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Hearthstone Interview with Eric Dodds and Jason Chayes
04/10/2013 à 15:17
Along with Hearthstone's
significant beta patch
and card wipe this past week, we interviewed Lead Designer Eric Dodds and Production Director Jason Chayes today! We touched on some of their favorite changes in the beta, the success of , possible features in the future like alternate Warcraft hero options or co-op mode, how successful players are who haven't spent money on packs, and the fate of
If you're curious about this week's beta patch, check out the
closed beta patch notes
and browse our
What's your favorite change in this week's patch? Any particular hero or card you think players will really enjoy a lot more after the changes?
: One of the changes that we're pretty excited about on the team was getting in some new music during the matchmaking as you're waiting to get a match in Play mode. For players who have played Warcraft 2 in the past, it's a reference back to those themes. It's kind of a fun homage to our history and something we geeked out about, so I'm pretty excited for that.
In terms of cards that we're pretty excited about, one of the things we've been working on for a while that's only showing up in this patch is a large number of the Golden Cards are finally appearing--we think they look really awesome! Some of the more common ones, some of the legendaries, they're all looking great. If you can find it, you can see that the golden version of looks pretty killer!
: My favorite card changes are probably for Priests, we changed a couple of their cards to be more aggressive cards. The priest was having some trouble mid-game so I'm excited to see where the priest stands out. Because he was having some trouble at the highest level, I'm expecting Anduin to be right back in there and swinging which I'm excited about.
From a features point of view, I'm just in love with all the new social stuff that went in, like the toasts--you can see what your friends are doing at any given time and when your friends complete an arena run, it will let you know how they did. We've been going crazy with it around the office going "oh hey, how is your arena run going'"or "oh you're opening some packs, that's awesome." People run over to other people's desks, it's been really exciting social environment.
So there's already been
a lot of discussion
about . Are you happy with the current state of , and how things are balanced between who goes first and second? Or could there be future adjustments to cards that could have potentially OP synergy?
So the route we're taking right now is to adjust the couple of outlier cards that really make very very powerful. So the and the both were changed in this patch that just came out to try to address that issue. itself makes for pretty interesting gameplay. You play differently based on if you go first or second, you mulligan depending on what class your opponent is or whether they have or don't have . It makes for really interesting dynamic gameplay. There are these targeted specific card interactions that we're looking at.
What you can expect in the future is us to look at targeted interactions and again, all of that being said, at the highest levels, it's still looking like it's pretty even as far as first or second turn advantage goes. While there's sometimes an emotional feel like the person who has has more say with what's going on, there's a lot of power to going first as well. We're pretty happy with how it's going although you may see some card changes in the future based on that interaction.
Arena is a very accessible experience and there's been some tweaks for 5, 6, and 9 wins this patch, but do you think beginners are still daunted by the cost though, especially when they might lose a bit at first?
We wanted to make sure that as players are getting accustomed to the game, they wouldn't jump into arena right away. It's for that reason that you have to unlock all the heroes before you get a chance to go in. We know that the process of enlisting each of the 30 cards in your deck requires some amount of knowledge--the mana curve, what makes for a competitive deck, etc, and so the intention is to make that as accessible as we can. But you kinda want to know a little bit of what you're doing before you jump right in.
So in terms of the brand-new player, our advice is to get your feet wet a little before you jump right in to arena. But it is important to us, as you said, to go and play and have a chance to keep coming back to the arena. For that reason, we did juice up the gold rewards in the arena, so people have a better chance to get the gold they can use to come back to the arena in the future. Overall we're feeling pretty good with the changes we made in the patch, but we'll keep an eye on it in the beta and see how it goes.
Yeah, just as a suggestion--I know you guys did some crafting UI tweaks, and it would be pretty cool to record an arena deck that you happened to perform really awesomely with.
That's a really cool idea. We've seen people bragging a little about their coolest arena deck and throwing up shots on that on Facebook and other places, so having something up there where you can always see it is a cool idea.
Do you have any further rewards planned for the constructed ladder, such as cosmetic stuff or cards, in addition to getting more gold per win?
So it's something we're definitely talking about. We've gotten a lot of feedback from the beta about there hasn't been as much motivation for Play mode as we've liked, and that's something the team would like to do something about. We've been spending a lot of time talking about what the right rewards are to connect to Play Mode, and have a few ideas that we're batting around. Not in the far future, but actually something in the pretty-near term that we'd like to come back to and see what we can do to have more things linked to that particular game mode.
Are you happy with the gameplay balance between players that are playing Hearthstone as a free game and mostly getting upgrades from crafting and gold, vs those that have dropped a ton of money into the beta? Obviously you have more cards at your disposal if you spend cash, but you still have to know what you're doing.
It's actually something we have paid a lot of attention to and looked at a lot of the numbers behind it. Certainly one of the things that we saw in the alpha and continued to see is that players who are at 3 star Master level are actually players who have basically spent no money on the game. So we're seeing all the way through the spectrum that there are players who have spent money on the game and players that haven't spent money on the game.
And of course if you spend money, it gives you a lot more options, it give you a lot more flexibility in terms of "oh I've seen this deck is pretty powerful, I want to counter with this other deck" but as far as actual ability to participate in a given level, it seems like you can do pretty well even if you're just playing for free. Even if you're worried about that, the matchmaking system behind the scenes is always making sure that you're playing against a player of your skill level.
So what you can expect to see is say you're playing against someone with a number of expensive cards, or rare cards…first off, I think you have a fair chance of beating them. Really it's all coming down to kill with the cards making a small difference there. But also, if they have a ton of cards that seem powerful but you've been matched against them…you're probably better than they are, so it will still be a fair and exciting match.
Some of the legendaries seem OP in the right context but gimmicky otherwise, so if you don't really understand the cards, that could be still shut down.
Yeah, people have tried to build decks of all legendaries and they can be pretty terrible if you just say 'I'm just going to pick all the legendaries and put them into a deck!' Those decks are funny, but not especially powerful.
Can you talk a little bit more about some of the major card changes, like how the Warrior and Priest decks got some new tools? Also, are there any potentially problem cards on the horizon that didn't get changed yet but that you're watching closely?
As far as OP cards on the horizon, I have no idea! We made a number of changes, so I imagine over the next few weeks we'll be seeing trends occurring and we'll be seeing what's going on there.
As far as overall themes to the changes we made, we looked at the Warrior and decided that he needed a bit more card draw--a lot of their cards are useful in narrow circumstances but not as good when you're in top decking mode. So we wanted to take some of the cards that we're a little more niche and give them a little more heft and card draw. For the Priest, we looked at the Priest and went "the Priest is super fun and early on they do OK, but mid-game they have a problem where opponent puts out some big creatures and they just have no way of dealing with it." They get overrun and without heavy AE for mid to late game, and without the ability to deal with opponents dropping big creatures until they get to on turn 8, they were having issues. so we put two cards in specifically to deal with this issue.
And then you can look at both the Druid and Rogue, which were a little bit on the strong side, and we made changes to both of those to try to bring them back down. And while we made a bunch of changes, our win percentages at the highest level are still relatively close, so we'll be watching in days and weeks to come to see how this new environment plays out. But we're pretty happy with the changes we made.
Going back to social improvements--this patch had some improvements like the toasts, but do you have any thoughts on more elaborate social things like custom rules among battle.net friends or co-op mode so groups of players can team up against each other?
Totally. We're basically just starting with things we'd like to do for social features. With this patch, we have the ability to see toasts when your friend completes an arena run or gets a legendary from a pack. You can also see what your buddies are doing if you check out the friends list. You can see them busting out cards opening packs or putting together a deck in the Collection Manager, and really what we want is people to engage with their buddies as they're playing Hearthstone.
So some of the ideas you're talking about like custom tournaments or other ways I can do more cooperative things with my buddies are things I'm thinking about. Those are features that typically take a bit longer for us to develop because they require a bit more pipelining and infrastructure, so they're not things we're planning for the release this year, but it is something we are laying into our plans for next year and figuring out what we can do to improve upon that experience.
General question about card and hero design--How do you guys keep deck and playstyle variety in each class, when a hero's power is a pretty unique and defining feature of that class?
So the Hero Power is defining of that class, but in a lot of ways, it's not the most powerful thing and certainly the change we made to Rogue was because we felt that the Rogue Hero Power was starting to really define how that class played. The Hero Power is always set up to be not cost-effective compared to another card of that cost. So, how you'll use a hero power is sort of a tactical choice, like "I have a 5 drop, and I have a 3 drop and my Hero Power. Should I drop that 5 drop or the 3 and use the Hero Power?" It helps to make that tactical choice rather than a defining choice as far as how that hero plays.
On a meta level, it impacts how you play. For example, the Hunter is always about putting pressure on their opponents. You can expect that 2 damage coming in every turn. But that's more a high-level overall flow of the game. Playing against a Hunter--it's going to be a pressure deck. But what kind of pressure deck? We don't really know. It could be overrunning you with Beasts, it could be hanging back and playing a defensive trap game and just shooting you every turn until you die and using a powerful card at the end to polish you off.
Are there plans to add any themed cards from other Blizzard games, or more game backdrops, in future patches?
As for the first question, in terms of other Blizzard games, right now we're focused on the Warcraft universe--the good news is that it's a very rich universe and there's a lot we can draw from. Both in the context of the World of Warcraft timeframe but back before that to the Warcraft RTS days. So we're pretty happy to be continuing to explore that space for a while.
In terms of more boards, I think that's definitely in the future for Hearthstone. Our art team has already started on where we want to go next. They have more ideas on more clickables and more ways to develop the awesome themes that remind players of when they played in their Warcraft days. That's definitely reasonable for everyone to expect to see in the upcoming months.
At one point the
was meant to be a mount you could use in WoW as a reward for joining the beta, but that's since changed. Are there any plans to have cross-game promotions still?
is something that is still coming up. We haven't announced how that's all going to work yet but there's a connection coming up with regards to that.
In terms of other cross-game promotional stuff, thats's something we think would be really cool for players of World of Warcraft--you want to see cool stuff in Hearthstone and vice versa, so we have a few ideas there. Nothing that we can quite announce today but something we're actively working on across both of our team and the WoW team.
I know people were asking about this when Hearthstone just came out, but with how WoW's lore is developing in 5.4, this seemed worth bringing up again. With how everyone hates Garrosh in 5.4, could there be options in the future to choose between new heroes for the same class that mechanically work the same but are cosmetically different? Like choosing Tyrande instead of Anduin for Priest, Varian instead of Garrosh for warrior.
Yeah, that's certainly a thing that we've heard a lot and have been paying a lot of attention to. We don't have anything to announce right now specifically, but we've planning on adding a lot of features in the future, and a lot of those features will be based on what the community is demanding. And we're hearing that this is the sort of thing the community would like. It's the sort of thing that I would not be surprised if this is something we do before all that long. Because it would be pretty exciting to do something like that.
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