Hearthstone: That New Card Smell

Hearthstone_LogoBlizzard’s Hearthstone (full name, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft) is a digital collectible card game that’s currently out on Mac, PC, and iPad. The obvious comparison is to the biggest CCG around, Magic: The Gathering. While MTG is a physical game that also has a digital component, Hearthstone is a purely digital game, designed to be purely digital. That poses both interesting challenges and opportunities.

Being a collectible card game, a huge hook of both of these game is of course, getting new cards. A recovering former MTG player myself, there is nothing quite like the experience of opening a new booster pack of cards. And while Hearthstone doesn’t reproduce that new card smell, it does go out of its way to try and evoke the same feelings as the real thing. Continue reading

Epic Mobile Board Game Achievements

Achievements are a staple of gaming these days. Since Microsoft popularized the concept with the XBox 360, most gaming platforms have a centralized achievement bank. Even mobile games – Apple’s GameCenter launched with achievements in 2010 (though not the first achievement platform on iOS), and Google announced Google Play Games in May 2013.

Achievements can bring a whole different angle of entertainment to a game, and add to its longevity. But only if your achievements aren’t terrible. Steve Bromley’s Games User Research blog lists 5 achievement sins, though I’m only going to talk about one type – when achievements are so epic, they jump the shark. I have three examples of iOS-translated board games that have achievements geared toward serious players only.

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Lost Cities: The Right Way to Build a Mobile Game Tutorial

Title screen for Lost Cities for iOSTutorials for mobile games have a difficult problem to solve. With console games, it’s likely that gamers will be in front of a TV, can hear the game’s audio, and be generally attentive. But mobile games could be played nearly anywhere, while the device is muted, maybe for just 60 seconds at a time, and maybe only occupying 50% of the users’ attention span.

So, tutorials in mobile games must be as flexible as mobile phones are. While games like Quento are simple enough to barely need a tutorial, not all games can get away with that. Lost Cities for iOS (iTunes link) offers the most flexible tutorial I’ve ever seen in a mobile game – there are no less than four different ways for players to get the rules of this game when they fire it up for the first time.

Ready to find out how amazing this tutorial is? Read on!

Magic 2013 for iOS: Too Many Screens Before the Main Menu

Magic: the Gathering logo

I played a lot of Magic: the Gathering for a few years back in the 1997 range. I spent a fair amount of time and money on the game, but eventually I ran out of people to play with, and that pretty much ended my Magic career. My wallet was thankful, though I always missed playing. Fast forward a few (quite a few) years to 2012 when Magic 2013 for iPad was released. Card games on the iPad seems to be a natural fit, and I was excited to pick it up.

Firing up the app for the first time, I immediately noticed how many screens there are before I could make it to the main menu. A few weeks ago I mentioned how video game intro videos must die, and it’s never been more true here. But it’s not just an intro video – it’s a whole series of screens that are absolutely useless to the user.

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Set: Card Games Can Be Usable Too

Box for Set

It's Set!

Set is an abstract card game that is more of a brainteaser than a “game”.  Being a Mensa-recommended brainteaser, this means that it’s a bit complex to get your head around.  Maybe not complex in the same way as Axis & Allies, but Set requires a lot of mental processing for the first time player.

In a nutshell, Set is a game about finding “sets” (see what they did there?) of matching symbols on its cards.  The thing is, there are four different ways you can match the cards.  It’s a lot for your brain to manage, especially when you’re racing other players who are doing the same thing.

And this is why it’s being featured here on thatgamesux.com: it is packaged in a way to help ease the player into fully understanding the game. Continue reading