Friday, 15 July 2016

Hearthstone and HotS

The pre-patch is loaded and it can't come soon enough. It is hard to believe that it has been nearly 9 months since we first killed heroic archimonde. We've been finding things to do to pass the time but I think we'd all rather have moved on at this point.

It's also been 2 months since my last post, roughly around which time I burnt out on doing battlegrounds. I rejoined the alt raids just for some variety, so I now have the legendary ring on 2 alts. Otherwise I've been playing other games, including Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, both of which I was drawn into because of WoW rewards - the Hearthsteed mount and the Graves pet - but will probably keep playing to some extent. A success for cross promotion - at least for free to play games. More on those later.

I've now got 9 characters at max level, another handful 80+, and a preorder boost to spare. But that is barely even noteworthy nowadays. In fact, observing other people that have stuck it out, it seems a full complement of alts is closer to the norm now. Even my GM who has an alt allergy has now got a max level alt and another on the way.

After recently getting the Grey Riding Camel from Uldum, I turned my attention to the seahorse mount from Vash'jir. There I found, among others, a resident multiboxer was camping every spawn point, and subsequently listing the mount on the AH for near gold cap. So I resigned that hunt pretty much immediately - I'm unlikely to "out-camp" them, and I'm not going to drop that much gold on a mount that I can't even use due to its zone limitation. But I looked the multiboxer up and found he has (at least) 50 level 100 characters!

Obviously not everyone is at this level, and hopefully Legion will bring an injection of new and returning players, but it does seem the bar has been raised amongst the players who have remained through this content lull. This is demonstrated through major gold inflation, which in turn is necessitating massive new gold sinks (ahem spider mount) and a raising of the gold cap. As an example, I'd seen TCG mounts under 100k a year ago that are now averaging well above 600k listing price. Hopefully the expansion reset and the removal of the garrison gold factories will see a shift back towards the norm.

Onto Hearthstone, it really presents well; it looks good and feels fun, but it doesn't take long to feel like you've hit a massive grind wall. The expectation for a new player appears to be that you either spend money to catch up, or spend a couple of months losing a lot before you can build the decks that will help you progress. Rewards come slowly when you aren't winning much, and cards received are randomly spread when you may want to focus on one class. Enchanting is glacially slow when you aren't receiving duplicates so that isn't much of an option either. Anddd dailies are often targeted at a particular class, which doesn't help if you haven't levelled them and unlocked the basics.

You can easily google a basic deck but they will generally only beat other basic decks. My experience seems to be, whether I play a standard deck or a C'thun deck (the free legendary card from the latest set, The Old Gods) I can keep up until the opponent plays a strong rare or legendary - and they usually do. For example, I had a chance to go up to rank 18 today on a win streak, and I appeared to be winning soundly against a paladin, until he played deathwing, and I lost from 30hp in 3 turns. I've been instantly spending all my earned gold on card packs in the hope of attaining one to complement my primary class decks, but so far I have had nothing at all. But I'm not going to buy into it, because I am generally averse to dropping money on free to play games, as I'm not a fan of the model, especially when they are not cosmetic purchases.

When they play a weak C'thun against a Gurubashi Berserker

It's not so much pay to win, as it is pay to start winning more often, much sooner. I understand that is how trading card games work - as do things like sports cards and pogs (I never got into them either) - the more you buy, you more complete your set is and the more extras you have to trade (or disenchant) to complete it. It feels different when it is attached to a free to play game, with digital representations of cards that will only depreciate in value as they are retired or when you stop playing. Physical collections at least have some chance of retaining or growing in value. Then again, digital cards can't get damaged...

It comes down to what value I would get out of the purchase. And the big problem is, I don't know. The only guarantee that you are going to get things of value to you are to keep spending. There are rare guarantees, bad luck rolls, and the enchanting system so you can't go indefinitely without a good quality card, but the whole system is just prompting you to buy more. It is easier to make one small purchase than one big one (the bait), but it is also easy to make many small purchases summing more than one big one. There is obviously a ceiling where it would no longer be beneficial to continue purchasing, as each additional pack has less value the more cards you collect. You could also 'get by' at a certain price point by making up the difference through earned in-game currency. But what are these price points? Is it approximately the same as any other retail game? Or is it $6-700? You find out by committing.

What would buying $30 worth of cards get me? Would it save me 2 weeks worth of effort and time grinding losses to reach my natural level of competitiveness? Would I enjoy the game more as a result, or simply bore of it quicker, rendering that money spent inert? Is it purely about winning - am I buying wins? If I look at it that way, it is not something I value and therefore loses worth.

All of this is really hard to quantify and basically gambling in my eyes - I don't know what I'm buying, and I can't determine the relative worth, so I choose not to participate.

Apart from that, I recognise the positives in free to play, in that it lets people try before they buy, and people who otherwise wouldn't play it, may. I also recognise that the developers need to make money. I just think the game might feel less predatory if there was something like a cap on the amount of card packs you could buy (eg set at a full retail price). The Hero DLC - now that's the type of DLC I can support, purely cosmetic. I personally think it is terrible value for money ($13 au), they should be priced a lot lower relative to the effort required to make those assets versus the base game, but as it is cosmetic I don't care at all, I simply won't buy them. It does no harm to me that they exist or if other people purchase them. Moar!

After talking to some people and reading advice it appears the way forward is to pick one relatively cheap (in dust cost) but competitive deck from google that doesn't use legendaries, craft those cards and stick with it. This usually involves disenchanting cards from classes you aren't playing to pay for it - but I like collecting them, dust is a 4:1 proposition, and I have relatively few cards as it is, so I'm not sure I'll take that option.

I have also considered buying the solo adventures. Those have a fixed price, but much like most DLC, I don't think they are good value for money, and cards from these adventures will likely get retired from standard mode at some point. We'll see.

Moving on to Heroes of the Storm. I have only briefly played other MOBAs (LoL and DotA) and they aren't really my thing. I think I enjoy HotS more just because of familiarity with the universe and many of the characters. Trying to get into LoL is completely overwhelming, HotS... not so much. I appreciate that there is a bit more variety in maps, and most of the characters I have tried have been enjoyable. One thing I have noted is that the result of the match is usually evident by the time you are half way through it, at least in random unranked matches. The lanes seem to matter far less than what I recall from other games, everyone seems to largely ignore creep and focus on hero kills as that allows you to better control the map objective (eg doubloons, seeds, tributes) to win that way. Here's the difference from Hearthstone, the payment model is great, with the rotating free character pool, and the in game currency earning rate seems balanced. All up it is "good", it's just not very exciting, and the premise is kinda dorky, kinda like those discussions kids have about whose favourite superhero is stronger. Looks like something for the odd casual game with friends, but I'm not eager to play competitively or level all the heroes by myself.

Finally, back to WoW. Finished 100 arena wins on my hunter for the season reward, then did a handful on my shaman, as LSD, immediately surpassing the best arena rating I'd ever achieved on my hunter, which was satisfying. I also got the Pureblood Fire Hawk off of Ragnaros, and reached 250 mounts.

There's still things to finish off in WoD:
  • Heirloom trinkets from mythic dungeons - 3 down, 2 to go. These are high priority as they are being removed, might have to pull out the alts over the next 2 weeks.
  • 1 more garrison boss to kill - groups for these are uber-rare as it is. I'm using an addon to alert whenever they come up but only had 1 bite in over a month.
  • 2 elusive pets and 1 mount from Tanaan.
  • Another 150-200 pet battles in Draenor for the monument.
  • Collect the music rolls for the garrison jukebox.
We're also hoping to attempt mythic blackhand and herald of the titans before the patch - but we may not be able to get the groups for that in time. It would be nice if mythic Hellfire Citadel becomes easier to go back and clear that if we have the people, even with the removal of the Cutting Edge feat of strength. The mount drop will still be 100% until Legion lands, so it would be good to have a 1/20 chance of getting it, before it becomes a 1% drop item.

No comments:

Post a Comment