Category Archives: Game Mechanics & Design

Ye Olde #Hearthstone Tavern and Inn #YOHTAI Issue No. 2

Greetings friend!

This is Sparta!

 

THIS IS, err, YOHTAI – Ye Olde Hearthstone Tavern and Inn. 

YOHTAI is where we can add friends, connect, share, brag, bitch and whine about Blizzard’s game Hearthstone and other things. We also conversate and participate in live and recorded podcasts including HorsePLAY! LIVE and others. And, ok, we do some tips, cheats, and strategies…

If you haven’t read it, check out the YOHTAI Issue No. 1 here:

https://geekyantics.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/ye-olde-hearthstone-tavern-and-inn-16-april-2014-issue-no-1

I’m ready! I’m not ready!

In the comments below, flaunt your OP internet and social game skillz – tell us your Hearthstone ID (Battle Tag), your in game name, your real name (if you dare), your city, connection points, and share your thoughts on Hearthstone with us.

Hearthstone News

Ranked Play Season 1: Pandamonium is almost over

Season 1 is coming to a close at the end of the month, and with it your chances of acquiring the Pandaria card back for your collection.

Pandaria Card Back

Pandamonium Hearthstone Card Back Faryna

 

Fireside Gatherings FLOP

The Fireside Gathering is on. If you can log in three devices on the same router, you can get the Fireside Gathering card back. Blizzard’s big idea, however, was a big flop with hardly any HFG parties anywhere. Blizzard’s lack of commitment and investment in this social event leaves us with some questions about their community skills.

Sometimes, I forget things…

Our genius suggestion: A plushy Hearthstone Pillow awarded to the first 300 Fireside Gathering leaders signed up for the Cinco de Mayo slash This is Sparta bash. What Cinco de Mayo Bash?! Exactly.

Hearthstone Fireside Gathering Card Back Faryna

 

Hearthstone Gear

Show off your Hearthstone gear. Send us a pic of you and your gear and we’ll feature it in YOHTAI. Send the pic to me (Stan) at stan.faryna@gmail.com

Below, the Hearthstone Pillow.

Hearthstone Throw Pillow

TOSH.0

TOSH.0 still don’t got love for the Hearthstone. Whazzup with that? He know internets? Obviously not. Because Hearthstone is one of the hottest iPad app downloads going on. It’s averaging 4.5 stars, got 7086 ratings overnight, and Hearthstone is at the top of the app download list.

Get in there and fight, Maggot!

Tweet Tosh and tell him what’s up: http://twitter.com/danieltosh

 Get in there and fight, maggot!   cc  

The queue sucks!

Get more servers, Blizzard!

Hearthstone Que Sucks Says Faryna

 

Hearthstone Cheats

Some of us are casual gamers – playing less than 10 hours per week. But if you can log in for 30 minutes, you can collect the 40 gold daily quest reward with a little help from you friends at YOHTAI. Log-in, let your friends know you need a “little gold” in the chat and then take turns winning and losing to get that quest reward.

Tip No. 13

No one likes losing most of the time.
If you can’t survive to round 10 in most fights, whip out your credit card and throw down $20 on some cards. But not until you can survive until round 9. Because you need some tested and true ideas about how to play the game before new cards can help.
YOHTAI Groups and Beyond
YOHTAI is on Steam and Facebook!

Hearthstone School

If you’re new to Hearthstone, there may be some confusion about Rankings. We know there’s 25 rankings including Legend. But after you get to rank 20, you proceed (or not) to rank 19. This is not a bug.

Hearthstone Level 18 or 23? Faryna

#YOHTAI Issue No. 3 is here.
Job’s done!

 

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Hearthstone PAX East News With The B-Team PLUS More Previews & Core Concepts

For several weeks on HorsePLAY! LIVE and in the GANG community, we’ve been predicting the release schedule for various killer features that will keep Hearthstone on our playlist and get more of our friends on-board.  In our previous article on how to get the Hearthstone iPad app now (and get started right), we shared how to get rocking on your Apple device NOW but it seems the need for the work-around is quickly fading away.  The B-Team Podcast has confirmed that the window is currently within a week or so.  I am guessing before my birthday this Saturday, April 19th – that’s great news, everyone!

B-Team PAX East Blizzard Interview Key Take-Aways:

  • Blizzard qualifies this as CCG, not a TCG, which means we should not hold our breath for trading or auctioning of any sort.
  • Hearthstone is the CCG for everyone.
  • They’re prioritizing creating a great game over the obligatory “merchandising bonanza” and cross-promotion.
  • The iPad experience is the same as on PC and Mac.
  • There are no pay gates or pay walls.
  • One of their core philosophies is balancing the game so you can be competitive without spending tons of time or money.

All this is great news and should encourage newer players or anyone who is on the fence.  I was surprised that there was no indication about spectator mode from any PAX East coverage.  Blizzard has said it is a “top priority” but I reckon other components and features are the focus.   I really feel that Blizzard is focusing on the more casual competitive community before catering to the hardcore eSports type players  I’d say too much of a focus on eSports features which would make Hearthstone more exclusive and scary for the average gamer.

Our own Stan Faryna cited concerns with matchmaking and the new player experience, by extension.  Blizzard confirmed that it is something they will keep fine-tuning.  Hearthstone is the game many Blizzard developers have wanted to play themselves so they want it to be fun for everyone.  During the B-Team interview, they briefly summarized how each of the primary gameplay modes handle matchmaking differently:

  • Casual – As Stan says, casual play can be frustrating.  I find that early in any season, the competition is most fierce due to a smaller player pool and sample data to work with perhaps.  I do win most of my matches here unless I start experimenting too much.
  • Ranked – This ladder mode looks more at stars and current rank so it’s easier to find a close match, in theory.  This mode seems to be the most fair mid-way through any season, with the exception of smurfs and fast-tracked/pay-to-win players.
  • Arena – This uses a completely different system.  Blizzard is unclear (“shocker”) on what this means.  I still find arena truly levels the playing field and rewards the most skilled players.  Luck of the draw when building decks is an issue here, however.

Blizzard assures us that the client-server model, as opposed to peer-to-peer, so cheating should be minimized.  The only issue Blizzard has encountered often is with trolls milking the timer.   Never fear – they are working on improving that!  Unlike their parent company, EA, I have faith Blizzard will commit to their promises and support this game for many years to come, much like they have with Warcraft III and Diablo II, two of my all-time favorite games.

Blizzard also confirmed during the PAX East interview what many of us have already noticed: [two of] the top Twitch streamers have gone up the ladder to Legendary rank within a week or two without spending money.  I believe TrumpSC is one of them.  Of course, if you want to see how NOT to play Hearthstone, watch me on Twitch or check out the NEW! TwitchPlaysHearthstone, which is similar to the newbtastic, cringe-worthy experience on TwitchPlaysPokemon.

Joystiq has a quick-and-dirty Hearthstone PAX East cheat sheet that does a really good job of highlighting the big things we can expect this year.  The biggest details revolve around the upcoming Hearthstone expansion, affectionately called CoN.

Hearthstone - Adventure Mode - Curse Of NaxxramasCurse of Naxxramas is slated for Summer 2014 but I would not be surprised if the first boss encounter or episode is released within a few weeks as I write this.   I reckon Blizzard wants to control the release of new cards so that newer players can avoid feeling overwhelmed.  I think that is fair.

Jesse Cox reports from PAX East - Hearthstone Curse Of Naxxramas!The first CoN corridor or wing (Arachnid) will be FREE but, as we see in arena, a buy-in will be required for new runs.  While this expansion brings tons of singleplayer content, the addition of 30 new cards will certainly spice up PvP quite a bit.  More seasoned duelists like myself, Sworen, and ObioneX2 are eagerly awaiting new cards but, honestly, I think the current card set is fine.

What’s really important here is that Adventure Mode will give newer or lesser-skilled players the opportunity to test out new strategies in a more controlled environment since bosses will use pre-constructed themed decks.  With less room to blame external circumstances or luck, players can actual train and improve!  I know Stan will love what this expansion means for the game.  For me, the fact that I have gamer ADD means that I need more variety and Blizzard is delivering so THANK YOU!

Hearthstone Curse Of Naxxramas Adventure Mode #paxxramasQuite a few cards have been revealed but let’s discuss the ones most of us find interesting.   First and foremost, you’ll see that they are committing to the deathrattle mechanic quite a bit; however, there are still no signs of new classes and archetypes.  That means no elf, unicorn, dragon, or orc synergies…  Perhaps that would make the game less accessible..  Sorry but it’s true.  If you want over-complicated game mechanics, consider Scrolls, SolForge, Magic The Gathering, or Yu-Gi-Oh!, where the possibilities are endless..  almost to the point of utter frustration just keeping up with the current meta and most viable strategies.

Okay, okay, here are the cards: Undertaker gains a +1/+1 when minions with deathrattle are summoned.  Baron Rivendare will cause the deathrattle ability to trigger twice, which will certainly shift the meta and make for some interesting video highlights.  I can’t wait!  We wonder if this will replace Murlock aggro/rush decks as the new over-played core mechanic.  Deathrattle is already sexy but now we will see it as a theme around which decks will be built.

Dear Blizzard, you *NEED* to add more deck slots.  Hell, you can even monetize and bundle it with big-ticket purchases to justify expediting feature.  Really, additional deck slots would be a value-add just because it would allow players to compare different builds with their favorite heroes/classes.  Deck and class-based  stats could then be introduced, too!  We’d play a whole lot Hearthstone with these features in place.  Currently, getting attached to a deck is not possible so naming them is almost arbitrary and pointless.  Just sayin.

Shade Of Naxxramas is a 3-cost minion who starts at 2/2 with stealth and gains +1/+1 at the start of each turn.  Shade sounds like a stronger Jungle Panther, since this minion has the ability to stick and scale.  That means she will have the opportunity to get more damage out, which is HUGE.  Dancing Swords is 4/4 3-mana card.  It’s deathrattle effect gives your opponent cards, which makes this card questionable at first but…

We have seen a rise in Priest  with heavy card draw mechanics built right in.  The guys at The Angry Chicken say that milling (making your opponent run out of cards) is not a viable core mechanic or strategy but I beg to differ.  I’ve had opponents bleed out when they got too greedy.  What’s more is that Priests have the ability to mass dispel (silence), so they can theoretically play Dancing Swords without the penalty, which will likely make them more aggressive and popular.

Enough about the cards…  What about RNG?

RNG, known to game developers and designers as Random Number Generator, refers to the random seed process and algorithms that work behind the scenes.   Any element of random can be attributed to RNG.  In a deckbuilding game, you can express this as a fraction.  For example, you have a x/y chance to draw a card from a deck.  X is how many copies of the card you have and Y is the deck size.  Don’t forget to simplify and, if you prefer percentages, divide the numerator (the top number) by the denominator (the bottom number).

Kids, be sure to tell your parents you learned something useful today.  Math is OP.  For realz.

The big question about Hearthstone and other deckbuilding games is whether random elements trump skill.  I still say “NO” with regards to Hearthstone.  There are popular streamers that consistently get to the top tier of rankings so, logically, it can’t be all about random luck.  Give SolForge a try if you doubt this.  I love SolForge but it is much more of a grind for players trying to avoid dumping money in.  SolForge refreshes your hand every turn so you may never get the right card you want, even if you run multiple copies and incorporate lots of card-draw combos.

As we will often find, the key in any TCG/CCG is mitigating the random elements rather than waiting to top-deck the card you really need or hoping your opponent makes a mistake.   You need to be deliberate and aware.  Here are some core concepts to note:

  • Card Draw – Many decks run out of steam late-game, which is why Priests, Beasts, and Warlocks are very popular – they have tons of ways to draw more cards.  The more cards you have in your hand late-game, the more options you have.
  • Play Order – One of the things we often take for granted is the order in which cards are played.  The wrong order can cause unnecessary damage to your own minions or accidental enraging/buffing of enemy minions, just for starters.
  • Wait & Combo -Just because you can make a play on a turn does not mean it is the best play.  Consider the combos and potential value of a big play later.  Leaving a single minion to the slaughter is rarely a good idea, especially if they
  • Two For One – The simplest rule of thumb is the most basic math of efficiency: any action that can counter an opponent’s (or cause them to take) two or three actions is a solid play.  This would indicate that minions with abilities are particularly useful but sometimes it’s about preventing repeat use from opponent plays (like that one minion that keeps snake biting you).
  • Trade Or Face? – This is the question you’ll often be faced with.  Do you do damage to the face or trade up with minions?  It all depends on the threats on the board and what you suspect your opponent has waiting for you.  The main thing to consider is how likely it will be that minions you spared this turn will be buffed somehow, which means continued value for your opponent…  And potential damage to YOUR face.
  • Premature Ejaculation – It’s easy to blow your metaphorical load on Hearthstone.  You maysee the opportunity to remove a minion and forget about the other threats your opponent may have.  Board clear is very good but be wary of opponents with full hands..  They are likely trying to bait you to waste your counters.

These concepts apply to just about every card game but Hearthstone is arguably the easiest to get into.  Now, we can talk about the strategy all day but it really comes down to the basics: patience and experience.  If you get frustrated and forget to have fun, nothing else really matters.  Find a deck build that you enjoy and focus on that a bit.  Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.  Streaming on Twitch certainly welcomes advice, warranted or not.

Hearthstone: Deceptively Simple, Insanely FunHearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft truly is deceptively simple (yeah, it’s not just catchy marketing copy, guys).  It’s easy to get into but, like with any other deckbuilding game, there are many layers of depth and strategy.  Experience goes a long way so, if you want to build up an early advantage, it may be best to jump into the game right now and learn the ropes before new cards and game mechanics are introduced.  The meta will inevitably shift with every tweak but the game is stable and balanced now.

So what are you waiting for?

Tell us what’s keeping you from playing Hearthstone TODAY..  Or maybe what you love most about it.  It’s all good in da hood, y0.  If you’re still unsure about Hearthstone, I’ll sell you on it yet!  If you have questions or concerns, share them with us – don’t be shy!

See you in the comments section!

 

Game Theory: The Barriers & Mishaps In League Of Legends

Game Theory Podcast
Episode 21 – League of Legends with JT Eberhard and Michaelyn

I only recently discovered this podcast, thanks to Stitcher Radio, and boy is it right up my alley!  The show is the culmination of avid gaming fandom, psychoanalysis, and game development/design knowledge.  It’s the perfect podcast for anyone that wants a complete look at video games from a mostly scholastic perspective.

My only complaint is that the show hosts are sometimes a little TOO smart for their own good.  We are taking a different approach with our upcoming Bit-By-Bit Gaming show (formerly Game Mechanics 101).  I think the voice of the gamer needs to be heard more and, if you listen to TGP episodes, they often look at game mechanics from the outside in (i.e. their LoL and rogue-like episodes).

In Episode 21, League of Legends (LoL) is scrutinized heavily.  While I do not agree with all their conclusions and lament the fact that the general consensus is that the game should be avoided, I see their points.  LoL is a mainstream game so it’s to be expected that there will be plenty of trolls and little kids ruining the fun for the rest..  But the issues extend far beyond that.

One aspect that is common in all first impressions of League of Legends or any MOBA is that the communities tend to be very caustic.  LoL is particularly bad in this area for a few reasons:

  • Every Tom, Dick, and Harry aspires to be a pro player and make tons of money, or at least score free stuff.
  • Due to the aforementioned, no one wants to admit that they are not as good as they’d like to think.
  • Poor sportsmanship leads to externalization of opportunities, so the trolls rarely improve and new players are scared away.
  • The way the game rewards and announces game highlights caters to a selfish style of gameplay and more finger-pointing.
  • Since the game is free, there’s very little keep young, angsty squeakers away from the general populice.

The list goes on and on but, essentially, League of Legends has been both a boon and a bane to MOBAs.  With LoL’s massive popularity and eSports buzz, everyone feels more pressured to step up their game rather than enjoy the experience.  What’s more is that the scoring and team dynamics feel more like Call of Duty than a MOBA.  It’s very centered around K/D (kill/death) ratio rather than teamwork and setting up plays.  What’s more is that it’s hard to play LoL casually, even with friends (sorry Obi), because everything is about winning rather than just having fun.

With this heavy focus on frags, people tend to get desperate when they die more than they kill.  When a sure-fire kill ends up in a death, the frustration piles on.  Throw in teammates that are feeding or screaming at you for seeming like a total newbie and now an otherwise fun game becomes a vein-popping, heart-attack-inducing experience.

Wow, this is sounding a lot like Call of Duty, eh?

ms-paint-rages-league-of-legends-ryze-misses-last-hit

One of the biggest frustrations for me is how Riot decided that, in all their infinite wisdom, they would focus on individual performance most of the time and only bring the team focus into play when it is least logical.  In ranked play, you can literally have five or more consecutive games where random teammates throw matches or just rage quit.

Leavers, flamers, and ragers are only a symptom of the root issues.  I concur with the folks at GTP that the design of LoL encourages poor sportsmanship.  The tribunal, loading screen tips, and honor point systems are decent enough band-aids but they are flawed because…

  • There is no incentive to giving honor to other people.
  • It is human nature to complain rather than compliment.
  • The visual feedback (i.e. profile ribbons) attached to honor points seems unattainable and/or worthless.
  • Most people go pee, grab a snack, or watch videos/Vines while the game is loading, ignoring the sportsmanship advice and game preparation (the same happens post-game).
  • The core mechanics do not support good sportsmanship.

Riot has been campaigning to remind people that people who are helpful and calm during gameplay win more matches, but they do not support the behavior organically or internally, if you prefer.  The core mechanics could easily be fixed to address the glaring issues with the game.  If you are curious what some of these issues could possibly be, just watch to see how people always fight to play certain roles or positions.  Most want the glory to themselves, so ADC, Mid, and Top are always the preferred picks.  There’s too much pressure for Jungler so they are usually the last picked and the most blamed..  And Support players are often expected to be miracle workers.  If you get first pick and go as any of offense-focused positions, do not under-perform because jealous people will troll you hard.

Welcome to League of Legends!

What’s even more disheartening is how LoL does not factor in how well you played with your team or the fact that leavers cost you a match.  A loss is a loss and, thus, you get stuck in elo hell..  Unless maybe you assemble a reliable pre-made team and avoid solo/duo queue.  If a teammate loses his Internet connection during your qualifying matches, you’re pretty much fubared.  Bronze and Silver tiers consists of taking two steps forwards and three steps back.  Not very fun.  Normal matches are a similar hellish experience.

league-of-legends-why-did-you-leave

While Diamond Tier players and above may argue that elo hell is a myth, I argue that it is very real.  On a greater scale, the design decisions behind League of Legends make it a rather exclusive experience.  In spite of that fact, millions of people worldwide play the game and it is the #1 online game for the PC, heck, all platforms.  Statistically speaking, that means there are a lot of frustrated, bitter scrubs and wannabe pro players out there..  and most of them only stick around to troll and make others miserable too.

Misery loves company.

For the more casual MOBA players, there’s ARAM (All Random All Mid), a battle-royale style mode focused more on action than strategy, and bot matches.  There is also Domination, which shifts the focus more to land control and objective-driven play rather than straight-up killing and lane pushing.  Still, the core experience resides in the traditional 5v5 three-lane game mode..  And there’s lots to be desired there.

I will reiterate that I LOVE League of Legends but, as I listen to these brilliant GTP folks talk about LoL from the perspective of newbies, I can’t help but nod in agreement.  One of the strongest points made in this episode of the Game Theory Podcast is that League of Legends rewards the end result rather than the process.  I could not agree more.  Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm seems to be doing a better job of making each match fun from beginning to end, mainly by using a team-leveling system and starting players fully powered-up.  Plus, there’s no loot so you can focus on the action and team strategies.

Another aspect of League of Legends that sucks is the overall sense you get of feeling like you need to grind.  LoL is “free to play” (more like freemium) but, in order to truly enjoy the game, you have to put in many hours before you can unlock enough champions to experiment with and find your strongest picks.  The amount of IP (Influence Points), the free in-game currency, you earn does not vary much, whether you play well or terribly.  There is a slight bump for high frag rates but nothing for setting up plays.

The defense for this design decision is that catering to K/D makes it easy to see who is fed and set up plays accordingly.  I disagree.  That is what pressing Tab and viewing score summary screen is for.  All the announcements and point distribution puts a heavy focus on K/D and this really hurts the game.

feeder-trouble-league-of-legends-parody

One reason there is such a huge rift between players in League of Legends is that feeding is often seen as a single-person issue.  What people fail to see is that feeding is often a missed opportunity for teams as a whole.. and Riot.  People tend to get antsy when matches take too long (LoL and most MOBAs are inherently slow-paced by design) or they give up when their teammates badger them too much (including unsolicited “advice”).  Riot could help alleviate some of these issues by creating more fast-paced modes.  Another good update would be to create a coaching mode where know-it-alls could help out the players that opt-in for “pro tips”.

UPDATE:  The new Team Builder mode alleviates many of the aforementioned issues by allowing players to queue up for the positions they really want to play..  But this is just a start.

Speaking from firsthand experience, I have seen a huge difference between matches where I just play and don’t bother communicating, and matches where I encourage my teammates and engage in authentic, friendly banter.  Every now and then you’ll have the asshat who decides to be an Internet tough guy when you’re just trying to create some synergy and good will, but usually people will respond in kind to your efforts.

Our own Stan Faryna has a brilliant suggestion here: remove anonymity.  People don’t act as tough when they are exposed and vunerable like everyone else.

Sadly, the notion of preemptive good will goes against most Internet rationale as people prefer their anonymity and  ability to just blend in with everyone else.  LoL’s honor system was supposed to help encourage more good will but it’s not quite working out that way.  People these days are also quite jaded and cynical so, if someone is being nice, they always suspect there are hidden motives.

I can knit-pick about LoL’s shortcomings all day long but, at the end of the day, it remains a game I truly enjoy in one of my favorite genres.  I do feel Riot needs to step up their game as there are more quality MOBAs coming out.  DotA 2 and Smite are taking more risks to find what works best whereas League of Legends has remained mostly the same for around four years now.

It’s easy to blame the community or human nature for the issues in League of Legends but the truth is that it’s lazy programming that make the players the way they are (or at least augment their ignorance and angst).  Most players have enough knowledge to be dangerous but not enough to understand that it’s a team game.  As such, if you’re entering LoL for the first time, brace yourself: it is a fun game but the trolls will try to eat you alive.  Play with some friends – it makes things FAR more enjoyable!

Welcome to League of Duty!

Source:  http://gametheorypodcast.libsyn.com/episode-21-league-of-legends-with-jt-eberhard-and-michaelyn