Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Huge Hearthstone Preview

Hello again, internet!

You may recall, I joined the Hearthstone Beta Club way back on September 5th.

Now (months later), I have the privilege of providing you with my insights into Blizzard's upcoming game. Since Blizzard just announced the start of the Hearthstone open beta, I thought this was a perfect time to share my thoughts.

About The Game

For those of you who haven't heard about Hearthstone, the game is a free-to-play digital strategy card game. Players choose a Warcraft hero and then take turns using cards from a customizable deck, with the goal being to defeat the opposing hero using the spells and creatures at your disposal.

Initial Reaction

Blizzard touts the game as being "Deceptively simple" and "Insanely fun" and I can't disagree with them.

The first thing you'll notice about the game is how bright and vivid it is. The art, though very different stylistically than what most Warcraft fans may be used to, is gorgeous and vibrant.

Once you've had a chance to start the tutorial, you see just how simple the game actually is.

Fans of Magic the Gathering in particular will feel right at home with the game, as it is VERY similar in play-style to a simplified version of MtG.

The Gameplay

Set up as a 1v1 card game between Warcraft heroes, Hearthstone attempts to create a simple-yet-satisfying game… and it succeeds.

Players unlock cards and build customized decks with their selection of unlocked cards, using a Warcraft hero as the base of their deck.

Cards and heroes are unlocked by winning matches.

In addition, cards can be earned by completing daily and weekly quests.

Once you've customized a deck (or if you use one of the pre-crafted decks), you can challenge opponents.

When the match starts, each player is given a hand of cards and the option to swap cards in their hand for cards from their deck. The goal of the match is to reduce the opponent to 0 health.

Looking at the cards below, you can see on my initial draw, I received a Murloc creature, a Wolfrider, and a Fireball spell.
Cards are played using a mana resource that grows every turn. On turn 1, each player will have 1 mana - gaining an additional mana each turn. Additionally, your mana resets each turn, so if you used all of your mana last turn, you get it all back each subsequent turn.

Each turn, you'll also draw an additional card.

In the top-left corner of each card, you can see the mana cost. To cast a creature or a spell, you need enough available mana. In the case of the image below, you can see I have 2 available mana (indicated by the glowing blue mana crystals in the bottom right) and the "Arcane Explosion" spell costs 2 mana.

To cast the spell, I would click and drag it from my hand into the play-area.

In addition to the cards in your hand, each hero has a special ability. In the image below, Hemet Nesingwary has spent 2 mana to use his special ability "Shotgun Blast," which deals 1 damage.

Though the hero can use direct damage in this case, the primary way you'll attack your opponents is with creatures. When you cast a creature, you'll pay it's mana cost to summon it into battle. Creatures summoned into battle will be unable to attack on their first turn.

Creature cards have an attack power (indicated in the bottom left of the card) and a defense power (indicated in the bottom right). In addition, many creatures will have special abilities.  For example, the card below has 3 attack power (meaning it will deal 3 damage), 1 defense power (meaning 1 damage is enough to kill it), and it has charge as an ability (meaning it doesn't suffer from summoning sickness).

Once you have creatures in play, you can engage in glorious battle! One of the biggest differences between Hearthstone and MtG is that the attacking player can choose to attack a creature or the hero. In the image below you can see one creature attacking the hero (though astute observers will note an issue). The creatures that appear to be asleep have summoning sickness.

Another difference between this game and Magic, is that damage taken by a creature is static, and doesn't reset after each turn (think Infect).

In addition to spells and creatures, there are also equipment cards which can be attached to the hero.

The Humor

One of the absolute best things about the game, is the humor they developers have managed to squeeze into such a simple game. For example, in the PvP matches, rather than a typical loading screen, you see a spinning dial.

Take a look art some of the opponents you narrowly missed out on:

Losing is also fairly humorous:


Graphics - 8/10

Personally, I love the style of the game - but knowing Warcraft fans, there's the distinct possibility that the term "childish" may come to mind.

Playability - 9/10

The controls and gameplay are mostly intuitive.

Difficulty - 9/10

This game is easy to pick up, yet reasonably difficult to master. It offers a fun experience for beginners, and a challenge for pros. I'll say that there were matches where I got absolutely slaughtered by more experienced players with polished decks - but there were matches where I pulled off victory with clever tactics - the sign of a good, balanced PvP experience.

Replay Value - 8/10
I found myself getting VERY hooked on this game when I first started playing. Though, my interest has since waned - it's still a nice distraction.

This game is begging for a mobile version.

Overall - 9/10

I look forward to seeing the finished game.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street Leaving Blizzard Entertainment

Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street announced on his Facebook page today that he will be leaving Blizzard Entertainment to pursue a "great opportunity for something new and exciting."

Ghostcrawler was hired by Blizzard Entertainment in February 2008, and was the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Blizzard Announces Release Date for Warcraft Movie

Today Blizzard announced its much anticipated movie based on its massively popular MMO, World of Warcraft, will be released December 18, 2015.

I think I speak for all Blizzard fan-boys when I say "SQUUUUUUEEEEEEEEEEE!!"

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Patch Day at its Finest

Either Oondasta took a tinkle, or this is one of the best/worst graphical bugs I've seen.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pandaria To-Do List

Hello everyone!

A few weeks (months?) ago I created my Pandaria to-do list highlighting everything I wanted to accomplish during the expansion.

For anyone that follows my blog, you know this wasn't my first to-do list...

Mists of Pandaria To-Do List
Cataclysm To-Do List Revisited
Pre-Cataclysm To-Do List

Unfortunately, I've been a ghost recently - playing WoW only once a week to run TK and Onyxia for the mounts. The middle of the expansion hit me like a sack of bricks and I've just been finding it hard to justify playing.

With the last patch of the expansion looming, I wanted to take a look at how I've done...

  • Get my Death Knight to level 90 (currently level 80)
  • Get 100k honorable kills (still 12k away)
  • Get the Justicar title (grr WSG rep)
  • Start doing arenas and stop being a coward about it :(
Roll alts to get the following:

(Not counting unobtainable or ridiculously difficult to obtain pets)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Part of an Exclusive Club Called "Anybody"

Hey all,

I received my invitation to the HearthStone closed beta today. I look forward to posting some updates and screenshots from the game over the next few weeks!

Learn more about HearthStone here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

5.4 Hunter Mount Datamined?

Courtesy of the MMO-Champion forums. I thought this was hilarious so I had to share it!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

5.4: Siege of Orgrimmar Trailer Released

Say what you want about the state of Warcraft these days, those guys know how to hype a patch. Check out the awesome trailer for patch 5.4.

Monday, July 22, 2013

San Diego Comic Con: Warcraft Movie Teaser Trailer

First Warcraft teaser trailer debuted at San Diego Comic Con

Nerds and geeks lucky enough to get tickets to San Diego Comic Con (when I tried to get tickets the website crashed grrrr) were given the first glimpse of the long-awaited Warcraft movie when a surprise teaser trailer was shown during the Legendary Films/Warner Bros. panel.

News sites are describing the trailer as featuring a Human warrior standing in an desert world with a glowing green sky and dark, ominous clouds. The warrior picks up an Alliance shield off of a skeleton and is then besieged by an Orc. As the Orc approaches, swinging his mace towards the Human, the trailer cuts to the logo.

As of now, no footage of the teaser trailer has been located online (believe me, I've looked). MMO-Champion is also reporting that there are currently no plans to officially release the video.

Looks like the rest of us will need to cross our fingers for a grainy cell-phone video to surface on the interwebs.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

XBONE 180's on DRM Policies

For everyone out there that was as outraged as I was about the announced DRM features of the new Xbox One - it looks like Microsoft has heard our whining loud and clear:

Since unveiling our plans for Xbox One, my team and I have heard directly from many of you, read your comments and listened to your feedback. I would like to take the opportunity today to thank you for your assistance in helping us to reshape the future of Xbox One. 

You told us how much you loved the flexibility you have today with games delivered on disc. The ability to lend, share, and resell these games at your discretion is of incredible importance to you. Also important to you is the freedom to play offline, for any length of time, anywhere in the world.

So, today I am announcing the following changes to Xbox One and how you can play, share, lend, and resell your games exactly as you do today on Xbox 360. Here is what that means:

  • An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.
  • Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.

For the full update, click here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

PAX East Reflections

Hello all!

I'm officially back from Boston and I want to share with everyone my PAX East reflections. This one will be a long post, so grab a glass of water and get comfortable.

For anyone interested in reading about my PAX Prime adventure from 2 years ago, click this link.

- The Drive -

Our trip started with a 6 hour drive up to Boston. As much as it sucks to sit in a car for 6 hours, the drive actually wasn't that bad. Good conversations, "good" music, and good traffic made the drive a breeze.


The drive from our hotel to the convention was also very smooth, with only one near-fatal accident (which is good considering how much extra traffic there was in a town already infamous for it's difficult to navigate roads).

Once we made the short drive to the convention center, we were worried about finding a place to park. PAX had us covered with a very large and inviting parking lot behind the convention center. Good guy PAX even provided a shuttle from the parking lot to the side of the building.

Overall, I think Boston did a great job hosting the convention. Cheers to Boston!

 - The Convention -

PAX never fails to deliver on showmanship. Great displays, clever marketing, hilarious costumes, and great giveaways.

Check out the pictures below to see some of the awesome displays that were set up around the venue.

- The Crowds -
To call the convention "packed" would be an understatement. The sheer volume of the swarm of geeks, nerds, and enthusiasts would put the Zerg to shame.

So many sweaty people.
The tabletop gaming area was a seething mass of people and their 20-sided dice.

Saving throws for virginity were abound.
By contrast, about 20 yards away from the tabletop area, the LAN area for PC gamers was about as docile as a sleeping kitten.

If things get any more lively a funeral might break out.
  - The Demos -

Arguably one of the best parts of the convention is the chance to play up-and-coming games, new games, and games that are still in development. I had a chance to play a handful of such games - though, admittedly, I intentionally avoided a few that didn't seem worthwhile (sorry Blizzard, Hearthstone would have put me to sleep).

One of the first games I had the chance to demo was the free-to-play, online, multiplayer, mech-based first-person shooter, Hawken. Hawken puts you in the seat of a giant mech robot and gives you a green-light to unleash hell. 

I. Want. That. Mech.
The graphics were decent and the feeling of destroying other mechs in the deathmatch style demo was very fun - although, the controls were a bit wonky which made things like turning feel really cumbersome (yes, I realize it's a giant robot... but the robots can fly, so I have to assume a flying robot would have a better turning radius than a boat).

Considering the game is F2P, I would totally be willing to give it a few spins on the hard drive.

Diablo 3 for PS3:

I already have Diablo 3 for my computer, and I barely play it because it feels so underwhelming. The demo for D3 on PS3 at the convention gave me a chance to see how the console version of the game compares to the desktop version.

The first thing I noticed is that the trimmed down games reminded me a LOT of the dungeon and dragon games, like Daggerdale. If you had told me it was D&D I wouldn't have second guessed you...

This is D&D... or is it Diablo?
Overall, the game underwhelmed me on the PS3 just like on the PC. The convenience of playing in bed (and not having to click a million times) might appeal to some people, but I'd just as soon avoid spending more money on a game that doesn't deliver, regardless of platform.

My picture is almost as underwhelming as the game.

The Elder Scrolls Online:

OK... so, I didn't actually play this demo... the line was way too long... I hate lines... so sue me...

I'm adding the game to my demo list anyway because 1) I love the Elder Scrolls series, 2) The game looked amazing based on what I saw at the convention, and 3) because this is my blog and I can do what I want.

I wish I could capture the awesomeness of the cinematic.
 I'm pretty sure the Elder Scrolls cinematic video put me in a joy-coma for about 5-minutes.

DUST 514:

This game may have a lame name, but the concept for this F2P first-person shooter is anything but lame. Game developer CCP Games has created a PS3 first-person shooter that is directly linked to its popular online MMO, Eve Online.

Not Halo

There is direct interaction between the two games; player actions in one game affect the political and economic status of the other. Personally, this feels like a groundbreaking concept and I can't remember any other game trying something so bold.

The actually gameplay was pretty generic, but when it comes to concept, CCP hit the ball out of the park (and out of the solar system, in my opinion).

I'm very excited to see how this game evolves and influences game development everywhere.

- The Swag -

As usual, PAX delivered with great swag. I walked away with a ton of shirts and other small items. I didn't take many swag pictures this year, so if you're craving freebies, check out the link at the top of the post.

- The Rest -

I had probably the worst pizza of my life at the convention, and I think it cost me close to $8. Here is a picture of bad pizza. Let us all publicly shame this pizza for being terrible.

You were awful. Just awful.
The Marvel booth had previews of the upcoming MMO set in the Marvel universe. The game looked pretty decent and I would have given it a chance if I had not been completely trolled by a female Deadpool...

I asked Ms. Deadpool for a photo, and she agreed. Realizing my poor choice of words, I added "...A picture with me!" (Yeah, I'm a loser).

"Well, that's going to cost you."

Being the smooth operator I am, I handed her a semi-edible foam ice cream cone I had gotten from some other booth about zombies and ice cream. Female Deadpool then proceeded to break my ice cream in half. :(

She spent the next 5 minutes writhing on the floor, apologizing, sobbing, and generally causing a scene. I spent the same 5 minutes begging her to stand up, so that everyone would stop wondering why she was crawling around my feet.

Basically, she is the greatest Deadpool cosplayer ever. I tip my hat to her for trolling me like a boss.

Troll level: Maximum

In conclusion, thank you to my friends for joining me, PAX for existing, Boston for hosting, and a special thanks to Lady Deadpool for being the highlight of the trip.