Earlier this week, Jason Wilson of Venture Beat had the opportunity to interview Hearthstone game director Ben Brode about an area of the game that's very often overlooked - Casual mode.
In this corner of the game your wins and losses are tracked separately from your rating in Ranked play, although you don't see nearly as many fun and experimental decks as you'd hope to given the relaxed atmosphere. Instead, it's used by many players to clear out quests without risking their ladder ranking, and by using powerful, well-established decks.
The interview goes into some detail about how the notion of casual play is actually defined by Blizzard, and how deck diversity in all modes is greater than it's often perceived to be. It's well worth reading through the whole thing, but here are the stand-out points we learned from the discussion.
- Brode defines casual play as somewhere you can enjoy Hearthstone without worrying about losses or interruptions - not a place to test out experimental decks, or escape popular decks.
- Your matchmaking rating (MMR) goes up as you play Casual mode, so as you improve you're more likely to encounter experienced players with more refined decks.
- The vast majority of players in Casual mode - from new players to veterans - are very close to a 50% win-rate.
- Pirate Warrior and Secret Mage represent 14 percent of all decks played at Legend rank, but only 5 per cent at Rank 20. Most of the game's players - sitting between Ranks 18 and 20 actually see a lot of deck diversity.
- There's certainly a desire to create a space for fun decks, rather than tightly-tuned meta decks, but how do you define fun? Some gimmick decks become hugely overpowered in a short space of time, for example, and then there's the subjective experience of fun to consider.
- Brode finds community-run tournaments very exciting, but there are no in-game tools to support that. He would like to be able to empower Fireside Gathering organisers to be able to do more in this regard.
In-game tournament support has certainly been top of our wish-list for a very long-time now, although it seems Blizzard would rather such tools were used at community gatherings, rather than over the internet. We'd also like to see a so-called “pauper” mode added to the game, where decks can only be created using low-value cards.
What did you make of the interview? Should Blizzard do more to make Casual mode a space for fun and experimental decks to be road-tested? Let us know what you think in the comments.