In the wake of widespread unhappiness over sweeping changes to Hearthstone's reward system, Blizzard has promised to make adjustments to the new Tavern Pass that will swap out card packs for more gold in the the later stages of the reward track. It also reassured players that there will be more opportunities to earn rewards tied to events, and apologized for the "confusion and disappointment we have caused."
When Blizzard announced the reward overhaul in October, it promised that it was "absolutely not taking away any of the gold you can earn" through gameplay. "One of the goals of the new progression system is to give you more gold, more reward, and more cosmetics for all players," senior game designer John Yang said at the time. "No matter if you play the game ten hours or 1000 hours an expansion, you should be expecting to be more rewarded for your time."
Unfortunately, as we explained in depth yesterday, that did not turn out to be the case: "The combination of reduced gold, increased set size, and confusing store offerings has justified many fears about the cost of the game going up. Combine with the fact those initial reassurances appear to have been inaccurate, whether intentional or otherwise, and it's a bad look."
We also predicted that the uproar would prompt an official response in short order, and so it has. In an update posted today, game director Ben Lee said Blizzard "missed the mark" in both implementing the new reward system and explaining how it works.
"During the natural progression of the rewards cycle, our intention was, and still is, to give out extra XP over time through a variety of ways. The aim is to help players get through the Rewards Track, or catch-up if they join later in an expansion phase, ultimately ensuring players earn more rewards," Lee wrote.
"We also didn’t provide any details for how events will link into and support the rewards system. We will be providing bonus XP for various activities at each seasonal event every expansion cycle, and any additional bonus events as needed, again with the aim of ensuring that our players obtain more rewards. Our failure to communicate these factors has led to incomplete projections, for which we apologize."
Lee also acknowledged that the payoff for working through the new reward track isn't really worth the work it takes to get there, and so six card packs in the later stages of the reward track will be swapped out for a total of 1350 gold. Players who reach those rewards before the change is made will be "retroactively compensated."
The initial reactions to the promised update are not particularly enthusiastic. Some respondents say the pace of XP gain is still too slow, while others say that even with the gold adjustment, the new reward system will leave some players shortchanged. One user, Melphina, said that relying on season events to make the system work "is terrible design philosophy."
"What happens if my schedule is busy during the seasonal events and I can’t devote enough playtime to make it worth the while?" they wrote. "If my playtime is worth X during every other phase, but during a limited window it’s worth 4X, but I don’t get to play during that quadruple experience window, then that window isn’t helping me at all. A proper progression system doesn’t rely on time gated bonuses to balance out deficiencies. It should be balanced no matter when I log in to play."
Despite the overall tepid response, it's movement in the right direction, and more importantly it seems likely that there will be more changes to come.
"Our goal for the Rewards Track continues to be that all Hearthstone players earn more gold and total rewards per expansion," Lee wrote. "We’ll continue to evaluate the impact of these changes, listen to your feedback, and iterate as needed until we get it right."
Meanwhile, the Madness at the Darkmoon Faire expansion has just gone live in all regions.