Prior to the launch of Voyage to the Sunken City, Heartkween had an opportunity to interview Hearthstone Game Designer, Cora "Songbird" Georgiou on her "Heart to Heart" series. The interview was done live and resulted in not one card reveal (School Teacher), but two! During the broadcast, Cora's dad, JustAGuy66, made an appearance to troll her and reveal the common Demon Hunter card, Abyssal Depths.

Outside of the fun bit of family trolls, the interview was an interesting insight into the Hearthstone development team and we've recapped the important bits down below.

Heartkween streams live on Twitch and can be found playing Hearthstone in the mornings and evenings, Monday through Friday, Eastern time (UTC -4).  She also has a YouTube channel and Twitter account.

Hearthstone Development Insights

  • Making keywords is tough.
    • The first three or first weeks of a set are where they broadly explore set mechanics.
    • They need to figure out what has good gameplay and what fits the theme.
    • Daily playtesting and feedback is how they vet new keywords.
      • They can quickly get a feel for how powerful and fun a new mechanic is to see if it could be a worthy addition.
  • Cora doesn't think they should stop doing disruption mechanics.
  • Sacrificial Summoner was known internally as Little Sister.
  • There was a lot of individual work even prior to COVID-19, but it was easier in the office to go back and forth. Less effort required for communication.
  • They know that metas aren't fun when the majority is playing the same type of deck (Aggro, Control, etc.).
  • They are working on having more valid strategies for each of the classes.
  • The Dormant keyword coming back was a bit of an accident. They didn't intend on creating this mechanic so often but they like the mechanic.
  • Tradeable has been talked about a lot internally.
    • It let's them create situational cards more often since Tradeable prevents these cards from clogging up your hand.
    • Cora can see Tradeable coming back again.
  • Cora would love to see an ability like Zephrys the Great to come back again, though that couldn't be on very many cards.
  • They keep a master spreadsheet of all the Hearthstone cards they want to eventually use and it helps keep track of which cards to not delete.
    • A yellow colored card on the sheet is a card that ends up getting cut from an expansion.
    • Some cards that are cut eventually make it into a future set.
  • Conservatively, they create around twice as many cards as the cards that actually make it into an expansion.
    • Sometimes it's just early keywords that don't make the cut which is why some cards don't make it past the early stages.
  • The final design team gets to make the final say on which cards make it into the game.
  • Knights of the Frozen Throne was accidentally deleted by Stephen "Puffin" Chang. The entire set.
    • This happened within Puffin's first week on the job.
    • They were ultimately able to recover the cards.

Future Expansions

  • They are currently in the eight week of archetype design for next year's first expansion.
    • When the interview was done, they were in their third week.
  • They tried 6 different keywords for next year's first expansion and they've landed on one that they like.
  • Sets this year feature independant themes, some of which, including Sunken City, the team has wanted to do for a while.

Voyage to the Sunken City Insights

  • There were a lot of mechanics tried for Sunken City in particular.
    • Dive was a keyword. No description of what it did was provided.
    • Lost Wonders was a mechanic for a long time - treasures that started at the bottom of your deck. They were brought to the top by playing cards.
    • Dredge and Colossal were figured out quite early in the process.
  • They knew they wanted to do an underwater expansion.
    • Underwater has been a topic during team-wide brainstorms for years.
  • They weren't 100% sure where they wanted to go underwater, but decided the environment and characters were right for Nazjatar.
  • Going to Nazjatar let them do the Naga tribe.
  • They wanted to make sure the Naga type in Hearthstone were much like the ones in World of Warcraft.
    • Naga are spellcasters, and at the heart of their race which is why we see that type of synergy.
  • Nellie, the Great Thresher used to be a big minion support piece. It always summoned the Pirate ship, but the ship had an effect that was sort of like "fills your hand with minions that cost 5 or more, they cost (5)".

All About Cora

  • Cora doesn't really like designing Rogue cards, she doesn't feel she's the best designer on the team for that class.
  • She loves Shaman, Warrior and Paladin. She like to create big, dumb, cool cards.
  • Cora really likes one of the Rogue cards that has not yet been revealed.
  • Cora thinks OTK should sometimes be viable, but ~10 decks in one meta is not.
  • Cora is glad her dad is having fun on Twitter, though she wishes it wasn't always at her own expense.

Heart to Heart With Cora - Developer Interview VOD

If you want to watch the whole interview, you can do so down below.