Today was Hex streamer Cirouss‘ birthday and he had a marathon stream that culminated in Cory Jones, President and CEO of Hex Entertainment coming on via Skype and talking about the past year of HEX and giving us a small glimpse about what we will see in the future. Cirouss asked a few questions from his followers, gathered in the days before, but specifically told people that he would not ask about release dates for any features, especially the hotly anticipated Arena PVE content.
Even though no release date was hinted at, we did learn quite a bit about the Arena where previously we only had rumors and conjecture. One thing that made the Hex players jealous was that they are currently playing Arena internally at HEX HQ, and “It’s a … blast.” according to Cory.
Arena is currently in the testing phase, and they could “probably release it now” but want a cleaner launch. From the sound of it, the focus has moved away from releasing stuff in a functional state and fixing bugs the players encounter to releasing a more polished and finished product, and this was a large reason for the delay of Set 2. Speaking of which there were some resources taken off of PVE in order to get Set 2 into that releasable state, so that explains why Arena had to be delayed as well.
It sounds like the Arena’s going to be a gauntlet of games vs. various bosses that each have a unique deck (or at least some cards unique to them) as well as having unique Champion powers. One example Cory gave was the “Princess Cory” boss which has (spoiler alert if you don’t want to know anything about the encounter) a Champion Power which is “a one-shot (cosmic) Transmogrify”. In addition one of the cards is based on his daughter, Holiday, who enters play as a 1 cost Troop and each turn she turns into a random Troop of 1 cost higher than she currently is. The entire encounter is based around randomness and is possibly one of the harder encounters in the Arena.
Additionally the Arena master might throw down new rules from fight to fight that changes how those fights happen. We can also rest assured that the Arena update includes a huge ‘kick in the pants’ to the AI. The Arena should really feel like you are “playing a video game” with the ideas of progression and risk at the forefront. It will feel more like a challenge than playing against the current AI, because it’s less about deck testing and more about making progress in the Arena.
One thing that was confirmed was that Chests will be openable with the launch of Arena. The loot tables are built. We are very close to being able to crack open all those chests that have been collecting dust since April.
The Arena patch should (should) also include an update to the Chat system. This is something Cory himself designed and has wanted to see in the game for a long time.
There is some internal debate as to whether PVP will continue to award Gold once the Arena comes out. It was always the plan to have PVP Tournaments be a temporary path to acquiring gold, and it would be removed when PVE made it into the game, but it sounds like that is either no longer the case, or the act of removing the gold from PVP Tournament is back up for discussion by the HEX development team.
Work is being done on the Guilds system. This is a separate team from the Dungeons team, so neither feature will hold up the other in terms of development or release. It’s hard to say whether we’ll have Dungeons or Guilds first down the line (assuming he means post-Arena Dungeons).
There is currently no work being done on doublebacks, but there has been work done already (some of which is already in the client apparently). Tyler (one of the Hex artitsts) has already redesigned the Doubleback and Cory mentioned that he would like to see it put up as a Friday Update so we can see that progress on the feature is being made.
As I mentioned, there are parts of doublebacks already in the client, but there is key parts to the system that have not been put in yet. From the sounds of it, work for this is planned for the future, but it’s not currently being owrked on in favor of higher priority features.
Discussion of an eSports style tournament was bandied about. Cory mentioned that there is plans for a large-scale tournament with a “big cash prize” that he is anxious to announce. We don’t know how this tournament will work, but he did give some information on how they are planning a player ranking system.
There is plans for some sort of player ranking system. This will allow players who play a specific tournament type to eventually be able to play in special ‘higher ranked’ tournaments of that type that is just for qualifying players. A lot of the player ‘ranking’ system is still up in the air. They haven’t really focused on whether or not we’ll have things like rankings or an ELO system or some combination of each. They want casual players to be able to have fun with the ranking system, so they want to find a balance of systems that allows that.
Cory talked about the VIP and how he would like to (in the future) have some sort of Subscription or VIP program down the line. The original system was abused and caused many people to look at having multiple accounts to take advantage of it. Cory really wanted to enforce a “one account per person” policy but that couldn’t happen realistically. He mentioned that “(he has) to put everything though the lens of someone trying to game the system.”
He was happy that the VIP tournaments are being so well received, as they really were a last minute addition to VIP to make them more than just being about discounted packs. Cory really likes having tournaments available that have a valuable prizes attached because of the excitement those kind of events bring. There is an emotional connection with the players trying their hardest to achieve those rewards.
In addition to launching HEX in China next year (on their own servers), Cory mentioned that he wanted the HEX tournament servers to be world wide. This way players on the Latin America and North America/European servers can compete in tournaments while having their own Auction Houses and economies.
Cory also talked about upcoming Holiday events. They want to do 9 to 10 Holiday events per year (I wouldn’t expect 2015 to hit that number, but in future years it’s entirely possible). They have ideas based around real-world holidays and HEX-oriented ones (like the Night of Bells which plays on the winter holiday theme, but is Hex related in lore).
There is the possibility that a special Dungeon will only be available during the Holiday event, and that Dungeon’s rewards would be limited to the time it could be run. Of course, like other Dungeons, there will be choices the players get to make as they progress. In the case of these once-a-year Dungeons, it’s possible that last year’s more popular choice alters the Dungeon for that year in a new way, so it’s not just the same Dungeon year after year.
Cory also talked about dungeons having a “hard mode” for additional rewards. There will be rewards specific to the hard mode, but the normal mode rewards will also be achievable. Essentially it’s the same loot is available for hard and normal modes, but hard mode has a few extra pieces.
There are no rules for how Hard mode will be set up. It will be different for each Dungeon. They don’t want to define an overall “this is Hard mode for all dungeons” but rather define the hard mode for each dungeon separately to explore the design space. That said, the “Squirrels vs. Dinosaurs” Dungeon that Cory teased had better be a real thing because it sounds amazing.
Special thanks to Cirouss for conducting the interview, and to Nikolas “Pentachills” Podrasky for his diligent note taking from which I was able to craft this write up.