The Angry Chicken Podcast - Ben Brode Interview
The Angry Chicken Podcast sat down with Hearthstone's Senior Game Designer, Ben Brode, for a live interview on their most recent podcast. We've recapped the important bits their interview with Ben below, and if you'd like to listen to the full interview, including the famous Brode laugh, can watch that below as well. Make sure you check out their youtube channel for more of their Hearthstone content!
The Angry Chicken: What did you guys take away from the Hearthstone tournament at BlizzCon?
Ben Brode: First off, the event was amazing. It was great to see thousands of people talking about strategy [during the tournament]. We thought all along that this would be a game that would be fun to watch, but as the Twitch numbers started blowing up, it got us thinking about the features we need to add to better support it.
TAC: With the new ranking system discussion at BlizzCon, has there been any discussion at Blizzard about tweaking the gold reward for constructed play? We feel that the rewards for constructed should be brought closer to that of Arena.
BB: Actually, the rewards for Arena are better is you're doing really well in Arena, but if you're not doing really well in Arena, you're probably better off buying packs with your gold. With any case, we want to make ranked play much more compelling. Everyone wants that, it's really exciting in Arena right now, and once you get to three-star master, there's not much for you to do there right now. We're trying a couple things to try and make it more exciting. First, we're adding the new ranks, and when you get to the top, the Legend rank tells you exactly how good you are. So hopefully, that's more compelling, you're trying to compare yourself against your friends to see who really is the best. Another thing we're doing is giving out ranked card backs to everyone who participates in a ranked season [announced at BlizzCon to be every month]. Additionally, once you hit 500 wins with a certain class, you'll unlock a golden version of that class' portrait. All those three things combined, will give players a lot more reason to play in ranked constructed.
TAC: So, developing Hearthstone, what single element makes for the most issues when it comes to balancing the game.
BB: There's two things that we pay a lot of attention to. The card card types that we've historically run into issues with, are the cards that increase the Health of other minions. Especially other minions. Initially, Unleash the Hounds actually gave your beasts Charge and +1/+1. It didn't work out and we made it +1 and Charge, and It will be changing again in the next patch. We also pay attention to, and not necessarily for balance, is the wording on cards. How easy are cards able to be understood right away. I really enjoy taking a complex idea and trying to make it simple enough to fit on a card and be instantly understood.
TAC: Has there been any discussion about Blood Imp?
BB: Blood Imp is one of those cards which is on our watch list. Maybe it needs a change, or maybe it's fine as is. Definitely needs some paying attention to.
TAC: People have been talking about the size of the Hearthstone team, it's quite tiny by Blizzard standards. Now that we're post BlizzCon, and the huge success of the invitational, and the a sea of new people wanting beta keys, is the team getting buffed up and larger?
BB: Definitely. We've seen how excited people are for Hearthstone and how they want more features and cards. Most of our growth has been related to launching the game on new platforms. We announced iPhone and Android at BlizzCon. We're really expanding our engineering efforts, our design team, and art team. We've currently got 7 positions right now open for the team if you've seen our jobs page.
TAC: So, do you think a lot of the resources at this point are being thrown at stability issues? Once Open Beta hits, you know, you may have an idea of how many people are going to come, but you never know. Where do the resources go at this point?
BB: Stability is something that we really care a lot about. It has to be stable. No point in inviting everyone to play, if they aren't going to be able to play. We've got some incredibly people working on making the game stable, and we're working on getting it ready.
TAC: In your opinion, when do new cards need to be added to keep the game fresh?
BB: You know, that's a question that we talk about a lot, and it's really important to us to get that right, for a lot of reasons. Obviously, I'm really hardcore about Hearthstone, I play all the time, and actually, I've been playing for years now. For me, even this set of cards that we launched with, is still interesting and I'm still having fun with. While I'm really excited about new cards which we've talked about, I'm still having fun exploring the meta game, and trying new decks. A fusion of new cards can really change everything. The pace though, if it's too fast, it can be overwhelming for some players. We really have to find a pace of card releases that gives hardcore players new ideas and infuses the metagame with new decks while not going overboard and turning new players away. We've got some ideas, and our strategy of releasing Adventures between expansions to keep it fresh. Adventures will have much smaller amounts of cards, between 20 and 30 while the major expansions will have a lot more. We can do more bite-sized pieces of content which keeps it interesting, but doesn't completely overwhelm everyone.
TAC: What about loot cards? Has their been any talk about having cards that you could pull from a pack but doesn't have to be a card which could go into a deck.
BB: We definitely talk about how our games can interact, and that's something that's interesting, but we haven't talked about any specifics. We also want people to be buying Hearthstone packs because they want to play Hearthstone and not to just get a pet for WoW.
TAC: To go back a bit, I didn't realize we were getting new cards with each adventure. How is that going to work?
BB: So, there will be a boss, or a series of bosses that you'll get to play against. It will hopefully be a fun, single player experience. By completing it, you'll earn new cards to use in the various play modes. The cards might also be available in the Arena. It should infuse the game with new deck types and strategies. We want to make the cards exciting and fun while working on the next expansion which will come after that. I'm super excited to tell everyone about them once we've got more people playing the game!
TAC: So with new cards, are we going to see new mechanics? What kind of new mechanics can we expect?
BB: I'll tell you, our strategy for the first adventure is to not introduce new keywords or card types just yet. We think there's huge amounts of design space with the mechanics from the first two sets. We're taking some of the mechanics that didn't get a lot of screen time in the Expert set and doing some crazy stuff with them. Yeah, I hope that this game will go years and year and years, and we can do crazy things with new mechanics. There's still plenty of stuff though we can do with the current set of mechanics.
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