I had a look at the Hex kickstarter yesterday. Hex is “the first ever real MMO/TCG” according to its creators, Cryptozoic Entertainment– the same people who currently produce the Warcraft TCG.

The basic game rules are a clone of Magic The Gathering, with the major difference being how complex the cards themselves can be. With the limitations of physical cards removed they can make the cards transform, equip gear, have gem sockets, and contain extra rules on a “third” side of the card.

It’s one of those concepts that, once you realise its potential, makes you wonder why the hell nobody hasn’t done it yet. TCGs have been “pay to win” since their inception, long before video games started pissing off bloggers by doing the same. Transferring this model to a purely digital medium allows the producers complete control over any and all transactions, which translates to more revenue streams, for instance taking a cut from player to player card sales– think Diablo III auction house.

Hearing about this game gives me an odd sense of inner conflict; I can see how blatantly exploitative it is, but I don’t care because it’s already found and hit all the right buttons to get me genuinely excited. [The same feeling I often get when I see a trailer for a gothsploitation movie. I am a sucker for those things.]

The other feeling it gave me was “this could so easily be the next League of Legends”. LoL was not an original concept, just a quality iteration in a genre of game released right as that genre started to really take off.

World of Warcraft was the same for MMOs; the right game at the right time, perfectly poised to not just ride but reinforce the wave of popularity growth that genre was experiencing. I think it’s probably a sore point for Blizzard that they never exploited their perfect position in the MOBA genre several years ago, and the reason they have made such a sudden and unexpected move into online TCGs is to avoid making the same mistake again.

The most interesting thing on the kickstarter page for me was scrolling down through the support tiers and noticing the way they gradually revealed all the things they intend players to buy. You might see the thousand-dollar support tier that gives you one of every card that will ever be made and think; wow, that’s the ultimate… until you look at the next tier, two-and-a-half thousand dollars, which offers four of every card. Of course, you realise, you’ll need four of the each of the best cards to be competitive, that is the ultimate. But oh wait, five thousand dollars gets you four of every card, and also includes the equipment for those cards. Of course you need the equipment too what do you think this is?

It suggests to me a perfect microcosm of the way the game intends to hook people into spending more and more money, simply by having so many facets– not just cards, but upgrades, equipment, gems, champions… and I have to assume you’ll need completely separate decks to be competitive in PvE as well as PvP.

I can almost sense a kind of psychopathy to the design concepts; an ignorance of all human emotions except those which can be exploited for profit.

Penny Arcade gets it.


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