This One Stings A Little

This One Stings A Little

After fighting off attempts for extra sleep in the morning, I either open 1 of 2 apps on my phone, Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links or Twitter. Those are just the priorities I have. This morning it happened to be Twitter. Hearthstone Arena extraordinaire @ADWCTA posted a tweet saying there were changes to the Lightforge Tier List because of offering changes. This was odd because I did not know of any mentioned changes to the offering rates of Arena cards. While I have been pissed off playing the Un’Goro Arena, I still would’ve heard of it. I expected that either the entire Un’Goro draft offering rate was back to baseline (1x), or certain OP cards were reduced.

I had to fire up Relay to scan the /r/ArenaHS and /r/Hearthstone subreddits before I found out what it was all about. Someone posted on Reddit complaining about Un’Goro offering rates, something I have done on this blog before.

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Team 5 dev, Iksar, who is usually the spokesperson for all things Arena responded in the comments.

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What the heck? Basically:

  1. The Arena offering rate of Un’Goro cards were changed from 100% more to 50%. This happened on the June 1, 2017 update. The communication above was posted in the comments section of a Reddit post on June 21, 2017. It was not in the Patch Notes.
  2. There are planned micro-tweaks to card offering rates in the future that will happen in the background.

I hope I’m not making a big deal out of nothing, but this is huge. Not putting minor details in Patch Notes is one thing, but this is another story. Arena costs 150 gold to enter or $1.99. I would not have wanted to have been the poor sap who paid $1.99 to draft an Arena on misinformation.

While I haven’t used The Lightforge or Heartharena to help draft in the Arena lately, a lot of people do. Both sides have their loyal fans that live and die by tierlists. Heartharena in particular, has their automated drafting scores and Kripp tooting the horn. This information was flawed for 3 weeks, as Un’Goro offering card adjustments will affect synergies, like Elementals.

I am lucky that I have only played 6 Arenas in June 2017, so my wins and loss haven’t really been affected to a big extent. But again, there are people who (somehow) played Arena the whole month, and some people shooting for the leaderboard. Overall, this one just stings. It feels like Arena doesn’t matter, despite what efforts have been communicated about improving it.

What concerns me is the future communication about the planned micro-changes. Knowing the Arena community, they would want to know if Primordial Glyph got reduced by 2%. Every detail affects tier lists and the overall psychology going into the draft. If this isn’t a harbinger of things to come, I think Arena will just get more murky than it is.

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Shadowverse’s Next Update Comes with a Bang and a Boom

Shadowverse’s Next Update Comes with a Bang and a Boom

The digital card game universe is at an interesting juncture now, with many big titles competing for our precious gaming time and (even more precious) money. While a lot of the online focus has pitted Hearthstone and Gwent in a Reddit-fueled brouhaha, Cygames’ Shadowverse has been preparing their new expansion, Wonderland Dreams. With the normal excitement that comes along with every new digital card expansion, the release of Wonderland Dreams also comes with a whole host of new updates for Shadowverse. These updates, I believe, will make Shadowverse the most feature-heavy digital card game in the market.

Wonderland Dreams

The new 104-card expansion is going to have an emphasis on Neutral cards. Considering that the leaders in Shadowverse don’t do anything unique themselves, and just rely on their class-specific cards, the entire Neutral card pool is fair play. Flavor-wise, many cards are based off classic fairy tales. You see cards based off The Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Alice, Wizard of Oz, Jabberwocky, Snow White, etc. Considering Shadowverse has a weaker story base, and is not really reliant on another game series for lore, it allowed them to take a somewhat radical direction for the flavor.

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New cards with a theme

New Main Story Chapters

The PvE gets 9 new games in, as Chapters 9-11 are available for Rowen, Isabelle, and Urias. The last major update for Shadowverse included Chapters 9-11 for three other classes, and this resumes it for three classes. I assume these characters are going to go through a familiar story arc of being satisfied in a fake reality, getting tired of living in a fake reality, fighting Eris, and going back to reality. What’s interesting about this is that it leaves the Havencraft leader, Eris, out without Chapters 9-11. Given that this character is omnipresent in all the other storylines, something else could be cooking.

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Story Mode gets weird sometimes

Solo player missions

Just another source of rewards for completing the Story missions or Practice mode. Another boost for people who like PvE more than PvP.

New private match features

I personally think this is the most exciting bit of news for the entire Shadowverse update. Currently, you can already have a regular match with a friend, or even a Take Two (draft mode) match with a friend. Best of 3 and Best of 5 matches are incoming. While this is a fun way to spend time playing card games with friends, this feature is obviously more useful for online tournaments. If it comes with a score tracker for the best of 3 or 5 for verification, even better.

A more curious new private match feature is spectating Take Two. You get to create your opponent’s deck! This wording is a bit ambiguous and could mean two different things. It is possible you can do a co-op on Take Two, by helping your friend draft the deck. It could also mean a new private match mode in Take Two, where you get to draft each other’s deck. I believe the latter is coming, which is an extremely interesting decision. This would result in the strategy of drafting the worst deck possible, to handicap your opponent. I would assume strategies would include drafting a very high-cost deck, drafting cards that have little synergy, or just drafting bad cards. Take Two is always a compromise, and I will be looking forward to this.

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Random action shot

Set Leaders for individual decks

This doesn’t mean anything for f2p people like me who just have 1 leader for each class, but this lets you put different leaders for different decks. So if you want a hero to represent aggro, and another control, you can do that. A bit of a step up over Hearthstone’s favorite class hero for all decks. Again, this doesn’t apply to me since I only have 1 hero per craft. But that could change!

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Forte, a leader I don’t have

Buy Items with Vials

Vials are the resource you spend to make cards, the arcane dust if you will. For the first time, you get to spend vials on things that aren’t cards. Currently, all the customization features (extra leaders, card backs, etc) have to be bought with Crystals (real money). This may allow a person to buy customization features without spending real money. So it may be possible for me to buy a new hero after all. We still don’t know what the new items are yet.

Text/Voice language switching

I assume this allows us to change the languages in the client, without having to right click “Properties” in Steam. This is big, since the English version of Shadowverse is a little different from the Japanese version, and perhaps other language versions. There are different voice lines for example. Everyone wanted the Arisa “gasp” back. Isabelle wears a weird boob cover in the English version. This will just make things easier and more user-friendly. Have it your way!

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(GASP)!

Take Two card changes

Given that I haven’t sunk too much time playing Shadowverse and am less familiar with the game, I don’t know much about Take Two. Unlike Hearthstone, where I am 95% geared towards the Arena mode, I don’t really have that bias for Take Two in Shadowverse. Basically the card offering pool is going to change. All the cards from the expansions will be available, all Bronze-class cards, and prize cards (Basic) cards will also be avaiable. This means that all Silver, Gold, Legendary Standard cards, plus one Havencraft card, will be out of Take Two. This is pretty much the opposite rotation that Hearthstone does, as they retain the Standard card set never rotates out. Having too many cards in Take Two is definitely a problem, and they are taking an interesting approach to dealing with it. I would assume the cards in the Standard set are more boring, and provide the on-curve stability for cost.

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More than just a generous game?

In sum, Shadowverse is going to get a lot of new features coming with the new expansion, next week (6/28). Shadowverse has been known to be the most generous digital card game around, giving out card packs and Take Two tickets often. I think with this update next week, Shadowverse will be known as the most customized and feature-heavy digital card game period. While adverse reactions to fanservicy anime artwork and brand loyalty will still keep people from playing Shadowverse, there is a lot to like with what is to come for this game.

Why Do We Play Games Nowadays?

Anyone who reads this blog closely or follows me on Twitter would know that I am at a bit of an identity crisis of sorts in gaming. I made this blog and Twitter with the sole purpose of talking Hearthstone. Lately, I’ve had issues with Hearthstone, mainly precipitated by my not enjoying the changed Arena format. I actually did not realize that I liked the Arena so much. In my taking a sabbatical from Arena play, I can barely play the game anymore.

By sinking in less time into Hearthstone, I have opened up time for other games. Notably, I am playing three other card games in addition to Hearthstone. Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Links is the mobile game I have played since January and podcast about. Shadowverse is the secondary card game I played probably once a week, now more regularly. Gwent is a new card game released in open beta that I am trying out. Playing all these games together has given me some ideas which lead to this post. Why do we play games nowadays?

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The changed landscape

Gaming has evolved tremendously since I was young. While I wasn’t around for almost all of the 80s, I can say I sampled my share of old games. And by old games, I mean titles from SNES and Sega Genesis. I didn’t really play games regularly until my family got a computer, and I have been primarily a PC gamer since. The main evolution in gaming, besides the obvious upgrades to gameplay, graphics, and design, is the ubiquity of the Internet, and the ability to play games with people you’ve never met physically. I admit that I was playing games alone for a really long time, and it wasn’t until I started playing Diablo III that I started to play games with other people.

The fusion of gaming and Internet has not only changed the landscape of gaming, and also the reasons why we play games now. Back when I was playing Operation: Inner Space in my cold basement or Syphon Filter 3 in front of the TV, I can say I did it for fun. Sure, I wanted to set high scores in Inner Space and unlock secrets in Syphon Filter. But now the reasons are more complex and varied. I will try to dig into the reasons why we game using the games I am playing concurrently as an example.

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I feel really old saying I played this a lot

For fun

The generic umbrella reason for why we play games. Games are a hobby and it is something we do for fun when we’re not doing something else (more important) in life.

I have played Hearthstone almost daily since December 2013. While I have taken breaks now and then (including now lol), my enjoyable experiences have kept me in the game for all these years. I have logged thousands of Arena games just because I found it so fun. Arena is known for not being the most generous when it comes to rewards. You don’t make the 3.33 gold/win you get in Ranked play and even in Casual. According to Hearthstone, I have 3710 Arena wins. This equates to 12,366 gold I missed out on because they were Arena wins. When it comes to my enjoyment playing Hearthstone, it lives and dies with Arena.

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Good times before Arena 7.1

As mentioned before, my relationship with the Arena is currently strained. The fun factor is mostly gone as the Arena revamp with Patch 7.1 coupled with Journey to Un’Goro cards has brought on never-ending reactionary play and big power creep on card quality. And truthfully, it isn’t because I’m losing significantly in the Arena now. It’s important to note that these are just my feelings (and some other players), and not those of the entire Arena community. I don’t know if most people share my feelings on the Arena changes. I’m sure people who enjoy Control decks are having a blast.

To fill the void in gaming fun, I have resorted to the other card games. I am having a really fun time playing Gwent,  mostly from the Casual game mode available to me. As someone who is completely foreign to The Witcher universe, I have no idea what the underlying story is. I don’t even know what the ubiquitous keg-opening character is called. A lot of the fun is derived from the game just being a new experience, and a break from the Arena. I am also playing Shadowverse a bit, though the game hasn’t gotten more fun than before. I’ll explain later.

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I have no idea who this guy is, but he opens the kegs.

For fame

Those who graduate past the notion of playing games just for fun are more ambitious in the hobby and want to make something of their gaming career. By playing a game at a high enough level, one can be known for something, and springboard off a new height. This is a new development in gaming, given people were not connected to the Internet to track scores back in the day. It likely started with the seeds of eSports, and have known people play games. All four of the card games I am playing have leaderboards, with your legend tiers, points, or high scores. And by playing at a high enough level, you get invited to participate in tournaments. In the end, you fight the final boss (real life person) for a trophy. Gaming is just like real sports now!

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eSports!

Alternatively, you can achieve fame by doing something with your gaming experience. All of the “creation” nowadays associated with gaming, your streaming, recording, blogging, podcasting, and drawing would all fall into this category. A lot of people I follow on social media and associate with would fall into this category.

In all honestly, I started this blog for a reason. I wanted to be known in the Hearthstone community as an all-purpose writer who talked about Arena a lot. I had ambitions that it would all lead to opportunities in my future. While those dreams are at a moribund state, I was able to meet and talk to a lot of people in the process of creating the blog.

For money

Those who become really famous for gaming may eventually reach the top tier of gaming for money. There are those who are full-time video game players for a living, making money through tournaments, streaming, endorsements, and donations. Others work for a living or go to school, and have supplementary revenue streams from gaming. Obviously, gaming for money didn’t happen for decades, and is just a recent development.

Unfortunately, the window of gaming for money is closing for existing games, as the market is gets more and more saturated. Gamers who enter the game (lol) later are at a bigger disadvantage, as they have to compete with existing players and personalities. It is a more prudent idea to try to forecast the next big game, and become an established player in that realm. For example, it is much really difficult to make a name in Hearthstone, given it has been in existence for close to 4 years. Your big name competitive Hearthstone players are mostly making money with their streaming brand now. It has become really difficult to make a name for yourself, with so much competition. This goes for other forms of creation in Hearthstone. I doubt that a newbie bug-finder can dethrone Disguised Toast at this point.

It could be easier to game for money in newer games. Notably, Lifecoach has become the first professional Gwent player signed to a team. Right now, I don’t think there are any Duel Links players who play the game for money, but that could change, given the World Championships coming in August. I do not know if there are Shadowverse players who game for money. The challenge is knowing if the game will stick around for the long term, long enough for your efforts to come to fruition.

For community

Gaming has always had an occasional social aspect, as multiple people playing a console was a way to hang out. As a kid and teenager, I fondly remember going to friend’s houses to play video games for hours. With the availability of Internet, the social aspect of gaming has evolved into playing games with people online.

Hmm… I don’t remember girls being around

In the Blizzard world, Battle.net was once the site you used to connect to online servers. Now known as the Blizzard Launcher, it is a one-stop-shop with an instant messaging list to your friends, online news, etc. Hearthstone has quests for playing games with friends, and now allows questing to be done in friend games. Duel Links has the Vagabond sharing system with friends. Spectator mode is another aspect that gives a social aspect to gaming.

 

For rewards

In my card game carousel discussion, I mentioned I am playing more Shadowverse than in the past. This is because they are offering doubled rewards for completed daily missions. This means 2 free card packs for 4 Ranked Wins, or 100 rupies for 4 wins with x class. The rewards are so good that Shadowverse isn’t the second fiddle card game for this month. They also have the Freshman Lou promotion, so I am trying to earn those card sleeves.

Freshman Lou is quickly becoming my one of my favorite cards

Shadowverse has really exemplified the gaming for rewards aspect. We are playing games for in-game currency, so we don’t have to (or spend less) spend real money. This is something that clearly didn’t exist in older games. You bought your game at the store or online, and you paid it. That ended the spending. In the age of Internet and microtranscations, companies want you to continually spend money on a game, by adding more new features. It really is an interesting thought to think we are playing a game a lot because we don’t want to pay for it.

For experience

A lot of people play new games for the sheer experience of trying something new. Trying new games has numerous advantages, as you can discover really fun aspects of games that are not apparently obvious. Steam is now the go-to source for PC gamers to get access to a wide swath of games. Monthly Humble Bundle deals allow one to discover a lot of new games at a low price. One can also purchase old games online, though this is mostly a thing done on consoles now.

My fun playing Gwent is mostly a gaming for experience venture. Given all the comparisons to Hearthstone, I just had to play the game to see for myself. What I discovered is that Gwent is nothing like Hearthstone, and is just linked to it because of Lifecoach’s endorsement of the game. Part of the new experience is learning names in Gwent and trying to understand the unexplained rules in the game.

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An unfamliiar deck building interface

In climbing the Shadowverse Ranked ladder, the experience is turning less fun, as I start seeing the same “good decks.” I typically go in as a Tempo Runecraft deck, which is not a meta deck in a class that primarily plays the fun and interactive Dimensional Shift deck. However, I see a lot of Forest Roach decks, and Heavenly Aegis Haven, popular climbing decks. In Hearthstone, seeing the same variants of decks was always second nature to me, and something that was burned in the brain as normal. Going into a game like Shadowverse, the same emphasis on bringing the same good decks still applies, but I was just not inured to it.

For loyalty

By loyalty, I mean loyalty to a brand or franchise. It is unlikely that Hearthstone would’ve been the success it is without being under the “Heroes of Warcraft” title and Blizzard flagship. People who bought WoW, or Diablo, or Starcraft were willing to give Hearthstone a try since it was made by Blizzard. This is not unlike buying a brand of clothes or car. Trust is earned through reliable workmanship and satisfaction.

I bought into the loyalty to Blizzard games long ago when I first played Diablo when in 1997. Then I played Starcraft, Warcraft III, Diablo II, and flash foward to Diablo III and the Bnet launcher era. Who knew that entering the Cathedral, and spending hours and days walking (couldn’t run back then) through the labyrinth in Diablo would lead me to everything else Blizz has now.

Where it all started

The gaming for loyalty aspect is a also big reason for why I started playing Duel Links. @hsdecktech posted some screenshots one day on Twitter, and I haven’t put down the game since. My enjoyment playing the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG in 7th and 8th grade awoke, and I destined to relive the nostalgia I had playing cards. And this is allure to Yu-Gi-Oh is not a unique thing, as Duel Links is catching on like wildfire, hitting 45 million downloads recently. Konami created a great franchise, buoyed by a TV show and card game, and that loyalty now it is manifesting in Duel Links’ popularity.

For fulfillment

Back in the day, playing a game for a new high score at the end was the goal. When my ship blew up in Operation: Inner Space, I wanted to get on that leaderboard. This isn’t lost in today’s games. In Hearthstone, competitive players have a goal of hitting Legend in Ranked Play. Some just want to do it, for the sake of doing it, and others have the goal of hitting it every month. This is playing games for fulfillment. You’re trying to hit a goal. Another common fulfillment goal in Hearthstone is getting golden characters. While getting Legend and golden characters technically result in rewards, it is more of a set goal, as the rewards are paltry.

As an Arena guy, hitting 12 wins for the Lightforge Key was a sense of fulfillment. I tracked my 12 win runs for a time with screenshots. I set a goal to hit 12 wins for every class, and that is something that still eludes me. I’ve never hit Legend in Ranked, but getting Golden Rogue was very satisfying.

Gaming for a sense of fulfillment really is a fascinating thing. Most of it is how one derives fun, by continually winning. I wouldn’t have fun if I lost a game many times. Some of it is fueled by competitive drive. Some of it is fueled by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. But you’re sinking in hours into a game for something that isn’t even tenable. And by not hitting the goal, you could become angry or depressed (usually both). Crazy right? But hey, it is the reason many play games now.

Well, that’s all I have to say about why we play games in these present times. There probably are a lot more reasons out there, but this post is long enough already. Why do you play games?