Matt Dixon talks about his career as a freelance illustrator and his work in digital spaces leading to his work with Blizzard. He talks about starting on the World of Warcraft TCG and how he got hired again for the Goblins & Gnomes expansion in Hearthstone. He has been a contributing artist to Hearthstone since that time and talks about his creative process. He shares his influences and explores how technology has changed the way he approaches illustration. He talks about his need to bring “life” to an image and how he was drawn to computers and pixels at a young age.
He speaks about specific illustrations completed for Hearthstone and what fueled their origin. He indulges me as we discuss one of my favorite pieces of art in Hearthstone, Hecklebot, and he references his earlier work on Annoy-o-tron as when Hearthstone “clicked” for him. We conclude by talking about his recent “speed paintings” and his stunning personal work on his series, Transmissions.
Enjoy the 53rd episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!
I’m joined this week by Jase Nolan, also known as CinderAscendant on Twitter and Twitch. Jase talks about his style of preparing and running Dungeons & Dragons sessions. He shares how he got started casting Hearthstone matches, and how the skills learned in “Talkstone” help him narrate elements of a D&D session. He speaks to sources of potential burnout as a DM and highlights the need for DMs to know the adventure and setting they are running. He offers some of his tips and tricks for running effective sessions, and then we conclude the talk by discussing the Hearthstone community including how Jase has felt welcome as an openly queer individual.
Enjoy the 37th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
Kevin Hovdestad joins the pod to educate me about his years of work in the realm of Esports. He talks about his years of experience as a freelance journalist writing about Esports and how that led to career opportunities as a Director of Market for Catalyst Esports Solutions and most recently an Associate Editor with Blizzard Entertainment. He discusses the rise of Esports in recent years, and the potential bubble in the industry. He offers solutions for some of what ails Esports such as the need for a “Netflix for Esports” and finding ways for more people to easily consume and pay for Esports content. We discuss how games are now designed to be an ongoing service rather than a stable experience in addition to the ever-shifting landscape of Esports, and how the relationships between developers, players, sponsors and promoters is complex.
Enjoy the 36th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
I’m joined this week by Steve Lubitz, host of the Off Curve podcast, a show about Hearthstone that Steve records while driving home from his job. He talked about the creation of Off Curve and how he has been a fan of Blizzard games since the original Diablo. He shares his thoughts on the differences between Hearthstone and other card games such as Magic: The Gathering.
We talk about the shifting Hearthstone meta, and how resources like Vicious Syndicate and Hearthstone Replay have changed the game for both the players and developers. Steve highlights some of the current challenges in Hearthstone including the lack of tournament mode and engaging end-game content for veteran players. We explore some ideas for how to keep the meta fresh, and answer a listener question about the possible mechanics that could be added to improve the game.
Enjoy the 33rd episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
Cedric (@cedflanders) joins me from the Hearthstone Championship Tour in Amsterdam to offer a live report on the tournament. He details his experience at the event, and how he collected autographs from professional players and members of the Hearthstone team on his iPad throughout the weekend. We delve into competitive play and his thoughts on how tournaments could be improved to allow a wider variety of player skill to shine. We discuss his expertise in Arena as he speaks about his efforts to appear in the list of top Arean players in the world for the month. He offers advice on how to string together successful Arena runs from understanding the current meta, drafting cards, and playing aggressively.
Enjoy the 25th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
It’s the 31st of August, and I have only a few hours remaining to reach the Rank of Legend in Hearthstone. Once Thursday turns into Friday the season will reset, and it’s back to the beginning of the Ranked climb. For the past week or more, I’ve been bouncing between Ranks 3 and 5. Last night, I was able to breach Rank 2, and Legend finally feels like it’s a possibility. I’m filled with a mixture of excitement and anxiety as I try to minimize the dreadful thoughts of failure swirling in my mind. Our 7-month-old son is (thankfully) soundly asleep, and my wife has agreed to let me spend tonight chasing this goal. However, she remains bemused:
“What is this you’re trying to do?”
“The card game I play on my phone. I’ve been playing it for over two years. I’ve never been this close to Legend before. It’s something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do.”
“Why does it matter if you’re Legend?”
“It’s an achievement. It’s something that I can check off the list, and not have to worry about it in the future. And you get a prize of sorts, so other players know that you’ve reached Legend.”
“You realize that sounds — “
“Ridiculously silly. Yes, I’m aware!”
“Well, good luck.”
My motivation to achieve Legend has numerous facets, and the most salient at this point is, “Once I do this, I’ll never HAVE to do it again.” The path to Legend is paved with experience, skill, money – and time. Time is a significant factor. There is no quick way to Legend, and even the fastest run to Legend from Rank 20 with no losses would require playing 56 games. The majority of Hearthstone games last between 5-10 minutes, so even the near-impossible 100% win-rate from Rank 20 to Legend run would take approximately seven hours to achieve.
A practical win-rate for a professional player is perhaps in the 70% range, which would be an average of 145 games and 18 hours of gameplay. Those of us mortals playing Hearthstone in the real world can hope to reach a win-rate of 60%, which means an average of 267 games from Rank 20 taking over 33 hours of gameplay. Even 60% is a strong performance, so what if you’re only able to achieve a 55% win-rate? That means you need to play an average of 451 games over 56 hours to reach Legend.
I find Hearthstone to be an enjoyable game though losing is very-much baked into the product. Even the most successful (or “broken”) decks during the past two years only achieved a 55% win-rate, meaning that they are losing 45% of the time. Above it was highlighted that a 55% win-rate requires an average of 451 games to achieve Legend from Rank 20 in Hearthstone, or approximately 56 hours of gameplay. That win-rate means that over 25 hours is spent losing games.
A useful skill in Hearthstone is learning to cope with the losses that will surely happen. Losses will be predictable at times, and others will sprout up in the most soul-crushingly, creative ways. Losing can lead to frustration and anger, which in turn interferes with our brain’s ability to solve problems. Hearthstone is a game of questions and answers between two opponents. Anything that interferes with the brain’s ability to solve problems is going to make winning a game of Hearthstone more difficult.
Since the climb to Legend requires exposure to many hours of losing games, it would be helpful to reduce the suffering that often comes with those losses. An excellent method for reducing the suffering from losing is to rely on anger management techniques. The following article details stress and anger management strategies that have been shown to be effective in clinical practice. I also review useful resources that any Hearthstone player can access to improve his or her understanding of the game. Below, I present three useful strategies for climbing to Legend in Hearthstone:
Be proactive to deal with anger.
These strategies helped me achieve Legend for the first time on August 31st, and I even had hours to spare to bask in the glow of a shiny new Card Back.
Earlier this summer, a close friend, Chris, and I launched a new podcast, Childhood Ruined. The title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the notion that various things we were fond of while growing up in the 1980’s are not mangled for some reason in the modern day. We saw the podcast mainly as a forum to catch up with each other, and to talk about the realities of being two nerds beyond the age of 40. Chris and I are both mental health providers (we met in graduate school close to 20 years ago), and we thought an audience might enjoy listening in to our conversations about the intersections of geekdom, pop culture, and mental health. You can download and subscribe the podcast at the following locations:
The first episode truly hit the mark in terms of feeling like a part of our formative years were lost. We recorded the weekend after Chris Cornell died, and learned that his death was by suicide. We spoke about our love of alternative music in the 1990’s, which was during our high school years, and how Cornell’s suicide complicated the relationship with his music. We also explored the stages of grief, the realities of life with depression, and how it is vital to openly talk with loved ones about suicide.
In the second episode, we shared our thoughts on how music has changed in importance over time, and then dove into how our consumption of music has changed in the past 20-30 years. From buying cassette tapes in the 80’s to streaming music in the present day, we explored how and why music feels different now. The results from a recent research article about engagement in music over the lifespan was reviewed.
Chris and I felt like we were finding out grove with Childhood Ruined by the time we recorded the third episode. We spoke about a recent article, Why Do We Play Games Nowadays? The article presented eight reasons for playing games, and we provided our reactions to the reasons presented. Along the way, we detailed how our approach to gaming has changed over time and explored the changing nature of community in gaming, including the rise of eSports.
The fourth episode focused on Chris’ enjoyment of electronic dance music (EDM), and how he turned that into a hobby of mixing music and DJ’ing. This transitioned into a conversation about music festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival, and the psychological principles that often result in bad behavior at these shows. We discussed the grief associated with losing touch with important hobbies as we age, and how our children fill that void in some ways. Chris talked openly about his son being on the autism spectrum and how that shapes his experience as a father.
Chris and I had put together four shows in four weeks, and we were feeling better and better about the content. However, soon after we posted the fourth episode I experienced a devastating personal loss when my brother died suddenly. Chris also spent weeks during the summer dealing with some personal matters – and Childhood Ruined got put on the shelf just when it felt like it was getting into a good routine.
And We’re Back
We decided to hop back on the horse this week, and recorded an episode about how we both approach competitive gaming, and how we handle the management of hobbies and collections. I talked about my first real attempt to reach the Legend Rank in Hearthstone, which resulted in an increase in stress, frustration – and maybe an ulcer! Chris provided some counsel to me, and we reviewed coping strategies for dealing with the anxiety that can come along for the ride during competitive gaming. Chris reviewed a current dilemma related to his collection of Magic: The Gathering cards and music albums, and we both talked about how hobbies from our teens and twenties start to lose a bit of meaning and value as we age.
After grousing about how “miserable” it was for me to try hard to achieve Legend in Hearthstone during the last episode, I succeeded in that quest after all. I believe talking out my frustrations with Chris was a big factor in being able to regroup and focus on that task – and I did have fun with it. I plan to write about my season of hitting Legend in Hearthstone in the future; stay tuned.
Our plan is to record and post new episodes almost every Friday starting later in September. If the content sounds up your alley, then give Childhood Ruined a listen, and let us know what you think.
I’m joined by Ohad Zach (ZachO), General Manager of Vicious Syndicate and writer of the weekly Data Reaper Report, which provides comprehensive statistical analysis for Hearthstone. He spoke about his fandom of Blizzard games and joining forces with Vicious Syndicate to create a new type of meta report for Hearthstone. He discusses the initial concept for the Data Reaper Report, and how the report has improved since it launched in May 2016. He speaks to how the accurate data analysis in the reports have altered the Hearthstone landscape – from how tournament matches are called by casters to how the meta adapts and settles after a new expansion release. At various times throughout the interview, Ohad responds to my anecdotal perceptions of current Hearthstone gameplay with analysis based on tens of thousands of game results.
For example, he details how the current Hearthstone meta is perhaps the healthiest it has ever been, why the Warlock class is in such a bad state at the moment, why Pirate Warrior in Wild is not as strong as people may think, and how Crystal Rogue shapes the Standard experience. He talks about the latest addition to Vicious Syndicate, the Wild Data Reaper Report, which provides a similar type of statistical analysis to the Wild format. And we explore the casual and competitive allure of Hearthstone in addition to how Vicious Syndicate overlaps at times with Blizzard staff, streamers, professional players, and a thriving online community.
Enjoy the 17th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
This week I’m joined by Chris Benefield, a longtime friend I first met during our days in graduate school way back in 1998. Chris has a masters degree in Educational Psychology, and is now working toward an advanced degree to become a school counselor. In the episode, we discuss our history of arguing, “Who is the bigger nerd?” and explore how social comparison theory affects geekdom, “Sure, I’m a nerd – but I’m not THAT nerdy.” I ask Chris why he cannot get into tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons, and he asks me why I’m unwilling to dive into Magic: The Gathering (MtG). He discusses the merits of MtG, and we explore how games like Hearthstone, SolForge, and Eternal scratch a similar itch. We delve into our approaches to mindfully engage in our hobbies and time management, which leads into our use of social media – for better and sometimes worse. Along the way, we review our trip to GenCon 2012, and talk about trying to remain a nerd while parenting young children.
Enjoy the episode, and please provide feedback if you would like Chris and I to continue recording similar discussions as we are considering spinning this off into a separate podcast.
Enjoy the 14th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
This week’s MEGA Hearthstone episode celebrates the annoucement of the next expansion, Journey to Un’Goro. First, Peter Whalen, Senior Game Designer for Hearthstone, joins me to discuss his experiences working for Blizzard since 2015 and his role as Lead Designer for the Journey to Un’Goro expansion. He provides additional details about the Adapt and Quest mechanics, including strategy for how to effectively use the choices given to the player each time Adapt is offered. Dr. Whalen also discusses the realities of designing content for a passionate fanbase that has access to data analytics to attack Ranked play. He describes how the meta game in Hearthstone has sped up as a result of community resources, and what it means for players and the design team moving forward. Finally, he shares his thoughts on design concepts that have yet to clear the cutting room floor and specific cards that might shine during the upcoming Year of the Mammoth rotation.
Then around the 30-minute mark, Dr. Tzachi Zach joins me to talk about the his role as Co-Owner and Data Analyst for Vicious Syndicate. He explains how the weekly Data Reaper Reports are created, and comments on how players and the Hearthstone designers can benefit from the analytics provided by Vicious Syndicate. He speaks about searching for the “truth” in data analysis, and how he is confident the Vicious Syndicate team is honing in on a reliable and valid estimate of how specific decks are performing in Ranked play. He offers a glimpse of the future for Vicious Syndicate, including how they might venture into data reports on the Wild format.
Enjoy the 10th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below: