Hearthstone will never be a great game
Posted by Troll Racials are Overpowered [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 May 2014, 6:14 pm
It is, most definitely, a very good game. It might even be the goodest game ever. But great? No. It is not a great game. I do not think it has the potential to be a great game. In fact, as much as I enjoy it, I do not see it sticking around for a particularly long time.

What makes it good?
It's accessible. For the most part, cards make sense. The way they interact makes sense. There is some nuance, but you're never going to get into a two hour discussion of the stack or how casting a spell has (12?) distinct steps. For the most part, if you try to do something, you will succeed, and rarely will you be unsure if you can do it.

It looks nice. Magic: The Gathering online is ugly. The UI is ugly. The cards look ridiculous. In contrast, Hearthstone is vibrant without being flashy. It is easy to see. It is fun to see. It adds a bit of life to the game. Note that my comments about Magic are only about the online version, not the actual physical cards, which are awesome. However, I do not think the offline card game is a direct competitor with Hearthstone. Of course we might wonder whether people will rather spend money on one or the other, but that applies to any entertainment. In terms of time, I think they'd be in different budgets.

What makes it impossible for Hearthstone to be great?

You don't actually play with other players.
Instead, you take turns showing off your decks. I will never react to a player's actions, because I cannot; I am completely pacified until it is my turn, during which my opponent is pacified. I can only deal with the minions that are already on the board, whether mine or my opponents.

"The best defense is a good offense" gets taken to its illogical conclusion. There are no blockers except when the attackers decides to attack that minion. They'd only do that if either A) the minion has taunt and is in the way or B) they want to ensure that the minion cannot attack back at them. Contrast this with Magic where the defender declares who blocks, or not, and is an actual participant in the battle.

The result is that combat is a frantic back and forth, with each playing trying to ensure that minions are not on the board for long. Board clearing effects are common, and yet can seem to accomplish little, given the ease with which a a board can fill up again. And then empty again. It tends make everything unreliable, without really being exciting. "Will he kill all my minions this turn? Or next?"

Play to win.
Given the "take turns showing off" nature of the game, this is a bigger problem for Hearthstone than Magic. The effect may be magnified by the non-physical, no investment nature of it. People have to pay, or worse, befriend nerds, to get their first deck of Magic cards. Since sunk costs aren't something that the human brain readily understands, it becomes easier to put money into the cards. The net result is that I get mad at someone who plays a half-dozen legendaries in a single game, while I have one, that, due to being Harrison Jones, is not all that great (except when I destroyed a shaman's Doomhammer).

Coupled with any sort of pay to win scenario is the care factor. Someone who cares more will pay more, which is likely to increase their interest in the game even further. In addition, someone who cares more will be more willing to deal with the randomness of the packs. If you're only getting a few a week from the dailies, then the luck from those is going to make a substantial difference. If you're buying packs by the dozens, then things will tend to even out and no particular pack's luck or lack thereof will matter. If the game had card trading, then some of the randomness could be smoothed out, allowing lower interest players to still pursue cards they want without needing to burn tons of money on pack RNG or the terribly inefficient crafting system.





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