Recapping Ben Brode’s AMA: Alternate heroes, problematic cards, and Ben’s rap career
Last week, Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode held court and conducted a brief AMA on Reddit. Some notable highlights include a more condensed card reveal and spoiler process, as well as alternate Warlock and Druid heroes on the way. Could we be seeing Wilfred Fizzlebang or Zenkiki anytime soon? I hope so!
Ben also dives into discussing potential problematic cards that affect card design. Surprisingly, Stonetusk Boar is considered the guiltiest card in limiting future mechanics and Ice Block is a strong contender for potentially being moved into the Hall of Fame.
There’s a lot more to unpack from the AMA, but we’ve selected a few notable highlights pertaining to the upcoming expansion and the state of the game below.
What’s the reason for announcing an expansion and not revealing new cards in the following weeks only to dump ~40 cards a few days before the expansion is released instead of having a steady stream of reveals?
We used to do a steady stream of new reveals of about 1 card a day, and it kinda dragged. The feedback we were getting was that hype was slowing down as we got closer to the expansion, and i think that’s the wrong direction. Un’Goro had a dip in excitement, but ramped way up towards the release and used a similar strategy. Un’Goro felt awesome – let’s see how this one goes!
In the past you mentioned cards that have been previously nerfed might be un-nerfed and moved into the Hall of Fame in the next standard rotation, what is your/Blizzard’s current stance on these cards, specifically Molten Giant? #HoFMolten2018
I’m a little torn. I think there are pros and cons. The potential downside I’m most worried about is our ability to make Handlock really insane in Standard going forward with new cards, without pushing it into insanity in Wild. We’d like to make Handlock a thing again – and we can do that in Wild by moving the card that and buffing it, or by making new cards in Standard that are good in both formats. This doesn’t mean we won’t move/buff it, it’s just something we’re thinking about.
Has the team thought about releasing a few (1-3) cards each month to help keep the game fresh in-between sets? This would provide Blizzard with the opportunity to print hate cards like Golakka Crawler or Eater of Secret earlier or to support decks that did not pan out as you guys had hoped and could serve as “balance patches” in less severe situations.
Yes, we’ve considered that, limited-time cards that come back from Wild into standard for a while, and other crazy ideas to mix up the meta in between sets. I think it’s one of Hearthstone’s biggest opportunities. We took a stab at it recently with increasing the total number of cards each year. There are obviously downsides to that, and I think a lot of the ideas we’ve seen so far to tackle this problem have their own unique downsides. I don’t think there’s a silver bullet here, but we’re trying some crazy things internally, like – what if we change the ladder format for the last month of a set? We tried “block constructed” and it wasn’t as fun as we hoped, but maybe there’s other formats that mix the game up in crazy ways that are really fun?
Can you confirm that each class will have a hero card and a legendary minion in Knights of the Frozen Throne?
In the previous live stream you mentioned that a new ladder experience was in the works, can you share any progress on that?
We have a design that we are excited to try. I’m not sure it will be perfect out of the gate, but hopefully players will help us iterate into a great place. I wonder if just mixing it up is the right answer – like doing a new ladder format every 5 or so years. Once we know how long the feature will take to implement, we will start building it. There’s a lot of iteration in that process, and once we start honing in on our final implementation, we’ll communicate more about what we’re planning. Our major goals here are: reduce the monthly grind for top-level players; increase progression for bottom 25% of players; get better match-making. We have another goal for improving the new player ranked experience – that’s a separate change that’s coming later.
Ben, will the collection manager get more attention?
Yeah – We recently added way more powerful search functionality (i personally love searching for ‘extra’), and deck copying/exporting. We’ll continue to add features and refine current ones.
Rotate Ice Block when?
We wouldn’t be doing Wild Rotations out side of Hearthstone New Year. It’s definitely a card that matches our red flags for cards that maybe shouldn’t be in Standard forever. That doesn’t mean we don’t want combo decks or freeze mage – it’s just that we want things to change each year!
Hi Ben! Something I’ve always thought could be utilized more, especially on the pro level, is an increase in cards that focus on board position. Flametongue and Meteor are fantastic cards that can actually be more valuable if you put some thought in during previous turns.
Do you all expect to use this basic mechanic of Hearthstone more in the future, or maybe even in KotFT? Why have there been so few cards focusing on minion placement in previous sets?
Yep, there will be more minion-placement cards. Glad you like the mechanic!
Can you give us an update on Hero skins?
We will eventually make a new Druid and Warlock hero. :) I can’t spoil how we plan on making them available just yet.
Regarding Tyrande – our goal was to find alternate ways for regions that were not eligible for the offer to get access to Tyrande and we’ve been working with our regional offices to make that happen. We’ve already done it in many regions – seems like we haven’t hit yours yet and I’ll follow up on that.
Hi Ben, what are your thoughts of Hearthstone being too expensive for the average player? Will there be some sort of compromise to keep the game affordable and player numbers healthy? Thanks!
We are definitely seeing players compete at high levels without spending any money at all. If you want literally every card in the game, that’s tougher to do, but we are listening to community feedback here. We recently made pretty big changes to the way our Legendary drops work in packs, and are giving everyone a free Legendary Death Knight Hero with the new set. There will also be a lot of opportunities to earn packs of the new set, through some upcoming events and through the single player missions that will be free with the new set.
In your opinion, which card is most guilty at limiting future card mechanics?
Donais just walked by and I asked him this question – He said “Boar, but also Prep, Innervate, and Malygos.”
Thanks for doing this AMA señor Brode. As someone who played lots of quest rogue (a more casual version without including Stonetusk Boar and Southsea Deckhand) I was a little bummed to hear that the quest was going to be be nerfed. I felt that this was a great opportunity to instead address Charge and its place in the game. It feels like another cool deck took a hit because Charge hasn’t aged well in Hearthstone. How do you feel about charge as a mechanic/keyword?
Charge sometimes is great. I love the Hogriders, and I love the Charged Devilsaur. Charge makes you feel powerful, and that’s important.
But you’re right, it’s been our biggest balance challenge. I’m not sure what the future of Charge will be. We might just keep nerfing Chargecards over time.
A while ago, arena rewards were discussed, and how getting common cards is such a “feelsbadman” reward. Is this still being looked at?
Yes, we are planning on making a change in an upcoming patch. Details to come.
What are your goals with the upcoming ladder rework?
- Reduce grind for top-level players.
- Increase progression for players stuck at rank 20-ish.
- Get better matchmaking for bottom 25% players.
- Make the experience better for new players.
We’re hoping to make 1-3 better first. #4 is a separate feature for us and is coming later.
Are there any card designs that you’ve either not been able to get to work (a la Patches in TGT) or that haven’t found a place in any set so far?
If so, could you share your favorite scrapped card ideas with us?
When will we be able to buy Naxx again?
Soon! Hoping for sometime this summer.
Do you have any plans for improving the spectating experience?
Yes. This is definitely a place we have a lot of room for improvement.
Do you have plans for reducing costs of dust for wild cards? it’s painful to craft any wild card just because you can only use in one mode.
There is already a perception that your cards reduce in value over time because you can’t use them in Standard. I think that’s not a healthy perception for the game – and this kind of change would exasperate the problem. We are going to bring back Wild cards for sale, which should make Wild more accessible.
Have you considered (or tested) changing core values in the game, like player health, starting hand size, deck size etc, since the game released ?
Deck size is the one we’ve discussed. But we aren’t currently considering any changes. Game length has remained remarkably consistent over every meta, and it feels pretty good (about 7.5 minutes on average).
What is the teams current stance on additional, full classes?
A class needs unique “space” – i.e. things they can do that nobody else can do. Only Paladins get Divine Shield, or “setting Attack/Health”, or 1-mana Secrets. Mages are the best at AoE and Blasty single-target spells.
I think we are already having trouble carving out awesome space for 9 classes. I want us to find more unique things for Warlock to do, for example. I think adding a 10th class makes this problem much more difficult, as we could be using that space to make our core 9 classes more fun.
Also, you would be less likely to open cards of your favorite class in card packs, the more that we have in the game.
Something I often think about – what is the ‘perfect’ number of classes? What would be too many? Is 15 too many? How about 50? I kind of think the number even be less than 9, except that we have some important fantasy considerations.
Brode, what’s the takeaway of the team regarding Un’Goro? Why do you guys think it was so successful and what did the team learn from it to make the next expansions even better?
One of the biggest things that helped was the rotation. I think adding the Hall of Fame and hitting those 6 cards allowed us to see the “freshest” meta yet. This is a bit more of a challenge for the last set of the year. I think if anything, we could have gone lighter mechanically, and saved some of our new mechanics for set 3 of the Year of the Mammoth.
But I think the team did an awesome job on the set, yeah. Dinosaurs!
Not enough Ben Brode for you though? Check out this recent interview conducted with Nich from Screenplay:
Is there anything you were hoping to see answered that wasn’t?
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