Who'd have thought such a cheery young wizard could be the source of so much angst.
Update: In a post on Blizzard's forum, a community manager announced that Scholar Jaina will get "unique voice lines, start of game voice lines, and a couple other special voice lines" in a patch. Another hero skin, Horseman Uther, is receiving the same treatment. Hero skins in the next expansions will launch without unique lines, but will get them "as soon as VO recording allows".
The post also goes into the thinking behind the decision, explaining that while the original idea was to provide alternate hero skins at a faster pace, "we missed here on painting a clear picture of the difference between these skins and the alternate heroes we’ve done in the past, that include all sorts of unique audio and visual effects. That’s something we should have gotten across better and want to ensure that we address in the future."
Original story: In a sure sign that the Hearthstone meta is in one of its healthiest eras, the rolling deathball of complaint that is the Reddit community has instead turned its attention to the game's latest paid cosmetic.
As part of the ongoing Forbidden Library event, this week saw the release of the first installment in a new series of solo adventures called Book of Heroes. Starting with Jaina, the Mage Hero, players get to experience the backstory of each of the nine OG classes across a series of battles against the AI.
Book of Heroes is free to play, and completing all eight encounters will reward you with one (1) special pack containing only Mage cards. I found it pretty anaemic compared to the game's best solo stuff, like the brilliant Tombs of Terror and Dungeon Run modes, with little incentive to replay given that each fight involves pre-cooked decks.
But that isn't what the fans are annoyed about. The source of their ire is directed at the new Scholar Jaina portrait, which along with five more Mage-only cards packs, is available as a bundle from the Hearthstone store for $9.99/£8.99. That didn't seem like a hugely unfair deal to me, given that a seven pack bundle is priced at $9.99/£7.99. However, the complaint goes that the new Jaina has been phoned-in because she features the same voice lines as regular Jaina and doesn't come with a bespoke card back or tweaked hero power.
This has led to several threads, most notably this particularly febrile one, decrying the new portrait as, essentially, just a glorified gif. Part of the problem is that young Jaina does actually have new voice lines in the Book of Heroes adventure, but these weren't included with the portrait.
Addressing the pushback on Twitter, initial game designer Chad Nervig had this to say:
Mission bosses/heroes us a tiny subset of the total voice lines of a full collectible hero. Mixing them sounded very odd, so we stuck with the consistent full voice set.September 15, 2020
Nervig also responded to one Twitter user that felt the portrait was lazily implemented: "Devs not doing something you want doesn’t mean they were lazy," wrote Nervig. "It means they spent their limited time on something else (that you probably want too). Don’t abuse devs."
Nervig told another user that unique emotes and voice lines were "something we could do if people want it" and said they would pass along that feedback.
Speaking personally, I picked up Scholar Jaina because I'm a ways off the superb portrait you earn for 1,000 wins on the class, and wanted something new to look at while jamming the Small Spell deck at dumpster Legend rank. I felt like I got what I paid for, but clearly not everyone feels the same. I think the real issue stems from Blizzard's inconsistent treatment of what comes with these cosmetic portraits.
Adding to the confusion, the portraits you get for 1,000 wins don't have new voice lines or an accompanying card back, because I guess they're intended to be purely visual upgrades of the existing Hero. But many past Heroes sold through the store or offered as pre-order bonuses—such as Sylvanas Windrunner and Madam Lazul—have featured new voice work, plus unique 'trays' and hero power FX.
I think Blizzard could fix the issue almost entirely by committing to a standard feature set that every new hero has. It would also be nice if the additional portraits were more evenly distributed among the classes. As things stand, Rogue only has a single Alternate hero (not including the 1K upgrade), whereas Mage and Shaman have four each.
The issue likely won't go away if Blizzard is planning to give the other nine Heroes the same treatment as Scholar Jaina. Aside from being much better at delivering regular balance patches, Hearthstone's refreshed leadership team is planning to add more modes, and of course more ways to monetise the game, of which new cosmetics are sure to play a major part.