The Hearthstone art team took part in a lengthy Reddit AMA yesterday evening, touching on a diverse range of design topics. The whole thing is well worth a read, but here are some of the standout insights from the community interview.
1. The creative process between art and design is extremely collaborative.
Jeremy Cranford - who handles 3rd party art contributions - wanted Grand Tournament mounts to be more than just horses, for example, and pitched Mukla's Champion and Tuskarr Jouster as riding a hippo and turtle respectively. The designers loved it, with Ben Brode suggesting a giant parrot as Skycap'n Kragg's mount in response.
In a similar fashion, concept artist Jerry Mascho had drawn some turtle creatures ahead of the Journey to Un'Goro expansion, and design were so impressed with the work that the Tortollan race became a feature of the card set.
2. Art styles are chosen to thematically fit the card in question.
Cards like Snowflipper Penguin are playful and so the team can afford to have cuter art styles with these characters, said Cranford. It's important though that Ragnaros the Firelord is more serious and menacing given his impact. As for the Death Knights of the Frozen Throne, the team felt it was important to take a more serious tone for these key cards from the new expansion.
3. On older artwork that no longer matches the current style
Art Director Ben Thompson addressed the issue of cards such as Kill Command, which have an art style that's quite distinct to the game's established style in 2017. The team has no regrets about this older work, and they consider it a subjective endeavour. Opinions will always vary on whether card art “fits” the game.
4.There are misconceptions about the art team's work
When asked what the biggest misconception the Hearthstone community has about the role of the art process, Thompson explained that much of the team's time is in fact dedicated to making other assets for the expansion: boards, card backs, logos, UI elements and so on. It's not just all about the cards!
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5. Animations take between 1-3 days to create
FX Artist Hadidjah Chamberlin explained that card entrance animations can take between one and three days to get right. Some can take a week or more though if the feel just isn't quite right, or because it's particularly elaborate. Deathwing was cited as an extreme example, taking several months of free time to get just right.
Some cards like Curious Glimmerroot - which features a Discover process based on the opponent's deck - will always take longer, as they require collaboration between the design, engineering and FX teams.
6. 10% of the art work is still painted by hand!
One fascinating tidbit of information provided by Jeremy Cranford is that while individual artists are free to create their work however they wish, around 10% of the artwork is still painted traditionally by hand.
There's loads more insight to enjoy over at Reddit itself, so grab yourself a drink and prepare for a long but fascinating read!