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Hearthstone Developer AMA Recap

by - 7 years ago

The Reddit Hearthstone Developer AMA (Ask Me Anything) has ended and the team was busy answering a ton of questions. Sometimes it can be a bit difficult to follow everything on Reddit so we put together a bit of a recap so you can read through the questions and answers.

The questions were answered by Senior Game Designer Ben Brode (Twitter), Producer Yong Woo (Twitter), and Community Manager Christina Sims (Twitter). You can read the entire thread here.

Reddit AMA

Are there are any plans for new daily quests? (source)

Ben Brode: We definitely want to add more!

Any hints you could give?

Naxx quests? Win 5 games with Deathknight?

Yong Woo: We want to encourage players to do things that lead to great Hearthstone experience. 🙂

Getting any of my friends who would be new players to play this game is near impossible at this point with how expensive Hearthstone is for new players to compete. They all go through the same process: begin playing the game through the tutorials, try each class, play the arena a few times, do a few days worth of quests, open a couple packs, and then realize that doing play mode they get absolutely crushed by seas of legendaries they don’t have, then quit. The more cards that are introduced into the game with the steep cost of the game makes the game more and more difficult for new players to get into. Are there going to be any significant ways for new players to catch up? Is there any possibility of a static cost for the game like buying all of the classic cards and naxx cards for $50? (source)

Ben Brode: Howdy! I super appreciate that you guys are looking out for new players. It’s really important to us that Hearthstone is approachable and accessible. We’re on the same page here.

We do have some problems with Matchmaking. We had taken steps to make sure brand new players were not matched against players who had already built massive collections, but we recently found some issues there and have been working to make it better.

We are going to continue to monitor the new player experience, and I do think we’ll need to do things to make it better over time, especially as we continue to release new content.

There needs to be a game mode where you are matched against a deck with a similar dust value. The matchmaking at the moment is just non existent. (source)

Yong Woo: We are always thinking ways to improve the match making system. But we don’t think that power level of a deck is directly proportional its dust value.

Hi Ben, Yong and Christina. Have you guys taught about running events like the double XP weekends we see in other games? Perhaps something like a Double Dust weekend (100% extra arcane dust from disenchanting).

Keep up the great work. (source)

Yong Woo: We are really interested in doing cool/fun events. Like the GvG prerelease arena and the Naxx wing openings. We’re continuing to explore more for the future and the focus is on fun surprises.

Can we please have something like this: Stacked Gold Cards ? (source)

Great job, this is legitimately my only concern.don’t tell anyone I’m okay with 9 deck slots

Ben Brode: I’ve seen that UI design before! 🙂

We agree that something in that vein is pretty cool.

We have Mad Bomber and now also Madder Bomber. Will there be a legendary named Maddest Bomber?

Christina Sims: I was actually chatting with Mike Donais about adding a “Maddest Bomber” at some point. I kid you not, hecackled. The way his mind works frightens me sometimes. I think he is the Maddest Bomber.

I can see the sense in not having extra deck slots for new players, but what about locking it behind a level/rank wall? (source)

Ben Brode: There are some obvious ways to add deck slots, but the most obvious methods aren’t always the most elegant, and it’s important to us to keep Hearthstone’s UI clean and simple. We know you guys get it, and I’ve seen some clever ideas posted here on reddit that take these goals into account.

We know you guys want more deck slots. We have some cool ideas for satisfying our power-users, I think we can make magic happen somehow. 🙂

When you want to obtain feedback whether it’s good or bad, constructive or whiny venting, which forums do you go to most? (source)

Christina Sims: Well met!

As community, we actually don’t limit ourselves to just forums when we’re collecting overall sentiment. We have our official channels, such as the Hearthstone Facebook and Twitter, where we have regular conversations with players, but we’re also monitoring many other places as well. Our forums, Reddit, our fansites, our fansite’s forums, Twitch … this list could go on for awhile. Basically, if you’re talking about Hearthstone, we want to read it!

Aside from the spam posts afflicting our forums (which we’re currently working on a fix for), it’s actually not a bad thing for players to be able to come to our forums and voice their opinions, even if other players may not feel their concerns are valid. That sort of feedback, even if it isn’t as constructive as posts on other forums, are still insightful. It’s good for us to know how our players are feeling about certain cards or strategies, but I can see why other forums aren’t as open to feedback of that nature. In the end though, it helps us make a better game.

How frequent are you guys going to release new expansions and adventures? (source)

Ben Brode: Still trying to figure this out. Looking for community feedback on this too. We have a lot of options for the mix of adventures, expansions, and other things, and for the pace of those things. Choosing the right strategy is a big focus for us right now.

With the addition of new cards in the future it will get more and more complicated for newer as well as free to play players to stay competitive. While this might not be a problem right now, do you have any plans for the future to introduce formats like Wizard did? Is it an option to rotate cards out and make only the latest two sets and basic cards ranked legal? (source)

Yong Woo: This is something we’ll want to address as we release more content. But we feel that we’re still far away from that point. We’re continuing to think about the best player experience for this.

At BlizzCon, you revealed a number of statistics kept on individual cards on the affects on win / loss percentage. Of the GvG cards released, what cards are outperforming or underperforming the Blizzard team’s expectations? (source)

Ben Brode: Oh it’s way too early to tell. We just tossed a stick of dynamite into the metagame. Going to take a while for things to settle down and we can get real data.

What was your intention when creating the GvG Mage Legendary card, Flame Leviathan and what sort of success have you seen in your own play testing of this card? (source)

Yong Woo: We are always pushing the boundary for trying new game mechanics. In the case of Flame Leviathan, we wanted to try an effect that triggers when you draw a card. Whenever there’s a new game mechanic it’s hard to evaluate how good it is until you play with it a whole bunch. Even though you don’t have control over exactly when it goes off, mana free 2 damage AOE can be very powerful. It was very exciting to see Trump run with the card in his deck over the weekend. He was having a ton of fun with it.

Would it be possible to implement a system that allows the player to see how complete their collection is? A simple “Your classic set colelctioin is 78% complete” somewhere would be awesome. (source)

Ben Brode: Yes, it’s something we’ve been hoping to get in there for a while. Just goes to show you how large our backlog of awesome features is. 😉

What new demons is Bane of doom able to summon in GvG? When is Mal’ganis going to be added in the pool? (source)

Christina Sims: Skynet is correct – we haven’t changed the pool of minions Bane of Doom is able to summon in GvG. It’s something we’re looking at though – we have to be a bit more careful with this card as opposed to Webspinner, since Bane of Doom puts a Demon directly into play rather than just puts it into your hand.

Any plans to name the “Can’t be targeted by Spells or Hero Powers” mechanic?

Shroud is my personal favorite. (source)

Ben Brode: In general, when keywords do more than 1 thing, it is tough to remember the full scope of what they do. I like simple keywords like “Can attack twice” or “can attack immediately”.

We could do something like “Shrouded from Spells. Shrouded from Hero Powers.” Or we could just say Shroud means “can’t be targeted by anything but attacks” and make Battlecry not work either.

We might break this rule sometimes, but it’s something we need to be careful of.

Also, we like it when keywords imply what they do. “Shroud” doesn’t have that direct link to the rules text that “Charge” and “Taunt” have. We also discussed “Untargetable” and “Ethereal”.

At the end of the day there are LOTS of reasons to keyword or not keyword something, and this was right on the razor’s edge with this one. Just happened to fall on the “not-keyword” side of the line, at least for now.

Are you planning to implement in game tournament mode. Where players can join by paying some kind of fee (150 gold) but with a chance of winning gold or packs (1-5). Players could have Elo rating or could earn tournament points which could be used as a qualifier for the world championship ? (source)

Yong Woo: We are excited about making more fun and easy ways for players to get together and compete against each other. We have a bunch cool ideas we’ve been bouncing around at the office. We are definitely excited but still at an early stage of forming the idea.

Every year there’s a sound design panel at Blizzcon. Can we get the Hearthstone team on the 2015 version? There’s so many great sound effects in this game, to the point where some of the card battlecries have replaced the names for a lot of folks. I’d like to hear what goes into making them. (source)

Yong Woo: Sound team would be really jazzed to do something like that. We’ll talk about it for the future!

Will we ever see other classes in the game? (source)

Ben Brode: There are pros and cons and we have to figure out when, if ever, the right time would be. Pros: Would be friggin’ rad. Cons: less likely to get cards for the specific class you’re excited about. Balance is trickier.

A good design exercise is to think: “How many classes is too many?” My sense is that it’s closer to 9 than to 20.

Have you considered introducing alternative hero powers? (source)

Yong Woo: We feel that 9 heroes already offer enough variety. We are not currently considering adding more hero powers.

What has it been like working with Realz – any interesting stories or insights from adding a pro gamer to your team? (source)

Christina Sims: We like to do internal tournaments from time to time, and he brings some pretty terrifying decks to the table.

Also, I always see him cruise past my window on a skateboard or scooter. Gotta go fast!

Any plans on having another avenue of getting gold? (source)

Ben Brode: Not at this time – we already give gold for playing in Casual/Ranked, for playing in the Arena, and for quests completed in both.

I’m curious as to how cards are created. It seems like there are three components; the artwork, the name, and the stats. In which order are they created? Is it always the same? Are the artists supplied with complete descriptions of what they need to draw or are they given a wide range with which to work? Thanks! (source)

Yong Woo: Oh sweet, a production question! 😀 What is the process to get a card created?

First design team comes up with the theme for the given expansion. In the case of GvG, the theme was going to be Goblins, Gnomes, and their wonderful mechanical inventions. The backbone of the set is designed around that theme: e.g. we definitely need to have a Goblin Shredder! So those cards start from the flavor and then game mechanics is built around it. “Piloted” mechanic arose from the hilarious image of random denizens of Azeroth ejecting out of these things. Other cards start from interesting and fun game mechanics we want to highlight in the expansion and then we come up with the best name/art work that would fit that card mechanic: e.g. Bouncing Blade.

Once name and stats start taking shape, we take a look at the huge breadth of amazing WoW art we already have in our repository. If there’s something that fits perfectly we go with that. If we can’t find something we are perfectly happy with, the designers work with the art team to put together an art description which describes what that card is like. The art description then goes out to the wonderful artists we work with and we collaborate with them to finish the piece. Sometimes we want something very specific for a card, other times there’s general guideline which the artist can run with.

Are there any rejected GvG cards or ideas you could show us? So far, its been a great expansion so far and I’m sure that many of us would love to know what didn’t make the cut. (source)

Ben Brode: Mostly the cards get cooler as they move through development, so our old designs are kind of boring. Oh! Here’s one. This is the original design for Sabotage (it sounds cool but plays pretty badly):

(6) Destroy an enemy minion and all copies of it in your opponent’s hand and deck.

Is there a reason why the secret timing were extended? Is it a bug or is it a new design for the secrets. (source)

Ben Brode: No, it was a result of some changes we had to make to enable Kezan Mystic to work, and it slipped by us. We plan to fix it in an upcoming patch.

When you guys release new content,such as Naxxramas or GvG,how long had it already been in development before we,the players,get our hands on it? (source)

Yong Woo: Often different parts of the team are working on different stages of an expansion. While card FX and engineering implementation wraps up, design team is often moving ahead and concepting out the next set of content. We have some cool tools that allow our designers to play with different card ideas and missions before we decide to go all the way with implementation.

Your competitors like Wizard or Riot have introduced fun modes to their games, like Momir in Magic online or the fun modes at events in League of Legends. How likely is it that we will see a mode something like : Two mages with thirty Unstable Portals? (source)

Ben Brode: Seems like a cool idea 😉

Do you have any plans to extend the current observer mode into a neutral one that can be used for tournaments, as in you can spectate both players simultaneously? (source)

Christina Sims: If you have both players on your friends list, you can actually spectate both players at the same time! You can see both player’s cards, what they draw, etc. It’s great for tournaments.

We have gotten a lot of feedback regarding the cards in the second player’s hand being upside down, so that’s something we’re aware of.

If you’d like to spectate both players at the same time, just follow these steps:

  • Have both people you’d like to spectate on your friends list.
  • Begin spectating the first player by clicking on your friends list, then hit the little eye icon there to spectate.
  • While you’re spectating, open your friends list again, and hit the eye icon for the second player you’d like to spectate that is currently in that game.
  • Done! You can now see both player’s cards.

GvG added the piloted cards which really take advantage of the digital nature of Hearthstone. What other effects have you considered that really take advantage of Hearthstone’s medium? (source)

Ben Brode: Stuff like this 😉 http://hearthstone.gamepedia.com/File:Development_-_minions.jpg

I have to ask regarding the long term design of priests. It mostly comes down to one of their primary mechanics being the ability to take control of enemy minions.

The control spells that should be limited by attack becomes more versatile with Shriekmeister, minions that should be returned can now be recombolated and so far it doesn’t seem much is being done to counterbalance use of this mechanic.

I hope you could comment on this. (source)

Ben Brode: “Stealing” effects have traditionally been the source of much consternation for us. Mind Control was infuriating when it cost 8 mana. Mind Vision was rage-inducing when it stole a card from the opponent’s hand. We pay close attention to these types of effects.

Power level is an easy thing to tweak if things are too powerful, and we’ve taken steps like this in the past, where needed. We’ll keep watch to make sure things aren’t out of whack.

In a recent interview you stated:

Yeah, new players is a really important thing for us. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make their experience better. We have done some things recently [emphasis added] with matchmaking for new players that we think will make a big impact.

Was this just for ranked and casual or did it affect arena too? Can you elaborate a little on what exactly you did? A lot of people are complaining that it’s harder to get a lot of wins in arena now, and I’m wondering if it’s all in their heads or if matchmaking was actually changed. (source)

Yong Woo: We haven’t made any changes to the arena matchmaking. But I would like to remind everyone that if you win 3 games, you are winning half of your games! Every win over 3 makes you exponentially more awesome.

Before the release of naxx, you guys said that there will be a reason for us to play through naxx multiple times, but so far after we got the card back from the heroic naxx, there is no need to ever go back there.

So my question is will we have a reason to get back to naxx or was it just: pay X gold, kill X boss and get X card and moove along ? Something like daily quests would be fun. (source)

Christina Sims: That one’s on me – when I was addressing this question, we hadn’t announced Heroic mode quite yet, so I was alluding to Heroic mode as a reason to return to Naxx.

We like to consider Naxx a fun way to acquire new cards and a way to freshen up the current meta with those cards, but we also have to be careful as to what kind of rewards we offer since we also don’t want that content to feel tired or tedious over time. Killing the same Naxx boss over and over again is less fun and feels more like work. Playing against other players to complete quests is just way more fun and dynamic, especially now with the release of GvG.

Is the intention to alternate between releasing an adventure mode expansion (Naxx) and a card pack expansion (GvG) going forward? I really enjoyed the single player aspect of Naxx and hope we will see more content like it! (source)

Yong Woo: We got really good feedback from Naxx. We’re starting to get really great feedback from GvG as well. Based on this feedback we’re going to figure out what would be the best player experience in the future. We definitely noticed how much players enjoyed single player content.

What can you say about Deck Trackers? For example,https://www.reddit.com/r/hearthstone/comments/27rvsq/updated_automatic_hearthstone_deck_tracker/[1]

If you look at the features it tracks cards, like pen and paper.

How can one be sure not to be banned using this BEFOREHAND?

Can you please not just say “stay away from 3-rd party things” because option of tracking cards should be implemented in game. (source)

Christina Sims: So here’s the low down on this – we can’t say that third party software is ok, because that software isn’t coming from Blizzard. We can’t guarantee its safety, and the last thing we want is some piece of third party software to contain a virus, trojan, or malware that hurts our players. So for everyone’s safety, we can’t just say “X is ok!” because if it isn’t, well…that’s not good.

So for safety’s sake, we just can’t say that third party software in general is ok, regardless of what it does.

Were you surprised by player reactions to GvG cards? Maybe a card you thought was awesome that people are ignoring right now, or maybe a card you kind of forgot about (for lack of a better term, I know every card is important to the designer) that everyone is going nuts over? (source)

Ben Brode: Yeah, as someone who has been playing with Bolvar for months I was surprised at the number of players who had decided it was only as good as the dust it was made of. 😉 Bolvar is awesome! It’s tough to determine how good a card is just by reading it, though. That’s why we have a Balance team, and it’s also why playing with a new set is so fun! There’s so much to learn and try!

The biggest obstacle I have for getting new people into Hearthstone is the fact that after the tutorial, they get absolutely crushed by loaded up decks in Casual mode. In essence, casual mode feels anything but casual when a mostly basic deck has to face down epics and legendaries.

Are there any plans to improve the match making, perhaps by matching players the total experience/level of the account, dust value, or some other method to help people who don’t have expensive decks? (source)

Christina Sims: Absolutely – this is something we’re currently looking into. The new players experience is something really important to us, and we’ve seen a lot of feedback about Casual Mode feeling less than casual to new players. We don’t want to just push people that are new and have decided to purchase packs into a different tier of players right away either, but we would like to improve the overall experience for Casual Mode as a whole.

How will hearthstone be implemented for phones? Will the game board look the same, or will there be modifications to make it more mobile-friendly? (source)

Yong Woo: We are making sure that Hearthstone is a great tailored experience on a phone. Don’t be surprised if you see some modifications to make it mobile-awesome!

Is Blizzard planning to add quick format tournaments like Warcraft 3 had?

If yes, can you give us some more information about it?

If no, is there a chance something like this will happen someday? (source)

Christina Sims: We’re always looking for new features we can potentially add – there’s certainly a backlog of things we could potentially add to Hearthstone. If you’d like to see something like tournament mode in the future, the best thing to do is start talking about it! What kind of features would you like? What would make you excited to play a mode like that?

Start up that conversation and we’ll keep an eye out for what you like.

Do you have specific goals for certain classes? For example the new Shaman Murloc card and Neptulon..Or the Rogue-only Pirate. They both indicate that you guys kinda “push” certain tribal cards towards a class.Is that a longterm goal of yours,to give all classes some kind of synergy like Beast Hunter? (source)

Yong Woo: We want to give each class a lot of different ways to build a deck. We also want to make each class feel distinct and have its own flavor. Tribal theme is a fun way of doing that!

Are you working on a replay feature? (source)

Yong Woo: Not currently.

What’s the average workday like in the Hearthstone office? (source)

Ben Brode: four hours of playing hearthstone, followed by lunch, followed by four hours of playing hearthstone Kappa

Will we see anything similar to the WoW Armory in terms of a collection page that is shareable with friends? (source)

Yong Woo: We think this is a great idea! It’s something we talk to Battle.net team about.

After working on the Warcraft TCG are there things you miss about physical TCG opposed to the digital? (source)

Christina Sims: The smell of a freshly cracked card pack. 🙂

Will we be able to buy card packs with Google Play credit when the Android version launches? (source)

Yong Woo: Hearthstone will be compatible with payment methods supported by Google Play, so yes.

what are the thoughts when considering additional rewards for ladder play? Something tiered between ranks (20-15, 15-10, 10-5) etc. (source)

Ben Brode: I think laddering is pretty chill right now (except for ranks 5+), and we like that it doesn’t feel so bad to lose games. It’s mostly a great way to compare yourself against your friends and other players.

Is it possible that someday you may add the ability for us to use our golden cards and hero portraits in the arena? (source)

Yong Woo: We think this is a really cool idea too. Something we are excited to do once we have a breather.

How closely do designers work together when creating new cards? What are brainstorming sessions like? (source)

Ben Brode: We sit basically on each others’ laps, so collaboration is super easy. Often brainstorming begins in email or excel, and then once we have a direction we like, we hash things out by chatting and shooting ideas back and forth. It’s really fun. 🙂

Editors Note: This is how I imagine Team 5 works together now that we know they basically sit on each other’s laps

I love Hearthstone puzzles. It’s so fun when a good one gets posted here. Is there any chance puzzles could be part of the official game? I would love to have a ‘Puzzle a Day’ challenge!! (with back catalog, of course) (source)

Yong Woo: We love Hearthstone puzzles too! We don’t currently have plans to put them into the game, but I would love to see someone in the community pick up the torch and regularly post (weekly?) puzzles. Do eeeet!

Blizzard Devs: What are you favorite GvG cards? Any GvG cards you wish would have been slightly different?

(Obligatory pester…I’m a phd student in CS in Irvine…can I come visit some time 🙂 )

Enjoying the expansion (my wallet slightly less so). Happy holidays! (source)

Yong Woo: My favorite card right now is Echo of Medivh. Day9 blew my mind with the Echo/Molten Giant combo. I spent all weekend trying to get a variant of it that will get me past Rank 10. So far I haven’t found the sweet spot but it’s been really fun figuring it out.

Christina Sims: I’ve been having a ton of fun with Feign Death lately – I just love seeing what cards I may get from a Shredder, or making a bazillion Baines with Baron Rivendare in play. I call it “The Baine Train”.

You can request a tour of campus here if you’re in the area!

Were there any GvG cards that were cut from Naxx, and were there any Echoing Ooze type scenarios this time around, where a card had to be reworked after testing unearthed some broken combo? (source)

Ben Brode: I don’t think so. The cards we cut from Naxx got buried in the crypt.

And yes, almost every card has been reworked at some point – iteration is a big theme for us. 🙂

Any chance of achievements similar to other Blizzard games? I know you have a few but they are mostly hidden. I’d be cool to have achievements like beating Naxx with only basic cards and things of that nature and getting imaginary points for it. (source)

Yong Woo: Meaningful and fun achievements are hard to design! But we’ve been thinking about them.

Any plans on doing a 2 vs 2 players mode? (source)

Yong Woo: It’s something we like to bounce ideas around over lunch. But it’s not something we have in our immediate future.

Are there any cards you are looking right now at in terms of nerfing/buffing? (source)

Christina Sims: We’re always keeping an eye out on balance in Hearthstone. We (as Community) are pretty tight-knit with the balance designers as content is released. We monitor feedback and sentiment, and discuss the initial reactions to cards with the designers. They’re watching things on more of a numerical level, though they’re also in the thick of things too.

All that aside, it’s a little early to make any changes to cards right now. With so many new cards released with GvG, we like to see players develop and evolve new strategies to counter what may have been vexing them previously. We’re watching though.

We’re always watching. o_o

I’ve only really ever seen you guys nerf cards, and from a design perspective I totally get why (Better to nerf a broken card and make obsolete cards good rather than buff an average card and make other cards obsolete) but are there any cards that you have contemplated buffing? Ideally from the classic set/Naxx, seeing as you guys have had more time to observe how those affect things.

Christina Sims: It’s generally better to add new cards that may give older cards additional face time than buffing old cards. We really don’t want to buff and nerf more than necessary.

As a player who spents most of his time playing in the Arena, i’d really be interested in wether or not you have any plans on giving constant Arena players more “rewards” sooner or later.

What i’m talking about is something like golden cards, golden heroes, etc. that would work in the Arena. I’d really like to see that , because right now Arena just feels like it’s only reward is the gold you get, which you never use if all you play is the Arena (source)

Ben Brode: Yeah, that’s something we’d like to get working some day. Golden cards in the Arena would be rad.

Do you have a lot of expansions and raids planned for hearthstone. I know the WoW team said they had almost 10 years of ideas lined up. (source)

Yong Woo: Yes! We have so many ideas we are crazy excited about.

posted in Hearthstone
JR Cook

JR has been writing for fan sites since 2000 and has been doing Blizzard Exclusive fansites since 2003. He helped co-found BlizzPro in 2013. You can hear JR every week talk about Hearthstone on the Well Met Podcast published on iTunes.

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