Welcome back to next installment of Fan Community Spotlight. Today, we’re looking at a 60 card mini-expansion called The Last Tour, made by Frostivus, and hosted on a website created by Maysick. If you’re unfamiliar with these names, that’s because neither of these people are members of Out of Cards. Instead, both of them are active on the r/customhearthstone Discord server.
Normally, I would share the link to the project later in the article, but I’m going to add it here instead because the website that hosts this project turns it into an interactive story with an immersive experience!
Note: If you have a history with epileptic seizures, take caution visiting the website. It contains flashing lights.
As soon as you boot the website up, the first thing you see is a card back, along with a note that it contains audio and is best used on a Chrome desktop, and also the name of the set, THE LAST TOUR.
Hover over the card back, and you'll see a card called The Sentry. Clicking on it takes you to the following screen.
Don’t worry, it’s not a real error. No, your computer hasn’t been infected by anything. This is all part of the immersion. Just click "Yes. (Begin the last tour)" and then you can start.
After some spookiness, you are presented with the selection of classes. When you hover over a class, it’s picture will turn grayscale.
After you decide on a class, your journey begins. We chose Warlock as our example.
What is this? An "Incoming Signal" ?? Investigate the signal by clicking on its card. Another signal appears. Investigate some more! After you'll get through all four signals -4 signals, 4 rarities, clever-, you will discover what happened to your hero and what their current fate is. You've now uncovered only part of the story, time to go back to the beginning and keep exploring!
Notice, that on the class screen, previously selected heroes are grayed out. That is for your convenience so you know which part of the story you still need to discover and which you already did.
Whilst viewing the class menu, you can also click on the “Tour Report” which will take you to a menu of Report logs. They become unlocked as you progress through the story, and there are 21 of them in total. Clicking on one will take you to a certain Neutral card, which just like the class cards, reveal their own part of the story.
Once you do that, you’ve completed everything. You can choose to keep exploring, or finish the story. One amazing thing is that if you leave and come back, the website will remember your progress.
In contrast to most custom classes or sets, there is no new keyword introduced in this set. Whilst a new keyword can add a lot to the game (as is the case with the Discover keyword introduced in League of Explorers), sets without new keywords have an interesting dynamic of their own. Lacking a keyword encourages you to make unique designs in other ways. If you’ve never tried to make an expansion without a new mechanic, it should be an interesting challenge to try out. As proven by Whispers of the Old Gods, it can work, and in fact, can be more interesting than expansions with new keywords.
Tell us about the set. What's it all about? What's the story? What should we look out for? How does it stand out?
"You can believe me when I say there’s nothing quite like it right now. The Last Tour is a very story-heavy set with a unique narrative. I have a strong belief in the importance of presentation and storytelling in a set, and The Last Tour is a product of that, which I hope you will all enjoy.
The premise takes place in an alternate post-apocalyptic Azeroth where the Burning Legion won. The world is dead, and has been for millennia now. There’s nothing left to do. Of course, that’s when you, the player, awake, alone. It’s too late to save the day: all that matters left is answers. The nine heroes -- and the grisly fates they met -- are key to it all.
There’s some disturbing effects, audio and jumpscares in there, so if you’re faint of heart, I recommend turning off the audio, or just looking at the imgur album."
How much experience do you have making custom Hearthstone cards?
"About 5 years. I started off at first making custom cards based off another video game, DotA, followed by another set called the Return of the Burning Legion which all released to little fanfare.
My biggest claim to fame, however, would the set that came right after: Go West, Young Brode, a set in the spaghetti-western influenced Boom Town. It caught the attention of Ben Brode himself, ex-Game Director, and earned me an invitation to apply to Blizzard.
Since then, I’ve made about 3 sets, all of which have been well received not just by the community, but by Team 5 themselves, to the point that I have earned a good reputation with them. I’ve attached a few of the encouraging correspondence I’ve had with them over the years:
The first set of the 3 is Winter Wonderland, which was the only fully-voiced fanmade expansion to date, up until my webmaster left last year and we’ve had no way to restore it. You can see remnants of it in our cinematic trailer. It won Best Set of 2016 in /r/customHS.
After that, I created Beyond the Forbidding Sea, and finally, Around The World in 80 Meals. This was a set very close to my heart which I made as a final farewell to Ben Brode, the man who inspired it all for me. It won Best Set of 2018, but my greatest treasure was of course, knowing it reached the big man himself.
Which brings us to here: The Last Tour."
The very first thing you see when you start up is The Sentry. What role does it play in the set, and how significant is it?
"When you play through The Last Tour and explore the world, you’re doing it through the perspective of The Sentry. You’re alone, you’ve been asleep past the end of the world, and you’re trying to rendezvous with the rest of the heroes to find out what to do next. I devoted a lot of resources to ease the player into assuming that role, to give them a sense of place in this world I’ve made.
Before, the front page simply had a button you pressed which took you through the intro. Changing the button into a flippable card that you click was a very last-minute addition, but I found it worked wonders in informing the player who they were, without explicitly telling them."
This set is full of very unusual and creative card designs (The Sentry, Abbey Clairvoyant, Toki, World Jumper, and Tear Through Reality to name a few). Where do these ideas come from? How much do you think they would change the game?
"(Just as a side note: I’ve changed Tear Through Reality after some feedback from discord)
I’m the sole card designer for this set, though of course I’ve always been inspired by the other talented designers in our community who continue to challenge and teach.
When it comes to card design, I like to push boundaries of the game and break rules. That’s often how you help the game grow and keep it fresh. A lot of mechanics in Hearthstone started out as one-offs that grew into keywords like Echo or fan favorites like Highlander.
Of course, we also have the benefit of Hearthstone being a digital game, and I really love to explore design space that really takes advantage of that. Deck tracking, hand information, unlimited copy generation, custom card creation.
I can talk to great lengths about each card you’ve mentioned, but if I were to pick just one, it would be my favorite of the set: Toki, World Jumper. So for those of you who don’t know, Toki is a (6) 5/5 with a Battlecry of ‘Replace the battlefield with another’s who also played this’. What happens is that when you play Toki, all other minions are removed. Then, the game client searches for another recent game where Toki was also played, and takes those minions that were removed the same way to replace the minions that were removed in your game.
I wanted to take advantage of Hearthstone’s constant online presence. We are more than just two players in a duel, we’re a community! We share our experiences, we revel in each other’s triumphs and frustrations. Toki lets you do that, in a very direct way. Now you get to experience first-hand what another player needed to deal with (and subsequently handed over to you) while also knowing you are continuing the cycle. And just like that, a powerful bond between strangers who will never even meet player-to-player is forged. I love cards like that, and I think Toki captures that perfectly."
Do you have anything behind the scenes you'd like to share?
This set took 160 hours to make. Only 10 hours were devoted to card design.
A disgusting amount of time was spent trying to design the UI, which is admittedly quite minimalistic. Making them responsive, dynamic and intuitive, that was a huge challenge for me. I have no coding background, and had no idea how much work had to be put in to design a simple button. Only once you realize that will you truly appreciate how insanely well-crafted Hearthstone’s UI is, and why so much deliberation is given to additional features for it."
What's the most essential piece of advice you would give to people new to the fan creation community?
"The right mindset is key. A statement you'll hear frequently in this community as you share your ideas is 'that's never going to work'. The right question you need to ask is 'how can we make it work?'"
Do you have anything else you'd like to share?
"Please let me know what you like about the set, what you like changed, what worked, and what didn’t. It’s all very valuable feedback to me and I read every one of them (though I may not be able to reply to each one). The Last Tour is a stepping stone for me and I hope to make more of them, getting better with each try!"
No conclusion needed. Frostivus basically wrote it for me. He's active on r/customhearthstone (the subreddit and the Discord server), so you can talk to him there. Check out the reddit thread to see all of the Imgur albums. He also has a googledoc explaining his thought process throughout the entire design.
Tell us what you think about his project in the comments below, and tune in next time!