HearthStone

A Vote of no confidence, or my rising frustration with Hearthstone over the years

hearthstone 5 - A Vote of no confidence, or my rising frustration with Hearthstone over the years
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Hey, everyone. Before I start I just wanted to say a bit about myself. I've been playing Blizzard games for most of the company's existence; I think the only games I haven't played are blackthorne and that superman game that I'm pretty sure they made. The Warcraft franchise is in particular a soft spot for me as I've extensively enjoyed Warcraft 3, WoW and of course Hearthsone. I'm something of a reddit lurker who hadn't created an account up until this point but I saw Iksar's tweet and given my current feelings about the game I couldn't help but make a post. Hearthstone is a game that I used to enjoy alot – I've played since open beta and while I haven't hit legend due in part due to my lack of patience and in part due to my general anxiety about ranked in general I've hit 12 wins in arena multiple times so I don't by any means consider myself a bad player. I've spent alot of money on this game – the first deck I fully built was control warrior which was somewhere between 8 and 12k dust depending on the list and I've spent enough money on every expansion to be able to play the decks in any given meta that I found appealing. I've played in pretty much every single meta for some length of time and over the past couple of years – pretty much from mid year of the kraken onward I've slowly become more and more jaded with this game and I think there are a number of reasons why. Some of these reasons might seem obvious or overstated; I've seen a number of people raise similar concerns over time, but nevertheless I felt obligated to say something.
The first thing that really made this game less fun for me was reasonably viable inevitability and infinite value mechanics. Cards like Jade Idol, Deathstalker Rexxar and Caverns Below are cards that shouldn't have any place in a competitive metagame. The real issue here for me is not that they aren't fun cards to play in their own right, or that the decks they create aren't interesting or compelling, but the fact that they counter control so hard that they frequently create metagames where the archetype is super fringe or doesn't exist altogether. Classes like warrior, warlock, priest, and to some extent paladin all have had viable control archetypes at varying moments in the game. When you give one class a tool that makes them autowin against 3-4 of these classes in control matchups you basically deleted 3-4 potentially viable decks from the metagame just to let one cool new deck continue to exist. It can also create issues like what we recently saw/still see to some extent with warrior where control warrior is so neutered by infinite value and inevitability mechanics that it only can survive in a metagame by being so oppressive against aggro that every match feels more like a ladder queue coinflip than an actual game. Admittedly it seems like you guys are figuring this one out and haven't really added more mechanics like this to the game other than Mecha'thun which seems niche enough to me that I don't really have an issue with it.

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The second is mistimed/awkward nerfs to classes and cards. This one is pretty big to unpack but I think a good example of part of the problem here is the whole spreading plague/ultimate infestation situation. I understand that neither of these cards are fundamentally overpowered, in fact I would go as far as to say that they are pretty balanced in their current iterations. With that said, I would be hard pressed to find anyone who said that they liked playing with or against them. While I respect the fact that these cards weren't broken in their own right and that that is a perfectly good reason not to nerf them, ultimately your goal as designers shouldn't be just to create a balanced game – but a fun one as well and when you don't nerf cards on the grounds that they aren't fun you are making a mistake. I will concede though that this is a tough one, fans have a pretty bad reputation for knowing what's good for the game, but at a certain point you guys need to recognize that when people complain about things for a certain length of time, and when people start to throw in a few legitimate arguments against certain cards along the way that you should maybe just forget balance for a little while and nerf something that people generally just hate. I think the only example of you guys actually doing this was the first nerf to Caverns Below but your track record for not making these kinds of decisions is pretty rough when we look at cards like mysterious challenger, jade idol, and patches (right before rotation after a year of play still looks bad.) The other issue with your nerfing decisions I'll touch on by starting with wild growth and nourish. To a more casual fan these seemed out of touch given the complaints about plague and infestation but in many ways you were right to nerf them; wild growth and nourish were far more broken and omnipresent than infestation or plague. Wild growth in particular had a 60% winrate when played on turn 2 which is pretty good for a card that you get to have two of. My problem with these nerfs has less to do with the overall health of standard and more to do with the overall health of wild. Cards like mana wyrm, fiery waraxe and wild growth are too broken for standard and frankly shouldnt exist in it but I still want to be able to play them somewhere. When you give me wild and sell it to me as a place where I get to play my full collection that shouldn't exclude some of the cards I got on day one, just because you decided they were both allowed to be in standard forever and were far too broken to be viable in it. I don't disagree with the nerfs to any of the classic cards that have been gutted for standard play, I just think that given the power level of wild they're not only perfectly fair to have there but people want to have them there. (except warsong commander and FoN, that shit's broken.) Another issue is that your innovative design decisions quite frankly, scare the shit out of me. This isn't to say that you shouldn't take risks or that you shouldn't be afraid to design CRAZY over the top cards but you guys have a history of not doubling back when you go too far, or taking far too long to do so. The only appropriate reactions to crazy cards you guys have made that come to mind are yogg and the general nerfing of caverns below. But your response to patches was far too late given how centralizing that card was. Your response to jade idol was not to nerf the card but to create a card that could randomly gut slow decks with strong 1 mana spells and would exist beyond idol in standard, in addition to being unplayable in wild given how unlikely running into jade is. Your reaction to baku/genn is understandable to some degree given how hard it is to satisfyingly nerf the cards now that they exist, but the fact that they existed in the first place as fun sapping mechanics only makes me more worried about what comes next. (Admittedly though, I do love odd rogue and evenlock but if those decks not existing meant no more odd warrior and pally it would be a fair trade) Finally I think at some level this game is just too expensive. You can f2p it and be alright if you decide that playing every day is all you want out of life but I'm pretty skeptical that very many people actually do that. For people like me who are willing to pay to get a nice head start in every expansion the amount of dust and cards I get for that 50 dollar pricetag relative to the amount of decks that are out there becomes more and more depressing – especially given how little replay value that money will give me in a year or two. I think given how cheap other free to play games are by comparision, and how much content I permanently get when I spend 60 dollars on any game with a pricetag, it really doesn't make any sense that this game costs this much in this day and age. And that's just for me mind you – someone who has been building a collection in this game for as long as its been out. Knowing the cost of this game, I never tried to get my girlfriend now fiance into it but she tried to get into it anyway. When she did I tried to help her get some semblance of a collection and some semblance of a capacity to play 2-3 meta decks and after spending 100 dollars or so at varying different times and still only getting to the point where it was a struggle without basically accepting that she wouldn't be able to play 6-7 classes whasoever I basically gave up. This is compounded by the fact that you guys then nerf cards like saronite chain gang and leeching poison because of shudderwock and kingsbane. Granted, those cards made the former cards broken, but synergy works two ways, and its pretty unfair that you guys effectively nerfed shudderwock and kingsbane without changing their text; we didn't get any dust for the expensive cards, just the cheap ones. You basically found a loophole in your policy of giving players a full refund on any changed card, and when you did that you made an already too expensive game even more expensive. At some level I really want this game to get better and I see you guys making strides to actually do so lately but there's still so much more you have to regain my confidence given your track record. At the end of the day I think that Blizzard is a company that prides itself on presenting a polished game and this particular game has struggled with that alot but on the whole I think the biggest underlying issue is that a game can do creative and innovative things, be reasonably balanced by any objective set of data, and still feel unsatisfying and unfun to play. Hearthstone used to be innovative, balanced and fun, at points it was innovative imbalanced and fun, or even innovative imbalanced and unfun(shamanstone is the big offender here), but for a while it has increasingly been becoming innovative, balanced and unfun. And ultimately the whole lack of fun thing is really a deal breaker more than anything else. Thank everyone who read this pretty large wave of mostly unedited text, and I hope that this was constructive enough to help HS become a good game again. 

Read:  On this day in Hearthstone - Undertaker nerf announced! "Oh, goody!"

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