Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode and Principle Game Designer Mike Donais are hosting the second ever liv streamed Developer Insights on Twitch. The studio also asked community members for questions to answer during a Q&A session. We selected the best from our Facebook, Twitter, and comments here on Hearthhead and sent them off last night.
Want to watch it for yourself? It's being hosted over on the official Hearthstone Twitch channel. If you can't turn in, no worries, we'll be providing live updates to this post as they happen. Simply refresh to get the latest.
- Brode is recapping the Year of the Mammoth announcement.
- As it has announced before, no single-player experience with this year's first expansion. Will start with the second one.
When will the six Classic cards be rotated to the Hall of Fame?
The Small-Time Buccaneer and Spirit Claws nerfs will happen at the end of the month. The Hall of the Fame cards will be "significantly after" those nerfs when the first expansion comes out.
Will the Hall of Fame cards be in Classic packs?
They will not be in Classic packs, will need to be crafted.
Can you disenchant Hall of Fame cards?
They were considering giving full dust refunds, but they didn't want players to dust their awesome cards for Wild. Instead, they're giving the full dust value and letting you keep the card.
Can you share some stats that were influential on the Hall of Fame cards?
Blizzard actually used a lot of factors, not just stats. But Azure Drake is by far the most played card and has been that way for years so it was an "obvious pick."
They also picked some more expensive cards since they ended up hogging up that mana slot.
Are you going to make more Classic cards to replace these?
Brode says, "I'm not sure."
Admits they could and if they did it would be to "fulfill specific types of roles."
He says Shatter might be a good example as the team doesn't want to make the set anymore powerful than it already is.
Donais says they investigated making all of the cards more powerful rather than nerfing the Classic set, but it sped the game up too much.
How will you decide whether to nerf or shift to the Hall of Fame?
No written rule. But in general, the team wants new cards to be exciting so they wouldn't likely make those Wild right away.
Will you reverse the nerf for Blade Flurry and Molten Giant and move them to the Hall of Fame?
Donais says they've talked about Molten Giant, not so sure about Blade Flurry as it limits what cards they can design, even in Wild only.
Previously, Ben Brode has said it's something they're considering for next year.
Will further Classic rotations happen?
Blizzard moved the six most obvious cards this year, Donais thinks there are probably some more that should be moved in the future to help decrease the number of Classic cards core archetypes utilize.
The goal is to make Standard interesting and evolving without sacrificing their identity, hence the Hall of Fame.
Is three expansions a year to make things more expensive?
Brode believes this change will make the experience more fun. Expansions "are more fun, have a bigger impact on the meta, and allow us to explore more mechanics."
That said, it is important that the game is legitimately free to play which is happening right now, but the team will continue to watch the situation.
Rather than the single-player experience giving cards, they will give packs.
Will there still be Heroic experiences?
Donais, "We don't have them this year."
Brode explains that they couldn't make them too hard because they wanted everyone to be able to get the latest cards. This is why Heroics existed and now they can do away with that and make the experiences harder.
Do you feel the rate of expansion releases is appropriate?
This is one of the reasons the team is doing three full expansions this year. Donais hopes it will be enough, but they'll keep listening to feedback.
Brode says that even in a very balanced meta, games can feel very stale.
"Is there a systemic approach to make the game feel different that isn't just nerfing cards more frequently..."
Would you consider posting Wild season rankings?
An excellent idea according to Donais. Says that it will be great once the next rotation happens.
How to you measure interactability in combo decks?
Combo is fun and it's become clear that some of the best combo cards are the ones where you aren't sure how they're going to interact with other cards.
One-turn kill combos are generally a bad thing. The team would much rather have it give you a huge advantage of sorts, rather than killing your opponent off immediately.
Plus it's a dangerous game because if Blizzard somehow misses something it can be completely overpowered.
What kind of reaction did you expect from the Year of the Mammoth?
They thought it would be great for people who wanted something new, but there's always a part of the community that will always feel a bit sour when Blizzard rotates cards.
Have you ever known a deck that you thought was strong but no one has discovered?
Sounds fun, says Donais, but right now the community mainly does this organically.
However, Deck Recipes could certainly be improved.
Brode says that the top three classes in Wild were not the one with the highest win rate. He admits this might not be 100% correct, though, may be remembering the data incorrectly.
Why the Power Overwhelming change?
In short, they want Warlock to have to sacrifice something to get a lot of burst.
Any other ranked improvements?
Well, they have Ranked Floors with the next patch, but Brode admits there are a lot of improvements to make.
For example, most people are around Rank 20, about 40% of all players which means "matchmaking is worst there" and "doesn't match your expectations of the ladder."
They know this is an issue, but in their tests they've found that the number of players in Legend "balloons massively" and that doesn't sound ideal either.
Donais explains that this might make climbing easier as people do more experimenting now that they don't have to worry about dropping crazy numbers of stars.
Thoughts on the rotations?
Blizzard thinks aggro will get worse, but they're also worried that Control will be less powerful without Reno Jackson.
Can you talk about the Rogue class identity with Stealth and Combo being nerfed?
It sounds like Blizzard is still trying to figure out the healthiest class identity for Rogue. Different players like the class for different reasons so they're experimenting. As it stands, the "clever tricks theme" is what Blizzard will be pushing going forward, but they will also be introducing a few other minor identities.
Are there other cards Blizzard thought about moving to the Hall of Fame?
Gadgetzan Auctioneer was probably the closest, but it's a very high skill card which Blizzard has an appreciation for. So he'll be around for at least another year, but at least Conceal won't be available in Standard.
Can you share some insight into the testing process? Ever thought about a public test server?
They are constantly testing, especially during the final design process.
Brode believes that putting new content on a public test realm may only accelerate the "solving" of the meta more quickly. Maybe balance changes are a more appropriate subject for that, but even that would be solved more quickly and that removes some of the value from the nerf.
Stance on buffing cards?
"That usually means buffing Classic cards," says Donais. He continues to explain that strong Classic cards are already a problem, as evidenced by the Hall of Fame cards. Blizzard would rather release stronger cards that rotate out rather than buffing old ones at the risk of pushing them over the edge.
With the retirement of Reno, what are your thoughts on healing going forward?
Obviously, the team has a new expansion coming up. Donais explains the importance of swings in matches, but it's important that each card has it's time to shine and it's time for Reno to take a back seat.
Healing will continue to be supported, but it probably won't be neutral.
Thoughts on 2017?
Brode is excited as the team is growing (currently 70+ people) which is helping with communication.
The team is really focusing on a lot of macro things, which does come at the expense of a few small things here and there, but overall it should vastly improve the experience.
There is a blog coming out this week about the Arena, detailing the upcoming Arena changes and talking about the new tools the team has at its disposal.