Blizzard has revealed some of the challenges associated with developing Hearthstone’s Scholomance Academy expansion while working remotely, a situation that many developers have faced this year due to the ongoing pandemic. Hearthstone has for years now kept to a schedule of releasing three expansions per year, along with several events and additional content along the way, and they show no signs of slowing down.
Working on such an immense task for a target release of every four months is no simple matter, and the challenges faced will be unique to each employee based on their role in creating the new expansion. For Linus Flink, senior game producer for art, this challenge came in solving the review and feedback process for visual effects.
“We moved to doing a lot more asynchronous review via recorded video instead of in-person meetings,” Flink described. “My personal takeaway there was to not try and simply replicate the in-person process remotely—real-time reviews via video conference aren’t nearly as effective due to lag.”
For Alex Dawson, card designer, there were two points that stood out above all others: constant communication and reminding themselves of all they have accomplished. “My personal takeaway there was to not try and simply replicate the in-person process remotely—real-time reviews via video conference aren’t nearly as effective due to lag,” Dawson begins. “Secondly, we can’t forget how awesome this is for our players. The days can blend together when you’re working remotely.”
Other members of the team mentioned the importance of using technology to keep some semblance of social connectivity. Virtual lunches and constant team chats helped keep the team together while it is impossible to be physically near. It will be fascinating to see how Blizzard and other developers move forward once the pandemic is brought under control, as remote working may become a more normal component of developing their games.
As for favorite cards, each member appears to again have a different opinion. For Gloria Zhang, lead game producer of design production, Educated Elekk takes the top spot. Apart from loving the art style that integrates so well into the theme of the card’s text, “the card’s fun mechanic allows countless possibilities for players at any competitive level to shine.”
Since the expansion launched almost a month ago, it has been relatively smooth sailing on the client side of things. While there were a couple of hotfixes and balance changes needed, that is not out of the ordinary for Hearthstone. Catching a glimpse into how the team has worked remotely during this time is fascinating, and readers can click here for even more information.
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