Q&A’s are generally Iksar’s domain, but since he’s still on a paternity leave, Hearthstone Initial Designer Chadd “Celestalon” Nervig decided to take his mantle and try one out. We don’t know yet if it was a one-time thing or will he host AMAs regularly, but it’s always nice to get some insight into how things operate at Team 5. While people asked all sorts of questions, since Celestalon’s position is much more focused on card design, most of his answers were related to that. Sadly, Twitter is kind of a mess when it comes to such things. Messages are short, you have to create long threads if you want to talk about something in detail, lots of comments get hidden, and it just doesn’t flow right. To make it a bit easier for all of you, I went through all of his replies and decided to make a summary of his most important talking points.
If you want to read the full Q&A – all the questions and answers – here’s the Tweet you should go to:
Alright, let’s give this a try. Ask me anything.
Will be answering (or trying to find answers to) what I can, between 4pm and 5pm PT today.
Odds are better if it’s related to Hearthstone design, EDM, hair, or purple. pic.twitter.com/LC9iO6j70Z
— Celestalon???????? #ABetterABK???? (@Celestalon) December 1, 2021
Below, you will find my summary. It’s still pretty long, but Iksar tends to answer the questions thoroughly and includes a lot of details. I try to ignore “fluff” answers and not repeat points that have been already discussed in recent Q&A’s, so if you want to learn more, go back to them. And if you want to read his full replies on all topics, check out the Tweet above. Things in parentheses are my own notes/comments and not Celestaln’s words. Let’s start:
- They know that Questline cards have been dominating the meta in Stormwind, and understand the players’ concerns that they still will in the new expansion. But the goal of Alterac Valley is to make slower strategies more viable. If any decks (such as Questline Warlock) still dominate, they will make balance changes.
- There’s a non-evergreen keyword from the past team plans to re-introduce as an evergreen one. (Any guesses what that could be? Maybe Reborn, Spellburst, Twinspell, Recruit, Inspire?)
- Despite Wild format being more popular than it used to be, especially in some regions (like China), they still focus on Standard first when designing new cards. They still try to cut down on stuff that will break Wild format, though.
- Card balance is very hard, because there are a lot of moving pieces – when changing a card you have to consider the whole deck and how it impacts the meta. They’re willing to make changes when they see improvements opportunity, but it’s not always as simple as just hitting the strongest cards.
- The team is overall happy with year-long narrative during Year of the Gryphon (Celestalon thinks it did better than Year of the Dragon story with League of EVIL + League of Explorers).
- Warlock is the most problematic class when designing new cards – they have to work around many of the old cards that would become broken with new ones (and we see exactly that in Wild already). Bloodbloom in particular was the most problematic one.
- (Iksar) While cosmetics monetization is successful overall, it’s not nearly as profitable as gameplay-related products (like card packs).
- The team wants to do some upgrades to the collection manager, but it’s a big undertaking, and they usually want to focus on new, cool things so it’s hard to find enough time.
- It’s hard to find balance between improving old stuff / fixing bugs and adding new ones. Adding new things is more exciting and creates more hype. But right now they will try to slow down a bit with new features and try to focus on polishing the game and making it more stable. It will take some time, though.
- He knows that this answer won’t be received well, but his favorite archetype ever is probably Questline Mage.
- They considered adding a new “terrain” type of cards (that would, for example, change how the board looks like) instead of regular spells for Objectives (e.g. Dun Baldar Bunker, Iceblood Tower), but they came pretty late in design and it would require too much art/engineering investment.
- They have considered adding a daily log-in reward, but he feels like daily quests fill that role right now.
- Some of the things he has been most excited for in Hearthstone recently were BG cosmetics, Barrens Mystery, achievements in general and Demon Hunter class.
- One big feature Celestalon would like to see in Hearthstone are raids (but no, it’s not something currently in the works).
- His favorite Hero card from the new set is Magister Dawngrasp, both from the design and gameplay perspective.
- They plan to update Battlegrounds Hero images with how much Armor they get at the start of the game. They will probably start it with newly announced Heroes.
- Speed in Mercenaries changed a few times in development between lower number being faster (like it is right now) and higher number being faster. Both ways have their downsides and can be confusing until you know how the system works.
- The reason why they changed Illidan Stormrage Legendary card to Xavius is that they thought he might see some play in Demon Hunter and it would be weird for Illidan to play Illidan.
- If he could put one character from other Blizzard franchises into Hearthstone, it would be Zeratul (from Starcraft).
- There are multiple smaller teams working on Hearthstone, and they overlap to a certain degree. For example, initial and final design for Constructed share some people. Battlegrounds is also pretty connected, they often playtest new designs with people from Constructed team. Duels team has some overlap with Mercenaries team and single-player content team. Tavern Brawls are with Events, and also some Duels. Overall there’s a lot of flexibility and sometimes people are working on multiple things at once, there aren’t many member who are dedicated only to a single thing.