Greedy Goblin

Friday, January 31, 2014

Free to stone the heart

I've tried out the free to play Blizzard game, Heartstone, despite "free to play" obviously covers something nasty. After all, the publisher needs income, so if you are not the paying customer, you are the product being sold.

The game is pretty much Magic the Gathering. You get cards, build a deck and play against another player. The cards are either minions or spells to use. But I noticed two things: the first is that after my rating climbed a bit, my opponents started to use cards I've never seen and obviously overpowered to mine. Secondly, in the arena mode, where the decks are built more or less randomly, I won much more.

Then I did what every decent player would do, searched the Internet for guides. And I found guides, how to build decks. All the cards are blue and yellow of course. You get one random blue card per pack. No guarantee for yellow or for a blue I want. Then I went to the shop page and found this:

A game takes about 5 minutes. You get 10 gold for 3 wins, and the matchmaking means one loss for every win. So to get 100 gold for playing, you need to play 10*5*3*2/60 = 5 hours. On the other hand you can buy a deck for 1.1 Euros if you buy the most economic pack. So paying is the preferred way of farming, unless your salary is below 22 cents per hour.

My problem isn't that you must pay to be anything but a punching bag. I've played 5 years of World of Warcraft, paying 720 euros in the process. My EVE accounts are over 1000 Euros, luckily they've been paid by bad EVE players. It's obvious that you have to pay to use a product and can only get a sample for free. However - unlike in subscription games - there is no fixed cost. If I pay the subscription, I can play EVE or WoW fully. If I pay even $1000 on Heartstone, there is absolutely no guarantee that I'll be competitive against someone who paid $2000. Even worse, there is no guarantee that my wins are mine, and I'm not just stomping on better players with smaller wallets.

So no thanks, I keep away from Heartstone and the rest of the pay-to-win games.

I've updated the "My EVE corp" page to be more clear why you should join the Lemmings against the Goons!

War update: RvB ran! The 2 weeks passed and their ally status is automatically dropped. But they choose not to rejoin, because they "had enough fun". The diplomatic issues of being Goon pet and the 36% ISK ratio had nothing to do with their decision. A new alliance wardecced us Just now, surely a coincidence. I have no idea who they are, they look like Jita campers, but they decced no typical camper targets, just us and Marmite. Probably mercs. Goons will rotate pets and mercs, but we'll overcome them too.

About the war: yesterday the Lemmings were called for an op. I expected a roam and/or a POCO in Perimiter. Which one?

All of it! Most unfortunately, the Goons set their reinforcement timer to 2 AM local time to me, but hey, it's not like I'm in the Lemmings for my PvP skills! My part is to get the bills paid! It's great to see that others do their part too!


Anonymous said...

Um... U didn't see the interview at the start of the war when RvB said they were going to fight for 2 weeks and then let it lapse? Anyone paying attention knew war was about to end 2 weeks ago.

Unknown said...

On hearthstone, a number of streamers have unlocked every single card in the game without ever paying a dime to the game.

You're right that it takes far too long to earn decks by just playing constructed, however your collection has no effect on arena and you can earn cards faster there as long as you are an above average player (Matchmaking in arena is just based on your current arena run, your past runs/constructed rank have nothing to do with who you play, so you aren't constrained to 50% winrate longterm). If you can average 7 wins per run you can run arena indefinitely (you get more gold back that it costs to enter) while getting a pack every 10 games instead of every 60, in addition to gaining gold and dust for crafting cards you don't happen find in packs.

The other thing you're missing is that there aren't that many cards. If you do happen to spend $1000 on the game, you will almost certainly get or be able to craft every card in the game, so you aren't behind the guy who spent $2000, he'll just have more golden cards, which are functionally identical, just prettier.

Azuriel said...

Actually, people already mathed out that it, at most, would cost ~$640 to get every Hearthstone card in the game. That's because you can disenchant any non-Basic card into Dust, which is then used to craft the cards of your choice. Realistically, it would cost less because not all the Legendary cards are all that good (and they cost 1600 Dust to craft).

Also, this guy hit Legendary Rank in Constructed using a purely F2P account he created 5 days previously.

Given the above, I find it sort of amusing that you'd consider something like Hearthstone to be P2W but not EVE, considering the latter can see someone buying a 100m SP pilot and a Titan on Day 1 with real money. They might lose it 5 minutes later, but a new player to Hearthstone wouldn't fare much better even if they copied the #1 deck.

Gevlon said...

Blizzard already announced an expansion pack with 200 something cards, so another batch of money to pay.

@Azuriel: you can't buy anything from CCP. You can buy a titan from another player, but then the seller will have no titan, so a third party isn't behind.

Azuriel said...

you can't buy anything from CCP. You can buy a titan from another player, but then the seller will have no titan, so a third party isn't behind.

Err... okay. Even if we use your particular definition of P2W, the fact remains that A) players have reached one of the highest ranks in the game by purchasing zero cards, B) it's fully possible to earn every competitive card in-game, and C) P2W doesn't exist in Arena.

And I still don't see the difference in the Hearthstone vs EVE comparison. Just because the Titan is player-made doesn't mean the Day 1 player did not purchase an advantage over every other Day 1 player (and most everyone not specifically roaming in a Titan-hunting band). It's P2SpeedUp in both cases.

Anonymous said...

Finally - we will see if your war against goons has substance or if it's just bluster.


Babar said...

I'm a little surprised that you criticize Hearthstone like that. Sure, if you're goal is to be the highest ranked constructed player, you'll need to buy packs. That's true for all TCG/CCGs.

But Hearthstone includes a mode that is specifically anti-pay2win: Arena. Nothing matters except skill. And if you manage to get to 7 wins, you get at least 150 gold, which is enough to buy back in again. So if you can do this on average, you can play Arena forever. And since a pack is always included in your Arena buy-in (you can even get an additional one if you get to 12 wins) you can get all the cards without paying anything.

It'll take time of course, but Arena is in my opinion the most enjoyable way to play anyway, so I don't mind. I don't even disenchant extra cards, since I never play constructed anyway, and I might as well wait until cards are changed, so I get more dust from disenchanting.

As for the Goon Poco's, it will be interesting for sure to see how this plays out. Maybe we underestimated the Lemmings after all?

maxim said...

Hearthstone - at least in the initial set of cards - seems to be a pretty shallow game.

Legendaries beat all and there is no way to counter :(

Which results in some pay-to-win kind of experiences.

The fact that you can get all the cards by only investing your time does not diminish pay-to-win nature for those who understand that time is money.

Tithian said...

Re: Hearthstone

Or, if you are competent (i.e. 6-7 wins per arena run) you can do dailies and play arena without ever paying a cent. Eventually you will have all the cards unlocked.

Hafu, one of the more popular streamers, plays only arena, never paid for cards and has something like 10k gold that just sit there. She also has enough dust to craft all the cards but she doesn't bother because your collection doesn't matter in arena. Massan, another streamer never paid for card packs and got a a complete collection through arena as well. When he got all the legendaries he needed he went into constructed and went all the way to Legend.

So if you have the skills and dedication, HS is indeed very F2P.

Lucas Kell said...

"As for the Goon Poco's, it will be interesting for sure to see how this plays out. Maybe we underestimated the Lemmings after all?"
I sincerely doubt it. POCOs don't take much to reinforce, you can do it solo in under an hour, and there would have been few goons in high sec so it would have been uncontested. The real question is, do a self-described rag-tag group have both the courage and the capability to stand against the goons if they choose to defend? Unlikely.

I do expect lemmings and marmite to form moderate numbers however, so if a fight does occur it will be interesting to see at least.

If I had to put in a solid prediction I'd probably go with this:
1. Lemmings and marmite will form 50-100.
2. Goons will blob.
3. Lemmings will concede and leave.
4. Gevlon will post a blog post claiming time wasted and opportunity costs declaring that a victory metric.
5. Lemmings will celebrate their victory by patting each other on the back wildly, at the same time as telling us all that the goons blobbing is a sign of weakness.

Gevlon said...

Lucas, what you don't seem to notice is that reinforcing indeed needs a few bored guys for an hour (and that's in large supply in EVE). Defending needs a fleet.

Reinforcing ALL Perimiter POCOs wasn't my decision and I don't think they will be taken. For such a threat the Goons can form a blob.

What I plan is that Lemmings reinforce a POCO every day 3-4 man-hours, demanding a serious Goon fleet blueballed every damn day.

Anonymous said...

In this case it will become a war of will... Who will give up first?

But I'm afraid Lucas' predictions
will occur.


Everblue said...

You can get a lot more gold from quests than from simple farming. Most quests require 3-5 wins and offer up to 60 gold.

I play for about 30 mins a day and get about 2 packs every 3 days.

Legendaries are not really OP. Most of them can be easily countered with a hard removal or silence.

mynnna said...

Thanks for the heads up on the war. I was under the impression that allies stayed on until the war's end - that's what the devblog says back in 2012, and I'm not aware of any changes since.

Still, whips & threats have been deployed and RvB should be back in things in time to greet your minions.

Gevlon said...

@Mynnna: the allies system was changed when Goons cried a river at Jade Constantine.

Actually to prevent them being captured in a foreverwar.

I'm sure you'll be able to persuade them to rejoin. It'll be just more and more expensive, finally to the point when the POCOs won't generate enough income to pay for the pets.

Rhiaden said...

"What I plan is that Lemmings reinforce a POCO every day 3-4 man-hours, demanding a serious Goon fleet blueballed every damn day."

Define "serious" goon fleet, are we talking 200-300 people every day?
200-300 mains, or alts?

Why not just take these alts and stick them outside the logoff stations, preventing the pocos being shot in the first place.

10 people per fleet outside your logoff station = 20 - 30 stations that can be covered. And 10 is way overkill, 2-3 would do it, allowing for 50-100 stations to be covered.

Lucas Kell said...

"Lucas, what you don't seem to notice is that reinforcing indeed needs a few bored guys for an hour (and that's in large supply in EVE). Defending needs a fleet"
I think you vastly overestimate the effort required to get a fleet together. If you could mount a 2000 man offensive, sure, it would be tough, but to blob the lemmings it won't take much.

"What I plan is that Lemmings reinforce a POCO every day 3-4 man-hours, demanding a serious Goon fleet blueballed every damn day."
Blueballing a fleet is as tough on your fleet as it is on the enemy. Since your guys are gaining nothing from doing the fleets, and have been brought on board under the guise of ganking goons, how long do you think your members will be willing to grind down POCOs with no payout? I'm willing to bet that the goons would have more stamina in that regard.

Gevlon said...

@Lucas: you still don't understand that I don't need a fleet. To reinforce a POCO you don't need FC, logi, bridging titan, doctrine ships, ping or whatever. It just need 2-3 guys, semi AFK. Hell, I did it all by myself.

Defense on the other hand needs a fleet, even if it can be lead by a junior FC and doesn't need doctrinal perfectness.

Lucas Kell said...

"you still don't understand that I don't need a fleet."
Well you do. Defense only needs a fleet if you are a threat. If you are not a threat, then a couple of alts semi-AFK in repair ships can do the job. Historically blueball fleets aren't even told that's what they are, as they need to seem like a legitimate formup for the longest duration possible so the enemy commits to the fight.

Bill said...

In Hearthstone, when rankings are reset, people with more advanced decks but low rank will use you as a punching bag. But once they rocket up the rankings it becomes less of an issue.

Once I got my first useless legendary good for 1000 dust, I was able to buy several cheap rares to make a competent deck. Legendaries still made my games harder to win. But it wasn't even close to a 100% loss ratio.

I haven't played in a few weeks, so maybe recently its gotten worse. But once I learned how to play more strategically, hanging onto a few key cards to help later in the game it was better.

Anonymous said...

re Hearthstone.
If you search properly you can find some very strong starter decks that only use the cards that are available for free.
You've also joined just after a rand reset so there are a lot of formerly high ranked players with rare cards still at lower levels.

Only an moron would grind for gold at 10g per 3 when they could get 40g for teh same 3 wins on a class specific quest. Doing one quest a day results in one deck per 2x30 minutes sessions.

Gevlon said...

@Lucas: the problem is the POCO itself. If Lemmings fail/refuse to form up for a timer, nothing happens. If Goons fail to form up, or come in a fleet unable to fight, they lose the POCO.

Losing a POCO is not only embarrassing after the forum bragging that it will never happen, but also a problem because to get it back they have to:
- wardec the corp placing the new POCO
- wait 24 hours
- come to highsec to RF it with a fleet (Lemming presence in highsec is continuous, if you just send AFK guys, they die)
- come back in an inappropriate time to finish the job

Lucas Kell said...

"If Goons fail to form up, or come in a fleet unable to fight, they lose the POCO."
Buy only if you guys form up and attack it. The timer doesn't mean the POCO is lost, you still have to kill the rest of it. If they know you guys aren't forming up a fleet, they only need a small contingent to repair it, no bigger than you used to RF it in the first place. Blueballing requires you to actually form up a fleet big enough to look like a threat.

Sugar Kyle said...

People wsrdec groups like Marmite simply because high sec PvPers often have shiny things due to their ability to not worry aboutnrandom third parties and heavy logi use.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the war gevlon. I think it's funny how 0.0 big blue blocs saw empire PI open up and then for some reason think it was a change meant for personally them. Talk about entitlement complex.

daniel said...

"Defense on the other hand needs a fleet, even if it can be lead by a junior FC and doesn't need doctrinal perfectness."

Goons get a low level war to train up a new generation of fc's.

Nosebear said...

Oh please, EVE is as much pay to win as it can get. That CCP opened the market to players doesn't change that fact. You can't tell me that those large nullsec wars aren't fought with considerable amounts of RL cash either. What do you think would happen if some whale decides to spend $10k on plex to crush a medium sized alliance?

Sure, one can play the game perfectly fine without any pay2win and you yourself prove just that. The plex concept is an interesting game mechanic by itself. Not paying for your game is kind of like winning at pay2win. Still you are the product being sold.

In the end all the f2p and microtransaction schemes are dishonest BS - quite the opposite of a good trade - that lead towards bad game design. Devs end up fucking up their own games to make a buck. Gamasutra, being more of an industry insider site than a site for gamers, has some good reads on the hooks we lay out for you.

Even worse if this happens within subscription games; just look at todays Wow. What a masterpiece it once was..

Pet battles weren't introduced into WoW for the "fun" 3 button game play, but to promote the shitty pet-store. Someone got a bonus for that idea. I already hear some tool say "but I like pet battles so much" - good for you, I would rather have played WoW, done some challenging 5-mans and paid my subscription for it of course.

Wow's downfall (not financal, but gameplay) began when they started to sell sparkly ponies to idiots and targeted the game more towards them as only idiots would buy that stuff in the first place. One of the upcoming expansion's "exciting" new features will be garrisons, a vehicle to sell you furniture. Let's not even talk about boosting chars to 90. "Ebay? No, blizzstore lulz" - Oh god, I'm so glad I stopped playing.

Anonymous said...

Lemmings is quite interesting but I am worried.

Goons are quite adept at diplomacy, including the RvB they set up and then getting them to rejoin.

And I think it is fair to say that with all your skills, diplomacy and persuasion are not your strongest.

Good Luck!

Druur Monakh said...

Nosebear: "What do you think would happen if some whale decides to spend $10k on plex to crush a medium sized alliance?"

I invite you to spell it out: what do _you_, Nosebear, think, would happen? And no glossing over crucial Step 2.

I ask because it is easy to post suggestive questions, but much harder to actually back them up.