Dean Ayala, our Cool Hearthstone Dad, is out on Twitter this evening answering questions from the community. This is his second go with his previous outing taking place last Thursday. You will find our recap of new information down below alongside a full transcript of his tweets.
- Note that he may answer some additional questions after taking a break but he is past his time. If we make major updates, we'll make sure you know!
- The launch of the Darkmoon Faire mini set is today. If you missed seeing all the cards in one organized place, check this page out.
- Want to learn more about the lore of the 4 new legendaries? We've got you covered.
- You can save money on Hearthstone purchases with our guide on Amazon Coins!
Now, our recap and the full transcripts down below.
- They are currently working on two new modes. We were unable to get clarification on if this includes the upcoming mode.
- They will probably create even more new modes in the future.
- Dean is skeptical that a rotating mode for constructed (outside of Standard) would be popular.
- Said mode wouldn't be new player friendly. They were okay with it in Duels since cards are a lower power level.
- The rotating mode was pitched but died early in the process. Confirming this is not the next new mode.
- Dean would like to find easier ways to let people use their card purchases. "We don't do a good job of transitioning players from purchase to fun."
- Increased card counts means more cost involved. The rewards track and the mini set purchase help combat the increase.
- They are exploring in-client statistics on player profiles.
- Dean is not sure how far they would want to expand it.
- He likes how Battlegrounds does stats, it feels "visual [and] Hearthstone".
- First step is to figure out what players what to know and how to represent it in a fun way.
- They like cards that have a low power level but can have some devastating effects. (Tickatus)
- If Mindrender Illucia is the top card in the meta, they've screwed up at the power level aspect of fun.
- No timetable on when some older cards like Lord Jaraxxus might be updated to a newer mechanic, but they have done some work on it.
- 4 months between game updates is too long which is why they're doing mini sets.
- Doom in the Tomb was a chance to try a mid-expansion meta swing but it wasn't big enough.
- "Mini-sets are unlikely to introduce a wacky new keyword like a set is, and when they do we'll try and peel back complexity from the set before/after."
- Dean would like to rebuild the Arena game mode.
- The core problem is that there is no matchmaking in Arena based on skill. Dean could see a future where it changes.
- Changing to a "matchmaking by skill" formula would mean that rewards would have to be changed too.
- He thinks that most Arena players would be unhappy with a change and would hate to alienate them from the mode.
- To see success and growth in Arena, large changes like this might be needed though.
- Not supposed to be as curated of an experience that Standard is.
- It should be a place where you can go and play an old deck that you enjoyed.
- The bar for making a balance change in wild is higher than Standard. The card or deck in question has to be unfun for most of the population.
- The changes we've seen to wild over the past couple of years is where their mind is at right now.
- More research into how players want to use wild might be needed.
"We've never wanted Wild to just be another Standard with different cards, though a lot of people do seem to want that, especially the ones in the more competitive community."
Development & Philosophy
- Building decks is hard and shouldn't be a requirement to have fun.
- They've updated their philosophies in development because of the players being more experienced with the game.
- New players are still kept in mind but they make up a smaller portion of the audience compared to when the game was still new.
- Great new sets is the minimum bar for keeping the game where its at. They have to do more to surpass previous heights.
- They are not happy with just letting Hearthstone slowly do the same stuff. You have to be open to new ways of thinking.
- Feedback from smaller parts of the community can be dangerous. "Easy to trick yourself into believing that is everyone."
- Communities spreading information quickly makes them design with more complexity in mind. They know everything is easily searchable.
- Dean doesn't think they should make so many changes that players won't want to build new decks. "Blizzard will just change it soon anyway".
- They need to be more consistent about communication. That's why Dean is trying to do community outreach each week in a Q&A.
These came from tweets courtesy of Linus Flink and Dominic on the Hearthstone team.
- There is a small backlog of card backs they want to put into the game.
- Sometimes card backs get made specifically for a certain month, such as last year's Scholomance card back.
- "Blushroom was an ongoing joke between Charlene and Nick in FX that Charlene finally made."
- "Playing Koi was one Will Murai painted for us but that we had had sitting around for far too long."
- "Faerie Tail Luke painted on our art stream."
- They try to keep card FX under a second, max.
- Community feedback on wanting faster animations has lead to more considerations on what they're working on.
- Has a big brain. Confirmed.
- Due to the size of the Hearthstone team, Dean doesn't even know everyone on it anymore.
Dean's Tweet Transcript
Here are all the tweets from tonight's Q&A. If you want to see last week's click here.
What do you feel are the biggest differences between working on Hearthstone now and a few years ago in terms of philosophy and priorities?
Philosophy wise, we have to adjust our way of thinking to account for the adjustment in audience. Designing for new players and experienced players is different. Our audience on day 1 was all new and our philosophies on things like game balance or content updates reflected that.
Today, we have a huge amount of players who've been playing for years and years. There are still new and inexperienced players, they just make up a smaller portion of the audience. It's still important to keep new players in mind but these days we make games in a different age.
Players that want to know information about your game, a lot of the time, can (and would rather) find it out in places like youtube, twitch, reddit, etc. So it has a big effect on the amount of complex modes, mechanics, or updates we feel comfortable with.
Work wise, the team is just huge now. I don't even know all the people that work on Hearthstone, which is sort of weird. I was hired when there were about 25 members of the dev team and I think only 3 of those people are still here. Team is 100 people now!
New people, new leadership, new ideas. Have to learn to flip between being an educator and also being open to new ways of thinking. Hearthstone has been wildly successful but we're not happy with watching it slowly do the same thing.
We want to reach the old heights, surpass them! I don't think that is going to happen by making great sets. Making great sets is the minimum bar. It's what we have to do just to keep what we have.
Our current thinking is not just how we can keep what we have, but how can we reach beyond what we have into a new generation of players. Obviously a difficult question, but fun to be a part of.
How big was ur brain and bulging biceps when you decided to release the miniset cards for a fixed price system?
very big (Source)
What’s the biggest change you’d like to see?
We don't do a good job of transitioning players from purchase to fun. There is a lot of work in the way that can make it feel like your money isn't valuable. If you think about a game Heroes or League they do great at that. Buy a character, go play it and have fun. (Source)
I'm confident if that a designer on the team came with every pack purchase, we could ask you questions about what you like to do and build you something with the resources you have and you'd have fun. I'd like to try and either surface better ways of understanding what to do (Source)
with the cards you own, or make modes that require you to click one button and just go play. Building decks is hard and while I'm glad some people have fun with it, it's not something that should be a requirement to have a good time. (Source)
what's your favorite "cute" card? My vote's still gotta go to Murloc Tinyfin
our old production director did the golden animation for him and that always still blows my mind
he was probably the most talented person I ever worked with as a producer then one day was like 'oh ya i also animate!' (Source)
What archetype are you excited for people to learn/develop starting tomorrow?
If you cannot answer that, a broader question: How excited are you and the team about the mini-sets? What do they add to the game for you? What challenges do they add?
To the broader question, as a live service product I just think 4 months between update is too long. We agreed and tried some things like Doom in the Tomb but it was never a big shake-up like we'd wanted. Hoping for that with a small card release. (Source)
Challenges are simple. Increased card count means higher ask of players from a cost perspective, higher production cost from a dev perspective, and higher complexity from an understanding perspective. (Source)
First challenge we hope to address through the improved rewards system and a reasonable (i'm glad the feedback was positive!) price for the mini-set. Second problem is difficult, but we've hired some great people. (Source)
Dev cost is not just card designers, it's people to support more releases, it's marketing department bandwidth, everybody. We have a good pipeline for it, but still challenging. Still figuring it out honestly. (Source)
For complexity, we're trying to look at the whole year and not introduce more things to memorize than we had before. That means mini-sets are unlikely to introduce a wacky new keyword like a set is, and when they do we'll try and peel back complexity from the set before/after. (Source)
Is there any plan to tackle cards like Hanar or Illucia, that feel like they make a negative experience for their cost? While these cards aren't discussed as much as others - they often leave one player feeling like they're making decisions, while the other hopes it works out.
I think these cards are cool, but don't inspire "fun". I'm curious to hear your take on them though. Thanks for doing these and for all of your hard work!
Illucia is mean. I've answered questions like this previously but it's just finding a balance. Some people literally play Hearthstone to cackle and do mean things like Illucia or Tickatus. We make those cards for them. (Source)
The hope is that the niche of players who absolutely love that stuff can do it, but it's a low enough power level that it's not taking over all of Hearthstone. I think the world where Illucia is the best card in Hearthstone is a world we've messed up. (Source)
Will you ever implement “in-client” statistics like the ones Chines player have? Or will the end of the month stats ever be back? Speacking of China: how is going the Tournament mode? Is there a chance we will set in the rest of the world?
we are in 'exploration' stages of player profile right now. It's something worth expanding upon but unclear to me how far. We don't want it to end up feeling like a place you go to see a mass of tiny numbers but I think the battlegrounds page does a good job. (Source)
It feels visual, it feels 'hearthstone', at least to me. First step is noting all the things that would be cool for players to know and finding a way to represent that in a fun and whimsical way. (Source)
ALERT ALERT I did say exploratory. Many things in exploratory never end up seeing the light of day, but it is something that is making it out of our heads into actual exploration. So that's a step! (Source)
No plans for tournament mode. We'd like to do more 'esport' like things in the client vs out of client but no update on that. Not because I'm being cryptic but just because there is nothing to say. (Source)
What is your favorite thing to design in Hearthstone and why? (sorry if that's been asked already, your question threads are super popular!)
I'm a huge nerd for this but probably ranking and matchmaking systems. Every time I work on either I learn lots of new things and get to work with a wide range of people. Both are very common in many games but approached in wildly different ways. (Source)
Any plans on rebuild the Arena gamemode? (like the draft system /reward/etc) ?
I really want to. Arena has this core problem of not being a matchmade mode and it hurts any new player trying to join. The rewards system forces our hand here a bit but I could see a future where we change rewards and just matchmake players by skill. (Source)
It's actually at the forefront of my mind. The worry is that I think most current arena players would be unhappy, and you hate to alienate passionate users of a feature. In order to see growth and success, it might be a change we have to make. (Source)
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer community questions! Big props to you and the team! Any chance we can get a little update on the state of Wild Hearthstone? Thanks again and have a great day!
That isn't really a question! Wild isn't somewhere we're trying to create as curated of an experience as Standard. It should be a place where you (mostly) can go play that deck from the past you know and love. (Source)
There are situations where a deck makes an unfun experience for most of the population where we step in and make a change, but our bar for what that means is a little higher than standard specifically because of the identify of the mode I just described. (Source)
Thanks for the reply! I guess the question is will we be getting periodic balance updates in Wild? I knew we have a high power level on purpose (I really enjoy degen decks, trust me) but we are at the point where 3 decks are taking over the meta & small changes would be welcome
I think action over the last year or two should be representative of where our mind is at. I don't think Wild should be a place where we make change for the sake of change. We try to respect the players that love their old deck and just want to keep playing it. (Source)
The problem with this statement is that when the mode is in constant imbalance due to decks that auto win against 99% of the field, I can't play my favorite deck, which makes the purpose of this mode moot if that is genuinely your intention for the mode.
I'd like to do some consumer research on wild to see if our thoughts are validated on the 'just want to play my favorite deck' front. There are some, sounds like you, that want this curated experienced where the meta shifts and different decks are in power all the time. (Source)
I'm sure you aren't alone. I know you aren't! Our thoughts have always been there are these other pockets of players that just have a deck they love and want to play it. The fact that it's the best deck or the worst deck isn't as relevant. Do these players exist? We think so. (Source)
We've never wanted Wild to just be another Standard with different cards, though a lot of people do seem to want that, especially the ones in the more competitive community. (Source)
How have fan communities like Reddit, HearthPwn, OutofCards, CustomHearthstone, etc affected the game design process?
Honestly unclear to me. Devs are usually big fans of the games they make, so it's natural to want to participate in the communities of the thing you love. So you end up there, you read the posts, talk to people, and I'm sure it skews your thoughts in some subconscious way. (Source)
Feedback from such a fixed audience can be dangerous, though. Easy to trick yourself into believing that is everyone. (Source)
If anything I think it makes us more able to design things with slightly higher complexity because the spread of information is so dang fast. (Source)
20 years ago if someone couldn't figure something out they'd just quit, now there are 100 guides just a google search away. Also things like metagames just evolve so much quicker it impacts how often you have to live update. (Source)
Do you think we’ll see older cards updated to better suit the current Hearthstone environment at all?
One card that comes to mind is Lord Jaraxxus who works quite differently to how traditional hero cards do nowadays, and as such lacks in health compared to the others.
yes I think we will do that :)
no timetable but yes we will and have put some work into exactly what you describe (Source)
Has the team ever thought about a rotating format for constructed? It feels like a great opportunity to get people more engaged with cards from previous expansions without being oppressed by the tier 1 wild decks.
honestly I've always been skeptical of this, if we were going to create a new mode I'd want it to be friendly to new players diving in (Source)
asking a new player to craft a necessary meta card that might just rotate out in a few weeks isn't super friendly, we do it in duels but the individual cards are a much lesser impact on your performance as they would be in a constructed format (Source)
We have at least 2 new modes in the works that we think are fun, and will probably create more in the future. I think this one needs some work on accessibility to be taken seriously, though. We've pitched it and it died somewhat early on in the process. (Source)
delete Khadga in BG please. i know lots of players like him but khadga's shenanigan ruin games from 6k~14k mmr. in CN's BG tourament almost everyone played khadga's shenanigan as possible as they could.
thinking about removing one of the tokens instead, but also in discussion about a solution that either makes it so you are still watching your combat when you reconnect or you have to wait for other players (Source)
Recognize it as an issue, especially within the Chinese community where it's most often discussed. (Source)
Justin: I thought starting year of the dragon expansions would have an interconnected storyline ie. from RoS to Galakrond. What happened in the year of the Phoenix? While the expansions were great why wasn’t there a storyline to interconnect the three of them?
Hylung: If I may, I'm pretty sure Year of the Dragon was just something they tried, and when they announced Year of the Phoenix they said that they were going to go back to expansions that weren't interconnected, but that doesn't mean they won't do it again in the future if it's right
Justin: Oh I didn’t know they said they were going back to expansions that were not interconnected. I wonder why tho? When Ashes was announced I thought we’re going to see more of outland then scholomance came and im like what’s happening lmao No regrets tho scholo is my fav exp so far
Hylung: I think that YoD being interconnected was just an idea they had been wanting to try and they finally pulled the trigger on it, but it wasn't meant to be a full, permanent change in how they did expansions
We'll do both. We like having the flexibility to just do three totally separate things. I think we struggled a bit to find themes that felt totally different even though the environments were all over the place. It's fun to tell a cohesive story and we'll come back to it…
But I don't think the full year of sets will always be connected the same way, think of it as a tool in our toolkits we might pull out, or we might not.
Maybe I'll ask about his biceps next time.
yeah i love getting asked about my biceps GET WITH IT ZED (Source)
One of the best parts of League to me is the regular patch notes. I wish HS had some analogue. I’ve disliked the feeling of waiting for intermittent updates on changes, how about a “dev balance thoughts” that happens every Tuesday and touches on the meta with stats. Thoughts?
We are already in the camp of making more changes more often, even sometimes just for the sake of changing things. Every week though, *whistles*, that's a lot. Even the idea of sim shipping on mobile and PC every week makes my eyes go wide. (Source)
We like changing things more often but metas are still fun, I wouldn't want to be in a place where it's pointless to build a new deck because blizzard will just change it soon anyway. (Source)
We share more thoughts, and even though I'm a huge sucker for talking through design, I'm not sure how much value there is in it. Players want to here what is happening, not so much the why, at least in my experience. (Source)
As a dev team we're responsible for making changes for the entire audience. When you make a post you are making it to a very specific audience that doesn't care much about what those other players want. (Source)
So in some ways, pissing people off is your destiny. I guess I still think it's worth it. If you can develop a relationship between dev and player, it's easier to have a real discussion about what players want. (Source)
If you don't have that relationship built already when something goes wrong, it can be a very difficult moment. I respect the way Riot goes about communication, it's right in the bones of their company culture to approach it the way they do. (Source)
On Hearthstone, we're trying to do more (as evidenced by this very reply). Really, it's about consistency over time and not just one AMA. Up to us to make sure we can develop the relationship we want with players through that consistency. (Source)
What are your personal rankings for hero portraits? Are there any that you would never switch out from?
n'zoth is Fire (Source)
Dominic's Tweet Transcript
Dominic of the Hearthstone team also joined in some tweeting tonight.
When designing animations for cards do you take into account the length of the animation or just try to make it as cool as possible? It seems that as the game gets increasingly more complex these animations hinder turns more and more. Is this ever a concern for the team?
Hi! This is definitely something we keep in mind when making VFX. Especially legendaries with fast FX, like Rush or Discover, we try to keep under a second, max. Some more complex cards like Secret Passage are trickier, communicating a really unique effect visually while still– (Source)
–making the card feel snappy. A lot of the FX feedback I see is about animation speed, and it's absolutely something we're trying to build more and more on moving forward especially as individual cards get more complex, like you mentioned. :) (Source)
Makes sense! Thanks for the response! And for what it's worth the animations are incredible! As for groups of animations at once (multiple Libram of Wisdoms back to hand, multiple secret triggers + quest activation, etc) is there any thought to speeding up the time between these?
Thanks! And yeah, those are really good examples of places we can improve things. Thanks for the feedback! (Source)
Linus' Tweet Transcript
Linus Flink, Senior Game Producer (Art), also joined in.
Howdy, out of all the amazing Card Backs that must be submitted, perused, and designed - How do you pick and say, "Yes, this is the one for Feb, etc.".
Its a mix. Last year the only one we custom made for a month was Juyoung’s Scholomance. Usually I just set aside time for our artists to come up with something awesome. We have a small backlog of them to pick from too (usually ones that @CatellRuz made in the mornings) :). (Source)
Unusual ones this year: Blushroom was an ongoing joke between Charlene and Nick in FX that Charlene finally made. Playing Koi was one Will Murai painted for us but that we had had sitting around for far too long. Faerie Tail Luke painted on our art stream. (Source)