Just some of the things I have been thinking about and/or working on lately.

Hearthstone UI

So I play quite a lot of Hearthstone these days, and I love this game.

I come from a long background of playing Magic: The Gathering, playing the card game casually ever since I was in elementary school. I love the game of Magic—my left shoulder is actually tattooed with the five mana symbols from the game—and have written about it in a number of my articles on game design.

I’ve played Magic Online on and off with some regularity for the past five or six years. But over the past couple of months, I’ve logged into MTGO only twice, and only played one draft each time before getting annoyed/bored, closing the client, and picking up a few games of Hearthstone.

Why? If it was just about the game themselves—building decks and playing with cards—Magic is a stronger game. More depth, more complex decisions, larger cardpool, twenty years of history… But that only matters when I’m playing with the physical cards in my hand. Playing online, Magic almost feels like a chore.

Two reasons why. One: Magic wasn’t originally designed to be played online—it doesn’t translate well, making for an experience that often seems roundabout and unintuitive. Two: the Magic Online client sucks ass.

Hearthstone, on the other hand, was designed to be played online, and the gameplay is built beautifully into the client itself. The interface is just as much a part of Hearthstone as the cards themselves, and it looks, sounds and feels absolutely wonderful.

yeah thats me kickin ass

Yeah, that’s me crushing a zoo player. Felt good.

This screenshot doesn’t even do it justice. The biggest success of Hearthstone’s interface is how it feels SOLID and REAL. It’s in the animations and the sound effects. In this screenshot, you can see that the Warlock has just used his hero power—the little graphic for the Life Tap is flipping above the game board. Seriously, if you haven’t played the game check it out. And if you don’t have an interest in playing the game, look at a stream on Twitch or something (find a stream that doesn’t mute the in-game sounds), long enough to see how SOLID the interface feels.

Each card feels like a physical object—and so does every menu element. Each card has its own sound effect and voice clips, and they move around the board with real weight—casting shadows when they leap up to attack—large minions slam into the game board with impact that puts cracks in the dirt. It looks, sounds, and feels amazing.

It’s because of this SOLIDITY of the interface that the game is so enjoyable. There was a time when the generally accepted school of thought was that interfaces should be invisible—Hearthstone makes me question that. A solid interface can be as tangible as any other element of the game—and can ground the game even more as something that feels physical, like you can touch it.

Certainly tablets and other touchscreen devices have contributed to this. It’s interesting to think about the evolution of game and app UI, and imo Hearthstone is a very strong example of a modern UI that really goes overboard—in a good way—when it comes to making the game feel like it has real weight. And it makes the game even more fun.

Old School Modern Graphics Pack

In other news, I’ve been working on the expansion to my RPG Maker graphics pack (currently available on steam). The expansion pack is going to be focused primarily on battlers, something that wasn’t included in the first pack—I have a shitload of new character sprites, humans and monsters, and nearly all of them will have a matching battler.

But there will be some tiles, too. Here’s a preview of what I’ve been working on.

osm map tiles

Preview of the overworld tileset.

Yup, the new set will have some sweet modern overworld tiles. This is a mockup map that I threw together to show some of them off.

I also have some secret plans for the future, but might be a while before I have time to implement them. ;)