’s so much that could be done here!
Old format rules
While it makes sense for PTCGO to be focused on the current format, players also love replaying old formats, and it’s disappointing that the official client doesn’t offer any proper way to do so. The game features cards that go back 10 years, but only formats that include Sword & Shield sets can actually be played on there because of the rule changes.
There should at least be an option to select old rulesets for friend battles so that players can continue to enjoy the rich history of the game.
I would also love it if there was a retro format ladder that switched between different Worlds formats every few weeks. It would probably even bring some players back into the game that don’t play much anymore!
Organizing decks in folders
At first I thought this would be more of a personal wish, and I still don’t consider it high priority, but many people I talked with actually also wanted this to be an option. The deck manager can get very messy quickly. The option to favorite decks is nice, but being able to organize them in something like folders would be incredible. I’d make good use of this, especially if there was any support for old formats.
And while we’re talking about the deck manager, please fix the win/loss counter. It’s been broken for years, which is almost impressive considering it’s just a simple counter.
Trading in cards for coins
The Collection in PTCGO is nice, it offers many ways to filter and search cards, and it is one of the last remaining online card games that has a trading feature. However, one annoying aspect is that there’s no way to get rid of locked cards. Getting a fifth copy of a card is completely useless, but there’s also no system in place that prevents pulling those from packs.
I wish there was a way to trade in locked cards for coins, it doesn’t have to be generous at all, but would be much appreciated. (And as a little bonus, it could clear up so much database space for them..!)
Add all cards
I don’t really see this happening, but it would be a dream. Imagine having all the features above, and then also every card ever printed in the game, and every ruleset to play these formats. I would likely never touch a different game again.
The main issue with this wouldn’t be to implement all the cards. Creating the game engine is the complex part in all this, and sure there would have to be some additions and modifications to it to support the first 10 years of the game, but as long as it’s built to be robust and extendable, that shouldn’t be a big issue. Coding all the cards would at that point just be a grind, and could be done in a reasonable amount of time, even without a big team.
I think the real challenge here would be how to actually introduce all these cards into the game. Card acquisition is built on code cards, in my opinion a great system, but there’s no codes for expansion that are long out of print. There would have to be an ingame way to collect these cards, but the standard legal collection and especially the newest sets need to stay the focus of the application for marketing reasons. All these cards and options could also be overwhelming for newer players, so there would have to be a lot of thought put into the user interface side of it.
I’m sure there are fun ways one could go about introducing the early history of the card game into the online client, and attract a lot of players with that! I would understand though if they don’t prioritize this and instead looked at all the suggestions that are easier to manage.
More frequent bug fixes
Earlier I mentioned that I think PTCGO does a fine job with its core functionality, but a decent amount of times that is actually not true. New updates are rolled out with each set release, and it’s not uncommon that some kind of card interaction doesn’t immediately work the way it’s supposed to.
The most recent example for that is Rebel Clash’s Horror Psychic Energy and the tool card Metal Goggles. Goggles are supposed to stop damage counters by Abilities and Attacks, but for some reason it also stops the ones put by the effect of Horror Energy.
This interaction affects the Dragapult VMAX vs Zacian V matchup in a major way, and puts tournament organizers into a tough spot where they have to either ban the card or not, swinging the meta game in one deck’s favor. Another infamous example that most of us know all too well is Beast Energy and Blacephalon GX.
Fixing something like this should in most cases take a developer only a few minutes. Even if the problem goes deeper than an individual card implementation and is caused by an underlying problem with the game engine, it’s usually still possible to patch it up with some kind of quick and dirty workaround until a permanent fix is found. We should absolutely not have to wait until the next set release to get a working version of the current card pool, but sadly that’s the current reality. If we can’t get any updates and new features, at least get the stuff that’s already in there right!
As a big fan of the Pokemon Trading Card game, it is sad for me to see how little attention the online game gets from its company. As someone very into software development, I’m sure even a small team of passionate developers could create a totally awesome online client.
Card games are more popular than ever, and Pokemon is pretty much the biggest franchise in the world. If they wanted, PTCGO could be insanely popular and easily on par with games like Hearthstone or MTG Arena. Instead, it’s used as a tool with which newer players can learn how to play the game, and not much beyond that.
Pokemon has put a lot of resources into improving the offline circuit over the last few years. Just compare coverage of Worlds these days with say 5 years ago, and I think it’s not hard to see that they do indeed care about us, the competitive players.
Now, especially given the current circumstances, it’s time they put the same amount of love into the online game.
Thanks for reading! If you also want to see some change, don’t forget to send in a ticket or post on the forums! Let me know in the comments what you’d most want to see added to the game, I’m very interested in hearing more thoughts about the topic.