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After an unexpected delay, Spectral Pillager was announced as the latest Netural Epic from Kobolds and Catacombs.
After an unexpected five-hour delay, Brazilian eSports site Esporte Interativo spoiled Hearthstone's latest Neutral Epic:
In typical fashion for Neutral Epics in the Year of the Mammoth, Spiteful Summoner appears to be next in a long line of minions with fun and powerful, underwhelming stats, and conservative mana costs. With some creative deckbuilding one could attempt to maximize the effect of this cards Battlecry trigger, but it doesn't appear to be powerful enough on its own to build an entire deck around.
What do you think about Spiteful Summoner? Let us know what you think about the card in the comment section, and remember to check our news forum and the Kobolds & Catacombs hub for more new cards from K&C!
Card image courtesy of Hearthpwn.com
The third Kobolds & Catacombs card reveal for today is Zola the Gorgon, a neutral Legendary minion.
Popular Hearthstone personality Jeffrey "Trump" Shih revealed this card on his YouTube channel. Zola the Gorgon is a 3-mana 2/2 with the Battlecry: "Choose a friendly minion. Add a Golden copy of it to your hand."
According to the schedule, there was supposed to be another card reveal before the one from Trump, but so far we've seen nothing. At this rate, it's not sure if four or five cards are going to be revealed today. Keep checking our news forum and our Kobolds & Catacombs hub for more new cards!
Standing on the shoulders of the Star Wars: Battlefront II controversy, the Hearthstone community has been voicing their concerns over the game's rising costs louder than ever. What can be done to fix Hearthstone's payment model?
The Hearthstone community isn't happy - what can Blizzard do to fix the rising costs of the game?
Since the release of Star Wars: Battlefront II, EA Games has found itself in the midst of one of the most heated, unified, and prolonged attacks against a game studio in the history of the gaming industry. Infuratied by the game’s costly “pay to win” microtransactions, the online gaming community made a recent reddit comment by the EA Community Team the most downvoted comment in the history of reddit, an impressive accomplishment which EA can rest on their mantle next to their back to back "Worst Company in America" in awards.
Hot on the heels of this controversy, Blizzard released an advertisement for Starcraft II to spread the word about its recent shift to free-to-play which appears to take some serious shots at EA. It's a funny and well-crafted advertisement which is certainly worth a watch:
As we discussed on the Icy Veins podcast, it's a bit odd to see Blizzard to take an aggressive stance against other gaming studios. Not only does Blizzard have a tendency to play it safe with their marketing and advertising, but one could make the case that Blizzard is currently in the midst of a very similar (albeit far smaller) controversy over their payment model for Hearthstone.
There has nearly always been a vocal part of the Hearthstone community speaking out against the game’s cost, but the complaints against Hearthstone’s payment model are currently as loud as they have ever been. Just as Blizzard decided to capitalize on the EA controversy to advertise StarCraft II, the Hearthstone community is using the Battlefront debacle as a pedestal to shout their grievances from.
With such a significant portion of the Hearthstone community demanding changes to the current in-game reward systems and payment models, now seems as good a time as ever to have an honest dialogue about what kinds of changes will strike the fairest balance between our bank accounts and our Hearthstone collections.
A Fair Price for Hearthstone
Is there something fundamentally broken about Hearthstone’s reward systems and payment model, and what can be done to fix it? To answer that question, the Hearthstone community needs to be honest about what kind of game Hearthstone really is.
It’s far too easy to draw unfair comparisons between the cost of Hearthstone and the cost of other games. Take Overwatch for example. It’s undeniable that you’ll get a vastly superior return of fun on your investment of 40 bucks for Overwatch when compared against the $49.99 it will cost you to pre-order 50 packs of the latest Hearthstone set, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to compare the cost of these two games against each other. First and third person shooting games (Star Wars: Battlefront II notwithstanding) rarely cost more than $59.99 for an entire game’s worth of content, while card games are expected to charge their customers for packs of cards instead of charging for the game itself. So how does Hearthstone stack up against other card games?
If you compare Hearthstone against the grandaddy of them all, Magic: the Gathering, Hearthstone is incomparably cheaper. Speaking for myself, the primary reason I switched from MTG to Hearthstone was to save money. Take a look at the average cost of a Standard deck, then take a look at the average cost of a Legacy deck (the rough equivalent of Wild). Want to play a round of draft (the MTG equivalent of the Arena)? That’ll cost you between 10 and 15 USD to play three matches of Magic.
Is Hearthstone starting to sound cheap yet? Well, it shouldn’t, because MTG and Hearthstone are also totally unfair comparisons. Magic is a trading card game, not a collectible card game, which means that its individual cards hold value and can be traded to other players. Though Magic is undeniably more expensive than Hearthstone no matter how you slice it, the fact that its cards can be sold at any time for real money means that the two games should be held to very different pricing standards.
It’s about as useful to compare the price of MTG to Hearthstone as it is to compare the price of a BMW to a John Deere tractor, yet I see comparisons like this being made all the time. I’m personally guilty of drawing comparisons between the cost of MTG and Hearthstone in a guide I wrote on this very site.
If we want to have a realistic conversation about what a fair payment model should look like in Hearthstone, then we need to be realistic about what kinds of games it’s fair to compare Hearthstone with. Not FPS games, not trading card games (TCGs), but only other collectible card games (CCGs). These are Hearthstone’s true competitors. Games which are free to download, charge money to unlock cards at an accelerated pace, and have no system in place to trade cards between players.
Here’s a quick list of the most popular non-Hearthstone CCG’s on the market:
Shadowverse Gwent Eternal Elder Scrolls: Legends Ready for a controversial opinion? Hearthstone should be more expensive than the other CCGs. It’s the oldest and most polished game of the lot, it has the largest player base by a mile, and it has vastly more cards, expansions, and free single player content than its competition. Before we can begin to discuss ways that we can improve the reward systems and payment models for Hearthstone we need to accept that Hearthstone has earned to right to call itself the premier CCG in the world. As such, a fair price point for Hearthstone is something higher than that of the other CCGs and something lower than Magic: the Gathering, which is where Hearthstone currently lies.
The Hearthstone community would probably complain far less about the game's cost if its players felt as though they were being appropriately rewarded for their investments of time and money; superior products are allowed to cost more than inferior ones. However, there is a tangible gap between the time and money players are investing into Hearthstone and the feeling of “reward and accomplishment” they are getting in return. This is a problem which, quite frankly, the other CCGs just don’t have.
Win or lose, playing the Draft mode in Eternal makes me feel as though I’m steadily marching closer and closer to building the decks I want to play on the ladder. Creating a Shadowverse account bestows players with so many packs that it made me feel as though I owed the developers a debt of gratitude in return. Having played each of the other CCGs I mentioned earlier in this article (some much more than others), there is a strong sense of generosity and progress present in these games which is largely absent in Hearthstone.
The unfortunate truth is that Hearthstone is so much bigger and more profitable than the competition that these games need to be generous with their players in order for them to stand a fighting chance. It's an extremely common business practice for smaller companies to undercut their bigger and better-funded competition. If the Draft mode in Eternal didn’t tangibly feel as though I was progressing towards a complete collection of cards then I probably wouldn’t play it at all. If Shadowverse didn’t immediately shower me with packs for creating a new account then it may not have held my attention past the tutorials. These vastly smaller CCGs are fighting an uphill battle by attempting to compete in the same design space as Hearthstone, making it a virtual necessity for their developers to be overtly generous to their player base.
Blizzard has earned the right to charge more and reward less to Hearthstone players than other CCGs do. What Blizzard has failed to do thus far is make its players feel as though the rewards offered by playing and paying for Hearthstone are worth every penny.
In-Game Rewards and Player Psychology
Blizzard has made some serious strides in the past few expansions by providing its players with more free content than ever. They’ve started giving out one free Legendary card per set, have started producing rich single-player content for every new expansion, briefly experimented with daily login rewards leading up to the release of Journey to Un’Goro, and have periodically run festivals that handed out free packs and Arena runs. These are certainly significant strides in a positive direction, yet players still feel guilty when purchasing packs from the shop. Why is that?
Let’s start by taking a look at the random Legendary reward which was introduced at the start of Knights of the Frozen Throne. It’s certainly a welcome prize, but how does it make players feel? I’d argue that in practice, the average Hearthstone player will end up receiving a shiny new Legendary card that they didn’t actually want. The majority of players will be crossing their fingers for a specific Legendary (such as the one belonging to their favorite class) and will feel disappointed when they receive one of the eight other Legendaries they weren’t hoping for. Newer players might only have enough cards in their collection to build a deck for one or two of the classes (I only crafted Druid cards for my first few months in Hearthstone) and will probably have no use at all for a random Legendary outside of those classes. What we have is a reward that is purely beneficial to players, yet somehow it often results in a negative player experience.
Player psychology is an incredibly important issue in game design, and it’s an issue that Blizzard has demonstrated the ability to masterfully navigate in the past. A famous example comes from World of Warcraft, where Blizzard was able to successfully morph one of the most complained about systems in the game into a system which has since been copied by nearly every MMO after it:
This notion of player psychology is undoubtedly playing an important role in the perceived gap between player investment and player reward in Hearthstone. The way that rewards and punishments are framed has a tremendous effect on player psychology, and it certainly seems as though Blizzard is losing the psychological battle with its player base. Without having to make any sweeping changes to the in-game reward systems, I’d argue that Blizzard could gain a lot of good will with its players by reframing the way that some of its current in-game rewards are presented. Let’s start by revisiting the random Legendary reward to see if it can reframed in a way which feels better its players.
At worst, a random Legendary card can be turned into 400 dust; enough to construct four Rares or one Epic. Instead of setting up a large portion of the player base to be disappointed by receiving a random Legendary they may or may not have really wanted, how would players feel if they were simply given 400 dust instead? This reward would be strictly worse than receiving a random Legendary, but I would guess that it would have been received much better by the average Hearthstone player than the random Legendary reward currently is. It’s not so bad to receive a free reward you didn’t really want, but it feels downright awful to dust a Legendary into one quarter of its previous value. Taking this one step further, imagine how excited players would be if they received 1600 dust (or a Legendary of their choice) for trying out a new set. This would give players a feeling of agency and control which is wholly absent from the current in-game reward model. The single biggest problem with Hearthstone’s current in-game reward systems and payment models is a perceived lack of player control.
A Lack of Choice in Hearthstone’s Payment Model
The slow trickle of gold players receive for playing games leads to a slow trickle of packs, and this slow trickle of packs leads to even slower trickle of dust, the only resource players get for constructing the cards they truly want. Outside of grinding away on the ladder, the only other tool at player’s disposal for getting the cards they need to build competitive decks is to pay for packs.
The best rate that players can get on packs is $49.99 for a one time pre-order of 50 packs of the new set. The estimated average dust per pack is 102.71, assuming you dust every single card you open. 102.71 dust per pack times 50 packs equals 5135.5 dust, which is just enough to construct three Legendaries of your choosing but not nearly enough to build the vast majority of competitive decks in the current metagame.
If you assume that most of the players who pre-order every new set have the majority of the most popular Legendaries and Epics from previous sets, then it’s fair to assume that 5k dust will be enough for these players to build one or two decks using cards from the newest set. For a newer player with a thinner collection, it’s much more likely that they will be at the mercy of the cards they open in those 50 packs and won’t be able to afford the luxury of dusting most of the cards they purchased. One could make the case that $49.99 is a fair price for a player with a deep collection to pay to be able to immediately build a couple of new decks, especially when you take into account the amount of free content that Blizzard has been rewarding players with of late. One could also make the case that it isn’t. Regardless, I have a very hard time believing that $49.99 is a fair price for a new player to pay to maybe be able to construct a single deck that they may or may not have wanted to build in the first place.
Its debateable as to whether or not the issue with Hearthstone’s payment model is the actual value players are receiving from their purchased packs. One thing we can for certain is that there are no choices associated with opening packs that feel good for players to make. There’s really no two ways about it, dusting cards that you may or may not need in the future feels awful. A 25% rate of return for dusting cards feels like selling your grandmother’s jewelry to a pawn shop, yet choosing to dust or not dust cards is the only choice players are presented with after purchasing packs.
Why is it that the only choice players are offered after paying money feels bad to make? There’s nothing intrinsic to the design of Hearthstone which has to prevent players from having more authority over the kinds of cards that are being added to their collection, and I seriously doubt that it is Blizzard’s goal to associate paying money with bad choices. Returning to the idea of player psychology, if we could reframe the current pack purchasing system to offer players more choices, to offer them better choices, perhaps Hearthstone fans wouldn’t feel as disenfranchised as they are feeling right now.
An example of a way that Blizzard could offer players more choice in their pack purchases would be to give players the option to choose from one of nine “prerelease bundles”, one for each class. Each bundle could be guaranteed to contain one Legendary, two Epics, and four Rares belonging to the class of their choosing. Blizzard could easily adjust these bundles of 50 packs so that they have the same expected value as 50 normal packs. This would offer players with smaller collections a choice that maximizes the likelihood that they will actually be able to use the cards they open, while simultaneously offering the more hardcore players a better opportunity at opening the specific Legendaries and Epics they want most. All this upside can be offered to players without having to actually increase the total amount of cards and dust that players receive from their prerelease packs, and has virtually no downside for players when compared against the current prerelease bundle. I hope this example illustrates that Blizzard is highly capable of improving their existing payment model by providing players with more choices, and that sweeping changes to crafting and pack opening systems are likely unnecessary.
To recap, here’s everything we’ve discussed so far:
Hearthstone fans are currently as upset as they have ever been with the cost of the game. As the premier CCG on the market, Blizzard has earned the right to charge more for Hearthstone than other CCGs. The onus is on other companies to undercut Hearthstone to attract players to their less popular products. The way that players feel about the rewards they receive is just as important, if not more important, than the quality of the rewards themselves. Hearthstone has room to improve from a player psychology perspective and should seriously consider reframing some of their current rewards if they are unwilling to increase them. The only choice players receive when purchasing packs is which cards they would like to dust after opening them. The very low rate of return on dusting cards means that the only choice associated with spending money on the game is one that makes players feel bad, yet there’s no discernable reason that pack purchases can’t offer players meaningful choices that actually make them feel good. Its undeniable that Hearthstone has some room to improve on the systems which are currently under fire from its player base, but at the same, the player base needs to be a little more realistic about what they truly deserve from Blizzard. Hearthstone is an incredible game which provides its players with loads of free content, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean that its devoted fans don’t deserve more than they are currently receiving for their money. It seems as though Blizzard and Hearthstone fans need to meet each other halfway.
Blizzard doesn’t need to make sweeping changes to its in-game reward systems and payment models to silence their unsatisfied customers. By offering players a greater degree of choice than they are being offered today, players will feel as though they are getting a much better return on their investments of time and money. There will always be a vocal minority of the Hearthstone community who feel as though they deserve more for their money, but when that minority turns into a majority as it has in today’s Hearthstone community, it’s time to make some changes.
Nine new Kobolds and Catacombs cards were revealed today on the spoiler kick-off stream, including two Rogue Secrets!
Spoiler season for Kobolds and Catacombs officially began today with the spoiler kick-off stream, featuring game designer Peter Whalen and commentator Brian Kibler. Nine new cards were revealed during the stream, highlighted by the first two Rogue Secrets to join the game:
The latest class to gain the Secret card type, it will be very interesting to see if the full crop of Rogue Secrets in Kobolds and Catacombs will be strong enough to support a new archetype. The first two secrets, Cheat Death and Sudden Betrayal, certainly lend themselves to some exciting play patterns.
Peter Whalen's favorite card of today's lot, the team wanted to create a card which hearkened to the feeling of being swarmed by tiny monsters in a dungeon. Regardless of whether or not this card is actually good, it's certainly awesome.
The card I'm most excited to get my hands on appears powerful enough to make Dragon Priest an instant contender in the K&T metagame. Expect this card to receive strong ratings in upcoming set reviews.
Expanding on the skill-testing "Choose One" mechanic, Branching Paths doubles down by allowing players to choose from three options twice. The same option can be chosen both times.
Kathrena Winterwisp's text box reads as a one-way ticket to Valuetown. The only Hunter card with the powerful new Recruit mechanic, will Kathrena be enough to bring diversity to the one-dimensional Hunter class?
The design team knew that a set about dungeon crawling had to have a card with the name "Level Up!". Getting this to stick on three on more Silver Hand Recruits could be devastating, but how easy will that be to set up in an actual game?
The Legendary Shaman weapon comes in at a whopping 8 mana, implying that it packs a serious punch. It reads a little underwhelming for its high mana cost, but Shaman has quite a few spells that are untargeted and therefore purely beneficial. If The Runespear can consistently find Volcano or Lightning Storm it may be strong enough to see play in slower Shaman decks.
Warrior's Spellstone can deliver a whopping 15/15 worth of stats for 7 mana, but only if you can play two weapons while holding it in your hand. Mithril Spellstone plays excellently with the new Recruit mechanic, implying that the true strength of this card may be its ability to play to the board without being a minion. With spoiler season now in full swing, be sure to check back to Icy Veins for the full reveal schedule and stay up to date on the newest expansion in our Kobolds & Catacombs hub.
Card images courtesy of Hearthpwn.com
A new epic Kobold minion has been uncovered.
Italian streamer JackTorrance90 made this reveal. Without further ado, here is Rummaging Kobold:
Screencap from the stream
It is hard to evaluate this card before actually seeing it in action, as is the case with most of the pre-expansion reveals. I'd expect players to experiment with this card during the first weeks of the new expansion.
The obvious first point to be made is Rummaging Kobold's synergy with the new Legendary weapons this expansion will bring. People are expecting Harrison Jones, Acidic Swamp Ooze and Gluttonous Ooze to be run a lot in the new meta and this card ensures that you get a second chance with your legendary weapon. What if your opponent doesn't run these tech cards, though? Some of the revealed legendary weapons do not lose durability, making Rummaging Kobold not that useful.
Apart from decks containing legendary weapons, this card can also be useful for the traditional weapon classes of Hearthstone. Paladin and Warrior look like they can benefit more from it, whereas Rogue is probably the weakest of the bunch given that Rummaging Kobold can return a Wicked Knife. Perhaps an interesting combination could be created with Rummaging Kobold and Doomerang.
We have already had another reveal today and we are expecting another three now. We'll return soon with another article; until then, you can check out the reveal schedule as well as our Kobolds & Catacombs hub.