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Video: Building the AI for Hearthstone
August 25, 2014 | By Staff

"By the end of it, I actually had nearly nine to eleven thousand games running on one server core at a time."
- Former Blizzard engineer Brian Schwab explains the practical value of building an online game with lightweight AI -- your players wait less time for the computer to make a move.

The AI postmortem is a perennial high point for GDC's AI Summit, and GDC 2014 was no exception as former Blizzard engineer Brian Schwab took the stage to deliver a thorough, frank presentation on the AI design of Hearthstone.

During his talk, Schwab outlined how Blizzard went about creating challenging artificial intelligence for its recently-released deck battler that would present an obvious -- but not overwhelming -- threat. He also offers a good rundown of the broader trials and triumphs the Hearthstone team faced as the game evolved from paper prototypes to a lightweight, Unity-driven cross-platform competitive card game.

It's a great talk, so we've gone ahead and embedded the free video of "AI Postmortem: Hearthstone" above. You can also watch it here on the GDC Vault.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC Next already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

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Shaine Kruel
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This dude... does not look like he works in video games. That's awesome.

Abby Friesen
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This video came just in time! We're designing a digital card game and have been looking at Hearthstone and its AI since some of its features are comparable to ours. We ran into some difficulties with the AI though, so this video helped confirm that our solutions are on the right track. So yay!

Andreas Ahlborn
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Same here! Great talk.
AI is pretty much the most interesting thing when it comes to card games. I wonder what it would take to develop a truely expert AI that could beat the best players in the world.

The talker seems refreshingly unconvential. Not assuring that he left Blizzard.

Thomas Henshell
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Probably why he left. He was making all the other coders look bad! :-) I enjoyed the talk, I love hearing inside bits about games I frequently play. Now I can use this against the AI! Muhahaha.

Matthew Horsman
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Love this game, even though I lose most of the time, good job Blizzard! ps can you send me some free gold! :)