Quote of the Day – Hearthstone, SOE, and Historical Inevitability January 29, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: Battle.net Desktop App, Because SOE, Hearthstone, John Smedley, Legends of Norrath, Quote of the Day, Station Launcher, Unfair Characterizations
Actually after seeing what Blizzard did with Hearthstone it’s given us some other ideas…. LoN is an awesome card game. We can take that to the next level.
John Smedley, Reddit AMA on plans for Legends of Norrath
Okay, that is actually a quote from a few days back, but the Reddit Ask Me Anything that John Smedley did last Friday is a gold mine of quotes. I have to salute Feldon at EQ2 Wire for picking out some of the prime samples for his post.
And I have to hand it to Smed for not flinching from some tough question and answering things the way he did. He laid out a lot things there, and not all of them were flattering to SOE. He also left a lot of meat on the table to discuss, from SOE operating Vanguard at a loss for “a long time” to consolidation of IPs plan (again, is DC Universe Online safe with that going on?) to EverQuest Next being headed for the PlayStation 4 (not good news in my book, at least when it comes to a ship date… or user interface choices). You could get a month’s worth of blog posts out of that AMA. I am sure bloggers will be feeding on this all week.
But the item quoted at the top… I think speaks volumes in just two sentences.
The online collectible card game Legends of Norrath was launched back in late 2007, when it was integrated with EverQuest and EverQuest II, giving players a game to play within a game. No mixed message in that. Later it got its own stand-alone client, but the integration with the EverQuest games was still prime. Legends of Norrath borrowed the stories and metaphors of the EverQuest games for theme and mechanics, and offered up in-game goodies for players of the two MMOs along with throwing out the occasional reward to the community by including somebody on a card.
And, as far as I know, the game has been a success. It survived the great purge of the Denver and Tuscon studios that seemed to spell the end of online card games being anything like a focus at SOE. (There are some good historical Smed quotes on the old SOE Blog, and some interesting posts from others about company plans. I am surprised it hasn’t all been sent down the memory hole yet.) Legends of Norrath survived along with Magic The Gathering: Tactics, though the latter is slated to be shut down at the end of March. Another aspect of the recent blood bath I guess.
And then along came Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
Actually, it hasn’t really come along yet. It just got out of closed beta and is now downloadable by anybody who wants to be in the open beta (Europe too now) and who has a Battle.net account.
Hearthstone compares directly to Legends of Norrath. It is an online collectable card game based on the lore of a popular MMO, it is free to play with its own client, you can buy cards, play against other online, and so on.
However, unlike Legends of Norrath, Hearthstone isn’t integrated into World of Warcraft. For now the linkage is only in lore and sharing a Battle.net login with WoW and your other current Blizzard games. Also unlike Legends of Norrath, Hearthstone has gotten a lot of praise from both inside and out of the MMO player community.
Not that I have heard people slam Legends of Norrath, but it never seemed like a big deal either, not the way Hearthstone has been hailed. Part of that is no doubt the fact that Blizzard games are much more visible, popular, and highly rated than games from SOE. A lot of people will try anything Blizzard ships. Simple truth: Blizzard has a lot more fans than SOE.
And part of that is no doubt the application of Blizzard magic to the Legends of Norrath idea, which made Hearthstone shinier, easier to get into, and more appealing to players for whom collectible card games were never really a thing to do. Plus there is the promise of an iOS and Android version of the game. The iPad will likely be the Hearthstone platform for me.
This is, of course, pretty much a parallel to EverQuest and World of Warcraft. SOE got out there first and succeeded, but then Blizzard took what they saw SOE doing and created something an order of magnitude more successful. And so I suspect will be the case with Hearthstone.
Of course, not everybody loves Hearthstone. As the hardcore early EverQuest players derided World of Warcraft (even as EverQuest tried to become more and more like WoW ), so some serious CCG players have declared that Hearthstone is a shallow game only fit for casual scrubs, bitter that people are not playing “more deserving” games. And so it goes.
But the generally favorable reviews of the game got even me to download the Hearthstone open beta, and I am well into the “CCGs are not for me” camp. (I tried the Pokemon CCG a few times, but never enjoyed it.) I haven’t actually played it yet… or even launched the app… but I have it downloaded. And that brings me to yet another SOE vs. Blizzard parallel.
In downloading and installing Hearthstone, I found out that to use it required the still-in-beta Battle.net launcher… erm, excuse me… the Battle.net Desktop App. Oh, and that replaced the launcher for all of the current Blizzard games, including World of Warcraft and Diablo III.
The Hearthstone install did not warn me about that and I was PISSED!
I was pissed because I have been through the single, unified launcher/updater wringer before. Of course, that was with SOE which was trying to push their version of that sort of thing quite a while back.
The fact that Station Launcher never quite worked right was compounded by the fact that the SOE website kept telling people to use it after they had stopped supporting and it had ceased to function. I had to open a support ticket to get the response of “don’t use that” from SOE. So my anger was entirely based on having problems with this sort of thing before. I would have avoided downloading Hearthstone had I known what it meant.
Only, in the ongoing parallel between SOE and Blizzard, the new Battle.net launcher… Desktop App… just works. I log into Battle.net through it and can kick off World of Warcraft just fine. It shows me all the news tidbits that the WoW launcher did and, in addition, shows which of my Battle Tag friends are online and in which game. No problems at all.
My anger was thus short lived, which brings me back around to the quote at the top of this post. SOE deciding to copy Blizzard, who copied SOE in the first place seems to be the natural order of things. I am sure somebody can make quite a list of the things that SOE copied back from Blizzard. So it is no surprise to me that, upon seeing what Blizzard has done with Hearthstone, that SOE has been moved to action. Because, when left to their own devices, SOE can come up with some clunkers. (Not to mention being a bit tone deaf at times.)
I suppose the only thing wrong with Station Launcher was that SOE didn’t leaving hanging around long enough for the Blizzard version to appear so that they would know what to do.