“There are also a few projects that are being considered for the live game that are not quite ready to be shared yet.”

The Hearthstone team revealed some projects that were made during their pre-holiday hack-a-thon events. 

As a tradition, the Free Your Mind event involves Team 5 members working on passion projects before the start of a new year. This is done in either a group or individually. These projects just have to be linked to Hearthstone.

How holiday hack-a-thons improve Hearthstone

Some of these projects made it into the game that players experience today. For instance, when Hearthstone players visit their collection manager, they can choose to equip a random card back. Thanks to Free Your Mind projects, players can also copy and paste deck codes into the game, re-order their decks, as well as have their golden cards appear while drafting decks in Arena mode. 

Hearthstone allows players to select a random card back. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.

The parties in Hearthstone Battlegrounds were also born from these hack-a-thon projects. Additionally, players can go into their collection and search for dust refunds thanks to Free Your Mind.     

Although several projects improved the game’s systems and tools, not all of them made it into the live server.

The Hearthstone team revealed projects such as Tavern Brawls that played like a rhythm game, a dating sim and one that paid tribute to StarCraft. At one time, a StarCraft card set was even presented during a pre-holiday hack-a-thon.

StarCraft 20th anniversary artwork
StarCraft 20th anniversary artwork. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.

“There are also a few projects that are being considered for the live game that are not quite ready to be shared yet,” the Hearthstone team added. 

Highlander Hunter wins simulated Hearthstone tournament

Just last year, Lead Designer Pat Nagle helped with a project that involved simulations, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This project simulated a Hearthstone competition where computers played 32 submitted deck lists. Best-of-three matches were played in the tournament.

This was followed up by best-of-five semifinal games and best-of-seven matches in the grand finals. In total, the AI ended up making 8,253 decisions. The winning deck was Highlander Hunter, which was submitted by Madness at the Darkmoon Faire Design Lead John Mcintyre.

Rexxar representing the Hunter in Hearthstone
Rexxar representing the Hunter class in Hearthstone. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.

Here’s the winning Highlander Hunter deck code:

  • AAECAR8eqAK1A8cDhwTJBNsJ/KMDpqUD+a4D+68D/K8Dh7ADkbEDorkDpLkD/7oD174D3r4D3MwDm80Dos4DgtADxtEDudID9tYD6OED8uEDhOIDhuIDj+MDAAA=

This tournament inspired the Fairy Tales Tavern Brawl, which involved players becoming the Headless Horseman and directing their own production within Hearthstone. 

“This was one implementation of the machine learning AI, which the team plans to improve for potential use in the future,” the Hearthstone team added.

An adorable mascot named Nimbus

Also in 2020, Senior Test Analyst David Carlock from Quality Assurance wanted to create a Hearthstone card back dedicated to his dog, Nimbus.

Many team members dubbed Nimbus as the unofficial Hearthstone mascot
Many team members dubbed Nimbus as the unofficial Hearthstone mascot. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.

Nimbus visited the campus regularly and soon became Hearthstone’s unofficial mascot. Artist Juyoung Oh then helped Carlock create the final version of the Nimbus card back. 

Although this card back isn’t in the game, the Hearthstone team noted that Nimbus is nonetheless important and inspirational as an unofficial game mascot. 

Amy Chen -

Amy Chen

| Twitter: @AmyChenOfficial

Amy Chen is an esports journalist and enthusiast who specializes in in-depth interviews and breaking news. A University of Toronto and Humber College graduate, she is passionate about building up the Canadian esports industry. Her current favorite games are Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, and she has always had a soft spot for World of Warcraft!