So I’ve played a lot of Hearthstone. A lot a lot. On the Massively Speaking podcast a couple of weeks ago Syp mentioned that one of the reasons he has been enjoying the game is because it isn’t the “type of thing you’d play for hours”, but clearly he is not a compulsive overachiever. Like.. a friend of mine. Yes.
(I get excited about learning new things, and this is my first CCG okay?)
In Constructed I’m 2-star Gold rank, and I haven’t been tempted to get much higher than that because I hear once you hit the Master tier suddenly it’s a big legendary card party and I am not prepared. I can beat all the expert NPCs handily with low level decks, and I have a few constructed decks that I feel pretty good about (Shaman and Warrior in particular).
And I am still terrible in arena. And by terrible, I mean really really bad. I have never gotten more than 2 wins in a round, and going 0-3 is not unheard of. It doesn’t matter if I have never played the hero or I play it all the time, or if my deck is all common or has two epics and a legendary. I do my dailies for gold and play arena every time I get 150 together, so every couple of days at least, and yet I think I’m getting worse, not better!
My inner overachiever is starting to panic. I don’t want to be awesome (not yet anyway), just “good”, with all the blissful mediocrity the word implies.
I keep my decks to a mana curve that peaks around 3 or 4, make sure I pick 15-20 playable minions in each deck, and I’m fairly familiar with which minions are routinely better than others. I’m trying to stay aware of tempo and not just blowing all my cards at the earliest opportunity.
I know it’s tough without specifics, but do you, dear reader, have any Hearthstone arena tips? I’ve been watching Trump’s Twitch channel when I can, and watching Northern Lion learn to play in his videos, but I’m not getting any better!
Help me internet, you’re my only hope.
The most excellent Syl wrote a great post today about why she thinks achievements are one of the worst things to happen to MMOs. And with the standard caveat of “there’s no wrong way to play games and it’s good there is a wide marketplace so everyone can find a game that suits them”, I feel I have to stick up for achievements.
Warning: this post will probably totally out me as a Neanderthal who does not appreciate art and beauty
Achievements absolutely break a game’s immersion.
I think immersion in games is wonderful.. in the right game. If you’re playing The Stanley Parable, immersion seems almost critical to the experience. (No, I won’t say why. Go play it!) I loved slapping on my headphones and getting lost in the world of Mass Effect, wandering my ship wondering if Garrus was finished with his calibrations.
In general, though, the MMO genre doesn’t seem well suited to being an immersive experience. First, and most obviously, however lovely the fantasy world is it’s also filled with other people, many of whom are doing things like shouting “lol butts” and dancing on tree stumps in their underwear.
And although MMOs have done quite a bit of innovating in the last couple of years, they still haven’t really solved the problem where you kill a terrible monster to save a village and it respawns a little while later. (Perhaps EQ Next? We’ll see.) Plus most MMOs seem stuck on the idea of having in-game events that mimic real life, something that absolutely pulls the player out of a fantasy environment.
In general the MMO genre by its very nature seems like a poor place to look for a truly immersive game experience.
Getting Some Satisfaction
People play games for all kinds of reasons, but one popular reason I think — or at least it is for me — is that real life is hard, you guys. It’s hard for different people in different ways, but for me finding “satisfaction within” is not always an easy task (particularly as someone with depression and anxiety issues), and it takes effort and practice.
For example, I will spend roughly four months of my life doing housework. I will never finish tidying my house, but instead will do it on a regular basis for the rest of my life because it needs doing. We do these things often with no real reward or acknowledgement. I do not get an achievement for getting to work on time all week, or for remembering to get cat litter on the way home, nor should I expect one.
In a game with achievements, after I catch 50 fish I get a happy noise and some digital confetti. You did it, player! Check that off your list, you accomplished a thing! Obviously not all achievements are the same (catch 50 fish vs What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been) but frankly I enjoy a little validation in my life, even if I know it’s virtual and very silly.
I find sandbox MMOs (and sandbox games in general) just mimic some of the very things I am playing games to forget. I don’t want to be lost in a strange and unfamiliar world! As I said in my post on Skyrim a long time ago, my idea of escapist fantasy is not being a helpless half-elf with no shoes and no direction in life, hiding in a cave. My escape is being validated in silly game ways for developing my character.
Casual Bartle Achiever
There are a number of valid holes in the Barle Test character theory, but I still find myself drawn to the basic definition of the achiever: “[Achievers] will go to great lengths to achieve rewards that confer them little or no gameplay benefit simply for the prestige of having it.”
I like to Get Things Done. I like checklists and forms. (Yes, I am that person who will do my family’s taxes because I find it kind of fun.) I add my own “twist” by trying to do these things as optimally as possible, which often requires a little research and planning ahead. Achievements provide a framework for these things.
Additionally, as someone who no longer raids, achievements are great for limited playtime. I can log on and spend 20 minutes working towards an actual tracked goal.
I find total sandbox games to be overwhelming. It feels like graduating high school — you can do anything you want, so what do you want to make of yourself, huh? Huh? Oh no, you said you wanted to be a bow and arrow rogue but that isn’t optimal and now you’re an unemployed middle aged elf who still lives with their parents.
While I respect that people are Explorer-types, I don’t get it myself. What happens when you make it to the top of that hill and see… the next hill? At what point do you get a sense of satisfaction? Serious question.
Syl said in her post that “The journey is the reward” in games, or at least should be that way, but for me that’s opposite from the truth. Life, real life, is all about the journey. I do that every day. It’s quite rewarding, but also often boring, scary, and difficult in equal measures.
I like games in large part because they are not my real life, and mostly “the journey” is just a period of time when my character is not as powerful and awesome as she could be. I realize this makes me something of a philistine who eschews art and mystery in favor of research, goal-setting, and sweet, sweet victory hats, but hey, whatever makes us happy.
The Extra Life Marathon is over for another year, and it was great fun for a great cause! Myself and Ellyndrial seemed to handily stay up for the full 25 hours, particularly with the support of friends and guildies who kept us company on Mumble, in games, and in Twitch chat. I also gave out a whole bunch of games for Steam and Origin, which is always really fun for both me and the winners.
As for the highlights of the 25 hours of gaming, top of the list has to be Magica. I don’t even own the game, but it was free on Steam for the weekend and so a bunch of us figured we would give it a shot. It’s a little too twitchy for me to play on a permanent basis, but it was still a lot of fun and the action helped keep me awake.
If nothing else Magica has friendly fire and some amazing ways to “accidentally” explode your team mates, something which I always enjoy. I described the game later as “Diablo meets Typing of the Dead” which is somewhat accurate: there’s lots of click-to-move and strings of letters representing elements that combine to create complicated spells.
I also dropped $4 on arenas in Hearthstone at like 4am, which while fun was probably not the smartest investment. I am terrible at arenas while wide-awake and fully functional! I did get to play a ridiculously amusing combo of Ragnaros followed by Mind Control on the high value minion my opponent played to counter, but my best arena record remains 2-3. Yes, I really am that bad but I enjoy playing a lot (which is what counts) and I figure practice makes perfect.
Also you know you play too much Hearthstone when…. the Pandaria loading screen in WoW makes you automatically think “Mogu’shan Warden, 1/7, substandard taunt card.”.
Anyway, thanks to everyone who donated and who participated during the marathon in Twitch or Twitter. Overall the Extra Life folks raised over 3.8 million dollars for the Children’s Miracle Network, which is pretty great. I am already in for next year!
Hey, look over to the right. See that Extra Life donation bar? Gooooooooooooooooooal!
Yesterday I hit my fundraising target! Many many thanks to everyone who donated. Between myself and Ellyndrial, reppin’ as Team Totally Legit Publishing, we raised almost $1000 for the Children’s Hospitals of BC and Oakland. It is downright heartwarming.
To celebrate all this philanthropic joy, during Saturday’s 25 hour gaming marathon I have 25 games to give away! They include the following:
- Crysis 2
- Dead Space 3
- Medal of Honor
- Mirror’s Edge
- Command & Conquor: Red Alert 3
- The Sims 3
- Metro 2033
- Saints Row: The Third
- Titan Quest
- Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War
- Assassin’s Creed 3
- Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery
- Dungeon Defenders + all DLC
- Beat Hazard
- Super Hexagon
- Battlefield 3
- Awesomenauts (+ Cluck Costume)
- English Country Tune
- Thomas Was Alone
- Little Inferno
- Dead Space
- Burnout Paradise: Ultimate Box
(Eagle eyes might notice that yes, I do buy extra copies of good Humble Bundles.)
I’m gonna give some games away over Twitter and some in the Twitch chat. I’ll be streaming all 25 hours, and if you have the time do stop by to make sure I’m still awake. The fun starts at 9am PST on Saturday morning.
And thanks, you guys, for being awesome. :)
I will end off this post with an amazing thing sent to me by Jonas of Foxy Gamer. It’s totally my new desktop, picturing Liore, smasher of things and hero to cats:
No matter what you’re up to this weekend, have a good one!
Syl wrote earlier this week about the perils of armchair game designing and I think she’s on the money with her post. We should stop expecting Game A to change to be more like Game B or some totally other game or whatever.
However, I’m going to ignore that clever advice and write about some things I’d like to see changed in or added to Hearthstone. The game is still in beta, and it is great fun even if none of these ideas are ever implemented…. but it would be better if they were.
1. Arena / draft matches between friends
Right now you can challenge a friend to a battle with constructed decks, or card decks that have been prearranged ahead of time by the player, which is fun. You can also try your hand at Arena mode with strangers with a deck that you put together right before the fights from a random selection of cards. I’d love to have a third mode that is a combination of the two: spontaneous draft decks battles between friends. (Bonus points for 2v2 co-op battles involving friends.)
Hearthstone will be free to play, and I would love to organize newbie friendly guild or reader tournaments which means not allowing that amazing deck that you spent $50 to make.
2. Better deck management
When you view a deck that you previously constructed, it looks like this obtuse mess to the right. While technically I can right-click on each card to be reminded of its stats and any special functions, that takes a fair bit of time and still isn’t as good as being able to look at the details of all the cards in my deck at once.
Ideally I’d love to be able to sort my deck into groups like “Taunts” or “Charges”, although that might be getting a little fancy. Anything that lets me get a good overview of my deck at a glance would be appreciated — anything that doesn’t rely on me memorizing every attribute of every card by its name, that is — but barring that just putting every card on the screen and letting me scroll through it would be fine.
3. Story mode
This might be a bit of a stretch but it would be cool if there was a little story mode that involved playing against the NPCs, similar to how Starcraft operates. I know the old paper WoW TCG had a mode for two players to join forces against an NPC “boss”, and it would be neat to have co-op options.
4. Loot cards
One day I will own you, Spectral Tiger.
5. Decent lady armor
Okay look, this is obviously not a gameplay consideration but the armor for Valeera Sanguinar and Jaina Proudmoore is super boobtacular and it bugs me. Look at Valeera there and try to imagine the lines of her neck behind that dagger hilt. Where is her right shoulder located, huh? She’s totally warped in the name of a ridiculous hip flick to show off the.. battle leotard.
When I see a game between a mage deck and a rogue deck I feel like I should be ordering wings from one of them. It’s a card game, you guys. Let at least one lady wear a top.