Hearthstone Goblins vs Gnomes interview


Going back to the card changes, the next one on the watchlist surely has to be Undertaker. Is that high up on the concerns you have?

BB: Whenever players give us a ton of feedback about a card they’re frustrated by, it basically goes onto the watchlist. Undertaker is a card I get a lot of feedback about. We did put a bunch of cards into Goblins vs Gnomes that are quite good against decks that feature a lot of Deathrattle, so if undertaker continues to be a big part of what you see on the ladder I think people will start including Lil’ Exorcist and maybe even the Paladin card that damages Deathrattle minions. And if those become very popular, it’s definitely possible we will see less Undertaker and then the meta will shift again.

So I think it’s too early to say whether or not we’d be making any changes to that stuff. We did add hopefully enough tools to for players to feel empowered to deal with it themselves, but we’re always paying attention to things and watching things and making sure things feel fun.

How is it always in the Hunter's opening hand? That's got to be a bug!

BB: [Laughs]

Everytime. Everytime. As soon as you see that coin go up, you know what’s happening. So I think you recently sent around a survey soliciting feedback on how future card drops could be done and one of the options was potentially weekly releases. How would that work?

BB: I am not familiar with the survey that went out so I’m not specifically sure about any of the stuff that we asked. Yeah, I don’t know. We’re always looking at ways to distribute cards. Obviously the [Curse of Naxxramas] adventures were a huge experiment for us, I think that worked out really well. Goblins vs Gnomes is another big experiment for how we deliver cards, kind of in a more traditional way. I think we’re always looking at ways to make Hearthstone awesome and to deliver content so we’re kind of considering all options. I’m not sure what other options at this point.

We want more deck slots too, really... Who doesn't want a ton of deck slots?

So now that spectator mode is out there, what would you say are the main technical things you’re looking to change and improve? Is there quality of life stuff you’re keen to get done?

BB: We have a massive backlog of things that are really exciting. We’ve had a lot of suggestions from the community, and from other people around the company, and there are a lot of things that we are really really excited about. One of the biggest things is iPhone. That’s the biggest technical thing we’re working on right now, and Android phone. Android tablet is coming out this month, so those are the biggest technical feature things we’re working on going forward.

Can you feel that I’m building up to ask about the deck slots?

BB: I did sense that! [Laughs]

But are there any plans on that front? I have to ask. Or let me phrase it a different way: Did you see the fact that people can’t even buy the right types of packs as vindication of the fact they can’t be trusted with more than nine slots?

BB: [Laughs] It’s definitely something we’ve received a ton of feedback on. We want more deck slots too, really. I mean, it’s something that we’re always… Who doesn’t want a ton of deck slots? It’s a tough problem. We did a lot of testing early on in the game with brand new players and we found over and over again, back in our prototype days, people would enter the Collection Manager and say 'Oh, this is not for me. I’m not interested in building decks at all, it’s too complicated. Maybe this game is not for me.'

We really had a lot of fear about how changes to the Collection Manager effect those brand new players. The Hearthstone community is super smart and obviously adding additional complexity wouldn't really bother them very much, but it’s something that we’re trying to figure out. I do think we have some cool ideas that we’re talking about internally. Basically we want to find an elegant solution, and we’re not sure what it would be just yet—but we hear the feedback, we know it’s important. We just need to figure out exactly our strategy here, because it’s surprisingly complicated for us to solve this problem in an elegant way.

GvG Kings vs Beasts

I think that’s a great answer and I’ll park the question for a while now. I don’t know how many artists are on the team, but do you take the response to cards personally? I watched a lot of streamers being really critical of the poor old King of Beasts, and I felt sad for whoever—and I apologize if this is you—but I felt sad for whoever drew it. People were just wailing on that card.

BT: It sounds like you’re focusing more on the art on the cards themselves. I would say a good portion, I hesitate to put an actual number to it, but the largest portion of those pieces of art are by an external community of freelance artists who have many many talented names. I mean you’ve got everybody from Todd Lockwood who has offerings in there, Raymond Swanlund, just really a talented bunch of people that I’ve gotten to work with over the years.

The thing is, art is subjective, right? There’s no 100 percent right answer all the time, and because of that you’re going to get wildly varying opinions. This is starting to give you some idea of how much fun my job is on a given day. So, because of that we’re very sensitive mostly—or I should say I’m extremely sensitive—to whenever we put art in the game, at the end of the day, it has to feel right for Hearthstone. It has to feel right for the vibe and the style of the game. If I got mired down in the 'Gosh, do I think people will like this? Do I think people will hate this? What could they find wrong with it? What could they really love about it?' I would probably be paralyzed into non-productivity very quickly.

But that becomes an easier job when it really comes down to: 'Does it carry the vibe of Hearthstone? Is it fun? Is it lighthearted? Or is it too aggressive?' I get approached all the time with 'What’s the worst piece of art?' and likewise 'What’s the best piece of art?' I think it depends who's asking the questions as to what the answer will be, and one of the exciting things about art is that there’s no wrong answer to any of it. Reddit would say otherwise.

The best is Mal’ganis. I don’t know why we’re even debating it.

Tim Clark

With over two decades covering videogames, Tim has been there from the beginning. In his case, that meant playing Elite in 'co-op' on a BBC Micro (one player uses the movement keys, the other shoots) until his parents finally caved and bought an Amstrad CPC 6128. These days, when not steering the good ship PC Gamer, Tim spends his time complaining that all Priest mains in Hearthstone are degenerates and raiding in Destiny 2. He's almost certainly doing one of these right now.