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BlizzCon 2016 Hearthstone Q&A liveblog

The Hearthstone Q&A panel will begin at 11:30 a.m. Pacific (1:30 p.m. Central) and we’ll be covering it live right here. This panel is pure Q&A, so while we may learn more about Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, we don’t really know what the audience might ask the developers. Anything goes!

In this liveblog, you will need to refresh the page to see the latest updates. Please be aware, depending on the pace of the panel, the liveblog will not include verbatim quotes unless otherwise noted. While we will strive for accuracy in the information presented, nothing should be cited as a direct quote from the developers.

The Q&A hosts are Game Designer Peter Whalen, Senior Game Designer Matt Place, Principal Game Designer Mike Donais, and Senior Game Producer Yong Woo.

11:32 p.m. And we’re getting started! The crew kicks off with Ben Brode jokes because he can’t be here today. They make it a point to tell us how adorable Brode’s new baby is.

Q: Plans for more dedicated cooperative content?

A: It’s something they’ve been exploring. How can they do more? How can they make it easier to play with friends? They want to do it.

Q: Not much new content for arena. Any plans for new arena stuff?

A: They’re really passionate about arena and they have a developer who dedicates time to trying to improve arena. They can now remove specific cards from arena or tune certain cards so they show up more or less. They have other crazy ideas like if you pick a murloc in arena, all of your future card choices will be murlocs.

Q: Robert Wing asks Yong Woo “How do you get so handsome every day?” (Rob is a Hearthstone community manager.)

A: No one here who can answer this question.

Q: Any plans for short stories or other media to explore the Warcraft lore has expanded upon for Hearthstone?

A: Yes.

Q: How do they decide when to implement new keywords? (Battlecry, Discover, etc.)

A: Whenever they discuss new mechanics, they decide whether or not it needs a keyword. If a new mechanic doesn’t appear on many cards, it doesn’t need a keyword.

Q: Any plan to add new classes? Death Knight/Monk?

A: They think about it a lot, but don’t have plans for it right now. They don’t want new classes to steal design space from the other classes.

Q: Any chance to allow players to earn previous season card backs they missed?

A: They think it’s special that long-time players have the exclusive card backs, but understand newer players would love to earn those cool, older card backs. They’re talking about what to do with that.

Q: What’s the chance of a Hearthstone API?

A: No plans to release a Hearthstone API.

Q: Year of the Kraken ends soon. Happy with the current release schedule of two expansions and an adventure? Any new additions to the evergreen set?

A: Constantly evaluating the best way to release cards. Expansions? Adventures? Other ways? Would it be interesting to release a small card pack every month? Right now they’re pretty happy with two expansions and an adventure each year. They aren’t going to say that’s the only way they’ll do it, but they’re happy with it right now.

Q: Already discussed about the passion of the arena, but when will we actually see changes?

A: The tools are an active work in progress. They aren’t prepared to make sweeping arena changes right now, but they are working toward the capability.

Q: Question about tri-class cards in Mean Streets. How do they make sure these cards are both balanced and flavorful? Will we see other class groupings in the future?

A: For flavor, they wanted players to feel like they were part of the mob families. Druids don’t feel like they’re just playing Druid, they feel like they’re playing the Jade Lotus family. They skipped the rest.

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Q: Is there a new direction for Priest archetypes? Developers previously recognized Priest isn’t very fun to play against.

A: One thing done in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan is work on three archetypes. They put focus on Dragon decks, decks with no duplicates (think Reno decks), and Tricky Priest with many spells.

Q: Will there come a point where it’s impossible to balance Adventure bosses since Adventures use the Wild format?

A: People have varied collections, so the Adventure balance is challenging. An expert long-time player could breeze through where a new player might struggle. They just try to make it fun for the most people possible.

Q: Could the frequency of a card’s appearance in arena cause players to think they’re more powerful than they are?

A: New sets appear in arena at twice the normal rate in arena. The new tools mentioned earlier will allow them to better tune those appearance rates.

Q: How did Midrange Shaman become so powerful, from a developer perspective?

A: Shaman was perceived as weak for a very long time. They added some good cards to compensate, but players still saw the class as weak. They then added more good cards to compensate, and suddenly people latched on to the class. After the recent nerfs, Shaman winrate is in the 50-55% range, which they don’t think is too bad right now. They expect Mean Streets of Gadgetzan will shake it up again.

Q: Randomness and variance is important for card games and especially Hearthstone. Mean Streets has fewer random cards. Why?

A: The skill in Hearthstone is the ability to play around randomness. Randomness is good, but they want players to have control, too. Mean Streets has a little less randomness, but the next set may have more in an ebb and flow. Mean Streets also uses Discover as the midpoint between random and control. However, we haven’t seen all of the Mean Streets cards, either. There’s a lot we haven’t seen.

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Q: How does the art team work with the design team? Which comes first? Art? Cards?

A: A lot of collaboration. Concept art fueled ideas for cards and card design fueled more art. The chicken and the egg come in at the same time.

Q: Any plans for tournament mode in Hearthstone? Person asking the question enjoyed logging on to Warcraft 3 and seeing they could hop into a tourney.

A: They’re discussing it. Players have differing tournament fantasies. Do they want to start a tournament with their friends or jump into a massive community tournament? Some people want their wins and losses to be really meaningful and others don’t want to take it so seriously. They’re exploring and experimenting with these game modes.

Q: When will we see the heroic Brawl and will it happen again?
A: It’s an experiment and they’ll see how players react before they decide its frequency.

Q: Any plans for future goals/achievements for people who have hit legend, won an entire arena run, etc?

A: Plug for esports. Compete! But seriously, things like the Heroic Tavern Brawl is a possibility.

Q Followup: No ideas? Platinum Heroes?

A: They haven’t figured out what to give to the Hearthstone 1%. They want to celebrate awesomeness, but they’re still talking about it

Q: A lot of rambling here. Pointing out people think the devs are dumber Hitlers. Finally gets to his point: How does Hearthstone approach dealing with the community?

A: Players’ criticism comes from a place of passion. They aren’t happy when people insult them and their fellow devs, but they understand people behave that way because they feel so strongly about Hearthstone. If there’s something the community feels strongly about, it’s worth investing their time in it.

I missed a question here about tournaments due to technical difficulties. The gist is Hearthstone’s current and future tournament-related features and systems are not meant to eliminate third party tournaments. They want cool content in Hearthstone, not shut down what the community is doing with their own tournaments.

Q: Someone says hello from all of Latin America. Question from Mexico: Happy with the tempo-based play of the game? Any plans to introduce new tempo swings?

A: AOE spells are a good way to shake up tempo and Mean Streets has some of that.

Q: The class structure makes Hearthstone unique. Does the amount of power derived from class cards make players think every class should be top tier?

A: An ebb and flow of which decks is powerful is important. A year ago, players thought Paladin was overpowered but now view it as the weakest. Decks should be close together, but everyone should have their time to shine.

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Q: The Brave Archer cosplayer asked if the multi-class cards are their answer to neutral spell cards.

A: They want to represent the families moreso than create neutral cards. Jade Lotus cards should feel more like Jade Lotus cards than a class card.

Q: Any chance to have a side board? (~5 cards you can swap in or out of your deck when you see what you’re playing against.)

A: Sideboards are a cool idea and the devs enjoy it in other card games. They might experiment with it in a Tavern Brawl.

Q: Any chance to build custom decks for the AI to play? For practice?

A: It’s a good idea, but there are no plans for it right now. They suggest finding a friend who knows the deck you want to practice against and practice with them. In the future, they may improve their AI systems.

Q: Question from China. Have the developers figured out how other regions can get Tyrande? Any plans for alternate Druid or Warlock skins?

A: Very interested in adding skins for Druid and Warlock. With alternate appearances, they try to explore alternate ways to get them. For example, you can buy Medivh or get him for free if you get the Warcraft movie DVD. Tyrande in China specifically, they’re working on finding a way to do that.

Q: Abundance of riches with cards. Any way to mark favorites or organize your collection as you’d like?

A: Would be nice to find a way to customize the collection manager. They have no plans to do this right now, but they do want to improve that part of the game for players.

Q: Organizes a lot of Fireside Gatherings. A lot of people who don’t know anything about Hearthstone stumble upon a tournament and want to know what’s up, but get caught up in the registration/tutorial steps. Any plans to improve/streamline?

A: They have a developer focusing on the new player experience and want to improve it. They want people to be able to jump in and play right away. It’s a priority.

Q: Really enjoyed the PVE coop Tavern Brawls. Some tabletop RPGs allow 3-4 players vs. a PVE encounter. Any chance to do this kind of things in Hearthstone? Tank/healer/DPS vs. a boss? Original WoW TCG had this.

A: First coop brawls used the existing UI which would work on a phone. They’ll keep iterating and exploring to see what they can do.

Q: Esports question. Any plans for more large-scale in-person events akin to the BlizzCon event?

A: They’re working on feeding more local in-person events into larger brackets. They want local Fireside Gatherings to feel like mini-BlizzCons.

And that’s it for the Q&A! Thank you for following along, everyone!

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