With all focus on Journey to Un'Goro and the various meta changes going on a few developer comments have been overlooked. There haven't been a ton either with most of the team away from social media while the community continues to digest and figure out Hearthstone's latest expansion. We've dug through all of the most prominent Blizzard social media accounts from the Hearthstone team and found that Game Director Ben Brode is pretty much the only one going somewhat in-depth with his comments currently.
Among them were a few important notes including a surprising announcement that the team has "decided not to" add Ranked win rewards beyond the 500 mark - at which point golden heroes are unlocked. Because of this, they are going to add this frequently requested feature "soon."
They're also rethinking their decision to remove any Wild content from the store. Currently the only way to obtain cards that have rotated out of Standard is to craft it using Arcane Dust at four times the amount of dust the card would normally disenchant for. This makes the game mode and the idea of having a complete collection reprehensibly expensive. Adventures, which are now being discontinued and merged into expansions, have been one of the more controversial talking points as it stands as single-player content and not just a collection of cards.
The Year of the Mammoth Standard rotation has also caused some disruption in the Casual matchmaking system leading to a highly increased win rate among new players. While this sounds okay at face value, it leads to the newcomers attempting Ranked where "matchmaking is much worse."
As a final note before we get into the quotes, Blizzard is investigating a bug with Curious Glimmerroot and Molten Blade. For now, just know that any Warriors with a weapon from outside their class are likely running Molten Blade.
Update: Added a follow-up question and response to the first question.
Why doesn't Hearthstone track wins beyond 500?
Most players haven't reached 500. Would have to be cool to be at 1k, but would barely be used. The 'win games' system encourages farming.
Would rather add rewards to systems that work better, like levels or ranked rewards, if we wanted to add them.
There is value in encouraging players to branch out and try new things. Variety is part of what makes Hearthstone fun.
What do you mean by it's a less powerful motivator?
Brode: Adding a reward for doing a thing creates 'extrinsic motivation' do it. If I offered you X for doing Y, and you want X, you might consider doing Y.
If we offer you more rewards for reaching 1000 ranked wins, but you already have 1000 ranked wins, we aren't motivating you do anything. Our options were to cap you at 500, then unleash new rewards at 1k, giving 500 wins of progress towards a new reward, or just letting you count up from 500 now, and not adding rewards at 1k. We decided to go with latter.
I want to point out that I think adding more cosmetic rewards is generally cool. I just don't think 1000 ranked wins is a better place to put them than say, level 70, or in Ranked Chest rewards.
Why can't we buy Wild packs?
Brode: We've been rethinking our stance on this with our additional focus on Wild this year. Will update you as we have more concrete information.
What is the Hearthstone team at Blizzard currently working on?
Casual matchmaking seems a bit rougher since the launch of Un'Goro.
BB: We experienced an issue where some players had their Casual MMR reset with this rotation, and it's causing poor matchmaking for some players. We are working on a fix, but before this issue, new player winrates were way up. They were close to 50% after starting around 30% about 2 years ago. We've been steadily making improvements, but 50% is as good as it gets in a 1v1 game.
Funny enough, new players win so much more now, that instead of waiting about 7 days to try out "ranked" mode, they now average about 3 days before entering that mode, where sadly, matchmaking is much worse.
We are still working on changes to ranked to improve the general experience and the low-end matchmaking.
I think it depends on what solution we decide to go with and what else goes on our schedule. But we're homing in on some things I'm excited about. Ranked floors was pretty modular and a good first step, but it didn't solve most of our problems.
Does Hearthstone even have a QA team?
BB: I think this is an opportunity to go even behinder the card!
We definitely have a Quality Assurance team.
Jeff Kaplan did a great write up of the many teams that collaborate here to make a game. Worth a read.
I should mention that QA is hard to judge from an external perspective. The vast majority of bugs are found and fixed before a patch is shipped, and still more are found, logged, and 'punted' to a future patch, which can happen for a variety of reasons - for example if we are planning a massive refactor of a system in the next patch, and the bug will be fixed as a side effect of that refactor, without additional work. They also patrol our bug report forums, and read this subreddit, hunting for live issues that may be the result of many thousands of people doing something at the same time, which is harder for us to test internally.
We also have an Automation Testing group, who do try and catch things that only crop up when many players attempt things simultaneously, as well as automating many tests, like playing through our introductory missions each patch to make sure we haven't accidentally blocked new players from trying the game when we made our last round of AI improvements. (we often do, since those missions don't and shouldn't perform at peak AI efficiency, and these bugs are found and fixed before shipping.)
The folks in QA are very passionate and talented, but it's interesting to note that it is difficult to tell how good a QA team is from the outside. You don't get to see the bugs they caught that would have otherwise shipped. You only get to see the very few bugs that sneak by, or are very hard to reproduce (i.e. only happens 1 in 1,000 attempts), or that we've decided to fix in a future patch. When you only see what seems like misses, it's easy to assume the worst, but internally we have the benefit of seeing the 10's of thousands of bugs filed that players never have to experience.
Nobody wants bugs to make it through, and we definitely have let some slip that we'd have preferred never went live, but those are also opportunities to improve over time.