Prime Design: An Indroduction

By Samuel Cahill

Hello! Welcome to the first in, hopefully, a series of many more articles to come. Prime Design is an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while, and have finally gotten to a point in my life where I can commit to the project. The purpose of this series will be to take an analytical look at the Transformers TCG from a game design perspective. Ideally, we will be diving deep into why the designers may have made certain decisions while creating cards, talking about the fundamentals of game design theory for those not yet familiar with it, and perhaps creating custom cards in the future if enough people express interest in the series. Hopefully this will be a massive learning experience for everyone involved. Criticism is greatly encouraged, as it will help me develop the series into something entertaining for everyone reading it, as well as provide me more points to talk about.

Now to answer some questions:

Sam, who are you? I am a member of Team Primus, and known in the community as “The Blue Bugs guy,” or “Bug Catcher Sam.” For those of you who went to the TCG Open, you may have met me, and remember me. Otherwise, if you’re from Colorado, you might have met me at some of the local events. As for my background in game design? I have been a hobbyist designer since the third grade, where I taught myself basic programming concepts to learn how to make games in a drag-and-drop programming language, “Game Maker.” Ever since, I’ve been hooked on the experience and creating games has been my primary creative outlet. Currently, I am not a published game designer. I have a few personal projects that are in the final stages of design and am actively looking for a publisher, but I have not yet crossed the finish line. If you ever see me, ask to play one of my games, and I will gladly use you as a guinea pig playtester.

Sam, but why? This is a solid question. The designers of the game already provide us with rather in-depth articles on their design reasoning. This process is something I don’t often see in other games, and the articles are an insightful look into their design process. While the developers are pretty transparent with a lot of their decisions, I would like to address some broader theory so that the community can understand why their favorite character might be bad, why certain strategies don’t work in a competitive setting, or why controversial decisions have been made by the designers. Also, it’s likely I will be addressing some topics that would be bad for marketing for the design team to address in certain ways. In other words, I will have more freedom to criticize the game’s weak points and bring to light some things that the community might be frustrated with. The goal of the series will be to bring a larger understanding to both the community, and bring up controversial topics. I will be making assertions that aren’t 100% fact. Theories are common in design, and I will be presenting some theories that will be controversial. If you don’t agree with them, I would like you to begin a discussion. As I mentioned earlier, constructive criticism is greatly encouraged. It will help the series grow, into something that will teach everyone involved (myself included.)

Where can I send my criticisms? There will be a channel in the Powered by Primus discord where you can talk about anything related to the series. Talk directly with me, and the other members.

How often? To begin, the series will have a goal of being posted once every other week. This will be a large time commitment from me and, depending on interest, I may increase the post more often in the future.

What topics will you be covering in the beginning of the series? I have tons and tons of articles planned. Things like negative vs positive design space, the “1-2-3” problem, powerful vs weak cards and why they exist, how to deck-build while playtesting (but also while playing a game), pips why they exist and the intricacies of design involved in them… In my first series, I would like to cover why black pips exist, why they don’t see play at a competitive level, and what the designers may need to do to bring them into a competitive level. Afterwards, I would like your feedback! Whatever people want to read is what I want to write about, so any direct questions for me is greatly appreciated and will help me define the series as I go.

Thanks for reading, and here’s to a new series and hopefully a new beginning!