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Warlords of Draenor – Expendables Style August 17, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Humor, World of Warcraft.
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Last Thursday we had the big reveal.  Blizzard had an event where they talked about various aspects of the Warlords of Draenor expansion and gave us the big news that we had all been waiting for, the launch date.

And they also showed us the big cinematic trailer.  This focuses on the change in lore.  This time around the orc chieftains reject Gul’dan and his offer.  It isn’t exactly clear why they do this.  Did somebody come back in time and warn them?  Were they that much on the edge last time around that it could have gone either way?  Did Gul’dan blow it with his choice of stemware?

Whatever it was, there won’t be any fel orcs or like abominations.  But the orcs are still building that protal and they are still coming to Azeroth.

And that’s is all you really need to know, that they are coming… on or about November 13th of this year.

But if you are a bit of a lore noob (Liore noob?) you might be wondering about the cast of characters.  I ran through the quest line in Felwood just about a month back, which included a whole “Previously in Azeroth” quest segment that played out the high points of the story behind The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, but I still can’t name the 47 7 orc chieftain without peeking.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Blizzard is trying to solve this with their own Lords of War video series.  But maybe you want something a little more straight forward.  If so, I offer this:

(Direct link)

Pity about the heavy use of ads at both ends, but it does show you some of the in-game versions of the actual Warlords of Draenor.

And if you want to see all the WoW cinematic trailers, Shintar has them all queued up in a single post.

Warlords of Draenor to Ship on November 13, 2014 August 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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The age of the whimsical panda is over…

Chris Metzen, Blizzard Senior Vice President, Story and Franchise Development

The moment announcing the moment many of us have been waiting for.  Warlords of Draenor will drop on November 13, 2014, just after BlizzCon, which runs November 7-8 this year.

The Blizzard team showed some previews of the expansion, including zones, dungeons, raids, and garrisons along with the cinematic to a packed house down in LA, with Chris Metzen speaking about the making of the Warcraft franchise over the last 20 years and about old stories coming around again.

Metzen stands up

Metzen stands up

The cinematic focused on the orcs making a different choice, rejecting Gul’dan but seeking to be conquerors all the same, closing with the construction of the dark portal.

Coming soon - A Dark Portal

Coming soon – A Dark Portal

The cinematic was, as expected, all about root lore and reflected nothing about the actual game.

(direct link)

No word on when we will be getting Patch 6.0, the precursor to the expansion, but I would guess that we might see it by some point in mid-October.  It will include pre-expansion events leading towards the big day.

Just three more months to wait.

A Busy Thursday in August for MMOs August 14, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, EVE Online, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
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Here it is Wednesday night and I am wondering what I am going to post about tomorrow.  I have several choices, as tomorrow appears to be a busy day in the MMO world.

Blizzard

At 9:30am Pacific Time (16:30 UTC) Blizzard is going to do their big announcement for the date for the Warlords of Draenor expansion.

Save the date! Which date?

Tell us the date

That is the date people have been waiting for… and predicting would come early or earlier… since the beginning of the year.  My own pick back in January was September 9th, a date judged as pessimistic by some.  Now I am going to guess November 18th, right near the 10 year anniversary but just before the holiday season begins in the US.

Blizzard will also be showing us the cinematic for the expansion, which will no doubt be much discussed, but won’t tell us much more than the story behind the whole thing.

CCP

Then just a couple hours after that, at 20:00 UTC (13:00 Pacific Time), CCP will be holding their own live stream on their Twitch channel to present the next expansion for EVE Online, Hyperion.

No Hyperion graphic yet...

No Hyperion graphic yet…

So far this has been billed as the big “fix wormhole space” expansion.  I didn’t even know W-space was broken, but players will work whatever system is in place.

Sony Online Entertainment

Then in the evening, at some point past 19:00 Pacific Time (2:00 UTC) SOE will be having their SOE Live Welcome Keynote address.

SOE Live 2014

SOE Live 2014

This will also be on their Twitch channel, though  SOE is trying to get people to put down $20 for their channel, so I am not sure what you get for free.

SOE on Twitch with Goodies

SOE on Twitch with Goodies

While we probably won’t get much in the way of details, this is the likely point during the event for any big announcements.  This will produce news, and I will be watching the EQ2 Wire blog for a summary. (And they have a list of streamed SOE Live events.)

BioWare

And at some point today BioWare will be launching the latest Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion, Galactic Strongholds.

Housing!

Housing!

This will be the housing expansion for SWTOR and I will be interested to hear what path they have chosen for this and how players react.

Addendum: Or maybe not.  I thought there was a live stream planned for today about housing, but I must have dreamed it.  Probably for the best.

Others?

Meanwhile, Gamescom is still running in Germany and I haven’t checked to see if any other developers have decided that the second Thursday in August is THE day to announce something, but I won’t be surprised if somebody else is on board.

Which announcements will you be paying attention to?

WoW Subscriptions Drop by 800K, But the Money Keeps Rolling In August 5, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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Activision-Blizzard got out in front of the press today to talk about quarterly results.

ActiBlizz450

In an unsurprising turn of events, World of Warcraft subscriptions dropped from 7.6 million in Q1 to 6.8 million in Q2 of 2014 as the long wait for Warlords of Draenor continued.  The last patch, Siege of Orgrimmar, is going to be celebrating its anniversary soon.

The availability of the WoD pre-purchase and the immediately available insta-90 boost for a single character did not hold the line on subscription front as much as I thought it would.  My working theory was, “Who pre-purchases and expansion then unsubscribes from a game?”

Or maybe the pre-purchase and insta-boost did help.  The company said that most of their subscription losses were in Asia.  Specifically:

As of June 30, 2014, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft remains the #1 subscription-based MMORPG, with approximately 6.8 million subscribers. There was a decline in subscribers quarter over quarter, which was disproportionately concentrated in the East and was similar to the seasonal decline experienced during the second quarter of 2012, prior to the launch of the most recent expansion later that year.

But then they always seem to point to Asia when there are losses, to the point that I wonder if there are any customers left there.  But there was no pre-purchase over there.  And Activision-Blizzard did bring in $658 million for the quarter, up $50 million from the same period last year, with a record 73% of those dollars coming in via digital sources.  That is a lot of people buying the Diablo III expansion, digital versions of the latest Call of Duty, and the Warlords of Draenor pre-purchase, which topped the 1.5 million mark.  That is about $75 million in the bank for Blizzard and so far they can only give us a date for when they will tell us the date the expansion will likely release.

Slideshow Highlights for Blizzard

Slideshow Highlights for Blizzard

Now the question will be how will the subscriber base fare with Warlords of Draenor still clearly in the fourth quarter of this year.  It has been a long summer and while the beta will no doubt spark some interest, it will likely take something more to hold the line, much less boost numbers.

Warlords of Draenor Launch Date Update Date or Something August 4, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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For future reference, please note today’s date as the date we received a date for the date at which the actual launch date of the expansion would be revealed.

Save the date! Which date?

Save the date! Which date?

Or, as Blizzard put it:

A storm of iron is headed Azeroth’s way—be among the first to witness its fury at the world premiere of the Warlords of Draenor cinematic! Join Blizzard’s Mike Morhaime, Chris Metzen, and World of Warcraft designers Ion Hazzikostas and Brian Holinka for the grand unveiling, streamed live from the Ace Theatre in Los Angeles. But that’s not all—we’ll also host a live interview with the WoW developers, announce the Warlords of Draenor launch date, and debut the first episode of a new animated lore mini-series: Lords of War. You won’t want to miss it!

So, summing up, today (August 4th) it was announced that next week (August 14th) Blizzard will shows us the cinematic for the Warlords of Draenor expansion and tell us the date when they expect it to actually ship. (Presumably Some time by December 20, 2014.)

Unless it slips.

And if you’re in the area, you can show up and see all of this in person and get your hand stamped so you can get into the beta, which to me sounds like the date won’t be as close as some will hope.

Anyway, next Thursday we will see who is cheering and who is moaning about the planned release date for the expansion.  And then we will descend into the usual nitpicking about the cinematic and what it actually says about the expansion, Blizzard, the economy, climate change, and the impending Warcraft movie.

Though, unlike the expansion, we actually have a date for the movie, March 11, 2016.

Addendum: Hey, wait! Isn’t August 14th the start of SOE Live?  Is Blizzard cock blocking again?

WoW Subscriptions Dip to 7.6 Million Under the Weight of Wait May 7, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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Yesterday Activision-Blizzard did their quarterly earnings call.  The recording for it, plus the slide deck, are available here.

ActiBlizz450

The overall message was that revenue was less than last year, but better than projected.  Three of the five “Strong Product Performance” bullet points in the opening were for World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and Hearthstone, followed by Skylanders and Call of Duty.  The main future outlook for the Activision side of the house is on Bungie’s Destiny, about which huge dollar numbers are being thrown about, both in terms of sales projections and development costs.  Activision is betting heavily on a Halo-like success here.  It is slated for launch on the 15th anniversary of the Sega Dreamcast launch, so it has that mojo going for it.

The Blizzard slide ran down four of the key products in their portfolio.

Blizzard Q1 2014 Slide

Blizzard Q1 2014 Slide

On the WoW front, subscriptions dipped from 7.8 million to 7.6 million, which is a fairly modest change given some of the past “would kill any other MMO franchise” sized drops.  I was wondering back in February, when the numbers were last announced as going up from 7.6 million to 7.8 million, if Blizzard getting a Warlords of Draenor pre-order out in March might help support subscription numbers.  I guess, maybe, that it might have.  But now a million people have bought the pre-order, have their insta-90s, and… now what?  I expect that we will see a more significant dip for Q2 and Q3 unless Blizzard has a surprise to spark interest in the game.

The forward looking statement about the Warlords of Draenor launch being in the second half of 2014 seems a bit disingenuous after Blizzard has already put the date in the fall, heavily emphasizing that Fall lasts until December 20th.  Still, I am sure somebody out there will read this and think it might mean an earlier launch.  Given that we’re still in the “soon” phase for alpha, I find no reason to think the WoD is being pulled in.

Blizzard itself has been busy telling people about the changes coming for the 6.0 pre-WoD patch… a gating item for the expansion… and how to get tickets for BlizzCon, which will no doubt sell out in the first few minutes of availability.

Otherwise, Diablo III was praised for launching a successful expansion.  Hearthstone was noted as a new launch, but is too new to have had any real financial impact as yet.  And then Heroes of the Storm was pointed out as an upcoming title, currently in limited alpha.  No mention of StarCraft II and the Legacy of the Void expansion, which has no target date right now.  Of course, we just got Heart of the Swarm last year, putting the SC2 expansion cycle on something close to a 3 year clock.  So, it could be worse for WoW players.

And so the world turns.

The Long Road to Draenor April 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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Back in September, a few of us returning to World of Warcraft felt like returning home to the comfortable, familiar game we had enjoyed for so long.  It was a happy time and we were happy to be back.  Happy. Happy. Happy.

A little later, after the BlizzCon announcement for Warlords of Draenor, the full instance group jumped back in to the game and picked up where it left off with the main group, way back at the end of Wrath of the Lich King, where we left off back before Cataclysm.  That was back in late 2009.

Victory over King Ymiron

At the throne of King Ymiron

And it was good.  And it remains good.

The instance group has moved along at a leisurely pace, knowing full well that we had to get to at least summer on Cataclysm and Pandaria content.  Not because we thought we might see WoD during the summer… I, rather optimistically in hindsight, figured September would be the drop date for the expansion based on some vague napkin math… but because we tend to go on hiatus during the summer as travel and other real life events take over.

Outside of instance nights, we have all been busy little beavers.  We have been leveling up alts, collecting mounts, going after achievements, running old content, getting the guild up to level 25 (finally there!), and generally immersing ourselves in Azeroth.  Fun, fun!

Or fun for a while.

Now more than six months back, with the guild taken care of, three level 90s at my disposal, having run all the level 90 LFR content at least once, and being exalted with all but two factions in Pandaria, I am starting to feel sympathy for those who really had their hearts set on a much earlier release for WoD.

My enthusiasm for logging in to work on yet another set of dailies or to get another mount towards my goal of 150 (I am at 132) has begun to wane some.

I still log in daily.  I tend my farm at Sunsong Ranch, though mostly for items I can sell at the auction house in order to build up my gold account.  I am working on a couple of low level alts, including a Panda monk with full heirlooms, just to see how ridiculously fast I get levels in a given play session.   He leveled three times doing Shadowfang Keep at one point.

But the fires have faded some.  I have joined the ranks of those who are starting to feel that Azeroth might need a little something to carry us through to the expansion at the end of the rainbow.

That feeling was enhanced this week with the Noblegarden holiday, for which I got all the achievements back in 2009.  I do not have the mount that was added in 2012, but I am not sure I can bring myself to run the holiday events even for that.  We’ll see.  And then next week is Children’s Week, the one holiday event keeping me from the holiday meta achievement because I refuse to do the battleground achievements.  Clearly some bitterness on my part there, and certainly not something that is going to raise my enthusiasm for WoW at the moment.

On top of that, we had what was effectively a narrowing of the gap as to when WoD will ship.

Previously Blizzard had said “Fall 2014,” conspicuously pointing out that “Fall” lasts until December 20th.  But the optimists in the crowd could at least console themselves with the thought that Fall stars in late September, so WoD wouldn’t necessarily have to be a “week before Christmas” launch.

Well, Blizzard has rained on those hopes, at least in my opinion, with the announcement of the dates for BlizzCon.

BlizzCon2014

BlizzCon will be November 7th and 8th of this year.  And, as Liore pointed out the other day, you really have to be a cross your fingers and toes optimist to think that Blizzard is going to launch their big expansion of the season BEFORE BlizzCon.  Who would let their thunder roar before the big convention?

It seems likely that we’ll get the pre-WoD patch before BlizzCon, which will give some people plenty to chew on as they work through the changes in order to be ready for expansion to drop.  But that is still likely to be out in October at the earliest, and that still leaves us with the window for actual new content somewhere between November 7th and December 20th.

Which is probably going to leave a fair number of people in the odd position of having purchased Warlords of Draenor in advance, yet considering unsubscribing until it actually launches.    How strange is that?

I suspect that, unless Blizzard has something up their sleeve, it is going to be a long summer of declining subscriptions.

That whole Azeroth Choppers thing… that isn’t going to be enough.

 

Friday Morning Blizzard Roundup April 4, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, EVE Online, World of Warcraft.
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It is Friday and Blizzard has announced a bunch of things this week, wisely waiting until after April Fools day. (Unlike CCP, which did a Dev Post on drones and Summer expansion forum posts on mining ships and Nosferatu upgrades on April 1st just to torment us. I am still not convinced they are real.)

Several of the Blizz are worth noting, but I am not sure there is a full blog post in any single one yet, so I figured I would just lump them all together.

Reaper of Souls Sales

Blizz reported that Reaper of Souls, the Diablo III expansion, shipped/sold over 2.7 million copies in the first 24 hours after going on sale.  They sold a bunch as pre-orders, but were only able to ship… well, unlock… and recognize revenue on last week.

I am not sure how to parse that number.

It is surely a big number, and probably makes Reaper of Souls one of the top sellers for March, even adding in all comparable platforms.  Go PC gaming.  That number beats The Burning Crusade, which managed 2.4 million copies on the first day.

But with an installed base of at least 12 million players on the PC for a game that has been out for nearly two years, that sounds a little shy of a “hopes and dreams” number for Blizz.  They will still be pushing a wheelbarrow of money to the bank, but they were probably planning to make a few trips.

Did the rough start or always online kill off interest in the game?  Or are a lot of us still playing fresh characters through the original game to soak in the full “Loot 2.0″ experience?

The press release says that the expansion “breathes new life into Sancturary,” I am just wondering how much life.

Warlords of Draenor Alpha

Nobody out there is still holding out hope for a late spring/early summer release for this expansion, right?  We’ve all moved this to our “things to do over Christmas” list, haven’t we?

Anyway, Blizz said that the expansion is now in Alpha, which is no doubt a poke in the eye for those who were all ready for the beta announcement.  For those hoping for an early Fall release, Eldacar tweeted a graph showing the time from “Friends & Family Alpha” (are we even there yet?) to release for past WoW expansions.

F&F Alpha to Release

F&F Alpha to Release

The average is 6.6 months, which puts us nearly into November… if WoD is average and if we are at the friends & family start point.  So it is possible we’ll being playing on Thanksgiving… maybe even Canadian Thanksgiving… but Halloween will likely be free of such distractions.

And, as always…

Warlords of Draenor Patch Note Fun

Lest you think we’ll be bored waiting for Warlords of Draenor, Blizz has also published the first Alpha Patch Notes for the release, so that the hardcore fans can start panicking and complaining right now.

There is a lot to take in.  Even the TL:DR summary is 17 bullets long.  I have to spend some time digesting that.  But I can already see items in the summary that will make people run around screaming as though their hair is on fire.  This should be fun. (Is it really a return to Vanilla 1.0?)

The random perks thing sounds interesting.

And one key take away appears to be that the promised/threatened stat squish probably isn’t coming until the big pre-expansion patch.

Chat in the Battle.net Launcher

Blizzard also updated the Battle.net launcher this week.  I am not sure how widespread it is yet.  I got it when I downloaded Hearthstone, but not sure if it has been pushed to everybody.

But now, in addition to being able to see all of your online Battle Tag and RealID friends in the launcher, you can now chat with them as well.

So I’ll just add that to Steam, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Skype, Jabber, Microsoft Lync, Raptr, TeamSpeak, Mumble, and RaidCall as another possible way people can try and chat with me while I am AFK.

I think I finally stopped logging into AOL Messenger.  You can no longer chat with me there.  And ICQ.  I think I gave up on that at last.

Did I ever tell you I had a five digit ICQ number?  True story.

April Fools Forever

Blizzard put up a page that lists out all of their major web site April Fools jokes since 1999.  Call The April Fools Archive, you can go back and find some of their best stuff.  I love when a company takes the time to preserve and present things like this.  I wish SOE would take note here, as they seem to toss things down the memory hole on a regular basis.

Still, not everything is on Blizzard’s list.  I though the funniest thing this year was the fake WoW 6.0 Patch Notes.  It is one of those things that is for the community as it pokes straight at contentious items with a laugh.

 

April Fools at Blizzard – 2014 April 1, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Humor.
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The day is upon us, April Fools, where we must filter through the funny, the flat, the trite, and the just plain mean.

Blizzard has always spent some effort on this front, and usually has something interesting for us each year.  You can look at past reviews:

Last year we got mostly retreads of previous April Fools entries.  This year Blizzard has a few new items.

Draenei Female Model

First up is a news item about the character model updates.  The new models, announced at BlizzCon, have been the focus of front page posts before.  But today’s look at the female Dranei model turns the character into an outlet for someone’s Miley Cyrus jokes, getting some special emotes such as /twerk.

You can find it here.

Blizzard Outcasts

Then there is also a “new game” announcement for Blizzard Outcasts: Vengence of the Vanquished.

Blizzard Outcasts

Blizzard Outcasts

It purports to be a fighting game for using characters from Blizzard lore who… well.. die.  Wirt.  Deckard Cain.  Liddy Raynor.  The video included shows it to be an 8-bit side scrolling fighter akin to Street Fighter.  The game also includes a special new controller that includes a credit card interface to play.

The page for the game, including a list of heroes and a FAQ, can be found here.

Happy Reaper

The Diablo III site features a Blizzard entry into the mobile market, Happy Reaper.

AF02HappyReaper

 

A spin on Flappy Bird, there is even a playable demo (Unity plugin required) linked from the announcement.

Herald of the Stars

There is an announcement regarding the name of the next StarCraft II expansion.  The Protoss focused release is alleged to be called StarCraft II: Herald of the Stars, which purports to be playable with the time stream running in either direction.

AF03SC

The full announcement is here.

WoW 6.0 Patch Notes

All the changes destined for Warlords of Draenor.  Flightmasters will now be Walkmasters, to prevent confusion with that other Blizzard game, the “Hearthstone” will now be called the “Homerock” and so on.  Find the full forum post here.

New Hero of the Storm

Blizzard’s MOBA has announced a new hero today.

Pajamathur!

Pajamathur!

Others Entries

That is all I saw on my early morning run through the Blizzard web sites.  They may put up more later, which I will add when I get a chance.  The new release games, such as Hearthstone and the Reaper of Souls expansion, seem to be free of direct parody, probably to avoid mixed messages with titles still getting established.

So we got some fresh items this year.

Who else has some decent April Fools entries?

 

How Blizzard Got Me to Play Hearthstone March 12, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Blizzard’s Warcraft themed digital collectable card game, went live rather suddenly yesterday.  There was a patch, a press release, and, hey presto, it was no longer in beta.

HearthstoneWhite_450

I suppose I should applaud Blizzard for not keeping the game in eternal beta, though that sort of behavior might have fallen out of vogue here in the post-Zynga world.  Which is fine.  I tend to at least furrow my brow severely at any game that is taking in money while claiming to be in beta.  Or alpha.

I actually downloaded Hearthstone back in January after reading John Smedley’s praise of the game (and how it might get SOE to do something with its own 6+ year old Legends of Norrath collectable card game).  But I did not actually play it then.

I think I launched the game and played the first step of the tutorial and then went back to something else.

Collectable card games are not really my thing.  The last time I took a stab at one was at the height of my daughter’s investment in Pokemon, when she was watching the TV show, seeing the movies, playing the video games, and wanted to round out her devotion by playing the card game.  Unfortunately, she only had me to play with and after a couple runs at it I declined to continue.

And while there are a number of reasons for my disinterest, high on the list was the general housekeeping .  This is why I enjoy games on the computer so much, there is a machine that takes care of the details.  Solitaire used to be a big deal for my grandmother, who used to play several hands of it every day after lunch.  She would pour herself a Coke, light up a cigarette, and deal out a deck of cards to take another try at “beating the Chinaman.”

Apparently some mythical Chinese guy was you opponent in solitaire back in the day.  My grandmother couldn’t explain it other than to say that was what her mother said when she was young.  At that point we’re talking about somebody who was alive while Queen Victoria reigned.

Anyway, I was always fascinated watching her.  But attempts to play myself were always ended pretty quickly by the mere effort of card handling.  And the fact that, after all the work of shuffling and laying out the cards and then moving strings of them this way and that, cheating seemed like a reasonable step once you hit a road block that would undo all that effort.  And once you start cheating you always win so there is no point in playing.

It wasn’t until the late 80s, when I found a good solitaire game on the Mac, that I actually enjoyed playing.  And I enjoyed it because the computer took care of the annoying bits as well as the fact that cheating was no longer possible.  I played a lot of it back then.  And, of course, once Microsoft put a version in as part of Windows 3, it became a vast time-wasting obsession for many people.  A couple companies I have worked for have specifically removed the game from all company computers, lest we fritter away the days playing solitaire.

(Meanwhile, my grandmother quit smoking a few years later… pretty much everybody in my family smoked when I was born and then gave it up eventually… which, in turn, ended her solitaire playing.  The whole Coke, cigarette, solitaire routine was a tight knit package and she couldn’t have one without the other two.)

I am sure after that side-trip down memory lane (I miss my late grandmother), some CCG fan somewhere is tapping their foot impatiently, ready to point out that there are all sorts of digital versions of collectable card games out there that take care of the housekeeping chores… like, say, Hearthstone, which I have already said I downloaded and installed.

Which leads us to the other thing I am not too keen about when it comes to collectable card games:  They are pretty much designed as vehicles to sell product.

I like playing card games.  I have played cards all my life.  I still enjoy solitaire now and again.  My wife and I will play Gin Rummy at the kitchen table.  For a good fifteen years a group of former co-workers and I used to get together every other Wednesday night to play cards.

And never once in that time has the United States Playing Card Company introduced a new playing card to the standard 52 card deck (plus two Jokers and that odd ball rules card that somebody always forgets to remove) that forced me to go out and buy little random packets of playing cards in order to stay competitive.  Sure, there are some fancy decks, as well as the occasional pinochle deck that used to confuse me as a child.  And I have quite the collection of decks with various casino logos on the back.  But otherwise a standard pack of cards stands alone.

Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, beyond a certain point of play, Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon or whatever other big name CCG you care to name, are all about introducing cards over time to get people to buy new card packs.  It is a fairly lucrative business as I understand it.  I just have no interest in supporting it.

And the same goes for the digital versions, like Legends of Norrath and Hearthstone.  Their purpose in the world is to sell more cards.  Only you don’t even get nice physical cards to hold in your hand and, at least in the case of Legends of Norrath, they seek to replicate the whole “pack unwrapping” process in the most annoying way possible.

So Hearthstone, despite all the praise it has garnered, remained low enough on my list of things to do that it was pretty much untouched since the day I downloaded it.

And then Blizzard said, “How would you like a free mount in World of Warcraft?

Must have it NOW!

Must have it NOW!

They certainly know which button to press.  I will jump through many a hoop for a new mount.  Pretty much my whole reason for grinding all of the factions in Mists of Pandaria is that Blizz was wise enough to give each faction quartermaster at least one mount you could buy, but only after you hit exalted.  And I am not alone in that regard.

So I joined in with probably many other WoW players last night in learning to play Hearthstone.  I managed to shamble my way through the tutorial, learning the game despite myself.  It took me four tries to get past the Hemet Nesingwary part of the tutorial, which was trying to get you to contain your opponents minions.  With Illidan Stormrage I managed to grasp the “go for the throat” message it was sending after only one failed pass.

And then it was off to face my fellow WoW players, all stacked at the bottom of the rankings in what seemed to be a pretty universal pile of poor players in it for the mount.  Or such is my guess, because I managed to win the three games necessary for the mount in only four tries.  The one time I lost I was matched up against somebody who, if they didn’t know what they were doing, they had at least gained more from the tutorial than I had.  They were also the only person I played that wasn’t using the default Mage deck.

The other three though I beat simply because they made even more mistakes than I did.  The most common mistake seemed to be to click the “End Turn” button before having your minions on the field attack.  Must not click that button until you hear the “Job’s done” quip.  The second most common mistake looked to be ignoring the opposing minions altogether in hopes of knocking out the opposition in a concerted attack.  My last opponent made that mistake in spades.

My third win

18 points of hurt ready to go

He knocked me down from 30 to 15 in fairly short order and only then seemed to realize that my minions were going to do him in faster than he could hope to finish me off, in much the same way Hemet Nesingwary did me in three times.  So I guess that segment of the tutorial worked.   The coup de grace was drawing the six damage fireball card when he only had two points left and was already facing an unstoppable minion attack.

But more important that stomping my opponent was getting that mount.

Hearthstone Reward

Hearthstone Reward

Of course, at that point I left Hearthstone to log into WoW to see if my mount had been delivered.  I had read a number of early complaints about people not getting credit for their three wins or not getting the mount delivered or some other sad story.  But when I logged in, it was waiting for me in the mail.

Mei Francis Delivers

Mei Francis Delivers

Of course, I got it out and joined the other people running around and otherwise attempting to be “that guy on the horse” at the various congregation points in Azeroth.  There were plenty of us.  I wonder how many people got the “Hearthsteed” achievement that goes with the mount yesterday?

Before the Shrine of Seven Stars

Before the Shrine of Seven Stars

It isn’t a bad looking mount, all things considered.  The effort spent getting was worth it, relative to many other mounts I have gone after.  I certainly spent more time per mount working on the Netherwing faction.

Hearthsteed closer up

Hearthsteed closer up

An evening well spent, at least in my book.

But will I go back and play Hearthstone after this?

There is the question.

While I was fixated on getting my three wins, I did have fun playing against real people, even way down at the bottom of the skill level curve.  My evening was well spent playing as well as obtaining.

On the other hand, Hearthstone is still well down the list of games to play right now with two other Blizzard titles, World of Warcraft and Diablo III ahead of it.  So I suspect that, for the time being, I won’t be clocking much more time with Hearthstone.

At least until the iPad version becomes available.  I could see Hearthstone as a very viable “away from my computer” game to play.  And while a version for the iPad has been promised, there is no word on when we might see it.  So Hearthstone might be idle for a while.

Unless, of course, the rumors about the Red Hearthsteed turn into something.