BlizzCon 2016 Hearthstone Q&A Panel Transcript

This is a full transcript of the BlizzCon 2016 Hearthstone Q&A Panel. Among the panelists were the following game developers:

  • Peter Whalen (game designer)
  • Matt Place (senior game designer)
  • Mike Donais (principal game designer)
  • Yong Woo (senior game producer)


Hearthstone Q&A Panel Transcript

Yong: How is it going everybody. There is a lot of people with questions, so this is going to be fun. I am Yong Woo. I am senior producer on the team.

Matt: Hey, guys. I am Matt Place, senior designer on Hearthstone.

Mike: Hi, everyone. I am Mike Donais. I am a game designer on Hearthstone.

Peter: I am Peter Whalen. I am also a game designer on Hearthstone.

Yong: GREETINGS. I AM BEN BRODE. Nah, he is not here right now. Sorry.

Mike: That was pretty good, Yong.

Yong: I have been practicing.

Peter: You can pretend.

Yong: I forgot to wear flannel I guess Mike here you are representing. Yeah I got his jacket on. You can buy this in the store.

Matt: He is not joking. That’s true.

Yong: You too can be Ben Brode for $$$… nah.

Mike: Do we have any questions?

Yong: Yeah, we are getting pitched here.

Mike: There is a line somewhere?

Yong: Well, I think there are lines back there, where this nice gentleman will get the situation sorted out.

Mike: In the meantime, I will tell you that Ben Brode’s new baby is really cute. He is at home, taking care of her right now.

Yong: Brode, if you are watching this, we got this.

Mike: Our first question.


Alright, so your co-op content really is the bizniz, alright, guys? The co-op brawls, right? Is there any plans for more dedicated co-op content?


Peter: Oh, it is awesome. It is one of the things that we really enjoy, we like the way that we have been able to play it in the game, we tried a couple of different things, but yes, it is something that we have been exploring a lot. We have talked in a couple of different contexts about how can we make some more co-op stuff, how can we make it easier for you to play with your friends. One of the things we try to do is add the plague as a friend Quest, so that you can get gold for playing against one of your friends, this is one of the daily quests that shows up; and so that is really cool. That is a nice way to do it, but yeah more co-op, what modes, more ways to play co-op with other people is great.


So I am happy Hearthstone is getting so much love, but at the same time there is a big aspect of Hearthstone which is arena, and I feel like since the buff from 9 to 12 (which is not really a buff), there hasn’t been much changes and there could be a lot of good things that come to it like there could be formats you already got for Standard. I got a bunch of couple of good ideas and I am sure you guys have a ton of good ideas but is there plans for it to change soon, or are we going to have to wait a ton of time before we get some cool new arena stuff?

Peter: Yeah, arena is one of the parts of the game that we are really passionate about. One of the other designers on the team is incredibly interested in Arena. He spends a lot of his time just working on how can we tune arena better so that the version that we have right now is as good as possible. We made some adjustments recently to some cards that don’t appear in arena, and we have recently gotten technology so we can on an individual card level tune how frequently it appears. So if we want gang up to show up every rogue pick, maybe we can do that. If we want Flame Strike to never show up, that is also an option. So we have a lot of options there for how we can tune things, but we are also interested in investigating like crazy arena ideas. What if when you pick a murloc, all the rest of your picks are always murlocs. What if you pick an Ancient Watcher, and you are always going to get Purify next? But there is also kind of crazy things that we could try out, and we are interested in seeing where we can go with it.

Rob: My name is Rob question for Yong.

Yong: Rob do you like your job?

Rob: I love my job, and I am a really big fan of all of you. Yong, how do you get so handsome every day?

Yong: Unfortunately, the second handsomest designer is Dean, he is not here–


Peter: and the handsomest is Pat Nagle, and he is also not here.

Yong: I am sorry, but we don’t have the right person to answer that question.

Rob: I appreciate your time.

Yong: Robert Wing, everybody.

Hi there, so you have been growing your Lore a little bit with each of these expansions, and I was wondering if you plan to expand a little bit even further to maybe like short stories, or other kinds of media with some of the lore that you are doing with this Gadgetzan set up, or other expansions.

Matt: Actually, we are looking at exactly that: expanding the short stories, and other ways to explore the lore that Hearthstone is kind of creating. There was a ton of fun with Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. It was taking something that was fun in World of Warcraft. Gadgetzan where we were hanging out and doing illicit stuff, right? Trading between Horde and Alliance, and blowing it out. That was a ton of fun for Hearthstone to kind of dive in and create its own characters and settings. So yeah, we are excited to keep doing this, and looking at new ways to do it. It is a lot of fun.


How do you guys decide when it is time to implement new keyword mechanics like Battlecry or Discover, or whatever?

Mike: With each expansion, we talk about a lot of new mechanics. We test out a whole bunch, and then we choose the ones we like the best, and we decide hey does this new mechanic need a keyword or not. Sometimes you will do a cool new mechanic that does not actually require a keyword. If you are only going to do it on like six cards, or something: like Forbidden. Forbidden feels like a new mechanic, but it does not actually have a new word. We just put the word, and the name of the cards, not link them up; and that was a good way to do it. So for each new mechanic we decide, those are are the things we think about.


Hello, do you think you are going to be adding a new hero class such as death knight or monk?

Peter: That is something that we talk about a lot. We are really happy with the nine class that we got right now. Each of them kind of has their own niche. So you got druid, who like grabbing mana, and you got warriors who wear tons of armor, and then beat on people with their weapons; and we don’t want to create a new class if it steals design space from the other classes that already exist, and if it does not have an identity of its own. So it is something that we talk about, but right now we don’t really have any plans for it. Nine classes is a ton, and it seems like there is a lot of space there to do everything that we want. So we are not that interested in trying something new with that.

Hey, guys. How is it going, big fan of you guys and appreciate all the work you guys do in dealing with the crap on Reddit. It is true. They deal with a lot.

Yong: We love Reddit. Just keep the passion coming.

Is there any chance that you guys will allow players to earn previous season cardbacks that you missed? Like season one and two, and then… one of my big achievements was getting rank 5 a couple times in the ladder, and then getting sent all the way back to like rank 18, kind of feels bad. Any chances on improving that?

Yong: Yes. So I’ll answer the first question first. Oh yeah, I think it is really special that players who have been playing since the beginning have access to some of these unique cardbacks. At the same time, we recognize that there are a lot of players who have joined us since who are really excited about getting some of these older awesome cardbacks, like the Pandaria cardback, maybe the new year cardback we did it. So that is definitely something we are actively talking about. We don’t have anything concrete to announce here, but know that it is something we understand, and we are actually talking about. As for rank mode itself–

Mike: Yeah, you said like get to rank 5, and being sent back all the way. So that, we did originally wanted this system to be very simple and understandable. The idea that if you have earned 15 ranks, then you have 15 stars in the next season. So it is a direct translation in your case. Rank 5 means you gain 20 ranks. So you will have 20 stars the next season. But after seeing it in action for a while the direct translation isn’t that important, maybe it could be around one and a half stars instead of one star for each rank you gained. So yeah, it is something that we talk about. We don’t have any engineers working on it right, now but we are talking about doing it.


What’s the chance on a Hearthstone API

Peter: Six and a half.

Yong: I mean, we don’t have any specific plans for releasing Hearthstone API in the near future.


Hello, Year of the Kraken is kind of going to end soon. So I am wondering if you are happy with the current release schedule of two expansions and one adventure, and if you are not going to change that, I am wondering if you are going to introduce any new cards into the evergreen sets.

Peter: Yes. So those are things we talk about a lot. We are constantly evaluating what the best way to release cards is. Is it through expansions? Is it through adventures? Are there other opportunities? Someone a couple of days ago talked to me about maybe doing a small card pack a month. Is that something that is interesting? So we are constantly talking about what are different things that we could possibly try.

Right now, we are pretty happy with two expansions and an adventure as part of standard season. As part of a standard year. So that is what we are planning on doing in the future, and we don’t have any announcements to change anything right now; but it is definitely something that we are interested in: both changing it up within the realm that we have already done, but also trying totally new crazy things.

Yong: And one thing we say very often is: Hearthstone is really a constant learning experience for us. So we don’t want to ever say: Yeah, we figured it out, this is the best way to do it, and we are going to do the exact same thing for the rest of our lives. I think we are going to keep learning more, and as we get feedback (from you guys) we will work on this together.


I want to talk a little bit about arena. You said you now have the technology, and it is a mode you guys are very passionate about. But when are we going to see some changes? Because then, you guys release Firelands Portal into common love for mage, to get even more powerful. So you say you are very passionate, but we are not seeing it. When are we going to see it?

Yeah, I think just for a little bit of clarification, we are building up a lot of infrastructure right now to build up the tool chain for designers to be able to manipulate some of that. It does not mean it is good to go live right now. So that is a work that is actually in progress. I know sometimes it can be frustrating, because you can’t see the work we are doing in our office, but the work is in progress. We totally hear you guys. We don’t have a timeline to announce right now.

Greetings. I would like to add something about design of the tri-class cards. We are all really excited about it. So I want to know if those kind of design are mainly from the bottom, or from the top, and how do you guys make sure that these cards are balanced and flavored at the same time, if possible are we going to see other kinds of grouping in classification in the future?

Matt: That is a great question. The balance issues. This is not just relegated to one class but three classes. What does that mean? And your other question: why did we make these? How did we come to these? A lot of it was to encompass these three families together. So we wanted a druid who is part of the Jade Lotus not to just feel like: Oh, I am signing up for druid, but I am also signing up for Jade Lotus when you play Mean Streets of Gadgetzan; and so again, once we start revealing more of these Jade Lotus cards, you guys are going to see a lot of the new ways shaman, rogue, and druid all get to play based on the Jade Lotus; and the tri-class cards are perfect for bringing that together. You guys probably saw it yesterday. You get a discover card tri-class that lets you (even if you play druid) discover rogue and shaman cards. Said the bosses bring it together as well. So yeah, that was our goal: to make it feel like I am part of the Jade Lotus in addition to playing Druid.

Hi, there. I was curious because you guys have talked in the past how some of the priest cards can feel a little unfun to play against, and you guys are trying to explore more design space to see sort of what their identity is. I was curious because in Karazhan you pushed some more of this resurrect archetype, and then what we have seen of Mean Streets, the Cards all look very good; but they seem you are pushing Dragon are more health and attack manipulation, which is something that the paladin also has a lot of. So I was just curious, have you guys landed on something you are looking a direction for more Priest archetypes, or how do you guys just sort of reach a conclusion like where you guys are at now with the new set coming out?

Mike: One of the things that we are thinking about is: what kinds of different archetypes can we make for Priest? What are the least fun cards to play against? What are the more fun cards to play against? and What are the more fun cards to play for the different types of players?

One of the things that we did specifically with the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, and we showed off a few cards on each of these spaces, is work on three different archetypes: one of the three archetypes is the dragon deck. It is a deck that a lot of people have wanted to work for a long time. It has been okay. It has been pretty good, but now maybe here is a chance to actually make it like one of the strong decks. Now you can have that fantasy of playing the dragon deck, and win with it.

A second archetype that we are thinking about is the deck with no duplicates. People have tried the Reno priest deck before. Some people had some success, but now they also we have shown off Kazakus. It reinforces and helps boost that. It is a really fun deck type. It plays a lot differently than other deck types, because of all the variant cards. So that is two archetypes. The third one that we are thinking about is the tricky priest deck with lots of spells, and stuff like that. We have shown off Potion of Madness, which is the one that takes control of a two attack or less minion for the turn. It is a nice trick, but it is not permanent loss of control of your minions. So we think it might be an okay space to try out in priest.

Another one that we have shown off is the Pint-size Potion (-3 attack everybody). It is very cheap at one mana. it combos with a lot of priest cards. So they are sort of tricky-cheap spells-fun-to-play priests. Hopefully, one of those three archetypes appeal to each of the priest players.


Next: Hearthstone Q&A Panel (Part 2)


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BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts

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