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The live Q&A with the two well-known Hearthstone devs took place yesterday and we've made a recap of the most interesting points.
First of all, if you want to watch the whole thing, the VOD can be found here (it starts at 14:10). If you prefer a shorter version, Redditor EpicMelon has made a 10-min video of everything important said. Ultimately, if you don't feel like watching videos, we've made a summary of anything worth noting from yesterday's Q&A.
Ben started talking about the new player experience, a topic he has discussed again this week. He repeated that most new players start off by playing versus A.I., some go to Casual and a minority goes to Ranked. The team has made it so that in Casual new players are exclusively matched against other new players and their MMR is kept to a 50% winrate.
One of the currently most discussed hot topics in the Hearthstone community is the Ranked ladder. The team is satisfied with how clear the current system is in how it works. However, they do realise that its grindiness and the monthly reset can be a disadvantage and feel repetitive. To counter that, they are looking into short-term increasing the amount of bonus stars players can gain. This will hopefully increase the number of players in medium and higher ranks and move veterans away from Rank 20. However, they don't want everyone to be a Legend player either, since this would devalue the ranking. New breakpoints are also an idea the Hearthstone team is considering. As far as winstreaks stopping at Rank 5 are concerned, the idea behind this is that they wanted players to get to Legend "legit"; this could change as well, though.
Moving to the topic of Arena, Dean announced that they are thinking of moving it to Standard format. Moreover, they want to try decreasing the amount of commons you get, as well as the amount of neutral Classic and Basic cards (especially minions). Some of these changes for Arena are already ready to be added to the game they are just waiting for the right time to patch them in. In early February, top 100 rankings for Arena will be published - just like the Ranked season ones. These rankings will be calculated based on highest average wins per run basis with a minimum requirement of 30 runs.
The guys had a few things to say about the current meta, too. Pirate Warrior represented 30% of the meta game near the launch of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, while there were also a lot of Pirate Shamans and Rogues. Thankfully, these numbers have dropped as other decks (like Jade Druid and Reno decks) started surfacing. Pirate decks are slightly more popular than Team 5 would like and decks with the pirate package feel same-y. If this persists, they might take a look at Pirates. Hunters and Paladins are having a hard time at the moment because they can't keep up with the aggro pirate decks. Overall, the internal meta report shows a stability in the meta: there is only a 3% difference between the winrates of the top deck and the 11th best deck.
Lastly, there was mention of the Wild format. Ben admitted that they could do some things better for Wild. For example, it's possible that Blizzard will encourage more Wild tournaments in the future. The upcoming rotation will be interesting since Wild will have more card sets than Standard. Wild is far from dead: it's just half as popular as Standard, although Ben hasn't looked in the numbers recently. Earlier in the stream, Ben also said that the team is considering two options to keep Standard fresh: either nerfing cards or just move them to Wild.
Lastly, Ben and Dean talked about various other small topics like the possibility of reprinting cards (no actual answer given), more Hunter and Paladin talk, wording inconsistencies and rewriting old cards, how a healthy meta is defined and Team 5 itself.
Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode and Game Designer Dean Ayala will answer all your questions on a live Q&A session on Twitch this Friday!
The complaints about the lack of communication from the part of the Hearthstone team have been answered. This Friday the 13th (!) of January, Ben Brode and Dean Ayala will answer questions about some of the most heated topics that currently affect the playerbase. Ben has already made some posts about issues like the Classic card set and the possibility of some Classic cards rotating out of Standard.
As always, we will try to have a recap of the Q&A as soon as it is finished.
Pull up a chair by the hearth! Join Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode and Game Designer Dean Ayala January 13 at 9:00am PST for a live Q&A session on Twitch. Our developers will be sharing some insight about the state of the game, the new player experience, the ranked play system, and answering your questions live.
Have some questions for Ben and Dean? Here’s how you can be part of the conversation:
- Tweet @PlayHearthstone with the hashtag #QA with your question
- Post a question below in the blog comments
- Join us live in Twitch chat and direct questions to us @PlayHearthstone
Can’t make it? Don’t worry – we will be posting the full video on the PlayHearthstone YouTube after the Q&A has completed.
Follow the official Hearthstone Twitch channel to be notified when the stream begins.
We’ll see you there!
Ben Brode was active on the official forums and on social media these past few days and he had a lot of interesting things to say about various hot topics. Most notably, he noted that it's possible that additional Basic and Classic set cards may be nerfed or rotated out of Standard in the future.
You probably remember that with the release of the Standard format, something less than a year ago, 12 Basic and Classic cards were nerfed. Now, Game Director Ben Brode revealed that more Basic & Classic card nerfs can happen or at least they may be rotated out of Standard. The reasoning behind this is that the team wants to keep a fresh feeling in Standard and they don't want to see the same core cards appear too frequently. That's why they are also not considering buffing underused vanilla cards, since Basic and Classic cards are already being used a lot and they want new sets to be more impactful.
+ Show- Hide The goal with Standard is to keep the meta fresh for each yearly rotation. There are some benefits to keeping Basic and Classic cards in Standard: Returning players have an entry-point to the new format, and new players experience classics like "Hogger" and "Arcane Missiles" that are iconic and great introductions to the game. People take breaks from Hearthstone, and being able to jump right back in with a few cards you already own and understand makes that experience a lot better. That upside has a real downside in working directly against the big goal for Standard. It needs to feel different each year, and if Basic and Classic cards are still appearing in large densities year after year, we will not be achieving our goals for Standard.
We knew we weren't going to get there when the Year of the Kraken began, so we nerfed 12 basic/classic cards, to put more of the weight of the meta into the rotating sets. We always knew we'd have to watch the meta to see if any future changes would be needed when we got ready for the next year of Standard. If things are looking like they are going to be too same-y for that next year, we could see more nerfs, or we might rotate some additional classic cards to Wild, like we did with Old Murk Eye. No matter what, we're committed to making Standard fresh and exciting each new year. (source)
Are you guys considering, besides nerfs, implementing buffs for underused vanilla cards?
Given the goal of Standard is to keep the game fresh each year, it's important to keep a lot of the power of the cards in the expansions, and not in the basic and classic sets. It's not clear what that balance of power should look like (is it ~10 cards from the basic and classic sets on average?), but we're currently skewed so high towards basic and classic cards in decks, that we are at high risk for 'samey-ness' as the years change in Standard. Buffing Basic/Classic cards *increases* that risk. If the goal is to get more cool cards into the meta, just releasing awesome new cards in expansions should make an impact there, and still keep Standard fresh. (source)
Obviously, this comment caused a lot of reactions and Ben took to Reddit (specifically this thread) and Twitter, where he answered various questions. A brief summary of his responses is that the Basic set is currently the most powerful in the game (source), while the team intends to keep the vanilla set unchanged (the term used was 'evergreen' - source). Ben repeated that the team's intention behind any future Basic and Classic card nerfs or changes is to keep Standard format fresh and "less same-y". A difficult question was posed to the community: would they prefer the affected vanilla cards to be nerfed, rotated out of Standard format or remain as they are, even if it results in a staler meta?
On the same Reddit thread, Brode also talked about why the Charge nerf was necessary due to the Grimy Goons synergy and how new/F2P players are currently still able to reach Legend rank - something that he expects to keep happening in the future as well.
+ Show- Hide [...] We nerfed Charge (the spell) because we knew the upcoming Grimy Goons mechanic in combination with Enraged Worgen and Charge was not really fair or fun. There have always been F2P players at Legend, and there have continued to be since that change. (source) Ben Brode
+ Show- Hide We did this in 2016 when we nerfed 12 classic cards and it made a huge difference in how much the meta was able to change with the release of Old Gods (instead of just continuing to be Druid Combo). New players were able to reach legend without spending money after that change, and I expect that will be continue to be true if we change a few more cards in 2017. (source) On a somewhat relevant topic, with the end of the Year of the Kraken the end of Reno Jackson is also approaching. Ben excluded the possibility of this game-changing card making it into the Classic set - once again the reason being "keeping the meta fresh".
Placeholder for tweet 817625802116214784 For consistency's sake, I've also included two Brode blue posts from last week. In the first one, he talks about the new player experience and how it still needs more work. For example. the climb from the introductory quests to actually playing the game feels steep, while getting into Ranked is also difficult. However, for their first games new players actually play in a seperate matchmaking pool designed to match new players with each other. There has also been a 15% increase in new player winrates on Casual.
+ Show- Hide Hey there! We agree that the new player experience needs more work. We've been tweaking it for years and have seen significant increases in retention among new players since launch. Most new players start playing against the AI and then take on other players in Casual. The Casual matchmaker has gone through a lot of iteration and new player winrates have increased by ~15%.
Ranked is a different story. Ranked is becoming more difficult for new players over time. I spoke about some of the challenges we are currently facing with our ladder system before I left for paternity leave here: https://www.reddit.com/r/hearthstone/comments/58pxgt/ben_brode_confirms_the_2_game_win_streak_is_not/
Something you may not realize is that new players actually play in a seperate matchmaking pool for their first several sessions. In Casual, we match them entirely against other brand new players with similarly-sized collections.
That all said, we think the introductory missions up through Illidan feel pretty good, and after that it still feels like a bit of a cliff. It's definitely something we're aware of. Thanks for your feedback, and for the feedback of everyone else who's been chiming in on this over the last few months.
(source) Lastly, Ben made an interesting post about another community hot topic: the ladder system.
+ Show- Hide [...] We have been discussing the ladder system a lot recently - we're not 100% happy with it.
Here are some things we are currently discussing:
Rank 18 players are higher ranked than 50% of HS players. That number doesn't make you feel like you are in the top 50%, and that's a missed opportunity. We try and counter this by telling you all over the place what the mapping is to the rest of the population, but it'd be better if expectations and reality matched here.
We've received feedback that the last-minute jostling for high Legend ranks at the end of a season doesn't feel all that great.
We've received feedback that the ladder can feel like a grind.
We are reanalyzing the number of ranks, the number of stars per rank, the number of bonus stars given out at the start of the season, and other parts of the system.
We are developing simulation systems that let us predict what changes to the ladder would do to the population curve. If we inflate too many stars, the whole population ends up in the Legend bucket and while that might feel great for a single month, the entire system falls apart eventually. People who played waaaay back may remember when "3-star master" was the pinnacle of achievement, and it meant nothing because so many people ended up in that bucket. With better simulation tools, we are planning on trying a lot of crazy things. Iteration is important in design, and getting the tools to iterate quickly is very important.
Something I want to emphasize is that while I think we can improve the ladder, the metric for that improvement isn't necessarily any one player's individual rank increasing. Players want the better rewards (and prestige) associated with high ranks, or the Legend card back, so any change we make that increases the chances of those are likely to be perceived as "good", at least for the short term. But part of what makes the ranked ladder compelling is that exists to rank players. If you want to see how you stack up, ranked is the place to do it. So while some inflation might improve the experience, we need to be careful and make sure we end up with a system that makes people feel rewarded for increases in personal skill or for finding a new deck that breaks the meta.
Since I talk like an ogre I can as well practice my 3D skills and play around with the hearthstone logo. Here is a quick render I made this morning. Maybe I will do some more, wallpaper, t-shirt print or other stuff... I don't know
I will probably also just play some Hearthstone for myself. If I am better I will maybe do a "silent" stream tonight! :-D Or at least keep the conversation to a minimum.
See you around guys and have a good day!