Burning Down The House: Hearthstone Enters Open Beta

By Graham Smith on January 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm.

A straight flush!

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a tremendously dull name for a game, but let’s unpick this. The game is the hearthstone, the bottom of a fireplace. The players are the kindling, being rapidly consumed in that fiery furnace. The closed beta is the flames, locked in place so only those lucky enough to have a key can enter.

Only now the fire is spreading. North America has already been consumed, and the rest of the world will fall in “the next few days.” Run. Run! Hearthstone has entered open beta.

Hearthstone has been in closed beta since last August, and in that time has been updated so much, and become so popular, that you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s already out. FYI: it wasn’t. It is now. Sort of. In the post on the Hearthstone blog, Blizzard stress that the game is still in beta:

Open Beta is still not a final release, and we will be closely monitoring many aspects of the game to ensure a positive play experience for everyone. Please be aware that if smoke starts curling out of our servers due to unexpectedly high demand for Hearthstone, we may have to temporarily disable Open Beta account activations until we’re ready to take on more players.

There will be smoke. Sure, Hearthstone might seem like a collectible card game like so many others, but in reality it’s a collectible card game with a gryphon that looks at your mouse pointer when you tickle his head. Kieron likes it. Stanton explained how to get the most out of it. Personally I am hoping open beta causes an influx of new, inexperienced players I can actually win a game against. Otherwise it’s just me and the gryphon, tickling ourselves happy.

The open beta is good news for gaming websites with fragile servers, as Hearthstone beta key giveaways have already caused smoke to spew from half the internet due to shear ungodly demand. My favourite email on the subject was from a Blizzad PR, who wanted to draw my attention to an email he’d just received from a person who claimed he worked for me. This kid had created their own email signature logo and everything. ‘Please can I have a copy of the digital battle wizards’. Nice try.

If you’re in North America, go to the Hearthstone site to download the beta now.

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37 Comments »

  1. Commander Gun says:

    Great that everyone can play now (though i hope Europe will soon follow). I had the fortune to get in beta in november and still have an absolute blast. Brings back lots of memories when i actively played Magic. Games are short end mostly fun, and there’s tons of information on various sites. Of course there’s the typical Blizzard “OMG, i can’t win vs this card/deck so it must be OP, plz Nerf!!” threads, but oh well.

    And as a bonus, current players will have a field day on Arena the coming weeks :)

    • Derpa says:

      To bad they listen to the nerf threads.

      or

      Just make bad nerfs

      Btw druid/pally for life

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      jrodman says:

      Do you have any pithy thoughts about what aspects of the game please you? I feel like there’s a hidden depth, but I haven’t found it yet.

      • LawL4Ever says:

        From what I’ve experienced the hidden depth is mainly turning around situations that seem lost through some interesting combos. Blizz posted some puzzles having that kind of situations (http://eu.battle.net/hearthstone/en/blog/11868611/puzzles-and-hearthstone-4-the-puzzling-12-12-2013), but that’s probably about it. Other than that there’s the deckbuilding / arena draft and the decision what to play or what to attack.

      • misterT0AST says:

        I instinctively felt the game to be incredibly shallow, but I have a friend that is very much into it, and he really pushes me to play and learn. When you get a bit deeper, you find out that (as for every game, from Bowling to Chess to Checkers to Dota to Street Fighter to Divekick) there are big strategies over the whole game, small strategies for every single turn, a specific way to build decks that has a specific effect, really deep implications for really simple moves, and so on.
        You know how expert Cricket players would enjoy watching professional Cricket way more than any peasant?
        And every professional Bocce player would enjoy speaking about Bocce way more than someone who never played?
        Well, that’s Hearthstone’s trick: it is so shallow, that the “metaplay”, the expertise is at hand for anyone.

        It took me way too much playing fighting games to understand what a “grappler” is, and way too much playing dota to understand what “pooling” or “juking” meant. but with Hearthstone all mechanics are just around the corner, and you can get on the forum discussing about shit you didn’t know 2 minutes before like you’re a real pro.

        There is almost no game, it’s all about the metagame. Everyone knows what cards do, but you need to find/figure out those big synergies and combos among them. Everyone knows what the 9 classes do, but there is a specific way for every class to play against every class, and so on and so forth.

        That’s what’s fascinating about it. but if you don’t let yourself be dragged in, and don’t commit to it, its shallowness is just unbearable.

        • vlonk says:

          The building blocks of a good game are all present.

          Since the cardpool is very limited complex interactions are rare.

          Compared with Magic:The Gathering there are far fewer levels of interaction: There is no interaction layer with the graveyard, the enemy hand, the library, standardized resources and no actions during your opponents turn.

          They could in the future add those layers of complexity or allow emerging complex interactions within the given cardpool.

          BUT they are nerfing already every interaction regarding strong Combo decks, because they prefer interaction on the gameboard that the opponent can react to.

          The words of fun and fairness were used in that context.

          As a famous Blizzard spokesperson once said: “This does not bode well, for it confirms my darkest fears.”

          It could just be that this game is not aimed at tickling your braincells, but only tickling that griffon

          • Tori says:

            There is a mechanic for actions during your opponents turn – the secrets that you can prepare on your turn, that will trigger on special conditions during the opponents turn.
            Interactions with the enemy hand and library are also there, but very limited – I’ve seen for example cards that copy a random card from the opponents hand and give it to you, and of course numerus ways to get more cards from the deck faster.
            Other than that, everything you said is true.

          • Strabo says:

            There are actions in the enemy round/reactions, but they are deliberately rare. They had many more in the early Alpha, but removed them since they proved to be not much fun. But there are still Secrets, which are hidden actions that trigger on an enemy action, for example summoning a minion or attacking or a minion dying.

            There is interaction with the enemy hand and stack – but that’s mostly something Priests do, like copying enemy cards (also copying minions or taking them right to their side from your side).

            There are no discard-the-opponents-cards cards, but again thats deliberate since those are very, very annoying.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          It’s definitely more simplified than Magic. That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing though.
          Some people seem obsessed with only playing the hardest, most complex, most “hardcore” games in any given genre (look at all the Dota fans every time any other MOBA is mentioned), anyone that enjoys something less complicated is a “noob”, “casual”, stupid or some other meaningless insult.

          Hearthstone imo has a really great learning curve, it’s easy to jump in and start playing cards straight away, however come up against a deck that an experienced player has made and you will be crushed in very short order, so it shows that there is at least enough depth. When you get into it the deck building is where the skill really lies, the meta seems to shift and the players doing well either adapt early to the flavour of the month decks or are the ones that make a deck to counter it so that they beat the large number of people playing the currently popular decks.

          Even if you don’t want to play it super seriously its fun just to jump in and play a couple of fun games that don’t consume a great deal of your time.

        • Derpa says:

          Thing is the whole game is about tempo and will be about tempo.

          Anything else blizzard likes to nerf away, like combo.

      • Moraven says:

        I would watch the ESGN TV Hearthstone Fight Nights. They can show a lot of play and depth to well constructed decks.

  2. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    Greetings.

    THE LIGHT SHALL BURN YOU!

  3. Sian says:

    “The open beta is good news for gaming websites with fragile servers, as Hearthstone beta key giveaways have already caused smoke to spew from half the internet due to shear ungodly demand.”

    I’m trying to make a pun out of shear ungodly demand, but I fail miserably. Instead, I’ll just laugh at a minor typo: HA-HA!

  4. Premium User Badge

    JB says:

    Graham, there’s nothing wrong or shameful about tickling yourself happy. It’s perfectly natural.

    • Sleepymatt says:

      Just make sure you have registered with a good optician first!

  5. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    Have been playing this since late december and I like it a lot. For anyone who wants to play with other shotgunners – or just talk about the game – there’s a thread in the forums: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?12325-Hearth-Stone-Pals

  6. Ivan says:

    I really hope that come release, they remove the current game’s strong emphasis on PvP interaction, and add in some more heft to Player v. AI options. Specifically:

    1) Boost the rewards for PvP and allow quests to be completable when playing the AI (or just give equivalent/smaller rewards for quests completed against the AI)
    2) Allow arena to be played against the AI. Feel free to take away arena rewards, I don’t really care (or not, I’ll take that too).

    While Hearthstone is a nice, relaxing game, and I really appreciate the lack of chat or anything that would allow players to annoy each other, I just really don’t want to play against other people. I don’t care if the AI isn’t even that good; I just don’t find playing a card game against other people online to be stimulating. (I’ve played MtG competitively for 10+ years now, and have never even attempted using MTGO, and only use MWS/Apprentice for people I already know that aren’t in my physical vicinity.)

    I realize the chances of this are pretty slim, but mneh. I can still hope.

    • mouton says:

      Seems like someone is being flesh-and-blood encounter fascist here!

      I do understand you, though, I had a similar reaction when a friend suggested playing board games online. I mean, wtf? Those games are for social interaction.

      On the other hand, I have no problem playing Heartstone against people. If you can play against the AI, people should not be a problem for you either, just treat them as if you would treat an AI, there will be no functional difference. You can squelch their emotes, if they annoy you.

    • Naztone says:

      There’s been some mention of Adventure mode, which is a single player mode “where players will face off against a boss or series of bosses and earn cards associated with the Adventure. He expects there to be 20-30 cards associated with each.” Sounds cool.
      more info

  7. Bull0 says:

    I didn’t think this would be for me but since getting into the beta in december it’s proved to be a remarkably efficient free-time-and-wallet-contents combustion mechanism. It’s really good fun, too, although some people take the piss a bit with slow play when they’re losing, etc. Guess that’s inevitable. I could really go for some more content (the WoW TCG had raid decks in which teams of players went up against an automated boss deck – now that would be a really awesome thing to bring in).

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    FriendlyFire says:

    I’ve watched a fair few matches and while I’d never really be interested in the game (I don’t like playing against random people and I don’t like games where randomness is still a very preponderant element, mitigated or not), there’s one thing I think is quite brilliant: the limited dialogue options. Lets you get your point across 99.99% of the time while blocking all the horrible stupidity that generally floods games like this.

    • Premium User Badge

      Arathain says:

      Yeah, it’s so nice. I love that they did that. The only tool an idiot has is quote spam, but squelching them is two clicks.

    • Bull0 says:

      Yeah, it’s really nice design. Hugely frustrating when you want to tell people to hurry the fuck up, though.

  9. Gothnak says:

    I really enjoy Hearthstone, but it has a number of problems…

    Firstly, i like playing as the Priest and Mage, therefore the rest of the cards i get are pretty much useless. If i don’t get to play as either of those in an Arena i lose to Priest and Mages and if i try and play another deck in ranked, i lose more often. With a Priest i think i was 10 wins to 2 in ranked play.

    The other problem (strange one this) is that the game gives out too much gold and gold costs too much. I have played it enough that i feel like giving the developers money, but the only things you can buy are way overpriced.

    As i have a few games every day, i generally play the quests, do an arena and go play other stuff. I always end up on the next day with enough money to pay for a new arena, so i don’t ever need any gold. Then again, paying £1.50 for an arena match that you might lose all 3 games is way overpriced.

    I’d prefer that you can play an Arena game for £0.25, and you aren’t guaranteed a pack of cards at the end of it. Then i can just enjoy the mode i like the best, i can pop down 25p to try out a deck i wouldn’t normally bother with and if i don’t win, that’s fine.

    As it is, i’m not going to spend a penny, but it also means i have a maximum play time too.

    I’s also happily pay £10 a month for unlimited Arena runs with no rewards at the end of them, i don’t care about collecting cards or playing ranked matches tbh.

    • Horg says:

      My biggest problem with the game is how much time it takes to get anything useful done. By useful I mean earn enough gold to pay for an arena run, normally through doing the daily quests, and then doing that arena run. The quests can sink anywhere between 20 minutes to a couple of hours depending on what you get, and an arena run that goes a decent distance can be another 1.5 – 2 hour sink. If you don’t commit to doing these each day then your rate of earning card packs is awful slow.

      I put £20 into the game, my self imposed limit for FTP games, and what I would consider a reasonable retail price for Hearthstone if it were to ever go on sale. £20 worth of booster packs does not get you very far in deck progression, I have found. Unless they start offering more packs vs time investment I doubt I will play much more, but then again i’ve spent as much as i’m ever going to so they don’t exactly have much incentive to cater to me anymore.

  10. Grey_Ghost says:

    Whatever happened to Scrolls? Did it flop?

    • Bull0 says:

      Having played both, yeah, Scrolls is pretty dull by comparison.

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    strangeloup says:

    I was going to sign up for this when it was in closed beta, but I’ve lost my keyring magic number maker thing from when I used to play WoW, and to log in without it requires such a ludicrous degree of jumping through hoops that I can’t really be arsed. Then again it’s not like I have anything else registered on my account so I could just make a new one.