It’ll be a long stare into nothingness, with the slightest grin of satisfaction and peace spread across the wrinkled face of the last Blizzard employee, as he sits in his office chair for the last time, just after announcing retirement to the world, knowing how well his company did in its long-run as developer of some of the most legendary RPG games ever scene.
It’s hard to say when such a day will come, but we know that Blizzard’s games and their success will be tale passed down generations, considering the trend of gaming can be hereditarily transferred (I’m willing to fund genome research regarding this if there are doubts).
It’s hard to isolate a crown-worth jewel in the list of brilliance that the company has displayed, but many would consider World of Warcraft a certain trend-setter – an archetype of all the MMO games that have come in the shadow of its legacy. It still remains a title that old, young, and the new are willing to play for a few hours on their lethally fast modern water-cooled computers or rusty old laptops.
Blizzard seems to recognize this fact, and that’s why their investing dollar into a game that takes spiritual aid from it.
When I first heard of Hearthstone, I thought a virtual card game based on the World of Warcraft lore and creatures was a touch below the standards of what Blizzard could cook up. But despite the groans that echo across the inter-web, this Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, has everything right going for itself, provided it is analyzed with parameters set for its genre.
It’s true that digital card games have never grasped my attention as everything else in this industry, but even as one who avoids engaging in titles and battles based on only a few shuffles of thickish paper, it’s easy to see how entertaining it can get.
Hearthstone’s mechanics are simple enough for most people to understand, even those like myself who prefer more elaborated virtual systems than cards. Two World of Warcraft heroes face off on a large board across from one another, each with one deck of cards, and a mana pool that gains one point per turn. Each card has a mana cost associated with it.
The cards themselves can represent either minions, which can assume either an offensive or defensive role, or other abilities associated with the chosen hero. Minions tend to have small mana costs as well, in addition to health and damage stats.
The ratings (stats) of the cards at both ends are matched up, and if one overcomes the other, the weaker card will disintegrate. Battles between minions can go on for quite a while, but the core objective is to deplete the life of the hero that commands them.
The mana pool gradually grows with every turn to accommodate more powerful cards, so a single mistake early-on can mean total disaster, which gives the game a chess-like systematic approach requirement.
On average, a game can last 10 to 15 minutes, considering you play an opponent matched equally to your caliber. Those who have only just begun playing can take aid from the comprehensive tutorials that teach you step-by-step procedures of what should and shouldn’t be done, to a certain level of course.
What makes virtual card games so intriguing is the set of animations that come with each move and decision. This aspect seems to give such titles a transitional feel – one that sits right on the border between real-life card games and the rich fantasy that we experience on our digital screens. There is also a sense of constant progress, as you level yourself to unlock additional classes and decks.
There is a definable cap to how much you can progress under simple means though, as the mightiest cards are only accessible by excessive play or via online transactional payments. This does give the entire game the notorious ‘pay-to-win’ aspect, but it seems to be the most effective way for Blizzard to earn profit from this simple yet rich idea.
Nevertheless, while some might protest against this feature, most regular users will not hesitate to boost their superiority by sacrificing some cash, mainly because of the addictive nature of the game. World of Warcraft fans will see their nostalgic desires quenched in an exotic manner, with the familiar audio and visual effects ripped straight out of the original game.
And the fact that it has so much competitive potential, despite being a card game, may make it a Blizzard project that the old last employee will recall with memories of success.