Facebookers love apps. Oh sure, there are those who are somewhat less than thrilled, but most enthusiastic users of Facebook love to hook up goodies like Top Friends and Super Poke. So when we got wind of several Facebook apps for WoW players that are building their own followings, we decided to track down their creators. Last week, we interviewed WoW player and I Play WoW creator Nick Gerakines; this week, we take a whole different spin on the topic with Chris Nolan of Hearthstone.
Just as Korale/Nick Gerakines and his wife Carolyn are the team behind I Play WoW, Tego (aka Chris Nolan) and his wife Jen have teamed up to bring Facebooking WoW fans the Hearthstone app. We visited with Tego to find out where he and his family keep their own hearthstone, and why.
Main character Tego
Server The Venture Co.-US
WoW player since 1.10, I think it was?
Previous gaming experience: I got my EverQuest on release day, but only ever made it to level 15 (that was really high, right?) and dabbled with Star Wars Galaxies for a bit too, which was (wife) Jen's first exposure to this type of game play.
15 Minutes of Fame: We understand your wife is an integral part of the Hearthstone team. Do you two play WoW together, too?
Tego: We play in the same room and on the same realms, but we don't often play at the same time. We do have a couple of pairs of 'toons we play exclusively with each other, but we have very different play styles, so it never lasts for long. Lately, we've been doing the Kalu'ak quests together -- her on her main (Quelina, a Blood Elf Mage) and me on my Druid, Loukno. This way she can still do the other quests without me, and me the same, so we're not as "stuck" if one of us has time to play and the other doesn't. Don't be surprised to see a stealthed kitty being /followed by a Hawkstrider when one of the kids needs attention after bedtime, though.
It's great working on Hearthstone together, though. Since it's a personal project, we really only add features as we would want them ourselves, and so our different play styles help out there. She did up the custom avatars, for example, because she liked how she looked and wanted to show it off. I did up the achievements because I like getting those points.
What's your WoWstyle -- raider, casual, PvP ...?
I'd say casual these days, but I have raided in the past. I did a stint pre-BC with a guild that only ever got Rag down once, and then when pre-attunements lifted in TBC, I was in the top guild on the server (but we have a small server, so that meant 4/6 of SSC). Though I play on PvP servers, I'm not a big fan of world PvP (I really don't get repeated ganking – oh, I'm going to be targeted now, aren't I?) and not even exalted with the Frostwolves yet. In the old days, I would grind out Sergeant for the vendor discount and /salute any officers I saw. I'm teetering on giving raiding another go, since it seems less time would be required with the current content, or just diving into PvP and seeing if I could get a hang of that. Unless I go and level more alts, that is (and I would really like my Loremaster, but have a ways to go with that).
How much of your WoW time is focused on work vs. how much is sheer personal game time?
Well, Hearthstone isn't so much "professional" for me, as it's a side project, but it does mean I can take time to play and tell my wife I'm "testing" -- e.g., I needed to go get myself a new achievement in order to test that feature out. Also, I'll take time away from in game to get features done. When I was around 72, I came up with the Equipment Histories feature so I could be comfortable sharding my old epics as they were getting replaced by dungeon blues. This meant I didn't play for a week or two while I got that done, and there have been similar cases in the past.
Do you think the WoW Armory changed the way players relate to other players within the game?
For sure. I've only done it a couple of times, popped out to check someone's Armory when grouped with them, but I know others who do it constantly (a recent VoA PUG I was in had the raid leader lambasting an under-performing player for having a poor PvP spec, for example). It can really take the guesswork out of what the other person is up to (all the while, I was thinking to myself I was glad I was performing DPS-wise, because I was still specced for leveling and didn't want to be found out).
All of the different mash-up sites have had an effect, too, from guild recruiting to grinding. Once I was looking for a Blacksmith to make me the top shield spike when I was experimenting with AoE grinding on my Pally. I used the Armory to find someone who had the required rep for the recipe and the appropriate BS level, and then I messaged him in-game with the mats. The next time I logged in, there it was in my mailbox, waiting for me.
With Hearthstone, too, you can keep tabs on your friends 'toons even when you're not logged in at the same time. Curious if they've leveled yet or what zone they are questing in? You can check Hearthstone or the Armory and give them a "grats" there instead of via /w or /gchat.
What social networking app do you think is most on hit today?
I'm anti-"hot thing" these days. I think too much time is spend bouncing from place to place and site to site. Perhaps it's just I'm getting a bit older and don't have the time to try them all out, but even with it's many flaws, Facebook is where I spend my time. I like the idea of a social platform where people can extend and provide services on top of and leave the muck to others. I often liken it back to the early days when just having Windows was a big thing, but what made it really great was all the software you could run on Windows. That said, OpenSocial from Google and friends has the same goals and a longer tail, so we'll see what comes of that. I've been getting an influx of requests to have the Hearthstone feature set exposed on MySpace, so who knows?
I'm currently re-doing the queueing system to make it a big more interactive and more resilient when it comes to network delays from Blizzard. I'm also playing with the idea of going back to the automated refreshes I had early on in the system, so you don't have to continually return to the site and hit the refresh button when you level or gain rep or achievements; it'll just determine your play schedule and try to intuitively refresh your characters. We'll see... When I did it before, Blizzard quickly locked me out for hammering there system too frequently -- but conversely, it isn't immediately apparent that the refreshing of the 'toon is such a large component of Hearthstone that a larger-than-I'd-like percent of people never refresh after they've added.
Also, now that more and more people are hitting the level cap, I'm going to flesh out the Equipment Histories more. That, and the achievements, are good ways of displaying your in-game activity and progress, and progress is what it's all about at 80 for many people. The idea being, you'll have stories published to your wall when you upgrade your epics, for example, much like the stories now that show off your achievements.
Users have asked for some granularity when it comes to stories as well, so we'll see -- e.g., only publish rep changes when they are above Honored, or just do achievements for some characters. I'm not a big fan of options, though.
Others: support for the Russian servers, gear sets, realm and guild pages brought up to snuff, and maybe some Arena support (depending if I join a team or not).
How did you get where you are today with Hearthstone -- was it a deliberate path or sheer serendipity?
I've always felt the best way to learn something is by doing it. When it became apparent that the Facebook platform was something I wanted to get familiar with, I wanted a project that we could play around with and have fun with to get our feet wet before embarking on the more serious project. Since we were both playing WoW and liked the Armory data, we just gave it a go. It never really occurred to me it'd be still going strong and in use by tens of thousands of people a year and a half later.
I probably shouldn't be offering career advice, but since you asked ... If you have a passion, you probably don't want to let it get sucked dry by institutions or corporations. Your only limits are the ones you impose upon yourself. Step away for a moment, get a fresh perspective and push your boundaries. Imagination shapes reality.
What projects are on your front burner right now?
Raising my two-year-old son and newborn daughter are always at the forefront, but I also spend a lot of time on my Comic Books Application for Facebook, which lets users track the books they are interested in and get notified each week of what's due in stores so they can hit up their local comic shop. Have y'all been reading the new WoW comics from Wildstorm?
As a matter of fact, Tego, we have! Thanks for the interview and best of luck with Hearthstone.