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Interview with the developers of mobile version Hearthstone

Artem Uarabei

Q: Does Blizzard plan on releasing UI tools for Hearthstone?

A: Currently no plans for modability, we're trying to make a really tight experience for players that's really highly designed.

Q: How long did it take to find the seed, and how many people were working on the project up until that time?

A: I think it was less than 10, and it probably took maybe a year or so.

Q: Along the lines of how UI design was influencing game design, I wonder if there's been Hearthstone UI design influencing WoW design, like something along the lines of garrisons. Are you cross-polinating?

A: We do have a UI group that meets together, but there is no explicit cross-polination, but I think people in the company are starting to look at this style and saying that maybe there's something there that we can bring in to other games.

Q: You mentioned Naxxramas where you had to change up the UI to add the keys and rewards. Were there any other points where things really change the way you had to approach it because of some element or was it more in the direction of where you could change the Priest hero power because the UI needed it to change?

A: There are examples of both. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but definitely there were situations where we just had to deal with a mechanic.

Q: Do you need to make any sacrifices in porting the UI effects to mobile?

A: This is more of a question for engineers. We don't intentionally sacrifice any effect. We design the coolest effects that we can make, and then smart guys figure out how to optimize it.

Q: Successful card games usually create a lot of opportunities for illustrators. Where does the Hearthstone team find all their illustrations for their cards? Are they from the Blizzard library or are they hiring new commissions?

A: It's actually all of those things. We have a pool of existing art which we use, and then if there's things not there then we'll commission either external artists or we have internal artists that will handle those things.

Q: When you guys were early on in the process did you make any argument about the validity of UI design and "hey, this is as important as the game design"?

A: I was very fortunate in that I had worked with a design director for a number of years on World of Warcraft and that experience made us really think hard about UI's role in game development. And so I think we came to an agreement together on that. I did not have to sell somebody on this idea that that's the case. I think you can look at any kind of board-game type translation of that -- you can make that argument, like, "this game is UI", you know, it's important. And hopefully maybe Hearthstone can be an example of that, I don't know. I would like to think that could be the case.

Q: During the creation and design of the UI how much were you locked down with the gameplay design?

A: We were locked down in the fact that it was going to be a card game. But game and UI design were progressing at the same time and kind of informing each other of what this could be. Once we started getting in to this physical space then the design started to think differently about how things work.

Q: How much time do you expect the creation of the Hearthstone UI for phones to take and do you have any planned release date? This quarter, next quarter?

A: Umm... Soon? Next couple months is what I can say. It's pretty far along, and it's looking pretty awesome.

Q: You mentioned you can't do anything during the other player's turn. I wonder if this was an early game design decision or like you explained before also something that was something driven by the UI design.

A: It was semi-UI, but it was really the designers who didn't like that flow of play. Because you have to pay attention a lot. So it just felt like it wasn't a good flow for us. Once we switched to the idea of these secrets that maybe could trigger during their play, something like that, it just made it like "when it's my turn it's my turn. I'm trying to solve a single-player puzzle," and I think that is kind of the appeal to the game.

Q: Will we get more deck slots?

A: [Laughs] Took you this long to get this question? [Questioner: I had to ask it!] We know it's an issue and we are looking at it. That's not like a hand-wavey answer, it's really something that's on our radar.