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View Full Version : HEX Playtesting Report - 1: Pacing & Fluidity.



L1ght
11-23-2013, 04:18 AM
Speaking at quite a high level (alpha withstanding) I would like to start sharing my impressions so far play-testing HEX - To begin here are my thoughts on the pace of the game.

The first thing that strikes me about HEX is how slow it is. The mechanics lend themselves to a pace that is truly glacial. I am of course referring to the way that the stack works and the passing of priority. Now one might say there are advantages to having such a rigorous system. Such as enabling opportunities for expert players to outmanoeuvre their opponents or allowing players to 'bluff' perhaps further enabling demonstrations of skill. You might also argue that these core gameplay mechanics are basically an exact copy of Magic The Gathering (MTG), which has successfully been around for 20+ years, and therefore are 'fine'. But are these good enough reasons to justify the current speed of HEX's gameplay?

In my opinion, no. Firstly I think there is a fundamental and inescapable difference between paper gaming and digital gaming. The mechanics of MTG are fantastic in real-life, having a friendly game, bantering between moves and generally enjoying the social aspect of TCGs. It doesn't matter if the game is slow because you are immersed in an enjoyable atmosphere. In the digital world however, you are sitting at a computer and your experience is limited to what is in front of you. There is no external environment to relieve the boredom of waiting for your opponent to make a move. Moreover, the flow of something like passing priority in real life has a great natural fluidity to it. Bluffing & psyching-out and staring down your opponent is just fun! In contrast, on a digital game passing priority is obtrusive, often pointless and bluffing feels like an unexciting combination of mandatory and unresponsive.

Having recently played quite a bit of Hearthstone & watched the comments by the developers at Blizzcon I think they have innovated in the right direction for the digital space. Speed is critically important and depth does not necessarily come from needlessly over-complicating things. Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). If you haven't played Hearthstone they have completely done away with taking player actions during your opponents turn, instead having automatically activating trap based cards (similar to Yu-Gi-Oh). As a result the game plays lightning fast and is super fun.

Now I'm not advocating that HEX drop everything and stop copying MTG and start copying Hearthstone. I think HEX's target audience is significantly more hardcore than Hearthstone and therefore HEXer's are seeking something a bit more involved. But it's clear there are improvements to be made within the genre - particularly in it's growing conversion to the digital space. I hope HEX has a serious look at how the game mechanics lend themselves to the pace of the game and how jarring the priority system is to fluidity and immersion. Devs - Think outside the box, this game has the potential to be amazing! Be original and don't be afraid of upsetting the vocal ultra hardcore minority in improving accessibility & removing needless complexity.

Next up I'll be sharing my thoughts about the Tone & Feel of HEX - does it fail to take itself seriously?

A little bit about me: I backed as a Collector. I consider myself an avid gamer but I am certainly not a tournament level TCG player. I come to HEX from a diverse background that includes a wide variety of paper TCGs as well as online & digital games. I also have some game design experience and an M.IT.

Gwaer
11-23-2013, 04:25 AM
There are advantages to having such a rigorous system. Such as enabling opportunities for expert players to outmanoeuvre their opponents or allowing players to 'bluff' perhaps further enabling demonstrations of skill. I might also argue that these core gameplay mechanics are basically an exact copy of Magic The Gathering (MTG), which has successfully been around for 20+ years, and therefore are 'quite good'. But are these good enough reasons to justify the current speed of HEX's gameplay?

In my opinion, yes. After spending a good deal of time playing this new blizzard game called hearthstone, I've decided that it's a kids game, it's incredibly boring. I greatly dislike the direction hearthstone has gone and very much hope that Hex does not make those same mistakes.


On a serious note, I do agree with you that there is a problem with pacing. The solution to that problem for me is not to simplify the game however. There needs to be real innovation that keeps people engaged while not on their turn, and helps the game flow better.

escapeRoute
11-23-2013, 04:31 AM
ive been playing hearthston for a week now and i can tell u it is the most unimpressive and boring card game ive ever playied... i like call of chtulhu, yo gi oh and pokemon more than hearthstone, and that tells u everything.

it is fast indeed.. but boring, u cant do anything at all and, cause of that, u cant spend much time in it (unless u get payied for as a streamer)

but, lets not talk bout my hate for that game, lets stay on topic... the real problem with this is that u cant create a copy of a game like hearthstone and hope to steal consumers from it as much as u cant create copies of wow and hope for it to fall... rift was way better than wow (basically the same game with better mechanics) but it still failed to achieve anything impressive... age of conan right now is way better than wow, but no ones care even if its pve environment its a hell of a funny ride

why?

human mind works like this for most of us: it doesnt matter if u do something good in the same space, i have no reason to leave my car for a similar but slightly better car, i will stick with my actual one... come back when u have something different.

long story short... by changing this game to make it faster they will not steal consumers from hearthstone (or duel of champions for the matter), but they will surelly loose theyr actual consumers, wich is a fail fail situation

-----------------

the pace is a problem for sure anyway, i agree with that... they need to implement some quick buttons like pass all turn and pass on this card and other stuffs like that,,, with the ai they should implement an automatic pass when u have no response also

Gwaer
11-23-2013, 04:40 AM
I could totally see a constructed format that has an alternate ruleset and either bans quick actions or alters how they are played so you could play the game at a faster pace, or even asynchronously. But it needs to be an alternate format, a casual quick play mode, with its own ladder and rankings and whatnot.

I could also see the addition of several different kinds of minigames that you can only affect while you do not have priority that could alter the board state in some way. The issue is not making them gimicky, and actually making a fun implementation. It would be pretty rad to have something that you could do while your clock wasn't ticking that if your opponent takes too long making their moves you could win the game outright, imagine instead of it being a race against a timer it's a race against the guy completing some alternate win condition, that you could work against once you didn't have priorty. Could be neat, could be annoying. Hard to say. The digital only aspect of the game really does open up a lot of neat solutions you just couldn't have in a physical TCG

escapeRoute
11-23-2013, 05:44 AM
I could totally see a constructed format that has an alternate ruleset and either bans quick actions or alters how they are played so you could play the game at a faster pace, or even asynchronously. But it needs to be an alternate format, a casual quick play mode, with its own ladder and rankings and whatnot.

I could also see the addition of several different kinds of minigames that you can only affect while you do not have priority that could alter the board state in some way. The issue is not making them gimicky, and actually making a fun implementation. It would be pretty rad to have something that you could do while your clock wasn't ticking that if your opponent takes too long making their moves you could win the game outright, imagine instead of it being a race against a timer it's a race against the guy completing some alternate win condition, that you could work against once you didn't have priorty. Could be neat, could be annoying. Hard to say. The digital only aspect of the game really does open up a lot of neat solutions you just couldn't have in a physical TCG

if it is for an alternate ladder, as in dominion or aram or twisted threeline for lol, im totally up for it, but if it means changing the game in the sake of people who will probably leave the game anyway in one or 2 months (as all casuals do for every single game apart wow and lol), nah

Malakili
11-23-2013, 06:46 AM
Hearthstone is boring garbage. Don't mistake pacing for excitement.

Kilo24
11-23-2013, 07:13 AM
I agree with the OP to an extent; Hex is definitely slower than the depth of its mechanics justify. Passing priority constantly in a digital game is a significant waste of time, and simplifying that time sink out and carrying the changes through to the rest of the design would make for a better game in the long run. Being able to interrupt other player actions can bring a lot of depth into games, but as MTG and Hex handle it it really doesn't - and it's certainly not worth the cost to the game flow. There are many other ways to bring in depth to a game, and I strongly think that Hex would have been better off mechanically had it pursued them.

But, as it stands right now, making significant changes would be likely to backfire. It's better to have priority shortcuts ala MTG Online and/or keep some triggered abilities off the chain but put the problematic ones back on; doing a more substantial revamp would require a lot of card rebalancing (and they're already on Set 3). It's a band-aid on the fundamental problem, but it is much safer.

I hope that Cryptozoic carries through with the priority change, redesigns the whole game, and comes out with a much more elegant model than MTG's - but that's very unlikely to succeed, and would piss off a hell of a lot of fans who backed especially because Hex promised to be a better MTG. If it were a year earlier in development, things would be different; right now, the much more practical option is to treat the symptoms of the chain, not the disease.

Malakili
11-23-2013, 07:35 AM
I mean this as a genuine question, if someone who doesn't like passing priority could answer. What exactly is the big deal? Are you in a rush? Do you not have time to play a full game? Do you get bored if you have to sit there for 30 seconds?

I just really don't get it.

Gwaer
11-23-2013, 07:42 AM
This is not a line of questioning that is going to end well. Especially when your question immediately puts them on the defensive.

There is a level of anti-fun to a game you're only playing more or less half the time. I think pass priority keeps me interested because I need to stay ready to react. Rather than just waiting for it to be my turn again. That is likely not going to be the public perception. I think Kilo is way off base with his conclusions but the initial problem is sound. The game needs to be sped up a bit somehow, and not bogged down by priority as much. But it also doesn't need to lose the complexities that are inherent in the pass priority system, like the triggered ability change did. There's a multitude of other options.

Ertzi
11-23-2013, 07:46 AM
I could also see the addition of several different kinds of minigames that you can only affect while you do not have priority that could alter the board state in some way. The issue is not making them gimicky, and actually making a fun implementation. It would be pretty rad to have something that you could do while your clock wasn't ticking that if your opponent takes too long making their moves you could win the game outright

No, no, no. Thousand times no. This is a horrible idea. I want to analyze the board state and my next moves while I don't have priority, not engage in some sort of minigame that forces me to concentrate on multiple things. The pacing of the game is fine. I'm actually somewhat annoyed by the constant emphasis on speed, speed, speed. This is a card game, folks. Turns take time, you just have to be patient. Clear cases of abuse are of course a different matter and should be dealt with.

That being said, I am not against optional queues, where players can play as ADHD as they want. Just do not force everyone into that mold by adding more timers and such. Some of us really enjoy taking our time.

Gwaer
11-23-2013, 07:55 AM
Mass appeal is important, and I was talking about optional queues when I made the suggestion. I definitely think the base game should stay how it is, but the world we live in is such that you need something flashy to grab people initially.

escapeRoute
11-23-2013, 08:46 AM
mass appeal will come from the pve, and that will have a very very limited pass priority problem, sinche the ai will never have to think more than half a second

Malakili
11-23-2013, 08:55 AM
This is not a line of questioning that is going to end well. Especially when your question immediately puts them on the defensive.

There is a level of anti-fun to a game you're only playing more or less half the time.

Yea, gee, (american) football is terrible to play because you only play offense and defense, so only 1/2 the time! Baseball is terrible because you sit on the bench if you aren't batting while your team is on offense. YAWN, these two most popular sports in America are SNORE FESTS.

Seriously though, the pacing of Hex is not a problem. The pacing is fine. Hex isn't going to capture people who really just want to play Hearthstone. Let them go play Hearthstone and don't neuter your game by trying to match them.

If they want to add some auto-passing options for people, great. They should add that. But when the discussion changes to changing mechanics, it's an immediate non-starter as far as I am concerned.

Gwaer
11-23-2013, 08:55 AM
You will still be having to pass priority constantly, PVE could grab mass appeal but it's definitely not certain. You're still trying to get people to play your base game. Moreover the problem is multiplied in raids.

Gwaer
11-23-2013, 08:56 AM
Yea, gee, (american) football is terrible to play because you only play offense and defense, so only 1/2 the time! Baseball is terrible because you sit on the bench if you aren't batting while your team is on offense. YAWN, these two most popular sports in America are SNORE FESTS.

You do realize that neither of those examples are actually relevant at all right? Do not know if troll, or the dumbest person I have ever interacted with in my life...

Malakili
11-23-2013, 08:59 AM
So, I make an argument and instead of actually making a counter argument you just declare it irrelevant and then personally attack me. Well done sir.

Gwaer
11-23-2013, 09:03 AM
No, it's just dumb. In both of those examples the other teams are both playing simultaneously. They're not sitting waiting to have priority where they literally can do nothing. No argument needs to be made to that kind of stupidity, it will be obvious to anyone... That isn't you apparently.

Naeternam
11-23-2013, 09:08 AM
I also think the game play a little more slowly than it should, but again, it's alpha, I think the transition between phases is a lot longer than they will be at official release. And I do think the "passing" priority button is a necessary evil. True, things aren't as fluid as Hearthstone or other digital CGG ( Duel of Champions for example) but I think these games and Hex are different on a fundamental game design level, they don't offer the same interactions with the opponent and the cards are designed with that in mind.

As for the social aspect, I played some game with a friend while we were voice chatting by Skype and I found myself declaring every action I made, exactly like when he and I played physical MTG, and of course the banter was here ("Oh look, you'll never know which game-saving card I just drew *evil laugh*")

Malakili
11-23-2013, 09:09 AM
Sigh. You know what, whatever. I don't have time to argue about stupid [removed] like this.

CZE - please make the game you promised to make in the kickstarter. I'm out.

ossuary
11-23-2013, 09:30 AM
Well, you're right that those 2 sports are snore fests, but that's not related to what the people playing it are doing when it's not their turn, it's just that sports in general are dumb and sucky. :)

It's not really relevant to compare a spectator sport to a sport you are actively engaged in. I can't speak for the professional players who are doing it for a paycheck, but certainly the people playing sports for recreation enjoy what they are doing, and are actively engaged in the game as a whole even when it's not their turn to actively do something. Otherwise, why play it for fun? It's just not a good analogy for what is going on in Hex, that's all.

THAT aside, I still feel that the primary reason the game feels slow right now is because the developers haven't had the time or resources to devote to a better priority system. As soon as something goes into effect for that, and some of the passing options are turned on by default, the games will be WAY faster for the casual players immediately, and the feeling of slowness will disappear.

Ertzi
11-23-2013, 09:39 AM
it's just that sports in general are dumb and sucky. :)



Nnngg... must resist... do not hijack thread... :D

ossuary
11-23-2013, 10:08 AM
Nnngg... must resist... do not hijack thread... :D

hahah, ok, I admit, I was being a bit bait-y there. ;)

In my defense, I had an actual on-topic point to make as well. :)

HyenaNipples
11-23-2013, 10:16 AM
I think everyone is going to be pretty surprised by how much snappier the gameplay will be when the client is smoothed out and the servers are big, smart and stable. There is going to be instantaneous response to a priority press, so games will zoom at a much faster speed than the old-man server speed they are running at now.

If you don't want to do anything on the opponent's turn, then Hex really isn't your game. There are plenty of half-games out there to pick from, so I don't see the need to drag Hex TCG into that cesspool for the sake of impatience.

Gwaer
11-23-2013, 10:21 AM
The issue with that stance, which I entirely agree with is that CZE sees a problem big enough to fundamentally alter their game plan. I prefer it the old way, but something in the cards made them make a terrible move (in my opinion) The pointed at the game pacing being a problem. So I can't just snark away the people that feel they need to go further that direction anymore. CZE has created a hole in my snark armor.

HyenaNipples
11-23-2013, 10:29 AM
I am fairly confident that the current priority skipping on card triggers will go away once the game smooths out. It's too confusing for new players, who NEED the slower pace, who NEED the cards to be stuffed into their face so they can read what they do.

The change was made to improve Alpha gameplay, and I think the experiment has a good chance of ending with Alpha itself, if not before.

Vorpal
11-23-2013, 10:40 AM
I do feel like you press 'pass priority' far too many times.


At the very least, if there is literally nothing i can do, the game should not sit there and ask me to press a 'pass priority button'.

It should automatically skip it.


The first few turns are just monumentally boring and extremely slow paced because of all the pointless priority passing.

Some people are going to say "oh, I want to bluff!", so make the 'auto pass priority if I have nothing I can do' the default option but let it be turned off in settings.

Ertzi
11-23-2013, 12:09 PM
The first few turns are just monumentally boring and extremely slow paced because of all the pointless priority passing.


You see, this is where I see things differently. I don't think the first turns are boring at all, even when I have nothing to do and have to pass priority all the time. This is the key difference, and because it's all about personal preference we will never see eye to eye on this. CZE can never cater to both crowds. It will be crucial for me which way they go with this.

Even if the chain change will remain, that will not stop me from playing HEX, but too many forced timers and core gameplay that makes me feel like I am being rushed all the time will. I simply could not enjoy the game at that point, as sad as that would be.

L1ght
11-23-2013, 03:39 PM
When I first thought about HEX I imagined playing MTG: Duels of the Planewalkers on iOS where deckbuilding was allowed and there was a host of cool new features & MMO style progression. I suspect there are quite a number of people here who envisaged MTG: Online but with decent graphics. To me, these games play very very differently despite essentially being identical. I think it's those subtle pacing mechanics that make one accessible & mainstream and the other hardcore & niche.

Could it be as simple as adding a default pass priority? Maybe. Take these scenarios:

1. Manual priority both players bluffing - In this case the turns drag out, pace is slow, both players feel like its mandatory to bluff because if you don't your giving away information. Neither player is gaining a skill advantage here they are simply not giving one away and the game is decided based on the other complexities of the game mechanics, deck selection and player choices.

2. Manual priority one player bluffing - Here one player gains an advantage over the player not bluffing. The player not bluffing may not realise the benefits of bluffing or chooses not to so to speed the game up. That player will find this game frustrating and boring as their opponent takes much longer to complete their turn then they do. While on the other hand the bluffing player thinks they are winning based on their superior skill.

3. Automatic priority passing - Here neither player is obligated to bluff, the play moves quicker and more smoothly. Both players are able to gain meta information on the cards in their opponents hand based on when the priority systems kicks in. This in itself creates a further level of complexity and skilful players can use this to their advantage.

Now as I said in the OP I think the Devs should look at the issue of pacing and fluidity outside of the box and find an original solution. Although I myself and I'm sure a lot of people here are experienced with TCGs - I can really imagine a new player to the genre being overwhelmed and shocked at the way the stack and priority works and quickly turned off the game. Simplifying things does not necessarily mean removing depth but it certainly will, in my opinion, be in the best interests of the game.

escapeRoute
11-23-2013, 04:06 PM
u just can give a max time for turn... as in hearthstone... it wont solve the problemm, but it will speed up the thing...

and they can just create a casual or fun queue where u have like autopass or 5/8 sec to play (and the timer reset back everytime u play a card/ability) before an autopass take place... but in competitive it have to stay the way it is (and btw u allready have 30 mins for all ur moves in a best of 3 matches... it may seems a lot for aggro decks... but i found myself about to finish time in magic tournaments when against or with a control deck)

Facilier
11-24-2013, 12:10 AM
I like the Duels of the Planeswalkers solution to this, where something going on the stack triggers an X second timer, during which the opponent has an opportunity to pause the game to respond. It creates an impression that the game is constantly progressing without having to pass priority all the time. Gives you a chance to go fetch a DVD or something during your opponent's turn without leaving him stranded in the upkeep.

Ronaldspiers
11-24-2013, 04:24 PM
Not that my opinion will mean much in this thread because I am relatively new at all this TCG stuff (only played MTG: duels of planeswalkers) but I would like to chip in none the less.

First off I think have the priority/stack system is great just because it allows for counter-spells and combos and stuff to happen. In those MTG games my favourite thing to play was red/blue decks. Because of all the burns and counter spells, and there was nothing more satisfying than for my friend to bring out a big dragon with haste and for me to go "nu uh" and counter it.
Although it can be very slow to get through some turns with all the priority passing I chalk that down to this being alpha and expect them to work out the kinks with it as we progress.

Also, from a new players perspective (and as someone mentioned) the priority system has been a great help to me in learning the game and what the cards do. It has also helped me witness card combos at a nice easy pace that I can keep up with and think "ahh ok, So when he plays X that's gonna do Y." And in turn this helps me think up some of my own strategies (albeit lame ones).

Secondly, in regards to Blizzards "KISS" approach to Hearthstone I really don't want that personally. I like to think of Hex as a Chess game, always planning ahead. Thinking about your next 2 moves and what the opponent could have to answer it etc. I want it to be easy to learn but hard to master with ridiculous amounts of depth. And Hearthstone just doesn't look like it has the depth to keep me interested (not as much as Hex or MTG does) it looks too fast paced and very "Zergy".

Also, I have a newbie question. Can someone give me a quick example of a "bluff"? Not really sure how you "bluff" on a card game.

escapeRoute
11-24-2013, 05:12 PM
Not that my opinion will mean much in this thread because I am relatively new at all this TCG stuff (only played MTG: duels of planeswalkers) but I would like to chip in none the less.

First off I think have the priority/stack system is great just because it allows for counter-spells and combos and stuff to happen. In those MTG games my favourite thing to play was red/blue decks. Because of all the burns and counter spells, and there was nothing more satisfying than for my friend to bring out a big dragon with haste and for me to go "nu uh" and counter it.
Although it can be very slow to get through some turns with all the priority passing I chalk that down to this being alpha and expect them to work out the kinks with it as we progress.

Also, from a new players perspective (and as someone mentioned) the priority system has been a great help to me in learning the game and what the cards do. It has also helped me witness card combos at a nice easy pace that I can keep up with and think "ahh ok, So when he plays X that's gonna do Y." And in turn this helps me think up some of my own strategies (albeit lame ones).

Secondly, in regards to Blizzards "KISS" approach to Hearthstone I really don't want that personally. I like to think of Hex as a Chess game, always planning ahead. Thinking about your next 2 moves and what the opponent could have to answer it etc. I want it to be easy to learn but hard to master with ridiculous amounts of depth. And Hearthstone just doesn't look like it has the depth to keep me interested (not as much as Hex or MTG does) it looks too fast paced and very "Zergy".

Also, I have a newbie question. Can someone give me a quick example of a "bluff"? Not really sure how you "bluff" on a card game.

example, today i was playing against a blue control deck.. i brought him at 5 hp and had a life siphon in my hand... it was the only way i had to kill him since i had a mill deck that wasnt able to draw any chronic madness or sabotage and had 20 cards left in his deck... the other guys burns all his mana to mill a little more my deck and so i go and use the life siphon without any fear... in that situation, if i was him, i would have saved 3 mana free... just to fake a counterspell in my hand... \
but he choose to mill 2 more cards from my deck and lost the game... to be more clear, i would never ever ever have risked to play the only card that could still win me the game if i though he could counter it since i had at least 2 other turns, or maybe more...

Ronaldspiers
11-24-2013, 05:28 PM
example, today i was playing against a blue control deck.. i brought him at 5 hp and had a life siphon in my hand... it was the only way i had to kill him since i had a mill deck that wasnt able to draw any chronic madness or sabotage and had 20 cards left in his deck... the other guys burns all his mana to mill a little more my deck and so i go and use the life siphon without any fear... in that situation, if i was him, i would have saved 3 mana free... just to fake a counterspell in my hand... \
but he choose to mill 2 more cards from my deck and lost the game... to be more clear, i would never ever ever have risked to play the only card that could still win me the game if i though he could counter it since i had at least 2 other turns, or maybe more...

Ahh I get what you mean, doing something like that has never crossed my mind. That's really awesome :D

Baldo
11-24-2013, 09:13 PM
Ahh I get what you mean, doing something like that has never crossed my mind. That's really awesome :D
Yes, if I have one card in hand and it's a land I'll always hold it because it represents a threat. It's worth more having a card unknown to my opponent in my hand than having an extra land in play late game.

Xenavire
11-25-2013, 03:31 PM
I really want them to find a more streamlined way to play, without removing our options. If this become as stale and pathetic as hearthstone, I will regret every cent of my king tier. I love Hex, even now with the priority changes (I feel they should hurry up and revert it and take some of the great ideas from the forums instead) but if they remove the parts that make it interesting just to cater to a wider crowd, they will be shooting themselves in the foot.

Take MTG. Deep, long lasting game. They did tweak it now and then, and some of the older players complained, but it stayed complex enough to be a deep game. It has millions of players worldwide. Now look at Hearthstone. They only have a player base because it is built in thanks to WoW. Shiny, glossy, lots of jokes and fun - but it has a very shallow system. Those players will get tired of the jokes and references.

I got bored of Hearthstone in a day (while I have been playing Hex for hours on end several times a week, and I am always eager for more.) The depth is what engages me, and the lack of depth is what put me off Hearthstone, despite the fact I enjoyed some of the polish and the inside jokes.

Hex needs to take a leaf out of MTG's book, not Hearthstones. Keep all the depth, and find other ways to smooth things out and make them faster and more polished.