Ben Brode Reddit AMA - The Rap God Will Return, Alt Heroes, Design Challenges & More

Ben Brode Reddit AMA

Ben Brode's AMA has concluded! You can find our recap of the AMA below along with the complete list of questions and answers.


The Rap God Returns

Brode has hinted that he will be returning with another rap!

Are you going to do another rap?


Ben Brode AMA Recap

  • No card spoilers until July 24th.
  • No plans for console support at this time. It's easy enough to play on your phone or tablet.
  • More details on making more stats available to players will hopefully come later this year.
  • Average game time is 7.5 minutes. It "feels pretty good".
  • The nice part about the all heroes as Death Knights was that they were able to make awesome hero powers and not just 1 basic one.
  • No plans for content from other Blizzard titles in the game outside of Tavern Brawl or Card Backs.

Alt Heroes

  • Druid and Warlock hero skins will happen. No spoilers yet.
  • They're still working on getting Tyrande out to all the regions. They know some still haven't seen her.
  • Bringing Tyrande, and other heroes, back to regions where she's already been available isn't something they feel the need to do right away.

Cards

  • Ice Block matches some red flags for cards that maybe shouldn't be in Standard forever.
  • No Legendary Totem card is an oversight. They'll see what they can do.
  • Stonetusk Boar is, in Ben's opinion, the most guilty card when it comes to limiting future card mechanics.
  • Charge is sometimes a great mechanic. The future could see more nerfs to Charge cards due to it being the "biggest balance challenge".

Expansions

  • The reason for the delay between announcement and card reveals is due to feedback they were seeing which said hype was dying towards the release of the expansion due to the spoiler period being too long.
  • Right now they're finalizing the design for this year's third expansion, working on the first set for next year, and brainstorming ideas for the second 2018 set.

Free to Play

  • Players are still able to compete at a high level without spending money on Hearthstone. They do listen to feedback here though.
  • There will be a lot of opportunities to earn packs for the new set through upcoming events.

Game Modes

  • They have a design they are excited to try out for the new ranked experience. An announcement will come once they know how it changes through the actual implementation.
  • Spectator mode is a place where they can make a lot of improvements.
  • Card rotations won't happen outside of the Hearthstone New Year.
  • Wild cards won't get a reduction in dust cost. Bringing these cards back for sale should make it more accessible.
  • Details to come about changes to arena rewards. They'll be addressed in an upcoming patch. [What would you like to see?]
  • Nothing to say right now about tournament mode.

Experimentation

  • They've considered making a free set of cards that would rotate but it has some complexity. Exploring other similar options.
  • They've considered bringing some cards back from wild for a short period of time to change up the meta.
  • One thing they're trying internally as an experiment is changing ladder format during the last month of a set.
  • "Block constructed" wasn't as fun as they had hoped when testing internally.

The Brode

  • Ben is working on a "meme review video" of his favourite memes.
  • His favourite card is Lord Jaraxxus.
  • The Pizza menu on his desk wasn't even his! When he worked on the night crew, he shared a desk with someone from the day crew.
  • Two of his favourite decks are Control Paladin and Yogg-and-Load.
  • Gina's Pizza in Irvine: Calzone, no Ricotta, Meatballs, Cilantro, Mushroom.
  • Other card games Ben has played include: Magic, Overpower, Wyvern, Netrunner, Pokemon, Battlespirits, WoW:TCG, the Mortal Kombat TCG, Rage
  • Upon becoming Game Director for Hearthstone, Eric Dodds gave him some advice: "Don't fuck it up"
  • For lunch, Ben had Luna Grill. He got Gyros and the stuffed grape leaves.
  • Pineapple on Pizza is "Better with Pepperoni than with Canadian Bacon".

Full AMA

You can read the AMA in its entirety below.

Quote from Ben Brode

On behalf of /r/hearthstonecirclejerk, I have a genuine question for you. What is your favorite Hearthstone meme or copypasta that the community has created?

Who doesn't love memes? I'm actually working on a "meme review video" of my favorite memes. If I have to choose, I have a special fondness for 4 mana 7/7. (Source)

Can you spoil another Knights of the Frozen Throne card? Please?

Sure! ....starting on July 24th!! :) (Source)

What's the reason for announcing an expansion and not revealing new cards in the following weeks only to dump ~40 cards a few days before the expansion is released instead of having a steady stream of reveals?

We used to do a steady stream of new reveals of about 1 card a day, and it kinda dragged. The feedback we were getting was that hype was slowing down as we got closer to the expansion, and i think that's the wrong direction. Un'Goro had a dip in excitement, but ramped way up towards the release and used a similar strategy. Un'Goro felt awesome - let's see how this one goes! (Source)

In the past you mentioned cards that have been previously nerfed might be un-nerfed and moved into the Hall of Fame in the next standard rotation, what is your/Blizzard's current stance on these cards, specifically Molten Giant? #HoFMolten2018

I'm a little torn. I think there are pros and cons. The potential downside I'm most worried about is our ability to make Handlock really insane in Standard going forward with new cards, without pushing it into insanity in Wild. We'd like to make Handlock a thing again - and we can do that in Wild by moving the card that and buffing it, or by making new cards in Standard that are good in both formats. This doesn't mean we won't move/buff it, it's just something we're thinking about. (Source)

Has the team ever considered creating a set of free cards that rotates weekly? These cards would be usable in casual and maybe have a crafting discount.

Yeah, but I think there's some complexity there. There are goals you are trying to solve with that suggestion - we are looking at other options that I think hit the similar goals that are maybe a little less complex. (Source)

Has the team thought about releasing a few (1-3) cards each month to help keep the game fresh in-between sets? This would provide Blizzard with the opportunity to print hate cards like Golakka Crawler or Eater of Secret earlier or to support decks that did not pan out as you guys had hoped and could serve as "balance patches" in less severe situations.

Yes, we've considered that, limited-time cards that come back from Wild into standard for a while, and other crazy ideas to mix up the meta in between sets. I think it's one of Hearthstone's biggest opportunities. We took a stab at it recently with increasing the total number of cards each year. There are obviously downsides to that, and I think a lot of the ideas we've seen so far to tackle this problem have their own unique downsides. I don't think there's a silver bullet here, but we're trying some crazy things internally, like - what if we change the ladder format for the last month of a set? We tried "block constructed" and it wasn't as fun as we hoped, but maybe there's other formats that mix the game up in crazy ways that are really fun? (Source)

Can you confirm that each class will have a hero card and a legendary minion in Knights of the Frozen Throne?

Confirmed. (Source)

In the previous live stream you mentioned that a new ladder experience was in the works, can you share any progress on that?

We have a design that we are excited to try. I'm not sure it will be perfect out of the gate, but hopefully players will help us iterate into a great place. I wonder if just mixing it up is the right answer - like doing a new ladder format every 5 or so years. Once we know how long the feature will take to implement, we will start building it. There's a lot of iteration in that process, and once we start honing in on our final implementation, we'll communicate more about what we're planning. Our major goals here are: reduce the monthly grind for top-level players; increase progression for bottom 25% of players; get better match-making. We have another goal for improving the new player ranked experience - that's a separate change that's coming later. (Source)

What's your favourite card in the game?

Lord Jaraxxus! (Source)

What are the odds of Hearthstone coming to console?

If our players are playing a lot on console, it's the type of thing we'd consider. Right now it's pretty easy to whip out your phone or tablet anywhere - so it's not currently something we're considering. (Source)

Rotate Ice Block when?

We wouldn't be doing Wild Rotations out side of Hearthstone New Year. It's definitely a card that matches our red flags for cards that maybe shouldn't be in Standard forever. That doesn't mean we don't want combo decks or freeze mage - it's just that we want things to change each year! (Source)

When's the collab with Dre?

PLEASE IF YOU KNOW DRE, TELL HIM TO CALL ME (Source)

Ben, will the collection manager get more attention?

Yeah - We recently added way more powerful search functionality (i personally love searching for 'extra'), and deck copying/exporting. We'll continue to add features and refine current ones. (Source)

can the card reveal livestreams show the non golden version of the cards?

I will pass your message along to the folks who set those up! (Source)

Hi Ben! Something I've always thought could be utilized more, especially on the pro level, is an increase in cards that focus on board position. Flametongue and Meteor are fantastic cards that can actually be more valuable if you put some thought in during previous turns.

Do you all expect to use this basic mechanic of Hearthstone more in the future, or maybe even in KotFT? Why have there been so few cards focusing on minion placement in previous sets?

Yep, there will be more minion-placement cards. Glad you like the mechanic! (Source)

Can you give us an update on Hero skins?

We will eventually make a new Druid and Warlock hero. :) I can't spoil how we plan on making them available just yet.

Regarding Tyrande - our goal was to find alternate ways for regions that were not eligible for the offer to get access to Tyrande and we've been working with our regional offices to make that happen. We've already done it in many regions - seems like we haven't hit yours yet and I'll follow up on that. (Source)

Are you ever planning on making more stats available for players? Stuff like highest ranking ever achieved and in which season, most played class, class winrates, etc.

Yes. I don't really like "profile" pages, but I want to do this in a different way. Hopefully more details later this year. Although, I'm not sure it will be handled the same in every region. (Source)

What are your goals with the upcoming ladder rework?

  1. Reduce grind for top-level players.
  2. Increase progression for players stuck at rank 20-ish.
  3. Get better matchmaking for bottom 25% players.
  4. Make the experience better for new players.

We're hoping to make 1-3 better first. #4 is a separate feature for us and is coming later. (Source)

What are your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenging is making those things better without losing what we like about our current system. Our current system is SUPER clear about what you need to do to rank up, and I think that's upside. I'm pretty confident we can do both here, though. (Source)

Any idea when you’ll have any news to share regarding this?

We have a design we are excited to try out, once we know how it changes through implementation, we are going to announce the details. Hoping for later this year. (Source)

What is the official end date and time of the double quest gold?

You know, I'm not sure. I kind of feel like Ragnaros has got a big head about the whole thing. Someone needs to take him down a peg. Like, c'mon, chill out, man. (Source)

Do you have any plans for improving the spectating experience?

Yes. This is definitely a place we have a lot of room for improvement. (Source)

Longtime fan of the priestly dark arts here. I've always wanted to make Shadowform (and a more aggressive Priest deck with Shadowbombers and stuff) work but it seems like it never really does.

Do us shadow Priests have anything to look forward to in the near future? Will Shadowform ever be viable somehow?

Some day we will make Shadow Priest work, together. (Source)

Also, as a fellow pizza connoisseur, what was your favorite Japanese pizza?

That pizza menu wasn't mine! It was someone else's desk. I was on the Night Crew when that shot was taken and I shared a desk with someone who was on the day crew. (Source)

What's been your favorite deck to play in hearthstone's history (including open beta)?

I've always loved Control Paladin. I also loved Yogg-and-Load. (Source)

Also what kind of pizza did blizzard offices order most often when you delivered to them back in the day?

Gina's Pizza, in Irvine.

I get the Calzone, no Ricotta, Meatballs, Cilantro, Mushroom.

Also, get the Rasta Salad with Cilantro dressing. MMMMM (Source)

Hi Ben, what are your thoughts of Hearthstone being too expensive for the average player? Will there be some sort of compromise to keep the game affordable and player numbers healthy? Thanks!

We are definitely seeing players compete at high levels without spending any money at all. If you want literally every card in the game, that's tougher to do, but we are listening to community feedback here. We recently made pretty big changes to the way our Legendary drops work in packs, and are giving everyone a free Legendary Death Knight Hero with the new set. There will also be a lot of opportunities to earn packs of the new set, through some upcoming events and through the single player missions that will be free with the new set. (Source)

Do you play any other card games outside of hearthstone (gwent shadowverse eternal mtg etc...)?

I have played so many card games in my life - Magic, Overpower, Wyvern, Netrunner, Pokemon, Battlespirits, WoW:TCG, the Mortal Kombat TCG, Rage.... I freaking love this genre. (Source)

I want to express my concerns about the lack of a legendary Totem in Hearthstone.
We have a legend card for every race except for Totem race.
When would you bless us, the Totem Shaman players, with a legendary Totem card??

This is a gross oversight on our part. I will see what I can do. (Source)

As a director of Hearthstone, what has been the most difficult job you had to do while being in charge?

Trying to figure out how to be a Game Director. It's kind of terrifying.

The advice Dodds gave me: "Don't fuck it up" (Source)

Do you have plans for reducing costs of dust for wild cards,? it's painful to craft any wild card just because you can only use in one mode.

There is already a perception that your cards reduce in value over time because you can't use them in Standard. I think that's not a healthy perception for the game - and this kind of change would exasperate the problem. We are going to bring back Wild cards for sale, which should make Wild more accessible. (Source)

Have you considered (or tested) changing core values in the game, like player health, starting hand size, deck size etc, since the game released ?

Deck size is the one we've discussed. But we aren't currently considering any changes. Game length has remained remarkably consistent over every meta, and it feels pretty good (about 7.5 minutes on average). (Source)

Do you have any plans for adding another woman avatars for classes?

Yes! (Source)

Also would it be another opportunity to obtain Tyrande Whisperwind for a new player?

Eventually we'd like to find ways to get things like old Hero Skins and card backs back into the hands of newer players, but this isn't something that I think we need to do right away and we have a couple other big fish to fry. (Source)

Thanks for doing this AMA señor Brode. As someone who played lots of quest rogue (a more casual version without including Stonetusk Boar and Southsea Deckhand) I was a little bummed to hear that the quest was going to be be nerfed. I felt that this was a great opportunity to instead address Charge and its place in the game. It feels like another cool deck took a hit because Charge hasn't aged well in Hearthstone. How do you feel about charge as a mechanic/keyword?

Charge sometimes is great. I love the Hogriders, and I love the Charged Devilsaur. Charge makes you feel powerful, and that's important.

But you're right, it's been our biggest balance challenge. I'm not sure what the future of Charge will be. We might just keep nerfing Charge cards over time. (Source)

Do you play other blizz games like overwatch or wow? What is the relationship between the developing teams of different games?

Yeah, definitely. We are very close. I often have lunch with the directors of the other teams. A lot of people on the other teams meet up with each other to share ideas. (Source)

In your opinion, which card is most guilty at limiting future card mechanics?

Stonetusk Boar (Source)

Donais just walked by and I asked him this question - He said "Boar, but also Prep, Innervate, and Malygos." (Source)

What is the teams current stance on additional, full classes?

A class needs unique "space" - i.e. things they can do that nobody else can do. Only Paladins get Divine Shield, or "setting Attack/Health", or 1-mana Secrets. Mages are the best at AoE and Blasty single-target spells.

I think we are already having trouble carving out awesome space for 9 classes. I want us to find more unique things for Warlock to do, for example. I think adding a 10th class makes this problem much more difficult, as we could be using that space to make our core 9 classes more fun.

Also, you would be less likely to open cards of your favorite class in card packs, the more that we have in the game.

Something I often think about - what is the 'perfect' number of classes? What would be too many? Is 15 too many? How about 50? I kind of think the number even be less than 9, except that we have some important fantasy considerations. (Source)

is the dream really dead now? Are Death Knights, Monks and Demon Hunters ever going to be able to represent themselves in Hearthstone?

I'm actually super excited about the way Death Knights are coming to Hearthstone! Making a Death Knight starting hero means making an ultra simple Hero Power.... but now we've been able to create much crazier hero powers.... and we've made NINE different Death Knights. I'm super pumped. (Source)

Brode, what's the takeaway of the team regarding Un'Goro? Why do you guys think it was so successful and what did the team learn from it to make the next expansions even better?

One of the biggest things that helped was the rotation. I think adding the Hall of Fame and hitting those 6 cards allowed us to see the "freshest" meta yet. This is a bit more of a challenge for the last set of the year. I think if anything, we could have gone lighter mechanically, and saved some of our new mechanics for set 3 of the Year of the Mammoth.

But I think the team did an awesome job on the set, yeah. Dinosaurs! (Source)

Have you ever played Magic? And if so, what would you say are some things that exist in magic, that could eventually be incorporated into Hearthstone?

Yes, love Magic. There's a lot to learn from a game that has a 20+ year history. Not many games manage that, and I'm hoping to grow old with them together. :) (Source)

A while ago, arena rewards were discussed, and how getting common cards is such a "feelsbadman" reward. Is this still being looked at?

Yes, we are planning on making a change in an upcoming patch. Details to come. (Source)

What are your thoughts on the current affordability of Hearthstone?

It's something we continually evaluate. We're currently seeing some players getting large collections without paying a cent, and that's pretty awesome. We've recently made big changes to the way Legendaries drop in packs, as well as giving everyone a free Legendary Death Knight Hero in the new expansion. (Source)

I have a question, is there a tournament mode on the works?

We've been thinking about it a lot. It's a feature we think makes sense for Hearthstone, but we have nothing else to say regarding it right now. (Source)

Given that we've had the Diablo-themed Cow King Tavern Brawl, will we see similar special events or perhaps even expansions included in Hearthstone from other Blizzard properties?

For instance, would love to see the Overwatch heroes and lore characters as Hearthstone cards/heroes, or perhaps... hero cards?

Cool idea! I don't think we'd see stuff from other games outside of Tavern Brawls and Card Backs, though. (Source)

What did you have for lunch today?

I had Luna Grill. I got the Gyros. Oh, and the stuffed grape leaves. (Source)

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work at Blizzard, but isn't sure on what skills they should develop?

This might help.... but then again it might not: https://bbrode.svbtle.com/how-to-get-a-job-in-games (Source)

Would you ever consider separating the mobile and desktop clients to make the desktop client more feature rich? Lobbies, Tournament modes, 2v2? Would love to see more features, would pay for them too!

I don't feel like we have basically ever been restricted on cool new features due to the parity we shoot for between platforms. We have wildly talented UI Designers who are up for the challenge. (Source)

I wanted to ask why the decision was made to make Hero Cards of the hero (Rexxar, for example) behave in a way that ignores your alternate hero portrait?

I couldn't care either way, but I'm seeing many people have qualms with (or at least, questions about) the way it was handled. They paid $10 to hide Rexarr and rock Alleria, so I think they're a bit bummed that the card doesn't shift with the deck to become "Deathstalker Alleria" or something. Was it due to the extra work it would require? Would it cause inconsistency and/or confusion?

I think that Hero Cards are an astounding idea, but I can see where people are disappointed in this unique case where they're themed off of our hero entities (Rexxar/Alleria the Hunter class, opposed to say, Hemet Nessingwary as a Hero Card replacement).

Will these Hero Cards ever be non-heroes? Will they ever be depictions of Alleria, Magni, Medivh, etc.?

Thank you so much!!

Hero cards are a new thing that replaces your hero, not transforms them. It's a bit weird because these 9 hero cards feel like a transformation, but it's possible to turn from Anduin -> Jaraxxus -> Deathstalker Rexxar -> Jaina DK Hero -> Uther DK Hero, for example. (assuming you do some weird thoughtsteal shenanigans.) I think seeing the art of the hero helps you understand what's going on in the game, and what Hero Power your opponent is going to be using from now on. If you play Deathstalker Rexxar as Jaina and then it looks like Jaina still but with the Rexxar power... I dunno, that seems very weird to me. (Source)

What do you think of pineapples on pizza?

Better with Pepperoni than with Canadian Bacon (Source)

When working on expansions, how much of it is done in advance? Do you work expansions ahead of the current set or even the upcoming set?

We are nearly done with design on set 3 of the year of the mammoth. We are hard at work on the first set of next year, and are brainstorming ideas for the second set of 2018. (Source)

Are there any card designs that you've either not been able to get to work (a la Patches in TGT) or that haven't found a place in any set so far?

Yes (Source)

If so, could you share your favorite scrapped card ideas with us?

No (Source)

When will we be able to buy Naxx again?

Soon! Hoping for sometime this summer. (Source)

Are you going to do another rap?


(Source)

Any internship opportunities at Blizzard/Hearthstone?

Yes! https://careers.blizzard.com/en-us/students (Source)


Original Post

Quote from Ben Brode

Hey there! In case you're new around these parts, my name is Ben Brode, and I'm the Game Director on Hearthstone.

I'm responsible for the overall design of the game, as part of a team of badass folks. I started at Blizzard in 2003, and started working on Hearthstone in 2008. Nowadays I spend most of my times in meetings, talking about the sick designs that our talented team comes up with. I tend to stay pretty active here on Reddit and on Twitter (@bdbrode), but I am excited to solicit questions directly – Reddit /AMA’s format is super cool. Having a dialog with the Hearthstone community is very important to me and the development team, and this is one of the easiest ways to facilitate that. I think Hearthstone is at its best when we work together to improve the game. Let's chat!

EDIT: Thanks for coming everyone! Lots of great questions! I answered as many as I could in 2 hours, but HOLY CRAP There's like 1500 questions!! I tried to hit the ones with the most upvotes. Sorry if I didn't get to yours! Thanks again! :)

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