How Hearthstone Makes Digital Cards Feel Good

| 1 Apr 2013 16:00

The goal of Hearthstone is to reduce your opponent's life to zero from a pool of 20 points. You can also generally attack whatever target you like on the board - unlike other CCGs like Magic you don't have to kill the summoned creatures in your way first. "We wanted Hearthstone to make you feel very powerful when you take your turn," Brode said. "You want to be able to do a lot of awesome stuff on your turn and so attacking directly creates a lot of strategy in the order in which you attack and play your spells but also makes you feel very powerful as you always get to attack or do the things that you want to do on your turn."

In practice, that makes cards with the Taunt ability very powerful, in that your opponent must target them before attacking anything else. In the few matches I played, I found myself wishing more of the creatures in the pre-made starter decks had Taunt. Those dang rogues were able to ignore my poor little Murlocs and charge right in to attack me directly. When Hearthstone goes live, I'll be able to craft a deck that suits my playstle. It's free to play and download the game, but you'll purchase packs of 5 random cards for around $1. Of course, in any kind of random system like that, you always get cards you can't use or already own. Blizzard has a solution for that and it's card crafting.

"We definitely wanted players to be able to get the cards they want quickly," Brode said. "You definitely want players to try out really interesting strategies and try cool cards together and the crafting system gets you that." Using the crafting system as described - I only saw it in action during the presentation, it's not available for testing on the show floor - you can disenchant cards into arcane dust, and then use that dust to make whatever card you desire. "We didn't want a way to get cards that was frustrating or had to evolve a trading system, maybe trusting other players because sometimes you end up on the wrong side of a bad trade or things like that. So we definitely wanted to make sure that this process was fair and gave you the card you wanted right away."

Even if you don't want to spend a cent on packs of cards, Hearthstone will let you get the cards you want just by playing the game and winning duels. It may take a lot longer for you to build your collection, but Brode and Chayes wanted to make sure you knew there's no reason why you'll absolutely be able to play for free. "The card pack purchase is really there if you want to expand your collection a little faster, but there's never really a mandatory requirement for you go in and buy packs," Chayes said.

The final thing the developers wanted players at PAX East to take away from Hearthstone was that it's an incredibly hand-crafted experience. "It's a really beautiful game and it's something that we haven't seen, a digital card game with this level of visual detail, this amount of spell effects, the sounds effects, an incredible attention to visual detail," Brode said. "It's really a great way to experience the World of Warcraft in a whole new way. Hearthstone is a lighthearted, charming, warm invitation to experience that world, it feels different than anything you're used to."

The level of charm this game brings to the digital table might even be the thing that allows you to introduce gaming to that curmudgeonly friend of yours. "This game is made to be accessible to everyone so even the hardest core arena player will get some enjoyment out of it," Brode said. "We had someone in here yesterday who's never played a videogame - I don't know why she was at PAX - but she was very excited about Hearthstone."

Blizzard promises the game will come out this year for PC & Macs with an iOS version to follow. Click here to sign up for the beta test that's due this summer.

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