After a lengthy stint of closed beta testing primarily focused on game balance, Blizzard's Warcraft-themed online collectible card game Hearthstone is now in open beta and available for anyone to play.
Now game balance issues are largely addressed -- Blizzard said a while back that there would be no more major balance adjustments unless it was "absolutely necessary" -- the developer is looking forward to fleshing out the rest of the game experience in greater detail. And in a Chinese language interview transcript -- now seemingly deleted, but translated and summarized by Hearthpwn -- the game's executive producer Hamilton Chu revealed what was in store for the game.
First up, the game will open additional avenues of income by selling premium content that doesn't affect game balance. You'll be able to purchase new card backs (separate from those that are provided as rewards for ranked play) and new game boards on which to play, and you'll also be able to play as new heroes. It sounds as if these will be a cosmetic choice, however; you'll just have a different hero appear as your avatar in the game, but it will still be a Mage, Warrior or whatever deck.
For solo players, an Adventure mode will be added that contains new quests, new game stages and the opportunity to earn between 10 and 20 new cards. These will presumably work in a similar manner to the current tutorial, facing you off against a series of opponents who have their own unique dialogue as you battle them. It sounds as if new adventures will be released on a fairly regular basis and provide a solid means of collecting new cards for those who don't want to spend money, but we shouldn't expect the first of these to appear until after the game is available on both PC and iPad.
In the near future, the game will get a full expansion pack featuring between 100 and 200 new cards, but it's not presently clear whether this will be a premium purchase or an update for everyone playing. The expansion, it seems, will primarily focus on new cards rather than bringing in new game elements -- Chu reportedly specifically noted that there are no non-Warcraft-themed elements planned for inclusion in the game, and at present decks for the Death Knight and Monk classes are not being developed. The team is also not presently working on a 2v2 mode, since 1v1 needs to be as solid as possible first -- but the very fact this was mentioned suggests it's a possibility for the near future. Likewise, an observer mode for watching games is presently planned, but is not being actively developed right now.
You can play Hearthstone right now for free. Newbies should check out Cassandra's beginner's guide -- and we've got more Hearthstone content planned for the very near future.
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