Thursday, 23 January 2014

Emergency PSA: Hearthstone is the worst game you'll keep playing.

We interrupt the intended broadcast of a "Why Man of Steel sucked balls and MoS 2 will continue the tradition" to bring you this emergency Public Service Announcement regarding the fact that Hearthstone has gone into Open Beta. The following announcement will be Senior Cynic Aaron Chapman telling you why you should avoid playing Hearthstone at all cost, lest it consumes your very soul. Now joining him live in the field.

Thank you very much for that opening paragraph, now time to cut this joke short. 

So on Monday you will have the Man of Steel article (we are trying to run a "schedule" for how we upload articles...Radical, and doomed to failure, I know), but I feel given that the Hearthstone Beta just went from "closed" to "open" that this is as timely an article as it will ever be...And also a warning. Because Hearthstone is terrible, its aggressively awful on a few very specific points, its malignant and it goes against most of the things I dislike in game design...And yet I like it enough that I can't stop playing it.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a 1v1 strategy game modeled on the trading card format. (Except you can't trade). The battles take place on the above arena, you draw cards at random from your deck and the aim is to reduce your opponents life to zero. The characters are all colourfully taken from the Warcraft/WoW universe which consequently means this took literally zero creative effort to pull off. Well done Blizzard. (this isn't a serious gripe by the way, that'll come later)

So yeah the whole thing works like Yu-Gi-Oh but without the defense mode, you even have trap cards, called secrets. And do you remember what they always used to say in Yu-Gi-Oh when they needed to make someone win or lose in completely bullshit circumstances?

I found this while looking for a "heart of the cards" image and it pissed me off so much I had to share.
This "Keep Calm" shit has got out of hand.

The Heart of the Cards, mystical divine card-interested being aside, was obviously just another name for luck. They were all hoping Yugi would get that one amazing card that would totally fuck over his opponents. Because that is what you do in card hope. And Hearthstone's mechanics, in my eyes reward hope just about equally with skill.

- "Excerpt from the Yu-gi-oh Wikipedia: Yugi Muto also often refers to the "Heart of the Cards" as if it helps him win Duels, as well as criticizing his opponents for not believing in it. - I never knew it contained such a weird Theist/Atheist debate to it. Anyway, enough of bad 4kids shows and alright card games."

I think perhaps what made card games such as Pokémon and Yu-gi-oh fun was it was never ranked, hell, as a child unless you were playing with some real square you never even really played it right. Just threw the cards down and read the numbers wrong. (Perhaps that was just average military school intelligence showing)

The ranked system in Hearthstone appears to be certified bullshit though, once you are out of the potato bracket of about 25 to 20, people have reached about the max level of competency at the game. My rank progression went from 20 straight to 15 (in about a dozen games) then straight back down to 20, and then now I'm back at 15, near 14, and I can honestly say that the skill level was the same of every player on the way up, down and up again. The only difference par say three matches of 36...Was luck.

(Yes, I'm willing to subject this opinion to change as I go up the ranks, and some of it is card knowledge, but I'd be genuinely surprised if I noticed a change given the mechanics)

Terrible is a strong word, misguided, confined and lacking are all better.
(Also I've won like 70% of my games so far so you can't say I'm angry because I'm shit...)
(Well you can but that would make me sad)

And out of those three matches only two came down to any discernible skill on my part where we both just got incredibly lucky and got all our good cards, and I managed to play things in a certain order. The other match was the second glaring flaw in the Hearthstone universe. Pay 2 win cards.

Now I realise looking back on it that trading card games were also inherently pay 2 win by design, the kid with the most money at school was always going to be able to buy the shiniest and most kick-ass cards. But again, these were fully fleshed out card games, not a card game beta, and again it wasn't ranked. (Though a school yard ranking system would've been intense).

Simon debriefed me on Hearthstone back when he was playing it while I watched back in close Beta, and he warned me of these problems, he didn't put as much emphasis on luck if I remember, more the pay 2 win bullshit; maybe it is because I've only encountered this Murloc deck twice and my deck is specifically designed to fuck over those legendary's.

The follow up to Aaron's hit guide "How to win at Hearthstone: Believing in the Heart of the Cards". 

Which brings me to my closing gripe. "Oh but Aaron, the skill is in designing your deck". Yeah, and my deck is pretty damn great, it is heavily inspired off some other guys deck barring a few overpowered cards of my own and I can still lose to mister level 20 mouth breather purely because his "Luck of the draw" is incredible. "But luck works both ways" some idiot on a forum said to my disgust. Yes it does, but deriving any enjoyment from winning due to luck is equally sad and I'm frankly annoyed that I do...And that's why I keep playing.

And really that is the worst bit. Bad games are fine, you can just not play them, it is the games that clearly have some special, but just fall short (and are designed to be addictive), which are the worst. You could resign from the whole thing, but part of you just really enjoys it, you think maybe next time I'll have a  nice challenging game, as I know it is capable of giving me. But then I suppose that is addiction, you keep going long after the enjoyment has gone. (at least it doesn't consume that much time)

As a Historian this is a really great phrase. As someone living in what will be the past it is plain tedious.
This apparently counts as "inspirational", feel inspired. 

So yeah, don't play Hearthstone Cynics...Focus your pursuits on something more noble, like learning a language, saving rabbits, or supporting a lowly internet critic in his bid to buy more stickers.

(Sorry if Hearthstone doesn't interest you, MoS Monday, Harvey on the weekend). 


  1. Nothing like unbridled hate to end the evening.

    1. I hope your love of unbridled hate has never not been sated on this website.

  2. Replies
    1. I was so unfamiliar with the concept it took me an extra second to work out how to spell it.

      Don't worry I'm keeping rigorous track of how long it takes us to mess up.

  3. Dictionary def. of addiction, 'a physiological or psychological need for a substance'.
    This is you, mate.

    1. And yet if anyone asked me if Video Games were bad for a person I'd say no.

      Double-think right there.

  4. Aaron has succombed to another addictive game, we shall not see him for many months if DOTA2 is anything to go by.

    Aaron, see you in the spring.

    1. Don't worry, I've gone Hearthstone cold turkey for 24 hours now.

      I might be breaking down the cycle of addiction so well it can be fully done within a week.

  5. You seen to have a very easy time getting addicted to stuff.

    Just sayan

    1. Famously I've been described as having a short attention span coupled with an addictive personality.

      It means you end up with lots of weird stuff.

  6. You know I thought I hated hearthstone then I read this and I think I hate you and will go play hearthstone just out of spite.

  7. I started to hate hearthstone been in it since closed beta - I have been disliking it and moving away from it due to the lack of original combo's of decks due to the class system. Think of what MTG would be like if they restricted you to colour base and the only other cards you can have is artifacts in your deck? I would guess MTG would not be what it is today if it did. Hearthstone I only see surviving by the grace of fools with money and not because it is fun, for losing to much will always make people mad and therefor make it a poor gaming experience - A person has to win as much as they lose to make it a truly good experience.

  8. Instead of having to play the worst game you can refer to the game Temple Run 2 Mod Apk. When I see this is one of the addictive games for a lot of people.