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Damien

Icy Veins' New Design and Logo

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A few words of explanations on the new design.

Our new site is finally up and running, so we put together this article to explain why we did it and what our plans are going forward.


Two days ago, we unveiled our new logo and the new design of our website. As you can imagine, there were a few bugs and quirks, so we have been working around the clock to fix everything that was being reported. Now that this post-launch rush is over, I wanted to take the time to talk more about this rebranding, as one might call it. I'll also explain why the forums haven't been updated to the new design yet.

Previous design felt dated


The most obvious reason for all this is that our previous logo and site design started feeling a bit dated. When we started Icy Veins, I designed everything all by myself. I'm a software engineer and I'm pretty bad at visual stuff, so here's how the website looked in the very early days: https://web.archive.org/web/20110404021849/https://www.icy-veins.com/

Throughout 2012, we sought out help from our good friend, Michael Oglesby, which eventually culminated in the design we had been using up until Friday.

The problem was that we kept improving something that was not very good to begin with, so we decided to start afresh this time. Unfortunately, Michael is a UX/UI specialist, not an artist, so we had to find someone with an artistic touch. We eventually settled on Karim Boukarabila.

With him, we were able to go much further and really give our website that slick and pleasant appearance that had been sorely missing. That said, it isn't a revolution. We've always felt that our layout was pretty solid and that the website was easy to navigate. So, we tried to keep much of the existing layout and simply focused on making it look much much better and more modern.

More on the logo


The logo is meant to represent a person guiding you in the right direction, a bit like we do with our guides. That person has the appearance of a mage or a wizard, because Icy Veins is a mage spell in World of Warcraft (we'll never forget where we come from!). It also works with the other games we cover, as you find mages/wizards in Hearthstone, Diablo 3, and Heroes of the Storm.

We think that this new logo is going to give us a more recognizable face on social media, as well on memorabilia that we'll sell on our shop. Indeed, more and more people block ads, so we need additional sources of revenue if we want to keep the site afloat for many years to come. We're also looking at starting premium subscriptions in 2016, and being able to include nice looking stuff in the premium package is a definite plus.

More on the design


First, we decided to keep a dark background, as we feel that it is what is best suited to the games we cover (they all have light-colored text on dark-colored backgrounds). Also, when linking World of Warcraft items/spells, Diablo 3 items/spells, and Hearthstone cards, we like to use in-game colors, and some of them (purple and white, most notably) look much better on dark.

Second, the website is now responsive, but with a slight twist. While the website does adapt to various mobile devices, for desktop the width is fixed at 1070 pixels (to fit ad takeovers, see https://www.icy-veins.com/advertise). Obviously, we've had to remove the right column to fit our pages on mobile devices, but for those who prefer seeing the desktop version, there is a link at the bottom of each page to force the desktop version (you just need to click it once and the website will remember your choice in subsequent visits).

Third, the menu underwent a number of improvements. The menu now follows the scroll on desktop, as well as on mobile devices when you choose to force the desktop version, but this feature is disabled for Chrome on Android for technical reasons (browser really bad at handling position: fixed). There is also a mobile-specific menu, which is very straightforward.

Finally, the news now have a much more prominent place. This is to help promote the content that our new team of writers is producing every day.

Ongoing/future work


There are many things that Karim designed and that haven't made it yet to the site, most notably the forums and embedded twitch streams.

The forums run on IP.Board, a completely different software than the rest of the website. It recently received a major upgrade (like it's been completely rewritten), so I need to upgrade our forums to this new version and then make a new Icy Veins skin for it (because the skin system has drastically changed).

Originally, I was planning to drop IP.Board and convert the forums to another software, because IP.Board is probably one of the worst pieces of software I have ever worked with. The code base feels very old and clunky (and there's barely any documentation), so when they announced a complete rewrite of it, I figured that I'd give them one last chance.

Regarding embedded twitch streams, the idea is that for each game we cover, we will propose a number of instructional/didactic streams that you can watch directly on Icy Veins. I don't want to talk too much about that yet, because we still have a number of things to decide on.

Suggestions


I want to end this article by saying that everyone is welcome to send suggestions and feedback. Since the new site went live, we received a number of e-mails. Some praised the new design and it made us happy. Others suggested improvements or reported bugs.

To give you an idea of what you can suggest, we received an e-mail from someone who was complaining that asking Chrome on Android to "request desktop site" was not working, so we added this "Force desktop version" button to our mobile pages.

Another reader complained about how impractical using the desktop menu was with a touchscreen laptop (because you can't mouseover), so we added event handlers to the menu to properly interact with touch events.

As you can see, we are very open to feedback and will do whatever is required for everyone to have a nice browsing experience.
  • Like 6

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So, access to diablo3, HOTS and wow builds and HS decks, will be paid? And i have an extra question: Why not an SC2 section? I'm a very bad player of SC myself, but love the game!

Edited by lexblow

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So, access to diablo3, HOTS and wow builds and HS decks, will be paid? And i have an extra question: Why not an SC2 section? I'm a very bad player of SC myself, but love the game!

No, you misunderstood. Our content will always be free, which is why we need to find other incentives for people to sign up for a premium account (no ads, cool goodies, etc.). We don't really play SC2, so we don't really know how to make good guides for it smile.png

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This is probably on the To-Do list with the forums upgrade, but in the mobile version (on iOS), I don't see a way to directly reach the forums from the home page. I usually end up clicking on a topic and then using the old interface to click and go to the forums.

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The new website looks awesome. And I really like the new logo. Can't wait to see what exciting changes 2016 will bring for this site. I've been a visitor throughout my gaming career. Don't know what I'd do without it. Keep up the great work!

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Windows desktop Chrome user here on a 2560x1440 monitor. Still getting used to it. The home page feels like a run on mess to me. I think I need a more effective separator element (either a literal line, or more space, or some other styling that more effectively groups things to go together into one unit and gives the units more room to breathe. I also feel like a bunch of elements aren't aligned correctly even though when I inspect it using tools I can see that they are - some illusion of white space I think.

 

I understand the older style may not be "cool" to today's design professionals but clear organization and separation of elements always worked for me. For example on this forum page I can readily distinguish one user's post from the next.

 

I'm sure I'll be in love with this new style by the time you roll out 3.0 ;-)

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Thank you guys for the feedback! I've been gathering everything we received (by e-mail, on forum posts or on Twitter) about the new design and we'll discuss all these points with our designer after the Christmas Holidays.

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      Daniel Friedman from Polygon did the legwork for me and produced a fair estimation for the yearly cost of sustaining a reasonable Hearthstone collection: $400, including in-game currency gains. For a whale, this isn't a lot. By comparison, $170 USD a year will keep you completely competitive in Heroes of the Storm, though in reality, you could get away with spending much less by regularly completing daily quests and skipping weak heroes. Again, for a whale, this isn't a lot. As a developer, you then run into this problem of needing to balance the needs of freeloaders, casual players, and whales. On one hand, purchases that have a direct effect on game play (cards in card games, characters in MOBAs, weapons in FPSs, etc.) must remain relatively accessible to all. On the other hand, you need to have content for whales to spend on. And this is exactly why most free-to-play games feature a large amount of expensive cosmetic items. At the time of writing, building a full non-golden Hearthstone card collection would set you back nearly $2,000 USD. For a full golden collection, I've seen estimates ranging between $10,000 and $20,000 USD. This number would increase by approximately $3,000 with every new expansion. For the majority of us, this sounds insane. To a whale, this is a goal.
      II) Artificial rarity
      Scarcity breeds desire. De Beers exploited this back in the 1930s to artificially inflate the price of its diamonds. Blizzard too does this across its microtransaction games; inherently, high rarity items in Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Heroes of the Storm aren't more powerful (less so for Hearthstone) or attractive (this is subjective, of course) than other items. By assigning rare, epic, and legendary qualities to their items – which is rather clever, by the way, as we have been groomed by years upon years of World of Warcraft to respect these rarities and associated colours – Blizzard is justifying steeper crafting costs and lower pulling chances when there would otherwise be no objective reason to make certain items harder to acquire. Item rarity becomes particularly easy for players to hate, and justifiably so, when it is directly tied to in-game power levels. But for big spenders, high rarity simply becomes synonymous with quality, regardless of the item's intrinsic value, not unlike luxury brands.
      Item rarity isn't the only way Blizzard (and other companies; I'm not trying to specifically criticise Blizzard here, but I just happen to know their products well enough) are creating artificial rarity. Although card games such as Hearthstone naturally conjure events whenever a new expansion comes out, Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm very carefully plan time-limited in-game events with event-exclusive and sometimes limited (in the sense that this is your one chance of acquiring them) cosmetic items to imbue players with a hollow sense of urgency. These events often have specific loot boxes, and the items they contain are invariably more expensive than year-round items for players to craft to further incentivise purchases.
      III) Obfuscation of costs
      Let's have a short quiz.
      a) How much is a legendary Hearthstone card worth?
      Surprised? So am I.
      b) How much is a legendary Heroes of the Storm item worth?
      ...surprised again? So was I. And I'm actually slightly embarrassed to admit that it took me a few minutes to math this one out. Why? I had to convert my local Canadian currency into a number of "Gems" before looking into making a loot chest purchase. The insidious bit is that whenever I tried to purchase a specific number of chests, I'd always either have some leftover gems or have to go for a less appealing package. At this rate, this point is just writing itself out.
      Gold, gems, dust, credits, "not-money". Whatever you call them, they're much easier to spend than actual cash, not unlike real life credit, and particularly for impulse purchases. You'll notice that such currencies are often purchased by the thousand, which only serves to further disconnect consumers from their money.

      You look like candy. I don't mind spending you at all.
      The random nature of loot boxes and card packs only serves to further obfuscate how much players are actually spending for what they're getting. If you've ever wondered why players weren't just allowed to pick whatever card (or cosmetic, in the case of loot boxes) they needed from packs since cards have no resale value and cannot be traded with other players, this is it.  And if you've ever wondered why obvious filler such as Sewer Crawler or Worgen Greaser gets printed with every expansion, there's your answer again.
      IV) Steady compulsion looping
      No random microtransaction system can be successful without providing its target market with a highly controlled but steady stream of merchandise. Games such as Heroes of the Storm offer a frontloaded number of loot chests to hook its players in, then cleverly use the "progression" system to regularly feed them with bits of dopamine. The player profile has a section dedicated to indicating how close players are to acquiring their next reward as a constant reminder. The tiered loot chest system even acts as a small knob to control exactly how much players should be getting, and when. Items such as Stimpacks have the dual effect of doubling the rate of the compulsion looping schedule and instilling players with a false sense of faster progression to become particularly addictive. Positive reinforcement variable ratio schedules are also found under the form of a mechanic known by players as a "pity timer" which ensures that at least one legendary item will be collected every 35th loot chest (every 39th card pack in Hearthstone) to ensure a certain level of randomized microtransaction loyalty.
      The visuals and sounds that accompany the opening of loot boxes is specifically designed to heighten excitement, with higher rarity items being generally accompanied by flashier animations and more exciting sound effects.
      Ultimately, the goal of the system is to create a form of extrinsic motivation that encourages players to remain active and incentivises them to make purchases. Daily quests fulfill a similar purpose, though they obviously cannot be purchased.
      Are loot boxes and card packs a form of gambling?
      With randomized microtransactions under the proverbial spotlight, I believe this question is going to be a big one in the near future. As of right now however, the answer varies broadly depending on who you ask; many American and European countries are in the process of studying the question, whereas most Asian countries have already legislated. Given the different gaming culture, as was explained in the second paragraph of this article, this makes sense: Asian countries have been way more exposed to microtransactions – and their effects – than western countries have.
      In an unexpectedly liberal move, China dropped a bomb in December 2016 when it announced that game publishers dealing in the country would have to reveal the draw chances of randomized virtual items and services. Furthermore, this new law outright banned loot box-like systems. Blizzard complied with the new legislation in a particularly crass way by instead selling meaningless amounts of in-game currency (dust for Hearthstone, credits for Overwatch, etc.) and giving out an equal amount of packs or loot boxes as a "gift" for purchasing said currency. I'm not joking.
      Of course, this is just one step towards regulation (or not) in one country, and, as stated earlier, distinct countries are tackling the issue at different speeds. However, I suspect the battle to have far-reaching consequences. In the US, lawsuits against analogous systems, notably, Pokémon cards, was ultimately dismissed back in 1999. Why? Simply put, booster packs were deemed to "not be harmful enough" despite passing the gambling test, which serves to identify what constitutes gambling in the US. How do you perform this test? Look for the three following elements:
      Consideration; basically, a cost or "risk" Chance; an unpredictable outcome (what will I win, or; will I win something at all?) Prize; what you will gain if you do win (for binary gambling), or; what you will gain (i.e. cards, for non-binary gambling) Notice anything? Loot boxes and card packs – though only those purchased with real currency – fit the bill. I've seen individuals argue that loot boxes could not be considered gambling because they always had a yield, but the test cares little about the nature of the yield as long as it is directly tied to consideration and chance. Jurisprudence has set a rather strange factor – harm, which, I have no idea how the judge evaluated – as one of the main component for future lawsuits. And so, we must then ask whether loot boxes and analogous systems are in fact harmful. Some have hypothesized that they can contribute to video game addiction, but the very existence of this disorder is still being debated. Perhaps we should instead look at gambling addiction to make a case, though we are headed deep into political and moral territories. Who should be in control of their own fate? Let's not go there just yet.
      Moral and design concerns
      It is with much noise and celebrating that Heroes of the Storm moved away from its standard microtransaction system to embrace loot chests fully back in May 2017. Most of the changes brought in by Heroes 2.0 would ultimately serve to support the introduction of randomized microtransactions.
      Indeed, if economic research showed that loot boxes were not more lucrative than typical microtransactions (such as buying exactly what you want, such as a given Hearthstone card or Heroes of the Storm skin for a set price), they simply wouldn't exist. They are predatory in the sense that they exploit basic behavioural traits to make more money than a typical, non-random system would.
      The success of loot boxes becomes particularly terrifying when certain fundamental games design principles have to be twisted to promote the appeal of purchasing loot boxes. Games such as Overwatch are hardly affected. Other games, such as Hearthstone, are incentivised to make more powerful cards rarer to increase potential profits, though ultimately, this is a thing we have come to accept – unjustifiably, perhaps? – from card games. Other much more reprehensible game examples literally tie player power to randomly finding certain items. Loot boxes and their content need to be advertised, too, which distracts from the game.

      Hey MVP! Don't mind my skin and banner, by the way. Cough. But they do look nice. If only you had them, you could be just as good as I am...
      The human demand for gambling is undeniable. Unlike video game addiction, however, gambling addiction is recognized as a mental disorder. Whether certain whales are affected by the disorder is difficult to tell, but vices ultimately tend to affect the most vulnerable of us. Controlling certain behaviour is excessively difficult, if not impossible, but knowing that my favourite games may be subsidised by people whose lives are compromised by gambling problems is always a sad thought. And although I generally try and avoid making unfounded assertions, I can't help but to question the effects of exposing children and adolescents to gambling, regardless of the form. This is particularly worrisome as younger gamers are being groomed by popular mobile games to see such microtransactions as completely normal.
      TL;DR
      Electronic Arts' massive blunder with Star Wars Battlefront 2's loot crate system caused a global awareness of randomized microtransactions, prompting reactions from several political figured around the world. Random microtransactions would be considered a form of gambling by US law, but existing jurisprudence tells us that they are unlikely to be controlled unless objective harm can be proved, just as with physical collectible cards. Random microtransactions exploit human behavioural weaknesses to generate significantly more profit than traditional transactions.
    • By Blainie
      Apply now to join our WoW Classic writing team!
      We are recruiting a Paladin-class writer for WoW Classic, as well as additional writers for non-class content guides.
      As many of you may already know, we are currently growing our WoW Classic section on the site and populating it with guides for all areas of the game.
      We are recruiting writers for the following guides:
      Paladin class guide: This will involve writing a full guide for all of the viable specs in WoW Classic, just as we currently have for the other classes. The guide will mainly be PvE-focused, but there will be a PvP section that you will also be required to complete. Non-class guides: This will involve working alongside other writers to complete guides on professions, dungeons, raids, and zones in WoW Classic. You will not be writing any class-specific content, but instead you will be creating "general" guides for the game. Requirements
      You must have a strong command of the English language, most importantly in its written form. While this role is open to all, native speakers are preferred. You will need a deep understanding of WoW Classic's mechanics and, in the case of the class writer position, you must fully understand and be familiar with playing as a Paladin at the highest level of "Vanilla" WoW. You will be expected to put out a steady flow of content, with frequent updates as required.  You must be at least 18 years of age. Remuneration
      This is a paid position, with a revenue sharing agreement (on all content created by the applicant) that will be explained and discussed in the later stages of the recruitment process. If you are interested in the position and feel that you might be the right person for the job, you can send us an email at jobs@icy-veins.com. There is no strict format for applying, so you can complete your application in any way that you feel is appropriate. Please note that, due to there being no strict format, we will treat all correspondence with us part of your application. We will conduct interviews with the top choices following a reviewing period.
      There is currently no deadline for applications, but earlier applications will be looked at immediately, given the release date of the game closing in.
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