Even with its wild success, there’s always room for improvement with Hearthstone. The digital card battler has been struggling with how to managed ranked players for some time, and it remains a priority for the team in the short term, as they explained during a Q&A session at BlizzCon.
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“We’ve got a number of different goals we want to change up with the ranked system,” says Hearthstone senior producer Eric Del Priore. “We feel that for a lot of players there’s either way too much progression or way too little progression. If you’re a legend player you go all the way back to 15 every single month, and you have to play a ton of games just to get to the point where you’re having competitive matches again.”
The problems don’t just affect more skilled players, either, as the system isn’t especially engaging for new players. “Comparatively if you’re a new Hearthstone player,” says Priore, “or you’re a lower-skilled player, then you’re face immediately with all these players that are going to crush you off the bat until they advance. So we’re really trying to address that system. We want to make it so that players are getting better matches and are ranked on a more regular basis. It’s something the team is actively working on, but we don’t have any announcements when those changes will come yet.”
“It’s a big focus right now,” adds director Ben Brode, “so it’s not going to be forever. I don’t know if ‘Blizzard soon’ is the right word, but we care about it.” But Brode also mentions another piece to the ranked puzzle that makes the problem even more difficult to solve.
“There’s another important factor of the ranked system, which is that specifically new players get that experience in our casual mode. They win about 50% of their games when they first come into the game, which is I think is great - but it maybe falsely increases their confidence so they go into ranked much sooner than they were when we first launched. It took about seven days to get into ranked and now it takes like three, and the win rates are much lower than they were. So we have a big problem for new players in ranked. Our current approach to revamping our ranked ladder is to make it better for players who are very engaged, but our second phase of that will be to help that new player experience. I think that’s important also, but isn’t part of our first round of revisions.”
It’s a tough problem to unravel - clearly, since we’ve been hearing about plans to fix it for at least the past year - but it’s one that’s vital for the long-term health of Hearthstone. Here’s hoping that code gets cracked soon. (Just regular ‘soon,’ not ‘Blizzard soon.’)