Battle of Cards
I am getting around super late this morning to make a blog post. On a whim I decided to take Friday off, since for my wife it was her fall break. I figured the two of us could hang out around the house or do whatever. Then over night I noticed a rather frantic message from my boss. It seems like after 5 his boss had requested something by noon today… that would involve a lot of feedback and information from us worker bees. So as a result I got up around 8 am, got dressed, went out and grabbed breakfast and have been remote into work for the last hour working on the list of information. As a result… my normal early morning post is delayed.
Yesterday I was extremely pumped to get home, because over night I seemed to have received an email from Blizzard saying that my account had finally been flagged for the Hearthstone beta process. Since everyone and their brother is live streaming this on Twitch… I am assuming there is no actual NDA going on… or at least not one currently enforced. So as a result I snapped multiple pictures last night as I played and will be weaving them in here and there. I have to admit I went into this a bit skeptical… not really sure if I would like it or not. From the video I had seen, everything about the game feels rushed much like a LFG dungeon group. Even though you rarely think more than one round ahead… there is still a lot of strategy going on.
Day has a really good series of videos walking through his first experience with the game, and I highly suggest you watch it if you are curious about how you get into the game. Basically Blizzard has done an amazing job of user education, in that to get started in the game you HAVE to play through a tutorial. Fortunately it does a really good job of slowly introducing you into the various mechanics, and as a result you can pick up the strategy of the game extremely quickly. You play through a series of NPC card fights…starting with Hogger and finishing with an Azerothian Super Villain that I won’t spoil for now.
Once you have finished with the tutorial it has taught you basically everything there is to know about the Mage deck. Essentially the decks are all themed after one of the World of Warcraft classes. I notice that Deathknight is conspicuously absent… so they must be intending to add that in as an expansion opportunity. For those who are familiar with the Duel of the Planeswalkers series of MTG games for consoles and steam… you will be used to the way you progress from here. Now you can take your mage deck and challenge the other classes, by defeating them you unlock the ability to play as that class.
The biggest surprise for me is just how sticky this game was. I got home around 5 pm and started playing around 5:30. I ended up playing this game without pause until around 9:30.. and only then because some guild members needed me to tank a FFXIV dungeon run. I have to say that is fairly unheard of for me, when it comes to card games. I have copies of all of the Duel of the Planeswalker games that have been released, but have maybe logged 50 hours total among ALL of them. There was just something about the physical card game experience that never quite translated to the online version.
Last night over the course of the evening, I managed to unlock all of the different class decks. At various points through the evening I was rewarded with either gold or actual packs of cards. The game uses a quest like system to give you little goals to work towards. If you look above you can see that in the screenshot I have 2 of the 3 wins needed to earn 10 gold. There was another quest I had to level one of the classes to 10, and in doing so I unlocked a pack of cards. Essentially it seems like there are two kinds of cards you can get… Basic cards that are unlocked through completing quests and scenarios and leveling… and Expert cards that are unlocked through either purchasing or winning packs of cards.
Since this game is free to play, you have to be asking yourself… where do they make money. Well like always with any card game it is in the packs. I took a screenshot of the current store interface. You will notice that the packs that be bought with either in game gold currency that you earn by completing achievements or be purchased with real world currency. You can purchase a single pack with 100 gold, 2 packs for $2.99 ($1.49 each), 7 packs for $9.99 ($1.42 each), 15 packs for $19.99 ($1.32 each) or 40 packs for $49.99 ($1.24 each). So as you can see in buying in bulk like you would expect you keep getting more and more of a discount on the per pack price.
Through the course of play last night I earned 5 packs of cards either through a combination of gold or actually winning the packs outright. I have to say the sound design and animation are amazing… and really capture the same excitement of opening a real pack of cards. You can double click the pack to open it… or for a more tactile experience drag it open. Similarly all five cards in a pack come flying out onto the screen… but do so face down. This allows you to flip them over one by one similar to sifting through a physical pack of cards. They know their audience well and have put in a number of tactile hooks to increase the sense of suspense to see if you have something good or not.
Currently you have the option of playing progressively harder NPC decks, or setting out and playing some physical players. Quite honestly I have found playing players a bit easier than playing the expert decks. There are two PVP modes of play… the first of which is simply building a custom deck and then taking it on the road to fight against other players. The second of which is the Arena, which serves as this games “draft” mode, giving both a more random experience but also potentially a more balanced one.
I am not sure if this regenerates but you get at least one free Arena token, after that it appears to either cost 150 in game gold or $1.99 to unlock additional tokens. In the Arena you choose a class and then are presented with a series of three cards. The card you keep goes into your arena deck, and the other two are discarded. This continues on until you have chosen 30 cards for your deck. An Arena deck lasts until you have lost three times. At the end of the match you are rewarded based on how well you did. For me I got 2 sacks of gold 2 packs of cards and a rare paladin card for playing. I won three times and lost three times.
The interesting thing about the Arena is the fact that you don’t have to play it all in one sitting. So long as you have not lost your three matches you can continue playing arena. There is some bar of gems that fills up each time you win, but I am not 100% certain how that works. You might get punted out of the Arena if you win too often as well. Last night I played through a single arena match and then was off playing custom games with players. My little hunter deck seems to be doing pretty well, so I will likely return to doing some of that today. I have to say I am very pleasantly surprised in just how good of a game Hearthstone is.