Blizzard announces free-to-play, digital collectible card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Blizzard announces free-to-play, digital collectible card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Blizzard's next project is an online, collectible card game called Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, the company announced today at PAX East. The game will be available “not Blizzard soon, but IRL soon” on PC and Mac, as well as iPad “shortly thereafter.” The game will be in beta this summer, and is currently playable on the PAX East show floor.

The game seeks to recreate the fun of physical card decks with the magic and effects only available in digital format. Blizzard said that they wanted to create an “epic game” that doesn't necessarily focus on “epic scale.” To that end, the game will be developed by a small team of 15 developers.

How it all works

Players will start Heroes of Warcraft by choosing one of nine heroes from the Warcraft universe, based on the classes present in World of Warcraft. Players will then build out their deck either manually, with suggestions from the computer, or they can let the game itself create a deck.

Blizzard showed a video with one player creating a deck by starting as a Rogue, flipping through virtual pages full of colorful cards, and choosing several of the cards they wanted, before asking the computer to suggest cards. The player was given three choices per suggestion, so there will be some freedom even if you want help building a deck. The player then tried to complete the deck, and a pop-up warned them they needed more cards to fill out their deck. One button click later, the computer automatically picked out cards to flesh out the deck.

It's clear Blizzard is focused on trying to make the game interesting from a visual standpoint, trying to make this digital game as fun as a physical one. “We really wanted to bring in a lot of the charm of the Warcraft universe,” said a Blizzard representative. During various game play videos, we saw lots of spell animations, effects, and even taunts from character to character. When a warrior-type card attacks, it literally moves to hit its target. The crowd erupted in laughter when a murloc popped up on screen and began the trademark gurgling.

Collectible card games wouldn't be what they are without that special “collectible” element, however. Players will be able to purchase booster packs to add to their collection. Blizzard said they haven't finalized a pricepoint yet, but $1 per pack is “what we're testing right now.” Booster packs will contain basic and expert cards, and expert cards are further broken down by rarity much like gear is in World of Warcraft: common, rare, epic, and legendary.

Opening a pack is a major focus of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. The Blizzard representative said that the company is aware of people's superstitions, and the joy of physically going through a pack, card-by-card. When you buy a new pack, you'll be able to open it by placing it onto a magic-looking sort of pedestal. The card will then lift into the air and explode, revealing five cards. The cards are turned to face away from the player, so you'll have to turn each one over, one-by-one. When you reveal a higher-level card, there's a nice little sound effect and visual sparkle.

If you don't want to buy booster packs, you can earn cards as well, or even craft them. If you end up having a collection full of duplicates or cards you're not interested in, you can disenchant them, which will give you arcane dust, and gray out the card that has been drained. Once you have enough arcane dust, you can use it to create specific cards. The Blizzard rep showed the PAX audience a video where three cards were disenchanted, pulling down a blue glitter to the player's dash. The video then showed the player infusing the dust into a Deathwing card, again complete with nice, engaging sound and visual effects.

The Blizzard rep said battles would be “focused” on 1v1, which is interesting phrasing, considering it leaves the door open for larger card battles. Blizzard wants the game to be compatible with shoutcasting, and near the end of the panel, the audience was treated to a live shoutcast. Matchmaking will take place using Blizzard's standard service, and players will be able to earn medals to show their ranking and time spent in the game.

We'll be talking to some of the people involved in the game today, for a larger story on the title coming Monday. If you have questions you'd like us to pass along, hit up the comments!