Author Archive

Travis Morrow

Travis Morrow is a writer, game designer, and world builder who spends his free time playing with dice, reading screenplays, and arguing with his cats. His personal blog and website is www.travisem.com. He's currently working out of Orange County, CA.

EU Closed Beta

Written by Travis Morrow on . Posted in Blizzard Entertainment, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

After a few long weeks of waiting Hearthstone followers in the EU can start playing today, provided an invite finds its way to an inbox. The full details are available here. A high number language availability, no NDA, and a gold equivalency for money spent during the beta.

Check your inboxes, I hope to find some fresh players to duel.

hearthstone-quests-frame

Hero Banter and ditching daily quests

Written by Travis Morrow on . Posted in Blizzard Entertainment, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

I like the chat wheel. I like the options. I don’t think it needs anything added to it, except maybe a laugh emote. It could still be abused but only one hero would have a sarcastic, condescending laugh (and he’s going to be dead soon) – the rest would be sincere laughs for a play or minion that worked well. I don’t think custom options, “Hurry Up,” “Lucky” or similar emotes will add much, if anything. Luck is part of a card game no matter how well you craft your deck but good players and good deck construction can counter it.

hearthstone-quests-frame

garrosh-heroWhat I would like to see would is chatting between the heroes, with and without player direction. Many of them have relationships with each other or at least know of each other enough to have a strong opinion. Rexxar and Thrall are friends, or at least respect each other immensely. The “Greetings” emote could change when they meet each other in a fight.

After a particularly brutal attack, when the audience is oohing,  the two trade friendly jabs about each other’s lives. Thrall and Jaina could have uncomfortable, even awkward moments, because of their history. Anduin could be humbled by Uther, despite never meeting the most famous paladin in the history of the Knights; Thrall would probably have few pleasant things to say to Gul’dan, and vice versa.

The rivalries and alliances would just strengthen the game’s already impressive atmosphere. Warcraft is smothered in lore so why not really take advantage of it? The beta is early, of course, and balance issues are more pressing matters than what angry words Thrall and Garrosh would trade. But the little things tend to give projects that extra shine.

But for something more mechanical, why can’t we abandon daily quests? You can only have three in your log at any time and suppose you don’t want to do one of them – playing Malfurion’s druid is as much fun as trimming your nails – so why not abandon  the quest to get five wins with the deck. You don’t get another daily quest in place of it, you just don’t have that one anymore.

It’s a simple thing to add. With the trickle rate at which you acquire gold, anything that makes the grind more bearable is appreciated. It may slow it down but it makes it more fun, which is what seems to be driving the game anyway.

I’d also like some variety in the quests that make them less about grinds and more about tactics or clever playing. Maybe a quest to have a single minion deal 10 points of damage in one game? Or defeat three heroes with charge minions? The daily quests available now aren’t always hard, though I don’t enjoy playing the warrior, but they’re rarely anything interesting. There’s a lot that can be done with them to add variety to the objectives and I hope Blizzard decides to expand the options.

Hearthstone-Heroes-of-Warcraft-Logo

Hearthstone-Heroes-of-Warcraft-Logo

That Contentious Coin

Written by Travis Morrow on . Posted in Activision Blizzard, Blizzard Merchandise, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

hearthstone-the-coin-card

Hearthstone games are quick. With steady mana, limited defenses, and a heavy slant on offensive power Hearthstone’s contests of cards are about early advantages and constant presses. Laying minions often and early is a great way to stress your opponent – even big guys can only attack once. There are ways to clear the board, like flamestrike and lightning storm, but they’re more common for some heroes than others. This isn’t necessarily an issue; the heroes are designed around the classes of WoW (perhaps vice versa) and their spells are drawn from well known class abilities.

The issue, at least a common point of controversy, is the Coin. On its face the card doesn’t appear to give a significant advantage. The player going second is given a zero cost spell that grants one mana for one turn. It doesn’t sound like huge boon. At best, the second player can put down a minion or cast a spell a turn before the mana actually accrues or play a combination of cards for great effect. The bonus mana isn’t really a problem. Smart players, or players fortunate enough to have a good hand of cards, can take advantage of it and turn the tide or press a advantage further toward victory. The problem is that the Coin currently counts as a spell.

That makes sense. It is a spell. It has a spell effect and it certainly isn’t a minion. But the zero cost spell for the second player provides a secondary, and arguably more powerful, bonus. Cards that take advantage of spells cast that turn are boosted because of an arbitrary turn order, not because clever deck construction. The Coin’s advantage is supposed to be a one time mana bonus. The mechanical advantages for player turn order are already present: player one is one mana ahead, player two is one card ahead. The Coin is a nice bit of gravy; going first is quite an advantage and the bonus mana can switch the momentum. Any other advantage it provides is superfluous. It’s effect as the 31st card is too potent.

The Coin shouldn’t be a spell, it should just be the Coin. A card all of its own.

Hearthstone-Heroes-of-Warcraft-Logo

hearthstone-heroes-of-warcraft-beta-installation-2

Hearthstone Closed Beta Starts Today!

Written by Travis Morrow on . Posted in Activision Blizzard, Blizzard Products News, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Travis: It began with a teaser from Zeriyah’s twitter: a mysterious video of a cake, frosted with a Warcraft Hearthstone, and the word “Beta” scrawled on the side. The excitement was almost palpable. Hype Train coming.

And then suddenly, the Americas closed beta started. The forums appeared and expanded, invites began, and new players outside of Blizzard offices began to duel each other. As it is a closed beta, invites are being sent only to those who opt in. Opting in is easy and done from a potential player’s Battle.net account.

By far the highlight from the Beta announcement, aside from the announcement itself, is the lack of an NDA. Players can, and are encouraged to, do livestreams of their games and record videos, post screenshots and write long, winding articles about the mechanics.

Check those inboxes – invites are coming. Lok’tar ogar!

Medievaldragon: The Blizzplanet staff is slowly getting into Hearthstone closed beta. I am going to share with you the installation process. As soon as I downloaded the beta installer client, something that totally got me off-guard is that upon launching the client, the Battle.net launcher automatically kicked in to take over the download process. The beta file is around 500MB by the way.

hearthstone-beta

hearthstone-heroes-of-warcraft-beta-installation-1

hearthstone-heroes-of-warcraft-beta-installation-2

hearthstone-heroes-of-warcraft-beta-installation-3

hearthstone-heroes-of-warcraft-beta-installation-4

hearthstone-golden-mekkatorque

Golden Gelbin and other news

Written by Travis Morrow on . Posted in Blizzard Entertainment, Blizzard Merchandise, Blizzard Products News, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

hearthstone-golden-mekkatorqueZeriyah provided a lengthy update on Hearthstone today, commenting on some changes to the game as it progresses closer and closer to beta. Among the items discussed was a restatement that the Hearthstone team is working vigorously to launch beta before summer ends. Zeriyah phrased the timeline for beta as “not days away from launching the beta, but [...] not months away either.” Progress is being made but patience is required.

The beta will allow players to spend real money on card packs and Arena entry. However, because of the changing nature of beta testing Hearthstone’s developers have decided to reward players who put down cash with something special – a golden version of Gelbin Mekkatorque. When you purchase cards or Arena entry, you’re granted a copy of the Gnome King. His golden version is only available this way: no crafting or lucky drops from card packs. A regular version can be crafted once the game is released.

Hearthstone has also been tested on the iPad with cross-platform play. Zeriyah called it an awesome milestone in development for Hearthstone. Any means of expanding the player pool for the game has to be considered an incredible success; cross-platform potential is a phenomenal one.

The update ends with Zeriyah telling the community to continue to engage with the Hearthstone team. The community helps guide how the game evolves and the developers want to know what’s working and what isn’t.

gamescom-hearthstone-logo

Hearthstone at Gamescom 2013

Written by Travis Morrow on . Posted in Activision Blizzard, Blizzard Games News, Blizzard Products News, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Anxious to play Hearthstone yourself? Are the Twitch specials and Fireside duels not satisfying your curiosity and anticipation? If you’re able to attend Gamescom this year, you’re in luck.

Blizzard and the Hearthstone developers will be hosting the first public playable versions of the game in Germany this year. Blizzard will host several sessions of Hearthstone during the trade fair. Hearthstone’s lead artist Ben Thompson will also be showing off his artistic talents with live drawing and sketching. There are also quizzes, Q&As, developer signings, and a Warcraft dance contest.

Check Blizzards’ complete schedule to find the events that pique your interest: Schedule for Gamescom 2013.

gamescom-hearthstone-logo

The Forge is now The Arena (Hearthstone Livestream)

Written by Travis Morrow on . Posted in Blizzard Entertainment, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Eric Dodds and Ben Brode explored the ever changing nature of Hearthstone today during an hour long livesteam. The duo began their commentary explaining that the Forge has been renamed to the Arena to avoid confusion with Hearthstone’s card crafting system. The change reflects internal testing done by the Hearthstone team and also better captures the spirit of the game mode.

After the name announcement, Dodds began to comb the Twitch stream for questions while Brode entered the Arena to build a deck.

Building an Arena deck is entirely random. Players are presented with a choice of three heroes from the game’s total of nine. Afterward, the building process guides players through deck construction with cards suited for the selected hero. In the livestream Dodds and Brode selected Jaina Proudmoore, the mage.

Players have 30 choices to make the deck, each choice being between three random cards. The proceeding choices are not influenced by previous choices: i.e., selecting Ice Lance does not increase the likelihood of seeing a Frostbolt or Water Elemental. Any rarity of card can appear for selection. The maximum number of card duplicates in a deck is removed, allowing for three or more of any card.

At any point during deck construction players can leave the Arena and return later, picking up exactly where they left off. The same is true once a deck has been made. Players that leave a game in progress, either by closing Hearthstone or disconnecting, are given a loss. The duo acknowledged that accidental disconnects are a problem the development team is addressing.

Dodds and Brode emphasized that careful selection of cards is key to success in the arena. Deck strategies can change quickly as different cards are presented.

Once a deck is built players enter a match queue against opponents of equal success with their decks. The games progress as normal. Each win, however, improves the quality of a player’s Arena Key, to a current maximum of nine wins. The key is used to unlock a chest in Hearthstone’s Arena that gives rewards. The value of the rewards can vary but it always includes at least one card pack for the standard play mode.

Players can retire successful decks at any time. After three losses, a deck is forcibly retired and the player’s key unlocks the Arena chest automatically.

Dodds and Brode played two games during the livestream. The first was a decisive victory against Uther the Lightbringer. The second game was closer and resulted in a loss to Valera Sanguinar. A game was attempted between against Garrosh Hellscream but networking issues caused the session to crash.

Dodds and Brode unlocked their chest at the end of the livestream, displaying the process and rewards. They received three bags of five gold, ten arcane dust, and a booster pack. While the rewards from the chest were initially unimpressive, the booster pack of five cards contained two rares and a golden version of the legendary minion Cairne Bloodhoof.