Team 5

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Team 5 (also known as Blizzard Team 5) are the Blizzard Entertainment development team responsible for Hearthstone. A "small and nimble" team of 15 members for much of the game's original development, the team has since grown to more than 70 members.[1] Created specifically in order to develop Hearthstone,[2] Team 5 is responsible for all ongoing game design.[3]

Members[edit | edit source]

For most of the game's original development, the team comprised only 15 "hard-core ninjas",[2][4][5][6] but by the game's mid-beta in November 2013 had begun to grow. The next few months saw the recruitment of several additional members,[7] and the team has continued to grow since then.[8] As of June 2015 the team numbered 44 members;[9] by January 2016 this had grown to "about 50 people".[10] As of September 2016 there are "70+" people on the team.[11][12][1] After roughly doubling in size each year since the game's launch, Ben Brode stated in January 2017 that he expects the team to continue to grow, becoming "significantly larger" over the next couple of years.[1]

Each member of the team as stated in the game's credits is depicted in their own credits card, shown during the credits reel.

Confirmed members[edit | edit source]

The only public listings of Team 5's members are found in the game's credits, which are updated infrequently and often lack more recent additions to the team. It is not therefore possible to state with certainty the current size of Team 5 or to comprehensively list its members. Below are the latest official listings of Team 5, as stated in June 2015 in the game's credits, as well as some additional confirmed members.

Personnel titles are based on the latest known information, but due to infrequent official confirmation are potentially out of date.

Team 5 in November 2016

Former members[edit | edit source]

  • Ryan Chew - Software Engineer. As of at least March 2016 is now working on Overwatch.
  • Brian Schwab - AI and gameplay engineer. Member from 2011 or earlier. Left some time shortly before August 2014.[30]
  • Shay Pierce - Involved in prototyping and coding. Member since at least early 2009, appears to have left some time prior to March 2013.

Non-Team 5 developers[edit | edit source]

Team 5 is assisted in its role as primary designers of the game by various other Blizzard employees. For a full list see Credits (list). A few notable members perform a particularly significant role in the game's development, and are listed below. Some of these employees may be part of Team 5, but without official confirmation.

Former[edit | edit source]

  • Micky Neilson - Listed as Story Lead in the game's original credits. Left Blizzard in March 2016.
  • Rob Pardo - Listed as Chief Executive in the game's original credits. Left Blizzard in July 2014.

Teams[edit | edit source]

Team 5 itself breaks down into several more specific teams, many of which in turn contain sub-teams or groups, each dedicated to a specific area or phase of the production process.

In February 2017 Dean Ayala explained how the design team breaks down:

Design team is around 15 people now. Live Content (Brawls, Firesides, Other Events), Initial Design (Card Designs, Mechanic Designs, Set Flavor and Theme), System Design (Ranked Systems, Tons of Other Systems), Final Design (Set Tuning, Card Design, Mechanic Design), and Mission Design (Mission Design, Card Design). We also have Ben that directs the ship and another sort of jack of all trades designer than works a lot on new player experience, matchmaking, and flavor things. That said, well all help each other out quite a bit and the real list of things each individual person does is more like 20 bullet points rather than 2. That's the general jist though.[33]

Ayala explains that the majority of Team 5 members work primarily in other areas:

There are many other people of various disciplines like art, engineering, production, community, QA, customer support, marketing, business, etc that make an equally large impact on the game.[33]
UI has the difficult task of trying to make everyone's ideas work on PC/Tablet/Phone in addition to a bunch of other additional art tasks they get pulled into.[34]

For more information on the role each team plays in the design process, see Design and development of Hearthstone#Card creation.

Creation[edit | edit source]

The original 15 members of Team 5, being presented at Blizzcon 2013 by Eric Dodds and Ben Brode
"There were all these new platforms emerging that people were playing on. We loved those platforms as well. We wanted to figure out if we could make a team who could jump in and do those type of games. That was the impetus for starting up this group called Team 5." - Jason Chayes[35]

Team 5 was created in 2008 specifically for the development of Hearthstone,[36] with the intention of taking a different approach to game creation than that previously taken by Blizzard in developing its games, with 50+ person teams and multi-year development cycles.[2] Team 5 was created with the intention of working on a smaller scale but at the same level of quality.[2] The mandate for the team was to keep the team very small, and to "think of ways to develop a game that might be non-traditional within Blizzard's walls".[2] The smaller team required its members to be "old-school" "garage programmers" and able to "wear a lot of different hats", with far less specialization than that typically found in larger teams.[2]

The initial composition of the team included long-time Blizzard veterans and "new blood brought in specifically to help [Blizzard] create a type of game the developer had never done before: a card collecting game."[35]

Team 5 was created in 2008,[36] but for a long time was a very small group of less than 15 members, mostly focusing on prototyping.[37] Full development appears to have started spring 2012.[38] Team 5 was first announced along with Hearthstone itself at PAX East in March 2013, by which time it had grown to 15 members.

Team 5 was initially known as "Team Pegasus".[39]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • While each team member has a specific focus, the designers "all work together on pretty much everything".[40] The design team is "very collaborative", with designers exchanging input and feedback across different areas, ensuring the whole team is "on the same page".[41]
  • Every Thursday the team holds "a big team playtest", to provide feedback on the latest card set, changes or game feature, with "the whole team" playing and providing input.[42]
  • With regard to iterative design, and ongoing management of the game, Mike Donais explains, "[The] Hearthstone [team] has a philosophy of not having specific rules in general. We just want to be open-minded, see what happens, learn from feedback and our mistakes, and so on. So we’re going to keep deciding as we go, and listening to people."[43]
  • Knowledge of Warcraft lore is a prerequisite for many or possibly any position on the team. Advertisements for positions such as associate game designer list "Extensive knowledge of the lore and setting of World of Warcraft" as a requirement alongside card design skills and a passion for games.[44]
  • The Hearthstone art team is made up of "generalists", meaning they each have 2 or 3 different things that they do very well.[45] The team members have a strong affinity for Hearthstone's "whimsical/charming" art style, and are proficient at creating assets that feel hand-painted.[46]
  • The success of Team 5 as a smaller development team appears to have led Blizzard to seek to emulate this success with the creation of more small teams. A Blizzard job listing for a Lead Producer stated, "With Hearthstone, Blizzard has revived its tradition of creating small and nimble game teams and we are following in those footsteps".[47] The job listing may have been related to Blizzard's then-unannounced team shooter Overwatch.[47]
  • By the time an expansion is released, Team 5 are "already working a lot on future expansions",[48] including "not only the next [expansion] but the one after that as well".[48] Lead Designer Ben Brode states that the team always have "3-ish expansions in development",[49] although it is likely this also includes adventures. According to Senior Producer Yong Woo, the developers are always "trying to get ahead of the curve".[48]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Team 5 and other Blizzard employees do not receive a full complement of cards for their personal use, but must purchase packs or otherwise collect their cards like other players.[50] However, employees do receive some of their bonus money in "Blizzard bucks", which can be spent on products such as card packs.[50]
  • Some members of the game's design team play exclusively free to play.[51] Others have free to play accounts they play in addition to their main accounts.[51]
  • Team 5 communicate and collaborate using a variety of media, including meetings, calls, emails, and even internal wiki documents.[52]
  • The team sometimes hold PechaKuchas, fast-paced slide presentations intended to help the developers get to know each other a little better.[42] Ben Brode explains, "Somebody gets up and does a 15 or 20 minute presentation about their life, or where they came from, show some baby pictures and tell some stories; it's super fun and brings the whole team closer together."[42]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

Known changes[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Designer Insights: Live Stream Q&A. (2017-01-13). 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Building the Fire (Official video) (2013-03-22)
  3. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2014-06-06). 
  4. Game Industry.biz - Blizzard building "more experimental" titles with Hearthstone (2013-03-25)
  5. Polygon.com - Blizzard's Rob Pardo on Hearthstone, a 'stepping stone' to more experimental games (2013-03-24)
  6. Edge-online - Hearthstone: Heroes Of Warcraft - Blizzard tips its hand on its first free-to-play game (2013-05-24)
  7. Ben Brode (2013-11-12). Twitter / bbrode
  8. Banter with the Blues - February 13 (Zeriyah). (2015-02-13). 
  9. Credits (list)
  10. Official forums - Designer Insights with Ben Brode: Content Updates. (2016-01-13). 
  11. Ben Brode on reddit. (2016-09-05). 
  12. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2016-09-07). 
  13. 13.0 13.1 John Zwicker on reddit. (2015-07-19). 
  14. Making of an Adventure: Hearthstone's 'One Night in Karazhan'. (2016-09-20). 
  15. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2016-12-06). 
  16. Gamescom - Hearthstone Exclusive Content Livestream. (2015-08-07). 
  17. Yong Woo on Twitter. (2016-08-03). 
  18. Bob Fitch's Twitter profile. Retrieved on 2016-03-25. - Hearthstone Engineering Director. Blizzard since 1992. Love AI, compilers, hockey, poker, D&D, KSP, and generally playing any kind of game.
  19. BlizzCon 2016 Hearthstone What's Next panel (2016-11-05)
  20. 20.0 20.1 Dave Kosak on Twitter. (2016-11-29). 
  21. Max McCall's Twitter profile. Retrieved on 2015-07-20. "Designer for Blizzard."
  22. 22.0 22.1 Max Ma on Twitter. (2016-11-17). 
  23. Inside the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan at BlizzCon!. (2016-11-04). 
  24. Hearthhead BlizzCon 2016 liveblog. (2016-11-05). 
  25. Puffin on Twitter. (2017-02-13). 
  26. Yong Woo on Twitter. (2015-08-15). 
  27. Yong Woo on Twitter. (2015-11-08). 
  28. Yong Woo on Twitter. (2017-01-03). 
  29. 2014-12-06. (Ben Thompson Hearthstone: Goblins vs. Gnomes Interview (BlizzCon 2014)). 
  30. GAMASUTRA - Video: Building the AI for Hearthstone. (2014-08-25). 
  31. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2015-11-17). 
  32. Credits (list)#Additional Development
  33. 33.0 33.1 Dean Ayala Talks About the Nerfs, Jade Concerns, and the Different Hearthstone Design Teams. (2017-02-14). 
  34. Iksar Discusses The Size Of Hearthstone's Balance, Design Teams. (2017-02-15). 
  35. 35.0 35.1 Polygon.com - THE THREE LIVES OF BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT. (2014-10-03). 
  36. 36.0 36.1 Ben Brode on Twitter. (2014-10-03). 
  37. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2014-06-08). 
  38. Mark Serrels, Kotaku.com (2014-05-04). Pens, Paper And Envelopes: The Making Of Hearthstone
  39. How Blizzard's Warcraft Brought Hearthstone to Life - GDC 2015. (2015-03-04). 
  40. Mike Donais on reddit. (2015-12). 
  41. Designer Insights: Live Stream Q&A. (2017-01-13). 
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 Designer Insights: Live Stream Q&A. (2017-01-13). 
  43. IGN - BLIZZARD ON THE STATE OF HEARTHSTONE. (2016-06-10). 
  44. Associate Game Designer job listing. Retrieved on 2016-06-06.
  45. Ben Thompson on Twitter. (2016-04-02). 
  46. Ben Thompson on Twitter. (2016-04-02). 
  47. 47.0 47.1 Robert Purchese (Eurogamer) (2014-04-09). Is Overwatch Blizzard's new small-team game?
  48. 48.0 48.1 48.2 Yong Woo, live on stream. (2014-12-13). 
  49. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2016-09-7). 
  50. 50.0 50.1 Yong Woo, live on stream. (2014-12-13). 
  51. 51.0 51.1 Yong Woo on Twitter. (2015-08-20). 
  52. Yong Woo on Twitter. (2016-02-18). 
  53. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2014-03-05). 
  54. Ben Brode on Twitter. (2014-10-03). 
  55. LinkedIn. Retrieved on 2016-12-10.
  56. Ryan Masterson on Twitter. (2014-08-27).