Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What Magic Online Can Learn From Hearthstone

As I mentioned last week, I finally decided to download Hearthstone and see what all the fuss was about. While there are still parts of the game that I have not really experienced (in particular, the Arena), at this point I feel like I’ve got a pretty good feel for what it has to offer. Overall, I have been quite impressed, and I certainly plan on continuing to play, at least for the time being.

It is with these experiences in mind that I wanted to offer some things that Hearthstone does well that would be a major improvement for Magic Online.
  1. Let players sign up for free. Hearthstone offers a ton of free content. Some of it you get access to right away, while the rest must be earned through gameplay. If I had been required to drop even $10 to download the game, I would have been a lot more reluctant to try it out. Considering how much money Wizards is making with Magic Online, establishing an account should be free.
  2. Create an AI to teach new players the game and/or client. As soon as you log into Hearthstone as a new player, you are dumped into the tutorial against some simple opponents, giving you the chance to learn the client and the cards without putting anything on the line. After you complete the tutorial, at any time you can sleeve up a new deck, or use the pre-created starters, to battle against the AI, which comes in both a normal and expert difficulty. This is, far and away, the best way to teach someone Hearthstone, and the same thing should be present for Magic Online.
  3. Give new players a progressive set of rewards they can immediately pursue. While Hearthstone allows you to jump right into the action if you want, you have the option of taking the time to unlock every character type, earn all the basic cards by leveling each character up to level 10, and earn more cards by defeating every Expert AI and playing your first real games against a human opponent. You even get your first Arena match without paying anything for it. Magic Online could easily adapt a similar approach: allow players to battle against the iconic Planeswalkers, with each one you beat rewarding you with access to that Vanguard avatar; create a set of challenges that progressively award you all of the Commons from the most recent Core set. These would be so much better than the silly Planeswalker packs they give out that are worthless in any real format.
  4. Implement a system that automatically matches you against similar opponents. Hearthstone has a Ladder system that always pairs you against opponents of the same rank as you. Magic Online players already have overall ratings based on their performance, so why not create a system whereby you have the ability to only battle players of similar caliber? While this could be a major shift in the way that Constructed and Limited work, it would make a much easier transition for new players into the format of their choice.
What about you? If you’ve had some experience with Hearthstone, I’d love to hear what you think Magic Online could learn from it. Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

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