How Mean Streets of Gadgetzan came to be.

At BlizzCon, Hearthhead had a chance to sit down with Game Designer Dean Ayala and Senior Game Producer Yong Woo. As two of the most vocal members of the development team, they're very glad to finally be able to talk about Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, the next adventure for Hearthstone. It releases in early December and is available for pre-purchase right now.

Over the next few days, we'll be releasing parts of our interview, broken up into a variety of topics as our talk ran almost an hour long and there's way too much to read in a single sitting. We start off by reversing the rolls and asking them what they think of Mean Streets, whether Murlocs will remain a staple of Hearthstone, and along the way they tell us about how the entire expansion came to be because of a single pitch by Senior Game Designer, Matt Place.

How do you like the new expansion? What do you think about Gadgetzan?

Yong Woo: I love it! I'm so excited about Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, we've been working on it for a long time. Whenever we do this, we work on a set for a long time and we're not allowed to talk about it. I'm always paranoid, I'm like, "Wait, what if I accidentally get drunk and tweet..." Maybe I shouldn't be saying that...but, I shouldn't say all these secrets about the next expansion or whatever, so now that we've finally announced it, I'm very excited to talk about it.

Dean Ayala: Yup, same. When you've been working on a set for so long it's really exciting to show off. A lot of people are like, "Well, things are stale. What's new? How is this problem and this problem going to get addressed?" In the back of my mind, I'm like, "We worked on this thing for so long and we're just waiting for it to get released!" We're trying to shake things up, a lot of new decks, that's really the goal for us. A bunch of new archetypes, a bunch of new stuff...

Yong: With Mean Streets, we really worked on creating a world that we want the players to visit. I love the fact we got to do the panel with Jamaro and Matt yesterday and not just talk about, "Hey, here are a bunch of cards, here are its stats, and its ability..." It's like, "This is what we do to build this world."

With Mean Streets of Gadgetzan we put a lot of work into [imagining] a different version of Gadgetzan that's become a boomtown. It's a city of opportunity, and there's this world where these three crime families are all fighting each other for control over the city. And Dean, obviously your team, the rest of the designers did such a great job at taking 132 cards and making it really feel like you're there. [That] these families want you to join and you get to participate in the storyline is really awesome.

Dean: That's what we think about Gadgetzan... *laughs*

Yong: I'm so excited. Even cards like I Know a Guy. There's a world where it's like, here's a box that says, "One mana, Discover a Taunt minion." That's really cool, that's mechanically super cool, but now you play it and you're like, "I'm part of the Grimy Goons, I know a guy, I'm going to get hooked up with some protection." You know? It just feels really cool.

What is the inspiration behind this expansion?

Yong: Well Dean, obviously you get involved even earlier than I necessarily do. But my first impression of Mean Streets was when Matt Place came up to me and he's like, okay yeah, check this out. "Imagine a Murloc." And I'm like, "Okay, okay," imagine a Murloc. "And this Murloc is wearing pinstripes has a cigar in his mouth and a bowler hat and is shooting a Gatling gun!" And I'm like, "Holy moly, let's do that! Let's imagine gangster Murlocs. What if we explore this zone?"

What's up with Murlocs? They just keep coming back.

Dean: Murlocs are very important to the Warcraft universe. I think that we will continue to keep Murlocs the same we will keep dragons. It's not really Warcraft unless it has dragons and Murlocs.

So you're going to keep the Murlocs afloat?

Yong laughs.

Dean: I might say we will keep the Murlocs afloat.

Yong: But it's like scene or idea. Can you imagine Hearthstone, but with this hijinks/crime family style environment? When he put that idea into me I was like, "Wow, that's exciting. Now let's talk about where that would be." We want it to be in an urban city. Where could that be? What are some of our memories about Azeroth?

Some of the stuff I remember for instance - my sister is also on the team, she's a designer - and she and I always used to have these operations we would do where we would smuggle goods from Alliance side to the Hoard side through Gadgetzan's auction house. It used to be a very profitable venture. A lot of us have that kind of memory so we were like, "Hey, what if it was Gadgetzan? What if it's a reimagined version of Gadgetzan?" You go from the one image of the gangster Murloc and then move to Gadgetzan...and explode out.

Dean: For me, it's more about the idea of a city...on the outskirts where a bunch of people, and creatures, and Murlocs, and whatever has come there and trying to figure out who's in that city and what that city is. The Warcraft universe has such rich characters and there are so many cool characters. Heroes of the Storm is able to make a million different heroes because there's a lot of awesome [intellectual properties] in Warcraft. I think that being able to pull from any number of cities is really awesome. Finding this one place in Tanaris and it's a port city and trying to imagine what happened to a port city when lots of people started moving to it is really cool. It was the same with me with Matt Place. He came to me with gangster Murlocs...it was hard to say no.

Yong: With every expansion, everybody working on it needs to resonate emotionally. I felt the same way with Karazhan. "Let's go back to Karazhan. Absolutely, it's one of my favorite raids." Alright, Karazhan, but there's a disco party going on, "Alright, we gotta do this." It just emotionally resonates with me.

Dean: I was a little bit more questioning [of it]...What are you doing to my Karazhan!?

Yong: But I think that's good, right? You take something that you have all this nostalgia for and you take a new spin on it. What's a different way to look at it? And I think that's really exciting.  

Mean Streets of Gadgetzan Guide

That's all for now, but you can head on over to our official guide for more information on Mean Streets including all of the revealed cards, gameplay, trailers, and more!