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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.

Hearthstone in The Guardian

The British daily newspaper has a solid write up of Hearthstone. It doesn’t describe much beta-players and close watchers won’t already know but it’s a good read regardless. The author, Rich Stanton, has some good quotes from Eric Dodds and Jason Chaynes about Hearthstone’s simple game mechanics as compared to other CCGs and the difficulties of playing those games online.

Dodds also mentions that the kinect feedback for Hearthstone was very important. “…when we started working on the online game we wanted to keep the soul of [physical cards] which is why we made the box, and the cards in the way they sway as you’re moving them through the environment, and the buttons that feel and respond like physical buttons.”

Staton also comments on the paradoxical fun of the Arena. He, like many, enjoys the Arena the most but finds the gold flow too slow for regular runs. Blizzard is walking a tight rope to find the proper balance between earning money from Hearthstone and opening up all the play modes easily.

The other major highlights? There’s one more patch coming before the game is launched, which is still slated for this year. The beta-less shouldn’t fret too terribly – everyday brings the game’s official launch closer and closer.

Staton’s article is available here.

Because Everyone Needs Weapons!

Five of the nine Heroes have weapons, and several. It makes sense that they’d swing swords or axes or shoot arrows and the casting classes wouldn’t. A melee mage isn’t a viable build in Hearthstone’s progenitor. But mages, priests, warlocks, and druids still use weapons. A warlock without a weapon is half a warlock. I’ve taken the liberty of creating some epic quality weapons for the Heroes currently unarmed. To keep things balanced I’ve also added some epics for the already equipped.

Mage
Staff of the Shadowflame
6, 1/5 – +2 Spell Damage. Each time you cast a spell, lose 1 durability.

Priest
Anathema and Benediction
5, 1/1 – Your hero power now heals friendly targets and damages enemy targets.

Warlock
Healthstone
4, 0/3 – Lose 1 durability, restore 3 health to a friendly target your Hero.

Druid
Fist of Cenarius
6, 2/3 – Draw a card each time you attack.

And for the weapon ready:

Rogue
Evasion
6 – You are immune until your next turn.

Paladin
Silver Hand Champion
7, 4/5 – Battlecry: Give all other friendly minions Divine Shield.

Shaman
Lightning Shield
5 – Deal 3 4 damage to your next 3 attackers.

Warrior
Thunder Clap
5 – Deal 1 damage to all enemy minions and reduce their attack 1 until your next turn.

Hunter
Scattershot
6 – Your opponent cannot cast any spells any cards next turn.

They’re almost certainly not balanced so why not offer some suggestions in comments?

VanCleef trips!

And no longer has stealth.

The patch notes for the upcoming Hearthstone patch have been released and they’re lengthy. Lots of balance changes (the ringleader has less health now) and piles of bug fixes. Secret and fatigue animations have been sped up and there’s some clarity as to why you get a coin when going second.

The full notes are available here.

Closed Beta Patch – Featured Updates

A lengthy preview of the upcoming Hearthstone patch hit today. While it doesn’t contain the patch notes themselves (those will come when the patch hits), it does describe some of the incoming changes for the game and provide some hope for those of us sick if being pummeled by Valeera.

My favorite announcement is a simple one:

After the patch, daily quests that require you to win with a specific class will now give you a choice between two classes, allowing you some additional flexibility.

 

Thank you. Thank you so much. There are some hero balancing acts coming as well which should make Anduin more fun to play but the variety is greatly appreciated. He’s not a bad hero, I just like Thrall so much more.

Some golden cards are getting new animations, there’s means to craft specific golden cards, and the wins for the Arena are being retooled to be more valuable. Nine wins now guarantees another card pack or a golden card.

The trickle rate for gold income is also getting a desperately needed buff. Rather than 5 wins for 5 gold, it’s 3 wins for 10 gold. It now takes 30 wins for a card pack, not 100.

I’m waiting eagerly for the patch. The full preview is available here, with a link for beta opt-ins at the bottom.

Favorite Arena Picks

More than flair, Hearthstone’s Arena is about solid cards that carry themselves. Synergy is something to spot as the deck is drafted but each pick is more about the best card at face value and not its potential when combined with a complex strategy. Constructed decks are where theme and flair can manifest with real power and presence.

But what cards have the best potential in a draft? Exact favorites vary from drafter to drafter, from deck to deck, but four out of five times I pick these cards over anything else presented. I wish I could swap most of these for a rare or even an epic when my choices are things like Angry Chicken, Coldlight Seer, or Hungry Crab.

Venture Co. Mercenary

Venture_Co._Mercenary

Its effect isn’t great, but he’s a nasty threat. It also puts your opponent in an uncomfortable position – they have to deal with him or risk him running over a weaker taunt minion or chopping the health pool down in big swings. But dealing with him removes the minion inflation cost, usually meaning you’ve baited out a polymorph, hex, or a heavy hitter of the enemy’s. Not bad for a five cost.

2P Hearthstone Streamer Invitational Tournament Today!

2P is hosting a Hearthstone tournament today, which is already underway. The rounds are a best of three elimination, with the grand final as a best of five. 2P’s official page is here. It provides links to their official Twitch stream and the Twitch streams of the players.

The decks are all constructed beforehand and have been absolutely monstrous. This is an excellent opportunity to watch some great plays and learn what some of the best can do. Good luck to all the contenders!

How many minions again?

Hearthstone provides a useful graph of information when constructing an Arena deck: the mana curve. It’s an invaluable chart that can help smooth out the transition from early to mid to late game, fix problems as you construct a deck (too many high costs cards, or no beefy minions at all). Certain deck strategies can subvert the curve or ignore it entirely, but most decks and their players watch it carefully. I’d like the mana curve added when making custom decks in Play mode because of how useful it is. I consider its absence an oversight and it hopefully appears later.

I’d like to see another graph added to Hearthstone’s deck construction: a minion versus spell chart. While not as vital as the mana curve, displaying a bit of info about the number of minions in your deck as well as the number of spells would be helpful. A mana curve taken at face value can be deceptive because it doesn’t distinguish between card types. Lots of cost spells may keep your curve smooth but a lack of early minions may leave you vulnerable. It’s not too troublesome to count the totals or track them externally but implementing such a feature seems like a natural addition to an already robust and informative UI.

As long as I’m talking about things I’d like added to a free game, how about showing cards by type? Neutrals and class cards, basics and experts, commons, rares, epics, and legendaries. The growing list of charts could be situated across from the deck list, or a button could be added next to the deck list to flip it over and display the information. Swap, swap.

These are minor suggestions from an immensely satisfied customer, however. The game is kinetic and fun, the cards well illustrated and expansive. I’d still really like banter from the heroes to each other. There are potentially more boards in the works, which is great, but I hate waiting for them. Personally I’d love to see an Undercity board with rats scurrying across the play area, maybe dodging cards. And anything from Northrend.

What about you? Any locales you’re waiting for? Any information you’d like Hearthstone to display?

Update: I am a fool. The mana curve is available in constructed: hover over a hero’s image and you can see your current curve.

hearthstone-beta-logo-patch-3749

Ben Brode Doesn’t Flip Coins

Well, he probably does. Who doesn’t? But he’s careful and doesn’t leave the construction of Hearthstone to chance and whimsy. In a previous column I discussed the issues with the coin that most players are stirred up about. It’s a hot button issue – the coin has proponents and detractors. Hearthstone’s forums are brimming with threads discussing, at length, the impact of that little card.

But none carry as much weight as the words of Mr. Brode. In a post on the Hearthstone forums Brode details the history behind its inception, the logic for its purpose, and the hard numbers of the coin’s actual significance in games. With Hearthstone’s systems closely monitored by developers the figures aren’t amorphous, specific samples from a handful of games but rather a complete and exhaustive data set. And they provide some incredible insight into the coin’s impact.

Across all leagues, 52.2% of wins are for the player who goes first. In master league, where the giants fight, that imbalance shrinks to 50.4%. The advantage of going first isn’t insurmountable and the coin seems to be fulfilling its role as a field leveler. The passionate responses it stirs may be more related to its potential for momentum shifting: dropping a heavy minion a turn before it’s expected or delivering a powerful combo attack (as has been done to me with frustrating regularity).

Arena statistics aren’t provided, but further in the thread a player asks and Mr. Brode answers. The results are similar to standard mode, a slight advantage to going first but it isn’t significant. The coin is here to stay. I’m happy the developers provided numbers about the coin’s use and impact during a game rather than simply stating a position and expecting the players to live with it. The statistics and comments may not convince everyone but it convinces me. It’s not a game breaker, just a light touch on the scale.

Hero Banter and ditching daily quests

hearthstone-quests-frame

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

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