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Blizzard explains the challenge of creating Hearthstone's first new class

Hearthstone's latest expansion, Ashes of Outland, was released this week for PC and mobile. This is one of the most exciting additions to Blizzard Entertainment's digital card game since its launch in 2014: a new class.

Demon Hunters enter the Hearthstone battle as an aggressive class and focus on drawing cards and attacking with your hero. It's a class that has a long history in Warcraft lore. The night elf Illidan (who became a partial demon through a dark ritual) appeared in 2002 as the first demon hunter. Demon Hunters then became a playable class in World of Warcraft with the expansion of the Legion in 2016.

I told Hearthstone game director Ben Lee about the challenges of adding a new class to the game and why the team before launching the set interviewed the demon hunter. And if you want to learn more about the new class, read our other recent Hearthstone interview.

Select Demon Hunter

GamesBeat: There are three World of Warcraft classes that are not playable in Hearthstone: Death Knights, Monks, and Demon Hunters. Why did the demon hunter climb to the top?

Ben Lee: The team had already defeated Death Knights in the Frozen Throne expansion. This ship sailed at least a little for a considerable amount of time. When we thought about which set we wanted to make, we wanted to do something that we thought was really big and really effective. Outland and Burning Crusade are some of the most popular periods of the Warcraft license. Outland was something we loved to pursue. The natural fit would be demon hunter and Illidan as a character. Illidan is the title villain of the Burning Crusade expansion. It seemed to be the perfect fit. Obviously demon hunter itself, it's a super cool, really interesting class. For many players, it's their favorite class, even back to the Warcraft III heroes in the campaign game there. Of the various options we had, it seemed to be the right one at the right time.

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GamesBeat: Are you telling me that monks will take place before the next death knights?

Lee: Well who knows?

GamesBeat: Did you want to give Illidan a redemption in Hearthstone? It was a legendary card from the start, but not an overpowering one. Was it nice to make him better known?

Lee: Yes, sure. I love the Warcraft license. It has had a huge impact on my life and career. Meeting these great characters is important to me and the team. We are happy with how the demon hunter and Illidan have developed. Soon players will be able to play it and hopefully they will enjoy it.

GamesBeat: I know it can be challenging Create an identity for each of the classes you already had. Was it difficult to find a whole new class identity for a new class?

Lee: Yes and No. Class identity is important, but much of it is expressed in terms of subjects in art, effects, and sound. There are some classes with very specific mechanics, such as Outcast is a mechanic who is only a demon hunter. We can give them something that will improve their agility and movement-based play style in the other games. It's a mix of different things. For example, when you think of paladins, much of their taste is expressed in their artwork. There are many types of effects and colors for holy light, the yellows in their expansion sets.

It is a large mixture of different factors. We are happy with the result at Demon Hunter. They have a couple of different play styles that we believe will emerge throughout the year. It will likely tend to be fast-paced game styles at the start of the first expansion, but we expect them to develop some token synergies over the year, some great demon synergies. We are happy with it. It also gives us a clean table. If you look back on Hearthstone, it's been six years since it started. A lot has changed. The vision of our current team of class identities compared to the original game can be a little different in some places. It is difficult to fix all of these different things retrospectively. It was exciting and interesting with a new class and the team enjoyed doing it.

New Hero, New Tools

GamesBeat: The Outcast keyword that matters whether the card is on the left or left. Was that something you created when you wanted to make demon hunters or is it one Mechanic you worked with before you decided to bring demon hunters into play?

Lee: In the early stages of expansion, the team played with various mechanics and ideas. That was something they thought about – I think originally it was just a general mechanic that we tried. Then the team found that it was very thematic for demon hunters. It felt good and we limited it to them. It is sometimes interesting for me personally to have a unique mechanic for a class. When you look at villains, the combo mechanic feels like something villains would do. Secrets feel very thematic especially for hunters and magicians. We are glad that we have agreed on it. It felt just right for Illidan and demon hunters.

Above: Crimson Sigil Runner.

Photo credit: Blizzard

GamesBeat: How difficult was it to develop the new hero power? Were there many iterations before you chose the one we have?

Lee: There were. Heroic power could be the biggest challenge we made. For people who are reading this, it may seem really easy. It's only 1 mana, 1 attack. However, heroic powers are really nuanced. They influence the game very much. We don't want them to affect the game too much, but we want them to influence the game enough. We are a card game. We want you to play cards and not just use hero power. We tried different things. One idea we tried was that your attacks avoid mockery, which may sound absolutely broken, but in practice it hasn't turned out to be so useful. It depends on who you're playing against, but often your enemies' minions don't even mock. It's just a negligible bonus. In situations where you could use it, it just felt bad to be able to do it anytime upon request. It is a kind of festival or hunger idea. We don't want hero forces to lie here. We want it to be a constant added value if you have the excess mana to do it.

However, we wanted to do something with attacks. It was consistent from the start. We wanted the demon hunter to pick up from the board, attack enemy minions, or attack the enemy hero. If you've seen Illidan in Heroes of the Storm or Warcraft III or even World of Warcraft, he's super agile and jumping around. Demon hunters have a huge motion-based kit in their games. We wanted to fulfill this fantasy for demon hunters. Attack was our allegory for it. The 1-mana idea came pretty late, but it felt right. You can often do that. As a demon hunter you can always get in the middle of the action. At the start of the fight, you can jump forward and attack before others get a chance. It felt right and we are very happy with it.

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