Game Development Insights from Ben Brode, Lead Designer of Hearthstone

Semi-long post: Video at the bottom.

Since we’re currently in a lull of sorts I thought it’d be wise to think about why a developer would announce a content update at a specific time. As most of us know, Season 3’s existence was announced in early August. My question is, “Why?” Why was it announced then? Did IG/MS feel the need to quell the tide of forum posts, or was it because they were excited by the news they received, and wanted to share the good news?

At the time, it was a 7+ month wait until its release. Between then and December (about 4 months) we had no news on when we’d see anything further than the semi-controversial/semi-hype Rash as a playable character. Personally, I took a break during that period, and I would probably do so again. I had hype-hangover. To make sure I didn’t burn myself out, I just had to. During that time, I still posted on the forums, and watched the 8-Bit Beatdown.

Fast forward a bit to now… 2 weeks ago we had the glorious event known as The Killer Instinct World Cup. There, we were shown every character’s changes, Rash’s updated costume (instead of the Retro), and we got our first look at Kim Wu. We also got to see her stage, and the new lighting they’ve implemented. Did we get a hard-set date? No. Did we get ANY PC news? No.

During the KIWC, we were (at most) 2 months from Season 3’s release and there is no confirmation on a day for its release. IGN had an article when SFV’s release date (which is Feb. 16th 2016… this Tuesday) was announced, on Oct. 27th 2015. That’s a little less than 4 months out from release. Was this a good time for SFV? (I literally have no idea because I have never been excited for SF in general) Is 2 months out a good time to release the specific launch date? Maybe it’s developer dependent.

I’d like to discuss this subject here. But first, I urge you to watch a video with Ben Brode, Senior Game Designer at Blizzard Entertainment, explaining some of his thoughts, using Hearthstone as a reference, on announcement to release.

There’s a lot of random and disconnected ideas here. And I don’t know Ben Brode from a hole in the wall, so I didn’t click the video. But I don think these things are worth discussing.

  1. S3 announcement: They had to announce the game when they did in order to demo the Rash Beta that dropped as a co-marketing with Rare Replay. Also, the August timeframe was necessary to keep people from thinking September/October would be the release window

  2. We basically forced them not to give us any information by acting like a bunch of dicks any time they showed us something incomplete for Season 2.

  3. We saw the new character updates, Rash updates, Kim Wu reveal at KIWC. That was a flagship event for the game an appropriate time to reveal some good stuff for S3.

  4. It’s only been two weeks. People expect to be getting info like the game is being developed on a twitter feed. Most major games don’t release information every two weeks. We may be a bit spoiled by last season…

  5. The release date is most likely (in my opinion) held up pending Microsoft’s digital certification process. They are constantly uncertain until the last minute when something is going to release. This is not a suggestion that it is ok - frankly, we should have a solid release date by now and MS needs to get their digital release certification process better organized. I think the lack of a release date for the game is a pretty serious problem

  6. The PC version is worrisome. It’s pretty scary that there is no information at this point. I’m going to be playing the game primarily on X1, but like most players, since the announcement of the PC port I’ve been rooting for a good game that will expand the player base. This has me worried. And people who know me will recognize that I’m a pretty positive guy.

I’m sorry if it was tough to read through. I wrote this at work with no time to look back through and edit it to be more concise. It’s unfortunate that you didn’t watch the video because he talks about the time between announcing a release, and actually releasing, and what kind of feedback they, as a team, got during that time. Which is why I brought up the things I did.

  1. I understand the ties to Rare Replay and Rash. I’m just thinking about the announcement of a Season 3 with that announement. I think it would better to delay the Season 3 part until the beta for Rash was almost over. Just to minimize the delay between the announcement of a new season and its release.

  2. Again, I understand this part as well. I’m not going to say we should be shown anything during that time, but I think, again, the time difference of 1 month is a welcome change (at least in my case).

  3. The only reason I even brought up this point was because of a statement from IG at the KIWC. The statement being, “February is gonna be a great month for Season 3 info… It’s going to be load up…” We’re already half way through the month with no additional information. It could be because of SFV releasing this week, or because of some internal reason. It’s not that I expect info to be flowing from every ■■■■■■■, I just thought something else would have been announced by this point. Even just a little thing.

  4. Personally, I believe the release date will be announced this week. The reason for this thought process, is the contest to guess when it is. I believe the release date to be known, and they wanted to do something fun with the forums beforehand.

  5. Previous to the event, I thought we’d get some information on the PC version at KIWC. It’s very frustrating not being able to give any solid information to my friends aside from that it’s on Windows 10 and it’s coming in a month or so. One of my friends wants to go to EVO with me this year, but we can’t ever find time to get together (since he’s on the other side of Phoenix) and play. The PC version will allow this to happen.

Edit: Or-ifice is censored??? I kind of understand that, but it’s still an odd choice.

Just a clarification - there was a typo in my original post that said “I don think these things are worth discussing.” This should have read I DO think these things are worth discussing. I didn’t mean to make it seem like I didn’t support your post - just the opposite.

If I find time in an appropriate place I will try to remember to click on the video.