A response to yesterday’s “inconvenient truth” thread: Players are more frustrated by flaws than by losses

hearthstone 3 - A response to yesterday's "inconvenient truth" thread: Players are more frustrated by flaws than by losses

A big thread yesterday purported that Hearthstone's problem is just that the playerbase is a bunch of whiny sore losers. I disagree; there's more to it.

Hearthstone's problem is that it has major design flaws at its core which leads to frustrating experiences.

  1. There's too much RNG in this game. No one likes losing, true. But what's considerably more frustrating than losing is losing when there is nothing you can learn from your loss. Too many cards in this game involve a flip of a coin or a roll of the dice. It feels bad to lose a long game where both players use their entire decks, but your opponent "discovers" just the right thing to tip the scales in their favor. There's nothing you could have done differently to play around what happened. Nothing to learn. When you reflect on the game, it feels bad to know there's literally nothing you could have done, you just got unlucky. It feels bad to lose because Brawl worked out in the perfect way for your opponent, or when Ragnaros perfectly hits the best possible target every time. On the flipside, it also feels less rewarding to win based on the RNG rolls than it does to win because you legitimately outplayed your opponent. If random effects aren't going to be removed from the game (which seems unlikely) then they at least need their range of outcome significantly reduced. Having such crazy ranges of variance leads to fun-sucking high-rolls and demoralizing low-rolls. Discovering any spell or any minion or any 2 drop or any 6 drop or adding any random card from a class to your hand — that's too much. If you limit the random outcomes to smaller ranges which can be known, it allows players to actually play around the possible outcomes, reducing frustration.

  2. The ranked ladder. The ladder is the only constructed gametype Hearthstone offers. You climb it the fastest by playing aggro decks. This is because all wins are weighted the same, win streaks help you climb faster, and the more wins you can squeeze into a set amount of time the better. This floods the ladder with people playing aggro decks, trying to best game the system Hearthstone put in place. This leads to people resenting aggro as an archetype, which leads Blizzard to neuter aggro as an option, which is unhealthy for a card game because aggro is what keeps greedy control and combo in check. Yes, I know, every meta has had at least one aggro option, but it only belongs to one class at a time, and everyone always hates that deck because they're tired of playing it on the ladder every other game. We need a new gameplay mode other than ladder. Something like a tournament mode where win percentage is more important than winning (or losing) quickly. Losing on the ladders is a minor setback; ultimately inconsequential. If you're aiming for efficiency, there's no reason to not play aggro and slam face until you rank up highly enough to switch. Maybe if we had game play modes where losing was very consequential, like being knocked out of a tournament you had to pay an entry fee for, people would play aggro less, which would lead to players being less annoyed and frustrated by it, making the playerbase as a whole more healthy, less salty.

  3. No meaningful way to interact with your opponent's turn. It feels bad to go from a high life total with a non-threatening board state for your opponent to dead in one turn due to some bullshit combo involving charge minions or divine spirit inner fire shenanigans. There's no little to no counterplay for that kind of stuff. Losing to this kind of play invokes the same types of frustration as losing to RNG from point 1 – it feels extra bad to lose when you can't learn from the loss. There's nothing you can do about your opponent taking a 1/4 minion and turning it into a 28/28 and swinging at your face or casting and copying multiple copies of big charge minions or casting infinite cost-reduced fireballs. IMO, the best designed card ever printed in Hearthstone was Loatheb. We need more cards like that. Re-engineering the entire game to allow players to play cards during their opponents turn a la Magic: The Gathering seems unlikely. Hearthstone devs ought to further explore the design space around cards like Loatheb. Let me play cards on my turn which can effect the opponent on theirs. Give me a way to possibly disrupt combos or protect the board I've developed or swing the tempo of the game. There's a lot of unexplored design space here.

So yeah, people hate losing. But they might hate it a lot less if players had more agency over the decks they could play or the outcome of games.

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