Hearthstone: Thoughts and Concerns

It should be no surprise by now to anyone that I’ve been bitten by the Blizzard bug. It’s seems the assimilation of gamers into the warm casual embrace of accesibility has no limits, resistance is futile. For me that is Hearthstone, a game I originally ranted against because of its overt simplicity and appeal towards the larger casual base but has sunk it’s hooks into me. It still is all that, an accessible ccg with a fair bit of complexity and strategy removed but it’s also well… Fun.

The ui and structure of play has become easier to understand with the regular resource gain, display of characters and minions and how it has more dedicated tun taking. It lacks depth and a bit of player agency because of this however for some reason it’s rather addictive. Accesibility seems to have slowly spread to the payment structure and now it’s possible to attain cards at a reasonable rate just for playing. A system of dailies that I often revolt against in mmo’s but here it got me hooked.

It’s not all rainbows and puppies though and there are still a few aspects that I either dislike, that frustrate or would enhance enjoyment.

Random Rage

What this comes down to is getting screwed because of probability. It happens quite often, you either don’t get a good initial draw or that specific card you need at the time you want. It’s maddening when it happens as you know that your deck has some of the right cards, that if you had them you could win but without you just get pummelled into the ground.

When this happens I honestly feel embarrassed. I lose in a dramatic fashion and it makes me look like a moron. No one wants to feel like that and it’s awful when it seems to happen over, and over and over. When this happens I really think there needs to be a “I’m screwed” emote. Where you know your hand is really just giving the worst stuff, and they seem to be getting everything they need and you just want to play the game out while also recognising you are aware of your inevitable demise.

I actually find winning because of this equally as bad. Your draws have been perfect and you know they’re just struggling. It’s not a good fight as you aren’t being challenged and it’s more of a false win. A quick helping of ego sure, but it’s a feeling that doesn’t last long.

Now both of these situations are pretty common but this seems to be an unavoidable part of the genre. In terms of the mechanics of Hearthstone this has been mitigated a little more than other such games, which has probably helped with its popularity. Mana acquisition is controlled, minions relatively balanced, decks small, and and the card RNG mechanics not too game changing but the game is still controlled a lot by probability. That an average of draws will be fine but your guaranteed to get screwed occasionally… Sometimes very often.

A Call for Conversation

I have to admit that I miss there being an option to talk with your opponent. A chat box off to the side where you could converse, congratulate or just plain troll your enemy. A place where you could laugh at each others misfortune or just how the match ended up. Yes there are a few emotes but these just don’t have anywhere near the breadth of options for the situations that happen.

An online card game is the perfect place to have a chat box as well. It’s not as demanding on your attention and you get a lot if time in between turns if you did want to talk. There are no special phases that you need to be attentive to or extra components that need your input which leaves you free.
The opportunity is there to quickly connect with the community. I understand that the Blizzard community is overall rather terrible. Their forums apparently devolved into a state of turmoil years ago and were just left there to fester, breeding trolls, bigots, zealous fans and all manor of other contemptible creatures.

Now I would never wish such a thing on any game and community, that’s the type of thing that would ostracise many while serving the few. They want to keep this game available and enjoyable to the masses and a poisonous community obviously wouldn’t help. But, I think they are missing a very important lessen they should have learnt from WOW, that creating community is key and being able to talk and form connections while playing would be a huge community building aspect.

Just last night I ended up accepting a friend invite from the arena battling. Originally I thought they were just there to gloat on the kill.. It was a very close one but one where they seemed to always have the upper hand. However we ended up talking basically all night while doing the arenas. Chatting about card picks, the decks we like, who we were fighting against and stuff like that. It was a very positive experience and one I think would happen more often if you had the ability to talk with your opponent.

Now I don’t think it would end up as bad as people expect if Blizzard were more proactive in their moderation and development of tools to shape player habits. A mute or remove chat selection within the options menu would help for those that don’t want to be involved in it. Chuck some parental controls on it too for the mobile market, probably needed for purchases anyway. An easy mute or hide option near the chat box too. Quick fixes for those that want to be left alone yet leaving the option available or others.

But of course there are other options too. A report function of course, maybe even a filter that checks for certain words. There are many options for punishments too from banning, to halting progress, restricting access to games or even docking gold if they’re feeling mighty nasty. Have a karma system as well, one that’s connected to the shop where you can trade a lot of karma for packs or arena entry. These sorts of things can shape a gaming culture as long as they are implemented early enough, before the corruption can spread.

It’s something I would love to have and even if it is abused, and it will be, I think the positives that come from it such as greater involvement, connection to the game and community as well as the encouragement of regular play to play with new friends far outweighs the damage it could do.

Magical mayhem

Right now it feels as though magic, spells, either defensive or offensive are just far too strong. They allow a greater amount of damage across the table, damage that can be done with impunity and that doesn’t have to worry about any mechanics. Spells seem to be the master of control when it comes to the playing field and it is the amount of control you have that wins games.

For the cost they also seem to do far too much. Comparing the mana cost of spells to minions, especially at early levels it’s an easy one to one trade or better. Yet this is at no cost to you, you don’t have to trade a minion or take damage yourself like with weapons. Being able to aim specific things is also very helpful as your able to take out key targets with ease, invalidating some very important class based cards.

There is also heaps of ways to improve magic, a lot of cards add spell damage and a couple even provide bonuses for spell casting like card drawing. There is a lot of synergy available for decks in regards to magic use but then, for those trying to stop or avoid there are little to no ways to negate it. The only counter I can think of is a mage secret, weird when they are the offensive spell casting class.

Because of this control decks are a little too powerful. Rush decks are able to counter to an extent by front loading damage but then, they are still at the mercy of spells. Looking at the more powerful class cards, pyroblast is just insane. Ten damage and no way to stop it, no other class has such freedom. A mob can be killed, or polymorphed or even silenced in some cases. There are even counters to weapons but not spells.

Because of the mechanics I think such things would be mostly passives, just more traps or secrets to uncover in most classes to balance spell use but there are other ways. Perhaps some minions that decrease enemy spell damage or all spell damage, some that increase its cost like the minion type ones, Venture co. Mercenary. We could even have minions that maybe act like a magical taunt or a silence one for traps instead of minions.. Hmm, actually make silence and all in one. Then we could have specific spells or mechanics that could absorb or reflect a certain amount of damage, mobs that have it or give it and spells to apply.

There are a lot of options there that could be used to balance the current meta of magical mayhem as it really has gotten a little out of control. It invalidates a lot of interesting mechanics and card choices just because of how easy they would be remove.

I believe these are my main issues. I would like a little more equality in regards to arena card choices regarding the amount of legendaries and rare cards each has a chance to pick from but that’s a smaller concern. I kind of like the mystery and luck involved with arena that way. The rest seems to be minor complaints and complaints in which Hearthstone really isn’t trying to fulfill or fix, there are other online ccg’s for that. It’s a great basic game, one that I don’t think I would have started if I was playing an mmo but one I’m glad I did.

#Hearthstone #ArmchairDeveloper #fixes

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2 thoughts on “Hearthstone: Thoughts and Concerns

  1. I’d love chat. I hate how so many games are moving away from any sort of real communication. I think it’d be easy enough to implement away to report the super assholes. Then they can be forced to play with other reported assholes. Win-win!

    • Doh, didn’t realise I’d published yet.
      Yeh I’d definitely love a chat box. The idea to have a separate queue for those that have been reported is genius, considering the size of the population for Hearthstone they’d be able to do it too without any I’ll effects

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