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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.

That Contentious Coin

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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.

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Hearthstone Closed Beta Starts Today!

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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.

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Golden Gelbin and other news

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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.

Hearthstone at Gamescom 2013

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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.

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The Forge is now The Arena (Hearthstone Livestream)

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.

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