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Stick of Carrots

A few weeks ago, Blizzard acknowledged that their reworked rewards track system in Hearthstone wasn’t sufficient. This week, they are acknowledging again that, yeah, it still sucks:

  • We’re adjusting a variety of daily and weekly quests to make them easier to complete
  • We’re removing weekly quests that require Legendary cards and Arena runs
  • We’re changing the weekly quest “Win 7 Games of Ranked Play Mode” to “Win 5 Games of Ranked Play Mode.
  • Tavern Brawls and Battlegrounds will now contribute to quest progress.
  • We’re making small tweaks to certain quests
  • All 800 XP daily quests will now reward 900 XP.
  • We’re reducing the amount of XP needed to reach certain levels in the rewards track.
  • We’re adding more gold rewards to certain levels of the rewards track.
  • We’re adjusting rewards track bonus levels to provide steadier gold income.
  • We’re also planning a one-time log-in reward of 5 Darkmoon Faire packs and 500 Gold

To be clear, the only rational reason the reward track was introduced at all was as a justification for a Battle Pass. Hearthstone, a game that already brought in hundreds of millions of dollars for very little cash outlay, was apparently not profitable enough. Despite, you know, the designers slamming in an extra expansion a year.

Of the changes they are proposing, the only particularly relevant one to my interests was them allowing Brawls to contribute to quests again:

Tavern Brawls and Battlegrounds will now contribute to quest progress. Tavern Brawls and Battlegrounds will reward progress for any daily or weekly quests that they should naturally apply to. This should allow more flexibility in how to complete quests and make the rewards more consistent with previous gold earnings. For example, you’ll now be able to complete a quest like “Play Three Games as Priest, Rogue, or Warlock” by playing Tavern Brawls, and quests that require you to play Beasts, for example, can be completed by playing Beasts in Battlegrounds.

I like how they phrased it “this should allow more flexibility,” as though this was a new feature they were introducing. No, these morons took it out of the existing system for… what reason, again? Seriously, it made zero sense, even if they were trying to shove everyone into Ranked or whatever.

Time will tell as to how long this dumpster fire burns. The /r/Hearthstone community is a bit split on the changes, which I suppose is an improvement over the constant meme rioting. The goalposts though have moved from the gold revenue reduction (which appears largely solved) over to the Dust Economy in general. That is one area in which I agree has been messed up since Day 1. It takes 1600 Dust to craft a Legendary card, but you only ever get 1/4th of the Dust back when disenchanting other cards. That is generous when compared to paper CCGs, but pretty weak when compared to the competition that Blizzard has not crushed in the digital CCG space.

More relevantly, it just feels bad within the context of just the game itself, considering many decks hinge on their Legendaries and Epic cards. Sure, no one is necessarily entitled to a collection full of meta decks. But considering that your options as a non-whale are A) destroy your older cards and gamble the deck you are crafting will be useful even a few weeks from now, or B) simply get ran over by meta decks, it might be worth looking into how stingy you want to be for the health of the game. Especially when you start introducing quests and game modes that are dependent on a person’s collection (that may or may not have been dusted).

We’ll see how this plays out. Of special note is the fact that Blizzard is introducing a “mini-expansion” soon, whatever that means. Well, we know what it means ($$$), but how terribly will it be implemented? Based on their track record thus far, I would guess the worst.

Virtual Realms: Height of Cynicism

Alright, maybe Virtual Realms were the unannounced feature of 5.4. Or the tutorial zone, aka Proving Grounds. But, no, probably Virtual Realms:

New Feature: Virtual Realms

  • Virtual Realms are sets of realms that are fused together, and will behave exactly as if they were one cohesive realm. Players on the same Virtual Realm will be able to join guilds, access a single Auction House, join arena teams and raids, as well run dungeons or group up to complete quests.
  • Players belonging to the same Virtual Realm will have a (#) symbol next to their name.

I guess they finally solved that otherwise insurmountable naming problem, amirite?

Anyway, there are two (other) reasons this announcement is the height of cynicism:

1) Server Merges by any other name.

I get it, you get it, we all get it. Actually saying “server merges” is a sign of the apocalypse and bad PR besides. Grouping several low-pop servers together “virtually” is putting lipstick on the pig of 1.3+ million subscriber losses in the last quarter. At some point though, it’s just sad. You aren’t fooling anyone with that ridiculous comb-over. Just shave your head and get it over with.

2) Aren’t you glad you just spent $12.50+ server transferring?

I read the comments on my earlier post, regarding how things “usually go on sale before they are obsoleted.” For as jaded and dour as I can be under normal circumstances, I generally have some minimum level of faith in humanity. Obvious displays of naked greed are actions that can still genuinely surprise me, even if I distrust the “altruism” of corporations as a rule.

But, Jesus Christ, did Blizzard just take a huge shit on their playerbase.

There was a running joke in the PlanetSide 2 community regarding something similar: Item of the Day. Usually, the deals are 50% off the Station Cash (i.e. RMT) price of some garbage item or another, including items that are way cheaper to purchase with Certs. Every now and then though, some recently-released gun or something will pop up, prompting a lot of sales. People always joked that whenever something good snuck its way into the rotation, that meant it was getting nerfed by next week. And the shitty thing? It usually did.

The assumption got so pervasive and accurate that Higby, one of the PlanetSide 2 devs, actually stepped in and rolled back a planned nerf to one of the vehicle weapons that had just went on sale. He assured the community that these sales are planned out 30 days in advance, that the sale/nerf cycle was just coincidence, but who can you really believe when it comes to capitalistic incentives?

That question is not so rhetorical anymore. It was not an accident that Blizzard put server transfers on sale for the first time in their 8+ year history a mere week before announcing (free) server merges. Maybe they see some distinction insofar as players can choose where they go versus leaving it up to random chance. It’s still absolute bullshit though, because how many people would have bought a server transfer if the sale was this week, or next week? QED.

I mean, this is a new low that even EA hasn’t achieved, not for lack of trying.