Just like every year, this Blizzcon also featured a Q&A Panel for Hearthstone. The panel is a form of an open discussion with the devs – community could ask them some questions live and the devs tried their best to give the best answers.
The panel is aimed at the more curious fans – you won’t learn any breaking info here, no cards from the new expansion or big statements. The questions and answers mostly concern things like a more in-depth look at the design process of certain cards, clues about the general direction they try to develop the game in etc.
The questions were answered by four Hearthstone devs:
- Peter Whalen, Game Designer
- Matt Place, Senior Game Designer
- Mike Donais, Principal Game Designer
- Yong Woo, Senior Game Producer
Ben Brode couldn’t be here, because he has just recently became a father. Congrats, Brode!
Instead of going question by question, I’ll try to make a quick summary of everything we’ve learned from the panel. I’ll divide it into a few categories for the easier reading. Enjoy!
- They have a developer who is dedicated to the Arena gameplay. Right now don’t plan to make any big changes, they will stick to tuning the card’s showing rate or possibly remove some cards completely like they did with a few ones quite recently.
- Crazy idea popped, “if you pick a Murloc, all the future card choices will also be Murlocs”. The idea is to make some extra rules to Arena to make it more fun.
- The tools to make Arena more interesting are in development. No exact date yet.
- Increasing the draft rate of the most recent expansion is not always the best idea – e.g. they had to revert the recent Karazhan changes (because some cards like Firelands Portal were too oppressive). They plan to adjust it better in the future.
- In-game tournament mode has been discussed, but is very problematic, mostly because each player would have different expectations and it’s hard to meet all of them (remember that most of the players are casual and they don’t want to ignore them when making this mode). They will focus on things like Heroic Tavern Brawl for now.
- More official Blizzard tournaments isn’t meant to decrease the number of 3rd party/community made tournaments. They just want to improve their Championship system.
- They want to improve Fireside Gathering experience of the new players since there are so many events like that. E.g. new player would be able to come to the Gathering and jump into the tournament for their level straight away.
- They’d love the tournaments on the local Fireside Gatherings to feel like “mini-Blizzcon”, so they’re looking at increasing the amount of FG tournaments and improving the offline, in-person events like that.
- They consider making the every season rank drop less severe, e.g. having someone with rank 5 starting a little higher. But they don’t have anyone working on it right now.
- Heroic Tavern Brawl is ready to go, but they didn’t announce the release time yet. If it will be well-received, it might come back in the future, right now it’s more of an experiment.
- No plans to add a new class if it would “steal the design space” from other classes. So not happening right now.
- So far they are happy with the Standard’s release schedule of the two Expansions + one Adventure per year. It doesn’t mean that the things won’t change in the future – they think about some alternative ideas to reward players with new cards.
- Balancing Adventure bosses will be a challenge, because players have varied collections (someone having certain card might have a way easier time against a boss than other person who doesn’t have it – they want to make those differences as small as possible). They want to focus on making the experience fun.
- They didn’t mean to make the Shaman class broken. The class was considered the weakest one in the game, so they were constantly adding new strong cards, but it wasn’t enough. Since the design process is long, they have to think ahead. At one point the community has realized how strong Shaman is now and have abused it. At this point new Shaman cards were already on the way and it was hard to stop them. They feel like the nerfs brought Shaman to an okay level and that new expansion should make things even better.
- They don’t have any plans for some kind of achievement system (e.g. “platinum heroes” for great achievements) right now, but they might think about something in the future.
- “Ebb and flow” of the class balance is okay. While they would want every class to be very close together or at least have a high tier deck, they are fine with strongest class cycling around too. E.g. right now Paladin is in a bad spot, but it was one of the strongest classes a year ago (just like Shaman was bad a year ago and it’s broken right now).
- Sideboards are a cool idea, but for now they might test them in Tavern Brawls instead of introducing straight to the Constructed.
- The game would use a better AI “practice partner”. But for now they advise you to practice with a friend, because currently there are no precise plans to improve the AI.
- No plans to introduce some ways to customize your collection browse screen, e.g. picking favorite cards or adding custom filters. They’d like to do that in the future, though.
- They understand that Coop experience (think Mechazod Tavern Brawl) is very fun and they’d like to add more opportunities like that in the future. They first need to develop a better Coop UI, which would also need to work on the mobile.
Mean Streets of Gadgetzan
- The goal of the Tri-Class cards was to feel like each class belonged into one of the gangs/families. E.g. when you play Druid, you should feel like you’re part of the Jade Lotus. We should understand it better once more Tri-Class cards are released.
- This expansion aims to improve three Priest archetypes – Dragon Priest, Highlander (Reno) Priest and Spell-focused, “Tricky” Priest.
- They wanted to focus on Discover mechanic instead of the pure RNG cards in this expansion. But they feel like some variance is necessary for the game and the biggest skill is to know how to play around it/with it. So they don’t want to drop RNG altogether – this expansion will have less than usual, but next one can have much more.
- They don’t want every expansion to feel the same, that’s why Gadgetzan might have more cards like AoE/tempo swings, while some other expansion might focus on a different thing.
- Tri-Class cards weren’t meant as a foundation for the future neutral spells. They just wanted every family to feel unique.
- They’d love to develop the Hearthstone’s lore more with things like short stories. They like what they did with the latest expansion, they liked giving it a rich background story.
- No plans to release Hearthstone’s API in the near future.
- They don’t want to bring back card backs that were already awarded in the future, because they want them to feel special/unique. But they understand that new players would want some of them too, so they are trying to figure something out. No precise plans yet.
- Card design and art design are both very important when creating new cards. Sometimes the card idea/mechanic inspires the art, while other times a cool art makes it easier for the design team to pick the card’s effect.
- They obviously don’t like when people insult them or their fellow devs, but they feel like negative feedback is also important, because they can learn from it too.
- Engineering team always loves the new challenges. There is no cards that they can’t bring into the game – it’s just the matter of time and figuring things out. That’s why they postpone some cards and release them at a later date once they realize the best way to get them into the game.
- Cosmetics/skins should be be available to every class eventually. They also think about new ways to give them to the players – e.g. Medivh was given away with the Warcraft movie DVD.
- There are thinking about the ways to bring Tyrande to the other regions, specifically to China.
That’s all, folks. Sorry for the slight delay guys, I wanted to cover it live, but I fell asleep just before the Q&A Panel… I hope that some of you will still find this summary useful.
I’ve tried my best to make an objective summary. However, a lot of the answers were pretty ambiguous or vague, so I had to interpret them myself.
Good luck on the ladder and until next time!