Community AMA With Hearthstone Developer - Celestalon #1
Today we've prepared a summary of questions and answers that were answered by a Hearthstone developer Celestalon in his first-ever community AMA.
Be aware that some questions and answers were adjusted for a better understanding or better reading experience and they might slightly vary from the original text.
Q: Can you check achievements to see what the longest ranked win streak is?
A: Hmmm... I don't have that data on hand, but I can see that the number of people that have gotten the 12-streak is large enough that we could probably use a few higher tiers of that one...
Q: Why do BG heroes now have a purple outline.
A: So that you can tell the difference between a collectible hero and a battlegrounds hero.
Q: What are the Team's thoughts on tokens in BGs. There is often a discussion on them being too powerful. But they also make games more diverse. Were changes to them considered before? Potentially replacing them which makes Token abuse harder?
A: We think tokens are important in creating a variance in the early game, especially in terms of the gold economy. There's improvements to be made, but just removing them would result in early turns always playing out very consistently, which is a big detriment to the fun of the game.
Q: How hard is it to find the right balance between improving the existing System and adding new ones? Is something like a Quality of Life Patch planned in the future addressing some more long-running annoyances like the wrong amount of Gold displayed during BG turns (Number correct)
A: Very difficult. The wildest ambition is always behind doing exciting NEW things. But keeping a stable base is important. Bugfixing is a great example of that.
A: I doubt we would ever skip doing new stuff in a patch purely to focus on bug fixes, but a goal we have right now is to slow down (not stop), and put more of our time into stability and polish. We've been moving in that direction, especially since Mercs launch, but it takes time.
Card Design & Balance
Q: Did you guys try in any way to make the objective cards change the inside of the field? As if it were a type of terrain card. Would be awesome to see something like that in the future.
A: Yeah, we did dabble with this actually. It was a significant art/engineering investment, and we wanted to prioritize other things. We also came to this version of Objectives too late in the design process, in order to be able to do this well anyway.
Q: How the team decides on buffing a card? And when they do it, why they didn't come out with that conclusion in the first place.
A: Card balance is hard. Like really hard. The goal isn't just to make individual cards balanced, but whole classes and decks, and there's a ton of moving pieces there, and the meta changes the power of all of them. We're willing to make changes where we see improvement opportunities.
Q: Why was Illidan Stormrage card 6 mana 7/5 demon replaced with Xavius in Wild?
A: Because we thought that card could potentially see significant play in Demon Hunter and thought it would be super weird for Illidan Stormrage (hero) to play Illidan Stormrage (card).
Q: What is the best performing non-evergreen keyword from all the expansions ever? (Performing = popularity, winrate) And would you ever consider making it evergreen or reprinting it in some form in the future?
A: I will say that there is a non-evergreen keyword from the past that we're currently planning to bring back in the future, as evergreen. /tease ;)
Q: What's going on with totems? It seems like they're nowhere to be found.
A: Well, they don't move very fast, you know. They'll catch up eventually, don't worry.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Warlock quest? (The Demon Seed) Do you believe that it does not have a chance of oppressing the meta, or that that chance is too small to bother?
A: I know we've heard a lot of concerns about Quests potentially still dominating the meta in AV, making the slower cards fun but nonviable. I wanted to come back to this question, now that I've heard from the Final design team:
A: We’ll always be monitoring the live state of the game. We expect Alterac Valley to shake up the metagame pretty substantially and if any deck (including Questlock) is oppressive, we’ll make changes — that’s been our philosophy for quite a while.
A: In terms of framing expectations, one of the balance goals of Alterac Valley is to make slower strategies more viable. While we don’t want to micromanage exactly which cards are/aren’t allowed to succeed, any changes we make will have that goal for balance softly in mind.
Q: How come Bearon Gla'shear is an Elemental and not a Beast?
A: The intention with this art piece was to show an ice elemental that had taken a form of a bear, but is still clearly an elemental (much in the same way that a phoenix takes the form of a bird, but is still an elemental).
A: That said, I hear you, I think it's fair to say that (especially at a small size that it's viewed in-game), it's not especially clear that it's an elemental. That's a great example of how sometimes we can have an art piece that's artistically great, but not the best for gameplay.
Click on the image for a bigger resolution
Q: Is there ever going to be a Coffee-related Cardback? I need that in my life.
A: I'll pass along the idea!
Q: When can we expect the "select a random hero skin" feature?
A: I don't have a date for you, but I can tell you that we think it's a good idea and want to do it at some point. It's just a matter of priorities, and there are other things we want to do more right now.
Q: Are there any plans to fix the Undercover Scabbs skin to have the correct number of fingers? It's my favorite skin and it bothers me more than it should that he has a human's hand.
A: Oops. Just pointed this out to the art team, they say we'll get this fixed!
Q: Does Honorable Kill just check to see if something died with 0 Health? Is it limited to your turn only? Can I trade my Korrak the Bloodrager into a 5/3 and get him back?
A: The tooltip shown in-game is correct: "Deal exact lethal damage on your turn for a bonus." So it does have to reduce the target to 0 Health and be on your turn. Korrak the Bloodrager is a little special, he doesn't care whose turn it is, just whether he ended up at 0 health.
Q: If Poisonous triggers, is that an Honorable Kill? Or only if it also results in 0 HP?
A: Nope. Must be exact lethal damage.
Q: Will we have special limited-time events for the ladder? Like you did for the arena (dual-class), duels e BG (Diablo)?
A: I think this would be super cool and have talked about ideas here. Nothing to announce right now, but I'd be shocked if we don't do more of this at some point in the future.
Q: Who's idea was to make the animations in Mercenaries slower?
A: This actually changed back and forth a couple of times during development. Both ways have some sort of pro/con and potential confusion.
Q: Are there any new dragon mercenaries being worked on? Alexstrasza and Brightwing are lonely.
A: Paul says, "Dragons are coming very soon. They've been brooding and biding their time. Who knows what sinister means and wrath they will bring along with them?"
Q: How have the team felt about the launch of mercenaries? Has it been good? If you could go back in time would you change anything about its launch or the time just before/after?
A: Paul says, "We've been really excited about Mercenaries launch and are energized to bring more content, features, and improvements to the game mode.
A: As like most creators, I tend to focus on the issues; and there's always things you wished you could have done better or more of. There were some pretty big bugs (like Task #5 blockage) that I think took away from the initial experience.
A: Thankfully our awesome team turned a lot of those issues around quickly. Also wished we showcased more of the depth of PvP. I've been having a blast watching the meta shift and change every few days.
A: We plan on having a more constant content release schedule so I hope it keeps going like this." Thanks, Paul!
Q: Why was the MMR system chosen for mercenaries PVP as opposed to how standard does it, that feels more fun to progress in and has less MMR anxiety.
A: Paul says, "We like the more gradual progression you can get with numbers than something more discrete like stars. That way we can still reward you for playing, regardless of wins or losses during your early climb.
A: If you had a 50% win rate, we can tune it to make it a net positive MMR gain so you can still make progress. A number system also allows more flexibility for adjusting post-launch, which is a huge plus."
New Features & Improvements
Q: Can we expect a collection overhaul anytime soon? Better card sorting, more searching options, better UI...
A: Probably not soon, but we do want to make improvements to the collection manager. It's a big undertaking though, and we have so many cool new things we want to do, so finding time can be difficult.
Q: If you could add a Blizzard character not from Warcraft into Hearthstone, who would it be?
A: Hmmm... I'm not sure. Perhaps Zeratul.
Q: With all the Heroes and our Mercenaries (10 heroes from this year's narrative story) this year, there’s almost 1 hero skin for every major race in Warcraft bar Goblin, Worgen, and Pandaren. Are there currently any plans to cover the last three?
A: I don't know specifics offhand, but I know the diversity of characters is always a high priority for us. This year has focused on a Classic-ish setting, but we'll explore more in the future for sure!
Q: Do you plan to launch an expansion with a theme other than Warcraft? For example Diablo?
A: Anything could happen in the future, but no current plans to do that.
Q: What is one big thing you'd personally like to see added or changed with regards to Hearthstone? The dream that you could make a reality with a simple snap of your fingers.
A: Raids. (No, this is not currently in development, and I don't even know how it would work.)
Q: Have you ever considered a Daily Login reward?
A: Yeah, definitely considered it. We could do that at some point, but no current plans. I think daily quests fill a lot of the same role right now.
Q: How much consideration is given to Wild during design & could you ever see it getting more due to growing popularity & the massive CN scene?
A: Some. Our first thoughts with designing a new set focus on Standard, but do think secondarily about Wild. Most of that is about avoiding things that will be too degenerate/problematic in Wild. We rarely set out explicitly to make a fun new Wild deck, we just let that be organic.
Q: Any updates on the Zephrys the Great bug in wild? My game crashes (Mac) every time my opponent plays Zephrys the Great. Having to log out and in while missing half of my next turn is getting really frustrating. An update to acknowledge would be super!
A: Yeah, update on Zephrys the Great crash: We tracked it down to a problem with the visual. We have a client hotfix coming soon that'll disable the visual, until the next major patch where the visual can be fixed.