Hearthstone team reconsidering “number of ranks, number of stars per rank” in huge changes to ladder

Hearthstone - One Night in Karazhan

Hearthstone players have been scrambling up the game’s ladder system faster than intended recently thanks to a bug. Lead designer Ben Brode took the opportunity to discuss his team’s dissatisfaction with the system as-is, and the potentially far-reaching revisions that are being considered.

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On the Hearthstone subreddit, Brode says his team are currently discussing the following points:

  • “Rank 18 players are higher ranked than 50% of HS players. That number doesn’t make you feel like you are in the top 50%, and that’s a missed opportunity… it’d be better if expectations and reality matched here.
  • “We’ve received feedback that the last-minute jostling for high Legend ranks at the end of a season doesn’t feel all that great.
  • “We’ve received feedback that the ladder can feel like a grind.
  • “We are reanalyzing the number of ranks, the number of stars per rank, the number of bonus stars given out at the start of the season, and other parts of the system.”

While acknowledging that players participate in ranked play because of the rewards and prestige associated with higher ranks, he also says that the purpose of ranked mode is torankplayers: “If we inflate too many stars,” he says, “the whole population ends up in the Legend bucket and… the entire system falls apart eventually.”

Brode says his team is working on simulation tools that can predict what changes to the ladder will do to the population, and that he’s hoping to use these to make iterative changes to the system with more confidence. “With better simulation tools, we are planning on trying a lot of crazy things.”

Brode’s objective, ultimately, is a ranked system that rewards players for getting more skilful or “finding a new deck that breaks the meta”, without inflating ranks such that the higher levels become meaningless.

A spirited discussion has taken place below his comments, with players identifying a number of issues with ranked play. Chief among these is the sense that too much time is spent grinding out non-competitive matches to reach one’s true skill ranking after each reset, whereupon there’s not enough time left in the season to enjoy it. One strongly upvoted comment says: “the season is either too short or the grind is too long for the average player to reach their skill plateau… I often feel more relief to hit Legend than I feel accomplishment.”

But Brode is hearing the community’s feedback, and expecting to be able to iterate more quickly thanks to these new simulation tools. It sounds like Hearthstone players can expect a lot of changes to ladder mode in the near future.