The last of my 2015 overview posts, this has undoubtedly been my biggest obsession. Being a Blizzard game, Hearthstone is what inspired me to do the series of posts for the Diablo franchise a couple months back. Hearthstone lines up perfectly with Blizzard’s record of stellar games, and the quality of Hearthstone is unbelievable.
For those unaware, Hearthstone is a Collectable Card Game (CCG) developed by a small team at Blizzard. With huge titles like Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, and World of Warcraft, Blizzard naturally needs large teams to develop and maintain the games. For Hearthstone, Blizzard took a different approach, and sent a small team of fifteen people to start developing the game. The team was named Team 5, but grew as the development continued.
I had played some Magic: The Gathering over the years and loved the rush of unpacking new cards and building decks. My interest in Magic waned after a while as it became harder and harder to organize games. When we did meet, there was an obvious skill gap as I tended to play more casual and preferred to make wacky decks. Also with the rush of buying cards always came the realization that I was spending too much on little boosters. Years later when I did download Hearthstone, both of these problems were solved.
First, Hearthstone is free. This obviously saves me money, as I am not required to spend a single cent to earn packs. Of course, people see this as very suspect, especially as game companies consistently abuse the micro-transaction systems nowadays. Blizzard takes a very different approach to this. I will say now that I haven’t put a dollar into Hearthstone, and I’ve never felt like the game was unfair to me because of it. Buying packs does give you an edge, but generally that edge is reserved for the very high ranked players looking to stay competitive. For casual and even semi-competitive players like myself, Hearthstone is very forgiving.
A big part of the fairness is due to the crafting system. Instead of allowing players to trade cards and create a black market, Blizzard locks all of your cards to your account. If you ever get duplicates or want a specific card, you can destroy your own cards and use them to craft any card in the game. For thrifty patient players, this means that you can save up winnings and craft cards that you really want. For those willing to buy packs, this means that you can buy a ton of packs hoping to get that card you wanted without feeling like you wasted a bunch of money if you didn’t chance upon it.
Another thing to note is that Blizzard has balanced the game superbly and has avoided a great deal of power creep. With five releases of new cards since Hearthstone went live, one would assume that the cards have gotten more and more powerful, almost requiring that players buy packs to stay competitive. This isn’t really the case with Hearthstone. All players start with a standard set of cards, and many of these cards are still very viable and make up a great deal of decks being played by high end competitors in the game.
Lastly, because Hearthstone is free and fair to new players, there is actually a huge player base. With such a strong community, it’s much easier to find a player that matches closer to your own skill level. Whether playing on casual mode or on the ranked ladder, new players can learn and get better while being matched accordingly. Another game mode Arena, also removes the advantage of one player having more cards than another by giving all players a chance to create a deck with randomly generated options.
I can not express to you how much fun I’ve gotten out of Hearthstone this past year. Instead of watching television or movies, I would opt for videos of Hearthstone players. The sounds of the game have become comforting to me, and I look forward to finishing off my Hearthstone quests every day to get a bit more gold towards my next goal. With all of the hours of entertainment, it’s pretty impressive that I’ve gotten so much without having to spend a slim dime.