CardHouse: Free Open-Source Unity Tool for Card Game Creation​

CardHouse: Free Open-Source Unity Tool for Card Game Creation

Pipeworks Studios is excited to offer CardHouse, a free, open-source tool for creating card games in Unity! CardHouse leverages our studio's experience as card-savvy game developers on titles like SUPERFIGHT, Magic: Spellslingers, and Prominence Poker to offer a toolkit for adding card-based mechanics to your games.

Our very own Theodore Carter, engineering manager, penned this blog to show how CardHouse came to be and how it may help you in your own card game endeavors!

This is the story of CardHouse, a game toolkit I wrote in Unity for making card games. I’ve donated the project to Pipeworks Studios, which is now releasing CardHouse to the public domain.

I love card games - engine builders, monster battlers, hacking simulators - there’s always been a joy for me in the versatility of cards. “Pokémon” and “Magic” cards were an endless source of fascination for me during my childhood and adolescence, being both pleasing to the eye and teeming with strategic synergies. My interest in making video games started in the early 2010s just as tabletop games were having their renaissance. I watched designers push the limits of what card games could be, and it inspired me to incorporate cards into my digital side projects. But the more card-based games I made, the more I tired of rewriting the same game systems over and over. I wanted something reusable but was too inexperienced to understand how to build something I could extend to make arbitrary card games. Instead, I’d just copy and paste code as needed, dreaming of one day having a more robust system I could use to make the kinds of games I was interested in.

My interests eventually led to me joining Pipeworks Studios. It was my first time working in the games industry, my first time having my code reviewed by other engineers, and my first time even using source control! It’s so wild to remember a time when Perforce and Visual Studio weren’t the air I breathed. And so after a couple of years, I felt much more comfortable developing games in C# and Unity. I also found myself working on yet another card game in my professional life, solving the exact same problems I had as a hobbyist but this time with better architectural skills! I decided it was time to build my card-based dream framework, and so during the winter break of 2021, CardHouse was born.

My vision for CardHouse was to create a system that solved the more annoying problems I had encountered in my personal and professional programming experience making card games. Firstly, I wanted my cards to be robust - able to handle many state changes per frame with elegance and grace. I decided that CardHouse needed an abstraction layer that could handle translating, rotating, and scaling objects. This “seeker” system now handles requests for card movement and processes them smoothly, serving as the visual foundation for the rest of the project.

Secondly, I wanted to minimize code repetition by removing the need to repeatedly call methods that flip cards face up or face down, orient them in a particular fashion, or check if a player’s hand is full before moving things around. In most card games, players move cards between distinct “zones” or “groups” like a player’s hand, the board, or the discard pile. Why not let the discard pile dictate the facing, interactivity, orientation, and position of each card it holds? With this approach, developers can simply request that a card move from one group to another and leave the rest of the logic up to the CardGroup component's configuration data.

The third goal I set for CardHouse was to eliminate the need for timers, since so many bugs in card games seem to come from cascading “when this happens, do that“ effects running into each other. I wanted everything to happen in a single frame in abstract data, and then have the visuals smoothly animate the results. That turned out to be easier said than done, unfortunately. While there’s a waypoint system to help illustrate multi-step card interactions, coordinating large numbers of cards to use it in a way that makes sense visually has eluded me. Plus, testers of CardHouse immediately wanted a way to orchestrate behavior with timers so I put in a timed event chain that can be triggered when the game phase changes or certain actions are taken. I hope to someday be able to rely on waypoints exclusively, but for now, take care to minimize or disable sources of interruption like user input when timers are running.

With the basic elements of CardHouse written, I decided to give it a test drive by making a few games. I started with “Solitaire”, which highlighted the need for a specialized card shuffle seeker. Next came a memory-matching game and digital “Tarot” sandbox. These didn’t end up requiring anything that would have general utility, so the base components were largely unaltered. It was nice to see my game code and framework insulated from each other for once!

At this point, I felt ready for a real challenge - making a two-player game in the style of the CCGs of my youth. To make these I needed a host of supporting systems for phase management, currencies, card loyalty, board duplication, and conditional logic. I knew I’d want to reuse these systems for my own game ideas, so I started constructing them as optional layers - a game might use the phase system, the currency system, or both, or neither, and it should still function. These interlocking a-la-carte systems require a few months of work, but once they were in place I found that I could construct a deck builder (a la “Slay the Spire”) using the same systems without much issue. It was starting to feel like CardHouse was a fairly mature framework at that point.

It took me a little over a year to get CardHouse to a place I was comfortable with, and at that point, I was eager to make a real game with it. I had been organizing a series of internal game jams at Pipeworks and really wanted people to be able to use CardHouse to make their own things, too. Since Pipeworks Studios has worked on a range of card games over the years, including “SUPERFIGHT,” “Magic: Spellslingers,” and our own “Prominence Poker," we had the perfect audience of card-savvy game developers to put my framework to the test. And so it dawned on me that I might just want to hand the keys to CardHouse over to Pipeworks. Our CTO graciously let me continue to iterate on the codebase and get developer feedback as part of my job, and so in February of 2023, I donated the framework to my company and have been maintaining it ever since. It has been really amazing to see what my coworkers have done with CardHouse, but all of that is top secret of course.

In preparation for the public release of CardHouse, I decided to take a note from GMTK's Platformer Toolkit and create a series of interactive tutorials to show what the different components are and how they can be configured. Now, anyone who opens or imports the CardHouse package can embark on a series of lessons right in the Unity editor, gaining some hands-on understanding of its capabilities. This is no replacement for traditional documentation but should be a good starting point for new users.

And so, the time has come for CardHouse to venture out into the world. It is now open source and available for free download on the Unity Asset Store. Since this framework is being released with a CC0 Creative Commons license, you’re free to sell the games you create without any obligation to credit Pipeworks or me. You can also contribute to CardHouse’s development on GitHub if you find any glaring bugs or want to make feature requests. My goal was to release this framework to the public domain from the very beginning, and I’m happy that Pipeworks is doing the same. At Pipeworks, we firmly believe in the value of generosity and the positive impact of freely sharing our work, and I’m excited to see more projects like this come out of our studio in the future.

I hope that CardHouse serves as both inspiration and a solid starting point for your own card game development journey. May it empower you to unleash your creativity and bring your game ideas to life!

Card games are complicated! They have all these rules about what you can play and when, and coding state machines to govern all this behavior can be a headache. CardHouse gives you a starting point for adding card-based mechanics to any genre of game! This toolkit includes systems for common card operations like shuffling and dealing cards, resource management, and local multiplayer (pass-and-play style). Plus, CardHouse is written with extensibility in mind. Components focus on using UnityActions to orchestrate behavior so you can hook in your own custom game logic wherever you need!

IT Professionals Day



Sept. 19 marks IT Professionals Day, an observance dedicated to acknowledging and commemorating the tireless efforts and contributions of the esteemed individuals who uphold the vital responsibility of maintaining uptime, connectivity, and other key technological functions. This all-encompassing holiday is a tribute to the multifaceted realm of information technology professionals, encompassing network engineers, database administrators, system administrators, IT support technicians, and information security experts, among others.
In a world that is now increasingly focused on hybrid work environments, dependency upon IT teams has taken an even greater significance. Every day, IT professionals are called upon to overcome a myriad of new challenges so individuals can do their jobs and organizations can function smoothly. In the game development industry, when you work on some of the biggest titles on the planet, that means being stocked with the latest and greatest technology and software, having lockdown security protocols and measures, and being ready to address an issue at a moment’s notice.

Pipeworks is proud to have some of the best IT experts in our industry on our team. In accordance with today’s celebration of IT professionals, we’ve asked Pipeworks team members from both sides of the coin – IT and end-user – to share their thoughts and words of appreciation.
“I’m always impressed with IT’s persistence when they solve my perplexing problems, and I’m forever grateful for their kindness when they solve my simple ones.”
- Jerome Hirsch, Engineer III
“They say the invisible hand has something to do with free markets and economics, but I know the truth. Pipeworks IT is the invisible hand that makes sure we can all make great games with a safe and reliable infrastructure.”
- Codey Winslow, Engineer II
"Over the last year, our IT department has proven themselves to be the best business partners my team could have asked for. They have taken calls at all hours of the day, been there for us to help in any way they can, and set up an entirely new office and network for us without missing a beat. I am honored to have them on our team. I can't thank them all enough."
- Jessica Rolak, Producer
"The IT team are the people who make our work possible. From keeping everything secure while making hybrid collaboration possible to fixing endless problems, I know we can always count on the folks in IT. On top of all the impressive work IT does, I am especially appreciative of how kind everyone on their team is, and how they always go above and beyond no matter how simple or complicated the task is.”
- Keighlee Riggan, Marketing Coordinator
“I am always pleased to work with our IT team. They always take the extra effort that is needed with any issue. If there is a glitch or a freeze, they always have the answer. Thanks for keeping our tech on track and ensuring our screens never go black!”
- Nate Scovil, Manager, Engineering
"The PW IT team always goes the extra mile in helping production set up for events and meetings and troubleshooting the myriad of technical issues that can crop up.”
- Janice Halka, Associate Producer
The State of IT in 2023: A Professional’s Perspective
By David Lo, Lead Help Desk Technician
The year 2023 marks a pivotal moment for IT professionals across industries. As organizations increasingly move towards digital-first strategies, the role of IT has never been more crucial. We're not just "fixers" or "the people who ensure your computer works" — we are enablers of organizational success. From securing sensitive data against an ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats to implementing automated solutions to mundane tasks, IT is the backbone that allows companies to innovate and grow in today's competitive marketplace.

We are also navigators in the uncharted waters of remote work, facilitating collaboration tools that bridge the physical distance between team members. Cloud services, software-defined networks, and other cutting-edge technologies are no longer "nice-to-haves" but "must-haves" for any organization wishing to stay relevant. And let’s remember our role in ensuring regulatory and contractual compliance, a growing concern in an age where data is the new currency.
However, this heightened importance comes with challenges. Keeping up with the rapid pace of technological advancements, enabling a hybrid workforce, and maintaining operational excellence are no small feats. Yet, these challenges make our roles more rewarding. Each day is a new opportunity to make a measurable impact, solve complex problems, and enable our companies to reach new heights.

On IT Professionals Day, I encourage you to take a moment to acknowledge the relentless work done behind the scenes by these unsung heroes. Our industry is not just about coding or networking; it’s about creating an environment where businesses can thrive, innovate, and impact society.

Pipeworks Studios Welcomes Kirstin Whittle

Pipeworks Studios Welcomes

Kirstin Whittle

Pipeworks Studios welcomes Kirstin Whittle as Vice President of Business Development & Strategic Partnerships. She brings over 30 years of experience in building strategic alliances and collaborating with content owners and platform holders to support AAA partnerships for their players to the studio.

"I am thrilled to align with such a dynamic, experienced team here at Pipeworks and look forward to introducing the studio to new partnerships and supporting our many long-term partners with AAA quality game development teams."
- Kirstin whittle, VP of BD & SP

Kirstin's career began in 1991 at Mindscape, where she contributed to a range of well-known games such as Ultima, Wing Commander, Sensible Soccer, and Maxis titles before moving to Renegade and becoming a part of the Warner family.

In 1999, she joined SCEE, where she played a key role in supporting the global expansion of PlayStation 2, transitioning later to head the Content Management team, where she helped to identify and develop potential platform pillars for Sony.

Most recently, Kirstin worked as Partnerships Director at Sumo Group, where she supported key partners in navigating the challenges of the remote model, maintaining strong ex-dev support through recent times. Since 2011, Kirstin has also been working in post-production services, specializing in QA, Loc, and player support, and helping partners to navigate new content roadmaps and overcome the early challenges of GaaS.

"I am thrilled and honoured to have Kirstin joining the Pipeworks leadership team. She shares our values and the belief that building long-term relationships with our partners is at the core of what we do best. I cannot wait to see where she can take us next."
- Lindsay Gupton, CEO

About Pipeworks Studios

Pipeworks Studios boasts a remarkable two-decade-plus legacy as a premier videogame developer based in Eugene, Oregon. Our unwavering focus on Games-as-a-Service development, co-development, and live operations has established us as one of the most established studios in the industry, with an extensive portfolio of blockbuster AAA franchises and original titles that showcase our unparalleled expertise in quality, craftsmanship, technical prowess, and creative expression.

We prioritize empowering our talented team to produce games of the highest caliber for the enjoyment of our players and partners. With our recent acquisition by the Jagex Group in July 2022, we are well positioned to demonstrate our remarkable capabilities on a global scale.

Women’s Equality Day Q&A Blog

Women's Equality Day 2023

Every year on August 26th, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of when the Nineteenth Amendment was certified as part of the US Constitution, assuring that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” This day celebrates the women’s suffrage movement and honors the challenges women have faced in their journey to equality.

The games industry has historically lacked women’s representation both in the games themselves and behind the scenes in making those games. While there has been some progress with women in games over the past few years, it has been a difficult path to equality, one where we still have a long way to go.

In addition to adding Women’s Equality Day as a company holiday at Pipeworks, we also hosted an internal roundtable about being a woman in the games industry to honor the holiday.

We have also asked some of our women employees to participate in a Q&A about their time in this industry:

What is your name, role, and how long have you been in the game industry?
Monica: Monica, Game Designer, I have been in the industry since Jan 2019

Jadeite: My name is Jadeite, I’m a 3D artist here at Pipeworks, and I’ve been working in the games industry for a little over four years now.

Adria: My name is Adria, and I’m an Environment Artist. I’ve been in the game industry for just about a year now.

Dani: My name is Dani, I’m the Lead People Operations Partner here at Pipeworks Studios, and I have been in the game industry for 3.5 years.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the game industry?
What did your career path in this industry look like?
Monica: I was pursuing a career in Film/TV in college, but it was very hard as an Asian Femme looking person living in the Midwest. I tried to study for law school but got a bad concussion leaving me on bed rest for a year. I started playing video games for the first time to recover cognitively. I got hooked by its magic and decided to pursue a game dev career since law school was no longer an option due to my concussion (In hindsight, it might be a blessing in disguise... haha).

I started in Quality Assurance while studying game design in grad school. Later, I got an internship in production/localization because I was bilingual. I left the industry to work as an instructional designer when that company fell through (and the pandemic started). After school, I returned to the industry to work as a Community Manager and eventually got a job as a game designer.

Jadeite: I’ve been an artist and a gamer my whole life, so once I found out this was something I could pursue as a career, I went full force into it. I went to a film and performing arts high school, so this was a pretty easy decision. If I wasn’t drawing or 3D modeling, I was playing games, so I wanted to sink my teeth into that world and create experiences people could get lost in the same way I would. My career path in this industry was not typical, I was extremely lucky and got my first game job almost right out of college, and I’ve been in it since.
Adria: I’ve been playing games since I was a little girl. As I got older, I started to fall in love with video games and realized I wanted to be a part of making them. I was one of the fortunate ones that got into this industry just after graduating college.

Dani: I have always loved video games, and even though I work on the operations side, being part of a creative and innovative industry is important to me and the enjoyment I find in my work. I received my degree in Organizational Communication and was fortunate to start working in the games industry and the role I currently hold shortly after graduation.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in the game industry?
Monica: There are several challenges I have encountered. The first one is when I am in a room of men; sometimes, I will be talked over or not heard, maybe due to my softer voice. When I first started in game design, I learned to assert myself (somewhat aggressively) to be noticed, but then I got feedback that I was too “bossy” and “scary.” Secondly, I have worked with male leads/managers who are uncomfortable interacting with women. While luckily, many of them would still try to work with me regardless (and we became close friends after), I have leads who refused to communicate directly with me due to my gender, and it impacted my performance review because of that.

Jadeite: I’ve faced several challenges throughout the years, mainly in school and my early years just starting out in games. Not to go into too many details, but a small example for my day-to-day would look something like constantly having to prove myself and show that I was just as capable as my peers, which gets tiring.

Adria: One of the challenges I face is the internalized pressure to make myself more “palatable” to others. Rather than being direct, I find myself trying to be softer spoken to avoid being perceived as abrasive or rude. I think a lot of women, especially in male-dominated spaces, experience that added pressure to be more demure.

Dani: HR/People Operations is a female-dominated field, so I did not experience a lot of the same challenges that many women in game development do while trying to break into the industry. However, I have felt and witnessed the effects of underrepresentation since working alongside female developers. Being one of few women in a male-dominated industry has led to feelings of not belonging and imposter syndrome. Women must also work harder against stereotypes and biases that assume they are less skilled in the various aspects of game development.
Why is having more women in the game industry important?
Monica: When I first joined the game industry, it was still very macho (maybe it still is in some places); the issue is, you have a lot of seasoned cisgender white male game designers who have only designed for themselves and people like them for their whole career. They would make decisions that don’t make sense according to user research/player feedback, but it fulfills their player fantasy, which is, unfortunately, bad for business.

I advocate for diversity because our player bases are very diverse, so it is essential to have design input from people with different backgrounds and gaming experiences. In addition, design meetings with designers from other backgrounds encourage game designers to think beyond what they enjoy playing, leading to better and more inclusive game design.

Jadeite: There are lots of reasons! Representation for one, equality, and diversity. There’s no real reason why you shouldn’t hire women, and having a diverse team, in general, is great since this could give you insight into other areas you might not have thought about prior.
Adria: There are many reasons why having more women in this industry is so important. Our voices, our different backgrounds, and our unique stories add needed diversity to the games being made, from indie to AAA. Having more women in games also creates the representation that empowers young girls and other women alike to become artists, designers, writers, etc. Especially as a black woman, seeing the representation of other women and minorities in the game industry gave me extra confidence to pursue a games career.

Dani: Representation matters for so many reasons! Teams and work environments are strengthened through diversity and having a variety of perspectives. Women bring diverse backgrounds and experiences to game development, resulting in unique games and a broader audience. Their experience is necessary to avoid stereotypes and to produce characters and narratives that authentically represent women.
How can we encourage more women to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated industries and roles, like game development?
Monica: I don’t want to sugarcoat this; working in the game industry will be much harder if you are not a man. Depending on the discipline, some are harder than others. I recommend that every woman who wants to join the industry actively seek and form allies with other game developers with marginalized identities. While I haven’t met many people with the same identities as mine, I have been getting a lot of help from other game developers with marginalized identities who taught me what to expect, being the only woman in the room, and how to detect and navigate toxic situations. If you cannot find allies in your workplace, you can always reach out to the growing number of organizations that aim to create opportunities and allyships for gender minorities in game dev.

Also, be careful with predatory places that charge you a lot of money and promise to send you to the game industry. Some places like International Game Developers Association and Code Coven (Limit Break if you are in the UK) will help pair aspiring game developers with diverse backgrounds with game devs willing to provide mentorship on the side, which can be very helpful.
Jadeite: Treating women better would be a start. Male-dominated industries also tend to have a huge “bro-culture” as well, which typically degrades women, sadly. A concern for many women as well as the pay inequality that happens. I think being transparent with salary and wage compensation could be helpful in the process. Within the last few years, I’ve seen more companies branching out and adding small benefits for women. For example, menstrual leave, accommodations for mothers, and longer maternity leave which can be a huge deal for some women when looking for a job.

Adria: A way we can do that is by making those industries more inclusive. Showing that women exist in those spaces, not just at an entry level but also in leadership roles.

Dani: Encouraging women to pursue careers in male-dominated fields comes down to creating inclusive environments and breaking down existing barriers. At the earliest stages, it’s important that girls and young women have exposure to STEM/STEAM programs. This can be accomplished through increased access to internships, job shadows, and targeted programs or workshops in these fields. Within our companies, we can play a significant role in raising awareness of gender disparities to help educate the workforce and combat bias to create more inclusive cultures that attract and retain women. Additionally, policy changes within companies should be implemented to help overcome some of the barriers women face in male-dominated industries. These efforts could include mentorship/leadership programs, increased parental leave, Employee Resource Groups, and inclusive hiring practices.
What progress have you seen in addressing gender-related issues in the game industry, and what steps can we take collectively to accelerate that progress?
Monica: The fact that women can openly talk about their negative experiences without worrying about never getting a job in the industry again is already a bit of improvement from when I first started. I started to pursue a game dev career shortly after Gamergate, and everyone thought I was insane. Even with the few short years I’ve had in the industry, I can already see the improvements from the DEI initiative to more women taking leadership positions.

However, as an industry, we still have a long way to go regarding creating a safe space for women. Many game dev events are very alcohol-driven, which doesn’t help. Early in my career, I often had to put myself in unsafe situations for opportunities to make connections or talk about design. We should have either more alcohol-free alternatives for game dev gatherings or have strictly moderated events where we can keep out predatory behavior (which requires more staff and budgets).

Jadeite: A lot of what I would describe as horror stories have come out throughout the years regarding the treatment of women in games. As a result, I’ve seen more companies establishing policies to protect women and minorities in games, which is a start, I suppose. Not having these events occur should be the goal, and I think more companies are trying to stay true to that.
Adria: While I’m still new to the games industry, historically it hasn’t always been as diverse as it is today. Progress has been made, with more women joining the industry every year, but there’s still a long way to go. Collectively, we can invest in it by mentoring or encouraging more women who are trying to break into the industry.

Dani: I am happy to see an increased effort to raise awareness, implement diversity initiatives, and produce inclusive characters and narratives in recent years. However, there is still a long way to go. Although a lot of these initiatives are reactionary, they will contribute to improved representation within the industry, eventually fostering more proactive and progressive policies for women. To accelerate progress, spreading awareness and advocating for equality remains important for individuals while implementing mentorship programs, increasing transparency, and reducing bias through policy and process are important at company and industry levels.
What initiatives or programs have you found effective in promoting gender equality and diversity within game development teams?
Monica: Quick plug for Save Point Gathering. It is a global game dev network for people with marginalized genders that I am on as part of the leadership group. It hosts monthly online gatherings and many in-person events at various gaming events. We do our best to create a safe, supportive space that many women may need help to afford at the workplace. It was super beneficial to stay in the industry during difficult times and helped me with my ongoing imposter syndrome. The place is open to anyone who identifies as a gender minority and works in the industry.

Jadeite: I’m not well versed in this area. Still, something I heard about recently that might be helpful was some companies using a system that disregards things like race and gender in the hiring process, so the focus point is your skills and abilities.

Adria: Women in Games International (WIGI) is one organization that comes to mind. Their mission is to advance economic equality and diversity in the global games industry. It’s an organization that regularly makes space for and elevates women's voices in this industry. I think groups and organizations like this contribute to creating a very visible representation that women looking to join the game industry need to see.

Dani: I have found that Employee Resource Groups, mentorship programs, and continued training and education around the inequalities that persist in the game industry have effectively created more inclusive environments.