Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Levelling up sucks

Tobold sent me an invite to the Card Hunter beta and I have been playing a bit.  The game is a crazy mishmash of DnD, Magic: The Gathering, and old school computer RPGs.  Thematically I found that initially it had some real appeal and amusing jokes but they rapidly got stale.  While I appreciate mockery of Gary Gygax as much as anyone and laughing at ancient grognards and their dungeon crawls is amusing it really only lasts so long.  To play this game long enough to want to spend money on it would definitely end up with me wanting to punch the screen for some reason or other.  I want to like it, I really do, because people who could make a mashup of all these things I love must be awesome but yet I don't actually want to play.

The biggest problem I have encountered so far is that levelling often makes me feel bad.  In many cases I got worse for gaining a level and that is a terrible design flaw.  When you level up you often get a new slot for equipment which in most games would be a huge benefit.  More stats!  In Card Hunter though a new piece of equipment just adds more cards to your deck so it doesn't necessarily benefit you at all, especially if those new cards are crap.  It makes your deck bigger and thus more inconsistent and the baseline cards that get added are generally terrible so much of the time gaining levels is a terrible thing.  Not only that but when you buy or find a new shiny piece of gear having a bigger deck means that your gains are diluted.

Getting equipment can improve your situation substantially but it seems to take a really long time to do so.  I found that the difficulty of adventures ramped up very quickly and because levelling wasn't really making me much better I needed to just farm up gear.  Unfortunately gear seems to scale very weakly so the farming process looks pretty daunting.  I need to find rare gear to get significant upgrades and that appears very seldom - unless you pay, of course.  I don't want to pay into a game that is in beta and I don't want to guess to figure out how much money I would need to invest.

In the end I think that Card Hunter, were it implemented as a game I could buy for twenty dollars, is a game I would buy.  However the fact that it is designed around being monetized frustrates me.  I don't know how much money I have to sink in to be good and make the grind less brutal and I don't care to throw money at it to find out.


  1. Yeah, that's the problem with free to play games. The model in general works for people who won't buy games at all, or for people happy to drop thousands on a game. It sucks for the people who would just buy a game for $20.

  2. It's the natural equilibrium for f2p games: a free mode and a sucker mode. Pay for anything and the game shifts to the rules that try to monetize you for everything it can take... it will never be the same, because if you were willing to pay a dollar to remove one annoyance, they can always supply an endless number of new annoyances one at a time, so you'll never be free. Well, unless you never spent anything... then you'll still be in the relatively harassment free game.


  3. Hmm, 2 Brents commenting. That's not confusing at all. :D

    So, I played Card Hunter for a bit and I actually enjoyed it. I hit level 9, which sounds like it's about as far as you did. I recall reading that the first 10 levels or so you get a lot of new slots opening up, which does have the issues of polluting your deck that you mention... but I mostly filled those slots immediately with something decent, so it didn't feel terrible to me. Still not good, but I also understand that they were trying to ease you into the deck size they apparently want you to have. Maybe they should do it faster?

    The game's still in beta, so I imagine that the balances will be tweaked.

    Side note: I have 3 beta invites if anyone wants them.

  4. I'd like a beta invite just to try it out.

    As everyone else has said, the problem with free-to-play is that the are usually whale hunting. They want to find the free-to-play equivalent of problem gamblers and suck them dry. They have data that says they will make more money trying to extract $1000 from one person than $20 from 50 people.

    I think this will turn around over the next few years or decade. The problem is that you hit market saturation for the whales a lot faster than you do for sensible people.

  5. I don't have a way of messaging you privately, so here's one of the keys I got:
    If someone beats you to the punch and uses it, email me at brent.oster@gmail.com and I'll send you another. The beta invite email also says:
    * Tell them to use the key to register a new account at https://accounts.cardhunter.com/register using that key.
    * Remind them that the game is still in Beta and that their progress will be reset before we go live.
    * Let them know that they can buy pizza and spend it in Beta, confident that it will be re-credited when we launch.