Animex 2016: Blizzard’s Derek Sakamoto on Hearthstone’s UI

Blizzard Entertainment’s Lead User Interface Designer Derek Sakamoto discussed his career and the process behind the development of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft’s user interface.


Interestingly enough, some of Hearthstone’s rules were dictated by limitations in the user interface.


The importance of parts of the game feeling “valuable” was a key element of the talk. In a game where microtransactions are involved the sense of value is seen as key.


“As kids, we remember opening packs of baseball cards and smelling the stale gum and wax and stuff. Or opening packs of Magic cards with the poisonous gas smell. We wanted to capture that but we don’t have smells it;s just visual. We wanted to make every pack open feel like it was special, we wanted every pack type to have a different  animation and when the cards are open you’re able to mouse over them and see what their rarity might be and this allows players to create little rituals of what they think the luckiest ways to open cards was.”


After failing computer science and graduating with a degree in architecture Sakamoto ended up at Blizzard during the early days of World of Warcraft. Sakamoto worked on Wow up until Rise of the Lich King when he moved to the “mobile development team”


The atmosphere while working at Blizzard was also discussed. “Two Scoops” and “Tokyo Drift” are amongst the nicknames given to various elements of the user interface by the Blizzard design team.


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