Blizzard made changes to the artwork on eight Hearthstone cards yesterday (and changed the names of two of them), and the reaction was not entirely positive. Multiple posters in this Reddit thread, for instance, speculate that the sex and violence was dialed back in order to be in line with Chinese regulations. That would not be unprecedented: China's gaming market is heavily censored, and Blizzard has previously made changes to World of Warcraft visuals in order to comply with regulations.
In this case, however, China had nothing to do with it. Lead mission designer Dave Kosak told us that after reviewing the full Hearthstone set, Blizzard decided that the art on some of the cards simply didn't meet its standards, and that Blizzard "wouldn't print those same cards today."
"We went back and really just brought everything up to our standards," Kosak said. "It wasn't because we were looking at ratings, or international [regulations], or anything like that. We really just wanted our artists to feel good about everything in the set."
The changed cards are:
- Succubus (now named Felstalker)
- Mistress of Pain (now named Queen of Pain)
- Windfury Harpy
- Deadly Shot
Succubus underwent the most complete transformation: The stats and effect are the same, but the sexy cruel demons who "slake their lust with coupling" are out, and pack-hunting "demonic beasts" are in. Mistress of Pain (now Queen of Pain), Secretkeeper, and Windfury Harpy have also had the sexy factor dialed back, while Bite, Eviscerate, and Deadly Shot are now less graphically violent.
Kosak confirmed that some of the changes were aimed at toning down the portrayals of sex and violence in the game (although designer Liv Breeden noted that one card, Headcrack, was updated because it was just too dark and hard to read) but emphasized that the decision was driven not by external forces, but "just kind of bringing it up to the standards we felt really good about today."
This won't necessarily be the last batch of Hearthstone card art to be changed: Kosak said that Blizzard doesn't have any immediate plans, that it is "always evaluating the set and looking at it."
You can see all the changed cards below: