So, you may
or may not be aware that I'm an occasional hearthstone player.
is a microcosm of the strangeness of the modern world writ large. Not just the
game, but the entirety of the culture that has sprung up around the game.
personal opinion, it is a far superior game to Magic: the Gathering. I'm sure
that there are magic players out there ready to disagree with me. Some may even
have valid points outside of attempting to eliminate their cognitive dissonance
over their sunk cost into Magic, but I'm not interested in hearing their
arguments. I'm not going to walk into their house and knock the magic cards out
of their hands.
But there are
so many design choices that Hearthstone does so right. This is, for a large
part, why there is such overwhelming negativity and anger from the player base
of the game.
Game Design Choices
every single turn you acquire another mana crystal, instead of being dependent
on drawing lands from your deck. The result of this steady increase is a high
degree of consistency. There is no mana screw. The balance between lands and
cards in magic is a strong factor in the consistency of a magic deck, but
because lands are dependent on draw, it is not possible to eliminate
(completely) the issues with consistency. Of course in professional decks this
is rarely a problem, due to the decks being well designed, but consistent mana
growth completely eliminates the problem for casual players.
The Magic Client
difference is that the attacker chooses targets. This is a huge change that
impacts the entire sequence of play. Anyone who has used both the Hearthstone
client and the Magic client, can tell you one is (reasonably) elegantly
designed, and the other is a hot steaming box of shit. If you're not familiar with Magic, each
"turn" consists of various phases. For instance, your draw phase in
magic includes three steps; untap all your
cards, pay any upkeep costs, then
draw. During each of those individual phases, play cannot continue until the
current player gives the opponent a chance to do something.
technically you have to stop the game three times to give your opponent a
chance to take an action during the draw phase of a turn. Now in reality it
rarely works out that way. In the client you can set triggers to stop your
opponents play during their turn when you'd like the option to act.
attacker chooses targets instead of the defender choosing who to block, it
streamlines the entire game process. You don't have to wait for your opponent
to make choices during your turn. You are encouraged to control the board, be
aggressive, and spend your turn playing the game.
A sure sign
of someone who has little insight into game design, would be the people popping
up, pointing out that all these changes that streamline the play of the game
would make it too "simple". The same fallacy is at work when you
realize how much smaller each Hearthstone set is, then a comparable Magic set.
Having more options does not make something better. They are games about
different things: whereas Magic is about using the cards to directly combat
your opponent by trying to alter how the game functions to reach what the win
condition of each player is, Hearthstone is about reading your opponents hand
and plays to play in such a way that maximizes your chances to win, much like
poker. Bluffing, baiting, and going all in based on your read and statistical
percentages is what makes Hearthstone so fascinating to watch at high level
important to note that this success of design is mirrored in the popularity of
each game. A generous estimate of the number of magic players worldwide is
somewhere around 20 million, compared to 50 million active players in hearthstone as of April last year.
What's more, is that it's not possible at all for anyone to make a living as amagic player,
yet the majority of professional hearthstone players can and do make a living
at it, in a plethora of ways.
choices, in addition to 30 card decks, make Hearthstone a very, very consistent
game. In order to offset this consistency, the cards themselves do things. In
fact, it was this (forgive the term) magic that first brought me into
hearthstone. There are cards that hand out a special set of dream cards, cards
that randomize all targets, cards that replace your hero, spectacular cards
that do what no real card game can. This is what keeps games from getting
stale, the random effects of the cards themselves. And it's these odds and
percentages of random effects that must be weighed to reach the highest echelon
know, that's just not enough for some people. As someone who's played since
beta, there has never been a period where people went "Hey, this game is
Let me tell
you, the game is and always has been pretty good.
complaint is about the "Pirate Package", a selection of 3 cards the
provide a powerful opening hand. Before that it was about lack of communication
from Team 5. Over Christmas. Before that it was salt about Yogg, a card that
cast a random spell at a random target for each spell you had cast during the
game and how he was too random and too powerful. Before that it was secret paladin
and their 'unbeatable' curve of Secretkeeper, Minibot, Muster for Battle,
Shredder, Belcher/Loatheb, MC, Boom, into Tieron, (Link Cards) before that
Patron Warrior a deck that had a sub-50% win rate on ladder for all but the
highest tier player, all the way back to complaints about miracle rogue.
forever–really, since release, any decent player could take a tier 1 or 2 deck
to legend. A good player could take any tier deck to legend. Even in the most
dismal period for Priest, when it was the absolute worst class, Zetalot, a
pro-player who only plays priest, could take it to legend.
the thing about card games, you always have a chance to win.
are legitimate complains about Hearthstone. It is one of blizzards most popular
and profitable titles. Although Blizzard doesn't release specifics, In August
of 2015 the estimated revenue is around 20 million dollars a month, several hundred
thousand dollars a day. Considering the active userbase has grown since then,
it's hard to imagine that the profit has somehow dropped.
Team 5, the
Blizzard team behind hearthstone was originally only 15 people, and now, even
with the gigantic userbase and profits, still only hovers around 70 members. I
seriously doubt each member of the team takes home 3.8 million dollars yearly,
making hearthstone an extremely profitable venture for Blizzard. Team 5 is very
slow and hesitant to communicate with their userbase, which is understandable,
considering the levels of salt encountered online. But this doesn't change the
fact that very basic issues persist in the client. It took years to just add an
additional 9 slots for decks, some cards and card text continues to be wildly
inconsistent, and known bugs sometimes go years without being addressed.
with the salt is many-fold. The first is that hearthstone is a competitive
environment. Lots of other competitive games receive balance patches, so player
expectation is that Hearthstone should also. But hearthstone isn't like that.
You can't raise someone's damage or fire rate by 4%. Hearthstone is an
extremely chunky game. When you increase or decrease the value on a card by
simply one, it creates a massive shift in the entire meta-game. There are cards
that are underpowered at 4 mana, that would be overpowered at 3. What's more,
is that the meta shifts approximately every 90-120 days or so, and really,
that's often not even enough time to discover all the hidden peaks and valleys
of power within a set. And data is something team 5 does have, as they've
mentioned offhand in their somewhat rare communications.
The second is
that, if you're reading this, Hearthstone is free to play and has a very
generous system for players. I generally get between 6-10 packs a week for
free, just from quests, tavern brawls, and winning games. A dedicated player
could accumulate 12 packs or more with time, and that's not even considering
the possibility of entering their arena draft mode; at 7 wins, you've
effectively made your gold spent to enter the arena back. This is, in large
part, why hearthstone is such a popular game.
that, at it's core, hearthstone is a really, really, good game. David Sirlin in
his masterpiece Playing to Win talks about games that are flat (where there is
one best strategy) and games that have depth, where no matter your level at the
game, you can improve your play and become a better player. Hearthstone is
that. And people can see that. So when you do encounter a flaw or problem or
bug, the game is already so good, can you imagine how much better it will be
when that problem is fixed?
I think it
needs time. Things move faster now then they did in the past- at the two year
mark for magic the gathering, (back in 1996) it wasn't nearly as popular or
organized. All the problems, they aren't unknown. Yes, the client will improve.
Yes, tournament features will be added. Yes, the game will get better. It
speaks well of Team 5 that they think very hard before making any changes, and,
well, keeping the golden goose alive for their masters.
interested, and you play, give me a shout and we'll trade battletags.