Hello, hello, hello! It has been quite a while since we’ve done a post on the homepage to talk about what's new with the site and what is cooking under the hood. We’ve got a lot of topics to cover, they’re not in any real order nor do they lead into one another, so with that said, let’s dive right in with your High Warlord*, Fluxflashor!
* Flux has not, nor will he ever, obtain the High Warlord title in World of Warcraft though damn, that would be cool. Patch 8.3 looks like an interesting time to return to the game- sorry, got distracted.
This is a long article, probably the longest we've had on the site. It is worth it though!
2019 was a very interesting year on a personal level. I was certain the site I previously worked on for 6 years was going to be closing up shop, a fact known for close to a year, which lead to the development and launch of HearthStation. Things were a huge mess; The site was closing, then it wasn’t, then it was. Then it was given away for free to some old Curse employees, that didn’t touch the site either at all or for the majority of its existence, provided they would run ads on it, provided by Curse, for a relatively short amount of time. Cool. They weren’t willing to play ball to keep me on board so HearthStation was rebooted as Out of Cards and the entire active and awesome staff moved over to support the new site, creating a new home.
Since then, things have been more positive and I wish I had left to go on my own journey with awesome people sooner. Since leaving the shithole that is Curse, now absorbed by Fandom (prev Wikia), the world’s shittiest, spammiest, and ugliest wiki platform (an award won every year they’ve existed in a row), I’ve had less anxiety, been freer to talk about stuff with people, and I can finally make decisions that have real impact. No longer witnessing laughable mistakes on a weekly basis has been an interesting adjustment, though that was definitely not good for anyone mentally and I feel for the people who remain at the company. I’m currently dedicated to Out of Cards full-time, and hopefully, that doesn’t have to change!
We had a lot of growth here during the year, consistently breaking traffic records, though we’ve still got plenty of room to grow which makes everything we do in 2020 that much more important. I could have done a much better job at managing the craziness that was 2019, something that only really started to get figured out near the end of the year, but after considering the whole situation and how much uncertainty there was in the air at times, things went pretty good!
Ads, Revenue, Sustainability
Oh boy. I knew this was going to be a rough one to implement, I knew I’d be misquoted, and I knew people would leave the site. Unfortunately, I was correct on all counts and ads did become a necessity if we wanted to keep the site online. Patreon support never really caught on despite pushing it on our homepage, in the site header, and, slightly annoyingly, throughout the Hearthstone Descent of Dragons card reveal season, which is some of the highest traffic we have seen on the site so far. At the end of the day though, we have people to pay, servers to host, and a desire to reach some kind of profitability for the site, so ads were a necessary evil.
October 8, in the late afternoon, ads were silently turned on the site to start a week-long evaluation period to see how they’d perform without a large traffic boost from big events like BlizzCon and the card reveal period we’d see in November. This trial only happened to logged-out members, so all logged-in members were treated as “premium” members (site supporters).
November 21 was the day we implemented site-wide ads for all members, logged-in and logged-out, who did not have premium status. Funny stuff happens when your logged-in community finally sees ads for the first time, it’s the apocalypse! We were able to communicate why ads become a necessity to the understanding of most. We did see a few extra Patreon supporters (<3) that effectively turned ads off for those members, though our biggest boost came from more ad revenue. With most members of the site being logged-in, and making the most use of the site as well through repeated interactions, we saw our ad revenue triple, which allowed us to bring a couple of our staff on board with some monetary compensation for helping run the community. We’ll talk more about that later.
December 27 was another milestone with advertisements on the site since we changed the way ads were implemented. Prior to this date, we used some tech from Google Ads called “auto ads”. It was an interesting way to automatically inject ads into pages using everyone’s favourite buzzword, machine learning. This required zero effort on my end to implement ads onto the site, save for a little bit of initial configuration, site blacklisting, and ad area blacklisting. Unfortunately, we became aware of the ads going way overboard, injecting themselves into comments, site content, deck titles, and other really annoying places which greatly hurt everyone’s experience. This wasn’t intentional and post-holidays fun, I reworked our integration with ads to make the entire process manual. The time should have been spent earlier on to do this, but everything seemed to be okay with auto-ads and some blacklisting so the time was invested elsewhere. (Oh yes, we’re going to talk about time later too!) As a result, logged-in users will have more normalized ad experiences and will also see less ads on many pages which in turn improves page load times.
So, what does the future hold for ads? Well, they’re definitely here to stay. We had a bit of a discussion on Discord with some of our site supporters about ads, inquiring minds wondered if we could turn them off if we had enough Patreon support, but I don’t see it as being sustainable if we want to grow the site. Ads scale things up quite a bit, allowing us to give back to our content creators whereas if our Patreon supporters stayed static, we’d never achieve much growth. I’m currently looking into changing ad providers to help us earn more from ads while keeping the experience good for everyone.
Are we sustainable yet? No, though we’re certainly not going anywhere yet! Based on how the site has grown, I’m confident we’ll reach that point soon, which is quite exciting if you ask me! If you want to help us grow, share your favourite content from the site elsewhere and don’t be afraid to take part in discussions!
If you want to help support the site in a monetary way and disable ads, all you need to do is visit your account management panel, pick a tier you want to support us with on Patreon (for as little as $2 a month), and connect your Out of Cards account to Patreon. Within a few minutes, everything should sync up and you’ll be considered a site supporter! I’m looking into additional ways we can allow you to automatically subscribe to a premium membership to the site, but there isn’t anything to announce right now.
With that said, we’re able to offer a discounted, yearly premium subscription via PayPal manually, if you’re interested in that. More on that at the end of the post.
Thank you so much to everyone who has supported the site so far, you’ve helped us keep the lights on and have earned our eternal gratitude.
Our New Community Team
With newfound revenue in advertising, we were able to elevate a couple of our staff members to a more involved role on the website - community management! Neonangel and ShadowsOfSense both were brought into community management roles in November and thanks to them we’ve been able to push out more content, better engage with you, game studios, and community figures. You should be familiar with these two if you've been paying any attention to Arena or Fan Creations coverage in the past!
Neonangel is primarily responsible for our Legends of Runeterra content and community efforts. He also has been working on making sure we cover all the spoilers for Magic the Gathering’s new Theros: Beyond Death set which has been a helpful load off my shoulders.
ShadowsOfSense has started to ease into the shoes I have filled for Hearthstone content and community, a pair I’ve worn for over 6 years. You saw extra content during our card reveal period that focused on reviewing and discussing the cards not only thanks to our wonderful content team, but Shadows’ lead in letting us do that for the first time ever.
With both of them able to focus more on those parts of the site, I have been able to transition away from having my hands in all of Pooh’s (not the dear leader of China) honey jars to just a few. Myself being all over the place has been a large drain on resources and meant site updates were not as frequent as they could be. Since then, many bugs have been squashed, Runeterra got a deckbuilder using better tech than the Hearthstone one (which will receive an update sometime early this year), support for multiple games on the site has been greatly improved, and some long-awaited features (Hearthstone Collection Management, Fan Creation Competitions, TBA) are closing in on release.
It has always been a goal of mine to support as many paid staff as possible on the site. I believe people should be compensated for the work they do and I'm incredibly annoyed at the last company I worked for since they didn't care at all about compensating people. So many opportunities for growth, missed by terrible management.
What a year. Never have I felt so busy with Hearthstone as I have with all the stuff Blizzard gave us in 2019. I was told at the start of the year to be ready for some amazing things, and damn, Blizzard you did not disappoint!
As the anchor game of our site, there are a lot of features we just weren’t able to get out in a timely manner in 2019; Go figure, launching a site and adding basic features before your game-exclusive features can be tough stuff, especially when the Hearthstone team keeps throwing more stuff at you so you get to focus on updating your older tools and content. We’re going to do a better job this year at getting more features out for the game, though we’ll talk more about those at a later date =)
2020 is expected to be an even busier year for the game, so I’m thankful for all the awesome people we have on our team that will keep you up to date with all the important stuff going on. January alone we’ll see a new adventure and 35 new collectible cards (omg), the first time a large set of cards will have been released outside of an expansion, which means we’re going to be busy. The Hearthstone team has finally hit their groove and I’m super excited they’re able to push out so many wonderful things for the game. Now, when is that tournament mode going to get taken off the backburner and implemented so we can have some fun competition?
Legends of Runeterra
Rito pls. I played League of Legends for a long time, longer than I care to admit considering I never made it above Gold in ranked play, so when they came out of nowhere and announced a card game, I knew we had to support it; The team agreed. We baked in initial support for the game with a card database and later a deckbuilder which caused all sorts of unrest with our community here. It was my goal from the start of Out of Cards to support multiple games as to not only not rely on one single game for the success of the site, but to also give people a great home for all digital card games that was better than just being a bunch of reddits.
Legends of Runeterra had the unfortunate result of a large chunk of Hearthstone features getting delayed, and Magic card database support not making it by December which was our goal. That’s not meant to be negative though, it was really exciting to have such an interesting game appear out of thin air, and it showed me what we needed to possibly be ready for in the future, and how the site sucked for handling multiple games. Runeterra helped us improve the multi-game support earlier than expected, which is a win in my books.
The game returns sometime in January, so expect more regular content from us when it comes back, and more features once we figure out how to best support the Legends of Runeterra community.
Magic the Gathering
Sorry. If you have been reading this text in order, you know we didn’t make the deadline due to the unexpected announcement of Legends of Runeterra. Some preliminary work has been done on the backend to better support our Magic the Gathering content and to be able to provide a community deckbuilder so everyone can share their favourite decks, though I don’t have anything to announce just yet for when that will arrive.
We’ve seen a good uptick in those interested in Magic Arena on the site through our spoiler articles, which is overall a positive and shows us that supporting the game is definitely in our best interests. What kind of Magic content and tools would you like to see from us?
Game Portals, a Non-Hearthstone Homepage
Things are going to be changing on the homepage, and I don’t expect to be popular with everyone. Being a site that is focusing on multiple card games, it's important that we’re able to shine the spotlight on them all and the homepage is the best place to do so. Right now when you load up the site, you get greeted with a lot of Hearthstone. That is useful right now since the majority of our audience follows the game, but it will hurt us in the long run if we keep it that way.
We’re going to be moving to a “portal” format on the site which will give every game its own homepage, and then our actual homepage will be dedicated to content from all the games and our community, with spotlights depending on the big and important stuff taking place. If a Hearthstone expansion has just been released, we’ll spotlight more Hearthstone-related stuff on the homepage such as easy to access top decks, or during a card reveal season we’ll make sure everyone can easily see the most recently revealed cards. If you want an experience that just focuses on one title though, you’ll need to visit the portal for that game.
The Hearthstone portal and Legends of Runeterra portal are both live, with the Hearthstone one being a clone of the current homepage and the Runeterra portal incorporating decks and forum discussion (not currently properly filtered). When we push out tools for Magic the Gathering, we’ll create a portal for that game too and with some more tech additions, we’ll even be able to create more portals for games we don’t have dedicated tools for but have community discussion taking place. We’re also going to have subportals for games, something you should expect to see with Hearthstone early this year.
When Runeterra started “invading” the homepage, I had stated we’d allow you to filter what games you’d see news for on the homepage and possibly even change up more of what you see on it. I can definitely see us allowing for newsfeed customization on the homepage, though I’m not certain about a fully customizable homepage anymore if portals end up working out well. The future of homepage customization is going to depend on how our community end up engaging with multiple games and isn’t something I want to build out right away.
I'm committed to figuring out the best solution possible for our homepage, though it may take a few iterations to get it to a place good for everyone.
The Light Theme
A heavily-requested feature of the site is a lighter design, non-dark mode. It is definitely something that I want to support and work has been done to better modify our current theme to eventually upgrade to the light theme. There is a lot of content-related stuff that needs to be done though before we get to deploying a light version of the site. I expect us to have one ready at some point this year though, so stay tuned!
Publicly Talking About In-Development Features
One thing I mentioned when we started this site is being more transparent with our community, and the best job hasn’t been done with that in the later half of 2019. Partly due to the competitive nature of sites and also because of just not being able to make the time to do so, not much has been said about what is currently being worked on and when features should be expected.
Due to that competitiveness between sites, I don’t expect we’ll be talking about new features prior to them going live since it gives us a slight advantage when we’re working on something other sites don’t currently have. One thing I will commit to though is making more regular use out of our site changelogs forum which has gotten fewer updates than it should have, so those that are interested can be kept in the loop on what changes on a nearly daily basis.
The Content Team
Right before the launch of Saviors of Uldum last year, we brought on the first new wave of staff members onto Out of Cards through our newly created Content Team. The goal was to get some new writers to contribute great content to the site on a consistent basis to help fill in gaps with more interesting articles. It worked, and it worked well. We saw a lot of positive responses from the new content, ranging from meta reports to lore and just crazy wacky fun. This is something we want to grow more in 2020 and we’d like to try and find more volunteers who want to help contribute content for games other than Hearthstone.
Applications aren’t currently open, but if you’re interested in creating fresh content for the homepage, or helping us cover news live, keep your eyes open! We’ll be of course looking for people again for Hearthstone but we’d love to bring some people on board for Runeterra and Magic. This is all on a volunteer basis, so if you’d like to give back to the site and join our team, think about what kind of content you could help contribute on a regular basis, even writing an article of your own to show us as proof of concept.
If you aren’t looking to join our team in an official, consistent capacity, consider making the site a better place by writing a guide for your favourite deck and sharing it with the community. Talk to others on our forums, give your opinions in comments, and vote positively on the content you enjoy.
One of the fun features we launched last year was site achievements! It was something I really wanted to launch the site with but unfortunately, it needed to be developed and tested before we could roll it on out. Since achievements were added, we have over 200 different criteria you can earn to obtain achievement points, and we're definitely not done with the system. Out of those achievements, we've had close to 55000 achievements earned on the site, with some pretty awesome achievement totals out there in the wild.
I want to add more rewards to the achievement system, allowing for greater customization on the site so you can showcase yourself better. Expect more achievements to be added periodically and a larger update to the system closer to the middle of the year that should add more depth.
Applications - Mobile and Desktop
This is always a popular topic and I wanted to give you an answer in a prominent location.
As of right now, we don't have any plans to develop applications for Out of Cards on mobile or desktop. This includes but is not limited to deck trackers, data importers, and native versions of the site. There are also no plans to contract or work with people outside of Out of Cards to develop official Out of Cards apps, though we aren't closing the doors on possible partnerships with existing apps if we feel they're awesome enough to endorse. If we do end up creating applications to help you out in games, we'll let you know!
Out of Cards Premium at a Discount - Support Without Patreon
If you’d like to help support the site, I’ve got a discount offer available to those that want to support the site for 6 or 12 months. This makes use of PayPal instead of Patreon and it also involves a bit of manual account flagging so anyone buying premium through this method may need to wait up to 12 hours for it to take effect. This is also going to be a limited-time thing until we integrate automatic payments via the site, so this offer will eventually expire! Online payments are fun and complicated.
If you’re interested, here are the different options you have for supporting the site and becoming a site supporter. When you pay, please be sure to include your Out of Cards username in the form provided. This will accelerate getting your premium status!
We’re also doing a crazy, special offer, not likely to be seen again, for the rest of January. Lifetime premium access to Out of Cards for the price of 5 years of premium. All tiers are available, with no limit to how many we’ll make available, so if you’re crazy enough, the option is here. If purchased, it will display in account management as a 10-year subscription. Upon expiry in 2030 it will be automatically extended.
Out of Cards Premium currently offers the following:
- No ads. Ever. As long as you’re logged-in, those ads will be hidden.
- The Supporter forum title, unlocked permanently for your account, subscriber or not.
- A forum title with your supporter rank as the prefix to Supporter. Example: “Bronze Supporter”
- An avatar border, themed to your supporter rank.
- Access to the site supporter role on our Discord server with access to a special channel.
More benefits may be added over time for our supporters, but the basics will never change. I’m planning on using our site supporters as a way to beta-test some new site features before they get released, so if you’re interested in that kind of thing, that may happen occasionally.
We’re also allowing donations to the site. This is something that has been requested in the past and although I’m a bigger fan of giving you premium status in exchange for your support, you can opt to instead provide us with a one-time donation in exchange for nothing other than our undying gratitude. Keep in mind these aren’t tax-deductible since we’re not a charity. You can make a donation here.
Thank you to everyone for your support, love, and contributions to Out of Cards during 2019. You’ve helped make a dream a reality and allowed us to do something different, getting away from the all too common corporate nonsense that the fansite world has turned into. We’ll continue to be different and support you the best we can.
Here’s to a great new year!