Hearthstone on the iPhone

Today Blizzard released Hearthstone on iOS and Android phones making the game previously released on PCs, iPads, Kindles, and Android tablets even more mobile than ever. While some folks (including myself) had some concerns with how the game would translate to such a small screen size, having played a few games this evening I can attest that at least for an iPhone 6 with a 4.7″ screen it plays just fine. Several changes were made to the main menu, the game board, and the way players interact with cards to make up for the reduction in real estate.

IMG_0398  Hearthstone Screenshot 04-14-15 19.47.45

First there is the difference on the main menu screen. The top image is from the iPhone version of hearthstone, the second is a screenshot captured from the PC. I actually prefer the simplicity and symmetry of the iPhone menu. The game box fills the screen and the four tabs along the bottom left and right sides are a much clearer presentation of the various sub-menu options. I especially like the now (or soon to be) iconic Hearthstone card pack image labeling the menu for opening newly purchased or won cards. I would not be surprised if this doesn’t become the default menu for other devices, including the PC in the near future.


Hearthstone Screenshot 04-14-15 20.03.25

Speaking of opening cards, above you can see an image of what it looks like when you open a pack on the iPhone. When you play a game for the first time on a new device you receive a free card pack, the phone release was no exception. I’ve been able to snag three free packs so far, one each for an iPad, Kindle, and now the iPhone. What’s unique about the iPhone version is that the cards are displayed in a single row and you are able to pan back and forth over them all, turning them each over one at a time. For the PC version of the game, cards are arranged over the entire screen in a more or less circular pattern as can also be seen above. I still think the experience of opening a pack on the PC version is far more gratifying than on the iPhone but for the screen size I’m glad they chose to make the changes they did. Otherwise the cards would have been teeny, tiny baby cards and turning them over would have been “cute” instead of EPIC!!!1!!1!


Hearthstone Screenshot 04-14-15 20.09.53

Next we have the menu for crafting and building decks. The iPhone version has a dropdown menu for the classes which opens up a small window at the top of the screen with the nine class icons rather than tabs visible in the PC version and allows you to scroll up and down through your decks on the right hand side rather than having them all fit on the screen at once. The filter button opens up another small window at the top where you can sift through your collection by mana cost and descriptive words just like on the PC. Again, I like the much cleaner, simpler design of the iPhone version. Having the filters and class tabs hidden until required streamlines the appearance without reducing accessibility or functionality.



Hearthstone Screenshot 04-14-15 20.25.21

Lastly, we have the game board itself. If you are a fan of all the little clickables in the four corners you will be disappointed, otherwise once you adapt to the minor changes in how you view and play cards, the design works quite well. The first two images above are from the iPhone. The first image is how the game board looks by default. When you’re ready to exam your cards and play your hand, you simply tap the cards in the bottom right corner and the screen changes to look like the middle image. From here you are able to select a card and play it. If you want to read the card text for your own hand or an opponents, holding your finger down on the desired card will expand it to a larger version with all the information at your finger tips.

At your fingertips? Get it? Fingertips. (I’m here all week, folks).

The bottom image is of the standard board as it is on the PC and tablets. I have no preference here, both versions of the game function appropriately for the devices being used. Without any tutorial I quickly realized how the new design worked on the iPhone and in three games was able to lose each time without a single misclick.

If you have been playing Hearthstone or were waiting for the phone version, I would highly recommend downloading the app for your phone if you have the specifications necessary to run the game. The extremely talented devs and designers working on this game if anything have improved upon their own, previous iterations. Unfortunately the improvements and changes to the game for iOS and Android phones have not made me a better player.

And yes, that last image is me totally pwning the Innkeeper on normal difficulty with Ragnaros. Like a boss.  

David and Goliath Revisited

When Saul and all of Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

1 Samuel 17:11

Do you remember flannel boards? If you went to Sunday school in the 70s or early 80s then you’re probably familiar with what I’m talking about. They were story telling tools consisting of people or animals that would stick to a board made of flannel but were easily moved to a new location as the story unfolded. When I think of iconic Bible stories like “David and Goliath” or “Daniel in the lions’ den” I do so in the context of these early Sunday school experiences, flannel people living in fields of flannel.

However the problem with the way these stores are often shared with young children is that they are extracted from the greater biblical context and told in fragments separated from the bigger picture. As a result the “point” of the inclusion of these historical narratives in the Bible is often lost. And make no mistake, each story told in the Bible is intentional, as is its place in whichever book it is found. Take the narrative of David and Goliath as an example. It takes place after Saul, the first king of Israel, was formally rejected as king by God. Despite this rejection for his resistance to God’s leading and misconduct as a king, Saul remained in office for many years to come.

In the meantime God used his servant and prophet Samuel to select David to be the rightful king in Saul’s place. All we know at the time of David’s choosing is that he is the youngest son of Jesse and that the Lord advised Samuel not to look at his outward appearance but rather to trust in His judgment of inner character. Saul was given to the people when they demanded a king like all the other nations, and that was exactly what they got; a tall, muscular man who ruled for his own benefit and waxed eloquent like a seasoned politician whenever he was caught in a lie or disobeying God. However David was to be the king of God’s choosing and the story of his battle against Goliath gives us a picture of what his character was like.

At this time one of the neighboring hostile nations was gathering for war against Israel; the Philistines. Throughout the history of Israel they were an ever present threat and their advance into Israeli territory was often used by God as a wakeup call whenever his people went astray. This time was to be no different. Then there was Goliath; Goliath was the Philistine’s champion and for good reason. Every day for forty days he came out and challenged the people, daring one of them to best him in combat. The response of Saul and the rest of Israel was fear, and who wouldn’t be afraid at the sight of an encroaching enemy army and this giant warrior they had brought with them, brandishing spear and sword with battle-tempered malevolence?

Well, apparently David wasn’t afraid. He was incensed. And this is the point that I think can often get lost in the retelling of David and Goliath to children and which has turned the historical narrative into a contemporary meme for whenever the little guy overpowers the corporate behemoth. David challenged Goliath because to him it was morally wrong for the people of God to be daily taunted by this “uncircumcised Philistine.” Because when you gather on the Sabbath to sing songs about the awesome power and deliverance of God only to cower in front of an admittedly intimidating man the following week, there is a disconnect between what you say you believe and what your actions imply. David understood this, it was not the lives of his family or the wellbeing of his nation that was primarily at stake, it was the honor of his God.

And so his distress over the matter was made known to the king and David was given an audience with him. When David offered to fight Goliath Saul tried to dissuade him. “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33).

David disagreed and presented his case:

“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”

1 Samuel 17:34-36

David’s reasoning was sound albeit unconventional. While he had not received the military training of Goliath, he had been the caretaker of his father’s sheep and as their shepherd he was experienced in dealing with wild animals arguably more dangerous than the Philistine champion. And what’s more, David was not going to stand idly by when the reputation of God was at stake. Not only did he express his belief in an all-powerful God through words and songs, but also by his unflinching resolve to stand toe-to-toe with a God-mocking giant.

The rest of this story is well known. David was offered the armor of the king and at first he gave it a shot but quickly realized his lack of experience on the battlefield dressed in the protective accoutrements would be a greater disadvantage than going without them. Instead he picks up the staff and sling with which he is familiar and goes out to face the champion. Goliath, on seeing the young man approach, laughs. He says “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” and “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field” (1 Samuel 17: 43, 44).

David does not miss a beat and replies,

“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For this battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.

1 Samuel 17:45-47

The story of David and Goliath is not the story of a disenfranchised young man overcoming “The Man” as it is so often used to illustrate. It is a story that reveals the heart of a man chosen by God to be king over his people. David was the rightful king of Israel because he valued the reputation of God and the wellbeing of His people above his own life. He was chosen to be king because he “put his money where his mouth is” and stood before a veteran of war with only a staff and sling, trusting not in the power of his own strength or weaponry but rather in the Almighty God. Most of all “David and Goliath” is the story about God himself protecting his people and revealing to them what a king after his own heart looks like so that when Christ, the direct descendant of David appeared we would recognize those same traits in him, magnified and perfected in the promised, everlasting King.

One to X: Finishing What I Have Started

While brainstorming ideas for this blog, one that came to mind was a regular series tracking my progress through several MMOs as I work toward max level. Ever since I began wandering through multiple games I never really made it past the opening levels, generally stopping in the teens and twenties before moving on, always rerolling when returning to previously visited landscapes. That process has left me with quite a few unfinished characters across several MMOs but no opportunity for end game activities in any of them.

One to X is a chance for me to go back through and try to complete what I have started. I won’t be doing this for every MMO I have tried in the past, only for those I enjoyed. And while I may comment from time to time on my progress as I level, I’m mostly interested in writing down a few thoughts about each MMO as I complete the trek to level cap. To begin this series I want to talk about two games in which I recently finished leveling, Final Fantasy XIV and Marvel Heroes 2015.

My journey through Eorzea began back in August or September of last year. When I first purchased the game I created one character—a Thaumaturge—and leveled into the thirties in one go with one detour to earn the fifteen levels needed as an Archer to unlock the Black Mage job. Generally when I start a game I play into the teens on my first class, then try another, and so on. Playing one class into the thirties lead me to think that perhaps I would stick with it to the end for once. Unfortunately, that was not the case and after a couple of months my interest waned.

Since then I’ve returned a couple of times and every time I have started up a new class rather than completing a previously leveled one. The same can be said for this most recent return, however this time I made it all the way to 50 on the Ninja job. One of the reasons I often lose momentum in a game is due to the process of deciding on a class. Final Fantasy does this better than by allowing you to play all classes on one character meaning you do keep some of your progression even when you make a switch. However the initial run of levequests, dungeons, hunting logs, and guildleves needed to power level up to wherever you left off in the story can be grindy.

Nevertheless I pushed through and was able to pick up the main storyline where I had left off. Ultimately I still out-leveled the story and thus while I am technically at max level, I’m not really able to participate in the end game content because I am behind on the story. This is one of my biggest complaints with Final Fantasy XIV—content, systems, and progress in general is gated behind the story. It is clear that Square Enix still considers Final Fantasy XIV a traditional RPG first and an MMO second, and for some veteran players gating every branch of the game behind the storyline progression may be off-putting. At times it has been for me.

This brings up a good question as far as my goals in One to X; am I looking to simply reach max level or do I have a specific progression goal in mind? With Final Fantasy XIV I have decided that for now being level 50 is enough and going forward I will make that decision on a game by game basis. Perhaps once I have a few more characters at max across several MMOs, I’ll circle back through and work on progressing those characters into whatever the end game has to offer.

Which brings me to my other recently achieved max level character, X-23 in Marvel Heroes. I couldn’t tell you when I started playing Marvel Heroes, but I do know my first character was the Human Torch. At first I enjoyed both the game and the hero but quickly I grew tired of both. When X-23 was announced she looked interesting to me and when I discovered she was only going to cost 200 eternity splinters I quickly made the purchase and started anew. It was the best hero purchase I have made (and I’ve made too many).

I have been playing this game off and on in short bursts, but bit by bit I have made progress with X-23 and just this weekend I decided to make the push to 60. The thing I love about Marvel Heroes is that you can really level in several different ways. I’m sure someone somewhere has figured out the optimal way to level, but as for me once I had completed the storyline on normal mode I continued my leveling via legendary quests and grinding in Midtown. Both allow you to get right into the action, and with the amount of story and cutscenes in some of the other games I’m playing, I welcome the shoot first and never ask questions later approach of Marvel Heroes.

Once I reached level 60 I realized how little I knew about this OARPG. There are so many currencies you earn along the way, so many different types of gear (and ways to earn it) that I really wasn’t sure where to begin. After some research this morning I purchased a legendary weapon and began running some of the terminal quests on a higher difficulty level. I know there are raids as well but I’m not sure if that interests me. For now when I play X-23 I’m going to focus on a complete set of level 60 unique gear and leveling my legendary weapon.

But then again, why worry about end game at all? Instead of pursuing the best gear and maxing out every other form of progression as a level 60 hero you can start over with a new one. Another feature I love about Marvel Heroes is that it is possible to treat leveling alts as a kind of end game, and it is supported through several bonuses granted for having multiple high level characters. For me I think this “end game” path is the one I will focus on. Sure, I’ll do a little work on X-23 here and there, but for the most part I plan on leveling a second hero to 60.

Now that I’ve finished leveling in these two games (which were admittedly low hanging fruit) where to next? Well, currently I am playing SW:TOR and this game is an excellent example of one in which I have returned many times and started many classes and characters but never made it further than the teens on any of them. Therefore I think either Iron’weakness, my Jedi Sentinel or Lone’weakness, my soon to be healing Scoundrel will be the next contestant in this One to X project.