24 July 2013

The Heart of Fear

A while back I talked about how a fear of failure and rejection was a major part of the reason I had isolated myself within the MMO's that I have been playing.  Well, my recent turn towards digital trading card games (dTCG's) has revealed to me that this fear is even deeper than I had first realized.  And as much as I wish I could pinpoint when I started to become so fearful in my interactions with other players, the best thing I can come up with is when I lost my "support network" back in World of Warcraft.  Having a group of close friends to experience content somewhat "sheltered" me from having to put myself out there and interact with a more diverse population.  Once that was removed, I found myself unwilling to "put myself out there" again and instead became more and more withdrawn.  But I discovered recently that it isn't even just about failing or rejection.  I am not a highly competitive person by any means, but all the sudden I am also simply afraid to lose.

The Corruption Runs Deep

I've been dabbling in several dTCG's recently, some of which I've already talked about, others of which I haven't mentioned yet but will probably talk about in my Utopian Chaos column at some point.  But in each of these games, I am keeping almost exclusively to whatever PvE content the game offers and avoiding playing other players whenever possible.  Why?  Because the games aren't fun?  Because my little starter decks are crappy?  No... because I simply don't want to get pummeled by other players.  Why should that matter?  The only way to get better at anything is to practice, especially at the beginning.  No one is an expert at a game right out of the gate.  Well, ok... almost no one.  There will always be the odd "savant" out there, but that's certainly not me.  So why should I care about getting killed at first?  I shouldn't, but I do.  I care so much that I go out of my way to avoid it, and thus ruin any chance at actually improving at any of these games and enjoying them more in the long term.

And you know what's even more sad?  This attitude is starting to creep into the offline single-player games I try to play.  During the recent Steam sale I picked up a handful of titles that were well received and dirt cheap.  I haven't even booted up half of them, or barely started a couple of them.  Why?  Because I don't want to stumble around trying to figure them out at first.  I don't want to "suck" while I try and figure them out.  But who is going to "see" me?  Is there anyone watching while I have to save/restart several times while I try and figure out what the heck I am doing?  Nope, it's just me, myself, and I.  So what in the world is the problem?  I wish I knew, but it is really becoming paralyzing in a sense.  It is ruining my ability to enjoy ANY kind of gaming... MMO, TCG, offline RPG... doesn't matter.  I can't seem to enjoy anything these days because I am just purely afraid of any kind of failure, setback, or obstacle.

Getting Over Oneself

I suppose it may be frustrating to some of you to have to keep reading about my personal issues rather than some juicy gaming gossip, but it's hard to write about games that you can't bring yourself to play anymore... so this is what I have to write about for the time being.  I am hoping to find a way over this little "hump" and get back to enjoying my hobby again.  Actually I am hoping that my involvement with Utopian Chaos is helping me turn the corner on this.  There are a bunch of really great people over there and they have been very accepting of my contributions so far.  It's a good feeling to have after being pretty much "on my own" for such a long time.  Now if only Carbine would fix their random number generator and send me a WildStar beta key!  They announced another stress test coming up this weekend and guess who didn't get invited again?  Yeah... this guy.  At this rate I may break down and try Final Fantasy XIV: ARR when it launches later this year.

Enjoy the rest of your week and look for my column on Utopian Chaos tomorrow!

19 July 2013

To Infinity (Wars) and Beta (Beyond!)

Alright I know I said I'd be directly most of my TCG related content to my new column over at Utopian Chaos but I have two reasons to go ahead and post this one here on my blog.  The first is that I've settled on a theme for the content I'll be posting over at UC, and what I want to talk about today doesn't really fit with that.  It's more of a review/preview type thing, so I thought it would go fine here on the blog.  The second reason is to let you know of a promotion that UC just launched today that I think would appeal to people in my audience who are more on the MMO side of things than they are on the TCG side of things.

You've already heard me talk about HEX and how excited I am for the prospects of it as a card game which attempts to incorporate aspects of an MMO... crafting, group PvE content, etc.  Well if you're curious to see what it's all about, but don't feel like committing any cash to finding out... the good folks running Utopian Chaos have a deal for you.  They just announced that they will be giving away one "Pro Tier" package for access to the game.  This was one of the $250 pledge tiers from their Kickstarter campaign.  Full details of the promotion can be found here.  And while you're there, be sure to check out all their other content.  If you have any interest at all in this "new frontier" of digital card games, UC will have you covered in terms of getting you the info.  With that out of the way then... on to today's topic!

A New Breed of TCG?

I was turned on to Infinity Wars by the folks at UC.  I was there mostly due to my interest in HEX (and somewhat Hearthstone) but IW was not something I had even heard of prior to getting involved with the site.  So soon after, one of their founders hooked me up with a closed beta key and I was able to take this game for a spin.  I've been putzing with it for almost a week now and I feel comfortable enough to share some initial impressions that I have of it.  Now bear in mind that this game is still in closed beta and is a ways off from full release.  That means two things; first that there are going to be bugs, errors, missing content, and other things, and second that anything I talk about is subject to change prior to launch.  With those disclaimers in mind then, let's take a look at IW.

The first thing to note about IW is that it does away with the concept found in most TCG's of each player taking turns and passing "priority" on each action.  At first I was unsure how this concept of "simultaneous turns" would play out in practice.  I thought it would be literally simultaneous and that the game would feel "twitchy" or frantic as a result.  As it turns out though, this is not the case at all.  Both players take their turns at the same time yes, but actions do not occur instantly.  What happens is you decide all the things you want to do on your turn, your opponent does the same, and then the game resolves all those actions based on an alternating priority system.  In other words, on one turn all your actions will resolve first, then on the next turn your opponent will have that "priority."  This leads to some very strategic gameplay as you can try to bluff or predict your opponents actions and try to guess what s/he will do on the board on any given turn.  I wasn't sure I was going to like this concept, but so far I do.

This leads to another major gameplay departure from a lot of other TCG's, the concept of zones and how that affects creatures attacking and blocking.  In most TCG's you have freedom to select when/if a creature of yours attacks, and when/if a creature blocks.  IW's concept of zones automates much of this process.  For the purpose of combat there are two zones, Assault and Defense (there are two other additional zones but those are a somewhat different topic.)  Creatures in the Assault Zone automatically attack each turn, where as creatures in the Defense Zone automatically block.  There is no choosing attackers or choosing blockers, it is all done automatically according to the game rules.  Now you may think this "simplifies" combat, but based on my experience so far, it does nothing of the sort.  Combat tricks, deploying "sneak" blockers or attackers, etc. are all very much a part of the game and go a long way to determining your success.

Take my Money Now!

The third and final aspect of the game I wanted to cover in these initial impressions is the payment model.  As with many games in the dTCG world, the general trend is "free-to-play" with ways to spend real money to buy things as well.  In this IW is pretty similar.  However it should be noted that it is possible to earn cards, booster packs, pre-constructed decks, etc. all with the in-game currency.  I say possible, but it is not going to be ideal for most players.  There is a cap on the amount of in-game currency you can earn in a day.  If you earn up to the cap every day, it will take about a week to accumulate enough currency to purchase a pre-con deck, or you could buy a single booster pack almost every day.  Now I honestly don't know how much time it would take to cap every day.  I've yet to come close, but all I'm doing right now is single-player tutorials and campaign missions to familiarize myself with the game.  That said, a single pack per day or a single deck per week will make for a long, slow process for people looking to avoid spending real money on the game.

The game itself is fun though.  I enjoy the mechanics and how it is a departure from many of the other types of card based games that I am familiar with.  It will certainly remain in my "rotation" as a change of pace game to go to now and again, but I can't see myself committing a significant amount of time or money to it at this time.  If you like card games though, I would definitely try it out.  It is a good game and if it catches your interest, you certainly won't be disappointed to give it a few bucks.  On that topic, folks who are in the beta are able to invite others into it.  So... if IW sounds like fun to you, leave a comment below.  I'll pick one and email you a key to try the game for yourself.

17 July 2013

The Last "Domino?"

News came out recently that venerable king of the MMO heap World of Warcraft would be implementing an in-game item shop in the near future, perhaps as soon as the next major content patch.  It is actually going to be rolled out in Asia first and so far Blizzard is being rather coy in terms of what exactly will be on offer through this shop.  It is assumed that the current selection of pets, mounts, and conveniences will be present so that one no longer has to go outside the game to access these resources.  But now that Blizzard has taken the step of placing items for purchase directly into the game client itself, the possibility now exists for a wide variety of other items to be made available such as experience boosts, reputation boosts, or even gear.  And as noted, the version rolled out on the Asian servers will include some kind of XP buff for purchase.  So what does this mean for the future of WoW?  Let's engage in a little wild speculation.

Option A:  The Beginning of Free-to-Play

The first, and perhaps most logical, conclusion that presents itself is that this is the first step in an eventual "free-to-play" conversion for WoW.  This would obviously send shockwaves throughout the entire MMO industry and almost certainly spell the end of mandatory subscriptions as a payment model.  Now on this point, I've said before on this blog that F2P is not going to likely create any new customers for a game like WoW because by this point pretty much everyone who has wanted to try it has already done so at this point.  I still maintain that as true.  But there is another side to that point that I think Blizzard may be well aware of.  At this point in its life, there are far more former WoW players than there are current WoW players.  How many of those former players could be enticed back, even on a "part time" basis by the game dropping its subscription?  And how many of those former players would be tempted to buy a pet or two, or a snappy new flying mount, or a cool piece of cosmetic gear while they are around?  I think there is a huge potential for this, and I think Blizzard is sensing it too.  And let's be blunt... every minute a player would spend in WoW is a minute they won't be spending in one of WoW's competitors, which also has to figure in Blizzard's thinking.

Every new expansion creates a flurry of new interest in the game.  Sub numbers typically pick up early in an expansion, peak, and then drop off towards the end.  But this "cycle" has been accelerating, especially with the last two expansions.  The sub decline for Cataclysm happened much sooner, and I am guessing that the same will hold true after Pandaria.  And so while Blizzard continues to make good on "box sales" for each expansion, their ability to retain players across the "life" of an expansion is getting worse and worse.  A switch to F2P (or I suppose more likely "buy-to-play" actually) could help solve that problem and increase revenue over the entire cycle of each expansion.  Players wouldn't feel compelled to rush through all the content of an expansion and then drop their subs when they run out of things to do.  They could approach the expansion at their own pace, and Blizzard could concentrate on distributing the "incentives" in such a way as to encourage people to keep dropping in from time to time. 

Option B:  The Sucking Sound from your Wallet

This is worse than a Steam sale!

The second possibility is that Blizzard is going to start just straight "double dipping."  They are going to maintain their mandatory subscription and then in addition begin to offer more and more items for purchase within the game itself.  Unfortunately there is precedent for this line of thinking as well.  Ever since Blizzard first started offering account services, and then later pets and mounts, for cash it has already amounted to a certain level of "double dipping."  Some players protested from the outset, especially when pets and mounts became involved.  But because the "shop" was external from the game itself, it "felt" less obtrusive than if it were actually in the game.  So in actuality, Blizzard has already been doing this for quite some time.  The only difference is that now, they are placing the interface within the actual game and removing that sort of "barrier" that created an "out of sight, out of mind" scenario for those who wanted to believe that Blizzard was not already engaging in "double dipping."

The other fact of the matter on this point is that Blizzard is still Blizzard and WoW is still WoW.  What I mean by that is Blizzard may simply think that by and large players will continue to pay their subs and now buy items from an in-game store.  Where else are players going to go?  Where is the competition?  People have been trying to knock WoW off the mountain top for years now and no one has succeeded.  Blizzard may just be saying, "We're leaving money on the table by not doing a cash shop.  People will use it.  Just do it."  And so a cash shop is what we get.  Now perhaps this will end up being Blizzard's "Xbox One Moment" where the customers finally get up on their hind legs and say, "No!  We aren't going to use it!" and they end up having to do some backtracking or reformulation of their concept.  But I think it is very possible that the thinking at Blizzard is precisely that players will tolerate it and that they are losing potential profits by not incorporating an in-game shop. 

The Titan in the Room

Another factor to bear in mind here is the status of Project Titan.  With Titan having been essentially scrapped and restarted from scratch, WoW is going to have to carry the torch for Blizzard for at least a few more years.  Now I don't know which of the situations I posed above is made more likely by this fact, but it is something that has to be kept in mind.  It may be that Blizzard was looking for a way to "wind down" WoW but now it has to be kept going and so steps are going to be taken to ensure that WoW stays as profitable as possible for as long as possible.  One could argue that it was (and still is) inevitable that WoW would become F2P at some point.  But the fate of Titan and the emergence of this item shop makes that a more relevant question than ever before. 

My thoughts?  I think Blizzard is going to "hold out" and keep the subscription running as long as they can possibly maintain it.  They will go F2P (most likely B2P) at some point, and I can't guess when exactly that will be, because I don't think they have a "target date" for it.  I think they are going to roll out as many supplemental income streams as possible, bring in as much money from as many sources as possible, and only cut the strings on the subscription when it reaches the point where requiring the sub is hurting their profitability.  Now that day may come the day after they roll out the item shop in full, or that day may come several years from now when they are finally ready to unleash Titan.  It really depends on how the market plays out and how WoW players react to the various things they are presented with in the item shop. 

Would I play F2P WoW?  Almost certainly.  They would have to adopt some pretty draconian non-subscriber restrictions in order to "prevent" me from coming back to the game.  I think I am far from alone in that category, and I think that is why ultimately Blizzard will give a lot of serious thought to some form of F2P conversion.  But that day won't be today, or tomorrow, or probably even this year... unless as I said, this item shop creates a sort of "Xbox One" type reaction from their players.  Time will tell, but it would seem that the last major "domino" in the old subscription regime has started to tumble.

15 July 2013

Content Entitlement

There is a rather "passionate" debate going on in the official HEX forums right now regarding exclusive items and who should be able to get them, and whether certain choices made in the PvE portion of the game should bar you from accessing certain items as well.  I am not going to "rehash" the entire debate here, nor am I going to comment on it directly.  Instead I use it as a starting point for a discussion of the issue of entitlement in broader terms and how I believe this has affected the development of games within the MMO genre.

Entitled to History

When I began playing MMO's it was pretty much accepted and understood that there were pieces of content that the average player simply would not be able to access.  This is not a normative judgement on whether this was a good thing or not, it is simply a statement of fact.  And most players accepted that fact.  They understood that they would not see every raid, not claim every item, not conquer every monster.  Now I'm not sure which changed first.  Did the games start to change and make it more and more possible to actually do and see and obtain everything?  Or did player's expectation change and they began to object to not being able to do and see and obtain everything?  On that I'm not sure, but regardless of whether the "chicken" or the "egg" came first, the result was the same.  "Accessibility" became the buzzword for MMO development.

The result is that now players are almost offended when they are "told" by a game  that there is something they cannot do.  The new expectation is that nothing will be placed outside your reach, and that depending on the game, it may not even require a significant amount of effort to obtain or access all that you desire.  But are these truly the kinds of games that we want?  Ones in which the effort to obtain rewards is so reduced that everyone can do everything?  Again I am unsure.  On the one hand, we are talking about entertainment.  We are talking about things people do for fun.  Hobbies should not be frustrating experiences where obstacles are constantly placed in our way to achieving our goals...............

........ or should they?  There is another point of view that would suggest that it is precisely the obstacles and impairments that are placed in our path that make the rewards worthwhile.  The source of the entertainment itself is in overcoming the obstacles, breaking down the barriers, and still achieving our goals.  How cool is it to have a Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker when every other player has one too?  How meaningful is it to say you have explored the entire world when every other player can easily do so from the back of their cheap and easy flying mount?  How rewarding is it to craft a Cloak of Transcendent Awesomeness (ok, I made that one up) when the auction house is flooded with a thousand ones just like it?  Both are valid points of view, because in the final analysis, it is impossible to "enforce" a single idea of what is fun, or entertaining, or rewarding.

No Money?  Mo Problems.

So what are game developers to do?  As I have noted many times on this blog, gaming is a business, and like any other business, the bottom line is to make money, and that is what developers are going to do.  They are going to create games and content that they think will make them the most money.  And right now, most developers who "run the numbers" on this question have decided that "accessibility" is the winner.  Make everything easy to get and you please the largest portion of the population.  Yes there will always be a vocal contingent that complains, but pleasing them would hurt the bottom line. 

Case in point:  A major change in crafting to as-yet-unreleased in the U.S. sandbox darling ArcheAge.  To quickly summarize, the game's crafting system was changed drastically from a "hardcore" model involving item deterioration and other factors to a much simpler system.  One of the developers even flat out stated, "Only hardcore crafters liked the old system, so we changed it."  They ran the numbers and the numbers told them that pleasing the minority was hurting their bottom line, so they changed the system.  This is why MMO's today are more apt to look like World of Warcraft than they are say, Star Wars Galaxies.  I hate to sound so jaded, especially now in the "Age of Kickstarter" where folks like Chris Roberts and Richard Garriott are appealing directly to players to try and get games made that are more in line with their creative visions and not profit margins (still not sure how much of the blame Garriott deserves for Tabula Rasa).  But the fact remains that for the vast majority of games and developers, the almighty dollar rules the day, and the decisions they make will always be based on that.

I wanted to end with a quick "Thank You" and shout out to the folks at Utopian Chaos.  They are putting together what they hope to be a "one stop shop" for all things related to digital trading card game news and information and they graciously have invited me to be a small part of that project.  So for now I'll be doing some columns for them and as such I'll probably keep the TCG related stuff to a minimum here on the blog so I can direct my efforts on those topics to those columns.  I hope you'll take a minute to check out their site and all the other stuff they have cooking there.

12 July 2013

Argh! My Wallet! (Steam Summer Sale)

Yes it's that time of year that makes me regret that I have "bought in" to this particular system.  I both love Steam and I hate it.  I love it for its convenience, the single account that I can use to download games to any machine I happen to be playing on, and the sales.  I hate it because it IS still DRM, even if it feels more polite... and the sales.  I'm learning the most important lesson about Steam... never buy anything unless it is on sale, because it will come up for sale eventually.  Right now I'm particularly miffed over seeing Borderlands 2 on sale for $10, when I bought it for $60.  But yeah... that is Rule #1 for Steam.  Just be patient.  As another case in point, Bioshock Infinite is up for $30 right now as a part of the infamous Steam Summer Sale.

So yes it is that time again.  While Steam runs sales on a daily and weekly basis, this one week every summer is of particular significance.  Tons of games get the sale treatment, and not just indie titles or last years hits.  As I already mentioned, Bioshock Infinite is getting the sale treatment, and Skyrim was part of the first 8-hour "flash sale."  I passed on that one, but the second flash sale had a little gem that I couldn't resist picking up... Bastion for a mere $2.50.  I guess the best way to describe it would be a highly stylized Diablo with a bit more emphasis on storytelling than on loot collection. 

I'm not so much in the market for the "latest and greatest" these days, which is why a cheap little romp like Bastion appeals more to me than an epic, big budget title like Bioshock.  My gaming PC is almost three years old and unless I win the lottery tomorrow, I will not have the discretionary income to replace it anytime soon.  And even when I do, I'm more likely to buy a slimmed down desktop and a tablet than I am another "top of the line" gaming rig.  So I need to learn how to game smarter and game cheaper.  No more new releases.  No more big budget blockbusters.  No more top of the line machines.  I spent the last ten years almost trying to play that "game," and I came out a loser... not to mention poorer.

But here I am talking about how to save money, all while spending money.  And that's the ultimate irony of the Steam Summer Sale.  Oh well, back to filling my catalog with cheap goodness.  What deals do you have your eyes open for this week? 

11 July 2013

Three Card Tricks

Recently I have been indulging my dalliance with online card games.  As I mentioned previously, this is a bit of a throwback to my (somewhat) younger years in which I played Magic: The Gathering rather extensively.  I even flirted with the Pokemon TCG briefly back in the day.  For what is marketed as a children's game, there was actually a surprising amount of depth to it.  The constant coin flipping really got on my nerves though.  It's just one of those mechanics that seems fine in theory but in practice it just got really old, really fast.  But I digress... suffice to say I have been scouring the web looking for card related games to play to satisfy this interest.  So today's post will be sort of summarizing what I've discovered, what I'm playing, and what has caught my attention in terms of online card games.

What Was Old Is New Again

As a former Magic player, it would only make sense to see what the "old gal" is up to these days.  Magic: The Gathering Online is still the same clunky piece of crap that it was when I beta tested it over a decade ago, and still follows the absurd pricing scheme of charging identical prices for digital cards as the do for the physical ones.  So I knew right away that I would not be doing that.  What I did do though, was buy the newest version of Duels of the Planeswalkers from Steam.  I know, I broke my own rule and bought something on Steam when it wasn't on sale, and I'll be kicking myself in a month when I see it for 50% off or something, but oh well.  $10 isn't exactly a steep price to pay.

DotP is pretty fun for what it is.  I really liked the addition of the Sealed Deck option as building your own deck is always more rewarding than using pre-constructed ones, and so far the couple of decks I've unlocked have not impressed me.  The green deck especially is very clunky.  I lost three straight matches to a red deck simply because I either got mana starved or flooded and just sat there getting beat down.  My first attempt at Sealed was pretty silly.  I opened not one, not two, not three... but four copies of Murder (single target creature kill) but hardly any of my black creatures were playable.  I ended up building a strange black/red "control" deck that basically just kills any creature my opponent tries to play and kills with Shivan Dragon.  But overall, DotP just reminds me of how it isn't a real TCG.  It's just a solid single player experience.

Waiting Your Turn is Overrated

The newest game to show up on my radar is Infinity Wars.  I just started looking into it in the past couple days so I don't have a lot to say about it just yet.  From what I've seen so far though, it looks like a very different sort of animal than Magic or even HEX.  The biggest difference is that there is no "taking turns" in this game.  Each player plays at the same time.  There is no waiting for, or passing priority every time a player chooses to take an action.  I'm not exactly sure how this works out in practice as I have not actually played the game yet, but if it works well it potentially solves one of the biggest "problems" with card games of this type.  Waiting to pass priority on every action is one of the clunkiest aspects of online card games.  In fact one of my biggest problems with DotP so far is figuring out when to play instants and other effects.  It's just awkward.  If Infinity Wars can do away with this in a way that still makes for a fun game, that could give it a significant leg up on competition like HEX and M:TGO.

The other thing I can immediately tell about Infinity Wars is that it looks gorgeous.  Each card is fully animated.  The game "boards" themselves are all similarly animated, and the graphics themselves are beautiful.  Now I'm not the kind of gamer to be impressed solely by fancy pixels, but fancy pixels can go a long way to helping make a game enjoyable.  This again could help set the game apart from its competition.  M:TGO looks atrocious.  It did ten years ago and it still does.  What we've seen of HEX so far is a bit more impressive, but not as ambitious as what Infinity Wars is aiming for.  So my interest is definitely peaked.  There is a lot of potential in the game and I'm curious to see if it can be realized and if it is as fun to play as it looks.

The Card Game that Isn't

Last week I finally received my Card Hunter beta key and happily dove into that game as well.  It is a lot of fun but there are a few things you need to understand about what it is and what it isn't or you might end up inadvertently disappointed.  First off, while the game is based around cards that represent the various actions that your characters can take, this isn't really a card game.  It is a tactical RPG along the lines of Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem.  But that having been said, it is a pretty darn good TRPG.  You just need to understand that is what you are getting.  "Deck building" consists of equipping your characters with various pieces of gear.  Each piece of gear has cards associated with it representing attacks, spells, buffs, debuffs, movement, etc.  In typical RPG fashion, the rarity of the gear determines the power of the cards attached to it.  So that's the big thing to understand with Card Hunter.  If you go into it looking for a card game... building decks, trading cards, etc. you will walk away disappointed.  If on the other hand you want a surprisingly deep and challenging TRPG, you will be impressed.

Which brings me to the second thing to really understand about Card Hunter... it is hard.  Outside of the first set of tutorial encounters, the game presents a challenge from the very "get go."  It is especially difficult at first as your characters lack the variety of gear to address the specific challenges that each encounter presents.  Just as an example, there is an early scenario where you must fight several Golem monsters.  These mobs have decks stacked with Armor cards that mitigate a lot of the damage you do to them.  If your characters lack piercing attacks, it is very difficult to actually hurt them.  Now once you know this and can equip yourself accordingly, it is less of a problem.  But if you don't have gear with piercing attacks (or cannot afford to buy it) then you can have a very hard time.  And as with any game involving cards, there is always the prospect of a "bad draw," getting a hand full of all movement cards when you really need an attack, or something to that effect.  But that just comes with the territory.

Familiar Yet Not

Finally we come back to the game that really got me looking at online card games in the first place, HEX.  I did decide to pitch $50 and purchase one of the "Slacker Backer" packages mostly because I really want to see the Alpha and the Beta.  After several bad experiences "buying in" to games I really want to see what they are like before launch.  And I don't just mean that in the sense that I want a "free preview," especially considering that in this case I'm still paying for the privilege.  I want to see how a game develops prior to its release, and I want to be a part of trying to make that game better, especially if it is a game that I am highly anticipating and want to see succeed (*cough*  Carbine, if you're listening... WildStar beta key please!)  HEX has a lot of potential in my mind and I would like to see that potential realized.

Most of what intrigues me about HEX is the whole MMO and PvE aspect of what Cryptozoic is attempting to do.  Card games are, by their very nature, PvP centered experiences.  You play against the person sitting across from you.  But taking a card game into the digital realm offers up a whole new set of possibilities, not only for interaction between players, but creating new types of experiences that simply could not be done with physical cards.  Making a TCG into something akin to an MMO has not really been attempted before.  Not much has been shown yet in terms of the PvE content HEX will include, but Cryptozoic is talking about dungeons, raids, crafting, etc.  Essentially the game will have two unique card sets, one for PvE and another for PvP.  My understanding is that while PvP cards can be used in either context, PvE cards will be restricted to that content.  Overall HEX is really trying to expand what is possible in a digital card game, and I am very interested to see where it goes.

So it may be the case that a lot of the content here on the blog will be more TCG oriented than MMO oriented for a while.  I'm honestly not sure at the moment.  Even if I were lucky enough to snag a WildStar beta key, I wouldn't be able to tell you all about it... silly little thing called NDA.  Or I might do some write ups on some Steam games that I've downloaded recently.  I picked up the original Fable and Alan Wake recently when they were on sale.  It just feels like a bit of a "down" period in terms of MMO's right now.  We'll just have to see what plays out.