Summoning Sickness

Back at GPG, I got the opportunity to work on an online trading card game. I didn’t know (still don’t, really) very much about card games in general, so it was a unique challenge for me. It was a sort of combination of UI and VFX that made me appreciate UI Artists as if they were some other worldly creature, capable of thinking in dimensions I’d never even seen before.

One of the first things I worked on was Summoning Sickness. For those who are out of the loop like I was, summoning sickness is what prevents the card you just played from doling out attacks right away. It was explained to me in a bunch of different ways, but the one I remember the most is this explanation:

It’s like you are a wizard, and you’ve summoned this big beast. He travels through a kind of magic portal and has to rest before he can start fighting.

The first thing I had to think of was color. What does “sick” look like? You could think greens and yellows, but usually those are a kind of poison. I ended up going with grey-purple. More of a fatigue type of sickness, a foggy type of sickness, than nausea or phlegm (heh gross).

I started simple. Just borders that look a little bit like they’re breathing. (Apologies for that awful Unity-blue. I’ve gotten into the habit of changing that immediately when I open Unity these days):


From there, I branched off into different ideas. The “portal” idea stuck out to me, so I tried to recreate that in a couple of these. The border tracers represent a kind of timer – since summoning sickness is temporary. The lightning trails crossing each other was supposed to represent something “blocking” the card from working properly – like chains? Maybe? I dunno man. Iterations.


This next set was really about silhouette and movement. Some similar ideas as the ones above, but pushing it as far as I could without completely covering up the important details in the card. I still have a particular fondness for the bottom middle. Stretched particles in Unity tend to give me a lot of guff but they worked out really well here (imo):



What we ended up with was actually much more subtle than all these turned out to be. The client really didn’t want to obscure the card details. And since most card-playing people know what summoning sickness is, anyway, it wasn’t as important to them to highlight that state. So there you go! All that work for nothing (not really but). I feel you, UI folks. I feel you.