On the face of it, Hearthstone isn't a very complicated from a technical standpoint. It has some nice effects, a distinctive art style, and that's about it. But Witchwood's newest legendary shows just how hard it can be to implement a new card in Hearthstone.
Meet the Shudderwock, a legendary exclusive to the Shaman class. The Shudderwock is a nine-cost minion with six health and six attack, which is fairly unremarkable by that tier's standards. What makes it shine is its battlecry text—it will repeat all other battlecries from cards you played this same, with targets chosen at random.
Battlecries are a big part of Hearthstone, as they often define the strength of a card. They can strengthen the whole field, introduce unique effects, or just clear the board. This has made Shudderwock the single hardest card to implement in Hearthstone history, director Ben Brode told us.
Brode used Deathwing to illustrate what makes Shudderwock so difficult from a technical standpoint. Deathwing is a legendary that swoops around, burns the field, and then lands, which is a visual effect tied to its gameplay mechanic.
Shudderwock folds that effect into upwards of 16 other battlecries, which can happen in any order. Consequently, the Hearthstone team has had to create a new animation for Deathwing in order to avoid interrupting the flow of the gaameplay.
Shudderwock is also complicated in other ways. "Now a battlecry can be on Shudderwock, which is doing 16 different things, and some other battlecry could come in and mess with one of the variables," Brode explained. "So we had to make sure each battlecry worked in a world we had never considered before we started implementing and designing cards."
Brode called it a "heroic effort" by Hearthstone's engineering and art team. It even outstrips the effort put into the infamous Yogg-saron, a legendary that replays every spell cast to that point. Yogg-saron was a favorite of players who liked pure insanity in their decks, and Shudderwock seems poised to be more of the same.
Shudderwock was part of Witchwood's final card reveal, joining cards like Prince Liam, who can transform all one-cost cards in a deck into legendary minions. Witchwood is Hearthstone's latest expansion, featuring a Worgen theme as well as new mechanics like Echo.
We talked to Brode about a variety of subjects ahead of Witchwood's impending release, including Blizzard's plans for Hearthstone's dust economy. Witchwood's release date is April 12.