BlizzCon 2015: Hearthstone Fireside Q&A
Taking place at BlizzCon 2015, the Hearthstone Fireside Q&A allowed players a chance to get up close and personal with the Hearthstone designers. This is what we learned.
Hearthstone’s Senior Game Designer Mike Donais took the stage first to discuss Tavern Brawls.
- This format originally revolved around three different methods: Building your own deck, selecting a class, or utilizing pre-built decks (such as Ragnaros vs Nefarian). The fourth one introduced earlier in the week is the new co-op format.
- They didn’t want to rebuild the UI to suit players on the same side so when Ben Brode realized that minions could change sides, this format was able to get pushed out much earlier.
- Speaking of Tavern Brawl, Ragnaros and Nefarian will be making their return soon and will be slightly retuned for more balance.
After that segment, Game Designers Yong Woo, Ben Brode, and Pat Nagle joined Mike Donais on stage to help answer questions.
- Hearthstone has a dedicated designer for the new player experience. One of the problems they’re trying to correct is that the game now isn’t as accessible as when it initially launched, especially with all of the released adventures and expansions. Despite having a separated match making pool for new players, they recognize that this continues to be a problem. They will have nothing to announce for a while, but Tavern Brawl serves as a a way for new players to have a great time right away.
- Another user asked about players having access to their gold cards in the arena. Ben Brode also wants to see this feature. While this isn’t a priority, it is something that the designers want to look at.
- With the nerf to Warsong Commander and Patron Warrior, Mysterious Challenger and Secrets Paladin is considered quite powerful in the current meta. The designers like to mix it up and encourage players to select cards they otherwise never would have used (like the individual Paladin secrets). They continue to keep a close eye on Mysterious Challenger. Decks were originally built to focus on Patron Warrior but now decks are being built to target Secrets Paladin.
- Ben Brode is on the lookout for adding or replacing quests. He likes having a variety. They recognize that some players create decks solely to complete quests. However, quests have the option of being completed even if the player loses a game.
- Tribal cards will continue to get added in future expansions by sneaking in cards periodically (such as the occasional mech or beast). The developers believe there should not be a base line number of tribal cards added per set. They believe in mixing it up in terms of frequency.
- One person asked about player regional restrictions. It’s difficult for European players who travel to North America for BlizzCon to play among those on the North American servers. The player base had to be split by region largely due to maintenance issues. Allowing visiting players to play with someone in different parts of the world is a cool idea but it is not an easily implementable feature due to cost.
- Tournament mode is something that frequently comes up in discussions. One attendee asked about potentially using gold as an entry fee or perhaps as a betting system to wager on players. The developers like the idea of tournaments; but the challenge is what do players want in tournaments? Is it a single elimination or double elimination event? Tavern Brawl might be a good way to explore a concept. Is it a good experience for players to watch for other people to finish their games? They recognize that it’s a feature that the community asks for. There are multiple ways to go about it. StarCraft 2 just released a system where they facilitated that so they’ll see how that works out.
- Another point to mention is on the UI. Sometimes, players can’t remember the quests that they have active on the game screens. They’re exploring the idea of putting an exclamation mark on a hero to indicate you have a quest for that hero during the arena class selection or deck selection screen. More work is being done on the collection manager and it’s one of the most difficult to improve. Deck slots is something they’re still working on and they’ve finalized a design. If they didn’t care about experience, they would just jam deck slots in there.
- What about a diversity of card pack rewards? Arena and Tavern Brawl offer specific packs from certain sets. While there are no packs in ranked rewards, the developers want to inflate the pace of classic card rewards. It is something that the team continues to look into.
- The cycle of different decks is important. Cards are designed without dictating the meta game. The perception in the community that concentrating on how fast you play ranked games to advance leads to getting further faster. Average games last between 6 to 8 minutes between aggro based decks and control oriented decks. Concentrate on a deck with a good win rate that you enjoy playing. Control Warrior and Dragon Priest decks are believed to be the most potent.
- Different formats in Hearthstone are an interesting idea similar to challenge stone. Tavern Brawl is a weekly change. It’s possible to explore solutions to that or making expansions that don’t wildly change the meta but there’s nothing to announce regarding that at this time. Magic: the Gathering formats like Standard and Modern are potential solutions. While more details are being finalized, expect some radical stuff to happen.
- With regards to card art, there are no plans at this time to introduce alternate card art. So much of what a card does is based on how it looks. Card backs have a low risk of being left out. Alternate hero art continues to be a direction they plan to expand to.
- Lastly, when designing cards, the developers design around what is best for that mana cost. They don’t care about the Piloted Shredder effect where the Shredder’s strength is based on the available pool of 2 mana cost minions that get introduced. They care more about card synergies and 2 or 3 card combos that can break the game.
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