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Hearthstone Interview and PAX Demo Gameplay
26/03/2013 à 10:20
Over the weekend, I interviewed Hamilton Chu, Executive Producer, and Ben Brode, Game Designer, about Blizzard's newest game, Hearthstone, which was just revealed at PAX East! I also got to try out a few rounds of this fast-paced lighthearted demo as my favorite classes--Rogue and Warlock.
We've also covered the artwork, videos, and the Official Press Release and Gameplay FAQ from Blizzard in
. Also check out
for more fansite interviews and resources.
Hearthstone is designed to be an accessible and fast-paced online strategy card game using popular figures from World of Warcraft:
: There are nine classes total. All WoW classes are represented except for Death Knights and Monks. Each class has a unique low-cost ability that's meant to be an option if you get unlucky with card draws. For example, Warlocks can draw a card at the cost of life, while Rogues can summon a dagger that deals damage.
: 30 cards can be in play for each game. You start off with three cards and gain one each turn. Players can manage their decks with the in-game Collection Manager.
: Each starter deck comes with class-specific cards. For example, Mages can polymorph enemy creatures, reducing them to 1/1, while Warlocks can Hellfire, damaging everything on the board for 3. Additional cards can have a variety of effects, such as Taunt, which prevents creatures from attacking your hero directly.
: Each hero starts off with 30 health. Most creatures can attack the turn after they're placed on the board, and can attack enemy creatures or the opposing player directly. Games are designed to be fast-paced and lighthearted, with creatures and heroes having custom emotes and sound effects.
: Players can enhance their decks in several ways:
Cards can be disenchanted and their Arcane Dusts can be used to craft new cards.
Packs of five cards can be purchased online through Battle.net or other payment methods.
Achievements may grant cards in the future.
Players can win other cards by defeating other players.
Practice matches can award basic cards.
In the Forge, players can play against other participants to win their deck. The decks are pre-selected from a series of randomized card choices.
In addition, there are Golden cards which affect a card's appearance but not its power.
: Hearthstone is designed to be very accessible--helpful arrows show which enemy you're attacking. There will also be a Practice mode. In addition, there are several different gameboards (Pandaria, Alliance, Horde) that come with interactive elements. For example, you can drag rocks onto a Horde trebuchet and fling them at your opponent.
Click the cut for the interview with Executive Producer Hamilton Chu and Game Designer Ben Brode!
Interview with Executive Producer Hamilton Chu and Game Designer Ben Brode
Players love the idea of choosing their favorite characters as heroes, but some want some additional options if, for example, they're on the opposite faction of their Hearthstone class hero. Do you have any plans for additional hero options?
Brode: We wanted Hearthstone to feel very lighthearted and friendly. We made sure to set it in a tavern--when you first log in a dwarven innkeeper greets you. Maybe this is a place where Alliance and Horde can set down their differences and enjoy a friendly game of Hearthstone. The Horde and Alliance are both super-important in the World of Warcraft lore and we have a lot of characters from both sides of the aisle featured in the game, but we don't currently have any plans for multiple heroes of each faction.
Some Horde players seemed sad to champion Anduin as their Priest, for example!
Brode: They can enjoy crushing Anduin when they play Garrosh then! <Laughter>
The FAQ mentioned that WoW players can possibly earn things by playing Hearthstone. Any further details on it? It would be cool if achievements unlocked rewards between games.
Chu: Yeah, that's something we're still thinking about really. We've been really focused on getting this game up and running, and getting this core 1v1 multiplayer experience going. I think going down the line there's all sorts of great ideas for how this and WoW might interact, but that's still to be thought of.
Would it be feasible to put Hearthstone in the WoW client to make it even easier to play during WoW downtime?
Chu: Lots of things are feasible! Right now we're focused on getting this out for Mac and PC, and soon after iPad.
How did you come up with the name Hearthstone? All players in WoW know what a hearthstone is, but it may be more unfamiliar to others.
Brode: Hearthstone is a warm, friendly game. The word "hearthstone" reminds me of sitting by a fire and having a hot cocoa with friends. This game also takes you back into maybe some of the feel of classic WoW, since we have some characters from our older games in it.
Hearthstone had a little bit of that old WoW flavor, and a warm vibe, so it was a great fit.
So…Town Portal for Diablo in the future?
Who knows what the future will hold! We're working on this game for now--one at a time. <Laughter>
Will there be any loot cards, such as codes to redeem in WoW for a mount or pet?
Chu: Hearthstone is a self-contained game. It's going to be fun on its own playing with other Hearthstone players, and then we can think about connections to other games in the future. But for now, Hearthstone is stand-alone.
How did you come up with the characters to be used as both the heroes and the creatures?
Brode: We all play a lot of World of Warcraft and a lot of us have done all of the raids and content, so we thought, "What are the most favorite parts of the game that we want to put into this card game?" There are so many great moments and great characters, it was just fun to choose the most exciting ones and throw them into the deck.
What about Monks and Death Knights not being playable classes? Will we see them later on, or did they not fit the mood of the game?
Brode: My main is a monk--one of the great things about card games is that you can always add cards later. It's something we can think about as we develop the game further.
Can you tell us about some of the ways you tried to simplify mechanics to make Hearthstone accessible for players unfamiliar with card games?
Chu: Really kind of everything--we started from a basic perspective. We looked from the ground up to see what makes certain card games awesome, and we were really thinking hard about how do we make this the most accessible to people? How do we boil down the essence of what's strategically fun or flavor-wise about the cards, and get everything else out of the way? So really every part of it and we hope it shows.
Any favorite cards or mechanics?
Brode: I have two cards I love. There's Lord Jaraxxus, and I showed that shout asset match specifically because I love that card. You got to see a small part of what makes him awesome there though. All cards have different errors they say if you try to target something you can't, or attack with a minion you can't. They politely help you along the way. Jaraxxus is not polite when he reminds you what you should be doing. He's got a custom set of error messages that he yells at the player and custom emotes. It's super fun, just fantastic.
My other favorite card is Brawl. Brawl takes every minion on the board and they jump into this big tavern brawl in the center. They fly out and get destroyed one by one, and then only one remains in the center--he's the one that survives. It's a Warrior card.
I had a lot of fun exploring the unique class mechanics behind each class' cards, as well as noticing little details like ability sound effects.
Brode: Every class feels totally different--the cards you're playing with here at the show are first decks that we give you. There's hundreds of cards and they all have really interesting reactions and mechanics. We saw some of that in that shout cast, but we wanted to make sure every class reminded you of the World of Warcraft, and felt very different and unique and exciting.
How final is the basic gameplay?
Brode: One of the things that we do at Blizzard is always trying to perfect and iterate. That's always going to be the case, and we're always going to find something that we feel could be a little better. So we're always looking for something to be a little more polished.
Chu: Something you guys maybe haven't seen as much here is all the stuff behind the one-on-one game, such as the collection aspect. How you get the cards, how you put the cards in a deck--that's going to be a lot of fun. The best part of the game for me is sitting there and trying to figure out my strategy so maybe that's part of the game you haven't seen as well.
How long do you envision each match taking?
Brode: Each individual game takes about 10 minutes. We tried very hard to make sure the games felt very fast, so you could get in a game and get out quickly. It's great to make a lot of strategic decisions quickly and not get bogged down in some slow things that don't really matter. And that also makes it feel a little more friendly because losing a ten-minute game is not as bad as losing a 50 minute game. You get more wins per hour.
Chu: Is that our metric, wins per hour?!
Brode: Wins per hour is fun. <Laughter>
It's been mentioned in the FAQ that cards will be available from achievements, which we didn't get to see in the demo. Can you elaborate on the types of achievements we'll see?
Brode: We're definitely looking a lot at achievements and we have some cool ideas for our game, but it's not something that's we're really ready to get into a lot of details about yet.
How long has Hearthstone been in the works? What was the genesis behind developing it?
Chu: It's been a few years now--we're a pretty small team that's been really focused on this idea of making this super-accessible online card game. It's been a while.
Brode: And the genesis behind this...we really love this type of game, it's such a great genre. It's something that's been traditionally a little hard to get into, a little complex, and we wanted to take that core fun of this game and bring it to everyone to enjoy.
Are there any challenges in being a small team working at Blizzard?
Chu: Yeah, it's a really different way of working at Blizzard. There's a lot we had to relearn about being in a small team, since a lot of us got used to larger and larger teams as we continued in development. We had to relearn what it's like to be in that small group, and what that meant for Blizzard. Even the announcement today is different--we're at PAX instead of BlizzCon. So there's been a lot of new stuff to learn, but it's been awesome.
Today's demo focused on gameplay instead of deckbuilding--can you talk a little about the different ways you can enhance your deck?
Chu: So there's a few different ways you can get cards. By going through our introductory experience and playing in our practice mode, we start handing you new cards from our basic set, and that's kind of just the foundational set to get your started. (The Practice mode allows you to play against an AI and sharpen your skills.) Through that, we very quickly give you a basic set of cards to get you started. and then, as you play multiplayer games against people online, you start earning these card packs. These are cards from the expert set (as opposed to the basic set). There are a lot more different cards, so you can earn cards through that, or you can purchase these packs to get cards a little faster.
Another way to get cards is through our crafting system. If you have more than enough of one card--or say you really like Mage and not another class--you can disenchant cards and then use the Arcane Dust to craft a card that you've been really wanting to get.
What sort of cards do you see as being popular among collectors or pretty nasty to deal with? I found Taunt cards early on shut me down.
Brode: It depends on what types of deck you're building, and there's definitely ways to handle those types of cards. When you build your own deck, you want to make sure that's something you're equipped to handle. There's all sorts of cards you can use to build a deck that will be better or worse against certain strategies.
One last question! The addition of unique class abilities that are always accessible is a very fun and flavorful addition. Why was this type of new mechanic implemented while other traditional card game mechanics were simplified?
Brode: We wanted the game to be very strategically deep, which means more options and choices to make when you're playing the game. We're giving you an option that's basically always there, which in turn gives you a lot more strategic depth. Card games are also random and sometimes you don't get the cards you want in your opening hand. Having a racial ability always available there means you have something to do on your second turn at least. So you don't feel so screwed by maybe getting an unlucky draw.
Chu: And also, we really wanted to make each class really feel like that class. Having something like the Shaman throwing down totems left and right really makes you feel like you're being a shaman at the time. I think the carefully crafted classes not only enhance the gameplay, but contribute to the feeling that you're really playing that recognizable class.
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