For the 2017 season, the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) switched to Swiss format. While this change was requested by many players during the previous seasons, the implementation elicited a bunch of criticism. To be honest, I do not think it was as bad as the loudest critics said, but I think a proper examination into a fair and exciting Swiss tournament format for Hearthstone is warranted.
Game balance and card design are obviously key parts of making a good competitive card game, but in this post I will not discuss them. Instead, I want to take a look at processes and scheduling: the hardcore operations side of the equation.
It is not a rare sight to see competitive players complain about the ladder system in Hearthstone: it happens at the end of every season as the competition for those coveted top 100 spots is fierce, and perceived to be in in a large part a matter of luck in addition to skill.
In this post, I will examine the current ladder system, showcase why it is fundamentally broken for this particular environment, and propose an alternative model that could be used to fix it.
Dreamhack Summer 2016 Hearthstone Grand Prix, a huge 200-player open Swiss tournament, was played a week ago and broadcasted on Twitch. While the overall arrangements of the tournament were fairly good, the broadcast of the tournament was not exactly the epitome of hype and excitement. Typical breaks between matches lasted for 20-30 minutes with no content whatsoever.
Why does this happen and is there something that can be done about it to improve the broadcasts? The general consensus at the Dreamhack venue seemed to be that if the organizers had just thrown in a bunch of player interviews, everything would have been fine. I believe the situation is a bit more complicated than that though.
Recent days have seen quite some debate on the income available to players and teams from professional Hearthstone: Hearthlytics disbanded despite a competitive roster as they were not able to make ends meet and Orange left Archon as he wanted to take a different direction than the team – something generally interpreted as meaning that Orange wants to focus on competitive play and Archon has become more and more of a streaming organization as of late.
This is not new: Reynad has led Tempo Storm to the direction of streaming and content creation for a good while already, and after Ostkaka won Blizzcon in 2015 there were several discussions where people wondered why he was not making the most out of his win by streaming a lot to generate a steady source of income. Streaming, not competition, has been recognized as the most steady source of income available in professional Hearthstone.