First details of Overwatch’s player progression hit as the beta returns.

The wait is over: the Overwatch beta has returned and it came with a roughly 5GB patch that included new maps and game modes. I don’t think I have a beta invite yet, so I’m watching my email inbox hoping that I’ll see a nicely formatted message from Blizzard saying I’ve been invited to the Overwatch beta.

The patch isn’t the only thing being released today, PCGamer published an interview with Overwatch manager Jeff Kaplan about the game’s player progression system. A couple of key bits from his responses:

“As you gain levels—and there are unlimited levels, we don’t have a level cap, you can always gain levels—each time you gain a level, we give you a loot box. Inside the loot box there can be four items that come out of it,” he said. Loot box items are randomized, and each item has a rarity level: common, rare, epic, and so forth. And, he emphasized, they are all purely cosmetic.

Blizzard saw what happened to CS:GO and made the choice to not turn their first competitive FPS into a game that facilitates underage gambling and scams. A smart move from Blizzard. The random drops described as part of the progression system only affect the game in a cosmetic capacity, just as skins do in CS:GO. Unfortunately, as the loot drops are tied to leveling up, the player level mechanic ends up becoming more of a potential style meter more than anything else.

For duplicate item drops, a system is in place that allows players to exchange a duplicate item for credits to, in turn, directly purchase cosmetic unlocks from an internal storefront. The obvious money grab from this style of exchange system is to allow players to buy credits using real-world money. For now, Blizzard remains non-committal about selling credits:

“We haven’t made any philosophical decision of whether or not we will ever [offer credits for purchase], or not do that. I think right now, the biggest question we want to answer, when the beta comes back up next week is, ‘Are the loot boxes fun? Do people like the items?’”

With the beta coming back after a hiatus of nearly two months, I’m not sure if players are going to be able to critique anything for at least the first week (with the exception of Internet cool guy @oPlaiD because he’s pretty smart). I do predict that this beta cycle is when we’ll see Overwatch’s key community figures become integral to the scene, as well as impactful competitions between the game’s first esports teams. There’s plenty to look forward to.

It’s just too bad my account doesn’t have beta access.

With Hearthstone on the iPhone now, my battery is surely forfeit.

The long-awaited update to the iOS version of Hearthstone was released this afternoon, and will soon™ be on the Android handsets that can support it. I downloaded it, which didn’t take long at all, and gave it a whirl since I could burn the five minutes it would take to play through a casual match to unlock the free pack they’re giving away for completing your first game with an iPhone.

It took five minutes. I beat a custom Warrior with a basic Rogue deck. Cha-ching: free pack.

First thing’s first, with the condensed UI, you should consider tapping the board as a menu escape method if you need to zoom all the way out from looking at your hand and just considering what’s on the table. Otherwise, it’s best to operate one tap at a time to reduce the possibility of messing up what moves you’re going to make in your turn. Assigning minions to attack specific targets still works in the logical sense—sliding from the attacking minion to the minion you wish to damage—but avoid swiping from the bottom edge in quick succession, due to bottom drawer’s triggerbeing ‘any upward swipe from the bottom edge.’

Other than that, there are minor quality of life improvements made to the UI so that you don’t have to tap on the screen additional times to get things done, such as opening packs. No more dragging a pack and then clicking an ‘open’ button. You drag the pack, you get your cards—nice and simple.

I’ll add more in the future as play more games of Hearthstone. As far as progress, I’ve not completely unlocked all of the basic decks for all nine classes, but I’m getting there. I haven’t played a solo adventure since I unlocked the casual matchmaking feature, so I’m getting slowly used to the meta. I even have a couple of custom decks, but I don’t own nearly enough of the cards that exist to really use a custom deck in a match.

Oh, and also:

But it’s only available for download on the Amazon Appstore, at the moment. Which is LOLtastic.

Well, now all of the Android people can play cards now!

I became a stoner this week… a Hearthstoner, that is.

Screenshot 2015-03-02 17.25.34

I’m not entirely sure how it came up in the mm1 Slack, but between whatever we were discussing and the fact that World of Warcraft will be adopting a PLEX-lke currency for game-time in the coming months, I figured I would go ahead and give the client an install.

Hearthstone appealed to me on a time-waster level, but not as something I could just sit there and play for hours on end. I mean, if I did, I’d probably have to be multitasking. Since I don’t think that Blizzard will allow multi-tabling to come to Hearthstone, I would imagine that I’d probably end up playing poker or something at the same time if I really wanted to commit time to the game. However, if I’m not taking the game super seriously and I treat it expressly as a time-waster, I think I’d get the most out of it at that point.

It’s the same sort of attitude that I’ve been giving a couple of other casual mobile games from a certain developer called Supercell. Clash of Clans and Boom Beach are freemium timer-based-tactics titles. The’s a timer for nearly every aspect of the game. Want to upgrade a type of unit in Clash of Clans? Pay thousands upon thousands of Elixir and then be prepared to wait two days for your upgrade to finish. Want to expand your Radar coverage in Boom Beach? Get ready to wait for days to gather the stone needed, and then wait twelve hours to perform the upgrade. The way to escape this particular cycle is to use the gem/diamond currency that can only be used to speed up production/timers.

However, being able to play these games without giving into the need to spend real currency to skip a timer just a handful of times isn’t worth it to me. It’s not that I expect to eventually turn into a pro gamer at either game, but I just don’t want to feel beholden to the game going forward. I want the fun that I’ll have fighting other bases with my armies to be genuine and not something I feel like I just have to get used to—like the feeling I get sometimes when it comes to Destiny and paying for that season pass.

And in that way I could definitely see myself passing random bits of time playing Hearthstone and trying to make as many coins so that I could unlock all of the cards without spending money. However, Xûr’s in the bar near the hangar, and I have some strange coins to earn, then spend.