I have been musing a lot about Hearthstone and Clash Royale lately.

In Hearthstone, I bought around 22 packs of the latest expansion with accumulated gold and… things didn’t feel particular satisfying. A lot of duplicate commons, and only one Legendary (the hunter quest). I kinda screwed myself over inadvertently though, as I opened a pack reward from the Tavern Brawl, which ended up being Carine, a duplicate Legendary of mine, thus removing my pity timer.

According to Reddit, the latest expansion will cost you about $400 to get all the cards. Let that sink in a moment. $50 will get you 40 packs, and I opened about half that and got hot garbage. Spending enough money to buy a AAA videogame on release will likely not even get you remotely competitive in a F2P game.

This sort of begs the question though: how much should it cost to be competitive in a(ny) game?

On the one hand, I think cost analyses for an entire expansion are a bit ridiculous. Out of the 135 cards available, how many are actually any good? Cutting out the terrible Legendaries will reduce Dust cost by 1600 apiece, for example. Then there is the consideration of whether you really need all the cards on Day 1. There are going to be weeks and weeks of Un’goro, during which you can accumulate more packs naturally. Granted, if you are still buying Un’Goro packs a month before the next expansion’s release, you won’t have any buffer there.

On the other hand… well, it’s all terrible. A bunch of cards just rotated out, so if you aren’t rolling in the latest expansion cards you may as well just give up. Or go play Pirate Warrior and hope the other guy doesn’t have one of a thousand new taunts.

Clash Royale is a different F2P game, but I am encountering similar breakpoints. Specifically, I had a deck that I focused all my in-game resources on, the meta shifted, and now my deck gets hard-countered very easily. You can switch your cards out, but leveling cards takes increasing amounts of gold, and thus I can only field under-leveled cards against people with focused decks.

How easy should it be to max out your stuff though?

Personally, I feel that answer should be “immediately” for competitive PvP games. What is the point of a ladder in these games if you can buy your way to the top? It honestly reminds me of the gacha games, which have “VIP Levels” that unlock as you spend more money buying diamond currency. Well, except these gacha VIP levels are permanent and don’t reset each time new cards come out.

Alas, this is not the case.

What is worse is the simple fact that these games also do not have logical endpoints. They are fun. Then, gradually, they are less so. At what point on the Fun Gradient can you draw a line? I suppose games like Hearthstone are little more cut-and-dry since expansions are released, cycle out, and otherwise contain clear demarcations on the calendar. Clash Royale, meanwhile, does not. I am having less fun than I did a few months ago, but still more fun than either nothing or another game. So I continue to play, with internal injuries accumulating from the dissonance.

And just to be clear: these games are engineered this way. Payslopes? More like Funslopes. And at the bottom of this slope is just a money-pit that you fill with cash to try and make a softer landing.

Posted on April 17, 2017, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. “At what point on the Fun Gradient can you draw a line?”

    Personally, right at the top. There are just too many games out there to bother with all this nonsense. If a game is designed in a way that forces me to do real money equations, I just don’t find it fun.


    • It’s a bit harder for me, as I am willing to try using the F2P mechanics as a sort of challenge, e.g. how much fun can I extract without falling for the bait? Sometimes this works less than others.


  2. Funslope is a great neologism. Congratulations on the coinage. Okay, it’s already in use for something to do with skiing but no-one cares about that. It’s ours now and I’m going to use it.

    These days I tend to think there’s almost no point at which I would pay to have more fun. I’d pay to start having fun (buy the box) and I’d pay to carry on having fun (pay a sub) but I wouldn’t pay to slow down the decline in fun (what you’re describing).

    It’s why F2P has been such a complete win for me. I pay nothing, I play as long as I’m having fun and then I stop. There’s always another free game to move to, where I start at the top of the slope again. Either way I go on having fun and it costs me nothing. I guess someone must be paying but it isn’t me and it’s not going to be.


  3. Well, yeah, you could give up. Or you could play Midrange Hunter, which requires 0 legendaries, doesn’t run any non-common Un’goro cards, can be built from scratch using less than 1200 dust, and yet is strong enough to take one to Legend.


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