"Mind If I Roll Need?" What PTCGO Can Learn from Hearthstone, Blizzard's Latest Cash Cow

This is the companion discussion topic for this article.

  1. PTCGO is free to play. Yes if you want good cards quickly, you have to go buy boosters, but you can also buy half-packs for 95 coins.

  2. You get 10 coins for your first game every day. Daily Challenges would be a nice addition, though.

  3. Yeah.

  4. Meh.

  5. The only issue with giving the best PTCGO players Worlds invites is that those players may not have the actual cards they use online. Does TPCi give that person their cards? Do they have to make do with whatever cards they actually have? Do we have people turn in their list and have everyone play on computers via the PTCGO interface? (not a bad idea)

  6. How long are seasons on PTCGO? Are there seasons?

  7. YES. Even if it only lets me trade in cards I have more than 4 copies of and are locked to me, that would be awesome. I have something like 7 Ns locked to me. I can only play 4, and I can’t trade away any. I would settle for coins to buy boosters.

  8. PTCGO does have turn clocks… sort-of. If you don’t make a move in 2 minutes, you lose. You only have 25 minutes to spend on your turns the entire game as well. I have had turns where I definitely needed more than 90 seconds to play.

  9. The Mystery Box can give you cards occasionally. Sometimes it is 25 coins. Sometimes it is a tournament ticket. Sometimes it is a out-of-format card.

  10. I could take it or leave it. I probably wouldn’t play a “Draft Mode”.

  11. There are challenges. I believe completing challenges is rewarded with packs, but I could be wrong. Some are relatively long term.

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Edit: excuse the number formatting, seems to hate me atm.

Loved this article - I really agree with the sentiment that PTCGO should be compared to Hearthstone in order to hone in on potential improvements. However (and correct me if I’m wrong) it felt like the article was written from the point of view of someone who hadn’t played PTCGO in awhile? While they haven’t addressed all points, they’ve definitely made some steps forward. So I thought I’d put all my thoughts in dot points below.

  1. Making it free to play

    Where it goes right: PTCGO has addressed this in a number of ways: new users now earn 5 boosters on their third log-in day, there’s a daily log-in bonus for all users, each ‘ranked’ game you play gives you prizes from the Mystery Wheel and you can earn a whopping 45 boosters from playing the Trainer Challenge. Full list of free stuff here: http://ptcgo.wikia.com/wiki/Free_cards

    The shop also now has a variety of boosters (they just added a three pack blister option for Phantom Forces too) available for trainer tokens, which mirrors Hearthstone’s gold system to a small extent.

    Where it goes wrong: The theme deck are awful - there’s no real strategy in them and it’s really just playing in topdeck mode a lot of the time. Hearthstone’s basic decks are playable, even in their most basic form. I feel this is more a result of PCL’s poor card design than the online game’s fault though - one advantage Hearthstone has over Pokemon is that they designed their game to be an online game, whereas PTCGO is just a port.

    The Trainer Challenge has a mildly interesting story the first time you play through, but grinding it is dull and repetitive. Given the nature of the starter decks and the strength of the AI decks, it really is more a matter of luck than skill to get through it all. This is where you really lose the free-to-play players - while it’s possible to make it without paying a cent, the boredom puts people off before they make it to ranked matches.

  2. Reason to play every day

    TCGO has a daily login bonus (which is either 15x tokens, a tournament ticket - which while currently useless will be really valuable when the Tournament system is available in the next couple of months, or a booster). It also has a substantial token bonus for the first game played each day.

    Other than the Mystery Wheel prizes though, it doesn’t have much of a reason to KEEP playing every day (except perhaps the convenience of playtesting with friends). I agree that daily ‘quests’ would definitely spice this up - and they could be as random as ‘win with a Chesnaught on the field’.

  3. Good ranking system

    This is what made me query as to whether you’d played in awhile - I haven’t played against a Basic Yellow deck in months (and I play nearly every day). While PTCGOs ranking matchup system may not be visible, it seems to do a reasonable job. That’s not to say that it can’t be improved, but I’d say 90-95% of the decks I face in ranked mode are meta or competitive.

    I do agree that the ranking system SHOULD be visible and a lot more clear cut though (especially at the high end level for professional testing). Where PTCGO falls down is the complete redundancy of it’s Casual play - there’s no Mystery Wheel, no benefits to playing this mode at all. So with no downside to playing Ranked, naturally everyone plays that mode, and it ends up cluttered.

  4. Legendary (or equivalent)

    Not much to say here as I totally agree on this point!

  5. Real Prizes

    Again, in total agreement here, and I suspect it is part of the business plan for PTCGO. I do suspect PTCGO is running with a much lower budget than Blizzard dish out to the Hearthstone team though.

  6. Short seasons

    Having Leagues online would not only be a nice change to the year-long marathon to worlds, but it would also address the ‘play every day’ point.

  7. Specific cards

    While I’d love to see Hearthstone’s crafting system ported over to PTCGO, I doubt it will happen based on how they want their product to be viewed. I do expect that more singles will eventually be available to purchase in the in-game shop when the game moves out of beta.

    Improvements have been made to trading (you can now filter your trade results fairly easily - I usually select ‘receiving - for want’ and tick acceptable trades, to narrow down the field substantially). However more could be done - I’d love to be able to filter both ‘receiving - for want’ and ‘giving - for trade’ simultaneously. Or be able to block certain users trades who post up the ridiculously unfair deals (this might actually be possible now? Not sure).

  8. Time limits

    PTCGO does have time limits for making an action, and overall game time, but I think a Hearthstone style time-limit with perhaps double the time (180 seconds) would be excellent.

  9. Rewarding staples

    Yes. So much yes to the leveling system. A lot of staples can actually be earned through the free cards though (see above). Players who lose do still get to spin the Mystery Wheel so at least something is being done about that.

  10. Additional Formats

    It has been announced that this is something that will be added later in the game’s development. Tournament mode I suspect will be what sates the masses (similar to how Arena does for Hearthstone). Pre-releases and Professor Cup formats are something else I imagine would become fairly likely.

  11. Long term goals

    A better and updated achievement system than the outdated one currently available (with actual prizes) would probably achieve this.

Ultimately the main differences are that Hearthstone was a full game at launch with a huge budget behind it. It was designed to be an online game. PTCGO is STILL in beta, and I suspect running on a much lower budget. And it’s a port. It has plenty of improvements still to be made on it and can’t really be considered a full product at the moment. I think it’s reached a point where it is worth playing and I suspect when the tournament mode comes out in a month (with all the free and easy boosters that entails) players will flock to the game.


Great article Jay. And great comments as well. My comments are:

  1. It is apparent to me that Blizzard is a professionally run company with a firm commitment to its product. It is also apparent to me that PTCGO is not a significant concern to the Pokemon franchise. Yet. For example: Two days ago, I played VS Seeker for my Lysandre - and the interface wouldn’t let me play my Lysandre as my supporter (other supporters were highlighted as live options)! N is a known bug (occasionally crashes games)! This type of bugginess would NEVER happen with Hearthstone. PTCGO will never be great until it has the budgetary resources from higher up to make it what it could be.

  2. Hearthstone has a fair share of problems. It is not a perfect game. I actually believe that Pokemon is a much better game in terms of mechanics and strategy. The biggest problem with Hearthstone is that the duels grow stale so quickly because the card pool is stagnant. PTCGO does a great job staying fresh with the card pool updates. But the bugginess of PTCGO is so frustrating that I find myself frequently not playing PTCGO when I want to! This has to be fixed if we are to take the game seriously. The only reasons I don’t want to play Hearthstone: 1) I am really mad at a series of bad beats; 2) I am bored with the metagame. It’s been published that Blizzard is still trying to catch up to the extreme popularity of the game.

  3. Jay, your article is a perfect example of what I call the “Maturity Dilemma” the Pokemon franchise faces. Soooo many players have been playing this game since its inception. And those players are now adults - graduating from world class universities - getting world class jobs. And these savvy adults want to keep playing the game that they love, and their expectations for their game have evolved: they don’t want to put up with ridiculous inefficiencies because they know what other gaming systems are able to accomplish with similar resources. And they are working professionals themselves and know the standards they must maintain or exceed to be successful in their chosen careers. But I have learned through this BBS that Pokemon is a Japanese game played by Westerners, and as such, will never have Western concerns as a top priority. That being said: As a person with no emotional investment (I play with my kids), I have witnessed a fair bit of unexpected evolution in the past 18 months. I am relatively optimistic that PTCGO will evolve in the manner you described. If I were a Pokemon administrator, I would have noticed Hearthstone’s success and immediately demanded the same level of commitment to excellence that Blizzard shows us.

But I am a Western administrator - who knows what the priorities are to Japan?

Two other quick observations:

  1. I have never had a problem getting the cards I needed. I invested about $100 in codes and very quickly built a good library. I haven’t paid a cent since (by managing code cards from packs in new releases). If I want to build a deck, I can get the cards I need overnight by trading codes. I don’t see this as a significant barrier to entry.
  2. I find the talent very competitive at my current ranking (whatever that is). If I play 10 duels, 7 are well composed meta decks against great opponents, 2 are PTCGO decks (Bad Deck Monday decks that can put up good resistance), and 1 is not good.
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One thing I wish it had was a Meta Mode. Let is play (or pay into) playing the annual world champion decks against others. And maybe mix in constructed previous meta decks from 2+ formats ago. It would given an incentive to collect now so you can play your deck from today tomorrow in the meta it’s from, and not just in unlimited.

When I started PTCGO with my daughter the theme decks were horrible. We started with real card theme decks but once we started making format legal decks we lost total interest in them. So now we test our real decks against the last two years world champion decks to see how they stack up a real competitive deck. I’d love to play VirGen online but there is no way I can.

Awesome article! I gave Blizzard $50 online within the first week of playing Hearthstone… Because it’s fun. But I stopped because I need my Pokemon with the kid, we have a blast together. Plus she has 5 more CP points than me I need to catch up. :slight_smile:

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I think one of the main reason Hearthstone is so successful is the phenomenal levels of polish. The environments with their clickable secrets, the particle effects when you move cards around, the way the cards themselves feel so incredibly tangible that simply dragging one out and playing it is an incredibly satisfying action. Blizzard have clearly spent a lot of time polishing this game to a mirror shine and it’s a level that most games never achieve. PTCGO is certainly nowhere near it. It’s not just about bugs, although PTGGO has plenty of those, its the little things. How many times in PTCGO have you clicked something and it didn’t respond right away? Or a message popup appeared and then reappeared the second you closed it? Or even smaller things like when something gets sent to the discard pile and you see the card underneath it flicker over it for a second while the game works out the render order. These are the kind of things that Hearthstone would never allow and, while not dealbreakers, don’t make you warm to the game if you’re not already invested in it. The fact that Hearthstone makes you drag the cards out of your hand and then release them to play them where PTCGO just has you click on them goes a long way to make Hearthstone feel like the more satisfying game.

I think the other issue is that Hearthstone is designed in house by Blizzard with the online interface in mind, where as the developers of PTCGO are always going to be playing catchup to the physical card game which won’t make any kind of allowances for how the online game works.

The Hearthstone designers will know what is and isn’t possible within their game engine and will design cards around that. I’m sure they push the limits in places and the programmers will adjust the engine to accommodate specific ideas they have but they will be largely working in harmony.

I don’t know where the PTCGO is developed or by who, but I imagine they won’t have any input into the design of the physical cards, particularly since the PTCGO isn’t in Japanese. I would imagine they will be sent the next expansion set maybe a few months before it leaks on Pokebeach and will just have to figure out how on earth they are going to implement all these new mechanics into the online game.

The card that really comes to mind with this point is Cedric Juniper. Here is one card, not even a good card that everyone is going to play, that completely changes the normal flow of gameplay. It requires a completely new user interface and an extra level of back and forth in what is usually an entirely turn based game. I’d put money on it that the guy who got given the job of putting Cedric Juniper into the game cursed the Japanese designers into oblivion. Mechanics like the new Multistrike ability in Primal Clash or Hypno FFI’s Hand Control attack use mechanics that fly directly in the face of how normal gameplay works and as a result will likely have been a nightmare to code into the game without breaking everything else.

Since the developers of PTCGO are always going to be working on getting the crazy new ideas of the next expansion into the game engine and then testing their effects against all the cards that have ever come before them, ideas like new draft modes, extra levels of polish, and ranking systems will go out the window. This could be why tournaments surfaced briefly and then disappeared into oblivion again. The people working on it were pulled off to work on something more important like getting the next expansion working. People will complain that they keep getting useless tournament tickets but that’s nothing compared to the backlash there would be if PTCGO didn’t launch the online version of Primal Clash the same day it hit the stores.

Bottom line is, while I’d love to see PTCGO implement the nicer features of Hearthstone, I don’t see it ever happening. I don’t believe they have the budget or the manpower to make such drastic changes and, even if they did, the fact that they are mimicking a physical card game that they have no input in designing will mean that the task would be twice as hard for them as it is for the Hearthstone team.


Good observations everyone! And @yelsha42: I fixed the numbering for you.

Two things I’ll touch on:

  1. Hearthstone was designed to be an online game, which gives it such an inherent advantage over PTCGO. Resources (money, time, people) that would have gone into printing physical cards, distribution, etc. are instead put into the game itself.

  2. Since PTCGO will likely never have the same resource availability, what do you guys think are the top two or three things the team could fix to make it a better product? It seems like bugs are probably one of the top priorities because I doubt much puts players off more than the game acting in unexpected ways (especially if a bug was to directly influence gameplay negatively).


I’ll be honest, as my frustration in Hearthstone spikes (some days are better than others) I often find myself thinking “Well, Mythbusters already proved you really could polish a turd until it shined.” but we aren’t really discussing the game’s mechanics so much as its success (and it is so strange the two aren’t really related). Like @Maximinn said, its got polish, polish, polish and its an online TCG only (though I’ve been told it is based on the old WoW TCG and even if it isn’t, I can’t imagine no lessons were learned from it).

To answer Adam’s question though, what I really want is for best two of three play to be implemented for ranked mode… in both games. At least as an option if not the default.

Nice article Jay :smiley: I agree with most of your points. I have kept up with my PTCGO account instead of selling my codes for whatever reason but i never actually play on it. I find it so boring. There is no reason to play. If I am playing for testing reasons I could just test with friends, but I rarely play for fun. There is no reason to play it over Hearthstone right now. If they had a ladder like you said with some prizes and reasons to play I would play a lot. But, right now there is no reason to play PTCGO for me unless I enjoy some casual ranked games against a random opponent. I know other players use it for testing, this is just my personal opinion and experience.

Wow a lot of really good conversation in such a short time period. Let me hit on some important things.

In all honesty I haven’t logged into PTCGO in about 2 years. I’m glad they have made some baby steps but hopefully you guys can clue me in a bit more on them.

thflame: What are half packs? What are other ways to earn coins?

I’m glad PTCGO is “free to play”, but that “free to play” should be plastered on every advertisement the game has. Absolutely nothing I have seen would show me (a persepective consumer) the game is free. I don’t know enough about this coin system, but how many packs can the average player earn a week?

4.) You might consider the legendary rank meh, but it offers an “end goal” to a ranking system. I ironically found my love of playing decreased once I reached the legendary rank.

5.) The idea would be the players would be responsible for getting the cards or in turn allowed to opt out. I own no magic cards, but if I was able to “earn” an invite to the Magic world championships I would most certainly get a deck and attend such a prestigious tournament.

6.) the idea would be to have seasons

10.) This would be the hardest thing to incoperate, but the idea would be to offer players a way to play the game without investing in “the meta”.

Yelsha42: A ranking system that isn’t visible just feels like free play to me. Sure I might be playing good players, but it doesn’t give me that sense of accomplishment as actually climbing a later.

I understand the argument about Hearthstones budget and everything, but PTCGO still being in Beta…it’s been 4 years. I feel the “it’s in beta” argument isn’t really valid in more. The such slow progress has done more harm than good. Even if PTCGO gets to where it needs to be you’ll than have to go back and convince a lot of people how far the program has come.

Patrick1865: Your first sentance is exactly how I feel. The problem is I feel like PTCGO could be one of Pokemons biggest assets moving forward. It’s like Apple making the Iphone and than never releasing it.

2.) We can agree to disagree here on this one. I find the variety of decks in Hearthstone to be extremely wide open. You have 9 different Heros and multible ways to play each one. If I play 8 games it’s most likely against 5 different heros and the differences in card choices as well. The last 2 releases also really helped to open the meta as well. As far as strategy it’s hard for me to talk about. My long time experience in Pokemon has me know the right choices to make. Well it’s obvious I want to Ultra Ball for this, etc. Hearthstone has me consider more opitions. I feel like I’m explaining that bad, but the idea is Hearthstone is fresher for me.

3.) I don’t even feel like thats a maturity dilemmia since PTCGO isn’t competing against just adults, but also against other online programs as well as XBoxes and Playstations. I think as an adult we even have lower standards. I love going back and playing games on Windows 98 like Warcraft 2 or Starcraft 2, while my little brother finds those games as “bad graphics” with “hard to use interfaces.”

I have to head into work now, but I’ll try to give more thoughts later.

I am so glad you highlighted this disagreement. I started playing PTCGO and Hearthstone at just about the same time. I have spent considerably more time on PTCGO than Hearthstone. The reasons are numerous. I will share the most important: For me, the only way I can develop my game is to play online. My station in life essentially prohibits me from connecting with players that I can test with in live play. As a parent of 9 and 11 year olds, and as a committed husband, I simply cannot invite connections with live play testing partners. I just don’t have enough spare time to say “Hey - I gotta go play test tonight in preparation for Cities” to my wife and kids - and then meet up with people who could be my kids in terms of age difference… That’s just not going to happen. So why do I want to develop my game with respect to Pokemon vs Hearthstone? I genuinely feel Pokemon is a better game. And I say that having spent many years playing MTG. It is my contention that MTG is one of the best heads up games with a random element ever created - behind only Backgammon. If you are going to play a heads up game that has the perfect blend of skill and luck, you are going to play Backgammon first and then MTG (I view Texas Hold Em as a multi player game with randomization). That being said, I don’t want to play MTG as my trading card game (for a number of reasons). So when I look to the game mechanics of Hearthstone and Pokemon, I see much that is distinctive about Pokemon, and I see much that is a hollow shell of MTG in Hearthstone. My personal experience: I find that the win conditions of Pokemon are far more interesting than Hearthstone. Losing 10% of your deck at game start (Pokemon’s prizing structure) is a unique dynamic that impacts deck construction and in-game play. And the means by which the active pokemon interact with the benched pokemon is a unique game mechanic that I enjoy. Quite simply: If I am going to invest the time necessary to be great at Hearthstone, I see myself as wasting my time. I should just be playing MTG.

All that being said: I love Hearthstone! I really do enjoy playing the game. But I have a very limited amount of discretionary time, and I want to show my kids I can do really well at a Regionals as a Pokeparent. So I play PTCGO.

However, I can say unequivocally: I HATE PTCGO. Last night I was testing a deck, benched a Jirachi EX, and the game locked up.

In summary: I wish Pokemon genuinely cared about PTCGO.

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If there’s one thing working in freemium games for the last 5 years has taught me it’s that the word “Beta” doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s just something you stick on the end of your game title so people can’t complain if your game is buggy or you need to wipe people’s save data.


Then I’ve got to ask you an honest question Jay:

Does that seem like it was a good decision to write an article complaining about the PTCGO when you haven’t used it in nearly two years? Updates happen at least once per set. If they only happened once per set, you’re still between four and eight updates behind. If they are more frequent, then of course the numbers get worse. Almost the entirety of my PTCGO experience (because I didn’t have a computer capable of running it until recently) falls within the time frame when you weren’t playing.

I’m not saying that you needed to dedicate yourself to playing the PTCGO for another year or anything, but at least logging in once would have been something. An honest evaluation probably would take a few weeks or even a few months (so you could experience both the good and the bad of the game having to update for a new set). I sent you a PM over this, or at least tried (one day, I’ll figure out the bbs - and we’ll then be a few months to a few minutes from upgrading to something new XD), because there were a lot of statements in your article that were in error. Not just differing opinions, but factually wrong. Of course I’m no stranger to getting something wrong in an article; my track record there is worse than your own I’d wager. At the risk of seeming to hold a double standard, me being ignorant of or even in denial of where the metagame is heading seems a bit different from not realizing a feature exists in the PTCGO because I hadn’t even logged in for two years (let alone played a few games). =/

Now you are absolutely correct that the PTCGO seems far behind where it ought to be, but then again I argue that is the case for the TCG industry as a whole, including online TCGs and including Hearthstone. Hearthstone as a game amazed me… for less then a week. Then the honeymoon phase wore off with only The Arena keeping it better than Pokémon. Then The Arena started being less fun. Then Pokémon got its latest expansion and now? Even though Goblins Vs Gnomes is there (and has an ad with a catchy jingle, TPCi take note!) it hasn’t made things much more fun for me. Adding in Expanded has been huge for the PTCGO, even if there are too many people trying their luck with modified theme decks. :wink:

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Patrick: You and I are much on the same page simply with different goals. Pokemon will always be my first love and in well over my decade of playing I have established the close friendships to discuss decks and metas with. I also have slightly more time to play playtest with friends. For me this is more of a night with the guys with some more adult drink choices. My need for testing online is minimal so when I do play online I gravitate to the imo better program. Let me do say I don’t have 2 children, but I do work full time and than some usually (45-50 hours a week) and live with my Girlfriend. While I can’t completely grasp your limited time on some level I do understand it.

I was also not spoiled with Magic The Gathering like many of my friends and even my younger brother for the time. I considered getting into for a while, but it was simply to taunting of a task knowing I’d never travel for a second game. When games Hearthstone barrow heavily from Magic, but while you see an empty shell I live in blissful ignorance. The only comment I will make it is compare magic first 2 sets and expect growth from the game like magic.

Without getting too far off topic here I actually agree with you on many of the aspects of Pokemon like the bench. However, Pokemon in itself is a very flawed game on other aspects things like first turn wins and lack of power creep based on turns. I suppose to a certain extent you could argue Energy is the ablility to power creep. These were 2 major flaws that always bothered me, but I never had any good ideas on how to fix them.

In the end we both just want a smoother PTCGO experience.

Maximinn: I agree to a large extent. I guess I just expected much more progress from such a good company.

Otaku you act if my experience with a game is none. I’ll still watch streams of PTCGO on a similar regular bases as do I keep up with the devlopment of the program. I follow the program quite closely mainly looking for a reason to jump back in. In 2 years I’ve seen absolutely nothing that would make me want to play this game again. In part this is why I wrote the article.

As for many of my points being wrong? I’d like you to go into considerably more detail about that if possible. You could argue the free to play, but I’d still argue back that “half packs” are a far cry from where the game should be. I’d also argue it’s horrible marketing to not plaster “free to play” every where. I guess you could argue the ranking system, but once again I consider it highly flawed not offering goals on really showing progress.

You would have a better time arguing some of my points are poorly worded instead of wrong. I stand by all of the points I’ve made.

[quote=“JayHornung, post:14, topic:3974”]
Otaku you act if my experience with a game is none.[/quote]

No, I point out that you lacked information from the game for the last two years, not that you had no experience. Unfortunately I know first hand what happens when someone tries to discuss things with outdated and/or incomplete information. I know that is one of the areas in which I struggle. It is why I PMed you at first; I figured I should allow this being an “Otaku fails at reading comprehension.” thing, but if I actually had something legitimate,I also wanted to avoid it being a “pot calling the kettle black” situation.

I’m already worried at the direction this is going. You can’t have it both ways, Jay.

So which is it:

A) You are aware of the various things you either glossed over or flat out ignored to substantiate the points in your article, because


B) Because you have only been keeping up via streams of the PTCGO, having not logged in for about two years, where your article seemed to inadequately consider an existing PTCGO feature or even failed to acknowledge a feature at all, it was because you were ignorant of them.

I’m responding to what you are saying: if you feel your research was wholly adequate, then I have to disagree. If you do allow that you may have missed some things… then I agree. I do credit you for having experience with the PTCGO that I lack, but when you’re talking about your past experience as the present, its more than a little misleading. Speaking of your experience… qualifying it in the article would have been most useful. It reads different now that I know you haven’t logged in for a while but have checked in on it via watching others play it.

Actual quote:

[quote=“Otaku, post:13, topic:3974”]
…there were a lot of statements in your article that were in error. Not just differing opinions, but factually wrong.[/quote]

Relevance? I just want to be clear that I’m not talking about your numbered points with that comment, but that you said things either in your opening or in support of them that aren’t accurate (whether or not the points you were trying to make were).

The game “not being where it should be” is not the same thing as denying it is “free to play”. The game is free to play. Being a poorly made free-to-play game is not the same as not being free to play.

“Half packs” in Pokémon are the same size as actual packs in Hearthstone, though Hearthstone offers a friendlier rarity scheme. Regardless, this ignores the trade locked full packs that you are awarded once every five days as a log in bonus. It ignores the full packs you can win on the bonus wheel every time you have a game that goes more than 2 minutes, win or lose (and those are not trade locked). It also ignores that you can buy not only booster packs but Theme Decks and occasionally other TCG products in the online store.

The game also used to feature tournaments where you could win boosters, but those haven’t happened for a few months. It was specifically a tournament testing period (as they were working out the bugs), so it probably is gone for good, but I’d love to see it return just as a “reward” for players (it costs Tickets to enter). You participated in a simple 3 round, single elimination tournament during the time period: if it was a 5 hour time period, you were free to enter as many tournaments as you could one at a time, but once you lost you could leave and try another (and still get your Prizes).

Tournaments at that time were held for Theme, Standard, and Unlimited (Expanded didn’t exist then). It was great.

[quote=“JayHornung, post:14, topic:3974”]I’d also argue it’s horrible marketing to not plaster “free to play” every where.[/quote] While I agree, let us be honest, this is a bit subjective. I mean, part of why I avoided Hearthstone is because by now, “Free To Play” is a pejorative: too many games that are either poorly made and/or hold back on too many features if you don’t play and/or flat out hide fees if you’re not careful. On the other hand, the PTCGO seems to be “Free to play, pay to play easier.”, which is not what I was worried about. In general the PTCGO needs more advertising. That was why I made the side comment

I would agree and add that I’m not sure if it even “works” right in either game. Since Hearthstone is a much more widely plated online TCGO, it is entirely possible you’d get all those newbie match-ups that annoy you on the PTCGO if they had the same player base. Similarly, the reduced card pool of Hearthstone is such that people playing a modification of a Class’s default deck isn’t going to be as obvious, because the farther back you go this year, the fewer other cards were available and the more the default cards were the better play.

Would I Jay? You’re digging your heels in over actual, factual errors, like acting as if Hearthstone was the first WoW TCG (it isn’t). I did try the polite approach via PM. Maybe you didn’t have time to read it (it is a long PM). Maybe you didn’t realize it was even there, but the discussion here is moving along so I took the risk and started participating. Also I still don’t know if you’re just talking about your numbered points or as I was talking about, just some of the things you said in the overall article.

My apologies for the length, but there was a lot to discuss and if I did it individually, this thread would have looked like a twitter feed.

Below is a copy and past of the original PM. I didn’t quote it because it seemed to goof up the formatting.

Um… Jay?

I just finished typing up a comment for under your article about Hearthstone and instead of making a public post, I thought a Private Message would be better.

Now to be clear Jay… I haven’t forgotten you’re a better Pokémon player than I ever was or ever will be. The thing is, I know Pokémon reasonably well. I suspect you know more, but then again I’m enough of an obsessive geek to think about it in ways you might not. I also started playing Hearthstone 1-2 months ago (I think I’ve only been through one End Of Season, so less than two full months).

There are some things in your article that aren’t factual. I don’t know how serious an article it is… in fact it occurred to me it might just be a long joke article that I didn’t get. In addition to some factual errors, there are other elements where we disagree. Now even I’m inclined to side with you over myself; I’m not the one that has proven his skill time and time again, just a loud mouthed otaku. Still pretty early on I saw problematic game mechanics in Hearthstone, like the Overload cards. Yu-Gi-Oh taught me long ago that “pay later” is begging to be abused… and I feel like in my short time with Hearthstone I’ve already seen that.

Still, to answer some of your initial musings:

If Blizzard can create a game from scratch and draw in thousands of players from around the world in a short amount of time, then why can’t PTCGO do the same with an established fanbase? What makes Hearthstone such a success and PTCGO such a failure? These are the questions that I plan on answering today while taking a look at what Hearthstone has gotten right and PTCGO should adopt.

What part of the game are you talking about when you say “from scratch?” Hearthstone has its origins in the World of Warcraft TCG… or was it referred to as a CCG? Either way, yes I am talking the real world game that they eventually pulled the plug on. Hearthstone is a revision of the older World of Warcraft TCG, according to what I’ve been able to dig up. It isn’t the old game - there are differences - but it seems based upon it. I don’t know if it is as close as Duel Masters and Kaijudo or a bit farther apart, but the main thing is, it doesn’t seem like a scratch build.

As for why Hearthstone can be so big so fast versus the PTCGO…

  • The PTCGO is a Pokémon game that isn’t on a Nintendo console. The group that started working on it in the first place aren’t the ones working on it now, unless I completely misunderstood the situation. The new group had the daunting task of not just creating an official, online experience for the Pokémon Trading Card Game, but didn’t just scrap what was there and start over. I’m not a programmer, but from what I’ve read that is often quite difficult.
  • The PTCGO has to coordinate with the actual TCG. Hearthstone doesn’t have an IRL counterpart, as far as I know.
  • Pokémon is still a Nintendo thing… Nintendo isn’t exactly big on PC software. Yes they have some stuff, but the PTCGO is the most mainstream (if it even counts). WoW (the MMORPG) was already a PC thing; I would assume fans of the MMORPG already had a computer and internet connection capable of handling Hearthstone.
  • On a related note, and I might be wrong, but I would assume the player base of the actual WoW skews a bit older in the demographics than that of Pokémon… or rather just doesn’t skew as young. Even with the huge Pokémon fan base that spans multiple mediums… a decent chunk of would be, crossover players simply aren’t old enough to sign up without parental permission.
  • The PTCGO is a failure? I wouldn’t call it a raging success, but I enjoy it. Indeed, I was about to quit the game I’ve been playing since 1999 until (long story short) I had to get a replacement computer and the new one could run the PTCGO where as the old one couldn’t.

Regardless I agree there are some things that Hearthstone does right that the PTCGO does wrong. Now onto your numbered points.

  1. Due to my own financial situation, the rule for my online gaming is that I can’t have to pay for anything with real world currency (in game currency is fine). I haven’t spent any money on the PTCGO at all and while it shows, I can still do “okay” with my card pool. I miss the tournaments they used to hold that made it easier to get boosters to serve as trading fodder, but I still get them every now and then with the Bonus Wheel. It is a lot harder to start up in the PTCGO than when I finally was able to actually play it (I’d signed up almost right away)… but your first point seems to ignore that both games are actually quite similar in this regard. So actually this is flat out wrong as well, and not just an “Joey” thing. =/

  2. The PTCGO has a daily Log-In Bonus, so that every five days you’ll get a total of 1 Ticket, 45 tokens, and a free (trade-locked) booster pack if you log in each day. For playing (not even winning) a Ranked game, you get 10 extra tokens over the single Token you get win or lose. As long as your game goes on for 2+ minutes (total) you get a spin on the Bonus Wheel, which is good for extra tokens, tickets, cards and sometimes even boosters… the latter two of which are not trade locked.

Another bonus is that if you buy a theme deck (either IRL and use the code or via tokens in the virtual store in game) and beat 10 computer opponent’s with it, you get a bonus, trade locked booster from that set. Daily challenges might be fun, they might be a good idea… but it isn’t like the PTCGO is doing nothing and frankly in some ways it seems to do it better than Hearthstone.

  1. The matching system for the PTCGO has some serious problems, but trust me the ranking system for Hearthstone isn’t perfect, just “better”. Its easier to tell how you’re doing so you can reign it in if you realize you’re doing badly and your rank is tanking… the lack of which in the PTCGO might be why you get stuck facing someone still using a theme deck. When I notice I’m about to actually drop a Rank in Hearthstone, I’m more likely to call it quits and try my luck (emphasis on “luck”) at a time of day I know I’m less likely to get matched against more formidable players.

I have been paired up or down against opponent’s even in Hearthstone, though usually not by too much. I also wish Hearthstone had the equivalent of Ranked Theme Deck play like the PTCGO; I know players often get antsy and try to leave that long before they have something resembling a even a low functioning Standard, Expanded or PTCGO Unlimited deck… but that is what it is.

Both games need to be best two of three; that would do wonders As for testing in the PTCGO… you know you can challenge people on your contact list to games, right? Sorry if that sounds sarcastic, but its a common complaint I hear from high level players wanting to deck test and I am just floored by it. Guess I was doing it wrong, testing against friends of different skill levels to better spot when luck was really the determining factor and to have the option of requesting a certain deck be avoided or used or to face something totally random.

  1. Not so sure about this “Legendary” deal; the name seems kind of like a joke if you reported the mechanics accurately. I mean, if once you get a high enough Rank you move from the gen pop to the “Legendary” player population and you can’t fall back down… you are removing some of the obstacles to attaining Legendary rank in the first place. If we just referred to them as player “Tiers” it might make sense… but I lack the energy and patience to expound upon that now.

  2. Real prizes cost real money. Hearthstone is online only and you can directly spend your money on it; in short it is its own business and not a supplement to a real world TCG, like the PTCGO. The money for the PTCGO “real prizes” you propose will ultimately come from the TCG budget, unless you want to get really specific and claim you’re convincing the-powers-that-be to increase the main TCG budget specifically to then allocate that money for the PTCGO “real” Prizes.

I get the feeling that this would kind of spoil some of the ambiance of the PTCGO. Someone like me with little chance isn’t going to really notice… but you Jay? You want that kind of stress added to the PTCGO?

  1. Huh? This point sounds like you’re talking about the actual, physical Pokémon Trading Card Game and not the PTCGO… and the subject for a separate article. If I am just not getting it and you feel like it, go ahead and explain again.

  2. Trading is hard, but some people do it well… and the fact that it is completely absent from Hearthstone is a pretty important fact you kind of gloss over. The Enchanting system isn’t an add on to trades, its a substitute. Would I like to see something like that in the PTCGO? Sure, but not at the cost of direct trades. It also isn’t a “new” thing to “virtual” TCGs either; I remember it in more than a few TCG (or TCG-like) video games. If it worked on trade-locked cards you had more than the maximum you could run, that would be great.

  3. Actually, this I agree with… partially. The big thing is that running out of time carries a lasting penalty, instead of being able to just keep telling the game that you are indeed still there or flat out losing the game. If I absolutely have to leave the computer for a bit (like a phone call that can’t wait), I at least have a chance of making a comeback in Hearthstone. Even when that isn’t an issue, players taking very long turns in the PTCGO is and issue, and those long turns will only matter if the game goes to time. 90 seconds might be a bit short for the Pokémon TCG though.

  4. This is already in the PTCGO. It happens with the default PTCGO starter decks. It just stops after a while instead of giving you blinged out versions of the cards you already have. Also, pretty sure that the cards awarded aren’t “All Classes” cards, but I could be wrong. I was pretty sure you only earned Class Specific cards doing this, so the Hearthstone equivalents of your Pokémon TCG card examples probably aren’t the ones being unlocked.

  5. The PTCGO has Theme Deck, Standard, Expanded and Unlimited with Practice, Unranked and Ranked as options. It has some (usually blah) computer opponent’s to face as in a vs CPU mode as well, and you can set them to one of three difficulties. Hearthstone has Play which leads to Casual and Ranked. It has whatever its own versus-the-computer-mode-is-called, with two difficulty levels and one deck for each Character Class. And it has The Arena. PTCGO players that don’t have much of a collection do have a Theme Deck only mode they can play in. Not all the Theme Decks are bad (some are, but not all).

Do I like The Arena? Yes I do, and I would enjoy a Limited style tournament be brought to the PTCGO. Not The Arena from Hearthstone, but a Limited Style event. The main reason Pre-Releases stopped being fun is the direction the game has gone: both wanting to make them friendlier to new players and the fact that even among seasoned vets, if you pull the right Pokémon-EX, you pull the right Pokémon-EX (sometimes even other big, Basic Pokémon can do the job). This was much less often a problem even with the original Pokémon-ex, and Limited Events did require skill in quickly constructing the best deck from your pulls and then actually playing well on top of that. The Legendary Collection was so popular (yeah, sadly going way back to WotC) because it was designed for Limited play via both the rarity scheme and the card ratios.

When I play the Arena, I keep wishing I could keep at least some of the cards I just got to enjoy using. Even if I had to “earn” Dust via my wins to then pay them off (as long as the designers remembered that a player just sank 150 Gold or 1.99 USD and gave me a healthy starting amount for even if I whiffed).

  1. Eh, I can take or leave it. Do I look forward to one day qualifying for it? Sure, but you earn it for not your avatar but a single Class at a time… so I’ll probably long since have quit Hearthstone (possibly due to dying from old age) before I can get 500 wins across all 9 Classes. Okay… a bit of an exaggeration, but if I am lucky I might finally have this for one Character Class in another… six months?

So… yeah, between my own mixed reaction to Hearthstone and some of the facts you kind of ignored or just got wrong, it makes the article kind of a hard read. Or did I really, really blow it myself? >_<

Ugh… so of course I do find some errors of my own where either I started writing and changed gears or worded something wrong (I am sure someone will find some factual ones, but I’ll need help on that).

  • A wording issue: for playing your first ranked game per day you get 10 tokens. Subsequent games are worth just one for the win, plus another three if the computer determines your opponent has an advantage over you. Losing is also worth a single token.

For any that find this hypocritical… this was originally a private message and now is merely a message board post. Not an article. Plus even if it was… two wrongs don’t make a right: it would just mean I also needed better fact checking and wording on my (hypothetical) article.

TL;DR: The short version is that it was an interesting article with some good points, but either the fact checking, the presentation, or both had issues*… which I originally was just going to bring up via PM so that if I was wrong, I’d save myself public humiliation and if I was right, you could take care of it with minimum noise. You wanted details though, so I provided them, which meant an already long post is titanic (hope it doesn’t sink).

*Assuming this all doesn’t turn out to be a spectacular “Fail” by me. No, not confident that will be the case.

Not going to weigh in on the stuff above, but I will say that I recently picked up Hearthstone again and I love it. I haven’t had to drop a single dollar into the game (although buying the Naxxramas stuff is going to happen eventually), and I’ve been able to build some decent decks to climb the ranks (MechMage, Warrior/Mechs, Shaman/Mechs are all very cheap and easy to play).

I definitely think PTCGO needs to finally hold actual tournaments and maybe even have a ladder for players, which would give out packs/cards to players that climb it and rank in the top X. I think that would bring me back into PTCGO a bit more, especially if there were more incentives, such as CP or invites to larger online tournaments.

Every time I develop a relationship with a PTCG player that is a regular World’s qualifier, and I ask “Do you play PTCGO?” their reply is consistent with Brandon’s and Jay’s position: PTCGO offers no real incentive for them to play. Since they have established live play testing partners, there is just no reason to put up with the bugginess. They then reply with all of the other games that they play: ie: Hearthstone, LOL, etc. So I think the answer to Adam’s question on improvements would be something like:

  1. Ensure that every card does what it is supposed to do and doesn’t crash the game
  2. Provide some sort of recognizable ladder system
  3. Give some type of incentive for performing well in a tournament and/or achieving ladder ranks

As always Otaku you’ve written a long and thought out post. I walk through it with my answers. At some points you were very direct so please don’t take it personally when I’m very direct. I’m all for a healthy debate.

Your opening paragraph I find extremely hypocritical considering you wrote Pokemon strategy articles for years while never really venturing further into competitive play than the occasional City Championship. Many of your articles were well thought out, well written, and I enjoy, but I still find this a poor point for you to call me out on.

The informational part of the article was written in regards to things Hearthstone got right which is something I’m extremely familiar with. It bothers me that you say that my article is factually wrong in many areas however you don’t tell me where. Perhaps we’ll get to it as I keep going.

How long did you play Hearthstone? How many times did you make to legend? Whats the highest rank you achieved? Whats your longest arena run? Do you feel you played long enough to actually form an opinion? Once again I’m getting away from the point. However, I’m willing to gamble that my knowledge of PTCGO is far more extensive of PTCGO. The games are to each their own. THere is a reason some people play Pokemon and others play Yugioh.

What Im getting at though is I understand you enjoy Pokemon more than other games. However, consepionally what does PTCGO offer that you feel Hearthstone lacks or what do online games in general lack that would draw you to them more? You can argue Hearthstone isn’t for you (which once again wasn’t the point of the article) however can you really argue it’s not a better program?

On to your second post

At this point your still attacking me rather than my points. Tell me I didn’t do enough fact checking, etc. Hopefully at some point we’ll get to your actually complaints about the article.

Half packs are absolute garbage with horrible pull rates and certainly aren’t a reliable way of building a collection. Especially with no buy/selling cards with in the game like Hearthstone has. Now lets even for a moment say that I agree with you and the game is completely free to play. That needs to be plastered literally everywhere.


literally nothing here says “free to play”

At best your looking at bad marketing. However your argument is “well we have it…it’s not very good…but we have it”

I feel at this point were arguing semantics, but we’ll even say I should have thrown “better” in front of it.

Alright so were onto a point that we mostly agree on. I would argue Hearthstone is the same way…free to play, pay to play easier. Many people like Brandon have said they have spent no or little money on the game and have done fine. I on the other hand have put real money into the game with no regret. Some people have more time to try and grind out packs while I on the other hand work 45-50 hours a week and lack the free time to grind like that. I don’t mind putting a little money in every now and than for a hobby I enjoy. Both kinds of players are important to make the game successful.

More advertising I’d also agree on and I feel there are quite a few missed opportunites with there own system. IE handing out good code cards are preimer tournaments. Allow players to be grouped with their real life league (this was suggested to me). Also vice versa having PTCGO offer more advertising to get players into the real life card game. Both could help each other out.

I still don’t quite get your comment about the ranking systeming. Hearthstone in my eyes and in many others as a perfect ranking system. THere is also a large varation in decks so much so right now you have general ideas but it’s extremely hard to predict a players list. Can you go into more detail here?

ALright once again your giving me a list of things you found factually wrong in the article.

The point about “from scratch” was in reference to blizzard who normally does real time strategy games (WOW, Starcraft, Warcraft, etc.) creates an online card game which is a very different genere.

Alright were to the point talking about the errors.

1.) I feel this one was covered earlier, but I can go into more detail if you like

2.) I can understand this point and even commend PTCGO on it. I still feel this largely falls short of Hearthstone which has the player addapting to different challeges and in turn keeping the game fresh. In short I feel PTCGO has a system, I feel like they are moving in a positive direction. However, were once again back to the point of “hearthstone does it better” imo.

3.) I’m not really quite sure what your complaint is with Hearthstones ranking system. Can you go into more detail.

As for the theme deck…I’d argue Arena is their varation (used loosely).

I love 2/3 in real life tournaments, but for online games best of 1 is fine by me. Hearthstone tournament system is essetially a best of 5.

Understandable you can play friends, but the glitching program offers me very little insintitve to play online vs. IRL.

4.) If you hit Legendary you fall back out of it at the end of the month. Back to rank 16 or 17 usually.

5.) Your acting like I’m expecting real world level prizes. Worlds invites, CPs, trophy, Booster Boxes, or even Online Booster Boxes of up coming sets could all fit into a well designed ranking/torunament system.

As for your second points its not even valid. You could make the same arguement that real world prizes shouldn’t be extended either because it’s not fair to players who don’t top cut.

6.) This point was in reference to something I’d like to see from PTCGO. It would have to go hand in hand with a good ranking system.

7.) IMO trading is an absolute cancer with PTCGO. Yes I understand it’s come along ways, but the buy/sell aspect of Hearthstone is far simplier, easier to understand, and less time consuming to the player. You want a trade aspect fine…but PTCGO still has a long long long ways to go with it.

8.) Of course it could be more fit to the game.

9.) Not really the same system…just saying

10.) The point of 10 was to try and find a way (and I was upfront about the challenges of this) for players who enjoy Pokemon, but don’t want to spend time/money on getting a full collection to come in and enjoy a good full game. How long do you think a theme deck challenge would hold my interest?

11.) The idea was long term goals to keep players playing…this could obviously vary for Pokemon. Your lack of interest in Hearthstone is obviously a reason it’s long term goals don’t appease you. If PTCGO had a long term goal you would most likely more actively work towards it.

I’m happy to discuss any part of the article with you. However, I feel you made 11 points that were easier to discuss and the rest was a lot of attacking of me. I would prefer you keep the debate centered around the article and give the exact parts you disagreed with. “Your wrong and shouldn’t have written it” is not only not actually giving me anything to defend, but also rather low. Attack the points not the person…

My long post must not have been very well thought out given how you responded to a lot of what I said… or didn’t respond and tried to “call me out” for not giving details I gave or acting like I ignored things I directly addressed. So I am questioning whether you’re interested in a healthy debate. I don’t know if you took some of what I said “personally”, but it certainly reads like you did given how you then responded (opening claims aside).

You are right that I have written many articles where at best I failed to make my meager station clear and at worst I overstated my case. In fact I still struggle with this, and both are acknowledged in my previous comment to which you were responding:

[quote=“Otaku, post:15, topic:3974”]
Unfortunately I know first hand what happens when someone tries to discuss things with outdated and/or incomplete information. I know that is one of the areas in which I struggle. It is why I PMed you at first; I figured I should allow this being an “Otaku fails at reading comprehension.” thing, but if I actually had something legitimate,I also wanted to avoid it being a “pot calling the kettle black” situation.[/quote]

Whether or not I fully realize my own failings, I hope this shows that I am at least dimly aware of them. So what does bringing it back up and claiming I am being hypocritical by warning you against a mistake that I made (and still struggle not to repeat) actually accomplish? I noticed some mistakes in my own PM after posting it in my previous comment, so sometime last night (relative to my time) so I added something else in… which may be why you missed it, as it wasn’t in the initial post.

[quote=“Otaku, post:15, topic:3974”]Ugh… so of course I do find some errors of my own where either I started writing and changed gears or worded something wrong (I am sure someone will find some factual ones, but I’ll need help on that).


For any that find this hypocritical… this was originally a private message and now is merely a message board post. Not an article. Plus even if it was… two wrongs don’t make a right: it would just mean I also needed better fact checking and wording on my (hypothetical) article.[/quote]

I felt the need to include that because it is a common obfuscation technique, and if you subscribe to even a remotely similar ethical system to myself, a logical fallacy. This isn’t an example of something “neutral” being made good or bad by the circumstances. Walking out of a store with merchandise is good if you paid for it or bad if you stole it… but that isn’t what is happening here.

Jay, you chose to write about a program you haven’t used for about two years, according to your own words. No, it isn’t fair to constantly throw that in your face… unless you constantly use it as a shield from other criticism. It also becomes an issue when you treat a failure to do so as this huge hurdle. We’ve discussed my own paltry experience with competitive, tournament play in the Pokémon TCG. It is true; I never traveled out of my small home state (at the time, Iowa) for events. Even playing those events, my record is “average” at best… and my opportunity to participate in OP is gone.

Do you really want to compare the two situations?

Edit: We don’t need me making another monster post, so while I sadly haven’t even gotten beyond your first two paragraphs, I’m going to wait before going on. I also noticed something I’d better clarify now but editing what I said previously would require an awkward sentence insertion so I’ll put it here: you keep asking me for more examples and more details, but I’m disinclined to provide them when what I have offered up is either being misunderstood or ignored or - if you are more in the right - is itself a misunderstanding. I’d rather address what is present if I can at all help it.

Of course I took some of it personally as I did feel you were calling me out and in many cases unneedly. You wrote an extremely long couple of pages while you only discussed your issues with the article in only a small portion of that. The point I said was lets stick to the actual issues of the article and discuss those. The parts where you were telling me I shouldn’t have written it and saying I was wrong without going into detail until later served very little purpose and even less in actually forming a debate.

While the end result might have been calling you out it wasn’t my attention (though I see how it would have been preceived that way. I was upset that you would call me out on that. The article was written from the persepective of things Hearthstone got right (something I am very versed in) and I feel PTCGO should adapt to. Your counter arguement is that PTCGO has come a long ways in those areas. While I don’t disagree with you I still feel Hearthstone is still doing it better and that PTCGO should consider a similar system. Had I simply used the word Better in several places in the article I feel you would have been far more accepting of the article. IE “a better free to play system”. This is where you telling me I shouldn’t have written something I spent a good amount of time on rubs me the wrong way. Especially when I feel the content and message were spot on and accurate.

I understand you enjoy Pokemon more than Hearthstone (as do I), but the point of the article was not to sway you to play the other it’s too look at things Hearthstone has done right and thing PTCGO should consider similar systems on.