At BlizzCon we got a good solid dose of Hearthstone. There were panels, interviews, and a thrown together tournament among the shoutcasters. Even though the game remains in closed beta it still has a strong popularity among Blizzard and Warcraft fans. We watched the panel, spoke to Game Designer Ben Brode, and gathered a bunch of information from the fans and players to give you this overview. If you are a hardcore player of the game or just a casual fan make no mistake when open beta hits in December there will be a lot more opponents for you to test your skills against.
The breakdown from BlizzCon was pretty straight forward in terms of changes. Certain cards are being balanced out. The biggest one was Mind Control which can be found in the Priest deck. Mind Control allows you to take control of an enemy minion. It costs 8 mana currently. The main issue with this card is that once an opponent summons a “heavy hitter” minion, usually summoned in the later rounds, the Priest can take control of it. A smart player who can save The Coin card can do it on Turn 7. Once you get ahold of it your opponent is in trouble. Making this card a 10 mana cost is a very fair nerf for the game. Anyone who has played against Priests will agree wholeheartedly.
The next two card changes are to Hunter cards. Two of which are extremely good and cheap in the Hunter deck. The Starving Buzzard will go down to 1 hit point from 2. This may not seem like much, but Starving Buzzards are brutal in beast decks and allow you to draw a lot of cards early on. Giving them 1 hit point makes them much easier to kill. This will force Hunters to play them with a buff and cut down on the number of beasts you can play, hence drawing more cards. The other card which most people expected a change to is Unleash the Hounds. A favorite attack style for Hunters, Hound decks will change, however Ben made it clear that they have not announced the “change” yet. He said, “No one said it was going to be a nerf, just a change.” Regardless of what they do, Unleash the Hounds is known for being extremely deadly and can kill opponents in 1 turn if the Hunter gets a good hand. Most likely we will see a more balanced version of the card coming.
One of the big things the Hearthstone team talked about is the metrics behind the game. The system they designed literally tracks ever game you play. They can keep an eye on wins, losses, percentages, etc. The reason some of the changes are coming to Hunters is because they have proven to win 10% more of their games against other classes. Once they see these metrics grow they can then go in and make adjustments where needed. It is a huge asset to the developers and they assured everyone that they do not make changes lightly. Everything is backed up by heavy amounts of data.
The largest danger to anyone’s work day or social life is the announcement that mobile versions for the game are coming. There was an IPad playable version at the show. Blizzard also said that an Android version is coming and a version for most smartphones. This is pretty much the end of productivity as we know it.
Right now there is a ranking system in beta which allows players to get up to Master Level. However this will change in the future as the game will move over to a monthly rank system. There will be 25 ranks for players to get through and each month it will reset. After Rank 1 you will reach Legendary. The more wins you acquire the more stars you will get to rank up. This system will really help the game, we think. Even though top players will move through the ranks quickly, the reset brings everyone back to the beginning. You will level the playing field again and give new players the chance to fight to the top. We really liked the changes to the ranks and think it will do a lot for the health of the game over the long run.
Obviously new cards, expansions, and animations are all on the horizon. The one area which really sounded like fun was the Adventures. In some ways it gives the devs a vehicle to test new ideas without launching a full blown expansion. The fear we have with expansions is that eventually players will burn out on the number of cards needed and collecting them all to win. Even though Magic the Gathering still remains immensely popular, sometimes you will lose players with the more cards you put out. Hopefully Blizzard keeps expansions a good size so players do not end up quitting the arms race.
Hearthstone continues to be fun for anyone in closed beta. With open beta next month the whole system will change drastically as more players jump into the pool. If you have not tried it, one of the biggest appealing factors is that you can play quickly and walk away. It is not an hourly commitment like World of Warcraft. Blizzard should have a success with this one, but time will tell.
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