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By multiple authors, August 3, 2020

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Welcome to our ninth Aretuza Report. 

Aretuza Report # 9: Interview with CDPR's ThorSerpent

Gwent

Journey Quests - Week 1

The first week's Journey quests require players to do the following: 

  • Finish 1 match in any online mode (Regular)
  • Play 10 cards with consume (Premium)
  • Play 10 neutral cards (Regular)
  • Boost units 10 times (Premium)
  • Play 10 cards with Agent category (Regular)
  • Finish 3 matches in any online mode (Premium)

Here are suggested decks for these quests:

Team Aretuza

Stream Schedule

Here is the stream schedule of Team Aretuza’s Pro and Stream Team for the week of July 3 to August 9.

Name Social Schedule (All times are in CEST)
Ceely Twitch , Twitter Tuesday to Friday at 5pm
Sunday at 5 pm
Crozyr Twitch , Twitter Monday at 4pm
Thursday to Sunday at 4:30pm
Lionhart Twitch , Twitter Daily except Wednesday from 11am to 3pm
Redrame Twitch , Twitter Daily from 2am to 6am
Shaggy Twitch , Twitter Weekdays at 8pm
Shinmiri Twitch , Twitter

Weekdays at 6pm

TheaBeasty Twitch , Twitter Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 3pm

Spotlight

Interview with CDPR's ThorSerpent

Vladimir “ThorSerpent” Tortsov
Nilfgaard main, Director of Live Ops at CD PROJEKT RED, definitely not a vampire.
Twitter: @ThorSerpent

What does your typical day at work look like? Could you walk us through some tasks, deliverables, or meetings that you might have? 

My typical day at works starts with a ritual cup of coffee. Then, depending on the particular agenda of the day, it will most probably contain multiple meetings/calls with the members of my team, GWENT leads, and producers. And, of course, more coffee. In my current role, I’m responsible for a wide array of subjects including player engagement, monetization, business analytics, comms, and esports. 

What are you currently working on right now?  

These days I’m focused on a few things including the preparation for the launch of Journey Season 2, Tournament Platform testing, the upcoming GWENT Open #3, and several other things, I simply can’t talk about yet.

Organising the Opens online was a big challenge. Can you tell us more about the process and how you handled the challenges? How did you feel the second Open went compared to the first one? Is there anything you’re still hoping to improve for the next Open?

Switching from the fully-controllable environment of LAN events to something so volatile as an online broadcast was definitely a big challenge for the whole team. While organizing Open #1 at the end of May, we faced many technical hiccups and issues due to the lack of previous experience holding such complex events online. With Open #2, we were much more confident. All the lessons we learned from the first event helped us greatly, and I’m happy to say that Open #2 felt almost like a typical LAN event — both from an organizational and viewing perspective. For the next Open, our main goal is to keep the quality bar high and work on minor improvements to make the viewing experience even more enjoyable for all. 

During the recent TLG community tournament, “The Invitational”, we were able to see the tournament mode and spectator mode for the first time in action in a community tournament. What are the team’s plans going forward for a public release? Can you share anything about the tools we can expect for tournament setup?

Yes, the Tournament Platform was in development for a long time, and I’m excited to finally start using it! Right now we’ve already provided access to the tool to a limited number of community testers. Collecting their feedback and reports allows us to make some fine-tuning and improvements before the feature will be available to all GWENT players. The intention is to launch it in “open beta” in order to gather more feedback and regularly iterate until both we and the community are totally happy with it. 

When it comes to the main features, in short, Tournament Platform will allow any player with a GOG.COM account to create or join an existing tournament. We’re supporting all popular formats including Single and Double Elimination, Swiss and Round Robin. Any tournament match can be spectated in-client by up to 2 designated spectator accounts. Additionally, all popular GWENT-specific features such as deck submissions, bans, and coinflip settings are integrated into the platform — so players and admins don’t have to rely on third party solutions anymore (yes, the Aretuza Ban Tool will soon be able to honorably retire after serving the community so well for such a long time).

With the COVID-19 lockdown postponing the finale of Masters Season 1 (originally scheduled for March), what are the current plans on when World Masters 1 will happen? What factors will influence or impact this decision?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, global esports has been put on hold, so we’re in the same boat as many other companies just waiting for the situation to improve. Health considerations and international travel restrictions currently block us from moving forward with this event. As soon as we see signs of a significant improvement of the situation on a global scale, we’ll be super excited to get back to the event planning. But as always, the health and safety of participants and our community comes first.

Will World Masters 2 be a LAN event or is it a consideration to host it online as well like the Opens?

I can tell you that the decision to move Opens to an online format wasn’t an easy one for the GWENT Masters team. After considering all pros and cons, we came to the conclusion that keeping the original schedule of events in 2020 is more important than some tradeoffs which would have to be made in order to make this transition. With both Season 1 and Season 2 World Masters tournaments, we feel that the stakes and the importance of the events simply outweigh the schedule considerations. Therefore, while we’re trying to keep an open mind here and be prepared for all possible scenarios, hosting World Masters online is treated as the last resort and not being actively planned. 

With ProNeo3001’s ban having ended in July 2020, will he be the 8th player for Masters or is the spot reserved for Hanachan if he can attend?

With ProNeo3001’s suspension from participation in GWENT tournaments being over, he’s eligible to participate in any upcoming tournaments. With that being said, due to the delay of World Masters Season 1, once we will have a new date locked, we’ll have to go through the whole process of confirming the lineup all over again. It would mean that Lifecoach once again would receive the invitation as the winner of the first Challenger, and replacements will be selected only in case he declines the invitation. 

Between Masters Season 1 and Masters Season 2, we have seen the rise of a new generation of competitive players. How do you think the new generation is different? How do they compare to the old school “Gwent legends”?

I feel that the biggest factor contributing to the rise of the new generation was the change we’ve introduced to the competitive format of Season 2. With players qualifying based not exclusively on their end of season position in the ladder, but based on their performance in the qualifiers, we’ve seen quite a lot of new faces competing side by side with veteran players. I think this shift in priorities (tournament performance > consistently high ladder placements) has led to an invigoration of the competitive scene. The new generation of GWENT pros is motivated to excel in both ladder and tournament environments, and thus may end up taking competitive GWENT to a whole new level, which is something I’m particularly excited about.

How satisfied are you with the current qualifier system for Opens? A lot of community feedback has been implemented over the last months, are you satisfied with its current state?

We’re definitely getting there. I think we’ve made good progress, and in my opinion that’s due to open communication between participants, admins, and CD PROJEKT RED; players felt that their feedback was important and can be acted upon, and we knew that our goal is to refine the format to make it fair and enjoyable for players. This kind of synergy isn’t always easy to achieve between the community and the company, so I’m very glad it worked quite well with GWENT Masters. 

With Android and iOS release, a new influx of players joined the game. Can you tell us more about the numbers from each release? Did it match or even exceed CDPR’s expectations?

While I can’t say anything specific regarding numbers, I can say that, overall, after releasing GWENT on iOS, Android and Steam — and GOG still going strong — the game is in a really good place right now, and that’s something the entire team is proud of. 

The Gwent scene is full of passionate teams and organisations. What is your opinion on teams and what do you hope to see from their work? Do you plan to involve teams more in the future in CDPR-organized events? If yes, in what way?

GWENT Teams are playing an important part in bringing people together, facilitating the exchange of knowledge, and developing a grassroots competitive scene. Recently, we were all able to see some fantastic tournaments organized by Team Aretuza and TLG. I was very impressed by these events and I can only wish for more in the future!

Recently we have seen the release of overall season stats. Many people are hoping for more transparency from CDPR and are eager to see this trend continue. Is there the possibility for additional stats to be released in the future? If so, what kind?

Yes, we’d like to continue sharing meaningful and accurate stats with our community. We’ll be experimenting with the format and contents of such communication. As long as both required conditions are met:

a) players are interested in the provided data;

b) we don’t have serious concerns with making it public in the particular moment of time; 

I believe there’s a lot that can be shared.

Are there any plans to show faction MMRs of Pro Rank players again in the future?

Yes. It’s not on the top of our priorities list, but it’s something we’d like to make possible while also making improvements on the previous iteration of this feature. 

While the recent expansions have brought much diversity and joy to the game, the balancing has been something that Gwent is recently struggling with for Pro Rank after the expansion (for instance the strength of Skellige). How does the Gwent team track faction strength and try to improve the balancing process before and after the release of a new expansion?

Obviously, it’s not fun when certain cards/archetypes/factions are able to ‘run amok’, but this is something we’re always looking out for and looking to address quickly. Before any release our Gameplay Design team is doing a lot of playtesting in order to keep potentially problematic changes in check. After release, we’re using the data to look at the state of the meta and decide on the necessary actions. It goes without saying that it’s not always possible to predict and prevent every issue from occurring, but it doesn’t stop us from trying!

Looking at Gwents competition in CCGs do you see any features that you think would be great for Gwent as well and that the team might consider adding in future?

I’d say we often look outside of the CCG genre for inspiration. If we’d be limiting ourselves only to what other CCGs are doing, we probably wouldn’t have introduced Reward Book or Journey. Personally, I think that the social aspects of many online games is an interesting area to explore, but the full list of useful features to consider for GWENT is always growing!

A new season just started. The changes in the official patch notes have shaken the meta once again so now is the best time to experiment and have fun with homebrew decks. Good luck!

Author

Damorquis

Damorquis Damorquis is Aretuza Member

Damorquis qualified for three consecutive Gwent Opens and holds the title of Gwent Challenger #4 champion. His passion for The Witcher universe and his real-life knowledge of behavioral economics helped him develop Team Aretuza, the strongest Gwent esports team in the world, which he manages. His extensive tournament preparation often results in ambitious, innovative decks that catch even the best opponents by surprise, and his highly disciplined approach to gaming, always looking for mistakes and areas to improve, provides his unique edge against the competition.


Luis

Luis Luis is Aretuza Member

Luis has been a gamer for most of his life. His first console was a Playstation 1 which he got at age 7. A few years later, he acquired a Gameboy Advance that became his gateway to the Pokemon series. He spent multiple hours playing through the Kanto and Hoenn Region with his friends. In 2011, he started playing Dota 1 and was his entry to the MOBA genre of games. Shortly after, he started playing League of Legends which he played from 2012 to 2017. Towards the end of the year 2017, he bought a Playstation 4 and played Destiny 2 and a few single player games on the side such as God of War, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and Witcher 3 which he enjoyed the most. His first exposure to Gwent was back in Witcher 3. He realized that he was spending most of his time playing Gwent and collecting all the cards instead of doing side quests and story quests. Fast forward to 2019, he found out that Gwent, the standalone game, would be released on iOS. On the release day itself last October, he immediately downloaded the game and chose Northern Realms as his first faction since this is the faction he played the most back in Witcher 3 Gwent. 

Editor

Kochua

Kochua Kochua is Aretuza Member

An actuary by day, unrepentant roper by night, and the Gwent Wild Hunt #2 LAN Champion, Kochua brings a highly quantitative and analytical approach to competitive games. He discovered Gwent in October 2017 and was an instant convert, won over by the game's complexity and depth of strategy. During 2018, he compiled several top-50 Pro Ladder finishes in addition to winning Wild Hunt #2. In 2019, Kochua took a brief detour into Magic the Gathering: Arena, earning a bid in a Mythic Championship Qualifier Weekend before finally making the move to Dota Underlords. Kochua provides the team with editorial support, with a goal of making Aretuza the leading source of competitive Gwent and Underlords content. He also helps the team in its constant search for an analytical edge, and in the meantime tries some of his crazier theories out on the Underlords ladder as a Lord of White Spire.


Nakerman

Nakerman Nakerman is Aretuza Member

Nick is an experienced writer and producer whose two main passions are gaming and football. He was worked for a number of publications in both fields and currently oversees B/R Football's gaming output. Nick played FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer competitively before turning his attention to Gwent, where he quickly reached Pro Rank. Nick is keen to work closely with content creators to help improve their skills, and has ambitions to compete at the top level in Gwent.

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