This video is brought to you by Squarespace.
Whether you need a domain, website, or onlinestore, make it with Squarespace.
In my home town’s middle school cafeteria, the card game lunch room nerds were divided into 3 different tables: The Yugioh Nerds, The Magic nerds, and the Pokémon nerds.
Actually, there was a fourth table – the Digimonnerds, but I mean, come on.
I used to float between all of them as a spectator, but I remember one such day The Yugioh Table was in an uproar, because Upper Deck had releaseda new expansion pack that introduced a game-breaking combo which essentially allowed any playerto win on their first turn if they could pull it off.
It worked like this.
The card Catapult Turtle allowed its ownerto sacrifice a monster on their side of the field and deduct half of that monster’sAttack Points from the opponent’s Life Total.
Which is a pretty cool move, although becauseyou can only have a maximum of 5 monsters on the field at a time, it had its limits.
However, when combined with the newly releasedMagical Scientist, this limit was essentially nullified.
This card allowed the player to Special Summonvirtually any number of creatures to the field immediately, which would then be loaded upon the Catapult, and shot at the opposing player (repeatedly) until their life pointsreached zero.
Basically, if you got these two cards ontothe field at the same time, the game was over.
And, often you could pull this combo off onturn one, before your opponent even had a chance to play.
The kids at the lunch room table were incrediblybummed out, because, naturally, all of them made decks centered around this combo – andwhen everybody is just trying to get an instant win, the game is no longer competitive, and, y’know, it stops being fun.
I was reminded of that little episode a couplemonths ago when Hearthstone, one of the most popular online trading card games today, releaseda new expansion, and, in it, a minion whose special effect caused a similar controversy.
It seemed amazing to me that, over a decadelater, some of the SAME design mistakes continue to plague the world’s most popular games.
And that raised a compelling question in mymind that I want to discuss today – namely – what happens when you break a card game? (Sweet jazz music plays.
) So, let’s talk about Shudderwock.
(Dope drum beat.
) In April of 2018, Blizzard released The Witchwood, the eighth expansion to their online card game Hearthstone.
It included a slew of new card mechanics, and it experimented with the existing ones by turning them on their heads and implementingthem in new and exciting ways.
The one we want to focus on is Battlecry.
Basically, if a card has a Battlecry effect, then that effect activates when the card is played.
It’s the easiest mechanic to understand.
This card has a Battlecry effect that Restores3 Health.
That means when you play this card from yourhand, your health is, y’know, restored by 3.
Easy peasy, right? But it gets more complicated than that.
There are TONS of Battlecry cards in the game, some with REALLY powerful effects – and while up to that point Blizzard had (arguably) donea good job of keeping the STACKING POTENTIAL of these cards under control, in WITCHWOOD, they decided to try something crazy.
Shudderwock is a 9-mana card, which meansyou’re usually able to play it on that turn number.
Probably means nothing to most of you, butessentially, this is what you call a LATE GAME card.
As a match between two opponents progresses, the cards get more and more powerful.
Your mana tops off on turn 10, so a 9-manacard usually signifies something with extreme power.
And Shudderwock doesn’t disappoint.
It’s a 6 attack, 6 health creature.
But the REALLY splashy part is its Battlecryeffect, which simply reads: “Repeat all other Battlecries from cards you played this game.
(Targets chosen randomly).
” This is a crazy and incredibly over-the-topeffect, and one that is really only suited for an online card game like Hearthstone.
After all, online games have a built-in memorythat keeps track of each card, and the order in which it's played during the match.
Imagine trying to implement an effect likethis during a tabletop game of Magic: The Gathering.
A player would have to manually sort throughall of his or her cards played during the match to figure out which Battlecries neededto be repeated, and, as far as selecting targets randomly, I guess you’d need to assign eachpotential target on the field with a number and either have a compatible die or randomnumber generator to figure out which card is targeted with which effect, which is aheadache in and of itself, and would take forever.
Figuring it all out would be incredibly cumbersomeand, most importantly, the opposite of fun gameplay.
So, in theory, Hearthstone’s online arena, which does ALL that calculation and randomization instantly is the perfect environment to tryout such a chaotic card effect.
In *practice*, however, well – see for yourself.
So, this is ME verses some random guy.
Hi, random guy.
I’m playing a deck which is centered aroundShudderwock’s ability.
(Which by the way, in order to get Shudderwock, requires players to spend about $60 on the expansion pack, and even THEN you might notmanage to pull the card from one of the randomly generated booster packs, meaning you’llneed to try again and keep spending more and more money until you get it.
) Long story short, I finally got mine.
So the game’s proceeding normally.
Plenty of fun and flashy animations.
Hearthstone does this so well.
It’s part of why it’s been so successfulas a game.
We’re on turn ten, I’m all set up, I finallyget to drop Shudderwock onto the field and THIS is the exact moment that the game stopsbeing fun.
You’ll see why in just a bit.
So to pull Shudderwock’s one turn kill off, you need to play a combination of different cards earlier in the game, with the idea being that these smaller Battlecries, when repeated by Shudderwock later all atonce, will be enough to overwhelm your opponent and drop their life points to 0.
These are the cards in question: Lifedrinker (a sort of mosquito fellow): whoseBattlecry basically sucks 3 life points from your opponent and gives them to you.
Saronite Chain Gang: A really annoying Minionwhose battlecry causes it to make a copy of itself the moment you summon it.
And Grumble, Worldshaker, whose Battlecryreturns all other minions on the field to their owner’s hand and reduces their Manacost to just 1.
Alone, these Battlecries are tough enoughto deal with during a match.
But when you play Shudderwock AFTER them, well… just try and follow me.
Let’s say you’ve played ALL these cardsin the early game, and now that it’s late game, you have enough Mana to play Shudderwock.
Shudderwock enters the game, and its abilitytriggers – it now will recast all previous Battlecries you’ve used during the match.
So it repeats the Lifedrinker Battlecry, sucking3 health from your opponent and giving you a 3 health boost.
So far so good – in fact, let’s say youmanaged to play TWO Lifedrinkers before Shudderwock drops, that’s 6 health sucked from youropponent! But THEN Shudderwock uses Saronite Chain Gang’sBattlecry, meaning it summons a copy of itself.
But wait a minute! That means this NEW Shudderwock’s Battlecryis activated… which means Lifedrinker’s Battlecry is activated again, sucking ANOTHER6 life from your opponent.
And then THAT Shudderwock uses Saronite ChainGang’s Battlecry… so IT creates a copy of ITSELF and then the copy of the copy’sBattlecry starts, and… well, you see what happens, right? Eventually your board FILLS with Shudderwocks…and even if your opponent somehow manages to survive because your turn reached its timelimit….
I mean, what are they even supposed to doagainst a board like this? And remember – you played Grumble, Worldshakertoo, so most of those Shudderwock copies will go to your hand, with a reduced cost of 1.
So on your next turn, you literally have ahand FULL of 1-Mana Shudderwocks to play, who will all create even more copies, andthen THOSE copies will create copies… you get it by now.
Plus, just for fun you could play MurmuringElemental before dropping your first Shudderwock, and it will ensure its Battlecry triggerstwice, if you want this whole routine to last even longer.
Now, in THEORY, this ridiculously over-the-toplate game combo should be pretty funny and neat to watch, but here’s the problem: When a Battlecry effect happens in Hearthstone, a corresponding game animation plays.
For a normal match, no big deal – you playa card and it’s got a neat little 3-second flurry you get to watch before you can playyour next card.
But imagine being caught in a constant loopof those 3-second flurries – that’s not really fun to sit through, right? Right.
Not only is it not fun for my opponent, it’snot fun for ME.
I literally am forced to wait and stare atmy phone while the Battlecry animations play out, unable to do any kind of input.
Because you can’t do anything until a card’seffect resolves – and this one, well, didn’t.
(Shudderwock's Battlecry animation playingagain and again and again and again and again and again.
) You basically had to just watch until someone'shealth finally dropped down to 0.
Here’s an extremely sped up version of meplaying Shudderwock.
I’m not doing anything, here.
This is just a solid 3-4 minutes of nothingbut Battlecry animations.
I’m going to win.
The second I played the card, I knew the matchwas over, my opponent knew the match was over – but both of us had to wait for the processto play out before we could start a new game.
If you’re the loser, this is infuriating.
You’re essentially forced to watch yourselflose for several minutes.
It’s demoralizing, feels like a total wasteof time, and it makes you want to stop playing.
If you’re the winner.
this gets old.
Really, really fast.
After its release, The Shudderwock Situationbecame so bad on Hearthstone’s servers that lots of players would just automatically resignwhen they were matched against the deck type because they just didn’t want to have towaste time playing against it.
A slow-paced Shudderwock deck can drag thetime of a single match to upwards of 23 minutes – half an hour if they’re purposely trollingyou.
Would you want to sit through a half-hourgame that you know you're just going to lose… especially when, in that time, you know youcould play at least two OTHER matches and have a decent shot of winning them? Of course not.
And this game-breaking combo was so dispiriting, that, just like in the middle school cafeteria, lots of players became so frustrated thatthey just didn’t want to play anymore.
I sort-of had an on-and-off relationship withHearthstone myself, but after a day or two of dealing with Shudderwock – I decided toquit the game, and I’ve never played it since.
For Blizzard’s part, they EVENTUALLY gotaround to addressing the issue.
After a month of letting Shudderwock rip throughthe metagame, they released a patch that attempted to alleviate the issue by doubling the animationspeed of Shudderwock’s effect, and giving it a 20 Battlecry limit.
This isn’t the first time Blizzard has attemptedto fix a broken mechanic.
They regularly alter the properties of certaincards in a process called ‘nerfing’ to try and keep the game balanced.
But that raises an ethical question, namely: If YOU were a player who spent $60 dollarsor more to get hold of a certain card so that you could remain competitive, and then themakers of the game CHANGED how that card worked so that it no longer had the same propertiesyou sought in the first place… Do they have any obligation to compensateyou? This opens up a bigger discussion about thenature of online card games as a whole, compared to tabletop.
If you buy a physical card that gets nerfedfor competitive organized play (or placed on some kind of restricted list, which ismore often the case) you can still theoretically play games privately using that card as itwas originally released – and, in that way, retain a little bit of the original purchasevalue.
But in an online system that can LITERALLYchange the text and value on every card you purchase at any time without your consentor even warning, what are you actually purchasing? In that sense, do you even own the card? And, where should game designers draw theline? Because, after all, you can apply this sameconundrum to ANY kind of game in the digital era in which we now live.
In 1997, I could go to the store, purchasea video game, and I could trust that the game would play the same way every time I turnedit on.
I knew what I was buying, in a sense.
But today, when I purchase a game throughan ONLINE service, that game will likely be routinely patched – sometimes altering thegame so much that after a year or two, it bears little to no resemblance to what I originallypurchased.
This CAN be a positive, but, in a game likeHearthstone which has a regular rotation of cards and gameplay mechanics, the negativescan often be glaring.
These days, games are perishable items.
Just like milk, they have a shelf life.
They will not stay the same after you purchasethem, even if you want them to.
Does this mean that gamers need to adjusttheir expectations? Or, do designers need to be more accommodatingto their customer base? I can’t give you an answer to these questionsbecause I don’t know the answer.
But I’d love to hear what you think in thecomments.
One thing’s for sure: card games have comea very long way since I played them as a kid, and I find myself both excited and scaredto see where they go from here.
Big thanks to this video's sponsor, Squarespace.
Hey, do you have an idea for a website? I promote Squarespace often on this channel, and that's because I believe in them.
My own website is powered by Squarespace, and through it, I can post videos, audio, images, text, and manage an online storefront.
It's the perfect choice for creators and small-businessowners who want to get started making beautiful sites in no time at all.
YOU can try it out for FREE by heading overto Squarespace.
com to start a trial, and when you're ready to launch, you can go to Squarespace.
com/austinmcconnellto save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain.
Thanks also to my Patreon Supporters, whoare listed on screen.
For just $1 a month, less than the cost ofa cup of coffee, you can get Behind the Scenes access to my channel.
consider supporting today.
Thanks! Talk to you again, soon.