Blizzard Unleashes Fancy, Free to Play Collectible Card Game

| 22 Mar 2013 16:04

A small team of dedicated developers brings fun-to-watch animations and simple to learn gameplay to a strategy CCG.

The Blizzard behemoth typically makes huge and expansive PC games like World of Warcraft and last year's Diablo III, but Creative Director Rob Pardo decided it was possible to score big with something smaller. At PAX East this morning, Pardo introduced the gaming world to Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. It plays like a collectible card game similar to Magic the Gathering, but it runs on your PC or Mac - and soon after the iPad. Based on the many introductory videos showing actual gameplay during the presentation, it definitely is a lot more fun to watch than a pedestrian card game. Blizzard promised a playable beta test this summer, and a release for Hearthstone in 2013.

To build the game, Pardo assembled a lean 15-man team of developers - a stark contrast to the bloated staffs of WoW (135) and even the first Starcraft (30). Imaginatively called "Team 5" at Blizzard, these guys are working on Hearthstone with a few tenets in mind. First, the team is "scrappy and versatile", consisting of developers that were well-rounded and able to be an expert in art, animation, programming, writing and, oh yeah, game design. Second, Hearthstone follows Blizzard's "easy to learn, hard to master" philosophy that will get people playing immediately, but allows for deep strategic decisions too. Finally, Pardo really wanted it to be fun and dynamic to watch, and Hearthstone is full of spell effects, animations and WoW's trademark voice talent.

Hearthstone lets you choose one of 9 classes from World of Warcraft, such as warlock or rogue, and build a deck of abilities and summonable creatures you'd recognize from Azeroth. Gameplay focuses on 1 vs 1 duels, and players take turns using mana to cast spells and deal damage to your opponent or his creatures. Mana ramps up per turn automatically - no lands to deal with - but there are abilities which can increase your ramp. Another gameplay aspect to note is that damage is permanent over turns, so healing units to keep them alive becomes very important.

You build your deck from opening packs, and Rob Pardo said it was very important to keep the experience of cracking that pack of five cards as satisfying as it is for Magic players. The video Pardo showed displayed each card hovering, and you're able to pick the one that's turned over first. One neat touch is a glow effect showing around rare or legendary cards. There's currently 300 cards in the game, and you'll recognize fan favorite summonable characters like Ragnaros the Firelord and Hogger, who spawns a 2/2 gnoll every turn.

Hearthstone is free to play, and you can buy decks of cards. The current price is about $1 per 5 card pack, but that's not set in stone. If you get a run of bad luck in the cards you don't want, you will be able to disenchant cards in your collection, converting them to arcane dust, and then craft new cards. Pardo showed this process in action, and crafted Deathwing, a 12/12 creature that's "one of the most powerful cards in the game."

Rob Pardo said not only does this game change Blizzard's focus on bigger titles, but it is a departure for them in other ways. "Hearthstone is big experiment for us to announce and release a game on the same year," he quipped. The plan is for a beta to launch this summer, and a release by the end of 2013 on PC and Mac. The iPad version is playable now, but it will drop a bit after the initial release.

I may be skeptical about the timeline. Blizzard has burned me far too often using the word "soon" but Pardo acknowledged the company's track record. Still, as a turn-based strategy fan, I'm pretty psyched to see one of the most successful PC development companies devote resources to this kind of game. Hearthstone is playable on the PAX East expo floor, so I'll hopefully get my hands on the game and let you know what works.

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maximalist566:
HotS that was incredibly easy to beat

Really? Cause I just started it on Brutal while also doing the Mastery achievements on the side, and it's kicking my ass, and I used to be 1v1 Diamond. I guess you don't know how to use the game's options to scale its challenge to suit you.

synobal:
I'm confused, how is it a free to play card game if you have to buy the cards to play with?

Ima guess like most online CCGs you get one starter deck free. So it's "free to play" in that if you wanna play with that deck you can free but if you want more cards you gotta pay.

like most CCGs I'd probably play them if there was an option to get all the cards for 50-60$ (non-tradeable versions of course).

This is about as free to play as physical Trading Card Games...

i.e: Not very.

I'm interested.

Greg Tito:
Blizzard promised a playable beta test this summer, and a release for Hearthstone in 2013.

Which means we'll have the beta next Spring, and a release sometime in 2015.

maximalist566:

WashAran:

maximalist566:
Blizzard is moving from the white list of companies with no mistakes to the black list of EA and Activision followers with frightening speed.

Explain?

Blizzard was a company that takes its time to make a game of such quality that nobody could match it. WCIII, SC2:WoL and D2 are the examples. Then we got D3, which was not that good, then HotS that was incredibly easy to beat and had the most boring campaign of all Blizzard games so far. And now F2P TCG in the world of Warcraft. It even may be good, but I just don't see the reason for it to exist.

I think you're reaching a little hard to have a reason to slam Blizzard to the point where you use an argument that could be extended to every video game. After-all, plenty of games may be good, but reason have they to exist?

Edit: Also, "easy" is subjective. You can claim that the campaign was "boring" all you want (I'd disagree), but you can't really complain that something is "too easy" without some sort of baseline. "Too easy" for whom, exactly? Gold/Diamond-level players? Every campaign would be too easy for them (even on Brutal). "Too easy" on Normal mode? You do realize that there are higher difficulties, right? I mean really, go ahead and feel that the campaign was boring; but for whom, and on what difficulty, is the campaign "too easy"?

This is a new team and a new experiment I feel no discord with this. Let it be and maybe i'll dabble. I see this as a healthy exploration of new markets by a compony that needs to keep making a lot of money to justify its exsistance, you can moan about the free to play thing but to be honest most people moan about wow not being free to play.

I'm confused, how is it a free to play card game if you have to buy the cards to play with?

Falterfire:
Well, I can't say I'm optimistic about how good it will be, but I'll probably give it a try anyways. Hopefully it'll eb worth spending money on.

The big question is whether or not it will be possible to acquire more cards for free. Because that's honestly the make or break on such things: It doesn't have to be easy or quick, but allowing players to earn more cards for free is probably going to end up being the deciding factor for me.

The reasoning is simple: If you're stuck with the starter cards until you pony up cash, 95% of players will have the exact same boring decks which will make multiplayer boring as hell and make it effectively two separate games: The free one and the real one.

I believe in the trailer/video on mmo, it's said "You can either buy cards or earn them through duels".

So I guess it's going to be one of those games where you can either grind to earn your cards over time, or just frontload the cash for them. It'll probably be down to what exact cards you can get with grinding, or buying that will make or break this. Going to be a line fine for that. What I am interested in is whether you can trade cards with a friend or not (you know, the whole 'trading card' game part of a TCG).

However, details aside. It's a nice step back...graphics look fun and interesting and rather lighthearted. I'll definitely give this a go just to see...and I'm not even a TCG fan! D:

Well, I can't say I'm optimistic about how good it will be, but I'll probably give it a try anyways. Hopefully it'll eb worth spending money on.

The big question is whether or not it will be possible to acquire more cards for free. Because that's honestly the make or break on such things: It doesn't have to be easy or quick, but allowing players to earn more cards for free is probably going to end up being the deciding factor for me.

The reasoning is simple: If you're stuck with the starter cards until you pony up cash, 95% of players will have the exact same boring decks which will make multiplayer boring as hell and make it effectively two separate games: The free one and the real one.

I'm incredibly underwhelmed by this. If it actually had been the Cryptozoic WoW TCG, that would be one thing, but this looks a lot less involved. Sort of reminds me what EQ2 did with Legends of Norrath, their in-game TCG. Since it's free, I'm sure I'll give it a try when it lands, but I can't see spending any money on it.

Huh? I thought Blizzard would wait for Blizzcon to reveal this. Though the game would probably be released by then. I probably wont be too interested in spending money on this, but I might check it out once it's released.

maximalist566:

Vedrenne:

maximalist566:
Blizzard is moving from the white list of companies with no mistakes to the black list of EA and Activision followers with frightening speed.

Guessing you are not a fan of FTP/Freemium games? :P

I'm okay with F2P as far as it is cosmetics-only, like LoL or Dota 2. And it is not the F2P model that saddens me. I just feel that it is the waste of time and resources, which could be used on LotV, Titan, WC 4, whatever.

I agree with you, to an extent, but it should be noted that this was a side game made by a small portion of the Blizzard staff and that doesn't mean that they have ignored Titan or LotV (WC4 will not be coming out until WoW is finished, imo.). I trust in Blizz enough to believe that LotV and/or Titan are being worked on zealously, but it would be pure foolishness to think that they would do any sort of reveal of these at PAX, seeing as they have their own convention to showcase stuff on.

I've always didn't mind online TCG pay models(With the exception of charging for tournaments without getting new cards.) It sorta emulates the Pay for a deck or booster pack.

My only concern is that they didn't use the Warcraft TCG they already have as a basis for the game. The TCG is not the best card game out there, but it was still a fun game.

Vedrenne:

maximalist566:
Blizzard is moving from the white list of companies with no mistakes to the black list of EA and Activision followers with frightening speed.

Guessing you are not a fan of FTP/Freemium games? :P

I'm okay with F2P as far as it is cosmetics-only, like LoL or Dota 2. And it is not the F2P model that saddens me. I just feel that it is the waste of time and resources, which could be used on LotV, Titan, WC 4, whatever.

So it's just a digital/F2P version of the WoW card game that's been around for ages now?

WashAran:

maximalist566:
Blizzard is moving from the white list of companies with no mistakes to the black list of EA and Activision followers with frightening speed.

Explain?

Blizzard was a company that takes its time to make a game of such quality that nobody could match it. WCIII, SC2:WoL and D2 are the examples. Then we got D3, which was not that good, then HotS that was incredibly easy to beat and had the most boring campaign of all Blizzard games so far. And now F2P TCG in the world of Warcraft. It even may be good, but I just don't see the reason for it to exist.

maximalist566:
Blizzard is moving from the white list of companies with no mistakes to the black list of EA and Activision followers with frightening speed.

I'd hold off on that conclusion until the game is actually released. There is such a thing as a good Free to Play model.

maximalist566:
Blizzard is moving from the white list of companies with no mistakes to the black list of EA and Activision followers with frightening speed.

Guessing you are not a fan of FTP/Freemium games? :P

maximalist566:
Blizzard is moving from the white list of companies with no mistakes to the black list of EA and Activision followers with frightening speed.

Explain?

 Pages: 12Next Page >>
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