Hello, Hello, Hello to Hearthstone: Addressing the Issues New Players Face

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Written by Annie Hunt (Hiwatt)

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When I think of my go-to games, they usually consist of expansive worlds ready to be explored,  teeming with lore, and populated with varied enemies and interesting NPCs. Oh, and of course, lots of loot! So, why is it that lately I’m launching a strategy card game every time I sit down to play?

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a strategy card game that is developed by Blizzard Entertainment and is based on the Warcraft universe. If you’re familiar with Blizzard games then you know they are known for making hit games. Hearthstone is no different; it is entertaining and addicting. Experience with Warcraft is not required to enjoy what Hearthstone has to offer. The game takes a light-hearted and fun approach to the rich history of Warcaft. The colorful art is full of whimsy and the clever sound effects bring the characters to life.

There is no question that Blizzard has made another hit with Hearthstone. The game has reached over 30 million registered accounts and, according to Super Data Research, Hearthstone generates around 20 million dollars a month in revenue.[1] Hearthstone is currently available on PC, Mac, phones, and tablets which has significantly increased its popularity. The game is flourishing on popular streaming website Twitch.tv, where you can find hundreds of players streaming their games live for viewers at almost any time of the day. The competitive scene for the game is growing as well; the total prize pool for professional competitions now equaling more than 2 million dollars, even without a blizzard-backed professional league.[2]

As an “experienced” player I find the game to be fairly well balanced. There is an element of RNG to the game but players who know mechanics can perform well consistently. Certain classes or decks may seem overpowered, but new adventures and expansions can change that. Sometimes cards are not very strong but you are not forced to use them and they offer something else that is crucial to this game, flavor. At this point in my life, I love Hearthstone. It’s easy to play a few games on my commute (not while driving!) or to play a Tavern Brawl, a random weekly mode focused on fun themes, while watching a stream to relax. The games are quick, fun and stimulate my mind. The problems with Hearthstone will be much more apparent to those who are just starting out.

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For new players, the biggest problems with Hearthstone are the tutorial, and the ever growing gap in the quality of card collections between beginners and more seasoned players. I’ve noticed these issues as I’ve tried to spread my love of Hearthstone among my friends and family. When I introduced the game to my mother-in-law (solitaire-only gamer) I knew she might have issues grasping the concepts of the game, but I was far more surprised when my friends who are veteran gamers had issues, which made me realize how flawed the tutorial and introduction to the game are. The tutorial matches you against “bosses” designed to gradually teach you the basic mechanics by name, but the experience ultimately does a poor job explaining the overall strategy of the game. It doesn’t explain what it means to trade minions efficiently or why using a damage dealing spell card on your first turn is a bad play. It’s like being taught to cook by sampling individual ingredients, but without anyone explaining why certain ingredients might go together in different ways to make a whole dish. After noticing the issues my friends had, I turned to the internet to find out what other new players found wrong with the game.

I read hundreds of one-star reviews on Google Play and iTunes and found that, besides technical issues (the game is quite large for some phones or tablets), the majority of those reviews were negative because the players were never taught to play the game effectively. Many bad reviews placed an emphasis on needing to purchase cards (instead of unlocking them through playing) to be able to win. To test this, I decided to make a second account and completely start over to see if it was impossible to win without buying packs of cards. I completed the tutorial and played “Solo Adventures” until I unlocked all the basic cards for the Mage class. I followed up by playing ten “Casual” PVP games in “Play Mode” where I won seven. I then played ten “Ranked” games and won six of those games. This was using the original default deck with no modifications. I faced off against many players with better decks during this time but I didn’t always lose to them. The problem isn’t fully with the quality of the cards but also with the player’s knowledge of the game mechanics.

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“Pay to win. I’ve played since first release on pc and it has become painful. Would not recommend. Can’t continually win without paying money.”

This isn’t completely true. There are a lot of decks that are fun to play and can be crafted for cheap (with time, not money).[3] Arena is a game mode that lets skilled players potentially earn larger rewards than other play modes by drafting a deck from random cards from the game. With Arena you do not need to have a large collection but understanding the game is crucial to maximize the rewards. There are also players who spend money on the game but still lose because they don’t truly understand the mechanics. Learning to trade minions efficiently, when to use your hero power or what your opponent is capable of will increase your win chances. Many cards can be used in unusual ways that may not be obvious to new players. I am still not sure I fully grasp some of those plays. There is a definite advantage to buying packs, but the most beneficial thing a new player can do is learn more about the game.

“Parts of the story have to be unlocked by real money which gives cards. But here our beloved developers come and say u can pay 700 gold. 700 gold for a story part?? That is insane. And with real money its 20+ euro. This game is just a pay to win and u dont stand a chance if u dont. Dissapointed.

I’ve played this game for about 2 years now and I’ve only spent about $70 on it. I’ve bought both adventures and a few packs. I don’t think this is a crazy amount of money for a game that I play almost every day. I don’t understand the reluctance to spend money on a game you enjoy. If games were truly “free to play” then they would be collecting a ton of information about you. How could the developers continue to operate without making a revenue? Millions of people pay $60 for AAA titles that have about 20 hours of playtime, additional content sold separately.

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Adventures would be a great purchase for a new player who has unlocked all the classes and basic decks. You can unlock the wings by doing your dailies or buy them. They teach you new mechanics and guarantee a certain amount of cards. Naxxramas came out in July 2014 and many of the cards from this adventure are still viable and often used competitively (Sludge Belcher, Haunted Creeper, Mad Scientist, Unstable Ghoul, Zombie Chow, Loatheb and more).[4]

“rng garbage. no skill required.”

There is going to be some RNG in a card game. Sometimes this will benefit you, sometimes this will benefit your opponent. The majority of the time RNG will affect one or two plays but with skill (and knowledge) the better player could overcome. Occasionally you might have a game or two where every single thing is against you, but know that this is not unique to you and happens to everyone. It is also worth pointing out that if there were no skill required then there wouldn’t be professional players or a competitive scene. These are players who constantly perform well despite the deck they are using.

“Weird nerd game.”

Okay. This one is true.

Besides the cards in Adventures, all cards can be earned through grinding out dailies (another thing Blizzard is well known for). Purchasing packs can be helpful but is not required. If you enjoy the game then spending money on it should not be a concern. The problem with Hearthstone is that it doesn’t supply new players with the information they need to be successful. Most high ranked players will use the popular websites to help with building their decks, or will watch other players on a stream. There are tons of sites that could benefit players of all experience levels. Unfortunately many players may not know where to find those resources.

Here is my advice for new players! If you feel like you need better cards but can’t afford them, then look for sites that can help you maximize the free packs and free in game currency to help you avoid spending money.[5] Buy the Adventures (when you can)! Watch streamers! There are a variety of streamers that can teach you more about the game ((Here are some of my favorites: Kripparrian, Kibler, & Trump). Join the reddit community which has a large database of questions that a variety of players have asked and encountered already.There are tons of sites to help you create decks for constructed (casual/ranked games) like HearthPwn or Tempo Storm’s Meta Snapshot. If you are new to Arena you can try HearthArena to help you draft a deck.  Most importantly, remember to have fun!

Sources:
[1]https://www.superdataresearch.com/market-data/digital-card-games/
[2]http://www.esportsearnings.com/games/328-hearthstone-heroes-of-warcraft
[3]http://2p.com/31728814_1/Competitive-Budget-Decks-for-All-9-Classes-by-Corey_T.htm
[4]http://hearthstone.gamepedia.com/Curse_of_Naxxramas#Pricing
[5]http://www.hearthstonetopdecks.com/hearthstone-gold-guide-maximize-free-packs-gold-dust/


About the Writer:

annie_helseth_about_writerAnnie is an avid gamer who takes her love for gaming to the written format with her thoughts, opinions, and discussions regarding games in their current state, but as well as the industry. With her insight to PC gaming, Annie is one step ahead of the team, and looks to keep it that way.

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