So this expansion has delivered lots of new cards. I get the feeling some cards in Hearthstone are designed because they’re fun while others are designed to
be particularly competitive?
Brode: Definitely different goals for different cards. And you may look at a card and think — like Angry Chicken is a card that is definitely designed to be
fun. But if someone ever discovers a way to make that card competitive then that’s awesome too. And often we kind of put tools in the environment to allow
players to find both competitive decks and fun deck types. And sometimes those overlap, but we’re most concerned with making sure there are at least some fun
Thompson: Our game director, Eric Dodd, spent a lot of time working with Brode and the rest of the design team to really develop what he likes to call, and
what I love about the game itself, is real story moments. Opportunities for player stories to take centre stage. And there’s definitely cards in the
Naxxramas bunch of cards that do just that. They’re really going to change the way games play out, not just against AI but also other players. And they’re
going to find ways to use these that we haven’t even thought of yet. That’s as exciting for us to hear those stories as it was for them to experience them
What aspects of developing Hearthstone and Naxxramas have really made you feel like you’re fully exploring the digital card game concept?
Brode: That is something I love to explore. There are a lot of very exciting things in that space. Obviously the Kel’Thuzad fight is one of the things — him
surprising you by not playing by the rules — any time we’re breaking the fourth wall of Hearthstone is pretty unique to being digital. Surprises in general
on that scale are unique to being digital. The Kel’Thuzad fight inspired us and there have been more discussions about ways to use the digital space going
forward, but we’re always looking at ways to lean into that and try new and exciting things that rely on that.
A card like the new Webspinner is exciting because it can put a card into your hand that you don’t even own.
Brode: Webspinner was a huge success, both in the way the game is played and the community response to it. So we’re very excited about the way that card
design turned out and we’ll be exploring those types of things in the future as well.
Thompson: When you go to Gothik the Harvester’s encounter in Naxxramas, and the way when a minion on his side dies a spiritual version of that minion lands
on your side of the board and causes you damage. The number of physical tokens that would take or how you would communicate that in a physical space is a lot
less interesting or compelling than saying “Hey, this thing spiritually manifests itself on your side of the board from the opponents side.” The art is
different, and just the general vibe starts to take on more of a “Wow, stuff is changing, rules are different and I need to pay more attention now.”
That’s really where the art team specifically, but design as well, really benefits greatly from being in a digital space. The communication with the player
is done in a very succinct, very minute, very easy level with the visual feedback you’re getting and making decisions based on it, and we don’t have to have
you read three lines of text to understand what just happened or what’s going to happen going forward. And that’s a very powerful tool and one we want to go
to whenever we can or at least as much as makes sense.
Blizzard has a certain polish to its art and execution across all its games. What would you say is distinctly Blizzard in the experience versus other digital
Thompson: It’s the unexpected surprises. We use a term a lot during the development of the game and continue to use it a lot going forward: delightful
surprise. Something you didn’t expect, or maybe you thought could be cool if, but not only does it happen but happens even more so. More over the top, more
funny, more charming, and that’s something we try to do wherever it makes sense. To play down an otherwise frustrating moment or to play up an otherwise
unmentionable moment and dress up the situation even more than you would think.
If you look at something like Brawl as a card, and you play that, the way that would be written textually on a physical card is very “yeah, OK, great, I’ll
just shuffle these randomly and pull one out and we’re done.” But the Blizzard way of doing that is to have these guys jump into a dog pile in the middle and
stars come out and dust is flying and you’re like “Oh my god, please let my card win, please let this happen for me” and you’re either greatly surprised and
happy or you’re “oh man, bummer”. But the experience was fun, and the experience engendered a story for later to tell your friends.
Brode: The other thing I think that makes Hearthstone uniquely Blizzard is its ability to take a game and make it both easy to learn and really hard to
master. I think there’s a lot of games that are hard to master but maybe not very easy to learn. With Hearthstone we’ve seen people who are not traditionally
gamers come in to play it and they love it and then we also have this really high level of play that’s happening at the e-sports level.
In my games I’ve occasionally bumped into players who have reached the Legend rank, but I haven’t felt entirely out of my league even though I pretty well
am. Was I lucky or is that designed too?
Brode: One of the things that we tried really hard to preserve in the concept of Hearthstone is the little victories. It’s something that makes Hearthstone
fun even when you’re going to lose to someone much better than you. Because you at least get to play your awesome cards and destroy some of their minions and
play the game. So those moments throughout the game, even when you lose, hopefully you’ll at least do some powerful things and you really did something. It’s
something we’ve always tried with our card designs and we’ve tried to preserve that feeling that is important to Hearthstone, the feeling that the game is