The First Virtual Card Game Festival
We have joined hundreds of others in Asia today for the first ever Bandai TCG Online Festival event. If you were not able to participate or do not reside in Asia then here is what you've missed!
A Sanctioned Online Lobby Event
The Bandai TCG Online Lobby is a browser-based service that emulates a virtual game shop of sorts, where players (avatars) can wander around and battle others in casual or sanctioned games. The Online Lobby was first launched as a Japan-only service back in 13 December 2020, and 3 months later today (28 March 2021) it launches its first sanctioned event for players throughout Asia.
Bandai required players to pre-register 3 weeks prior to the event, and a confirmation email is sent to the registered players a week before the event. We received our confirmation email on 19 March.
Only registered players can login into to the Online Lobby on event day.
The first thing they made us do when we entered the Online Lobby (as a new player) is to go through a simple avatar creation step, which not only includes the look and feel of your avatar, but also fundamental information such as the card game we play (DCG of course) and also the language we speak (which we chose English).
After that, we were brought to a Stage Select page, which is basically a selection of different rooms. There are currently 10 Stages for the Online Lobby, separated into 2 games: Battle Spirits and Digimon.
Each Stage (room) has a different look, and can house a maximum of 50 players at any time. We believe that a Stage can only be accessed when there is an active Online Lobby Staff in that Stage, and will be locked otherwise.
All 10 Stages were active at the start of the festival, and most were locked close to the end.
What To Do In A Stage?
In the beginning we walked around, trying to interact with the people and objects. There are some vending machines in every Stage, but they were all disabled for this festival.
Interaction with other players is extremely limited:
1. We can say something (30 letters) in a text bubble.
2. We can add a friend.
3. We can check another player's information such as win-rate and spoken language.
And thats about it!
There are 25 tables, enough for 50 battling players. To battle another player, we simply had to choose a table and sit at the opposite of another player, and then click on that player and select Battle. We had a hard time not knowing this at first but the Staffs were generally very kind, walking around providing help to the needy.
If you are too tired to play, you can also spectate another player's game by clicking on a sitting player and selecting Spectate. When spectating, the board of both players are shown simultaneously (side-by-side) and their conversation can be heard.
Card battles take place using the Bandai TCG Connect API, and feels very seamless. We used a laptop setup with the built-in webcam and screen slightly tilted to face our playmat.
We enjoyed our games against other players, and everyone is generally very well-behaved and polite. Games generally start with us greeting each other using voice (microphone) and ends with a nice thank-you note. Being a casual event, we are also required to self-score our games. The atmosphere is generally very warm and welcoming, far exceeding our expectations.
We would also recommend against using a phone for Online Lobby battles, as ours very quickly drained and overheated 🙁
A Promising Virtual Service
We were honestly surprised at how well the Online Lobby has been executed: from its elegant simplicity to its uncanny ability to reproduce the feel of a card-game gathering. This festival has shown us the potential of blending a virtual setting with a traditional, physical card game without actually digitizing the game itself (such as Pokemon and MTG), and that potential is a truly promising one. We look forward to participating in future Online Lobbies, and whatever new features it unlocks!