interview with Hamilton Chu

yes, this is a different interview.

Source: What Will Happen to Cards Once Hearthstone Is Japanese? What About Support to the Japanese Community? Asking the Producer by Akira Jisatora

The Japanese localization for Blizzard Entertainment’s PC/mobile trading card game “Hearthstone” made its surprise announcement on October 3. We were able to inquire Mr. Hamilton Chu, the executive producer that was on stage at the event, about the intent of the Japanese localization and future support.
For this, we had the assistance of “matsujun” who runs community websites for PC games that are not localized in Japan yet (including Hearthstone) as well as the eSports tournament organization JCG.

Not just localization, but will “support” with someone in charge to take care of only Japan

Congratulation on starting the Japanese service for Hearthstone. I’m happy about the Japanese localization that many fans have long awaited for. What kind of events do you plan to hold in Japan once the Japanese service begins?
We don’t have a concrete schedule solidified yet. However, thanks to Japan having a wonderful partner in SANKO, we hope to be able to do all sorts of things by tag-teaming. 
As you know, the community is the main driving force behind Fireside Gatherings (official tournaments sanctioned by Blizzard) being held all over the world. Hopefully this will be the catalyst for people in Japan to invite their friends and enjoy Hearthstone. 

This was the first time where a Blizzard website page was created with Japan as its target, and where you could enter an official tournament from Japan. In the future for the global Hearthstone tournament scene, will Japan be treated as a “country that has eSports”?
Of course. Kno has already done very well, and I believe that Japan will enter the genre of eSports more and more as time goes on.

I have the impression that Blizzard supports various activities of the user community. Are you thinking about supporting the Japanese community as well?
Of course. We would like to communicate very openly and actively send our thoughts concerning games to Japan as representatives of Blizzard, and of Hearthstone. 
At the same time, we are going to release a Japanese version of the client, so we would like to actively receive feedback from the players through the community. We will be bringing up the Japanese language forum in full force soon, and this will be managed by a Community Manager that will work solely with the Japanese community. Said members will also manage the official Japanese Twitter account, so we hope that we can get active information distribution as well as communication through those channels.

Will those that disseminate information live in Japan?
No. There is no office in Japan, so they will be part of the APAC team in Korea. However, that does not change the fact that they are specializing in the Japanese forums. 

Any plans to make an office in Japan?
We have just begun our involvement with the Japanese market, so we are not able to provide you with plans as such at present. 

(I’m asking such questions because) It would be great to strengthen the ties if there is someone that will actually come watch the activities of the community. Thus, this is a request to consider having a representative that resides in Japan as well.
Indeed. It is very important for the staff to actually meet the people of, and to deepen the understanding of, the community. 

The Japanese qualifiers for Hearthstone was held recently. How would you assess it?
The Japanese qualifier tournament was very good. I was happy that Kno secured his victory, and that he did very well at the Regional Championships afterwards as well. I was extremely amused by Myrzaki who got second place. Before the tournament, he was a little-known player, but starting from the Fireside Gatherings, he lost once yet climbed all the way up to the finals from the losers bracket. I’m sure his run through the brackets also increased the amusement of the spectators, as he showed that “you can really get this far”. 

Most Hearthstone players seemed oblivious of the existence of this tournament. In most Japanese games, the app itself has an integrated news page that would inform players of tournaments. The Japanese players are used to that, so they don’t check news media on their own. Furthermore, I don’t think most of them acknowledged that this was an event that they cold actually attend. 
If you are going to provide service to Japan, I believe you need to think of better ways to make announcements to the users. Do you have any such plans?
It’s just like you said. I don’t think it’s a good idea to aggressively send information to players much like spam e-mails, but I believe there also is a need to send out information, especially information of this nature, with the strength of the community as a whole. 
Of course, there is official information that comes from us as the publisher, but the fact is the sharing of information among the community is the easiest way to disseminate information. I do believe that there is room for us to improve in terms of being a publisher that can send out official information.
After a month or two after the release of the Japanese client, if there is a lack of communication between us and the users from your point of view, it would help us a lot if we can be notified as such. 

Can you tell us the ratio of PC to mobile for the Japanese player environment?
I don’t have specific data as present. And as someone from Blizzard, I believe in the idea that “no matter what platform you use, the user experience must be the same”. 

The fact that many Japanese people play games on their mobile devices must have had some influence on the decision to create a Japanese localization of Hearthstone. Do you have anything to say regarding that?
It’s not entirely the case that such a situation was the catalyst. Since last year, when Japan first became a country eligible for the Hearthstone World Championship, we have always had the thought that we would like to see the people of Japan continue to play our games. After thinking about what would give the most enjoyable experience for the Japanese players, the plan for a Japanese localization came to fruit. Many players in Japan use their mobile devices to play, so we believed that this will be a plus for us as well.

Were the sales in Japan any part of the decision?
I’ll just say from the PR standpoint that Japan is an important market. (laughs) As a game player and a game developer, there is a given that we must provide an experience that satisfies the players. We must create games that players will find wonderful, and the results will come as a result of that. 

Are there any points where Japanese player are different from players elsewhere, such as how long they play and how much they make in-game purchases?
I don’t have that data. (laughs) However, strangely enough, players of any country you look at shows similar patterns. Therefore, there is no such case that players from a certain country play 3 times as long compared to other countries, or anything like that. 

Will there be more Japanese localization for Blizzard titles outside of Hearthstone?
It’s very hard to say what we would do for our other titles. However, when we released a Japanese version of Diablo III last year, we had very positive feedback. We’re looking forward to what will happen now that a localized version of Hearthstone is being released. 

There were previous titles where the localization updates stopped midway. How long will you continue service to Japan?
Forever! (laughs) We believe we will support every country in the exact same way. I believe that you will continue to be able to play for millenniums to come. (laughs) 

We’ll never do an easy, literal translation. We’d like to be notified of things to improve on.

Honestly speaking, I didn’t find the Japanese localization quality to be that high. It felt like some text was too literally translated, and didn’t feel like it created an atmosphere that was apt for the Japanese.
Thank you for your honest opinion. That makes me a bit sad, but we do have a policy to “avoid literal translation”, so we translated with the intent that we included elements that were fit for each destination country without losing the essence of what is already in the game including lots of humor. 
It would be great if you could point out specifics such as “the selection of this word for this spot is not right.” However, we would like you to realize that we didn’t merely go for an easy, literal translation. We kept moving forward to incorporate various elements that were uniquely Japanese, and this position is something that will not change in the future. 
We will be creating a window for such feedback to be received by the APAC team. We will let you know once that officially opens up.

Will you ever make Hearthstone with cards in real life?
The answer to that is no. First off, Hearthstone was created on the given that it will be a game that was played digitally. We thought about how you can enjoy playing a card game in a digital environment, such as effects, voices, matchmaking, and arena. This is what makes Hearthstone uniquely Hearthstone. It is impossible to reenact this experience with a physical card game. 

I love offline events, so I’m looking forward to seeing “BlizzCon Japan”!
That’s a great idea! The best part about BlizzCon is to have an event where the community and publisher comes together, and everyone who enjoys what you enjoy all comes together for a single event. Personally, the developers have fun directly speaking with the community members of that nature. It would be nice if we could hold an event similar to BlizzCon in Japan as well.

Even with Japanese localization, all “assets” to present will continue to be usable

Users that have already been playing must be curious about whether or not there are changes once the Japanese localized client is out. We asked a few additional questions.

So this is just a Japanese client, and not a server for Japan?
There are no changes at all server-wise. People all over the world can play in the language of their choice, on the server of their choice.

For instance, I can connect to the Americas server using the Japanese client/app?
That’s correct.

Can players use the cards and content that they have already purchased?
The collections themselves are tied to the server, so as long as you are using the same server, you can continue to use what you have even after switching languages. 

The launch is set for sometime in October. Will the PC and mobile versions all come out at the same time?
The launch is simultaneous for all platforms. 

There is a preregistration campaign. Can veteran players also participate?
Yes. If you enter your name and e-mail address for the preregistration, we will send a code for a card back by e-mail once the Japanese client launches. The localization is a celebration, so we would like all veteran players to participate as well. It’s not just to gain new players. 

Can users receive the preregistration goodies no matter what region they play in?
It will be limited to players who are on the Asia server. 

4gamer interview with Hamilton Chu

Source: “Hearthstone” Developer Interview. What Blizzard has Cherished Regarding Localization into Japanese and Development of Hearthstone by Rune

Blizzard Entertainment announced the Japanese localization for their online card game “Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft” (for PC/iOS/Android) on October 3, 2015. Two days later, on October 5, we had an opportunity to conduct a short interview with Mr. Hamilton Chu, the executive producer of the game.

In this interview, we were able to hear stories concerning the localization into Japanese as well as the current game balance as seen from the players’ point of view, so we’d like you to take a look.

Japanese localization that cherished feelings


Thank you for having this interview today. First, we’d like a brief introduction about yourself.
I work as an executive producer overseeing all of Hearthstone. Please think of it as someone who supervises all the supervisors for each division including development, marketing, and community relations.


The other day, the Japanese localization for Hearthstone has finally been announced. This is the first time Blizzard offers direct service in Japan instead of going through a Japanese publisher, right?
Hearthstone was an IP that we felt a desire to deploy it directly from our company. However, when we have events in Japan, we will have the assistance of SANKO.


What kind of impressions do you have about Japanese players?
I feel that many Japanese players play games very passionately and are devoted to the games that they play for long periods of time.


Many games in Japan are released for smartphones. What kind of demographic do you think will be the target for Hearthstone?
I believe Blizzard games, no matter what platform, are those that we would like to have played by gamers who love games to begin with.


How many people currently play Hearthstone in Japan?
We haven’t disclosed any specific numbers, but despite there being only a non-localized English version available, many players are playing Hearthstone. We are truly appreciative of that. Therefore, by now releasing a Japanese version, we are expecting that many more Japanese people will start playing.


Were there any hardships concerning the localization into Japanese?
Of course, there were countless hardships if I started listing them. One hardship that stood out was definitely the translation for the ADR script. Hearthstone cherishes the feelings of the characters, and we spent a tremendous amount of time especially to figure out how to translate the phrases that were humorous. We felt that for localization into other languages that this was a hardship as well, so Japan was no exception to that.


True. The voices when minions are summoned are impressionable.
Right. Characters that appear in Hearthstone are all unique, and there is a vast variety of personalities. For example, Lord Jaraxxus is a very interesting character, and it was very important to choose voice actors that could capitalize on such character traits.

Main factor of success was “rules anyone can understand”


The rules for Hearthstone are very simple, and it feels like it is easy even for people who normally don’t play any card games to start playing. Was that point on your mind during development?
Just like you mentioned, we made the game rules very simple. Card games is a genre that is often shied away from due to the difficulty of game rules. We always discuss how we can relay just how fun card games are to as many people as we possibly can.


Are there many card game fans who work for Blizzard?
Of course! (laughs) The staff at Blizzard are full of people who love card games. I myself have been playing “Magic: the Gathering” from their alpha phase.


Please tell us what parts you worked out in aiming for a game that is easy for beginners.
For instance, when you choose a card, the border turns green, and a large arrow appears. We felt it was important to make it obvious what they need to do with one glance, regardless of who was playing the game. And, elements like that are I believe one reason why Hearthstone is being played all over the world.


It seems that Hearthstone has a stronger element of randomness compared to other card games. Even in tournaments, we often see players be elated or dejected by a result of something random. What was your intention behind creating such a game design?
There are basically two big reasons. First, it makes it interesting for all, as it becomes “fun to watch, and fun to play”. When you have a card effect that randomly summons a minion, and a very powerful card comes onto the field, it really excites people.


True. When Doomsayer is summoned from a Piloted Shredder, you have a very grave situation on your hands. (laughs)
Secondly, the element of randomness requires players to have an even deeper set of playing skills. For instance, the field changes depending on which minion the Piloted Shredder randomly summons, and you have to instantly make a judgment call and restructure your strategy around it. Did you watch the game between Kno the Japanese representative versus Kranich the Korean representative?


Yes. I saw it from beginning to end.
The very last turn of the very last round is the best example of what I am talking about. During that turn, Kno used the effect from Dreadscale that deals 1 damage to all minions on the field to explode the Boom Bot, hoping that it will damage Kranich for 6 health. Without knowing whether or not he will get another turn, he came up with the idea, calculated points, chose that action, and executed it in a very short amount of time. I believe that is an example of the high skill level we see from players at the professional level.


I see. That was a very impressionable scene where one could get a glance as to just how his skills as a player were.
Kno had already played his turn while I was thinking of exactly the same thing. (laughs)


Speaking of decks that require high skills to use, there is the Patron Warrior deck. That deck is often very hard to calculate, but from release of Blackrock Mountain to present, it has shown its place in the meta as a top tier deck. Players often talk about “when will Patron be nerfed?” but what kind of impressions do you have concerning that particular deck? (Patron Warrior: a deck centered on combos from Grim Patron, a minion that summons another copy of itself by surviving an attack. The card is highly compatible with the Warrior deck that can create synergy by having many means of damaging your own minions. Ever since the release of Blackrock Mountain, it has always been at the top tier of deck rankings for progamers, and is widely used both in ranked matches and in tournaments.) 
I feel that it’s not as powerful a deck as many players think. The Patron Warrior deck is very popular, but it does not always mean that popularity and deck strength are proportional to each other.
Patron Warrior is a deck that is often used in tournaments as well, so I believe that is giving the impression to players who watch the tournaments that it is a powerful deck. However, it is important to consider what everyone thinks about this Patron Warrior deck, so we will continue keep an eye on Patron Warrior and decide where to go from here from there.


On a card-by-card basis, Emperor Thaurissan is also a very powerful card. Thanks to that card, new deck types such as Malygos Warlock came into play.
Like you said, Emperor Thaurissan is a very powerful card, and was an element that created all sorts of new decks. Also, that card has the “element of randomness” that I mentioned earlier. For instance, if someone using a Druid deck gained the effects of the Emperor, whether or not they have Force of Nature and Savage Roar in their hand already will greatly change the outcome. I believe that things like that cause this card to lead to situations much like the one I mentioned earlier.


Changing topics, can you tell us the intent behind the addition of the new mode “Tavern Brawl”?
Good question. We developed it with the goal being a mode where a wide array of players could play, including those that are too lazy to construct their won decks and those that want to enjoy playing with rules that are different from normal. Also, ranked matches until now were based on a monthly basis, but we had wanted to offer a different mode where something new happens every week.


You win one card pack if you win once in “Tavern Brawl”. Was this intentional, as a way to help out the beginners?
There is that aspect, yes. Also, we designed it so that even beginners can try it out without too many worries. I believe we made it so that it can be enjoyed freely, where you play once just to taste, and if you like it, you’ll continue to play.

Is the recommended server for Japanese players Asia or Americas?


Onto another topic. Concerning the upcoming release of the Japanese version, there is speculation among Japanese players that all future tournaments will be played on the Asia server. Please tell us what Blizzard’s opinion is concerning which server Japanese players should be playing in the future.
This is something that is often discussed internally as well. Currently, many of the Japanese players are playing on the Americas server, so that server may be more familiar for them.
On the other hands, the Asia servers has much less of a time difference, so there is merit in playing there with regards to creating more proper matchmaking. Blizzard does recommend playing on the Asia server, but we would like the players to choose a server that they feel is easier for them to play on when choosing a server.


Then, please give an insight regarding deck-related assets for participating in tournaments. For instance, if all tournaments are going to be played on the Asia server from now on, I believe that every player currently playing on the Americas servers will not have a deck to play*. Is there a possibility that Blizzard will provide loaner accounts during tournaments for players in that predicament? (* Player data for Hearthstone is saved on a server-to-server basis, so someone playing on the Americas server must start all over if he wishes to play on the Asia server.)
I believe that the current issue we have where it is difficult to participate in tournaments on a different server will persist. However, concerning this localization for a Japanese version, we are considering some form of solution such that this will not become a huge issue.


I am hoping that the assets obtained by all players on the Americas server will not go to waste, then. Finally, can you give one last comment to all fans reading this article?
First off, thank you for playing Hearthstone for all this time despite the differences in languages. Also, we really do appreciate your attendance of various events and communicating with us. We will be releasing a Japanese version as well soon, so we would like you to give your continued regards for Hearthstone.
We will be creating an official forum in Japanese, and we will be hiring community managers that concentrate only on Jpaan. I hope we can actively listen to everyone’s feedback and suggestions.


We’re looking forward to the release of the Japanese version and how the game will unfold in the future. Thank you for this opportunity you gave us today.


Hearthstone is a game that many Japanese people have been playing even without a localized version. With the upcoming release of the Japanese version, it will be a good opportunity for those that were shying away just because it was a card game with English text to touch upon Hearthstone and see why it is a game that is played all over the world. The Japanese version is set to be released in late October, so we have something to eagerly look forward to.