Well damn! It has been one quick month here at Out of Cards.
After last month's update, which reflected on 2019 and the creation of the site, this month's big update from me is focusing on the past month and what our future plans hold. I've heard from many of you that you enjoyed the letter, and some staff said we should let you all in on things more often, so let's do just that. Here are the topics we're covering:
- We Switched Ad Providers!
- January 2020 Site Updates
- Development Schedule for February 2020
- Fresh Meat - Out of Cards is Looking for More Content Creators
Before we get into things, I'm plugging Out of Cards premium. If you want to support the site in a one-time payment for either 6 or 12 months of Premium, the option is available. Time is also running out for the Lifetime Premium option - pay for 5 years of Premium and keep it for life. If you do subscribe, please make sure you're logged in to your account so we know who is paying. If you don't, we'll have to contact you via your PayPal email, potentially slowing down adding Premium to your account. You can also contact me via private message and let me know what your email address was that made the payment. If you recently purchased Lifetime Premium and have not received it, please check your email / spam folder for an email from me =)
You can still support us over on Patreon too, PayPal is just an alternative.
We Switched Ad Providers!
I swear, the most used word in last month's letter must have been ads.
Last month I mentioned that I was looking into switching ad providers for the site to bring in additional revenue. I'm happy to say that earlier in the month we switched over to NitroPay and have had a great experience with them so far; damn is it nice to be able to talk to people. We're bringing in more money than we were with Adsense (duh), and from what I've experienced, the quality of ads has improved.
We've kept the placements the same, minus an additional unit at the top of the homepage, so the user experience hasn't been changed much outside of getting potentially more relevant advertisements. One thing that has hurt us though in the transition is every one that originally unblocked Adsense on the site has not yet unblocked our new ads provider, restricting how much we're able to make. By disabling Adblock, you're helping Out of Cards on the path to sustainability.
If you're a user of uBlock origin or other ad blockers and you want to help support the site, we ask that you unblock NitroPay. If you have feedback related to any ads on the site, please head on over to our site feedback forum or talk to us on Discord.
January 2020 Site Updates
January marked the return of regular site changelogs being posted in our site update forum. Quite a few updates made it out to the site and I'd like to highlight some of the more important ones.
- Game Portals - Each game we're covering has its own homepage now where you'll only see content from that game.
- Hearthstone decks were removed from the homepage. This was tough to do but it had to be done to fit the goal of covering multiple games. They remain on the Hearthstone portal.
- Voting was added to our deck embed widgets found on our news pages and anywhere people are using deck bbcode.
- You can now rate news articles. We'll see how this goes but let everyone on the team know if you enjoy the articles you're reading without commenting. (Though commenting is cool too)
- The search box now takes into consideration what "portal" you're on. If you're on Runeterra content, we're going to give you Runeterra card results by default.
- The forums have received an overhaul. You'll want to read about the changes here.
- Many performance updates were made across the site.
Development Schedule for February 2020
There were two updates planned for the end of January that are not quite finished yet. We had an insane rush taking place with Hearthstone's Galakrond's Awakening releasing, Legends of Runeterra coming into open beta, and Magic launching Theros: Beyond Death that I was pulled away from development time pretty consistently. I fully expect our two big updates to hit early this month though, and I believe this will make many of you happy.
Fan Creations Competitions Return
This will be the first update of the month. We're bringing back the card design competitions we love so much in a system dedicated to supporting it. No more hacky scripts or spreadsheets to calculate the winners. No more forum threads that push bias into the competitions. Everything with the competitions is going to be new and not replicated elsewhere in the Custom Hearthstone community.
Expect site rewards and achievements based on the competitions. Expect things to run smoothly and on-time. Enjoy a dedicated landing page for fan-created content on the site.
I'm really happy to help support the Custom Hearthstone community and regretfully have pushed back our progress on that too many times. What will be launching early February will be the first version of the system and one that should have come out months ago. The system has a couple of additional large updates planned, though we won't go into those quite yet.
Hearthstone Collections Manager
The collections manager and deck searching has been a huge technical hurdle for the site. I teased this becoming available before Saviors of Uldum hit last year and it was not yet completed in time. "Definitely before the next set" were ill-advised words to say publicly when it came to it yet again before the launch of Descent of Dragons. It is going to be the second site update of February 2020.
It's a basic system at its core, but the number of calculations that end up being performed makes it quite scary to push out into the wild. I initially had what I assumed to be a great system in place, but it wasn't scaling well in testing. The most important thing is that we don't completely take the site down when Hearthstone patches hit because of tons of people looking for decks that they can create. Because of that, the initial launch of the collection manager on the site is going to be held back a bit.
In our first version, you'll be able to update your collection of cards on the site. We've got stats on your collection, pity timer tracking, and the ability to share your collection with friends. You'll also have browser-side dust calculations. I know this is not what everyone wants, but until we engineer a perfect solution to the problem of keeping the site online, its what we're forced to go with. Truthfully, this could have come out much sooner had we gone with calculations on the client-side - storing and playing with collections is not that difficult!
I understand that Hearthstone also has quite a few cards nowadays and importing your collection manually would be a huge pain in the ass. Initially, we're going to launch it with manual only but I would like to develop a desktop app users can use to import their collections with ease.
It is also worth pointing out we'll be able to port this over to Legends of Runeterra pretty quickly.
A guide system is in development. It will support more games than just the ones we're currently covering for news. If we have a forum for the game, we're going to let everyone write guides for it. This has grown out of a desire from members of our content team wanting to push more content out there but it didn't really make sense to do so as a news article. Opening this up to the entire community here can let our non-team members who want a creative outlet to share their knowledge on subjects within different card games exactly that.
This will be a part of the third site update and we'll be highlighting guides on game portals.
There has been a lot of interest in Battlegrounds, Hearthstone's auto-battler mode. We've got a solid amount of traffic from it and so it is quite important that we support the game mode better. I'm not going to go completely into all the details because it would be a damn shame if someone beat us to it, but I just wanted to let everyone know there are plans to support it.
Legends of Runeterra
Any remaining time during February will be dedicated to Riot's new game, Legends of Runeterra.
If there are tools you want to see from us to better support the game, I'm all ears. You can hit us up on the suggestion forum or leave a note down below.
I don't have much to share right now other than Magic support is going to get worked in as soon as it makes sense to. We aren't creating a lot of regular Magic content right now so the time needed to put up and maintain a card database and deckbuilder has not been a priority. We're going to continue posting articles for the game to start building up some traffic for it and when development isn't being focused on the things that are guaranteed to pay the bills, time will be dedicated to Magic.
Fresh Meat - Out of Cards is Looking for More Content Creators
If you have a passion for the games we cover and want to volunteer some time to improve the site, applications are now open to join the Out of Cards Content Squad! We last held an open recruitment phase for the site in the middle of last year and although it has gone quite well, the site has expanded quite a bit and there is plenty of new ground to cover. If you are interested in helping cover any of the following games, you may want to fill out an app!
- Legends of Runeterra
- Magic Arena
You'll be joining a team that has been creating content together since Hearthstone was announced back in 2013. We're made up almost entirely of volunteers with varying schedules so we understand not everyone can be around all the time. Here's what you can expect as a member of the Content Squad.
- We're a fairly relaxed group though if you have a deadline, we expect you to make it.
- If you want to contribute a regular series, you'll be expected to have an article written once a week on the same day each week.
- We'll have take-as-you-can content assignments available so if you can contribute additional time, outlets are available.
- If you have ideas for new content we haven't created in the past, or ways of improving current content, we're all ears!
- You are expected to stay in touch with the team on Discord and make use of our Trello board.
So what are we really looking for this time around?
- We are expanding hard into Legends of Runeterra. If you have an interest in the game and see yourself playing long-term and have a desire to create content for it, we want to give you an outlet for it.
- We'd love to ramp up coverage on Magic Arena. If you are an experienced Magic player and want to spread that knowledge, we've got space for it.
- People to cover weekly series - pitch us your idea!
- Individuals who want to help us cover news as it happens.
- Dedicated deck guide authors and those that will help us maintain collections of growing archetypes.
- If you want to cover roundups of decks and help bring decks from pros to the site, we'd love your help.
- We want our content team members to engage with the community. Talk on the forums and Discord!
If I haven't scared you away yet and are interested, applications can be filled out here. Things are a little different this time though so do know that:
- Everyone is expected to provide a writing sample.
- If you have no previously published works, you can write an article from scratch. (We'll even publish it if it is good and you want us to)
- You need to have strong English skills. Being able to communicate is so important to the process.
- We want everyone to be able to contribute to the site at least once a week. Save for holidays and the like!
Please note, there is a chance we can't respond to everyone. We're going to leave applications open for one week, until February 7. If you don't hear back from us by February 14, you may not have made the cut. If you've applied in the past and were not invited to the team, feel free to apply again. We'll get in touch with our fresh meat on Discord. This is a volunteer-only position. Although there are sometimes perks such as beta keys and giveaways, you are not applying to a paid position - the site simply isn't at that kind of stage yet.
Seriously, this is one of the most wonderful communities I've been a part of. At a time where the news and social media is all people just being angry at each other, it is a nice change of pace to have a spot like Out of Cards. We're continuing on a strong path into making 2020 the best year yet for the site and I'm so thankful to all our supporters and community members for that. As I said last month, we'll continue to be different and support you the best we can.
See you around! I'm expecting to do another one of these big updates for March =)