Hearthstone Curse Of Naxxramas interview: "We're keeping an eye on Zoo"
Tomorrow sees the second wing of Hearthstone's Curse of Naxxramas expansion opening its mouldering doors to players around the world. So now felt like the perfect time to talk to Blizzard about the current state of the game and what we can expect from it in the future. I nervously approached the giant ebony coffins of senior game designer Ben Brode and production director Jason Chayes and asked them about the new cards, how close they came to nerfing Leeroy, what's going to be done about the seemingly unstoppable Zoo onslaught, and whether we'll ever get more deck slots.
PC Gamer: Are all future card releases going to be in this staggered, adventure format, or is there going to come a time when you could just drop 60 new cards into the pool in one hit?
Jason Chayes: We have a bunch of different ways that we're excited about releasing cards in the future. We're definitely keeping a close eye on how Naxxramas does and what the player response to that is. We feel excited about doing more adventures in the future, but beyond that we have other ideas to do more traditional expansions and even potentially other ways to release cards that we're still kind of in our earliest phases of design on. You can definitely expect to see other ways beyond adventures for putting out new cards.
PCG: What's your favourite combo in the new Naxx cards, and what sort of deck do you use it in?
Ben Brode: For me, probably anything with Baron Rivendare is my favourite, especially in combination with Reincarnate, the new Shaman spell. When you can set up some Deathrattle minion and then play Baron, which doubles the Deathrattles, and then reincarnate that guy—you just end up with a ton of copies of whatever you're reincarnating and it's super fun.
JC: You can do some pretty cool stuff with Echoing Ooze and the Blessing Of Kings or Defender of Argus. That's a pretty fun one when you think of the ways you can really leverage the duplicating ability there.
PCG: Before Naxxramas a lot of people were saying 'everyone's going to run a ton of Silence', but there still aren't that many cards with Silence in the set. Is that deliberate because you wanted to see these new cards being played and used, rather than being snuffed out?
BB: Yeah, I would say that's definitely deliberate. Silence is a useful tool. In general, whenever there's a dominant strategy, you want to have tools in the card pool that players can use to counter that strategy. I think there's already enough Silence cards to do that, and so you can go play the [Ironbeak] Owls and the Spellbreakers if you need to, but we didn't need any more tools for that in the metagame.
PCG: People generally seemed able to clear the first wing in Normal in about an hour, was that in line with your expectations?
JC: I think in general a lot of players have been able to make it through the wing relatively quickly. That was by design. We wanted to make sure that anybody who unlocked one of the wings had the clear ability to get access to the cards. It was a design challenge for us to figure out how we were going to be able to have this cool new way to acquire the cards without making it so that it's frustrating. Normal mode was created in a way that anybody who wanted to should be able to get access to the cards.
PCG: I saw one writer complaining that he felt the Heroic mode was unrepresentative of what you might face in Constructed—but that seemed like the whole point to me. These almost brainteasers that you pit yourself against.
BB: Certainly. Especially Maexxna was absolutely a puzzle for the Heroic mission. There are some missions that are a little bit more skill based—but puzzles are really fun and different to playing on the Ladder. If you want a really hard match of skill, the Ladder is a great place for that. We can explore new places in the single-player Heroic missions, and puzzles are a fun way to experience Hearthstone.
JC: It was never our intention in terms of the design of the Heroic missions in particular to make it so that one all-powerful deck that you use in Constructed can make it through all the various bosses. One of the things we wanted to incentivise was that people would have a reason to go back and construct new kinds of interesting decks, and that's part of the intent behind the various Heroic bosses. You're really thinking about what this boss does and what tools are in your card collection that could help you defeat this interesting challenge you haven't seen before.
PCG: It's interesting you mention the competitiveness of the ladder. I wrote a piece about the stress I feel while laddering, and often I'll go and just beat up the Innkeeper for a while because I find it relaxing. Did you feel you needed to flesh out the single-player side for people like me?
JC: We had that feedback a lot, and we wanted to make sure that going through Naxxramas did actually speak to people who wanted to try out a bit more of a single-player experience. Naxxramas isn't really designed to have a full campaign as you might think of in other games, but more as a way to try a different way of playing and see what people think about it. We feel pretty good about where we ended up, and we're excited to do more things like this in the future.