With the start of Hearthstone's Raven Year with the release of the upcoming Witchwood expansion on April 12, fans of the popular Blizzard card battle game are about to experience some of the game's most important changes . Compared to the previous expansion, Kobolds and Catacombs, which introduced Dungeon Run, Witchwood's expansion offers a slightly more spooky experience for your ride through the dark and gloomy forest. Along with 135 new cards, new keywords known as Echo and Rush, special heroes that can transform into Worgen (the Warcraft version of the werewolves) and a new variant of Dungeon Run called Monster Hunts: the suspense-themed expansion points to change the goal of the game.
During PAX East 2018, we spent some time with Hearthstone game director Ben Brode, where he showed new cards and talked about the big changes that will happen in the coming weeks. In addition to talking about the expansion of Witchwood, he also reflected on the impact of the game, how his expanding community keeps the studio alert and why the new content and flow will make it an excellent entry point for new players.
GameSpot: The roadmap of The Raven Year begins with Witchwood's expansion, which seems to change things a bit. Can you delve a little more about what's coming?
Ben Brode: With the Hearthstone Zodiac, every year there is a different animal / creature, and it represents three different expansions in the year. The reason why we do that is because it's important, well, if you keep releasing new expansions with new cards forever, the depletion rate keeps increasing. We have a format in which you can play all the cards, but we also have a format in which our competitive scene focuses on the newest deck, but you can only use the last two years of content. It is to ensure that the barrier to entry remains limited, but also ensures that the environment changes with each set. The percentage of change we launched is small, so many cards we are adding, 135 cards in this expansion, but in the standard [game type] it represents a large percentage change in the environment, so the goal changes completely. It is always very exciting, and as this is the first set of the year, three (the other sets are a little older) is an even bigger change in the environment and it is the best time of the year to enter the game. .
Hearthstone – Announcing The Witchwood
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The latest expansion of Hearthstone was Kobolds and Catacombs, which brought with it a series of major changes, such as dungeons. Based on the reactions you got from the community, what was one of the most important lessons you learned from it?
I would say one of the most important lessons we learned was that the dungeons are much more fun than we really realized, and the players really loved them. One of the things that is important to us with Hearthstone is that we have to having interesting things that happen all the time, and when new things come out, things become really exciting, and players really like that phase of the goal to play and experiment. We also try to make more things happen during that phase, like our crazy events, like the sand of booties for Halloween we did, and the interesting fights of Tavern for people to really sink. But one of the things that we could be doing is launching our content for a player a little later, so that we can spread the content, because there is already a lot to do in the game when the expansion goes out, so the new content could come out when things become less exciting for players to change things. I think when we launched the Witchwood and then we released new content for a player soon after, that might be considered in the future.
One thing that can discourage people when it comes to diving into games that are continually updated is the feeling that people have to play to catch up. Not only in terms of finding all your resources, but also to match other players. Do you think this expansion will be a little more lenient with the newcomers?
In fact, I think this is the best time [to jump into Hearthstone] because at this point in the rotation, this is the smallest number of cards you must collect to be competitive in the game. You're not really behind anyone, and there's still Several ways to discover how to manage your decks. Players often believe that they are behind and that they can not keep up: this is the moment you are not. I recommend entering the game now at this point. In addition, we also have these super fun modes for a player that are completely free. The dungeon goes from our last set, Kobolds and Catacombs, our players really loved them and had a lot of fun with them, which we continue doing in Witchwood. There is a lot to do in Hearthstone, and you can do a lot without spending money. It is the best time to enter.
On the contrary, having an expansion that makes a series of new additions and adjustments to the systems can also be a challenge. Especially for players who are comfortable with the flow of the game.
Yes, that's right. If you're the type of player who does not want changes, Wild [gametype] is really perfect because it does not change as often or often, and it focuses on the decks you fell in love with for any reason – you can play them there. So that is an option. But it's complicated because there are 135 new cards and each of those cards interacts with each other in other interesting ways. We have a really good team, called the final design team, and they play a lot of games, all focused on balance and clarity in the cards, all to make sure things work and everything is well balanced.
I suppose that it can be said that this expansion offers a really dark and temperamental atmosphere. Can you talk about trying to inject more than one narrative and a clear tone, and whether it was challenging to do it in the middle of a card-based game?
Yes, I think it's a challenge, but not really that important either. We talk a lot about the history versus the vibration in the team, and I think the environment is fundamental for you to come up with this idea that you are in this tavern playing friendly competition against a player, with the background having this background talk you can hit hard for people. I think that atmosphere, that feeling of Warcrafty, is critical. And having an argument from the real story does not really matter, and it's also incredibly challenging to have to meet that in a satisfactory way in the medium that we have. Each type of game has a different type of narrative story vector in its game. As I am too busy trying to micro my units, I do not have time. After an intense game of real-time strategy, you want that story to be the reward for a fun mission. So each game has its own kind of strengths and weaknesses in storytelling, and in the same way that you have to structure your story for that kind of game, and I think card games, especially if the nature of this It is quite difficult, they tend to focus more on the characters and their surroundings, since they matter more. People fall in love with Hearthstone more because of the environment in which it is located.
In terms of changing things and offering new ways to play the game, is there anything in particular about The Witchwood that you find really attractive?
What really excites me is the new keyword Echo. With the cards that Echo has, you can play them as many times as you have mana in your turn. For example, we have a card called Phantom Militia, it's a three-cost card, it has two attacks and four life points and a mockery, so it's a pretty important defender if you try to prevent your opponent from overloading you. You can play for three mana if you want to start strong or if you want to stop an aggressive player, but if this confrontation is not about staying alive and trying to get the most value out of your cards, then you want to wait until he is six years old and play it twice, or want to wait until he turns nine and play it three times. While you have mana, you can play each card again and again. Choosing to wait for more value is a very interesting decision; There are many types of those cards in this new set. I think this mechanic is something that players will find really fun.
Hearthstone has been around for four years, and the popularity of the game continues to grow rapidly. Do you have any comments on the impact you have had on Blizzard, and what does the overall reception of the game mean to you?
Well, I think one of the most interesting things about card games is that the way we throw the cards consistently, it's always exciting for people to see that they add more to the game. I have always believed that Hearthstone would grow and become bigger and bigger. Although I will say that not everyone was as safe as I [ laughs ] but I could definitely say that we were having something special. Not many games can say they have existed as World of Warcraft did. So I think it's a difficult goal to achieve, but I think we can go with Hearthstone forever. There are many things that excite us, we are actually working in in-game tournaments to allow friends and other online people to come together and organize their own events. The game has an infinitely designed space, and we are very, very far from taking advantage of all the great ideas we have. I can not wait to see what the game looks like in 10 or 20 years.