Blue Posts: Blizzard Addresses Communication & Deck Slots

Jan 14, 2016

Last Updated: Jan 14, 2016
The latest Designer Insights entry with Lead Designer Ben Brode was interesting as it seeks to help clear up some fog between the development team and the community, specifically when it comes to content updates. And while Brode himself took some time to respond to comments via Twitter and Reddit, Community Manager Zeriyah did the same over on the Hearthstone forums. The conversation, which started off talking about the video itself, eventually evolved to be a discussion on Blizzard's communication with its players.

Table of Contents

Originally posted by Blizzard (View Original)Collapse

01/12/2016 11:07 PMPosted by BowTie
If you Google the Hearthstone development team credits, you will find the list of current Hearthstone team members. There almost, if not over, a thousand people working on Hearthstone.

Not sure why so many people are involved and yet things are done so slowly and heavy-handed.

Afraid to run out of Warcraft heroes to make into legendaries?

What about the uber-powerful legendary weapons from WoW?

What's with electronic cards not being changed more often to keep people rebuilding decks and finding the new best?

More flavours, more variety, more deck slots, more quickly.


We actually have about 50 people on the Hearthstone team. The people you see in the credits make up the entirety of Blizzard. There are many teams that work in parallel with the Hearthstone team, but are not considered a part of the core development team.
Originally posted by Blizzard (View Original)Collapse

01/12/2016 11:51 PMPosted by Critcat
Communication with us, the players, was mentioned a few times in that clip. This is something which is sorely missing, not just from Ben and his team, but from Blizzard in general. Why is Twitter the "preferred" medium for contact regarding any issue and not your own forums?

I understand that it would be painful to comment on topic X, then ignore topic X.5 here, but what is the purpose of these forums if there is VERY LITTLE communication with your consumers here?

And this also extends to the forum team themselves, long timers will remember a quite old thread entitled "Banter with the Blues" ( http://us.battle.net/hearthstone/en/forum/topic/13140423942#1 ). That thread was awesome, it gave us some 1-on-1 time with Blizzard representatives, yet since that date we have seen nothing remotely like it. Why cant those types of discussions happen on a monthly (or even bi-monthly) basis? iirc that particular thread was only open for 3 hours, is it that much to ask for a couple of you Blues to assign that much time to US every month or 2? It doesn't need to be "business related", just some communication in a social manner would, imo, relieve a bit of the tension here.

Communication is my issue, something sorely lacking from YOUR end!


With the evolution of the massive social media ecosystem, we do have to prioritize how and when we are communicating. We use the forums to read feedback and hold discussions, chime in on threads and topics, and share news, but we also have to support our other official channels such as Twitter and Facebook.

In this day and age, social media is more of an agile way of immediately communicating with players, and offers opportunities to reach more people as well. Communication methods are something we look at and reassess often. We are always asking, "How can we get important news to the largest portion of our audience quickly? How can we get important news to people that may not be connected to our channels?"

We have to communicate where the people are, and in doing that we have to be dynamic and shift priorities around from time to time. We'll still be here though.
Originally posted by Blizzard (View Original)Collapse

Then tell us how it does work, and why you're okay with speaking with the WoW forum audience that way?


I work on Hearthstone, so I don't know how the WoW forums function or how they choose to manage them.

The issues appears to be less of "the forum community is not receiving information" and more of "the forum community is not receiving enough direct unique engagement". I can see the forum community is getting the information that is distributed, as topics are created almost as soon as news goes up.

Twitter is not a good platform for extended discussions, and the character limit has its own complications to deal with. The forums, or any extended text discussion platform (such as Reddit) are better for that, and for player-to-player discussions.

But as was previously mentioned, it's more of a prioritization thing - we monitor the feedback and discussions that evolve on the forums while also supporting our social media channels, keeping in mind the unique world the PC and mobile audience that Hearthstone has each consumes content very differently.
Just as Brode seems to express in his Designer Insights vlog, Zeriyah too understands that what the fans really want is more communication. Unfortunately it's just not practical to make different versions of the same message for every single social media channel. Because of how widely the topics vary, there's simply one way that ends up being chosen. Reddit is great for more in depth posts and Twitter is unparalleled for brief one-on-one interactions while YouTube helps lend some semblance of a conversation. Designer Insights is nice in that it feels like a discussion with Brode himself. Yes, Blizzard could theoretically release these in text form on their forums instead, but that's much less personal and really just a wall of text.

We think the development team is right in focusing on more communication and less on exactly how those messages are conveyed. It doesn't really matter if we get an in depth comment on Reddit, or a ten minute vlog on YouTube, as long as we feel more connected, the goal is being accomplished.

chooseyorudeck.png

Daxxarri on Deck Slots

Meanwhile Daxxarri was responding to some comments that were particularly critical of Ben Brode.
Originally posted by Blizzard (View Original)Collapse

01/13/2016 09:29 AMPosted by TK421
In case any of you missed it, Ben Brode put out a video about content updates. It's much ado about nothing. Ben sort of apologizes "but not really" about the lack of communication Hearthstone gives to the community (which makes sense, since the Hearthstone team rarely ventures into their own forums for actual conversations), saying they're working on updates, but naturally, no update information is given.


Glad you noticed Ben's video. Ben does these on his own time to talk with players about stuff that's on his mind in an open and honest way.

I have to say that I feel like we watched completely different videos though.

What I saw while watching was less of an apology, a little bit of a mea culpa, and mostly an explanation that we're always working on stuff, but we're often not ready to talk about it yet. Mostly because we don't want to raise expectations for features that might not be released for some time (or ever). He also took some time to mention that we want to get better about communicating in the future.

To me the video had one key take away. One thing that none of us as players deal well with (regardless of background, experience, or ability) is disappointment. That's something we always have to be mindful of, when we're talking about stuff that's in the pipeline.

01/13/2016 09:29 AMPosted by TK421
He hints at some things, but they are the same suggestions given that the Hearthstone team has shot down with condescending explanations that essentially amount to "the community isn't smart enough for this.


I'm sorry if you've read condescension into anything we've said in this video or in the past, but please don't reduce what Ben said to "the community isn't smart enough for this". It's just not true. Not even close. It's not a credit to you, and it's a gross re-imagining of the intent behind what we've said.

It's actually never been true. Let's use a classic example: We definitely could have handled it better, but even the infamous PC Gamer interview where deck slots were discussed (Ben has never actually said "deck slots are confusing" by the way) was aimed at new players, and was a way of explaining that one of the guiding principles of the Hearthstone UI is to always keep it as clean and simple as possible.

We're taking the long view for Hearthstone, so we're not going to just staple new UI elements on willy-nilly. Failing to keep a handle on it at every opportunity creates more and more of a problem for future-us to solve, and for players to wrangle with. It's like quicksand. It's hard to appreciate the problem by looking at it from the outside - but once you're up to your waist in it, it's a much stickier problem to solve. It's not a good situation to be in, and one we want to avoid.

We know you guys are smart. We know experienced players especially won't have any trouble absorbing complex UI elements or design concepts. It's about Hearthstone's over-arching design and keeping it clean for the reasons I've already mentioned, and making sure that Hearthstone remains approachable to everyone for years into the future.
He then continued to describe how deck slots aren't really a quick fix even if they seem like one.
Originally posted by Blizzard (View Original)Collapse



01/13/2016 01:13 PMPosted by RuuNa
Changing deck slots is one value. Just one. The scrolling is there, the interface is there and as has been discovered even the functionality is there. So there is no need to hold that back as no quality control is required - the client functions exactly the same as before and there are no new UI elements. So I will have to assume the reason this is being held back is because finance still tries to figure out if they can/should kick everybody in the teeth by making slight improvements to the client cost money, I see no other reason for the delay.


It's not a crazy difficult task, though not so simple as a one-value change as you’re suggesting. Regardless, I think you're underestimating the amount of discussion the team does over what the right approach is, and all of the other less-visible factors in play. I’ve seen some of the iteration on deck slots, and yeah, I think the final implementation is probably going to end up being surprisingly simple—but it took a lot of discussion to get there, and it’s not finished yet. The team works as a group, which means that there’s a ton of discussion about individual changes, and then a ton of iteration after a course of action is decided on. They don’t want to just find the fastest, simplest, or easiest way to implement something, but the best way to do it. Hopefully while accomplishing other goals at the same time, and keeping everything in a nice, elegant little bundle.

They want to try to make sure that each step they take is the right one. That means the team moves at a deliberate pace on nearly everything. They’re thinking in terms of months and years, not days and weeks. I don’t know if that’s the kind of fact that anyone is thrilled about, but it’s the truth.

If you're interested in what goes into our UI design, here's that video featuring Derek Sakamoto that Ben mentioned in his video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axkPXCNjOh8
Originally posted by Blizzard (View Original)Collapse

01/13/2016 03:46 PMPosted by Mand
I mean, you go on to reference this interview and claim we're being unreasonable. Is that really justified?


The way I read it, Ben was talking design philosophy, and when he used the word 'overwhelming', he was talking mostly about new players, and how unpleasant it can be to deal with some UI elements that seem like a good idea at the time. Some members of the community at large read that as "He thinks we're dumb." I know for a fact that was never the thought process.

Bottom line, though? The initial philosophy on deck slots was wrong, and that philosophy has evolved since then.

01/13/2016 03:46 PMPosted by Mand
Can't you understand, when faced with this, why a simple page turn doesn't seem like such a daunting technical or psychological challenge?


It wasn't about capability, or figuring out how to work the feature. It was more a matter of emotions and feeling, to make Hearthstone welcoming and try to correct for human nature. It's easy for any game with a collection management aspect to become a cluttered mess, and that was what the devs were hoping to avoid.

The concern was what they were seeing regarding collection and deck management in other games, and the initial reactions we got from players in the first year of the game. It gets ugly and messy very quickly. It can turn players into hoarders, holding onto old stuff that they haven't used in months, or even years. It can create an unpleasant feeling when you return to find an 'inventory' full of stuff that's no longer relevant, and "cleaning it up" isn't fun. It becomes a chore that makes a player more inclined to just close a game instead of dealing with it. I'm sure that I'm not thinking of everything, but listing all of it isn't material.

Now the team is moving forward, and doing their best to get it right.

01/13/2016 03:52 PMPosted by TK421
So, he never really address why you don't communicate with us on a regular basis.


He did, though it boils down to this: We tend to talk a lot less when we're not ready to talk about upcoming features, until they're close to being finished and we can be confident that we're not announcing something too early, or talking about a feature that'll end up getting canned for one reason or another.



01/13/2016 11:21 PMPosted by CobraA1
But - when the pace is years, I have to wonder if there isn't a bit of "letting perfect become the enemy of good" going on.


An excellent point, and something Blizzard wrangles with as an entity all the time.

I have to say that I don't think we've hit that point yet, though. The addition of more deck slots is one of those pivotal things that can have a surprisingly significant impact on the game if it’s not handled carefully.

01/14/2016 09:31 AMPosted by the8thark
You are not part of the Hearthstone development team. Claiming you are by saying "we" is insulting our intelligence as players. You claim to know we are smart then explect us to believe you are part of the development team and share their beliefs. We know that is not true. We players are not this stupid.


"We" was just a convenient shorthand to refer to the Hearthstone team and its intentions, and it's easy to slip into using it. The Community team sits with and talks with the Dev team every day, attends regular meetings with them, etc.

We're integrated in most ways, so it's easy to think of the whole team as a single unit. Apologies for the misunderstanding, as I never intend to present myself as a Developer.

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