Yesterday evening, the Hearthstone team held an event for media and fansites in San Francisco. BlizzPro was lucky enough to be represented by Taffer, our site manager for Heroes of the Storm and resident Northern Californian. We sent him out armed to the teeth with all of the questions that we could think to pester the developers about regarding the iPad, how it plays, the development highlights and lowlights, and everything in between. I have the pleasure of bringing you the transcription of the interview that Taffer conducted with Production Director Jason Chayes and Producer Bryan Chang. Enjoy!
Alright, so, I’m Taffer and I’m here with Jason Chayes and Bryan Chang. I’m just going to ask you guys a few questions related to the iPad version of Hearthstone and, if we have time, I would like to get into more.
Both: Sure. Cool.
So, we’ll start this out easy. Are there any versions of the iPad that Hearthstone does not run on?
Both: There’s the initial iPad. The first generation. iPad 1.
What about future – you know, the Android version? Which operating systems will it run on? Do you know?
Bryan Chang: We’re still exploring that. We’re basically doing some early investigation and we’ll try to get on as many platforms as the game performs well on and as good of an experience as we can deliver.
Any plans for social network interactivity like we see in the other mobile app games?
Bryan Chang: Currently, the game integrates Battle.net, so all of your Battle.net friends from all your favorite Blizzard games is all integrated. You can chat, yeah.
I saw that. I was chatting with some people.
Bryan Chang: A couple of other social features we have: After you play a game, you can interact with the player that you most recently played and we also support a “Players Near Me” feature, where anyone on the same wi-fi node, you can send them invites or chat with them. Sorry, send them friend invites.
So, what about a button to tweet your last Arena results or Facebook a screenshot of the packages being opened? Any plans for that?
Jason Chayes: So those are things that we all think there’s a lot of potential for, in terms of Hearthstone. It’s one of the things that got us feedback from the beta that, “Hey, it’d be awesome if there’s more social features there, ways that I can share kinda cool events in the game and progress with my buddies.” It is something we’re thinking about, nothing that we’re quite ready to announce today, but look forward to bringing it up.
Since updates will likely have to come through the App Store, will the iPad users have a delay in receiving updates in the game?
Jason Chayes: No, so we intend to synchronize the patch releases across all platforms. What that means is that once it’s made it through the Apple process and it’s actually live in the App Store, that’s when we’ll actually bring everybody together in the same version at the same time.
So everyone is always going to be doing the same Rank Season and stuff?
Jason Chayes: That is the intention.
How much space does Hearthstone take up on the iPad?
Bryan Chang: Right now, if you download it from the Apple Store, it’s 480 MB and after installed, it’s almost 700 MB.
What about playing Hearthstone over the data network? Do you guys recommend that?
Bryan Chang: It supports it.
Cool, but there’s no offline mode? You can’t play against the AI and stuff?
Jason Chayes: No. Correct, no offline mode. It’s something that has come up as feedback over the course of the beta. We think that can be a very cool way to play, but it’s not necessarily something that the team is focused on right now, so depending on feedback we get as this release goes on, it’s something that we can kinda look at as a pleasure feature down the road.
How early in the development process was the decision made to open it up to iPad users?
Jason Chayes: It wasn’t at the very beginning. We started as a PC build and as mobile devices and particularly touchscreen tablet devices kinda grew, in terms of popularity, it’s something that we realized, “Wow, this could be a really cool game that works on the platform,” but before we made that commitment to bring it to a tablet, particularly the iPad, we wanted to make sure it was going to be a great experience. So we did some prototyping; we found that actually worked out great and that all the ways that Hearhstone has been designed with dragging cards into play and the Collection Manager flipping through pages felt really good on an iPad, so that’s when we really committed to bringing it over.
Awesome. Yeah, just sitting here playing it, it’s a blast. I love it. Is there anything about the iPad version that’s different from the desktop version? If not, are there any plans to?
Bryan Chang: Basically, the main goal has been to try to keep the experience exactly the same. It’s definitely compatible. You’re playing against PC players. Your collection remains the same. Your progress remains the same, so aside from a few interface choices that we’ve made in order to better support touchscreens or deal with some iPad-specific things, such as an on-screen keyboard, we’ve tried to really keep it the same.
How about using the face detection feature to log me into Battle.net?
Jason Chayes: Sure! I mean I think that there are some unique capabilities already on a tablet that are maybe things we look at down the road. To start with, as Bryan said though, I think we really wanted to make it so PC players had a very easy time migrating over and everything they were used to was there and they almost didn’t have to think about the fact that the interface was different, but it was something you could naturally gravitate toward and knew exactly what to do.
Were there any major roadblocks or features that didn’t play nice when porting the game over? Any unique hurdles?
Jason Chayes: I think the biggest thing there was just that we didn’t have– You know, the platform that we built Hearthstone on top of is Battle.net, so Battle.net is what hosts the authentication system; that’s how our social networking is set up; that’s where I see my friends; the presence system… That didn’t exist for the mobile world when we started development of Hearthstone, so we had to partner pretty closely with the Battle.net team to provide all that functionality in addition to just the gameplay stuff. So we did a lot of development to make sure the game tracked consistent with your friends’ status, see presence of other games that were playing, and that was kind of done in parallel with the game production.
Hearthstone is made in Unity, right?
Jason Chayes: Right.
So, do you guys think you would have been able to do this without Unity on the iPad?
Jason Chayes: You know, I think that that was one of the reasons why we chose Unity was just because of the flexibility and the breadth of platforms it supports. I think that was definitely an accelerant in terms of our ability to bring it to iPad.
Did the community demand for Android/phone releases surprise you at all?
Bryan Chang: No, no. People want to play on their devices that are their favorites, right? So our goal is to support as many people as possible.
<points to phone recording interview> That’s a Windows phone, by the way.
Bryan Chang: Oh, well, there you go! Hint, hint.
When you guys announced the Android at BlizzCon, it was really well done. You know, he goes, “Oh, what was that?” And everyone goes, “ANDROID!”
Jason Chayes: Yeah, Rob Pardo does a great job with that.
Yeah, it was really well done. So, how close to the Android release? Still on track for Q3?
Jason Chayes: Still pushing hard to get it out. Basically, second half of this year is what we’re focused on. Our initial plan right now is to make sure the iPad launch is as smooth and awesome as we can make it across all regions. From there then, yeah, we’re going to be continuing to expand the Android effort within the development team as well.
Any reason why you didn’t start in the US for the waves?
Jason Chayes: You know, really it was just that we wanted to start in a slightly smaller audience because it is something we wanted to make sure was a smooth launch and then that way we could focus our development resources to make sure everything was going exactly as we hoped it would and it was a little easier to focus that in on Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. So far, all indications are that it’s going great and we’re looking forward to bringing it out to the rest of the world here in the next few weeks.
So, you guys got some time for non-iPad related questions?
Jason Chayes: Well, she’s the boss.
Lyndsi Achucarro (Associate PR Manager): I’ll let you know.
At some point we’ll see new cards being introduced. Would you guys like to share any info on how you would do it? I know you guys were talking about Adventure Mode. Would you like to elaborate on maybe a hint of what a new card would be?
Jason Chayes: We’ll have specifics on that very very soon. BUT, what I can say is that you’ll be able to earn new cards by defeating bosses within the Adventure Mode. It’s also pretty competitive AI that you’ll be going up against. As you defeat that and actually fight these bosses, you’ll be able to earn new cards through your gameplay.
That’s gonna be awesome. Possible co-op?
Jason Chayes: It’s a very desired feature. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on that over the course of the beta. Something that we’re not really in any position to sort of talk about how it would work, but I think playing with your buddies is a really fun way to play and it probably is the single biggest thing that people have been asking for, so we’re definitely listening.
When I played Magic: The Gathering, one of my favorite modes was always Two-Headed Giant.
Jason Chayes: Yeah, it’s a great mode.
And I would love to see that come to Hearthstone. So, now it’s time for a fun question. What’s your favorite card mechanic?
Bryan Chang: Hm… Come back to me.
Jason Chayes: Let’s see. I mean, I guess the Crazed Alchemist is a real fun one. Just kind of like the versatility of it, how you can just do all kinds of things that you never even imagined would be interesting with it. It’s the kind of card that works with your own minions in cool, fun, and interesting ways; it works with your opponent’s minions in interesting ways. Blowing up a Nat Pagle is kinda fun with that guy. So, I think that’s just an exceptionally cool one.
Bryan Chang: I like Combo. It’s kind of a new take on CCGs. Basically, it says, “Well, do I wait to play this card until I can use the Combo effect? Do I play it now and do some damage?” You know, it’s really just like when’s the best time to play it and it kinda will get you thinking. Make good choices.
It is a really cool mechanic. I love Rogues. So…when will we see Diablo cards?
Jason Chayes: So, the cool thing about the Warcraft universe is there’s just a lot of room there. We can continue to introduce new heroes, new cards, new minions, and spells for a long time to come. This is super rich. So, I think that for the foreseeable future, we feel like there’s plenty of room to keep growing Hearthstone within that universe and so that’s our focus for the foreseeable future.
What about cardbacks?
Jason Chayes: What about them? In terms of…?
Like, you know, a Diablo cardback? Next expansion, the killing of Imperius…
Jason Chayes: That’s a good idea. <laughter> But, yeah, I think that we’re sticking with WoW for now.
That’s it, guys. Thank you!
Both: Awesome. Thank you!