I took a long break for part 4 of this series because, well recently, Blizzard actually alleviated one of the points I was going to address. But I will address it anyways!
This is part 4 out of 5 of a series I am doing that is my opinionated propaganda on how I would make a collectible online card game more engaging and flat out a better game.
#4.) Establish a Stronger Casual Environment
All successful games know their audience. The reason why they are successful is because they use this knowledge to market, sell, and make their game with these wonderful people in mind. Hearthstone’s audience is dominantly casual. By casual I mean play once in a while for a little while, maybe on the toilet or in the train. Hearthstone is about having fun and players have fun in different ways. Some players love the grind of ladder and being the best at the most refined decks. Some players want new experiences all the time and enjoy arena mode. Some players love to make new decks and mess and meme around. It is crucial that Blizzard appeals to their most passionate and quantitative fans the best they can.
While I could write about the imbalance of ranked ladder (Shaman, Pirates), I think a more long term problem that should be addressed is the state of casual play.
In Hearthstone each day a player gets a new quest they can complete in tandem with their normal play in order to earn extra rewards. For example if you get the daily quest “3 Victories!” you need to win 3 games at any time to get 40 gold. It’s a necessary system that makes card acquisition not so painful. Recently Blizzard pumped out a ton of new quests that reward the player for daily quests such as playing cards instead of winning games. These additions are fantastic because they encourage players to make goofy decks chalked full of the condition they need to meet. They queue into casual and players can actually have a casual experience, not just another net deck all the time. This is great because daily quests appeal to less competitive players far more due to the ability to only get a new quest once a daily.
Tavern Brawl can be another fantastic system for casual players that don’t always have the nuts card collection. The crazy rules helps casual players win more games too and the pack you can get from the system allows their card collection to ramp easier.
So how would I make the environment more casual?
First off, I would more fun cards (not necessarily good cards but certainly hilarious results) that are easier for casual players to obtain. Blizzard has created several memorable goofy cards such as Majordomo, Mimiron, Prince Malchezzar, Hobgoblin, and the Ancient One that set up some fun lucky experiences at the trade off for consistent wins. Notice a pattern of these cards? Yep, from my experience most of the fun deck cards are expensive. Legendary and epics are not easy for casual players to spend dust for.
There should be a better spread of cards like this for a cheaper rarity, enabling casual players to engage in more fun experiences of their own.
Arena could be a great opportunity to engage new players. Perhaps offering arena keys as rewards from certain dailies would be a great way for players to engage in the arena new and old as well as make a realm of the game more approachable for new players.
When a new expansion comes out it is a fantastic idea to give players free packs, like with C’Thun, or the special quest line of Gadgetzan. Perhaps having more events or one time only quests for packs for more casual players to catch up is a good move. For example, when you collect all Murlocs you get Old Murk Eye. If you have quests such as “Own 30 unique ‘X expansion’ cards” -> Gain 100 Gold, it would be sweet. The F2P experience for many is horrible and overwhelming.
With a growing collection of cards it may be trickier to involve casual players as time goes on so I hope Blizzard looks to aid this experience sooner than later.