How to grow Duelyst's player-base: Casual Mode and Aesthetic Improvement


Hey guys,

Today I want to give my opinion on why Duelyst will always stay a niche game.

Of course this catchy title have to be nuanced, maybe CP consider his player base to be big enough for them. Keep also in mind that a game doesn’t necessarily have to be huge to be successful, even tho it’s less true in the F2P industry. (otherwise I would have called this post: “why Duelyst will never be successful”)

[skip this part if you don’t care about my life]

First of I want to say that I am a long time TCG players, played many TCGs IRL and online (playing Magic since Onslaught) and I am overall a competitive player. I also design board games as a hobby since more than 10 years.

I play Duelyst since the open beta (was playing when we drew 2 cards per turn), since then I reached S-rank every month and played sometimes in tournaments (even manage to be top 7 most earned WC points in October XD). I have a Youtube channel for Duelyst in French and I am very active on the forum.

Outside of that I wrote a 120 pages thesis on the Free to Play model for my study. Now I work as full time community manager for a company that makes massively multiplayer online games (I won’t quote the name since I wan’t to protect my privacy).

[ok I am done]

Of course there is a lot of external reasons why Duelyst might never be a big game. The market is very competitive with big games like HS and many others . The nature of the game itself which is a lot harder to master than a regular TCG. But even with all those factors Duelyst remains a very accessible game and has the potential to have way more players.

To have a big player base you need to appeal to casual players. No matter the nature of your game, casual player will always represent between 70 and 99% of your player base. It is not surprising, most players play games to have fun and relax rather than be competitive and become the best.

Duelyst unfortunately, does nearly NOTHING to appeal to casual players: no casual mode, no campaign , no fun mode… Outside of playing with friends everything that you do on Duelyst has something on the stack whether it is ranking or rewards. This level of stress cannot be handled by most players or at least not for a long time. But guess what? The new reward system is forcing players to play even more ! So not only you are forced to play in those stressful situations but you also have to play a looonnng time to grind the quest and even force you to play factions you are not familiar with. This extended questing time would have been completely all right if only we had a casual mode.

The only excuse I can find for no casual mode is the fact that there is maybe not enough player to have reasonable queuing time. But let’s take the problem from the other side shall we? Maybe the reason why there is so few players is because there is no casual mode? And maybe if players had the possibility to play without stress they would play twice more? I also ear a lot of people saying: “they tried but it was broken balabla” .Well that is bullshit, EVERY TCG has a casual matchmaking. There no excuse why CP would not set up just a regular hidden MMR system like everyone else does. What worries me the most about that is that casual mode IS NOT EVEN ON THE ROADMAP!

I am focusing so much on casual matchmaking because it is very easy to set up, unlike a campaign or a fun mode.

A second problem that the game is facing and I think limits a lot its expansion, is its rather controversial aesthetic. Yeah some people love it, some other hate it and at least it feels unique. But I can’t stop dream about how much more successful the game would be if it had regular graphics. I truly believe it is possible to enhance the aesthetic of the game while keeping the 8bit art style. For example, the only thing you see on a given unit is its sprite, which is not enough to give you an accurate representation of the unit , let me give you an example:

This is the sprite of Rae:

It is little, has no details and look like a fucking worm.

Now this is what Rae actually looks like:

Cool … bad ass robot serpent.

Why do you spend so much money drawing awesome 2D artwork that you actually NEVER see in game?

It is an horrible waste of money and talent. Why not replacing those ugly looking cards by actual cards with beautiful 2D art (yes because the cards background also look ugly :slight_smile: ). If the only thing you see about a card is its 2D artwork, suddenly you are going to be curious to see how its sprite looks like.

It would be a very effective way to enhance the look of the game especially towards player who dislike the 8 bit style of the game. Of course drawing an artwork for every card won’t be free, but believe me it is worth it.

This post can make me sound like a basic rant but the reason why I am taking the time to write such a post is because I believe that Duelyst is the best TCG around.

This post is not a wish list from a fan. I already play the game and I am a competitive player. It is a business recommendation from a professional.

Why is this game still not very popular?

inplement casual mode, then it’ll increase the queing time since the playerbase will be split up from either playing ladder, or casual. then ppl will complain that not only are the gold rewards bad, but they are now having to wait longer to even get in a match…

then you’ll get ppl that will complain about players in casual playing a meta deck while they are testing a test deck. suggestions like, when you choose casual match, choose if you want to play someone that is playing meta, or playing just for fun/non meta, which will increase que time even more… more complaining to come around.

also ppl will complain that they should be compensated in gold for playing in casual matches; afterall they are supporting the game by actualy playing the game.

change the 8 bit graphics, then ppl will complain whiy it was changed; and that the 8bit graphics were unique to duelyst CCG.

devs gave new players 20 free orbs; what did we get? the vets were complaining that they were playing and funded this kickstarter game since the beggingning and its a slap in the face that new players get 20 orbs and vets get jack squat.

then you also have the not quite new players, but not vets, that are not eligible for the 20 free orbs; compllained about how they will not be competitiive against other new players while playing in silver and bronze rank.

and not eveyr game has a casual mode. i played i thnk all the F2P steam CCP games except HEX. so thats false too. but really that makes no difference.

campaign mode is a waste of resoures. ppl play CCG games to play other ppl, usually…


Good post with a lot of worthwhile points. I don’t have your experience specifically in the gaming industry, but I do have an MBA from a school whose name everyone here would recognize, over 30 years of business experience, and over 40 years as a gamer (mostly a “filthy casual”). Here are my thoughts.

I mostly agree with you here. The changes this week were nominally intended to get casual players to play more, but what they will really do is drive a “wedge” between them. Some of the casuals will play more to finish their quests, while others will take this as a sign that they should leave the game. I hope it’s more of the former than the latter. I am sure CPG did research into this before making the change. At least, I really hope they did. :slight_smile:

Yep, I’ve been saying this for 4 months now.

Agreed again. Every other company figures this out, CPG is smart enough to do so as well. If they don’t want a casual mode for whatever reason, fine but “it was broken in early beta” is not a compelling argument.

The predictable “it will increase queue times because it will split the playerbase” arguments don’t really work either. You can allow people to enter both queues if they want (other games do it) and the entire point is to get more players. Avoiding a feature that would likely increase gameplay because of fear that it will divide a current small playerbase is kind of a vicious circle.

I have people asking me for friends games because they want to try decks out but don’t want to lose rank. This alone is a sign that people are simply playing “publicly” less than they would if casual mode existed.

I’ve never been a fan of the pixel art here. I looked past it because I liked the game. Now I can say at best that it doesn’t bother me. As you said, some like it and some do not. Can’t be helped.

My guess is they chose this style for the simple reason that full 3D animation would have been way too costly. Or maybe they really preferred the pixel aesthetic. Maybe both.

I can tell you that I know many people will not even consider this game because of the “8-bit graphics” look. But the “die is cast” here, they cannot really change the style of art used in the game now because it would alienate those who like pixel art, and cost a fortune.

I do think it would be a great idea to show the 2D artwork in the game, perhaps using a semi-transparent backdrop on the cards behind the animated minions. It would help people link the “low detail” (as you say) sprites with the “bad ass” minions they represent.

My guess is that the reason they don’t do this again boils down to cost. They have artwork for a limited number of cards because they are used for promotional purposes. To draw full 2D art like that for every card would probably take a long time and cost a lot of money.

But then again, I think of the “composite drawing” that was done for Shim’zar. It seemed to show 2D art for every minion. So maybe they are thinking of this for the future.

To assess your post as a whole, I’m not sure your arguments really support the conclusion in your title. I don’t think the 8-bit art, or lack of casual mode, are really the core reasons why the game is small. I think the game is small for two primary reasons: lots of competition and insufficient marketing. The former is just a fact of life in this industry and cannot be helped. The second is also a fact of life for a small company that has to do many different things on a very tight budget. There’s only so much money to go around, and there are always more things to do than dollars to pay for them.

My personal concern is that because CPG is small and doesn’t advertise a lot, it is very reliant on word of mouth to grow – and some of the recent changes have discouraged word of mouth advertising. Consider the gold/win change for example. Sure, analytically there may not be a large difference between the two systems, and it even slightly is better for those who play 8 to 10 games a day. But think of it from a marketing/recommendation standpoint: before this week, one reason people recommended Duelyst to friends was because basically they could say this to them: “you can get roughly enough gold for a pack a day playing only about a half hour a day”.

We can no longer say that. It has a huge impact on the “sellability” of the game for new players.

IMO, the mobile release is going to be the crucial nexus for this game. I know they are likely leaving aside things like casual mode to work hard on that. If mobile goes well, I think the game will grow and be successful. If the game doesn’t start growing significantly after mobile, I doubt it ever will.


If 2D art costed that much, CP would probably not waste them on twitter post (and they don’t even use them all).

I think they are the main things they can do something about. Marketing is nice but only works on good looking games and cost a tremendous amount of money compared to everything I have suggested in this post.

Everything is small before getting big (Riot)

As usual it is better for players who play a lot but not for casual, see the pattern?

Totally agree, they try to squeeze value and encourage people to buy, by doing so they damage their brand image but changing the rule of the game unlike other companies which stay true to their business model. I bet their conversion rate is already excellent for a F2P, the problem once again is the size of the player base.

I am extremely skeptical towards a mobile version of the game. Do you see yourself playing a game on such small screen, select little squares on a 5*9 battlefield and have enough space for cards/artifact/BBS? Also dragging your tempest to the replace zone without casting it is going to be so much fun XD. Tablet yes, phone no way.


For some reason people seem to think a game needs a big playerbase.That’s in correct Duelyst needs a healthy playerbase which means you keep a sustain playerbase that slowly grows.I can give example of World of Warcraft and Eve online.Wow had 10 millions subs and many games came after try to copy the formula and failed.EvE on the other hand just kept on growing.Years later EvE is still here

A niche playerbase isn’t a bad thing.It doesn’t have to come anywhere close to numbers of Hearthstone it just has to keep its playerbase happy while the game is making a profit.The second part is pretty important Duelyst is cheap to make pixel graphics and small staff probably less than 50 people.

Does Duelyst playerbase need to bigger than what is now? Probably not if CPG is making profit.Of course I want the game to be bigger but does the game really need to be that much bigger? Should we be worried about the health of the playerbase with mobile and tablets,Xbox and PlayStation and duelyst other languages?Duelyst has to room to grow.


Hello all I would like to add the game did have a casual mode and they did change it. For a number of reasons included fewer people longer que time abuse by stronger players to get quick and easy gold. If you were around we during the Kickstarter they had a long list of things they wanted to add but keep in mind it’s not some huge mega company it will take time and lots of supports from players who believe. I was in the Kickstarter for both Warframe and firewall, firefall was such a waste of time while Warframe became this awesome thing enjoyed by a even larger amount of ppl then years ago.

That artwork becomes the bases of the sprites we see in game. The duelyst team post stuff daily on their twitter and sometimes can’t just post new stuff so seeing this artwork is nice


Totally agree, this is why this post is named " Why the player base of Duelyst is not big" and not “Why Duelyst is not successful”.

Same things repeated over and over again, what if casual mode doesn’t give gold outside of quest? insert mind blown GIF here


Some interesting points that have been made.

I’ll start off by saying Duelyst doesn’t need a casual mode or at least the unranked mode. Duelyst use to have an unranked mode, but it got removed. I don’t remember the official reason for it being removed. But when it was there, I found it to be a poor experience. Queuing times were longer and playing against people who you aren’t ready for, isn’t a fun experience either. Maybe they could add some fun mode, like different shaped boards, restriction limits etc. Then maybe there can be some validity to a casual mode. Also I don’t know anyone who uses casual modes in other games, except for Tavern Brawl in Hearthstone. Even though people say its needed or wanted, it doesn’t seem to appear that way from my experience at least.

As for Art style I know it comes down to personal taste. Some love it, others hate it. In my opinion I think they should have an option to switch to a different more slick looking art style for those who don’t like the current art style. It would help keep some people around for longer or draw them into the game. But doing that costs money and I don’t know if CP can afford to that.

For competition and marketing, it doesn’t help that Duelyst has to go against more established games like Hearthstone. But marketing is probably something they could have done more. For example trying to get established Youtubers/Streamers to play the game, not just those who play 1 game 90% of the time. No idea how much that costs to do, but I’m sure it would target an audience who are more likely to join the game. I joined the game after seeing Trump play it back in January just as an example.

Finally, I don’t think mobile release won’t help. Why would anyone want to play a strategy game where placement is incredibly important and simple miss-tap can cost you a game? Of course there’ll be some people who will, but playing on a small screen where positioning, doesn’t sound like a map for success.

To summarise my own thoughts for those who don’t want to read it all. Unranked not needed, but a fun mode could help. Art style not everyone’s taste, so an optional secondary style could help assuming CP could afford it. Competition can’t be helped but better marketing through social media like youtube and twitch should help. Don’t think mobile release will help at all, but its nice for people who’ll want and use it often.


Isn’t the mobile version supposed to be aimed at tablet rather than phones?
Summoner wars plays OK on my Moto G3, so Duelyst could definitely work too with some good UI efforts.
Concerning the word of mouth, I too find the game harder and harder to recommend after their making it more grindy, and the shimzar rarity fiasco. But the prismatic compensation for older players was definitely a nice move on their part.


How would you get packs with NO gold from playing how will you try out the wonderful gauntlet. Mode with 0 gold. Sure u can say get rid of win streak gold but it would also include quest gold. If I know I could finish all my quest by making newer player tap out in 1 minutes im going to take it.


Agree, but once again only reward old players while you want to get new players.


As I said, they have a small number of them that are used specifically for promotion/hype. It’s not a “waste” to use them on Twitter, it’s the entire point, and paying for 5 or 10 pieces of quality art is cheaper than paying for 300.

Marketing is everything. In almost any business. The rare exceptions can thrive based on word of mouth / viral media. But even that is a form of marketing.

Adding a casual mode, for example, doesn’t matter if they don’t reach thousands of people to tell them about it.

That wasn’t really my point. All businesses start small. The majority of them do not get big. I am wary of any changes that will impede growth, such as the gold/game issue.

This isn’t strictly correct. It is actually better for some casuals, just not “very casuals”. If you played 8-10 games per day before, for example, you earn more gold now. If you played 30 games a day before now, you earn less. So it’s not as simple as “better for actives, worse for casuals”.

I have absolutely no problem seeing myself playing this game on mobile and am in fact eagerly anticipating it. Two main reasons: 1. I have faith in the development team, which I think has proven it is is capable. 2. The game absolutely needs mobile to thrive, so if it doesn’t go mobile, I fear it may disappear, something I don’t want to happen.

There’s an old expression: “the person who says something cannot be done should not interfere with the person who is doing it”. They have targeted a mobile release for 1Q17. That means that the development by this point is well on its way, if not done, and certainly the basic design is completed. If this weren’t viable, they wouldn’t be doing it.

There are very few problems in the software world that have not already been solved. This one has been solved.

I just went on my phone and downloaded a chess game, which featured a full 8x8 grid with 3D chess pieces that slid around the board. It was absolutely no problem to play even reading zero instructions.

If it can be done for chess, it can be done for Duelyst, which has an aspect ratio far better suited to a screen than chess does. There are even full 3D MMORPGs that run on mobile.

I am very active in the community and to my knowledge one of the oldest players of Duelyst. (In 4 months I’ve never met another individual willing to admit they are older than me, anyway.) If my eyes can handle it, so can those of the teenagers and 20-somethings who comprise most of the playerbase. :slight_smile:

As for specific UI issues, they can and should and will make changes. For example, the “drag to the corner to replace” mechanism you mention is actually one of the worst parts of the UI in my opinion: it is clunky and awful and I’d be happy to see it replaced. (For one thing, it is confusing as hell when your opponent is dragging something there and it looks like they are playing something in the corner.) Any number of simple fixes here: for example, just use the same mechanism as on the mulligan screen: tap to replace and then tap to confirm. Done.

Even basic movement could be changed to deal with the “fat fingers swiping problem”. For example, the chess game used a “tap piece, tap destination” system. It worked flawlessly.

There’s absolutely no reason to believe mobile Duelyst can’t work, and work well.


The boss battles will be great for casual players I think.
It would be nice if they made a mode where you have lore-battle-lore-battle-lore-battle etc.


I agree I have almost all the cards yet I don’t feel comfortable playing my decks in a competitive enviremont. To a certain degree the stress he says is there. Atleast for me. Some might say blabla you suck and the sorts might be true but i just don’t feel like having the need to rank, like say leaugue of legends. About the card art I understand but yeah its an asthetics thing. I like it but see your point. I just want zero pressure games in which i can try test and experiment. Having quests that forces me to play a faction in ranked i don’t like or know is a no for me. Only to then possible drop because of it. I would do those in a normal system for sure. and maybe grow or even enjoy something new.


Have you ever take a look of the art gallery? It is huge,at least half of the minion have their artwork. I didn’t say it is a waste to use them for twitter ,I said it is a waste to ONLY use them for twitter.

After 5 years of study in business and marketing I can safely say that I know what marketing is. In this context I meant extensive paying communication .

No hand, no replace, no BBS , no outside infos like mana ,card/mana of opponent… I hope I am wrong.

The big difference is those MMOs are designed for mobile not only in terms of UI but also gameplay, Duelyst is not.

Mobile could very well mean a game made to run well on tablet that you can run on mobile at your own risk. Did they ever confirm that they will make a version suited for mobile phone?


Hey, my 2 cents.

Casual mode sounds like a must now. The new quest system provides only one faction quest per day, which means the average player may be forced to play some faction he doesn’t want for the daily. Using such faction in ranked would lead to losses and frustration.

Art style: it’s unique and I love it. My only concern is that the quality of the pixel art is not always consistently high. For instance, Klaxon is awesome, but I can’t understand where the head of Colossus is supposed to be. I would love a finer art for some cards with lower quality. I do understand some art improvement may appeal more casual gamers, but it does not sound as a priority for now.


Excellent post, and I agree that the new questing system is a mistake. I already know one person who quit because they don’t want to play that much every day, and they also don’t want to miss out on rewards. Another huge misstep by CPG, unfortunately. :frowning:


You posted all those credentials just to say that the game is too hard and you don’t like the art?

Anyway, the tiered divisions help make the game one of the friendliest casual experiences I’ve had in a F2P. Because you can play yourself up to whatever division you like, and just sit there and have fun without worrying about dropping down to a rank so low that it isn’t even satisfying to win with a meme deck there.

I love the art in this game. But yeah it would probably be more popular if it looked like Overwatch. You could say that about lots of games though.


That’s not what he said.


I joined the game since beta also, but I hadn’t devoted that much time to the game and the forum until the recent few months. Even if I don’t agree with all actions that CPG has recently made, I still love this game and hope it could have a bigger community and receive the fame it deserves.

I would say that the best way to increase player base is to do more advertising and outreach. Duelyst is a great game that definitely has to potential to grow a huge communitylike other popular digital CCGs, such as Hearthstone. However, unlike the other competitors, Duelyst’s is not so good.

There are other similar digital CCGs in the market, such as Hearthstone, GWENT, TESL and Shadowverse. Hearthstone is perhaps the most popular digital CCG (but is going downhill IMO). Shadowverse is the Hearthstone of Japan, and its western player base is growing. GWENT and TESL are still in beta. These CCGs all have carried-over fame: Hearthstone has WoW, Shadowverse has Rage of Bahamut and other anime adaptations, GWENT is from The Witcher series, and TESL is from Skyrim. The players of “predecessor” games would notice the derived CCGs from the same company, so these game easily secure a solid player base. Some new CCGs sponsor popular streamers to regularly stream their games, and I think the same would benefit Duelyst a lot - if CPG has the money to do it.

However, Duelyst do not have carried-over fame. Hence, they struggle to reach to the public. Sponsoring popular streamers to stream the game certainly works - I found out about this game during beta from Amaz’s and Reynad’s stream - but the current amount of it is not enough. Steam release helped, and so did the Humble Bundle free packs giveaway. I think CPG could and should do more to further promote this game. Some new CCGs sponsor popular streamers to regularly stream their games, and I think the same would benefit Duelyst a lot - if CPG has the money to do it. Mobile release is a crucial step, but I’m not sure how they’re implementing it.

Casual mode is certainly important for the game, but I don’t see the importance as significant as you illustrate.

Personally, I don’t see the lack of non-ranked mode as much of a problem. I play Duelyst, Hearthstone and Shadowverse (basically Japanese Hearthstone), and I nearly never touched non-ranked modes. Occasionally, I’d play non-ranked in Hearthstone, but that is solely because of the highly-aggressive and early-focused meta. Other than that, I always play ranked mode in the three games, even testing new decks in ranked mode. Sure, when you grind hard to a high place in the ladder, you would choose to not play ranked so as to preserve your rank. However, the tier system in Duelyst eliminates a huge part of it. I feel free to do dumb shit and relax in ladder because I won’t drop below from S-Rank/Diamond 5/Gold 10.

A concern for casual mode is that it would split up the player base. I don’t have much statistics about Duelyst’s player base, but from here: , Duelyst’s concurrently active players on Steam has been decreasing. It peaked at 2344 concurrent players somewhere in between August and September. Recently, number of concurrent players drops to around 700. This statistics may be inaccurate, as it excludes the players on web browser launcher/ non-steam launcher/ consoles (not sure about this one). However, the number is quite worrying, and hence the “long queue time due to splitted queue” concern is quite probable. Nevertheless, Qeltar’s suggestion of letting players to be matched to both ranked and casual plays is feasible.

I’m not too sure about this. Players aren’t obliged to play more. There are three 50-gold quests: play 8 games, deal 150 damage to enemy generals, and destroy 50 enemy minions. If I complete only half of the 50-gold quest’s requirement each day, I’d earn an average of 45 gold per day from quests, which is nearly equal to the amount of gold as pre 1.76 patch quests. Also, 20 gold quests and 50 gold quests could be done together, as the 20 gold quest must be faction specific and the 50 gold quest could be completed by any faction. Although you may feel uncomfortable for not completing the 50 gold quest daily, you earn as much gold after the quest changes as before.