Day 2 of BlizzConline is starting very soon! After an amazing Day 1 with tons and tons of announcements, I expect it to be much slower. However, Hearthstone part of the event opens with Q&A session with devs.
You can watch the stream on YouTube or Twitch. But in case you won’t be able to, don’t worry – I’ll be recapping it live here in this post. Since it’s a live recap, it might be a bit chaotic at first, but I’m going to clean it up after Q&A is over.
Q&A Session Recap
Q: What does the future hold for reward track?
A: New rewards system launched recently, but they had a rocky start. One of the big changes they’re making in the future is how the rewards track is structured. They will be splitting the rewards in half, which means that the rewards will be given out more often. They will also be slightly increasing rewards in the track, and there will be a few new “surprises”.
Q: Will Duels continue to see support? New Hero Powers, Treasures etc.
A: Throughout the year we will have new additions to Duels. Later this year we’re going to see new Heroes. But they aren’t going to take anything away – they will only add new ones. Forged in the Barrens expansion will see addition of 2 expansions – Forged in the Barrens and Journey to Un’Goro, which should shake up the meta.
Q: How do you decide which famous characters get to be Heroes/Legendaries and which don’t?
A: After picking a theme, they’re starting to look through the environment. For example, for Barrens, Mankrik is the iconic character that everyone knows about, so they added him.
Q: How will the introduction of Core Set affect class identity? Are they adding/removing stuff from class kits?
A: There’s some adding and subtracting. It’s mostly about refining what’s the class identity for each class, based on how the classes were developed over the years. They also want to give each class a theme. For example, Rogue might get some “Burgle” cards since it’s part of their theme now. Druid is going to lose some of their removal like Wrath or Swipe, but they will instead get “Feral” cards like Feral Rage or Pounce.
Q: What inspired Frenzy as the new keyword for Forged in the Barrens?
A: Horde inspired Frenzy. Forged in the Barrens is very thematic around Horde and they were looking for a keyword that embodies strength and resilience of the faction.
Q: Core Set is refreshing, but are you planning to introduce 29 new cards with every core set or will it just happen on this occasion?
A: Not 29 cards every Core refresh, this year is definitely the big moment. We might see new cards in the future Core Sets, but smaller numbers. They won’t rotate the entire Core Set every year, they’re thinking about changing ~30% of the cards.
Q: What challenges you encounter when trying to one-up Legendaries from previous sets?
A: It’s not always about one-upping something. A good example would be Old Gods from Darkmoon Faire. When designing those, they based them on previous versions from Whispers of the Old Gods, took their themes, but made them fun and interesting in their own way instead of just stronger versions of old cards.
Q: Do you forsee Hearthstone becoming more biased towards Aggro or Control decks? Do you, as game designers, prefer one over the other?
A: Hearthstone will never really be biased towards one or the other, it mostly depends on the meta – it can go either way. What they changed compared to the past is how Control decks finish the games. They gave Control decks ways to actually finish the games as opposed to just outvaluing the opponent and slowly grinding them down. They want to continue this in the future.
Q: What’s the team’s philosophy regarding RNG? What RNG is healthy and what you want to avoid?
A: Most successful RNG is “contained” RNG coming from a limited pool of things, like Spare Parts in the past or Lackeys more recently (although there was too much resource generation tied to them). When a Lackey was generated, players knew what to play around, because there was only a few of them. Hearthstone will sometimes have those big, flashy RNG “Yogg” moments, but they want to power those correctly. If it ever becomes too powerful, it can create some unhealthy moments.
Q: Who writes text for your flavor cards and why are they so funny?
A: Val from writer / design team heads the entire process. When they already have all the cards from the expansion, she collects them all and sends to the entire team so everyone has some input, pitching jokes etc. Then they go through them together and pick the best ones.
Q: Is there a chance team can look into improving the Dust economy of the game?
A: F2P economy is a pretty hot topic and there are some challenges when it comes to it. Overall, they think that they have done a lot of good things making the game more F2P friendly, like introducing no duplicates across all rarities, competitive deck for new/returning players, this year Core Set is a big change for how they approach the game and how easy it is to get into Hearthstone. Core Set in particular has a lot of solid cards, unlike Basic/Classic, where many of the cards didn’t meet today’s standard, so players will now have better building blocks for their decks. Rewards system, despite rocky start, also improved the overall F2P experience. That’s why there are no concrete plans for the Dust system specifically – giving out rewards in other ways is kind of achieving the same thing another way, but it’s something they’re mindful of.
Q: Will Alliance play any part in Forged in the Barrens? If no, why?
A: They’re leaning heavily into Horde in the next expansion, but Alliance will definitely have its place. There are some Areas in the Barrens which are more Alliance-focused. They’re also introducing 10 Mercenary characters, which are evenly split between two factions (five Horde and five Alliance) characters.
Q: Do you have future plans for the Classic format?
A: In terms of Classic format is to not make changes. They want to experience the game as it was. A common misconception is that everyone experienced Classic, but the truth is that millions of players were never playing at the time so they will have a lot of fun with it the way it is. It’s more like a time capsule and they want to keep it the way it was + it’s only one of the ways to play the game after all. But they’re open to feedback – they really want to see what happens first before committing to talking about what’s next.
Q: With the addition of Core Set and cards coming back to Standard, is it possible for Death Knight Hero cards to return?
A: It’s definitely possible. The team already wants to bring Hero cards to all the classes at some point. And later down the road, bringing Death Knights to Core Set might be a way to do it when they don’t plan to add new Hero cards from expansions. But they might make a few adjustments to them if they ever come back.
Q: What Hearthstone meme is best?
A: Joe loves elaborate OTK memes. Ben likes Boulderfist Ogre memes, because it has good stats for the cost. Alec also likes OTK memes, but they need to have Rank 1 Legend symbol at the end.
Q: How will characters in Mercenaries upgrade? Do they get new abilities? Will they get higher tiers, like 5 stars?
A: Kind of everything. You start with let’s say Thrall at level 1, with one ability. As you play with him, you level up, unlock new abilities, new gear etc. You can also upgrade your pieces of equipment and abilities, which makes them deal more damage, heal more etc. You can also evolve Thrall into different versions of himself – they already showcased 3 tiers of different characters. They start out younger / less experienced or just less powerful and then they grow in power. They haven’t revealed too much about Mercenaries on purpose, they wanted to show player that this big, new, fun game mode is coming, but they still have a lot show as we progress through the year.
Q: Dragons got their time in the spotlight during Year of the Dragon and Descent of Dragons expansion. But when the Murloc expansion is coming?
A: They would love to do a Murloc expansion. One interesting thing from a design perspective is that they have all kinds of Dragons that fit both small minions and those huge, 10 mana Legendaries. In case of Murlocs, they would really have to expand the range, as now the Murlocs are mostly small. But it’s something they’re open to – Bagurgle all the way!
Q: What plans do you have for new players that just got into the game?
A: Like previously answered, they did a lot of positive changes for new players last year, and this year Core Set is definitely the biggest one. When coming into the game, having access to this huge amount of cards (which are very easy to unlock) that are more competitive is really fun. New players Quests also got changed, they are more generous, they want new players to have an easier time getting into the game. They would also love to hear feedback from new players.
Q: What was the thinking behind making the Core Legendary Dragons (Ysera, Malygos, Alexstrasza) etc. 9 mana rather than maximum 10 mana?
A: The new versions for Core Set were based on the old ones, so they wanted to reflect that in their mana cost too. It’s mainly about taking what players know already and upgrading it a little bit. But there are still some at 10 mana, like Deathwing the Destroyer – which is very similar in flavor, but a lot more playable.
Q: Are there any plans to return back Fireside Gatherings later this year or in 2022?
A: They absolutely want to bring in-person events back, but their top priority right now is to keep players safe. So once the current world situation allows to bring them back, they will do it – but for now, they have virtual Fireside Gatherings.
Q: Will you continue experimenting with Quests? I think they make for very fun archetypes and I would love to see more Quests, synergies and themed Legendaries.
A: The design team loves Quests, loves the idea of asking players to do something to then have a big reward. They learned a lot after Un’Goro and wanted to do Quests a little bit different – getting immediate Hero Power meant that you don’t have to wait another turn / player another card to reap in the reward. They also wanted to make Quests easier to complete. But they learned some lessons again in Saviors of Uldum, and they want to re-introduce them again in the future, but probably with a different twist on them.
Q: What are some of the things the team did internally to make some of the recent big changes possible?
A: Over the last few years, Hearthstone team has expanded a lot. The core Hearthstone team that shipped the game was very small, and it remained small for the next few years. Over the last 2-3 years, it has expanded, it’s now much bigger, so they have much more capacity to do more things. The team was always hungry to experiment and create new, awesome experiences and now that’s unlocked. You can see that in new game modes like Battlegrounds, Duels, the upcoming Mercenaries or even mini-sets. They want Hearthstone to be a game you can come back to and it will always have something new and exciting to offer. Hearthstone is no longer just 3 expansions per year, it’s so much more than that now and players are really happy with that. Team is also happy, because it’s always fun to work on new things.
Q: With the new Malygos the Spellweaver, does it mean that we won’t be able to play our old Malygos OTK decks in Wild or Standard anymore?
A: There’s a new Core version of Malygos that draws spells, which is pretty cool, but the old Malygos with Spell Damage +5 is not completely gone – it will just rotate out to Wild. Players can still experience it in Wild, but in Standard they wanted to make some more room, because Malygos was restricting their design a little bit. But they might add some different Spell Damage cards, different variants to experience that high Spell Damage combos.
Q: Will there be cross-promo skins/heroes in the future? Such as Warrior – Reinhardt or Priest – Moira.
A: They recently released the first “foreign” skins that are not based on the Warcraft/Hearthstone lore (Three Kingdoms skins), and the fan reaction has been very positive. So it’s definitely something they’re open to, but they need to find the right way to do it for Hearthstone. They love Warcraft license and they want to do the things that fit – Three Kingdoms fits into the Hearthstone style, but it might be harder for other Blizzard games. They want things they put into the game to be true to the core of what Hearthstone is. So they want to do it, but are going to be careful about it.
Q: Do you plan on releasing more cards like Transfer Student that interact with board?
A: Transfer Student was really fun to design, looking at all the boards and finding what effect fits them was cool. We might see more of similar cards in the future if they find the right design for them, because it’s definitely an interesting space to explore.
Q: With the introduction of Core Set, would you ever introduce new class mechanics for classes that never had any?
A: They might totally do that. They thought about it early on with Priest – players wanted to see some sort of Shadow aspect come back, but devs weren’t sure how to do it. They thought about doing it without face damage, like what interesting things Priest can do with their Hero Power, or maybe introducing cards that mix light & shadow themes. But for the sake of simplicity, they decided to keep the Hero Power alone. So they’ve decided to re-introduce some face damage to Priest after all – it will do chip face damage through multiple cards. It won’t be as big as 5 damage (Mind Blast), but we’ll see 2’s, 3’s and even 4’s. Core Set is going to re-establish their Shadow identity.
Q: Will we be seeing more weapons with passive effects, like Sphere of Sapience, moving forward?
A: Sphere of Sapience was a super fun design and that’s the space they might explore more in the future. When they design a new set, they try to find new mechanics that thematically fit into it, so if passive weapons will fit another set, they can definitely add more of them.
Q: Are there any plans to introduce random hero skins & random Coin like we have with the random card back?
A: Absolutely, especially for hero skins. They don’t have a specific date to reveal yet, but it’s a question of when and not if. With how rewards track works, they’re adding a lot of cosmetic options for the players, so they also want to add a way to showcase different heroes they’ve earned. As for the Coin – probably too, but at a lower priority, because there are simply fewer Coin versions to pick from now, but that option might come in the future.