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Interview: Hearthstone executive producer Hamilton Chu

PC Gamer: Blizzard seemed to like the Lord of the Arena tournament organised by Tempo Storm. Would you consider creating a mode that allowed people to create arena drafts to use against their friends?

HC: We aren’t thinking about anything like that right now, but I think making it easier for people to play with their friends and have tournaments together—that is something very interesting to us. Having it be based on Arena drafts is harder, because then it’s not entirely natural how that interacts with your actual collection. Because with Arena drafts you don’t need to have the cards in your collection, it’s a totally different thing. It’s just complicated, so that’s not something we’re thinking about right now.

PC Gamer: We understand no work is happening on new Hero classes right now. Given it took four years for the Death Knight to be introduced in World of Warcraft, do you think it will take less or more time for a new class to come to Hearthstone?

HC: We don’t know. It’s about where the game ends up going. Right now we don’t think we need it, or want it. We have these nine classes, and we’ve worked really hard to make sure each is individually interesting and they don’t overlap in feel. That’s enough of a challenge, and enough things to live in players’ brains. It’s important that players understand that ‘this is what Hunters are like’. Maybe you don’t play a lot of Hunter, but you still understand what they’re like, and so adding more classes makes that harder. Especially for new players.

When you finish off a combo and blow everything up, that’s very satisfying.

PC Gamer: What have you guys learned from the [Curse of Naxxramas] expansion. Obviously it was a different paradigm for Hearthstone, how do you feel about the reaction now?

HC: It’s been really good. It was a bit of an experiment for us. We hadn’t had a bunch of single player-type content before, and the reaction to that has been good. WoW players who had played Naxx before really got the flavour. It was very nostalgic and fun for those people. Probably the biggest thing we learned from was how we rolled it out—one wing a week, over five weeks. That’s something we thought a lot about: ‘Are people going to like that? Is that too much change? Is it going to be too fast? Too slow?’ But the reaction to that has been really positive too. It was just this very fun time for the whole community, because cards are coming out all the time and what does that mean for the metagame. That was probably our biggest takeaway: Stuff like that where the community is experiencing something together was really wonderful.

PC Gamer: It turns it into a real event, because if you’d released it all at once it might have been a bit of a drop in the ocean.

HC: Yeah, I think for a shorter period of time it would have been very exciting for people. But this way was more of a solid celebration for an extended period of time.

PC Gamer: Any plans to add more social features—like enabling friends can voice chat to each other during a game?

HC: Nothing that we’re talking about now. Something that we are working on is a spectator mode, which I’m really excited about.

PC Gamer: The lack of voice chat is one of my favourite things about Hearthstone. I love how much you can communicate just through limited means. You can be passive aggressive in the most obscure way. That’s the beauty of the interface.

HC: [Laughs] That’s the beauty of it?

PC Gamer: It is for me! It leaves you to fill in the blanks of your opponent, and that feels quite valuable.

HC: Yeah that’s obviously something we thought really hard about too, and we ended up with this system we have now. For the most part it’s very positive interactions with who you’re playing with. That’s great. There are so many other games where you have to be careful, or it can be a negative experience, but we really liked how with ours—especially for people who are new to games or the internet and might not have as thick as skin as us, who’ve been around the block before—they can have this very fun interaction.

PC Gamer: I’m intrigued by your playerbase, and the overlap between people playing Hearthstone, WoW, and even other Blizzard games. How many new players do you bring in, versus people familiar with Blizzard lore?

HC: I don’t have any specific numbers for you, but a good population of both. Obviously there are a bunch of Warcraft players who enjoy the lore, enjoy the characters and have really taken to Hearthstone that way. There have been Blizzard players who haven’t played World of Warcraft, but are enjoying it from a different angle. Maybe they were Warcraft III players. They still have fun. And then there are people who are brand new to Blizzard. I think it’s been great to see that kind of new blood too.

PC Gamer: What’s the luckiest top deck you’ve ever had?

HC: [laughs] Ah. That’s a good question. Luckiest ever? I’m trying to stay away from the obvious top-decked Ragnaros or a Hex or something like that. Maybe the most satisfying in recent days is when you topdeck the second half of the Auchenai Soulpriest-Circle of Healing combo. When you finish off a combo and blow everything up, that’s very satisfying.

As an inveterate Hearthstone addict, Tim spends most of his time trying to explain why all Priest players are degenerates. The rest of his day is spent playing Destiny 2. Seriously, he's on it right now.