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Design Impressions: Hearthstone

September 7th, 2016 3 comments

I’ve been playing Hearthstone since the iphone release. It’s obviously an extremely well-crafted game, though it can be baffling or frustrating at times. My favorite experiences have been the Solo Adventures, especially Blackrock Mountain and League of Explorers. But i’ve also played my fair share of Ranked, Arena, and tried virtually every Tavern Brawl to date.

Hearthstone logo     Gameplay
• Luck is a huge deal. There’s no way to win consistently against anyone remotely close in skill level.
• Random turn order, shuffled card draw, and blind opponent class selection ensures occasional/regular losses, amplified by RNG mechanics and limited access to valuable cards.
  ○ This is obviously intentional design, to level the playing field for casual players who take longer to grasp nuances and learn matchups, or don’t bother looking up strats on the internet.
  ○ Everyone wins sometimes, even in late stages of Arena runs.
• High level constructed games are often 75% luck, 20% knowledge, and 5% critical thinking.
  ○ Outplaying opponents is rare, especially in aggro meta. All you can do is play the hand you’re dealt and avoid obvious mistakes.
  ○ It may be dumb gambling at times, but there’s still an adrenaline rush before/during matches, especially in Ranked/Arena modes. I can see how people who’ve never played a real skill-based competitive game can get hooked.
• A more positive spin is that Hearthstone is a game of probabilities, which shift dramatically based on whether you’re winning or losing – and being able to determine whether you’re winning or losing is an expert-level skill.
  ○ Since so much of the game is hidden, winning consistently at high ranks requires strong familiarity with your own deck, your opponent’s class, and the current meta. You’re basically expected to deduce what deck your opponent is playing within the first few turns!

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Categories: Game Design, Impressions, Non-Fighters Tags: