Whispers of the Old Gods Developer Q&A Transcript, This Week in Card Reveals

Season 5 Ending Next Week, Bluddshed's Starter Builds for S6
HotD Finals & New Observer Interface, Murky In-Depth Tips & Tricks
Resto Shaman Artifact Effect, Character Trial Boost, Blue Tweets, Setup of the Month

Last Week in Card Reveals

This week we saw 12 card reveals including the last old god, Yogg-Saron, Hope's End. This is down from 13 the week before and 14 the week before that. Will we only see 11 cards get revealed next week? To date, 57 cards have been revealed from the Old Gods expansion.

See below for all of last week's reveals and to see all currently released cards organized by class, head on over to our Whispers of the Old Gods Guide.

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Whispers of the Old Gods Developer Q&A Transcript

Back on March 9th 2016 we were invited to Blizzard HQ in Irvine, California to discuss Whispers of the Old Gods with the Hearthstone team and other websites. Below is a complete transcription of the developer Q&A session. Be warned, it's a long read.

If there's one thing you takeaway from this Dev Q&A, it's that Yong Woo wants a Snowchugger Plushie. Does anyone else feel the same way?

Quote from Blizzard

Jason Wilson (Gamesbeat): With the old gods, this is something that people guessed and guessed correctly. Are we going to see brought into the game some more tribes and are we going to see newer cards like this Corrupted Healbot that help replace cards that fade out from Goblins and Gnomes.

Ben Brode: Well the Healbot I would say doesn't say does not serve the same function as the Corrupted Healbot. We didn't focus on replacing all the mechs, we really want Standard to be different every year, so we don't think it's right to duplicate the things that rotated out in the new sets otherwise it will feel the same. We really want to to be a constantly changing environment so we mostly looked for opportunities for minions that we really loved and had great ideas for how we could corrupt them and turn them into different versions of themselves. That's what we were thinking about.

Yong Woo: It's really fun to think about what is the evil twin version of something look like right. Its like the nega something or you know for Corrupted Healbot for instance, he serves an entirely different purpose from the Antique Healbot and even the Validated Doomsayer risk is a Doomsayer. They're fun because you can kinda see the similarity in that they do something, a 0/7 that will do something the turn after, but the functionality they serve is completely different. So you know they aren't here to replace them from a mechanics perspective, its really us having a fun time imagining what the bizzaro version of these cards will be.

Kat (reddit): You said the patch with additional deck slots was like next week, does that include deck recipes?

Ben Brode & Yong Woo: Yes.

Yong Woo: We'll also be going live in Thailand which will be really cool. It's a lot of work.

Kat (USGamer): Could you talk a bit about how important this is for setting the tone for the series going forward and how exactly will set the tone going forward.

Ben Brode: You're talking about Whispers of the Old Gods as far as setting the tone for -

I mean, I kinda see it as Hearthstone 2.0, you're introducing the whole new metagame and everything and this is like the first expansion that's really setting the stage for everything that's to come.

Ben Brode: Well, a lot of the work that we've been doing for Standard and Wild is been UI focus so we've lots of, we do a good job at explaining what the new formats are for people who aren't that familiar or haven't been reading about things we've been announcing. We have to give you the ability to convert decks between the two formats and to switch between the two formats so we've been doing a lot of stuff there and in that Hearthstone will feel somewhat different when you login in this world because you'll have a lot more ability to choose how you want to play. But also, Whispers of the Old Gods is pretty different from things that we've done before, it's darker but it still has that Hearthstone charm I think. It will definitely feel different but we're always trying to surprise and delight players by doing different things so this is not necessarily a new direction for Hearthstone as far as this darkness, but it's a little something different.

Yong Woo: Yeah we're not going to just keep getting darker.

I mean more about design terms im talking about laying the foundation for the rest of the series because like I said, you're starting a whole new metagame -

Ben Brode: Well hopefully we start a new metagame with every rotation of Standard so I think that we're going to see things change more frequently in that format, which is the goal. I think that's just going to be constant from here on out, you're going to see a more dynamic metagame in that format.

Reynad: Are you guys comfortable with the content release speed or schedule? A lot of people in the community have kinda felt like they're really excited every time a new expansion comes out but they kind of digest it a little too quickly relative to the speed at which expansions come out so I don't know if you guys are still set on the 3 releases per year thing.

Ben Brode: I don't know. That's what we're obviously doing right now. I think are, I could see us continuing this, I could see us doing something different, but there's, here's the things we're thinking about when we think about these decisions. The time during which right after an expansion releases is crazy, I think a lot of players like that in the game. As things calm down and a meta establishes more, I think there's a certain player who really likes that time as well when it's more about tuning decks and making incremental increases. I think the difference between Patron,  Priest , Shield Block, and post Shield Block is pretty dramatic and that's the kind of thing that happens in that period of the game. So making sure like, an example, I don't think we'd release an expansion every month for example, we could release much smaller expansions more frequently but then you'd never get that creative time. The question is, what is exactly the right time? I think there's times where we have unfortunately not been consistent either, I think the gap between League of Explorers and Whispers of the Old Gods is longer than maybe we would have liked but I don't know if we can make them more consistent, I don't know if that makes them better. We also don't want to - get too long, that's also a problem. We're paying attention to the different types of players. Players who play a lot are going to be the side of we want more faster, but there are players who, I mean I actually know a player who quit as soon as we released Naxxramas. They were like this is too much, I can't deal. So there are players no matter how fast we release will be overwhelmed and say this is too fast for me so picking the sweet spot is difficult. I don't know that we're at the right spot right now and it's something we do talk about but it's tricky, it will be a big change to go from 3 to 4 so we want to make those decisions very carefully.

Tim (PCGamer): Does the new set contain any other new keywords, we saw the C'Thun mechanic but is there anything equivalent to Discover or Inspire? 

Ben Brode: There isn't a bolded Keyword in that way, there are some other mechanical sub-themes that we will be announcing closer to the release of the expansion.

Yong Woo: Yeah, we're really excited about making cards that makes you want to build a deck around it, so for example, some of the old gods, they're very different from C'Thun but they really inspire you once you look at them you're like oh my god, I'm going to build a Yogg-Saron deck or whatever and kind of make you focus your deck design.

So do they have like equivalent synergy cards to the ones we've seen and the decks we've been playing with.

Yong Woo: They work very differently.

Ben Brode: Yeah C'Thun has got the most support throughout the set, there's nothing like that with the other gods.

Frodan (Reynad's Kitchen): What cards are you guys looking at currently because you guys mentioned that you're evaluating the Classic set, so what cards are you guys currently looking at, it doesn't have to be final at all, just some of the ideas you have that might be compromised in the future and as a result you are thinking of adjusting.

Ben Brode: I'm gonna answer a slightly different question. I think we in general, it is frustrating to lose the cards that you know will be nerfed, as somebody who knows what will be nerfed it is frustrating to lose to those cards. After I got Warsong Commander'd many times, knowing that card would be nerfed, I was, it's different, right? When there's some discussion whether or not this card is too powerful to go, it feels pretty different so we're going to announce the specific changes closer to the patch that contains those changes. We're also still discussing what the changes should be, I'll tell you that philosophically, we're looking at cards that are very metagame defining that are going to, if they don't change, keep Standard from reaching its goals which is being a dynamic format that changes yearly. So that's the kind of, we're looking at, we're also looking at a greater percentage of Druid cards because so many of the cards that they're using are from the Basic and Classic sets, so in a way that's pretty out of line with the number of cards in the sets that the other classes are using very frequently and so it's very hard for us to make exciting expansion cards for those classes, for Druid, for that reason. Those are kinda the two biggest categories of things that we're looking at for changing Classic and Basic cards.

You guys are also open to just redesigning as well as opposed to just to just changing like stats and numbers.

Ben Brode: It's kind of a subtle difference, we're open to changing things in ways that make them better but sometimes that's easier to do with a number change or adding more text or changing the text slightly.

Phil (From Twitter Mostly): You mentioned that you're going to announce the cards that are changing closer to the patch that changes them. Does that mean those changes will be implemented prior to Whispers of the Old Gods?

Yong Woo: That will be around the same time, the exact timing we'll reveal later on.

Ozzy (Shacknews): What kind of challenges has designing this expansion presented that you're now designing for two different meta-games, Standard and Wild?

Ben Brode: We have to, it frees it up a little bit for Standard, here's an example. We don't want to make a card that's like broken in either format like really break the format, but, the power level of Wild will be higher in some ways because they have more cards to choose from so they'll choose the most powerful of the cards they have available and Standard will be less powerful because they have less cards to choose from. If there's a card that interacts with another card in a way that makes that deck very powerful, that deck might not be powerful enough in Wild to be concerning but would have been to powerful for Standard to warp the metagame. There's a specific card we cut from The Grand Tournament that was in the intro cinematic actually it was that late in the process and that interacted in a way that was just a little too powerful with some of the cards from Goblins vs Gnomes. Now that those cards are relegated to Wild, that card would be totally fine in Standard right now and it would be powerful enough in Wild but because that format is more powerful it wouldn't be too powerful. So it frees us up to do those kinds of things, there's some of those category designs but it doesn't break the door off, we're not going to do things that make Wild way less fun.

You keep talking about how you wanted an evolving meta-game with Standard. How determined are you to eliminate as many current archetypes from decks as possible now with Standard?

Ben Brode: Euh the thing that we think is most important is that standard is able to change every year. So if there are things in Standard that are very tier 1 level powerful right now that if we don't change anything that could remain that for many years in a row those are the kinds of things that we would be changing

So you're not looking at standards release as ok like lets wipe as many archetypes away so people can do new things?

Ben Brode: There's two categories here right, whispers of the old gods is going to enable lots of new deck types and new stuff. i think that standard having Curse of Naxxramas and goblins vs gnomes gone will also cause a lot of old decks to no longer be as powerful and then we're also hitting with some nerfs and overall we hope that this kind of three-pronged thing will end up with a meta-game that's able to change constantly.

Yong Woo: Yeah it's not like its a binary thing, right, it's either like you're gonna play with all the new decks and you're not gonna play with any of the old decks. its all about providing the right type of tools so now that in a format like standard if you're interested in that kind of shifting meta it'll be a larger portion of that format so those tools will be more felt so we're just really looking forward to players trying out the different things with whispers, in standard and really mix up that meta that way.

Ben Brode: We're trying a lot of stuff and if this doesn't work we're gonna change it and try different stuff. So if we make some nerfs and there are some decks that come out of this and they are just the same thing as before and it feels like man this is never going to go away we might have to do more creative things to approach reaching our goals with standard

Talking about arena what kind of considerations did you take into designing the old gods set. Did you take a look at card rarities or anything for balancing arena?

Ben Brode: Yes. We definitely test arena a lot. Specifically for Whispers of the Old Gods - we gave everybody C'Thun because we want you to be excited when you open a Cultist. If we didn't you'd open a cultist and be like 'what's a C'Thun!?' a hacky legendary card and i can't even use this? it feels kinda bad. When we were testing this out in the arena we were having this problem a lot because the cultists are often common, or lower rarities, C'Thun is obviously legendary so you don't see him that often so actually the C'Thun kind of mini-game - all the cards that are related to him actually aren't in the arena because it just felt so bad to see those cards without the payoff of that.

Disguised Toast: So the time frame between the league of explorers announcement and of release was only a week and it was really well received by everyone and now everyone is kinda expecting the same thing for this expansion. Even Kripp was talking about how he expects it out within the week. What was the kind of reasoning for announcing it a month and a half in advance?

Yong Woo: One of the things that we really value on our team is that we constantly mix up the way we do things, we never want to be predictable. We don't want to get to a point where it's like OK, they're announcing this day so it's gonna patch on that day and then it's gonna launch specifically on that day and you can just map it all out. So there are pro's and cons of doing it different ways. We really enjoyed the way LOE was launched and how it came out right away. The way we're set up we're really excited about working with members of the community to slowly get that excitement going with the different cards starting from this Friday there's going to be more and more cards released until the launch. and that kind of excitement is really fun too. People get to vote for different streamers and figure out in what order these cards get revealed and get to participate in that, i think there's value in that too, so we're trying that out this time.

Ben Brode: Also, the difference in time between when ALL of the League of Explorers cards became available and the announcement was actually 5 or 6 weeks. Because the last wing was opening 6 weeks later than the announcement. So because of that staged release it actually made a little more sense for the League of Explorers but for an expansion i think it's better to have a little bit more time..

I want to follow up on Katie's question: When you said that the C'Thun cards aren't gonna be in the arena, would that apply to any other cards that are specific to any old gold legendaries you release?

Ben Brode: We're not talking much about the other old gods.

Amaz: I remember in a previous set you guys had the new set in the arena before cards were accessible, are there any plans to do that this time?

Yong Woo: I mean we've tried stuff in all sorts of different ways right, with Goblins vs Gnomes that's what we did with the arena. And then with the Grand Tournament we actually had the Tavern Brawl with the two pre-made decks. So we like trying new things to introduce a set to the players. This time around there's a LOT happening, i mean we got the Old Gods coming out and then on top of that we have set rotation coming out and this whole new set of UI's you need to become accustomed to now that there are two different modes. Overall we're very cautious of the complexity that a player is going to face, especially if they are maybe a returning player or newer players. So maybe we contain that a little bit more. That's currently what we're thinking of.

To follow up on that, what about random effects like we got Malorne from Webspinner, will we be seeing those cards [Old Gods cards] coming out from unstable portal before they're officially out?

Ben Brode: I don't think so

Yong Woo: You will not be getting any previews of the cards unless i screw up my job.

Noxious: Have you given any more thought to maybe accessing some of the old content after it's been rotated out. Like old cardbacks and the older adventures? How is that going to work?

Yong Woo: So for the older adventures if you already own it obviously you can always play it. If you are, let's say a new player and you don't own it yet and you want those cards for tournaments or the Wild format you can obviously always craft it. In fact if you want specific cards it's actually an easier way to obtain those cards. As for the missions themselves, we love creating them and we love playing them, we just think that at least in the beginning there is enough content for players to chew on so we want to remove that from the equation, but we're not gonna take all the code and like put it into the dumpster and set it on fire. So we might do something with them in the future but we'll be thinking about that.

Will new deck recipes be introduced on a regular basis or is what we get next week just what we get?

Ben Brode: Right now our plan is to update them with every new expansion but it's a pretty new feature so we're gonna see how it's received and what's the right cadence is for that.

Yong Woo: We love feedback.

ApolloHave you been testing them out on people who have never played Hearthstone and what their reaction has been to these Deck recipes?

Ben Brode: Yeah we do user testing for big UI features like deck recipes and the new formats. So far it's been pretty positive. For players who come to Hearthstone and are overwhelmed by deck creation which i think is one of the hardest chunks to get over for new players it definitely gives you some confidence in that system, and a kind of place to build off-of to build a good deck.

Yong Woo: It's actually really fun to do, we get these people in and they get into a room and there's like a video camera and you can watch the screen and their face and sometimes you build these UI that you think are totally obvious. You just gotta click on this and click on that and life goes on, and then sometimes it's like watching a trainwreck especially in the earlier stages. But we keep doing that, thats why we keep doing these things right, then we learn and we improve and it performes better and hopefully by the time it gets to you guys it's feeling really good

I have a follow up on that, is this also a way to onboard younger players who may not understand the principles of deck building yet?

Yong Woo: So learning by example is one of the best ways to learn right. These decks are not designed to be like the best decks that's going to win the Hearthstone World Championship. They're designed to inspire creativity and also give you some guidance. For instance when we showed you the deck recipe screenshot earlier for Warlock there's some kind of different archetypes than you might become familiar with, Maybe it's handlock, maybe it's what we like to call Zoo. So they're gonna look at that, they're gonna try it out and it'll inspire them and they'll learn and then hopefully from there they're gonna kinda build on top of that and improve that deck. So it might be for younger players or it might just be for older but new players. I think it will help them learn that concept of deck building.

FrodanSo because we're introducing a new format i think i agree with the idea it can be extremely confusing for new players and i think it's a really opportune moment to introduce education, you guys are doing that with deck recipes. However i think in the macro scale, not just deck recipes but education about hearthstone in general. A lot of times you go to games, you have the opportunity to play and an opportunity to watch. There also tab? that directly help you learn. I don't think there's access to that in hearthstone, it's actually extremely external, you have to Google it you have to do your own individual research and that creates a huge barrier. I know a lot of personal friends, they don't know where to look and it becomes a very daunting task. Do you guys have any plans on being able to breach that gap, to help educate. I think content creators would be really appreciative of it and just in general players would be very receptive to access that within the game.

Ben Brode: I totally agree with you, i think it is an opportunity for Hearthstone to explore things like that. We have been having discussions along those lines but that's not ready to be announced in any fashion yet, it's still in the brainstorming phase but i agree that's an opportunity for us.

For deck recipes can you talk more about card replacements, the blog post had a screenshot that shows Bloodmage Thalnos being replaced by Amani Berserker and Haunted Creeper which was very inappropriate. Can you talk a bit about how you choose cards?

Ben Brode: So the way that we've improved it, before it was a system that 'You need a two drop, here's every two drop in the game'. Instead what we've done is analyze the cards from how good they are in a vacuum. If we don't know what kind of deck you are playing, what's a good card that you would feel good about playing on turn 2 or turn 3. So we looked at our metrics for how cards perform in the arena because you have less control of some synergies there and we did a bunch of tweaking by hand and came up with a kind of a stack rank or list of every card in the game. And so it'll look through your collection and say this is the best two drop you have, in a vacuum, so we're gonna recommend that as a replacement for the one you don't have. It may not perfectly compliment the deck that you're building but it's gonna be solid. It will be the best choice you have in the vacuum. So if you're building kind of a general deck it will be very useful, if you're trying to find a card that's kind of the closest analog to the one you don't have it may not be the exact right thing. But it's definitely going to end up with a better deck than the old tool did.

Yong Woo: Yeah if you're more of an advanced player that has a more specific vision about replacing those cards there's is a mechanism to do that actually manually, so maybe you wan't more spell power you're gonna be able to focus on that. If you're kind of just a newer player and you are missing a chunk of the collection and wanna fill them in and get playing this will kind of give you the value minion that you need to get going.

Are you gonna use the expansion to revise the quest system so that some of them are a bit more, fun? So they're not so based on like having to always win. So if somebody loses quite a bit...

Ben Brode: We have been talking a lot about quests. Depending on what format you're playing, your winrate will be about 50%, so the difference between winning two games and playing four games is not, time-wise they average out to be the same. So, I don't think that we're in a really bad space right now with quests, I think we can do better, I think that there's opportunities to make quests more fun and more variant. But we're still working on that kind of stuff it's not, nothing will be changing with the expansion.

Yong Woo: We're definitely thinking about it and talking about it, we just don't have anything to announce right now.

What about progression? I think a lot of people are hitting the point where they have level 60, they're hitting 500 ranked wins, and it's not as uncommon as it was like 6 months ago. Do you have any plans to increase that, just because it feels like it should get tracked. I lose motivation as soon as I get a golden hero, I don't wanna play that class I wanna play another class. And maybe that's okay, that's encouraging diversity, but it feels a little bit like a waste, you're just gonna cap it for no reason. Could maybe introduce lifetime achievements.

Ben Brode: Yeah the trick... we could, it's very easy for us to just show you wins beyond 500, the trick would be that if we wanted to incentivize like 1000 wins or something, and we decided to do that a year or two from now, you would just be given that, it wouldn't be incentivizing you to achieve that reward. So the question is will we ever want to add pillars beyond those? If so, we probably should not start counting right now, I think, and if not, then we probably should start counting right now. It's just hard to say for sure what our opinion will be three or four years from now, so I don't like cutting off options that much.

Yong Woo: And the amount people play varies dramatically, depending on the type of players. I mean obviously you guys are, you know, professionals, and you guys are the upper end of the spectrum. I think the amount that crowd plays is dramatically different from the rest, so we're kind of trying to figure out that balance between having some of these goals that are so astronomical that I thnk maybe are daunting for some players versus satisfying the needs of the people who're playing a lot. It's something we're continuing to work on.

When deck recipes are put into the game, will the old deck creation system be going away entirely or will I still be able to have the game suggest that I put the Captain's Parrot into my deck?

Ben Brode: The old system was upgraded to this so it will put the best cards, there's some randomness to it, it looks at the X best cards, randomises them and chooses one to throw into your deck. But yes if you were hoping for a mega crappy deck to play with my friends that has been changed.

Yong Woo: I mean, it'll still be fun if you want to do that mode with your friends, just you guys will have a better, higher value deck, it comes out better, etc etc. I think it'll be fine.

Based on that algorithm what is the "best card"?


Mike Donais: In addition to the changing suggesting cards, sometimes you'll take out a 2 drop and it'll look at your deck and it'll say 'oh you have nothing that costs more than 2 we're gonna give you some lategame'. And it'll surprise you by suggesting like an 8 drop or something, a 6 drop. So don't expect to always get a 2 drop replaced with another 2 drop. So to answer your question more specifically though, it does  the mana curve, looking to make sure you have cheap spells, medium size minions, expensive minions, some number of spells, it looks at your class, there's a huge variety. Some cards like Zombie Chow and Tyrion are high on the list though. The cards that you would expect to be high in Arena.

Yong Woo: And again, a lot of the system is there to inspire diversity and experimentation, so it's not designed to always optimise for maximum winrate, or whatever. Don't be surprised, for instance if you ask for a suggestion for the same card maybe you'll get two different answers. Maybe there's some element there that encourages diversity.

Just curious, so under this algorithm would Dr. Boom always be suggested for the 7 slot?

Ben Brode: If you are building a Standard deck it will only suggest Standard cards, if you're building a Wild deck it will suggest cards from the whole pool. I assume Dr. Boom would be very high on the list.

Are we gonna see more Inspire?

Ben Brode: Certainly not within The Old Gods, no Inspire in this.

Yong Woo: It's darker times.


Is there Discover, then?

Ben Brode: I don't want to talk about anything besides that there's no Inspire.

Talking about the flavour and how it's darker, Naxxramas was very very dark and then you said you wanted to go in a lighter direction so you came up with GvG, TGT, very light and fluffy, now you're going back to dark. Do you like that kind of fluctuation, showing off all the Warcraft universe there?

Ben Brode: Yeah, certainly! Yeah, I think it's awesome.

Yong Woo: Yeah, I think it's one of the really fun things about being able to work on Hearthstone and play Hearthstone, honestly. Can go do like, steampunk, technology, robot gnome thing and then we can go right into those adventure movies with like the hat and whips thing and now we're kind of more on the creepy, darkness, driving everyone crazy but everyone's weird but still cute thing. It's really fun, we get to really flex different parts of our creativity.

Do you feel like you test enough, like you know whats going to happen whenever new cards are released in a patch?

Ben Brode: We definitely test a lot and I think it is impossible to mirror just a thousand people you have testing constantly over many months - we're never going to reach that point. So we're going to miss stuff, we target specific cards [ones which are very dangerous]. We don't need to test Ice Rager a lot, we don't need to focus on that. We can try and use our testing hours on things that are the most risky. We also try and push things. If we're very safe on every card, we'd come out and there wouldn't be any new cards, they'd all be bad, there's no risk on any of these. So we definitely take specific cards and push them and then we get them as close to that line that we think is comfortable and sometimes we miss. Sometimes we miss by 10% and it's very good and other times we have to come in and nerf things. But we definitely try to get more and more confidence, we test for months on the new sets.

Yong Woo: Yeah I can tell you right now our design team is super talented, they work very hard and I know that sounds like oh its you, you're playing a ton of Hearthstone games but it takes a lot of effort and time and you know energy to do this. The other thing is I don't think we want to ship an expansion that is solved. Oh hey, here's the Whispers of the Old Gods, here's the 6 dominant decks, here's how it's going to play out. I think its more about pushing all of the different cards to make sure they aren't out of control and then to make sure there are toolkits in the set such that if certain things get out of control, players can find those toolkits and then find the answers to those puzzles we're making for each other, right? So you really want to look at it from that perspective, you want to ship that set with these toolkits so that people can break each other's puzzles instead of knowing exactly what the solution is.

What drew you to the Old Gods, it's kind of an area of opportunity in Warcraft lore to build upon.

Ben Brode: We actually had the, we were in this room and pulled up that white board, and people just yell out ideas. What if we did this? And we write it up on the board. It was years ago when we were brainstorming ideas for Goblins vs Gnomes, and Old Gods went up on the board. It immediately gets us excited because its, Hearthstone takes a different look at Warcraft. It's a very high up look from things. We can explore wider themes I think? Old Gods is such a wide theme and it immediately inspires so many cool takes on that stuff plus it gives us an opportunity to explore new lore in a lot of ways. Some of the old gods have never been seen, we don't even know what some of them look like. Hearthstone is going to be the first time we get to look at some of these, and that's awesome. So there was a lot of passion for a long time where really we were just waiting for the right time to dig into it and it happens to be now.

I think one of the most exciting things from other card game experiences was the actual release itself, it was really easy to get excited to meet with friends and doing content release parties, are you guys thinking about doing stuff like that with Old Gods or stuff in the future because I think that would be really awesome way to connect players face to face because I think that is on of the most engaging things about Hearthstone is that you can share it with somebody. I was wondering if you guys wanted to do stuff like that either immediately in the future, that kind of stuff.

Ben Brode: Uhh, In the future, yeah. *Laughter*

Yong Woo: We're with you, I love going to different pre-release tournaments for different TCGs and get together with other people. That's part of the reason why we're so committed to Firesides, right, we're continuing to devote time organizationally and technologically so, we have nothing to announce, but that coolness that you want and feel, we feel that too and want to do that for Hearthstone.

Ben Brode: We're making a connection bro. *Laughter*

I've got a follow-up to that, it's also interesting from a competitive perspective to see how people explore new cards pretty much immediately right after a release of a set. I don't know if there's any direction on the esports side to do any events very soon thereafter from the release of a set.

Ben Brode: I agree with you *Laughter*

Yong Woo: We're on the same page, man. *Laughter Continues*

Ben Brode: It turns out there's basically a Hearthstone tournament every weekend like all year, so there's always a big tournament coming up. I don't know exactly how to.. the knowledge of when the tournaments will be happens, like we already know when all the tournaments come this year but we don't know when we'll have all the stuff done for the set and it's hard to plan it from that perspective. It sometimes happens when in a way that is fortuitous for everybody to have a big tournament close after a release, I think that is more fun. If we have more opportunities to do that after a release, I think we'd do that.

On the social side of things, have you given any though to spectating arena drafts or Pack Openings? 

Yong Woo: Yeah, I mean, that'd be super cool. On our team we like to do a lot of exploration so for instance at the end of the year last year we had kind of a one to two week period where the team members were allowed to do whatever they wanted to do. Some of the engineers were excited about features like that and there's been some cool experimentation there. So obviously there's a long distance between having a prototype and something shippable but we're excited about those features. 

Have you guys looked into or thought at all about having the ability to watch tournaments on the esports side of things in the client?

Ben Brode: A little bit. I think that there is a lot of value in the stuff that happens outside of just watching the actual gameplay like hearing the casters and seeing the faces of the competitors. I think that adds a ton. It would take a lot of work to feed all of that into the client, it's pretty accessible already. There's other things Hearthstone needs that would be immediately impactful.

Yong Woo: And we're actually, we have technology in the game right now that can push that kind of content to the players. For instance when we announced Standard, we used your quest screen to give you that link out. So we could use that kind of tech to watch tournaments, but its a balance between we think it's really cool content to check out but for others it could seem like spam. I think it's a really great idea, I love watching all the tournaments and listening to podcasts.

Ben Brode: One thing that we're baking in, Twitch feeds into the Battle.net launcher. So when you launch that up, you can immediately start watching the tournament that's going on.

I just know that for a lot of people, getting into it as their like first competitive game ever, one of the most intimidating things is "I want to watch a tournament but I don't know when they are or when to find them" so for people like us it's easy for us to find it but I feel like a lot of people that might be interested, it can be hard to seek that out.

Ben Brode: Sure.

Yong Woo: I think that, I'm very excited about the Hearthstone championship tour system this year, it kind of helps you build an easier mental model, instead of trying to figure out what tournaments matter, there's basically 4 tournaments and each one will decide one player from each region. So its like hey, I want to watch, which is the most significant tournament I want to watch out for, there's the Americas this Friday and European next Friday. We're trying to make that easier, watch that one at this time, instead of tracking down tournaments and times for casual viewers anyway.

 So we've seen an introduction into voice chat in some of the other Blizzard products recently, I wondered if you had any thoughts or plans on adding voice chat to Hearthstone since Hearthstone can feel a little bit of solitary at times.


Yong Woo: So you want to hear your opponents when *tons of laughter, can't make it out*

Ben Brode: I don't know if we have plans right now to integrate voice chat like other games are doing..

(really bad audio, small laughter, something about bans, Varus, Yong Woo jokingly stating he is getting fired)

[Would it interest the Hearthstone team to have game stuff like a physical object you could buy that would give you cards, or card packs available in a brick and mortar store, or promotional codes you could go pickup and redeem]

Yong Woo: I'm not sure we'd necessarily be interested in physical goods right now for hearthstone but we're interested in physical interaction between players in Hearthstone. Some of the ideas mentioned could be a part of that, the direction it goes. Again, I think the kind of desire for the physical interaction is something we're excited about and our desire for that really manifests through fireside. Maybe we'll have cooler features that work in tandem with fireside. Since my boss is back there, I've always been pushing for a Snowchugger plushie.

Ben Brode: Are you talking about that reddit thread where some guy was looking for more options to give away his prizes?

It's just an example.

Ben Brode: We talked specifically about that case and other cases, we really want to empower people to run more and better fireside gathers, Ithin kthat will be a theme for us when we thin k about whats next for Hearthstone

Talking a bit about the decision to make C'Thun, like, basically give a C'Thun to everybody. I know that in building my decks one of the frustrations has always been well I don't have this legendary , this deck isn't going to work. Are you going to make it more of a trend going forward to give legendaries out to people so that they can have an easier time building these decks and they don't feel completely out of reach? I don't play Warrior because that archetype, that entire class, feels like out of reach.

Ben Brode: [We want to] continually surprise people so I don't know that we want to set any like consistent expectation. We do want to make sure Hearthstone feels accessible so we want to be, we added Tavern Brawls and you're awarded packs for participating in those, and we wanted to make sure we are being generous with the quests and those kinds of things so we do want people to feel like the cards that they want are accessible, we don't want to set expectations as far as like you'll always get a free legendary every expansion or something.

I know it's not part of this expansion, but with virtual reality being such a big thing this month, is that something that you guys think about? Like how would Hearthstone work in a virtual reality environment?

Ben Brode: I don't know. I think, I'm personally excited about VR.

Yong Woo: Yeah! VR is something cool.

Ben Brode: Clearing out a room in my house, get that VR room going. I don't think we have anything specifically.

Sorry if this has already been addressed, but when the classic set is reworked and you nerf some cards like Druid, are you going to be offering a dust refund?

Ben Brode: Yeah if there's classic cards that we change you will be able to disenchant them for the full value of dust.

Noxious: An aesthetic question about Whispers of the Old Gods and all the art behind it. Now the trailer at first I was not sure was Whispers of the Old Gods given the whole medium Sooth-Sayer thing. I was thinking have they gone for Darkmoon Faire and they've been leading us on? Was it inspired at all by the theme of Darkmoon Faire or did it just happen to contain a character that [unintelligible].

Ben Brode: The Sooth-Sayer that of Darkmoon Faire saged the Gnoll, so we wouldn't know like, swapped him out for like uh, but -

The whole aesthetic -

Ben Brode: Lore drop. When we're thinking about old gods and Hearthstone and how we intersect these, I think like defaults, they're actually quite different, Hearthstone is very charming and fun but old gods are none of those things so how do we find that intersection? Corrupting friendly minions that you remember is one of the ways we do that, for the cinematic, taking you into the tavern a place that is friendly and happy you remember and then kinda seeing the shady person in the corner and they're telling stories about these things that might be coming back, somethings a little off. That felt like a really cool way to introduce the old gods in a kind of Hearthstoney, Taverny vibe. So that's why we went with that specific character.

As a follow-up, now to us flipping cards, I've been flipping cards in the Tavern Brawl for the fate, I'm just thinking there's something there. We've seen Tavern Brawl be a testing ground for mechanics or at least a few mechanics, Discover being one of them, are you going to keep Tavern Brawl up as that sort of pseudo-ptr for some mechanics?

Yong Woo: One of the cool things about Tavern Brawl is that we get to try out a lot of different fun things without having long term ramifications on the game. I wouldn't necessarily associate a specific Tavern Brawl with an expansion that's coming out, but yeah, these are great opportunities for us to try different technology, different gameplay, see player's reactions and sometimes if we like them as our designers work on the next expansion or a future expansion, obviously those things come to mind. Like when your hero could gain taunt, now we've spent that time to build that technology. Are they going to use it in the future? I don't know, but now that's part of our palette. 

What percentage of the set is already versions of existing cards, roughly?

Ben Brode: I will say that there are a lot of them, there's a lot of minions of the old gods. There's nerubians and mantid, and horrible tentacle monsters, the old gods themselves, and the cultists and the people who rally behind the old gods. Those are the majority of the different creatures you'll see in Whispers of the Old Gods and plus spells, weapons, and some more class focused minions as well.

More than half of the creatures, or less?

Ben Brode: I don't think it's more than half. I would say, we kind of have three big categories and they're maybe about a third each. That's certainly not very scientific, I'm sure it will be some version of that though.

With Mechs going out and some of those classes of minions that there's a lot of them going out and a lot of synergies going out, is there any new synergy like Beast -

Ben Brode: A brand new tribe? Not in this expansion. C'Thun has a very loose, I guess it's not that loose, connection with a lot of minions so if you're building a C'Thun deck, there are 16 minions that you can choose from that interact with C'Thun in some way so it will feel a little bit like that but it isn't as explicit as Beast.

Kibler: Are there any dragons in the set?

Devs: Yes *laughter*

Ben Brode: I knew there was Dragons in the set, I just wanted to decide if I wanted to tell Kibler there were Dragons in the set.

Building on what Noxious said in recent Tavern Brawls you've been using lots of field effects, permanent effects, like auras. Are we seeing that, can you tell us?

Ben Brode: I can't comment on other stuff. In general I'll say that one of the things that has been, that's fun about Hearthstone is you do something awesome and your opponent has a chance to respond to it and interact with it in some way. The most dangerous things that we do are things that your opponent has no opportunity to interact with and so traditionally with things like Jaraxxus' Hero Power, if we did anything like that earlier in the game and we were worried about stuff for The Grand Tournament, we needed more counter-play to those kinds of things because traditionally there's not much counter-play to my Hero Power upgrading or changing in some way so we added the really powerful Sideshow Spelleater in The Grand Tournament to interact with that, but like you've seen with this Tavern Brawl, that's the thing we're worried about. We don't want to do something that is very uninteractable and in that kind of way it would be dangerous and frustrating. That's design thoughts on that mechanic.



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