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Published on February 8th, 2016 | by Peter Freeman

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VR’s Biggest Game Could Be Blizzard’s Hearthstone

VR has the potential to be something of a revolution for video games. But new technology always takes time to figure out and due to that, we aren’t really sure what’s possible within VR. What genres will work? What new genres will be created? All of this and more presents exciting possibilities for the future. What’s also exciting is seeing what games from our standard platforms can move into VR and become something greater than what they currently are. While we’re set to get versions of EVE in VR, we have yet to see other games attempt the jump.

Personally, I think that Blizzard’s CCG Hearthstone would make for one of the most amazing VR experiences possible. Imagine, if you will, that you take the first person view of your character playing the card game. You see them holding the cards in their hands, and the board sits down at the table in front of you. Across from you is your opponent, doing the same thing.

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But it’s what’s happening all around you that makes it all worth it. All around you is the tavern you’re playing in, rendered in that full 3D cartoony style that World of Warcraft is known for. You see the players from your friends list across the room, playing Hearthstone with other players. Over to your right is is the Innkeeper, pouring drinks for NPCs and managing the shop from which you can buy packs of cards. All around you are patrons of the inn, cheering on both players and watching with anticipation.

When you play cards on the board, they come alive like little action figures. Golden cards have special animations when they attack, making the game vaguely similar to the Yu-Gi-Oh cartoons. This also makes them more exciting and fun than just the little animations the current golden cards have. It gives them a larger purpose to the overall game. The hero you play as stands back on the board, behind their minions, only animating when emoting or their hero power is used. The boards look and feel like pop-up books. When you reach over to interact, the hands of your character does the same, messing with the little things that Blizzard includes for players to interact with.

More than just playing the base game itself, players can move around the Tavern in between games. The Tavern serves as the game’s “menu” of sorts. The back room is where the Arena is played – a special mode where players draft their decks from randomly selected cards. Over in the corner is the Tavern Brawl, where random rules are king. As stated before, the Innkeeper is your shop, where you will purchase packs and adventures from him. He’ll even gives you quests! Maybe you want to challenge a friend. You see their character sitting at a bar stool, or at a table alone. Just walk up to them and hit the button prompt in order to invite the challenge. Should they accept, you just take a seat.

Want to play a game of cards, just sit down at one of the tables and wait for an opponent to find you. Instead of waiting for a slot machine to finally load, you’ll watch patrons of the inn converse until your randomly assigned opponent walks up, pulls up a chair, and sits across from you.

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The biggest question, is how are all the player visually represented? You wouldn’t want to see all the players dressed as the nine class heroes from Hearthstone now would you? That would be a bit boring and making finding players to battle somewhat messy. Instead players of Hearthstone VR would be able to create their own unique character, using the creator from World of Warcraft for example. Players of the MMO could even port in their characters. Maybe the opponent your face is a level ninety Death Knight who just adores playing aggro Shaman in his spare time.

Should you not own a World of Warcraft account, the Innkeeper would be more than happy to sell you some new and amazing clothes for your character. This would open up new avenues of profit for Blizzard in a way that base Hearthstone would not. These clothes could also be crafted using arcane dust, but would take much more than you’d think.

Now taking Hearthstone over to VR would present just a few problems. The largest of which is the update pipeline. Creating 3D models of each card – even if they’re just tiny action figures – takes a long time. This is especially true with the golden versions, which would include unique attack animations for each minion. Such things might make it harder for the developers to keep all the versions up to date at the same time. I can’t imagine Blizzard creating a version with which they couldn’t keep in line with the rest of them. They’d want all the versions to be compatible of course. But if they started early enough in the process, there are adjustments that could be made in order to make sure that all the games are updated accordingly. Thankfully you could spin the cosmetic stuff of to its own team, since they wouldn’t affect the balance of the game in any way.

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All of these touches are simple things, but together they would make Hearthstone a fun and interactive experience beyond just playing cards on a 2D plane. It could be an inviting experience where people go to spend time and hang out with friends. The idea of the Inn is already a cozy one. Who wouldn’t want to sit around, chat with friends, and play a few games of cards?

There’s no telling if Hearthstone will ever come to VR. But people also never thought that Blizzard would make console games and Diablo III is already there, with Overwatch soon to be as well. They’d never made a mobile game before and now Hearthstone is on smartphones. There’s no telling where the future will take Blizzard, but VR and Hearthstone seem to be made for each other.

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