Ben Brode on Ranked System Weakness, Tournament Mode, Community Conversations
Mr. Brode was out on reddit this morning to expand upon a recent tweet of his which stated there would be changes to seasonal grinding and that tournament mode would be a great addition to the game. We've got a recap of his grand wall o' text below, but we encourage you to read everything; It's good!
Keep in mind that text below is not an announcement of things to come, but instead, Ben explaining what they're thinking and trying to start a conversation.
Ranked System Weaknesses
Ben thinks there are four major weaknesses to the Ranked Play System. These weaknesses are believed to all be addressable, with the fourth weakness potentially being fixed by a "tournament mode" and not by a change to ranked itself.
The issue boils down to how progression works at every level of the ladder.
- Top end players have to grind too much to get fun matches each month.
- Low end players have very little progression: just a few wins and then they get "stuck" at rank 20-17. This is the vast majority of active players.
- New players who enter ranked get crushed hard (after a pretty good experience in Casual).
- Doing the same thing over and over again each month feels like a 'grind'.
I think we can do all that (hopefully - this stuff is difficult to predict without live testing). The hardest to hit is number 4, since progression is fun, but the more you have, the more 'grindy' it feels. I actually think that things like a potential Tournament mode could help with that even more than any specific change to ranked.
Although we don't learn too much from this, it's a way to get the conversation flowing. We encourage you to leave your comments below.
- Ben likes meeting opponents IRL and would like to make the Fireside Gatherings process better in the client to help those events.
- They know people want to be able to compete from their own homes, so any type of tournament needs to offer something more than what they already have available in-game.
- There are two implementations they've recently considered for how tournament mode could look.
- Put players into a bracket, wait for them to finish, go on to the next round. Rinse and repeat.
- Do something more like Arena or Heroic Brawl where it can run as an asynchronous event so people don't have to sit around.
- They're exploring some other ideas, but are very interested in what the community wants. They continue to look everywhere for these discussions.
Questions for the Community:
- What is fun about tournaments?
- What would a tournament mode look like for you in Hearthstone?
So, Tournament: I think there are a couple specific 'fantasies' related to playing in a Hearthstone tournament. Put another way: What is fun about tournaments? I think different players have different things that draw them. For me, for example, one of the things I enjoy is going to a venue, meeting my IRL opponent, and sharing a tense battle with him or her. Then I like to go over and check on my buds, to see how we're doing as a group against the crowd. We have a lot of people attending Fireside Gatherings each month (and running tournaments), it'd be nice if we could make that process better in the client.
There's also a strong desire to have the ability to compete for glory against other players from the comfort of your home. Hearthstone is by its nature a competitive 1v1 experience, so Tournaments would need to offer something above and beyond what we're already doing. If you want a "packaged" experience, where at the end you are crowned a winner, Heroic Brawl and Arena actually get part of the way there, although they don't feel like they fit the whole fantasy that people are missing.
There's, I think, two 'obvious' tournament mode implementations that we had considered recently.
(1) Pump a bunch of players into a bracket. Wait for all players to finish, then start the next round. Repeat until there is a winner. Upside: Clear tournament fantasy. Downside: Long waits between rounds. Need to clear a day to play, but you might be out in the first round (really variable time commitment)
(2) If you're familiar with the development of Arena (and if you're not, here's a very old video going through it ), it's basically a story of us trying to solve the problem from the first approach in an 8-player bracket. The result is a competitive, asynchronous event. Heroic Brawl is essentially the version of tournaments that can be done asynchronously online.
Now, I think 1 is only really ok for in-person events, and we already have 2 and for some reason it doesn't feel like it's scratching that "tournament" itch. So we've been exploring some crazier ideas. :)
We've been reading threads about 'tournament mode' here and other places (and in different languages) that range back years, scouring comments and trying to get a full picture of what we think the community (which isn't a single entity, but lots of individuals with different perspectives) will enjoy. I always enjoy reading and discussing what people want from tournaments in Hearthstone, so please keep it up!
Conversations and Announcements
Keep in mind that the goal behind posts like these are to start up conversations and to not make an announcement.
An aside: When I make comments like this, detailing our philosophy and confirming what is or is not in our plans, I often read responses like "pr talk" or "says nothing". We do have the option of only doing communication in the form of announcements, but we'd be communicating a lot less, and not here on reddit. I love talking with the community. I think it's healthy to vet our ideas and get feedback on them before we commit to any specific implementation. But I think the expectation needs to be that it's a conversation, and we're explaining where we're at and our thoughts, not announcing specific changes. Looking forward to reading your thoughts!