BlizzCon 2016 Hearthstone Q&A Panel Transcript

Hearthstone Q&A Panel (Part 2)

What’s up gentlemen, nice to see you guys. So first on adventures around the wild format and as more and more cards are released, and more and more tools are released for players to use, do you think that you are eventually going to reach a point, or maybe have already reached a point where it becomes impossible for you guys to balance the heroic bosses to a sufficient difficulty?

Mike: Well, there is a lot of different tools we have in balancing heroic bosses. The nice thing about having two different difficulties is we can just make them really really hard if we want to, and maybe it takes you 10 tries to beat it. But people do have very varied collections. Whether you own Alexstraza, or some other crazy card, sometimes you just need a whole bunch of Frost Novas, or something to beat it. It is different for every player. So it is very challenging for us. We do the best we can. We realize that somebody is an expert at the game and has done a lot of pro challenges before might beat certain ones easier than others, but for the most the ideas– what can we make it the most fun for the most different players, and hopefully we are hitting down that with some of our heroic challenges.
 

Do you think the increased frequency on the new cards coming out in arena is causing an undue stress on the power of these cards when they might not actually be that powerful just because they are appearing so frequently?

Mike: Right. So when the new set comes out, the chance of cards from that set appearing in arena is increased by usually around double. So you saw, for example, a lot of Fireland Portals. In the last patch, we actually turned that off. So Karazhan cards in the most recent set, now have the same drop rate as all other cards, and that is because we think people had experienced enough of the Karazhan cards, and it was time for them to go to like a slightly different format. But as we go forward, like Yong said, we are going to have some new tools over the next year to give us more control over different small changes, and maybe even big changes. We will probably adjust that, and keep improving it because it is a concern for us going forward.
 

Hi, quick questions. So why in hell did mid-range shaman become so powerful in Standard? I would love to hear the design perspective on this.

Yong: Before you answer that question, I love your outfit. I just want to tell you. You look awesome. It is an explorer outfit. Sorry, go ahead.

Mike: So we design new cards, we go through a lot of different steps, we evaluate power level, and we know that: Hey, shaman is down here. Where will it be eight months from now?

We are not sure we design things pretty far in advance. We knew that people wanted shaman cards. It was one of the memes on the internet: Hey, give us good shaman cards. It is the worst class. It is been the worst class for so long.

So we put some new shaman cards in, time passes, the shaman cards aren’t performing well, and people have not grabbed on to them. So we put some more in. We are also working really far in advance. And we don’t mind like: Hey, if shaman goes up to 55%, that is kind of okay, because it is been at 45% for a while. Right? And that is sort of what you are seeing.

You are seeing it spike up, it went up to something like 57%, and then we changed some shaman cards and it went down a little bit; but it is still like a very popular deck; but it is actually not that bad when we actually look at the numbers after the nerf. It is closer to like in the 50-55% range, which is great.

It is very popular though, and that is something that we care about too. It is not just about like: how much is it actually winning? What does it feel like? Do people think it is the best deck by a lot? Do people play it the most?

Fortunately, we got this new set coming out called Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, and it has got all kinds of awesome cards, and all kinds of classes, and I think that once people start playing with these new priest cards, and these new warrior cards, every class gets some really awesome cards. One of our most exciting sets in my opinion. I think it will just change everything, so I am not too worried right now, but ask me again in three months.

 

Thank you for your perspective.

Hey, guys. So the question I have for you is… well, there is a bit of a lead up… So historically speaking, we all know that an important part of trading card games is elements of variance and randomness, so that a less skilled opponent may occasionally defeat a greater skilled opponent; and what sets Hearthstone apart is that a lot of those elements of variance are actually incorporated within the cards themselves. Now Mean Streets of Gadgetzan (from the card pool we have seen so far), it seems to be moving away from that direction of incorporating variance within the card themselves, and I am curious what the design rational is behind that if that is actually the case.

Peter: Yes. So as you mentioned, variance is really important for collectible card games (for games in general), that each time you play the game, it feels a little different than the last time that you played it. Players play thousands and thousands of games of Hearthstone, and we want that to be a unique experience each time. It is also important that players feel like they have a chance in any game, and variance helps a lot with that.

We have variance in that you draw cards, comes from a deck, there is so much variance there; but a lot of the skill in collectible card games, and in Hearthstone in particular, is being able to play around randomness. Being able to take randomness into account to play better. So it is true that Mean Streets of Gadgetzan has fewer random cards, especially at this point, than some of our previous sets; and that is intentional. It is important that Hearthstone sets: that expansions and adventures feel different each time.

So sometimes, control cards are going to be good. Sometimes, random cards are going to be good; and sometimes, we are going to go on the other side of that. Sometimes, aggressive cards are going to be good; or mid-range, or totem cards. So there is an ebb and flow in all of the design spaces that we explore, and randomness is definitely one of them.

Matt: Yeah. A lot of the reasons we (just to follow up on that) leaned in to Discover for a lot of our variance here in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, it is great to have that moment of yes, this is random, but I can apply my skill to figure out which card I want. So, yeah. It is awesome.

Yong: And then, one more thing I want to add is there is 132 cards in the set. So far we have seen a handful of them. So if I want to like extrapolate, okay that means all the rest of the cards are going to be like this. I think it is not something we want to do just yet.

 

I got a question about the process of card creation. I mean it is kind of a chicken or the egg question. I am wondering about how the art team cooperates with the design team, and whether or not art comes first, and then you design a card around the art, or vice versa? Just wondering how that relationship between the two teams work.

Matt: Yes, it is actually a lot of collaboration. If you guys saw the presentation yesterday, Jomaro Kindred did a lot of the concepting early on for Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, and as we are coming up with ideas both on the art side and the design side, those came together to form new ideas. A great example of this is, the three families– as we decided: Oh, we want three families that will divide perfectly 9, three classes each. So then, we start exploring who is their boss?; and then started exploring who is a member of that family? So it is very collaborative. It works super well, I think, for Mean Streets.
 

I have been playing Blizzard games forever, and really appreciated what you guys do. I kind of have a two-fold question about building communities, and part of it involves potential tournaments systems in the game. Are you guys going to introduce something like you had in Warcraft III, where you just log in, and oh, a tournament is coming at 10:00am, and play some matches, and maybe if you win enough you get placed in the winner’s record?

Yong: Yes. So tournament mode has been something I think we have been kind of talking to community about for a while; and I think there is different aspects of the fantasy to the tournament mode. I think for some players, it is like: He,y I want to get together with 7 of my other friends, and I want to have like an 8-player tournaments, and I want to do a bracket, and see who the best player is.

That is like one type of fantasy, or it is like: Hey, I want to like join a random 128-player tournament, and kind of spend like a day of playing Hearthstone, and see if I can like come to the top from this specific set of people.

That is like another type of fantasy, and for other people, it is just like: Hey, I want my wins and losses to really matter. I am like for the next 12 games or so, I really want it to be like high-intensity, and feel like whether I win or lose, like is really significant; and so we have been exploring different aspects of it with hero tavern brawl for instance. We are experimenting with that third kind of fantasy where I am going to get into the hero tavern brawl, and it is going to be a really intense experience, and I am going to care a lot a lot about whether I win this specific game. So we are going to continue to do explorations like that, and we would love to continue this dialogue about what the community wants to do with this mode.

 

You kind of took that where I was headed. I am a part of a lot of smaller Heathstone communities. We do a lot of monthly fireside gatherings, and things like that; and I am Actually in Team Hearth League. It is an international online one. I think that smaller communities like this would benefit from an in-game client where you can just sign people up by tag, and work the bracket together without having to go to Battlefy and Challonge, or something like that. Keep it organized.

Yong: Yeah, totally got it. We are very committed to supporting groups like yours. Thank you so much. I think it really means a lot to us that this grassroots organizations are getting these tournaments together. I think it is really awesome. So that is something we want to continue to support. I think we are going to have a lot of great things to collaborate on through 2017.
 

Hey, guys. My question is about heroic brawl, and I was really excited when you guys announced it. You guys had to do a lot of work there. When is it coming out? And with all the work you had to do, and it is hard for me to believe that you would throw it away after one week. What is that leading to?

Yong: One of the great things about brawls are that we can get it out there, and see how the community reacts to it, or how it really feels once it is in the hands of the players. So we haven’t announced when we are going to do it, but we are ready to go. We are very excited to do it very soon. But let’s see how it feels together. We are learning as you guys are learning, as you guys experience it, and give us feedback. It will help us inform what we want to do with it next.
 

For all the players that have 9 golden heroes, hit legend, got 12 arena wins, do you guys have any plans for future achievements, or goals that can be reached; and if so, what are you guys thinking of as far as ideas for that?

Peter: So one option on the stage to our right is the world championship. It is happening right now. That is a pretty high goal, but yeah we are always talking about what are things we can do for our most invested players, how can we create additional things for you to achieve, and for you know accomplish. But really, if you are on that top tier level competing in something like the heroic tavern brawl, or starting on the road to the World Championship are possibilities right now.
 

Alright, there is no ideas, not saying it is going to happen, or like a platinum hero, or just anything that you guys have.

Mike: That is something we have talked about before. It is something that has been requested by the one tenth or 1%, or whatever it is. A fair number of the designers also play way too much, and have these things. So it is something that we personally want, but we haven’t figured out what the best idea is yet, or anything like that; but it is something we do think about.

Yong: Yeah, we really want to celebrate players like you who are obviously awesome. So it is definitely something we talk about. We don’t have anything that is announced right now, but we have you in mind. And thank you for enjoying the game so much, that is really incredible.

 

Thanks guys, I have been playing for over three years. It is awesome. I appreciate all the hard work you do.

Mike: We love players like you, everybody else does too.
 

Hi, guys. So sometimes when I read a bit more about the game, I find myself having to go to the communities of the game, and I am a developers myself, so the amount of misinformation and mischaracterization of developers can be a bit overwhelming, at least to me. There is definitely have been times where I felt like in Hearthstone, the prevalent opinion is that you guys are Hitler, but dumber; and I mean not everyone, but there are posts being uploaded that seem to indicate that, and I mean, it is just flat out wrong. So I was just kind of wondering how do you guys deal with when there is a lot of negative community feedback that isn’t really accurate, or isn’t really representative of what you guys actually do, and what is the general strategy for dealing with the community?

Peter: So a lot of that community feedback that we are getting comes from a place of passion. People don’t talk about Hearthstone because they don’t care about it. They talk about it because they love it, because they play lots and lots of games, and they feel really good about it. I mean I’d be lying if I said I have always read Reddit posts that said horrible things about me personall,y or about my friends, or my colleagues, and was always happy; but we do understand that that comes from a place of passion, from a place where these people really care about our game.

So that is great, and we get lots of great feedback from the community. There are great ideas that come out. It also helps us prioritize what we want to work on. If our community cares about particular things, then those are things that we should invest time and effort in. It is important to note too that our community is reddit, it is the people on Twitter, it is the people contacting us, but it is also millions and millions of other players that play more casually, that don’t engage with us on social media, or on those forums. So it is important for us to keep that in mind as well.

 

Also to clarify, I think you guys are cool.

Peter: Thanks, we think you are cool too.

Yong: Overall, we have so much love for all of our players, and I know I did on the other side too. I wasn’t always a developer, and when I was on the other side of the fence, like if I can’t log into the realm I want to log into because I want to play this game so much, I get very upset; and then if I don’t take a step back and just start typing on a forum or something, I might end up saying something I don’t necessarily want to say.

So again, we know that it comes from a good place, like you love playing Hearthstone, and you have a lot of ideas you want to share with us. I think the feelings that you are feeling is something that we really want to recognize, and we pay really good attention to it. Like why does this person feel so angry? What can we do to help with that?

 

Hi, so some of my friends and I, we used to use the original iteration of the auto-fill deck creator for our own game mode, because sometimes it can be really fun to play with terrible decks, and that is also the easiest way of making a new deck at 3:00am where you want to play around, but don’t want to think about deck creation. So I think a lot of people miss that option. Are there any plans on bringing it back?

Peter: Tavern Brawl is one of the places that we explore that, and letting you play tavern brawl against each other is great. There is other possibilities for making deck building a little bit easier, being able to generate a pseudo random deck like that; but I don’t think we have any plans right now to bring back worst deck building assistant. The new things that we have done to help new players build decks are really important for bringing them into the game. They have the deck templates, and now the assistant to help construct their deck, to finish off their deck, is more helpful.

It will actually build them a reasonable deck that they can compete with, and they can play games, and enjoy it; and it is a little bit sad that we took away a game mode that people like you (and we have gotten this feedback before. That those people enjoy it), but it is coming from a good place. It is really important that we help these newer players, and we hope that you can find things like tavern brawl, or possibly other game modes that we introduce in the future to fill that niche.

 

Well then, do you have any plans on making it easier for us to export our collection so that we could come up with our own way of coming up without using a third-party resource to create that?

Peter: We do talk about ways to export your decks that you have built, to import decks that you built from somewhere else, or to export your collection. So that it is a little bit easier for you to track and create decks, and transfer them to your friends. You know, you build some cool Reno mage deck, and you want to send it to somebody. It would be nice if there was an easier way for them to put it in. So that is definitely something that we talked about, but we don’t have any plans to announce right now. Personally, I would love to get that in, I build a lot of decks.

Yong: I think everybody on the stage would really like to have that. So let us do it. Let us make it happen.

 

Next: Hearthstone Q&A (Part 3)

 

BLIZZCON 2016 HEARTHSTONE Q&A PANEL TRANSCRIPT
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