The team at Blizzard has already revealed its plans for the future of card-battler Hearthstone, but what about the current state of the game? In the latest issue of GamesMaster, the team sits down with game director Eric Dodds to talk all things Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft..
GamesMaster: The previous expansion, Curse Of Naxxramas, had a very definite theme. Did you set out with a similar strategy here?
Eric Dodds: Absolutely. Pretty much all Warcraft players know about Blackrock Mountain, and where it is, and all the major dungeons based around it. These cards are built on the lore surrounding the mountain, which there’s a lot of because there has been lore around this place going back to Warcraft 2 and 3.You’ll see a lot of bosses and other characters that anyone familiar with World Of Warcraft will know and recognise. Everything has a Hearthstone spin on it, though. It’s not just a straight copy – there’s some comedy in there.
GM: How have you worked to make boss battles feel unique/special?
ED: In Naxxramas we really liked the way the battle against Maexxna forced you to completely rethink how you would typically build your deck, so we’ve built it into Blackrock in an even bigger way. Our goal is to make you seriously rethink what the good cards to have in any specific deck are. You might never have had to think about building a deck around minions that cost five mana or more, for example...
GM: How difficult is it to find that balance between including cards that tempt people into new ways of playing, alongside those kinds that they feel safe with?
ED: It’s tricky, for sure. On the one side, we do think about things like: ‘What would make an awesome dragon card? But on the other, we approach it from a more technical angle, and think about how we come up with a viable dragon deck that includes a three mana drop that does what you might want in the context of the wider deck. We want you to be able to have the powerful cards that you desire, so we need to build cards that allow you to survive long enough to use them. From that we also came up with the ideas surrounding cards that get better if you have a dragon in your hand. In turn, that helps you get to use your dragon card. We try to approach a problem from as many sides as possible, and come to solutions that will please a lot of different kinds of players.
GM: So you are continuing to make the game accessible for all?
ED: Absolutely, yeah. That’s really important. Making Hearthstone accessible to everybody is one of our core beliefs, and what we work towards when we’re designing the game and its new content. When we test the new missions, we do so across a wide variety of player skill levels. It has to feel like the right difficulty on the normal missions, because the heroic missions are there for people that want a significant challenge.
GM: How do you retain that sense of equal enjoyment and fair play when some players will have cards earned through playing new content, and others won’t?
ED: There’s a concern there, yeah, and we talk about that a lot. I often play with decks made up of basic cards to make sure I fully understand what it’s like to engage in that way, and make sure it’s fun I think it’s one of those fine balances that is always difficult to achieve when you have new players that don’t want the game to advance very quickly, but you also have the advanced players that want a ton of new cards to experiment with.In Blackrock Mountain, we’re adding only 31 cards. It’s enough to affect the meta-game that the hardcore will take advantage of, but small enough for new players not to feel overwhelmed by.