We bring you an interview with our community member, Hearthstone enthusiast and denizen of Azeroth, Wan 'WindWalker'. They have come up with several innovative ideas to expand upon the Hearthstone experience in various aspects and today we will talk about their take on how could a new social system look like. You can find Wan and their work on Twitter or reddit.
Wan's Hearthstone Taverns
Sinti: Hi Wan, what made you delve into this social aspect of Hearthstone deeper? There is little to no social interaction by default, and I believe that was a conscious decision by dev team so far. You want more?
Wan: The idea for the concept came from a tweet by [Interim Game Director Dean Ayala] Iksar, asking for good examples of social systems in games. I was inspired to create my own vision of what a guild might look like inside Hearthstone. Hearthstone is lacking in terms of social interaction inside the game and friend requests have become a tool for spreading toxicity. The Tavern system would resolve this problem by extending the reach of existing Hearthstone communities inside the game and benefiting players with barren friend lists by introducing them to people with similar game mode interests. The main stimulus for players to participate in the Tavern system would be the friend quests moving to a separate quest pool in the Tavern tab. It would encourage social interaction between players and reward them for it.
Sinti: How many players per Tavern do you think would be a healthy number? And how many Taverns could one player be a part of?
Wan: I believe the healthy cap for permanent Tavern members is about 50 people. Anything higher would create a disconnect between its members. You can officially be a part of a single Tavern, but you could also spontaneously enter other Taverns as a visitor (if the option was enabled by the Tavern owner) and interact with its members. A Tavern could have up to 50 visitors at the same time.
Sinti: And would visitors be able to complete their Tavern quests with visiting Tavern's members? I suppose there could be a quest specifically for that purpose, but then again, it might feel bad being "forced" to have to visit another Tavern or not finding anyone willing to complete the quest with you. What do you think?
Wan: Social interaction with anyone is encouraged, so I think you should be able to complete it with anyone as long as you challenge/spectate them. It doesn't really betray the spirit of what Taverns are supposed to be. Of course, sometimes the Tavern you are a part of might have its members offline, so you could look for someone else to complete your quests with. It's situations like this when you could find out you identify more with a different group of people, but you don't really have to leave your old friends behind, you could always pay them a visit.
Sinti: Fair. Do you imagine any kind of Tavern progression or level-ups? Possibly a "perk" system for its members? I'm sure it would feel cool to have that, but there would have to be a good balance not to make it into a negative thing in a sense of "losing out on something". More cosmetics rather than gameplay advantage, whatever that could be, would probably be a better way to go. What are your thoughts on this?
Wan: Initially, I imagined a system in which a Tavern would advance levels whenever its members completed Tavern quests or competed against the members of another Tavern that was randomly selected for a group effort challenge that week. The perks would have been progressively unlocking all 3 friend quest slots and unique tavern customization options for a different tab displaying the interior of a Tavern and its members in a setting similar to the Mercenaries' home screen. In the end, I decided it was excessive, because it would restrict the additional stream of XP from quests to dedicated players and would discourage you from leaving, changing, or reforming your Tavern due to the loss of those perks. What's left of that idea are the avatar portraits, with which you could show off your personal achievements and the single time reward for joining a Tavern - Inkeeper skin for the bartender inside battlegrounds.
Sinti: Yeah, that does sound like a good compromise, or at least a start of where it could one day lead. Would any player be able to create a Tavern? And what would be the duties and privileges of Tavern owners?
Wan: As long as they have completed the Tutorial, any player would be able to create a Tavern. There would be no fee. The privileges of a Tavern owner would be the ability to change the Tavern name and insignia, kick or invite players and change the Tavern settings. Public or private Tavern listing, open to join or request to join, visitors allowed or not allowed.
Sinti: Lets talk a bit about kicking someone out of the Tavern, imagine a scenario where one or more members are griefing others, would a kick be the sole decision of the Tavern leader? But what about a situation where Tavern leader could abuse their powers to kick people for no reason, or for their personal gain, whatever that would be? I suppose just leaving and starting a new Tavern with like-minded members who would follow you instead might be one solution, but should it be the only one?
Wan: The leader always has the ability to kick people. I guess in the case of them griefing, there could be a vote kick system, but it would feel bad if the members just turned against the owner because they didn't perform in their eyes or for personal gain, like overthrowing them. There could be a report system in place where toxic users would be reported and reviewed. They would have their privileges to join Taverns and chat with other people removed. If the leader griefs, report them. If a member is griefing, consult with the leader to kick them.
Sinti: And what about disbanding a Tavern? It would probably be a good idea to not allow to completely disband the Tavern for its owner to not do it out of spite or something, unless they were last one there, but rather if the owner left, the Ownership would be transferred to someone else. Question becomes who? Next oldest member? By random? And what about situations where the owner has simply not logged-in for a while, should there be a "change owner" vote option that if majority of the Tavern agreed, a new owner would be selected? I think there would be a lot of "behind the scenes" things that would have to be sorted out to precede situations that could result in a negative experience for majority of the Tavern.
Wan: Yes, I forgot to mention that only the owner could disband the Tavern. In the event of inactivity, no one is obligated to stay. Sometimes the leader could be the only person online. That's why it would be so easy to swap Taverns and not lose anything in the process. In the case of the Tavern leader leaving without giving the title to another member, it's automatically transferred to the person who has been there the longest. If there were a safeguard system that checked if the leader had been away for too long, when they eventually returned to the game after a long break, everything they left behind would be gone. The leader would be pressured to keep checking in. If they did know they were going to be unable to continue playing the game for a long period of time, they should give the leadership to someone else, but in case that doesn't happen, it wouldn't be hard to talk to your fellow members about starting a new Tavern.
Sinti: Do you think that the Rewards Track could also contain avatar portraits to integrate the new social system with? Would you be ok if that was also a way to monetize the game, create avatars one can buy in the in-game shop? Where would the avatars be displayed? Only in the Tavern, or in your friend list as well, or even during games?
Wan: Yes, the portraits being displayed on the Rewards Track are what I've always had in mind. The other places people could view your avatar portrait are your Tavern, your profile page, and yes, beside your name in games, but it shouldn't steal the spotlight from the hero portrait itself. It would be subtle, like displaying your opponent's portrait instead of their rank since that is no longer visible to non-legend players. For legend players, it's next to their rank in a small oval frame. I would be okay with portraits being a means of monetization as long as there were both purchasable limited-time portraits and achievement portraits reflecting your challenging accomplishments.
Sinti: Speaking of achievements, any plans to do more than to just show to other Tavern members which ones you have? That seems like not entirely interesting prospect. How about somehow tying in the achievement points we do not have any use for as of right now? Maybe it could be the currency to buy new avatar portraits besides money? Saving gold for packs and other cosmetics.
Wan: I avoided the idea of spending achievement points because Blizzard stated that they were never intended to be a currency. That and the fact that by spending them, when someone inspects your profile, they will assume you haven't actually completed lots of achievements. Portraits themselves aren't supposed to be premium cosmetics with lots of features, just a gimmick and a unique achievement reward compared to the repetitive achievement points.
Sinti: Do you imagine that this new social system in form of Taverns could eventually lead to the ever-so-elusive Tournament mode? The more complex UI would then already be in the game and looking and/or signing up for Tournaments or creating/hosting them could work in the same fashion as for Taverns, and we would already have a "lobby chat" and other features to build upon.
Wan: Yes, I would imagine if Taverns were a thing, it would be easier to introduce Tournament mode. There would actually be more demand for it since even players with few friends would have the ability to easily engage with big groups of people with whom they might compete in a so-called tournament against other players.
Sinti: Alright, I think that we covered everything, or do you have anything else you want to share? The floor is yours.
Wan: Great. I think that's all. Thank you for taking interest!
Hearthstone Taverns - Gallery Presentation
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And there you have it folks. One idea how a new social system could look like in the game. It is definitely an intriguing prospect and something many players asked for over the years in one form or another. What do you think about it? Tell us in the comments below!