Pam wonders what people’s experience is of the F2P models of Blizzard’s games, the CCG Hearthstone and the MOBA Heroes of the Storm. Today I give my thoughts on Hearthstone.
I have to start by mentioning that I come to Hearthstone as a veteran Magic: the Gathering player. Magic is about as far from F2P as you can get, without just being that guy who borrows cards/decks from friends. It’s a serious, and neverending, financial investment – one that you can make a profit on if you are savvy, but you still need to spend money to make money out of it. My impressions of HS are always going to be affected by that background.
As a F2P game, HS is quite generous. You get enough free cards at the beginning to make reasonable decks that, as I know from experience (being on the receiving end), can take on the decks that are showing up in Legendary Rank play. With a bit of luck, of course. You get enough gold from dailies and early milestones to be able to buy packs at a regular pace, so the sense of progress is always there, even if you don’t get the cards you need.
The card crafting system, along with the 2-copy limit (1 for legendaries) means that you will never have to rely on RNGeesus in order to build the deck(s) that you want to play. Unlike Magic, where you can open hundreds of packs and still not get the rares/mythics you need, you are guaranteed to have access to your favourite cards after a certain limit. In Magic, you can trade for the cards you want with other players – something not possible in HS – but you need to spend a good deal of money first, in order to gain the cards to trade with. In HS, on the other hand, there is no trading, and thus your sacrifices are time and unwanted cards – but all of this is free.
Then we come to Arena. You only need about 3-4 wins in an Arena run to break even, since you gain a pack regardless of your results, that many wins usually nets you about 50 gold to cover the entry fee. If you put in some time to practice Arena, and start having some success with it, you can end up being able to acquire packs every day or two instead of every 3 days (if you just relied on dailies to buy a pack directly). I like this system because it teaches you to become a better player, lets you try out cards that you don’t have in your collection yet, and doesn’t require an impossibly high standard of skill to break even.
Pam mentioned that a huge barrier to her was the expanded card pool she returned to when she took a break from HS. Not only the adventure packs, but the expansion, which effectively doubled the number of cards available. I can see how this could be overwhelming, but the key to understanding CCGs, and HS in particular, is that you don’t need – or even want – every card. I really only have 2 or 3 “serious” decks that I play ranked with, and I sacrifice cards that could be used in other decks in order to obtain the cards I need for the decks I want to focus on. Even so, I am still missing several epics, and many legendaries, that many players – pro players – would declare to be essential: Doctor Doom, Alexstraza, Sylvanas, Leeroy Jenkins, Grom Hellscream. I am still missing a second Unstable Portal! But because Mage is not one of my “serious” decks at the moment, I don’t mind not having both copies.
I do agree with Pam that it is extremely disappointing that the adventure packs (Naxxramas and Blackrock Mountain) have not been discounted – more Naxx than BRM though. I think they would generate a lot more RMT sales for those if they gradually lowered the prices, capping out at half price after about 6 months or so. It would make it much easier for new or returning players to catch up (many of the cards in these adventures are invaluable in so many decks) and Blizz are releasing new adventures regularly, so the more of them there are, the more likely a player like Pam will look at the price barrier and declare an emphatic “NOPE”.
I do note that Blizzard is attempting to sell cosmetics as well in HS, in the form of new Hero portraits and voicework. The idea is welcome, except…they are being far too greedy. USD$13 for a portrait? No. Just, no. ESPECIALLY when literally everything else in the game is purchasable with free currency. Of all the hundreds of players I’ve encountered since their introduction, I’ve seen less than half a dozen people who have bought the Medivh portrait, and none who bought the other (Magni?) one.
Oh, I almost forgot Tavern Brawl. This was a godsend for the casual players. You can have fun with odd rulesets, you get to count TB games towards dailies, and you get a free pack each week from it. I haven’t seen any downside to it so far.
So, basically, I don’t think HS is gated in any significant way, even for new or returning players. If you are just playing for fun, then Tavern Brawl can help you do dailies (i.e. earn gold) without having to wade into constructed. Similarly for Arena. If you want to be more competitive, then there are net decks you can look up which are easy to get – some pro’s have made a point of constructing decks without legendaries, for example, and taken them to the top ranks. Or, you can choose a deck you want to play exclusively, and ruthlessly disenchant your other cards in order to craft the ones you need for that deck. It restricts your playable options, but it makes you competitive.
Really, the only complaint I have with the system is that you can’t choose which set your cards come from with Arena or TB packs. Blizz are changing Arena to make the pack random (out of the three sets) once the new expansion goes live, but I would rather just choose which set I want cards from.
Bomfunk MC – Freestyler