Developer Interview with Eric Dodds and Ben Brode - Adventures, Game Design, Rewards

Developer Interview with Ben Brode and Eric Dodds

This afternoon we had the pleasure of discussing Hearthstone with Lead Designer, Eric Dodds, and Senior Game Designer, Ben Brode. We went to battle with some questions of our own, but we also covered questions fielded by the community here. Sadly, there are no current plans for a Kobold themed expansion. A shorter version of the interview will be available later this evening.

 

Rewards

Hamilton Chu, Hearthstone's Executive Producer, recently had an interview in China where he stated there were going to be new heroes available with real money. Are there any plans to make heroes available with both gold and real money?
Ben: We're right at the start of talking about that type of stuff, kinda right at the beginnings, so we don't have any specifics to announce right now.

How do you feel about the pace at which you reward players? Are there any plans to boost the rewards per day to give players more incentive to play outside of daily quests?
Ben: So, the pace at which we reward things is different based on which kind of player you are. If you're the kind of player who plays a couple of games each day, the pace is actually really great. You get the daily quests, and the gold for winning games. You get a pack every other day or so. If you're a player who plays all day, you might get less gold per hour played, but we look at it as rewarding people to come play Hearthstone each day, and if you want super hardcore rewards, you can get those through the Arena.
Eric: And really in a lot of ways, we view the biggest reward of playing Hearthstone as playing Hearthstone. It's a fun game to play and certainly the gold is a great way to earn packs and that sort of thing, but just playing the game is pretty fun.

So what about the scenario where you win your 40 gold daily quest, and win 30 games to hit your daily wins gold cap. You now don't have enough gold to enter the arena, and you need to wait until the next day. Are you guys thinking about changing that up to maybe make it so you can earn 110 gold from daily wins, or 50 gold from the daily quest?
Ben: I'll tell you, the 100 gold limit wasn't intended as a thing that most players ever hit, we only put it in as kind of a measure to combat some things that some players were doing to cheese the system. We picked a number by looking at how much gold people were earning, and that limit should really effect very few players. It isn't a kind of thing that we put in to prevent you from playing an arena each day, and 100 is just an easy number to remember.
Eric: We don't really have any plans on changing the gold rewards right now. Players are getting cards at a pretty good pace, and if you want to go into arena, you've likely got some gold from your last run that you can put towards the gold you earned from your daily quest and your gold for wins.
Ben: Plus, if you're doing your thirty wins and doing an arena run, that's a lot of hours!

Back in World of Warcraft Patch 5.3, a new mount and achievement was datamined for the Hearthsteed, and back during the alpha, we had datamined that the mount was to be a reward from a quest. Do you guys have any information on the Hearthsteed, or are we going to have to wait?
Ben: We don't have any information right now on the Hearthsteed, but stay tuned because we might have so information soon.
Ugh. The dreaded Blizzard soon!
Eric: But, real soon! Not Blizzard Soon.
So, March, but like actually May. Sounds good!
Laughter

Achievements! People have been wanting these for a long time, and they're kind of already in the game, but there's no interface for them yet. Are you going to be calling them achievements in the game or are you going to be sticking with quests?
Ben: Once upon a time, our version of achievements would be quests, and the goal was to give you a reward for every quest you complete. There's been a lot of requests for the traditional sense of achievements where they award points, and we're still looking at how that interacts with the game and if it's the right thing for Hearthstone. We don't have anything to announce regarding achievements right now though.

Game Design

You guys said at Blizzcon that there was a slight advantage in going first over second. Is this still holding true, and are there any matchups which vastly differ from the median?
Eric: It's still true. Actually, I think for every class now there's a small advantage to going first at every level.
Ben: It's about three percent better to go first over second. It's only a tiny bit better to go first at the lower levels of play.
Eric: And that being said, are there some decks which are built around going second, and might have a small advantage for going second? Yeah, that's certainly the case, but the advantage for going second in those decks I would imagine is less than one percent.

You've stated in the past that you're happy with the current set of mechanics and there's lots of room for new fun stuff without adding new ones. Are there any mechanics you are thinking of adding to the game or have you considered a Spell Taunt mechanic?
Ben: There's a lot of stuff that we can do with the current mechanics that we have, and beyond that, we can expand this game to crazy different places. We can make new keywords, new card effects, we could add new components to the game. That's one of the best things about this type of game. I don't want to tell you about any specific mechanics we might be thinking about adding for expansions and adventures, but there's definitely lot's of stuff we can do.

What about implementing a cap on the amount of armor a hero can have?
Ben: We don't have any plans to do that right now.
Eric: We're going to continue to pay attention to the meta game, and from week to week and day to day, there's always different heroes on top so if something changes with the meta and it becomes a problem, it's something we can talk about. Right now though, the meta just keeps bouncing around all over the place [so there aren't any major issues].

Some cards have races, like Dragons, but there's no interactivity with these races like what the Murlocs have. Is there any plans to add some interactivity or was this done just for flair?
Eric: So the Dragons was really done for flavor. To give you some insight into development, a couple of years ago, we were talking about adding this guy who would interact with the Dragons, but he never made the cut. Really we just kept it because the Dragons are such iconic and cool Warcraft characters that we felt needed to be labelled as dragons. We're likely to do something with that in the future, we just don't know exactly when.
Ben: One of the cool things about this game is we can go back and add those tags to different creatures. Say we wanted to create a Kobold expansion in the future and wanted to label Kobold Geomancer as a Kobold and he would interact with the Kobolds in some way, so that's kind of cool.
Eric: Just to be clear, Ben, I don't think we're going to be making a Kobold expansion.
Ben: We're going to make an expansion about the whole level one experience! (Sarcasm)

Sticking on the theme of card races, are you guys happy with the current place that Pirates are at? They don't really have the same level of cohesion as the Murlocs have.
Eric: I think we're likely to put more stuff in for all the races in the feature, but on the other hand, we feel like they don't have to play the same way. Murlocs feel that they should all hang out together and be a swarm, whereas when you think of Pirates, you don't really think of them as a cohesive bunch. So if I want to play with a Pirate deck, I might play with a couple of them together, but they're not as quite as tight a unit. So when we look at these different race groups, we feel that they don't need to have the same vibe to them.
Ben: Right!

Are there any plans to visit Anduin Wrynn's Shadow Form voiceovers? The light shall burn you is't very fitting.
Ben: We don't have any plans, but I think that's a great idea and we can definitely look into it.

Players are sometimes frustrated they can't have more than nine decks. Are there plans to give players more than nine deck slots?
Eric: So when we first started developing the game, we wanted to make this a really physical game. It lead to the box, and it lead to things feeling very physical, but it also lead to some of our UIs being built in specific ways that feel physical. So for example, right now, we have the nine decks setup in a very physical way, and it's certainly possible for us to change it in the future, and we've certainly talked about it some, but there's definitely challenges there as well. We still want it to feel physical and make decks feel like big solid pieces of the UI.
Ben: One very important thing for why we set that deck limit in the first place is because when we were first developing, we wanted to create a collection manager which players would not be scared off by. Deck building is one of the more daunting parts about playing a card game, so we tried really hard to kind of remove complexity and streamline the deck experience and give you tools for that. One of the things that got out of hand quickly is that players would build a lot of decks, and they'd forget which ones were which. We put the nine deck limit it to keep it management and understandable. We could certainly add more [slots] in the future, but that was the reasoning behind why we started with the nine deck limit now.
Eric: Yeah, but certainly imagine if you had 50 decks, and you were looking for that one deck, it can be quite difficult. To be frank, there's also something fun about going, hey I need a deck slot, and I haven't played this one in a while, so let's rip it apart and try something new. There's certainly other reasons, but there's also something fun about it as well.

Adventure Mode

Are there going to be limits to how much you can play through an adventure, or are we going to be able to play through it over and over again?
Ben: We are still working on the structure for adventures, so I don't know how it's going to end up.

Are there any unannounced rewards for adventures outside of the cards?
Eric: I think the big reward that you can expect is the cards. That's going to be the most important thing for players, it's going to change the environment, the arena, and that sort of thing. You also get to play the adventure. Not all these things are thought of what rewards the player gets out of it, but to make sure they're also super fun to play.
Ben: And these cards that we're adding, twenty to thirty of them, are super fun to play with.

Are there going to be any class specific cards?
Eric: Yeah I think we'll be seeing some class cards.
Ben: Scoop! Class Cards!

Are adventures going to be 100% against AI or will they also feature a human component.
Ben: The adventures themselves will be only against the AI. The human component comes out though when you're playing in Play mode and the Arena.

Are there plans in place for co-op adventures?
Ben: Not right now.

How are you going to make sure the cards from adventure mode are balanced, and if needed, when will we see balance patches to take care of any issues?
Eric: If we do things the way we'd like to do them, everything will be perfectly balanced when they go into play, and we won't need to change any of them. Of course though, if changes need to be made, we will be sure to make those changes.
Ben: We have some really great guys working on balance, and they test not only all the new cards, but how the cards interact with the current dominate decks, and see how they'd be used in new decks that nobody has even thought of. Hopefully we can introduce cards which are really exciting and don't end up in a degenerate state.

Regional Play

It was announced we would be able to play in other regions via Battle.net Global Play. When can we expect to see this?
Eric: Yeah, our intention is to have that available for release.

So we can play in other regions, that's great, but why can't we just play globally. Latency isn't a very large factor in a card game.
Ben: It's not really a latency issue, it's how we interface into Battle.Net, so right now, it's just not possible for us, and there's no plans for it currently.

#ESPORTS

It was stated by Hamilton Chu that you guys aren't currently working on spectator mode. We've seen a number of live tournaments that could benefit greatly from a spectator client and would further prove Hearthstone as a competitive sport. What's the plan for spectator mode so we can start producing higher quality online events like Blizzcon.
Eric: A spectator mode is certainly something that is important to us, but more important than that, is getting out the game and getting these last few features for release in, and getting the iPad client out.
Ben: It's pretty high on our list.

Are there plans to implement a tournament mode into the game itself? Maybe players could signup for a PUG tournament?
Eric: So right now, we've been watching the tournament scene evolve and it's been exciting that this thing has appeared and that there is a tournament scene. I anticipate us getting involved at some point, it's just not yet. So, no plans right now to put something like that in, but we're definitely very interested in paying a whole lot of attention to what's going on in the tournament and esports level.
Ben: And even though that we aren't actively putting that into game right this second, the tournaments and things going on right this second are informing us of things that are going to be important for us to get in.

Release

So what's left to do before release?
Eric: Our plan is to have reconnect mode, so if you get disconnect in a game, you can get back into it and you don't lose.
Ben: We're also working on card backs for ranked play, and golden heroes.
Eric: And, people might also be excited to have us working on the minion swapping bug!

Community Developers

There's some people out there in the community who are creating some awesome applications surrounding Hearthstone, and there's a lot of manual data input. Are there any plans for a community platform API like the one World of Warcraft has?
Ben: We don't have any plans for that right now, but the fact that you're asking about it, is actually useful. We're going to listen for those types of requests and see if it's something that we can prioritize.
Eric: And one of the cool things for us, is that once we've released, we can start paying attention to all these feature requests that everyone is talking about and figure out which of them are the first priority to get them into the game.

 

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