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GamesCom Interview: Hearthstone Observer Mode Coming Soon

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Yong Woo told us a lot of things at GamesCom about the upcoming Observer mode and the kind of new content we can expect next in Hearthstone.

At GamesCom, we had the chance to have a 20-minute long interview with Yong Woo, Senior Game Producer for Hearthstone. We learned that Observer mode is soon going to be introduced in the game. We also discussed e-sport, replays, 2 vs 2, new classes, more deck slots, stats, timer, and future content.


Below, you will find the whole transcript of the interview, but first we would like to present you with the main things that we have learned.
  • Observer mode is a the number #1 request from the community and at the top of the priority list of the Hearthstone development team. No date can be given at this point, but they are making good progress.
  • Replays is not something currently being actively worked on.
  • 2 vs 2 and other game modes to play with friends are not being actively worked on. Observer mode is the first step towards doing things with friends in the game, and it is not yet known if and when more will follow.
  • Staggering content caused some problems with classes getting their cards earlier than others. They will try to address this when they release new content.
  • No new keywords (new mechanics, such as Divine Shield - editor's note) planned.
  • In the future, there will be a profile system, where we can see some stats.
  • No plans to change how the timer works.
  • No plans to add a new Hero.
  • Maybe more deck slots.

Blizzard Icon Transcript from Interview with Yong Woo


Q. Is there going to be a spectator mode in the game?

A. Yes! I think that this is a really good question. I think that the primary reason why people ask for spectator mode is to make tournaments and streaming easier. Because right now, it is really hard to stitch together two sides of the story and make that work in a cohesive way. We are really sympathetic to that and we really thank the community for bearing with us, and still making really amazing content, and running tournaments, and doing a great job with it. So, one thing I like to say is there is a list of things we want to do and they are hundreds long. If I were to write them down on the floor and it would not fit in this room. And one way we could have approached this is to really make our team hundreds of people and try to do everything at the same time. I do not think that is great for Hearthstone and for the Hearthstone team. I think what makes us strong and what makes Hearthstone really great is we take that list, really look at the top 3 things or maybe the top 5 things that we really think would add value to the players at that time and get that done.

With that said, I am not going to disappoint you. Observer mode is in that top 3 list. We feel that it is the number #1 request from the community, especially around content providers and tournament organizers. However, I do not think that this is the only reason to do observer mode. One thing I love to tell people when we talk about Hearthstone is whenever I play Hearthstone at work, all my co-workers at Hearthstone all swing by and just start watching and before I know it, my entire team is behind my back: chatting, telling me what to do, asking me about strategy, or giving me advice. To me, it is what makes Hearthstone like a really great social experience. I also think that this is what makes streaming so popular right now. When we bring Observer mode online, we want players to experience that kind of wonderful social experience that streamers, but between friends. So, for those two reasons, Observer is in our top priority list. We are actively working on it right now. I do not have a specific delivery date yet, but we are making really good progress.

Q. Does this include replays?

A. Replay is different in nature. This is something that we think is really cool, but it is not quite in the top tier list. There are various ways we could do replays that are more expensive or less expensive, in terms of development cost, and we still need to figure that out.

Q. Are there any other plans to make Hearthstone a better experience for groups of friends, like 2 vs 2 games, Solomon Draft, or things like that? Because right now, asides from installing a streaming software and showing our games to our friends or dueling them, there is little to do together.

A. This is exactly why we are introducing Observer mode. I think a lot of players who are asking for 2 vs 2, 3 vs 1, and all these different combinations... I think it really comes from a thirst for a social experience. And you know as much as like... uhm I have been squeezing some Hearthstone games between interviews. And the games are like 8 minutes long, which is great for a personal, quick experience. But, I think Hearthstone has a huge potential to be a social experience with friends. Currently, we do not have any plans to work on 2 vs 2, 3 vs 3, and those types of systems, because frankly it is quite expensive and needs a lot of design work. But Observer mode will get us really far in terms of "you wanna play with your friend, you do not want to wait, join their game, and - am I allowed to say it? - talk trash to them". And then your friend's game is done and you can play each other. I think it really helps get synchronized and help share your experience. I think it is going to be amazing.

Q. What would be the other things in your top priority list?

A. Haha. That is a very good follow-up question! We are not really prepared to announce anything else. One thing we will say is.. I mean you guys are hardcore into Hearthstone, so I do not need to explain what Naxxramas is, but next wing is our final wing opening, so maybe a natural question is "What's next?". So to us, it is really important to figure the right cadence of content. Like players like you guys have probably been playing since beta and I have been playing for years, we have a certain level of thirst for new content. But we need to remember that a majority of our players have been playing since this year, when Hearthstone came out officially. We are trying to figure out that balance. With that said, with Naxxramas, we learned a lot about this way of releasing content. We wanted Naxxramas to be kind of changing or pushing the enveloppe on what is possible in terms of releasing new content in collectible card games. Like what we did with Naxxramas would not have been possible in physical CCGs for instance, where wings staggered into weeks, single-player experience. But for our next expansion, we are interested in learning more about what it would mean to release a new set of packs. So, that is what is going to be next, but I cannot talk much about the details of what is in it or exactly when we are going to release it, because quite frankly it is going to really depend on what we learn from Naxx and how quickly we think the community is absorbing new content. But, that is next and one of the things we are working on.

Q. We had a couple questions about Naxx. The first is that we were puzzled by the fact that, because it is staggered, some classes do not get their cards until the end. Is that something you are happy with?

A. So, you know I play a Priest, and I have over 500 ranked wins as Priest, and I had to wait until this week to get my Dark Cultist, and I had been waiting forever. Everything we do with Hearthstone is a continuously learning experience and we like to think that we are continually designing Hearthstone together with the community. This is one of the feedbacks we have been getting and definitely something that we will be taking into account when we do our next adventure. So, I hear you and we keep getting this feedback, and we are going to absorb it, and think about it. And it is totally possible that we do something about it in the next adventure.

Q. The other Naxx question was that we saw a lot of new cool cards, but no new keyword. How come?

A. Keywords are an interesting topic, because if you think about it, there are already effects out there that are candidates for keywords. For instance, Spectral Knight and our 3/2 untargetable share the same effect, so potentially when we have enough of those new effects that share commonality out there, we might turn them into a keyword. I would argue that there are a lot of cool new effects right now that are not official a keyword. Even things like Loatheb, it is actually really interesting if you think about it, like you play a card and on next turn they have to pay more for spells. Not that we would do more of those, but we can see a world where we tried it out, we see how it affects the meta, and then maybe in the future we make more of those cards, and maybe one day they will become a keyword. I would argue that Naxx has a lot of interesting new mechanics, even if they are not officially a keyword.

You know, keywords are double-edged swords. On the one hand, it really condenses information. I tell you Deathrattle and you know what it is right away. I tell somebody off the street Deathrattle and he is going to be like "What are you... selling me a snake?". They will not know what I am talking about, so it is a balance we have to reach between condensing the information and making too hard a set of vocabulary for new players to understand. It is something we continue to work on.

Q. Is there any way that Arena could become sort of ranked? Right now, you play Arena, but it is very hard to compare with other people.

A. Right now, we are satisfied with the way Arena feels. We actually like the notion that every run is a fresh run. It is like another chance at the dream of getting 12 wins. With that said, although it is not currently on our top tier list, one thing we would consider for the future could be maybe additional profiles, like maybe it keeps track of additional stats, like how many of each key do you have and you can kind of share that with your friends, and that becomes something meaningful for you to do. We are definitely thinking about something in that space, but we are not currently actively working on it.

Q. Since you mention stats, are you going to have more detailed stats? Like to keep track of your winning rates in every mode of the game and stuff like that.

A. Sure. I think that when we go into a system like a profile system, we would consider a lot of that. Now, with Hearthstone it is really about removing unnecessary complexity. I think it is what makes Hearthstone great, it is really like looking at a model like chess, where you can have very simple mechanics and very simple UI, yet to master the game, it takes a lifetime. So, I think a lot of these bells and whistles can be really cool, especially for hardcore players like you guys where if you had a spreadsheet in there with all this data that you can manipulate, it would be really cool. But at the same time, the balance that we are always trying to reach is how to present it in an elegant way, like what is the minimum subset that is really useful.

So, this is something that we are always talking about, something for which we are always trying to find the balance. And you know, frankly, guys like you guys are going to help us find that balance as we move to the future.

Q. Any plans to make it possible to scroll down the history? Currently, it is limited to the last 8 moves.

A. That is something that we get. Right now, we do not necessarily feel that this is necessary. Again, I think that based on feedback, we could consider it, but we currently have no plan to add a scroll bar there. As I said when I talked about chess, we want our interface to be as minimal as possible, and for every button we add, we really ask ourselves the question "Is it really really necessary?". But that one quite has not hit that bar yet.

Q. Would it be conceivable to have stats attached to your Battle.net account, so that they do not clutter the game interface?

A. It is a great idea, but as I said, our list is super long. For a while we have had ideas like having an API with a client where you can connect with a third party client and import/export deck, and stuff like that. These are all super cool ideas. I think that they have varying degrees of development challenge and I think it is also about focus for the team. For now, they are not in our top list. But they are great ideas.

Q. You have mentioned chess several times and we had a question related to chess. Are there any plans to have a more dynamic management of the time, like in chess or go, and not just precisely 90 seconds per turn?

A. Again, I think it is all about balance between complexity and the kind of optimizations you guys are talking about. There are many challenges to this. Hearthstone is all about making a collectible card game that is for everyone. When we say that, we are not saying that we are making a casual collectible card game. What we are talking about is a collectible card game where CCG pros and geniuses can really sink their teeth into and do amazing things, but at the same time, I think what is really important is that it remains popular and accessible for all players to not only play but also watch. So, these are all really great ideas, but I think they all have very complex design implications that make it hard for us to move on right away. Currently, we are happy with the way it is, even if it may have some problems.

Q. It seems that 9 is a very important number in Hearthstone, there are 9 Heroes, 9 deck slots. It makes sense for the Heroes, because it gives a 3x3 square for presenting them, but would it be conceivable to add another Hero at some point?

A. I think some members of the community have come up with designs for new Heroes, and we think that they are really cool ideas and they excite us. But the fact of the matter is that we already have 9 classes, and we feel there already is a ton of diversity and we frankly think that it has enough complexity right now for most people to sink their teeth into. So currently, we have no plans to add additional classes.

Q. Maybe more deck slots? Like when we design decks and we have to test them, we keep deleting and remaking decks.

A. Totally, especially people like you guys. You are absolutely a Power User. Whenever people ask me if they can have more than 9 deck slots, the question I ask them is whether or not they use more than 9 decks actively at the same time. Probably for you guys, the answer is yes, because you are trying out all this crazy stuff.

One example I like to bring up is that I grew up playing games like King's Quest. If you grew up playing PC games, they let you have an infinite number of save files. When I finished King's Quest, I ended up with 2500 savegames, even though I only really cared about 3 of them, which I do not even remember which they are among the 2500. So, that is an extreme, but there is that balance between 9, which I am not sure it is enough, but we currently feel it is, and infinite. For most readers, I would challenge them with his question: "Are you really using more than 9 decks actively? If not, delete the ones you are not using anymore, you would save yourself a lot of headaches in the future.". But you know, for you guys and content creators, that is a pain, so maybe there is something we can do in the future. But let's face it, you guys are like the elite or the top few percents.

Q. Is all the new content going to come either in the form of new card packs or solo adventures?

A. I will be honest with you, we do not know. Like I said, a lot of this is like a learning experience, the two things we wanted to try right away were adventure and traditional card packs. So what comes after that, I am not sure.

Q. Are there going to be new emotes? Like for example, it feels that You're welcome is missing and the oops one is very ambiguous, as you cannot tell whether you made a mistake or the opponent did.

A. That is actually a little intentional. We made a lot of our emotes a little bit vague or a little more general, so that you can use them for different situations. Like if you say "It was an error", maybe it was my fault, maybe it was yours. There are a lot of emotes that people feel we could really use, but as I said, we have a list of things to do, and cooler things keep getting priority. We are working really hard on the most important things, but if you have a really cool idea and you feel it is taking forever for us to get to, speak honestly about it, but at the same time, we really appreciate the patience.
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Fantastic interview guys smile.png

 

Very insightful on the direction Hearthstone is going. My Wife is very active in Hearthstone and the one new feature she would love is more Deck slots, so hopefully Blizzard will implement this.

 

Michael

----------------------

Holy Priest DPS Guide

Edited by Merklynn
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Fantastic interview guys smile.png

 

Very insightful on the direction Hearthstone is going. My Wife is very active in Hearthstone and the one new feature she would love is more Deck slots, so hopefully Blizzard will implement this.

 

Michael

----------------------

Holy Priest DPS Guide

Woah, a comment on an interview, you made my day, Michael tongue.png

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Nice job, Damien.

 

I translated this interview into russian for our community, hope you don't mind) Copyrights and stuff are reserved)

http://eu.battle.net/hearthstone/ru/forum/topic/11664847345

http://clif-hs.blogspot.ru/2014/08/yong-woo-interview.html

 

Guess mister Woo is pleased wink.png

 

https://twitter.com/cataclyst78/status/504301300696092673

No problem! smile.png

By the way, did you do anything with your forum avatar, after registering? like trying to upload a new picture? I get this problem from time to time where new forum users don't have a proper avatar, and I am trying to figure it out!

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i started playing heartstone to get the hearthstead...have unlocked evry hero since and been trying to make a good deck for evry hero ..

playing all nine heros and changing decks frequently...i havent decided yet to play just one or going for making an awesome deck for just one of them...i want to try them all and also any new cards i have gotten ...i write out evry deck ive made so i can keep track of what i have changed...so i have a huge stack of paperwork...i throw away evry now and than some of the written out decks if i feel ive got my deck improved and dont need the older versions ...

some of my friends do the same or make screenshots.

the thing is it would be a great help crafting decks if the nine hero deck slots could have a history smile.png

and you could save a deck and give it a name...and a note like: this my amazing evilmage deck that slew maexxna heroicmode!

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