Twinfinite was at PAX East 2018 this past weekend, and we had the opportunity to sit down with Ben Brode game director of Hearthstone, who was very excited and ready to talk all things Witchwood. There’s only a few days left before The Witchwood goes live, and we wanted to get a sense of what the team is anticipating is going to be powerful, fresh feeling, and exciting to play. We also asked a few burning community questions as well. So without further ado, let’s jump into the full Q&A!
Hearthstone: The Witchwood at PAX East 2018
Ed McGlone from Twinfinite: Can you give us some insight on the development of the rush cards? What do you anticipate fan reaction will be to these cards?
Ben Brode, game director of Hearthstone: It’s actually kind of different than I expected. We knew that making more charge cards was dangerous. A lot of the nerfs that we have done over the years have been to charge cards. But we like most of the gameplay. So we have been talking for a long time whether we should change charge and see how that works, or try a new thing, try it out for a while, and see if we like it.
So what we ended up doing was these rush cards. What I thought was, players were going to look at us and say: “Isn’t this just bad charge? Why should I be excited about bad charge?” I was really worried about it. But actually, the upside is that I think players understand that: “Hey, this means they can make a lot of cards that are really fun, that are powerful and have high stats, and still get the fun of doing something immediately, and feel powerful on my turn.” So they kind of get why, even though it’s just charge but worse, why that means the game will be more fun for them, and the cards will be more interesting.
Twinfinite: If rush is well received and popular, do you see charge being phased out? Or is charge something you still want to keep in the game long term?
Brode: I’m not sure… I could see both worlds happening. It’s tough to change cards that have been around for four years. Players are used to them and I think that there are cool combos and stuff that players still like with charge. The question is, is it better if those cards have rush? Or is it better that if we just make new cards that have rush and leave those cards the same. I don’t know… I think it kind of depends on how players feel, and how we feel, and what happens.
Twinfinite: What are you most excited about in about Witchwood that you’re looking forward to players finally playing with live?
Brode: Probably the odd and even cards. They basically represent 18 different archetypes. There’s odd mage and even mage, odd paladin and even paladin. And understanding which of those is powerful, and which of those have good synergies, there’s a lot of exploration to happen there and I can’t wait to see people trying all these different legendaries with the different classes and seeing what works.
Twinfinite: How has the reaction been to the odd and even cards?
Brode: Pretty exciting, yeah! People are looking forward to trying that stuff, theorycrafting trying to figure out which classes… “ooh you have to give up this two cost card, but these cards are really good and they’re odd, so I can think you can easily put this card in there and it would be fine…” and try to figure out how to use these to the best advantage.
Twinfinite: You’re not worried that someone is going to find the perfect deck to use odd or even cards with and make it too overpowered? Or did you think that through and are comfortable with where it’s going to be?
Brode: Yeah we played a lot of games with these guys, and we have a pretty good perception of how powerful these cards will end up. There will be some very powerful odd and even decks. I’m excited to see if the ones players gravitate toward match at all the ones we were playtesting internally.
Twinfinite: For someone that is new to Witchwood, or Hearthstone, what is something about Witchwood that would get someone on the fence to try it out.
Brode: I think that this is the best time to jump in to play Hearthstone. This is the start of standard rotation, there are fewer cards in the environment than any other time. It is really exciting the new cards, that are super fun, but also the single-player is really really good. It’s hyper replayable. It’s super-free
Twinfinite: I like that term, super-free.
Brode: Right because it’s not “free-to-play” right? That just means not free [laughs]. It’s [the single-player] like, actually free. You couldn’t give us money if you wanted to. And so it’s a great way to check out Hearthstone, totally low pressure. You don’t have to buy into the game at all, and you get to have all the fun of building a deck in a really easy way that starts out simple with a small deck and you build it up over time. It’s a great way to play Hearthstone and I highly recommend people come in and try the game and play our dungeon runs and monster hunt in The Witchwood.
Twinfinite: Give me one tip for a brand new player going into Witchwood, and one for a hardcore veteran.
Brode: For the new players, it’s that we have decks already built for you. There’s the thing called the deck recipes. So when you go to build a deck the first thing it asks is: Here are free decks. Do you want to build one of these? And there is one built for players with small collections, and one that is built for players that have a lot the new cards. So if you’re brand new and really want to compete online, start with the first deck recipe. It will set you up nicely.
For the hardcore players, start experimenting with the new mechanics. People are often wrong when they look at a card and try to judge it right away. So try to figure out where people have gotten things wrong and you can break the meta and try to win first.
Twinfinite: Are there any cards that you feel are going to be huge meta changers? Is it the odd and even cards?
Brode: I think they (the odd and even cards) have a huge opportunity to do that. Often we target cards with different power levels. This card is really fun, but if it’s really good, that might be frustrating. So let’s make sure that it’s bad, but let’s put it in anyway, because players will have fun messing around with it. Some cards we target at being very good. We want, let’s say, a class that has traditionally been not been very good, we want to make sure that they are competitive. Let’s give them a card that’s very powerful.
So we target things to be quite good sometimes. Often we miss by 10% up or down. Because it’s hard to know. You don’t play cards in a vacuum, you play cards against someone else’s cards and if they choose to play “these” cards, actually you should play these other cards because they are much better against “those” cards. So you just don’t know what the meta will be like, what people are actually going to play. So it’s hard to tell what’s actually going to be “too good” until people start actually playing and playing decks. And sometimes they are too good and we have to make a nerf, but hopefully not.
Hearthstone: The Witchwood at PAX East 2018: Community Concerns and Questions
Twinfinite: Fans are very into the co-op brawls, are there any updates on whether or not 2v2 versus is something that’s still be considered and worked on?
Brode: It’s absolutely still being considered and I do think it would be something that’s very good for Hearthstone. It’s just a matter of when we do that kind of stuff. Right now we’re working on in-game tournaments which we’re working on to launch this summer. That I think is really going to help homegrown tournaments or players playing with their friends. To have some organized tournament action, is going to be a really cool feature and that’s where our focus is right now. But I think 2v2 would be awesome.
Twinfinite: So it’s not being abandoned there are just other things higher up in the docket?
Twinfinite: Are there any plans to give all players a second opportunity to get the Tyrande Hero Skin?
Brode: When it first launched there were availability issues. It didn’t go live in every region and some regions are looking for an opportunity to get it again. I can say that generally we’re excited about making sure that players have access to some of these second chance things, but in individual regions where it was not available in, we’ve been working on trying to figure out plans for that. But every region is different and some regions have already executed their plans to deliver Tyrande to their regions, and some have not yet. But for the most part, it’s up to the region, so I can’t answer specifics about each individual region.
Twinfinite: Has there been any reconsideration, or shifting of your stance, in the possibility of reprints in standard?
Brode: The current policy is what I believe is the best policy. I think there’s a world where we move some cards from the wild into standard, into classic, because mage has a couple fewer cards there and I think we want more parity there. But generally, it’s a little bit dangerous to make things evergreen, like they are in the basic and classic sets where they don’t rotate with each standard year.
Because we want the power level to be mostly focused in the new rotating sets so that the meta changes. If the power level is in these evergreen sets, well then even if we have new sets coming in, why would people play these cards? These cards are the powerful ones and they never change, so then the format doesn’t change. So we want to make sure the power level is strong, so that these cards are worth playing and collecting and that you have a baseline. But we don’t want them to be too strong, and traditionally this set has been much too strong. So I think we want to add some cards, we want them to be low enough power level that they do a good job of being exciting to new players but not dominating the meta.
For the other kind of reprinting, which is to add cards to the rotating sets… I’m not sure how I feel about that… I don’t know that we have a policy, on it. I think there is potentially something we would do. The most interesting way to do that would be to bring a back in a way that is… that has a different context, because there is a new mechanic that really works with that thing [card] and I’m not sure that we have had the perfect opportunity for that yet. There’s some weird issues with how to actually make that happen in the game with cards being in multiple sets or moving cards out of sets that I’m not sure how to handle just yet.