Hearthstone Curse Of Naxxramas interview: "We're keeping an eye on" Zoo

PCG: A few cards stood out to me in the new set—Spectral Knight, Loatheb and Nerub'ar Weblord—because they all seemed designed to disrupt the opponent's turn. Isn't that against the idea of encouraging interactivity?

BB: A little bit. The important thing to us is that on your turn you feel like you've done really powerful and awesome things, and so we're certainly not excited about taking away your fun options. We wouldn't make a card that makes your opponent discard their cards or blow up their Mana crystals. These cards slightly limit your options, but you could still play an awesome Taunt creature or do fun other things with your deck, and none of them are permanent effects that turn off your fun options. So yes, these are slightly into that territory, but not so much that it flies in the face of the core goal we have of making your turns feel powerful.

PCG: Of the new cards it's almost universally agreed that the Dark Cultist is the standout. That feels like an obvious attempt to buff the Priest class, which is one of the least played. If that doesn't work will you do something different? Is the aim to have all Heroes equally represented?

BB: That is definitely not the aim, partly because it's almost impossible having nine classes with nine different Hero powers and nine different pools of cards be in perfect balance. And, it's fun to have an underdog! I think a lot of players enjoy trying to make a class that other people feel is underrepresented do amazingly. You can just see players like Amaz , who has incredible success with Priest, and so there definitely is the possibility to do great things even when a class is traditionally treated as underpowered.

So I don't that the goal is to have every class be equally powerful. I don't think that's ever going to be possible anyway. But that doesn't mean we can't bring new and exciting cards into the game. Mostly [Dark Cultist] helps Priest play a little differently, be a little more proactive, which is exciting. It'll give you a new type of deck to play as Priest. We're always going to be adding new things to different classes, and so maybe next patch Warlocks will be the weak class and we'll add something for them. [laughs]

PCG: Won't somebody think of the poor Warlocks! I caught a story the other day about a bot program that had been used in Asia to play a couple of decks to Legend. Does that worry you or is it just the nature of the beast with online games?

JC: It's definitely a concern for us and something we take very seriously. We want to make sure that the quality of play on the Ladder is representative of the skill of people who are actually on the the Ladder. So we do have a team here that we're working with to try and identify cases where that's happening, and doing what we can to pull that back out of the pool. But it's one of these things that's an ongoing challenge to us, with our other games as well, because there's obviously a lot of super smart people out there who have a lot of great ideas about ways that they can come up with bots. So it becomes this progressive thing where we make fixes and then new versions come out, but it's something that we're committed to trying to address and pull out of the competitive scene as much as possible.

PCG: At the Numericable M-House Cup in France last month players were able to ban their opponents from using a single class. Would you ever consider implementing that on the Ladder, so players can say 'I chose not to go up against any Rogues'?

JC: We're definitely aware of that format, and think it's really cool. I'm excited about ways we might be able to integrate that into the competitive scene as well. Nothing right now in terms of the Ladder, where there would be a global system that you could ban a particular class from your opponent. At least there are no designs around that currently. But I do think it's reasonable that we're looking for ways to pull ideas like that back into the e-sports scene as it relates to Hearthstone.

PCG: There's the huge tournament coming up later in the year at BlizzCon. Do you expect to have a spectator mode in place, because I'd be keen to watch from within the client?

JC: We're working hard on getting that ready. No specific release time for it yet, but it's one of our main focuses on the team right now and we have some cool designs for it that we'll be rolling out here in the next few weeks probably.

PCG: What's the reason behind only having nine deck slots, is it just to keep the user interface uncluttered? I've ended up with a Google doc with nine different tabs for all the stuff I've shamelessly net decked and I'm constantly having to rebuild my decks. Is there no way we can have more slots, please ?

BB: One of the interesting things about that is that if you look at something similar—I don't know if it's a great analogue—it's bags in World of Warcraft. When you have a 16-slot backpack it's very easy to manage your inventory, but when you have a massive inventory it's more challenging, especially when you come back to the game after a long period of time. We're just worried that players who have 18, 30 deck slots can get overwhelmed and forget which one's which. It gets a lot more complicated quickly.

Nine is a really great number for user interface purposes when you're choosing a deck to use to face someone on the Ladder. And there are tools like Excel or other things you can use to save your decks. You can take screenshots of them. So it's not impossible, but it's a quality of life thing that can also decrease the quality of life for players who are already struggling to remember all the decks they have even with nine.

PCG: That sounds like I'm not getting more anytime soon.

BB: [Laughs]

PCG: Are members of Team 5 allowed to play on the Ladder?

BB: Yes. We even have some very high-level Legend players. Though I don't know what happens if they end up in the top 16…

JC: They're not eligible for participation in the Championship.

BB: Right.

PCG: Statistically, who are the better Hearthstone players: People on PC or people on iPads?

JC: It's really hard to say because one of the things we've seen is a lot of players like to jump back and forth between platforms. We've seen players who are very high level Legend players jumping on their iPad. We also see entry level players on both platforms. I don't know if we have any consistent overall skill level associated with platform.

PCG: I think that's a very diplomatic answer. Thanks for your time.

Check out our verdict on the first wing of Curse of Naxxramas here .

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.