Forest, Trees, Burn

Hey Hex fans! Great news! Cory and the team at Crypto know how disappointed all you PvE cats are that its been nearly two years and you still can’t create a character, equip them with a bunch of gear, level them up, and take on dungeons with your friends like they promised.

So they are going to make it up to you! Yes, to make the hurt go away, they are going to allow your free PvP draft tickets to stay active another six months. They can’t imagine why you haven’t used them in the last two years, and they want to give you a nice present.

“Seriously, ha ha, have you tried out PvP drafts they are *SO* much fun, go ahead and head over there, you have lots more time.


Okay, okay, 18 more months! 18 more months, ha ha, there ya go. We are generous and magnanimous in our graciousness.”


I can’t remember the last time I was rooting for Wizards of the Coast this hard. Either they win the lawsuit, Hex gets hammered, and the thick-headed PvP guys who absolutely gloat over the failure to provide PvE will be tasting a dose of their own medicine. Or, Hex manages to finally implement PvE to make the trial an open and shut loss for WotC.

Either way its better than the purgatory we are in right now.

#hextcg, #broken promises, #pve, #pvp, #wotc, #lawsuit, #mmotcg. #fail

The Failure of HEX

It was an ambitious project, with deep aspirations for creating a whole new category of online gaming. The kickstarter was a wild success, driven by the vibrant personalities and veteran industry status of its visionaries and the promise of something that had never been done before.


And today, those same personalities will stand on a podium and tell you that with the release of set two for their digital Trading Card Game (TCG), that this is a cause for great celebration! That you should spend some money buying new packs or to purchase a ticket to enter one of their celebratory drafts. They will tell you that while they introduced three new troop powers and cards that allow for double socketing and double sharding, that there was not power creep in this set and that this will not impact the introduction of PvE at all.

And that is where we have to have some honesty. Hex is a decent, maybe even a good digital TCG. It is flashy, and it has some interesting mechanics. The art is above average. They did a good job of kicking the Alpha and Closed Beta off almost on their projected timeline, which is sometimes tricky with ambitious projects. Backers of the Kickstarter have been able to play the game for over a year now.

The problem is that Hex was never advertized as just a TCG. It was advertized as the world’s first MMOTCG. Create a character, gear them up, take them on cooperative battles against the AI, raid dungeons and face advanced AI bosses, collect treasure, join guilds. A year after backers got their first taste of Alpha, and now well into the game’s Open Beta, not a single one of these advertized features is available.


And with the release of the “celebrated” second set, all of those features will once again be backed up. Why? While PvP and PvE are confirmed to be separate development teams within the company, they are also very much interdependent. PvE had to create a working AI for players to play against. PvP had to design and balance a card set. PvP had to develop sealed and limit tournaments for players to participate in. PvE had to create starter trials and a tutorial…for PvP.

With the PvP team now releasing new mechanics and cards into the game, the PvE team will be forced to go back to the drawing board to update their AI with these new functions. And while the basic AI package is in place, this basic tweak does not apply to the dungeon and raid content which is forced to work with separate skill and rules sets that define the particular experience and decks they are reenacting.

The end result is that we have no idea when, or at this point if, any of the promises that were made to backers, many of whom dropped significant amounts of money on this game will become reality. Four of the five $250 tier packages in the kickstarter were geared to PvE, and none of them have received their rewards yet. Take a look at how many of the backer rewards are still missing (hint: everything in white).

Posters in the forums and on Facebook claim that the unofficial word is that PvE continues to be in development, and that they “hope” that players will start receiving the first components of PvE before the end of the year. But that word was given before the decision to release set 2, and nobody knows how far back that will push what was already a murky promise.

And communication on the MMO side has indeed been murky at best. The last official update was six months ago, in July. An article earlier in the year noting that they were working on completely redesigning mercenaries (NPC characters to lead your deck in place of your main character in PvE) was the last real word we had, and it was somewhat ominous that the general message of that post was that they were dumbing down the character development process. Mercenaries basically went from being able to level up and unlock four abilities down to just having a single active and single passive ability that were available from the start.

Further cause for concern is the couple of hiccups that HEX has already faced this year. The scrapping of the VIP/Subscription program was a big one. And the well publicized lawsuit from Wizards of the Coast has been another. Adding those two into the exclusive push to get players involved in tourenaments and PvP, and the release of set 2 looks like nothing more or less than a cash grab to make up for lost revenue in subscriptions and increased legal fees.

At this point, with the company remaining completely silent on the subject of the lawsuit and the status of the PvE, and with all the previous updates being negative in nature, I have to draw the conclusion that HEX, the MMOTCG that was advertized, is dead in the water. And that means that since I purchased the King tier at $120 solely for the purpose of backing an MMOTCG, this is the worst and most costly failure I’ve ever experienced as a gamer.

It takes over that dubious distinction from the crew over at Mechwarrior Online, who sold release packages almost right up until the day they cancelled and moved release. Then when development went poorly, they started selling a second set of packages, then ditched their design process to try to bring in more players and revenue, and then begged for players via email with a letter from the president, before finally deciding to do the on thing that has for two decades been the demise of every game set in the Battletech universe: introduce Clans! I only lost $100 to them. Only.

(Note: I guess I could add the SWTOR Collector’s Edition here, but since I did play that game for six months, it wasn’t really a waste so much as it was just overpriced…)

What is sad and disturbing is that HEX seems to have already started down a similar path. And I don’t have anything from other game’s development cycles or this developer that bring me hope. So, I guess I enter 2015 as a wiser person, having now been burned, like so many others, by the dreams sold on Kickstarter. Its almost like the 21st century version of Portobello Road, isn’t it?

Last Day To Back HEX!

So we are down to the wire, 30 days later.


Hex: Shards of Fate, the very first TCG/MMO crossover has less than a day remaining.   Most of the higher specialty tiers are picked over at this point, what with the campaign shooting for a final stretch goal of 2.5 million dollars.  Fans were upset that the final goal, which is to put on a HexCon in Las Vegas in the next year, with free invites to a special day of activities for King ($120) level backers and above.    But Crypto has been adamant that their primary goal is getting the game into our hands as quickly as possible, and to that end, have refused to do anything that would delay a release.


In fact, several times since my last post Crypto has stuck to their guns, saying no to fans for clear and well reasoned…well…reasons.   And at other times, where there was no harm/no foul situations, Crypto was more than happy to add in fans desires.   To give two examples:  they have refused to add any more numbers to the limited tiers, despite the possibility of getting even more money, because that would not be fair to those who signed into those limited slots and devalue their investment.   And in the latter category, when fans asked if the double card bonus that was unlocked as one of the stretch rewards could apply to *all* the Kickstarter exclusive cards and not just the PvE ones, Crypto said:  sure, why not?


And despite my bluster about sticking to a Warrior Tier ($35), as I’ve watched Crypto navigate this morass and handle their success with aplomb, humor, and heads-screwed-on-straight, I’ve come to admire them.   And maybe even trust them.


So one night, when a $250 Pro Player Tier opened up…I snagged it.   I didn’t even think twice.   Even now, as the timer counts down, I may chicken out and move back down, but no further down than King Tier.   I’ve tried to figure out why I was initially comfortable with dropping $250 on the game, because that is far outside my comfort zone.


And I think the only angle I can come up with is that that’s about the cost of a game + lifetime sub in the MMO world.    Which is basically what that tier is, with free weekly booster drafts included (3 boosters a week for free basically.  For life).  I mean, I spent $150 on Star Wars, followed later by another, what, $70 or so for a six month sub…but that wasn’t all at the same time.   And it was close enough to my birthday that I could convince my wife to let me do that in exchange for no presents.  This one….man.


Anyway, stay or go, I’m still pretty invested in the game at this point.   Beyond Crypto, the two live feeds put me over the top.   The game looks fun, clean, and incredible.   The MMO elements are exciting and the dungeons interesting.


My only real curiosity at this point, is not about the stretch goals, but about how much I will, when the timer dings, have spent on this Kickstarter…

HEX Reward Tier Value Breakdown [Updated]

With some stretch goals unlocked, I’ve updated the value chart for the breakdown:


hex break 2


As you can see, the Captain tier now gives you the best bang for your buck, with the unlocking of the +5 booster bonus.   However, you may want to bump to Knight – the value is the same, so you are not losing anything by putting down an extra $15, but you are gaining one heck of a booster bump to your rares by getting one of the Primal Packs (all 15 cards are Rare or Legendary – think of Legendary as super Rares).  In other words, coughing up 30% more will net you 66% more rares.


Currently the Champion tier continues to lag behind in the value department.  I wish that it inclued the Spectral Lotus Garden perk to make it more worthwhile.   And ode to the original Black Lotus in Magic: The Gathering, it is indeed an interesting card, and getting a new one every day just means that the value of the King tier will grow and eventually catch and surpass the other tiers.  It would have made more sense to include it for Champions, given the enormous weight (and price breakpoint) of the King tier.




All that talk about the Champ being undervalued changes if the game hits the dreaded, subscription-enabling 540k reward tier.   And every indication is that it will reach that point – the Kicktraq statistics indicate this thing has a lot of steam left in it, with the day 8 backer and dollar numbers not looking any significantly different than those on day 1.


So if that tier is hit, as you can see from red underline I added above, the Champion tier suddenly finds itself evening out.  This is because of the inclusion of the 3 months of subscription, which should net you (depending on the start date of the sub, but most likely) 13 booster backs.   Of course, these packs are not worth as much as buying a pack singly, but the end result is a nice even spread of value.  Basically, the more money you put in, the better your value at every succeeding tier.


At that point, the only real value breakdown “loser” is the Knight level – but since that’s the first shot you get at a guaranteed Primal Pack, I’m not sure its really all that much of a loser!


Of course, when they reveal the next set of stretch goals, some of this could change.  I’ll keep an eye on it going forward.


I’m still pissed about the subs and the lack of given equipment for the tiers….

HEX Stretch Goals Made Me Spend…

Less money.




I wanted Knight tier, at $65.   You get this:



Mostly, because I really like the Dwarven Merc, and I really like the Scourge Knight.   I had sent an email last week to the  team, asking if the cards came with their respective equipment.  Well, in a very unhelpful email, I was told that the tiers said when we did or didn’t get the equipment to go with the card.  They don’t.   So, as best I could puzzle out:


1) Since equipment only affects one card (well up to the four copies of that card in your deck, to be precise),


2) And the PvE cards in the Kickstarter are exclusive to the Kickstarter,


3) Therefore, we would be getting the PvE cards equipment.


But with the release of the stretch goals today, I found out I was wrong:



Want the gear from the $65 tier?  Tough monkeys.  If you want it, you are welcome to it, so long as you double your pledge.


No thanks.


Instead, my planned pledge has just decreased, from $65, to $35.   Why?   The $35 Warrior tier now gets an additional card, the Spectral Assassin, and his equipment.   That scratches the itch pretty good for me.


Its weird, I always thought the purpose of stretch goals was  to reward the players, encourage them to spend a little bit more money with “add on” rewards, and find a use for some of that extra money coming in.   This is the first time I’ve seen a Kickstarter effectively say, “eh, we’re fine.  If you want to double your pledge we’ll throw you a bone, otherwise, no thanks.”


Se la vi I suppose.  Sorry about that Crypto.   Guess I’ll put that extra $30 elsewhere.


PS:  I’m also beginning to worry about Crypto’s trustworthiness.  We were told earlier in the comments thread that there was indeed crafting as a part of the game.   Now we are told that one of the stretch goals (at $440k, some distance away still) will be to “add Crafting.”    Um…what?  Does the left hand know not what the right is doing?  Or have we been promising things we can’t deliver all along?

Breaking Down the HEX Kickstarter Tiers

ETA:  To see an updated breakdown with the stretch goals, please head here.


Kickstarters, like many things in life, seem to come in threes.   While I’m still on the fence about how much I want to spend on Robotech Tactics, I have already thrown money at Luke Crane’s Torchbearer (if you are a fan of roleplaying games and you don’t know that name, shame on you), I am definitely in for Cryptozooic’s phenomenal looking TCG/MMO crossover game HEX.

With solo PvE play in a variety of dungeons, group PvE play in dungeons and raids, and the standard PvP fare, along with guilds and crafting and creating and leveling your own Champion (or enlisting the aid of mercenary champions when your skillset ain’t quite right), it looks to be incredible.   I stopped playing Magic: The Gathering years ago when the game stopped being about two planeswalker’s dueling – in other words, when it lost its RPG elements.

Reading the details about this game brought all fun crashing back down on me, but with improvements I could only have dreamed of.  Equipment for my Champion, playing with friends in a group setting…we tried (and invented a few) variants to squeeze these things out of M:tG, but it never quite seemed to work.   HEX works in spades, and I’m very interested.   The question as with all things is how much to go in.

Kickstarter is a dicey proposition to me.   I have backed four projects to date.  Three of those projects have promised me delivery of some or all of what I pledged for by now, and only one has delivered, and it delivered only a small slice of what was promised.   And this has been big projects and small alike, so Crypto is not exempt from that.    Even diving in now, I am mortgaging my current gaming allowance for something I won’t get to touch until this Fall, even if they are on schedule.

So, my strategy these days has become to buy in a little bit to help out and keep the project running, but not to overplay my hand – not to invest *too* much in something sight unseen.  So I do a lot of looking for diminishing returns and “bang for buck” deals.   I’ve left out anything at the $250 or above tier for two reasons:  1)  There are a lot of rewards at those levels that are hard to pin a value on, and that are widely varied.  The Pro Player gets 3 free boosters a week for the draft games, but there is some question as to how and where he can use those.  And what if you don’t play one week?  Etc.  2) If you are spending that much money, for the sake of your sanity, don’t listen to my advice.   Except maybe this:  If you’re gonna spend $250, just spend the $500 and get the perks of all five of the $250 level rewards.  That’s some serious value right there.

So basically that leaves us in the price range most of us are used to anyway when picking up a new game or Collector’s Edition.  Anyway here’s how it looks (in my mind’s eye) for HEX:

Squint or click to make it big!
Squint or click to make it big!

The Value Ratio is simply how much money you are spending versus the eventual cost of starter decks and booster packs, and accounting for the fact that all new accounts will receive one starter deck for free.  [ETA:  Just found out from the comment thread that the free starter is not the same as these starters, which must otherwise be paid for.  I adjusted the Value table to account for the new numbers, but the overall conclusions/results are the same]  PVE cards can only be used for PVE, while PVP cards can be used for both, so there is a little breakdown of that as well.  For someone like me, who will mostly be a PVE player, I’m more concerned with the total card count, but YMMV.  I also included as the last line, in italics, those lucky few who got the Early Bird reward tier, which was the King level at a heavily discounted rate.

So as you can see, on a pure card count, your best bets are the Warrior ($35) and King ($120) level.  Warrior has the added bonus of being the first level to give you a Mercenary card (which works a little differently in that they can replace your Champion in PVE contests) and that it gets you exclusive sleeves a nice trophy piece to let players in the future know you were there one Day One.  And the King level finds its real value in the huge number of booster backs assigned to it, particularly for those lucky early birds…

Your worst choices are probably the Champion tier (where you can get more cards, but not at a value rate any greater than the previous tier) and the Squire tier (where you are really only getting bit of value for what you put in).

You could argue the Supporter tier is, but giving a Beta Invite in exchange for a bit of support for the KS is really a smart idea.   I get to help your project and test drive the product before I really commit.  Sounds like a win win.   If Pathfinder Online (or maybe even Camelot Unchained) had offered such a small ante, I might would have taken them up on it.   So if you are on the fence, or just curious, this is the move for you.

Of course, I can’t account for your desire for individual cards.  The Scourge Knight and the pistol-wielding Dwarf Artificer Mercenary are particularly attractive to me, so I may find more value in those tiers ($50 and $65 respectively) than you do.   Or maybe the Digital Art Book is right up your alley and worth the $15 upgrade over the previous tier, with the extra cards just being gracy.  This is just to get a handle on the basics of things and show you my thought process.