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Ben Brode Leaves Blizzard

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The beloved Hearthstone developer is leaving Blizzard Entertainment to start working on a new company

In a twist of events as shocking as Chris Metzen's departure, Ben Brode - the Game Director for Hearthstone - will no longer be working for Blizzard as of today. Ben was an instrumental member of Team 5 for almost ten years. The team has grown since to 80 members and I am sure it's going to be in good hands from now on.

Where Brode will truly be missed is the commercial part of Hearthstone. Disregarding the usual cynical remark that Ben Brode's only purpose in life is to sell packs, he was the face of Hearthstone - just like Kaplan is the face of Overwatch. Who can forget his epic raps, his iconic laughter, his jolly "Well met!" greeting and the enthusiasm with which he talked about Hearthstone? You will be missed, Ben Brode.

We wish him the very best of luck in his new venture! Hopefully he'll become the face of a brand new popular game!

Blizzard LogoBen Brode

To my friends, coworkers, and the Hearthstone community,

After 15 years at Blizzard and almost 10 years working on Hearthstone, I have made the incredibly difficult decision to embark on a new journey.

Man, that was a hard sentence to type.

I was 20 years old when I started here. My first role was ‘Night Crew Game Tester.’

Since then, Blizzard has been good to me. I got to cast esports events, announce BlizzCons, play in Rock Bands, write raps, and work with incredible people. But the biggest opportunity came in 2008 when I joined “Team 5.” The Hearthstone Team.

I am very proud of Hearthstone. I think we made an impact on the industry. People tell me that Hearthstone brought their family closer together, or that they became close friends with people they met at a Fireside Gathering. Others tell me they were inspired by Hearthstone to become game developers themselves. It’s incredible to be a part of something that touches so many people.

But as proud as I am of Hearthstone, I am even more proud of the team.

There is no team like the Hearthstone team. People have come and gone over the 10 years Hearthstone has been in development, but there’s something special about the Soul of the Team. We knew our most important product wasn’t the game, but the team itself. A great team can do great things, and I think the Hearthstone team is the greatest. It isn’t just a job. It’s a shared passion. We get to come to work and focus on the game we love and try to make it better every day.

We frequently check the Hearthstone subreddit looking for opportunities to improve the game. I have loved the silly memes, engaging in spirited debates, or even just being held accountable to our shared high standards for the game. We try to be highly available on social media, and I think our team helped push the envelope in this regard. It has been especially satisfying to me to see the team step up over the last few years and help engage in these ways as I became more focused on direction and less on actual design.

I get too much credit by virtue of being a public face, but the 80+ people on the development team are still there, and they are the ones actually making the cards, brawls, events, missions, and features. I am confident the game is in the best possible hands, and I’m excited to see where a new generation of leaders takes Hearthstone from here.

I am very fortunate to be able to take a crazy risk right now in my life, and I’m excited to be scrappy and a little scared. I’m going to help start a new company. We’ll probably make games, but we haven’t figured anything else out, yet. I’m looking forward to designing, programming, and actually creating things again. I’m going to miss the on-campus Starbucks, though. Dang.

Blizzard, thank you for taking a chance on me, and thank you for taking a chance on Hearthstone. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

And to the passionate community of players – I will miss you, and the laughs we shared together. Thank you for making being a part of Hearthstone so much fun for me. I’ve loved every minute.

Sincerely,

Ben Brode

(source)

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This is super sad. He's such a good guy and it's really sad to see him go

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The game doesn't seem to be in a good state, which probably adds to it feeling rough to be leaving now. Not that he's the reason for the state of the game, but he's clearly the face it falls on.

He has always seemed truly genuine in his desire to do what he thinks to be right for the game, so I hope the best for him in whatever direction he takes.

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Not the biggest Hearthstone player, but who could look at Ben Brode's videos and not feel a smile coming on? I just hope he reminds someone to nerf Shudderwock before he leaves :D 

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1 hour ago, Laragon said:

The game doesn't seem to be in a good state

What do you mean? This is likely one of the most exciting and varied meta ever! So many different deck archetypes... Budget legend has never been as affordable... I'm serious, what do you mean?

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Wonder what happened?     Offered more from a competitor or Blizzard wanted to let him go?  

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May your travels lead you good places, Ben Borde. You were the reason I cared enough to watch Hearthstone streams, and I will miss that weird laughter of yours.

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8 minutes ago, Migol said:

Wonder what happened?     Offered more from a competitor or Blizzard wanted to let him go?  

In his goodbye thread he specifically says he will set up his own company to make games and who knows what else!

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What the hell. I just started to like him. His opening ceremony was great and recent HS expansion cinematic where they were having fun in the forest. This man was old school not all this being serious big money company guys. Sad :c

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54 minutes ago, Seksi said:

In his goodbye thread he specifically says he will set up his own company to make games and who knows what else!

Yeah but take any official goodbye thread or such with a large grain of salt.    

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I never really liked playing Hearthstone, but man, I loved Ben's presentations. He will be missed indeed, just like Metzen.

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4 hours ago, Migol said:

Wonder what happened?     Offered more from a competitor or Blizzard wanted to let him go?  

It’s pretty safe to say that someone came to him threw a bunch of venture capital at him and said here’s a third of the company, make whatever you want.

Hearthstone is a gaming phenomenon that can be enjoyed on every platform under the sun.

The number of people that can say they did what he did can be counted on one hand.

As such he likely was never going to be wealthy working at Blizzard.  I’m sure he made a good living but when you look at the gaming millionaires and billionaires they all came from a common thread; a game that can be played on mobile or any platform on the market. Minecraft, Angry Birds etc. being the best examples of games/companies I’m talking about.

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Damn, that was unexpected. I'm gonna miss the good'ol days when I watched those expansion introduction streams with all those Ben Brode laughs. 

Type 4Head in whatever stream you're watching to show respect for him. 

4Head

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13 hours ago, EDL666 said:

What do you mean? This is likely one of the most exciting and varied meta ever! So many different deck archetypes... Budget legend has never been as affordable... I'm serious, what do you mean?

The game has been going downhill since MSG (some may also say that LoE started it with Reno Jackson, Tunnel Trogg, so on). The pirate synergy, jades, and RNG introduced in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan were the beginning of the end. Followed by quests, a very unfun mechanic to play against, in Journey to Un'goro, Death Knight Heroes in Knights of the Frozen Throne, which basically ruined late game, and later in Kobolds and Catacombs reaching levels of RNG surpassing those of GvG. The Witchwood expansion brought Shudderwock, aggro decks are resurrected with such a power that the LoE-era aggro shamans are laughable. The full impact of the latest expansion is to be seen yet, though.

Meta is diverse because we are one week into the expansion, which happens with every expansion's launch. Wait for three more weeks and you will see that the meta will stabilise, as it always does.

Budget legend is cheaper than it was the last expansion or two, but it is still a long way from being the most affordable so far. In the early days of Hearthstone up to about 2 expansions in, reaching legend with 0-dust decks was actually feasible. After that, there were even metas where decks with less than 1k dust had the best chance of reaching legend (face hunters, zoolocks, mech mages, tempo mages, so on). Even with changes like not being able to fall down from 15, 10 and 5, budget decks (which aren't that cheap compared to old-time full-budget decks) aren't nearly as efficient at reaching legend as they used to be. This is, of course, caused to some extent by removal of adventures, which used to allow players to prepare for each expansion launch, as you could obtain every single card in about 2 months when there were 5 wings, and about month and a half in 4-wing era.

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12 hours ago, Migol said:

Yeah but take any official goodbye thread or such with a large grain of salt.    

Why assume its a lie and that he was outbid by rivals or fired when HS is a huge money maker for blizz?

This kind of thing always gets figured out soon enough, lets see where he ends up now.

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31 minutes ago, positiv2 said:

The game has been going downhill since MSG (some may also say that LoE started it with Reno Jackson, Tunnel Trogg, so on). The pirate synergy, jades, and RNG introduced in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan were the beginning of the end. Followed by quests, a very unfun mechanic to play against, in Journey to Un'goro, Death Knight Heroes in Knights of the Frozen Throne, which basically ruined late game, and later in Kobolds and Catacombs reaching levels of RNG surpassing those of GvG. The Witchwood expansion brought Shudderwock, aggro decks are resurrected with such a power that the LoE-era aggro shamans are laughable. The full impact of the latest expansion is to be seen yet, though.

Meta is diverse because we are one week into the expansion, which happens with every expansion's launch. Wait for three more weeks and you will see that the meta will stabilise, as it always does.

Budget legend is cheaper than it was the last expansion or two, but it is still a long way from being the most affordable so far. In the early days of Hearthstone up to about 2 expansions in, reaching legend with 0-dust decks was actually feasible. After that, there were even metas where decks with less than 1k dust had the best chance of reaching legend (face hunters, zoolocks, mech mages, tempo mages, so on). Even with changes like not being able to fall down from 15, 10 and 5, budget decks (which aren't that cheap compared to old-time full-budget decks) aren't nearly as efficient at reaching legend as they used to be. This is, of course, caused to some extent by removal of adventures, which used to allow players to prepare for each expansion launch, as you could obtain every single card in about 2 months when there were 5 wings, and about month and a half in 4-wing era.

Yup, MSG is the expansion when I quit Hearthstone. Those pirates basically make every fun decks unplayable on the ladder. 

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9 minutes ago, ShadowerDerek said:

Yup, MSG is the expansion when I quit Hearthstone. Those pirates basically make every fun decks unplayable on the ladder. 

And every single time, they come up with something which makes aggro decks unbearable. They started with pirates in MSoG, then continued with a huge murloc support in JtU, then they brought neutral package for every tempo deck out there (Cobalt Scalebane and pre-nerf Bonemare) and of course Prince Keleseth in KFT, then Corridor Creeper in K&C. Now we have Baku the Mooneater. There are already two and a half degenerate aggro decks including it. 

And when they want to make control-ish decks, best they can do is either Highlander Priest or Cubelock.I remember when people ranted about Freeze Mage (which is extremely hard to play), and look at where we at now.

Lastly, when they don't want control decks running rampant in meta, they come up with genius solutions like Quest Rogue, Jade Druid and Shudderwock Shaman.

This is not just about archetypes, but also about specific cards. Neutral minions like BarnesPrince Keleseth and lately Spiteful Summoner pushes people to play one-dimensional games, which is more about drawing a card more than anything else.

I like Brode's enthusiasm, especially when there are new sets on the line. But this state of the game is far from healthy. And I think that is partly on him.

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37 minutes ago, FanOfValeera said:

And every single time, they come up with something which makes aggro decks unbearable. They started with pirates in MSoG, then continued with a huge murloc support in JtU, then they brought neutral package for every tempo deck out there (Cobalt Scalebane and pre-nerf Bonemare) and of course Prince Keleseth in KFT, then Corridor Creeper in K&C. Now we have Baku the Mooneater. There are already two and a half degenerate aggro decks including it. 

And when they want to make control-ish decks, best they can do is either Highlander Priest or Cubelock.I remember when people ranted about Freeze Mage (which is extremely hard to play), and look at where we at now.

Lastly, when they don't want control decks running rampant in meta, they come up with genius solutions like Quest Rogue, Jade Druid and Shudderwock Shaman.

This is not just about archetypes, but also about specific cards. Neutral minions like BarnesPrince Keleseth and lately Spiteful Summoner pushes people to play one-dimensional games, which is more about drawing a card more than anything else.

I like Brode's enthusiasm, especially when there are new sets on the line. But this state of the game is far from healthy. And I think that is partly on him.

Another reason why I quit Hearthstone is that their cards are just not creative enough. Every time they introduce a new mechanic, most of the time they pretty much just add a new keyword to the game. This makes Hearthstone's deck archtype, and strategy, very plain in general. Most decks are just Aggro/Mid-range/Tempo/Control (insert a class name here). 

My all-time favourite card in any card game is Nephthys in Shadowverse. Building a deck around this card is complicating yet strategic, and playing the deck is so much fun. 

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And I still think they did I great job. If what you mean by control is using Hero Power and skipping turn, that's really boring. Every single deck now needs to have win condition, not just atrittion and win after 40 minutes.
And I played Both Bakudin and Baku Hunter, and they can easily beaten. ONLY real outliars here are Cubelock mostly because Possessed Lackey is 5 mana (should be 6 with like 2/3 body) and Shudderwock for it's animation taking SO damn long.

Edited by SleepySheepy

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I admit I am curious - some of you write that it is sad, shoking, bad or something similiar that he leaves.
Are you serious? Or do you just think you have to write something like that?

For Hearthstone his leave means exactly one thing: Absolutly nothing.

In our world a single person is in 99,99% totally irrelevant and replacable. The bigger the company the more irrelevant a single person becomes.

Maybe he was a familiar face with Hearthstone - so what? He will be just replaced by another face. And this one will be replaced in a few years by yet another one.

Hearthstone development will continue precicly as before (if that is good or bad can everybody judge by himself).

 

His leave is as irrelevant as if a bag of rice falls over somewhere in China.

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The men (or women or turtles) in charge are either just guys for the camera in that case he is not to blame, or they are the are they ones having all (most) in their hands in this case he failed quite often.

And an often used excuse is "we could not test all cards for all possible interactions" or something similar. Of course the number of players is huge compared to the Devs but it only takes one player that is good at this game and used to it as well as knowing the mechanics well to find out about game breaking/unhealthy interactions in a very short time. Shouldn't it be the case that every Dev there knows the game well enough to see possible interactions and that they are just shitty? It might get really hard to do so for Wild, but at least for the Standard Format they should be able predict a cards impact and interactions.

So I see three reasons why they don't:

  • They (Ben) want the game to be like it is now.
  • They don't really care as long as it sells.
  • They are just stupid.
  • A mix of the previous three is also possible, I guess.

I really wanted to play ranked again but it's no fun and even casual gets worse. My current best friend in Hearthstone is the concede button. Not because I can't win but because they decks I encounter are boring and feel like a waste of time to play against.

Someone said there are "only" aggro/mid-range/tempo/control decks. I think it would be ok to have 4 major types of deck, if at least there were different sub types and variations. Also I see tempo pretty much as the same as aggro (I know it is not but feels like) and mid-range is pretty much unplayable since now 4 expansions. Well, maybe you could classify Even-Paladin as midrange doesn't make it better though.

/edit: And what Wedge said :)

Edited by Caldyrvan
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I'll be honest, I don't see Hearthstone lasting much longer without Brode at the helm. It's already become almost unbearable, and I only stick around for the single player content and the occasional Tavern Brawl.

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3 hours ago, WedgeAntilles said:

I admit I am curious - some of you write that it is sad, shoking, bad or something similiar that he leaves.
Are you serious? Or do you just think you have to write something like that?

For Hearthstone his leave means exactly one thing: Absolutly nothing.

In our world a single person is in 99,99% totally irrelevant and replacable. The bigger the company the more irrelevant a single person becomes.

Maybe he was a familiar face with Hearthstone - so what? He will be just replaced by another face. And this one will be replaced in a few years by yet another one.

Hearthstone development will continue precicly as before (if that is good or bad can everybody judge by himself).

 

His leave is as irrelevant as if a bag of rice falls over somewhere in China.

No, it's definitely not irrelevant at all. Hearthstone losing Ben Brode is like Apple losing Steve Jobs, Manchester United losing Sir Alex Fergerson, Arsenal losing Wenger: they lose their souls and identities. They'll be completely different, whether good or not. It's like entering a different era. 

Edited by ShadowerDerek

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16 hours ago, Misuteri said:

It’s pretty safe to say that someone came to him threw a bunch of venture capital at him and said here’s a third of the company, make whatever you want.

Hearthstone is a gaming phenomenon that can be enjoyed on every platform under the sun.

The number of people that can say they did what he did can be counted on one hand.

As such he likely was never going to be wealthy working at Blizzard.  I’m sure he made a good living but when you look at the gaming millionaires and billionaires they all came from a common thread; a game that can be played on mobile or any platform on the market. Minecraft, Angry Birds etc. being the best examples of games/companies I’m talking about.

Or you know... he just wants to work on his own project? Not everyone goes into the gaming industry wanting to be "millionaires", sure it would be nice having a comfortable life, but I think Ben just wants to branch out to branch out.

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    • By Stan
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      At Gamescom 2017, visitors to the Blizzard booth were able to experience a brand-new Overwatch map and the world premiere of the Overwatch animated short. Hearthstone players could enjoy an early look at new Fireside Gathering features and WoW gamers learned more about Legion's Patch 7.3. Blizzard introduced a new Hero for HotS that was available for gameplay, StarCraft II got a new co-op commander, and attendees were able to play Diablo III's Rise of the Necromancer pack.
      Blizzard (Source)
      The world’s largest interactive entertainment event is coming back to Cologne, Germany this summer… and we’ll be there! From August 21-25, stop by the Blizzard booth at gamescom 2018 for some hands-on play time with Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, and World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, which launches on August 14.
      We’ll also have plenty of activities for you, including our famous dance and cosplay competitions, as well as some epic merchandise at the Blizzard store. Stay tuned for details as the event nears, and we look forward to seeing you at gamescom 2018!
    • By Stan
      Quarterly results of the Activision Blizzard Earnings Call are here and we learned that Battle for Azeroth pre-sales are ahead of plan and more content in Legion lead to overperformance versus the prior expansion at this point in time.
      Audience Reach
      374M MAUs (Monthly Active Users) (down from 385M MAUs since Q4 2017). Activision 51M (down from 55M) Blizzard 38M (down from 40M) King 285M (down from 290M). Games
      World of Warcraft
      The game is on a strong trajectory, with an encouraging start to pre-sales for the upcoming expansion (preorders ahead of plan). World of Warcraft is releasing more content, more regularly than ever before, leading to overperformance versus the prior expansion at this point in time and higher engagement sequentially. The game had strong participation with in-game purchases. Hearthstone
      The game continued to reach and engage its large global audience through multiple efforts, including a new promotional bundle, an expansion, and a player versus environment mode, Monster Hunts, which has had strong engagement so far.
      Overwatch
      Overwatch continued to add new players, and engagement remains strong, with the most recent seasonal event, Retribution, having the highest participation rate to‐date. Recognized as BAFTA’s “Best Evolving Game”. Esports
      Overwatch League
      The inaugural regular season for the Overwatch League launched in January and continues to reach millions each week. Combined hours spent playing and watching Overwatch increased quarter‐over‐quarter. The Overwatch League and its partners introduced new engagement programs like token drops, cheermotes and the new Twitch league pass, which deliver enhanced viewing experiences while adding unique revenue opportunities. Planning to add a handful of teams in key strategic markets by end of year. (Source)
    • By Stan
      John Staats was Blizzard's first 3D level designer and worked at the company for more than ten years. He just finished a book about working at Blizzard called The World of Warcraft Diary that demystifies the world of computer game development and the secret sauce behind Blizzard's successful MMORPG.
      John is currently looking for backers to fund the first edition on Kickstarter.
      About the Author
      John Staats spent ten years on World of Warcraft dev team. His Vanilla WoW portfolio includes half of the game’s instanced dungeons, and 90 percent of non-instanced caves, crypts, dens, mines, and hive tunnels. John’s Staats is a regular on the weekly podcast Roll For Combat who got an early preview of his book. The author’s web page is whenitsready.com where there are additional images and excerpts.
      The World of Warcraft Diary: A Journal of Computer Game Development
      Based on interviews and monthly updates he took throughout Vanilla WoW's dev cycle, The WoW Diary covers the highs and lows of building Blizzard's massively multiplayer online game. Readers will get an inside scoop of one of the gaming industry's most prosperous companies. The WoW Diary is a comprehensive and candid picture of how difficult and messy game development can be, and includes details about the project's improvisations, mistakes, and lucky discoveries. It covers the devs who made the game and describes the secret sauce behind Blizzard's success.
      The WoW Diary is 336 pages long, and while the book's 130+ images are used with Blizzard's permission, it is an independent publication. After the Kickstarter campaign, the book will be available only on Amazon.
      Table of Contents

      Excerpts
      Here are a few excerpts from The WoW Diary taken from John's website.
      Page 5
      Page 87
      Page 308
      If you ever wondered what it really takes to make great computer games, this is the book is a must! The first edition of The WoW Diary: A Journal of Computer Game Development will be available after the Kickstarter campaign. Subsequent editions will be available only on Amazon.