Yesterday, Ben Brode and Mike Donais participated in the second-ever developer live Q&A. The VOD is available on the official Hearthstone Youtube channel here, but it is over an hour long and oddly quiet. Here is a summary for those who missed the live stream, don’t want to watch the full VOD, and/or couldn’t hear a thing:
Generally speaking, the Q&A covered the following topics: Hall of Fame, Future Expansions (and “Missions”), Standard versus Wild, the ladder format, and miscellaneous other topics. Arena was covered in a separate blog post the day after the Q&A, and will be summarized separately.
HALL OF FAME
- The cards that were selected into the Hall of Fame were used very frequently and limited potential design space.
- More cards were considered (namely, Gadgetzan Auctioneer) and the Hall of Fame will be revisited as needed.
- Problem cards from the evergreen sets are more likely to be sent to the Hall of Fame whereas problem cards from the rotating expansions are more likely to be nerfed.
FUTURE EXPANSIONS AND MISSIONS
- There will be three expansions in the year. Beginning with the second expansion, free “missions” will be offered with the expansion.
- The decision to switch to three expansions was based on their own feelings and their assessment of community reactions, indicating expansions are more fun. Expansions are also more impactful on the game than are adventures.
- The missions will award players with booster packs instead of specific cards.
- Heroic missions are not planned at this time, but may be added later. Because no content is “locked” behind the missions, the “non-heroic” missions will be more difficult than the base-level adventures.
- They spend about eight months designing each expansion: four months in initial design and four months refining and balancing the initial designs.
- They are not “anti-combo decks” and would like to see multiple combo decks in the metagame. However, they do not like one-turn-kill combo decks. They prefer combo decks wherein the combo gives the user a large advantage that can then be used to win, or combos that take a few turns to set up.
- They plan to print a few combo-type cards each set, knowing that they cannot fully predict how the cards will be used. The new patch process will allow them to make changes more quickly than before, if needed, so they would rather “miss high” than have a set fall flat.
- They do not expect to add powerful neutral heals like Reno Jackson and Antique Healbot back into the game, because neutral heals hurt class identity. The healing classes will get heals and the armor classes will get armor.
STANDARD VERSUS WILD FORMATS
- Standard should feel fresh over and over again during the year. Balance changes are one part of that and will normally be considered after the planning of the actual year is finished.
- This year will be very exciting for Wild because of the bigger difference between Standard and Wild, the upcoming Wild Heroic Brawl(s) and Fireside Gathering support, and because of other things they are not ready to announce.
- There will be blog posts showing Wild-ladder ranks soon (TM).
- Regarding “un-nerfing” Molten Giant and Blade Flurry and moving them to the Hall of Fame: Molten Giant did not have a place in standard because one of the most common tactics against it was to burst the user down from 15+ health so that they could not abuse the Giant, and they have removed a lot of the burst potential from standard, including in these most recent Hall of Fame rotations. However, a lot of the burst potential still exists in Wild, so un-nerfed Mountain Giant may have a place in Wild as part of the Hall of Fame. Blade Flurry, however, may be stronger in Wild (with cards like Tinkmaster’s Oil), so putting them in the Hall of Fame would not prevent abuse.
- Floors will not solve all problems of ranked play. They are a starting point and there is a lot more to be done.
- Problems include matchmaking, perception, and “grindyness.”
- Approximately 40% of players are Rank 20, which means that matchmaking is worst there.
- They are continuing to explore other options to change the ladder, but their internal models show that many changes (such as modifying the rank resets) will balloon the number of people in Legend. They do not want to diminish the value of Legend rank by allowing too many people in.
- They are still working on Rogue’s class identity. The core identity is “cleverness” and “trickiness,” but they will also continue to explore and expand upon smaller identities, like deathrattles and the “pickpocket” theme.
- They are considering ways to make Wild-only content available in the store again as part of their push to make Wild more relevant. However, they have nothing to announce at this time.
- A public test realm (PTR) would bear the risks of content wearing out too early and changes not being very impactful. They would consider the option more for testing balance changes than for new content.
- They do not like to buff weaker cards because the cards in rotating expansions leave too quickly to be worth buffing and the cards in the evergreen sets are already too prevalent. They would rather print new good cards to advance themes, so that standard can stay fresh.
- Hearthstone should remain a free2play title and it should feel like that. They have tried to keep it that way by giving away a lot more packs (through Tavern Brawls and with expansion releases). They will watch this aspect closely this year to see how things move forward.
- Big themes for 2017 are communication (within the team and with the community), Wild, and smaller, “quality of life” changes to go along with the big changes.
That’s the most important stuff. For everybody who wants to see the whole thing in its full lenght, here it is…