Monday, March 25, 2013

More Hearthstone Thoughts

Ted A comments:
And now we bring you this 'blast from the past'. A blog post from September 4, 2001, just days after Blizzard Entertainment announced its new game, an MMORPG called World of Warcraft.
"The colors and graphics make it look fun and colorful. I will happily try it out. But I wonder if, in their attempt to smooth out all the inconveniences, Blizzard will fail to capture the unique richness of a game like Everquest."
Heh, quite true. One can never count out Blizzard, or discount making things more convenient.

Dawn Moore of WoW Insider had an interview with the Hearthstone team, which contains this nugget of information:
A secret is a card that you play into the play field that is hidden from your opponent and will trigger based on a certain set of circumstances. A simple version of that would be a card that says, "Counterspell: when your opponent plays a spell it's countered." It would sit there as a question mark in front of your opponent and they'd think, "I wonder if that's Counterspell, or Ice Block, or maybe Ice Armor?"
This is quite an intriguing game element. It actually points to one of the main controversies running around in paper Magic these days: how to handle automatic "triggers" (in a tournament setting)? A trigger is an ability which occurs (or triggers) when something else happens. A trigger might be optional, or it might be mandatory. The question in Magic is what do you do about an automatic trigger that was missed. Do you penalize one side? Do you back the game up? If you notice that an opponent's trigger should happen, and you don't say anything, is that wrong?

Optional triggers are easy, you just assume that the player chose not to do anything. But the best path for mandatory triggers is very unclear. A complex game state might have 10 or more triggers, making it very possible that one could be overlooked. The overlooked trigger could have changed the game radically.

In contrast, computer games handle automatic triggers exceptionally well. The computer makes sure that each ability that must occur actually does occur. So there's a lot more room to play with triggers because the computer takes care of the bookkeeping for you.

As well, making the information secret, but must trigger on the right condition is very interesting. For example, with the Counterspell, the opponent might have to "bait" the secret with a spell she doesn't care about.

This is quite beautiful design, in my opinion. Something simple and elegant, ideally suited for computer play. In fact, this mechanic makes me far more interested in seeing how the rest of Hearthstone plays out.


  1. These secret cards are also exactly the same as Trap cards from Yu-Gi-Oh. The way combat and spellcasting is set up in this game also is a lot more like Yu-Gi-Oh than Magic. No responses, can attack creatures one at a time, etc.

  2. Interesting.. I've signed up to check it out.

    I wish there were a new game similar to that old MtG RPG where you ran around a world and encountered duels and stuff where you could win/find cards. That was a lot of fun. Nowadays, it's all just table matches.