(I wanted to post it yesterday, but I was too busy with Darkmoon Races coverage.)
And so, weekly Dean “Iksar” Ayala’s Q&A session on Twitter became a thing. He started them last week and promised to do them every Wednesday (6:30 – 7:30 PM PT). People have been asking lots of questions about the game’s balance, design, specific cards, mechanics and so on. 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, just like last week, I went through all of his replies and decided to make a quick summary of the most important talking points.
That said, if you want to read the full Q&A – all the questions and answers – here’s the Tweet you should go to:
Ask me a question about Hearthstone and I will try my best to answer. More likely I can answer your question if it relates to game design in some way, but can give other questions a shot.
6:30 – 7:30PST pic.twitter.com/4TxWKzv9p9
— August Dean Ayala (@IksarHS) January 21, 2021
And here’s the summary. I mean, it’s pretty long for a summary, but he answered A LOT of questions. Of course, I didn’t cover everything. Instead, I tried to focus on the more interesting / important stuff. Again, if you want to read his full replies on all topics, check out the Tweet above.
- More detailed player profiles are something they’re exploring right now. However, they would be more like ones we have in Battlegrounds – because it feels more “hearthstone” and fun than tons of tiny numbers and statistics. He also made sure to mention that it’s not a confirmation that something like this is coming, just that they’re looking into it.
- Iksar confirmed that there are currently no plans for tournament mode, but they would like to focus more on the esports in the client as opposed to outside of client (maybe watching tournaments inside the game and not on Twitch / YouTube?)
- Rotating Constructed format is something they’ve tried, but didn’t like it – it’s not friendly to newer players with smaller collections if they have to craft cards from older expansions that will rotate out soon anyway. It works in Duels because the initial deck lists you build are smaller and less important to your overall experience.
- There are currently TWO new game modes in the works. (One is supposed to release this Standard year, and we have no info about the other.)
- Dev team agreed that 4 months between major updates is too long, so they’ve tried to explore different options, starting with Doom in the Tomb event in 2019. But more releases come with more challenges. The first challenge is cost of the game, which they’ve fixed with more resources from rewards track + reasonable pricing on mini-set. The second challenge is dev cost (including marketing etc.), which they’re still figuring out. And last challenge is complexity – that’s why they will try to not introduce new, wacky keywords in mini-sets and leave those for full expansions (and if they do, they will try to make the previous / next expansion simpler).
- He would like to do something with Arena format – since it has no matchmaking, it’s very unfun for new players, because they end up losing most of the time. However, changing it to matchmaking would also mean that they need to change the rewards system and most of the current Arena players wouldn’t be pleased. However, he thinks that it’s something necessary to see the mode’s growth and success.
- Wild is a place that they don’t want to curate as they do Standard – it should be a place where you can mostly just go and play the deck from the past you know and love. (Note: I don’t know a single deck from the past that really works in the Wild, but hey.) They step in and make changes only when a deck produces unfun experience for most of the playerbase (but the bar is higher than in Standard). However, he realizes that many people want Wild to be just Standard with more cards / different decks, so he would like to do more research into that.
- Feedback is good, but feedback from smaller communities can be tricky. Devs might make themselves believe that what those communities want is what the majority of players want, whereas places like reddit or HS fansites represent only a small portion of the playerbase. However, thanks to those communities, information spreads much faster, so it’s easier to design complex things since they will be quickly explained and information will be easy to find.
- Their old philosophy of keeping new players in mind first and foremost when designing new cards etc. has changed as the overall audience has changed. Back in the day, most of the players were “new players”, right now only a small portion of the audience are new, so they can go for more complex or risky designs, new game modes etc.
- Dev team recognizes Khadgar & disconnection “exploit” problems in Battlegrounds and they’re thinking about solutions (such as removing one of the token generators or making disconnected players reconnect back into the fight instead of tavern / having to wait for other players to finish their combat before they can start buying).
- They want to explore better ways to get from purchase (or pack opening) to having fun – like a mode to just click one button and play with the cards you own, because deck building is hard (he’s mostly talking about casual players).
- When it comes to expansions lore, they will release both individual, unrelated ones as well as the year-long stories we know from Year of the Dragon. They like to have the flexibility to do either.
- He already explained it last time, but they like to have cards that are “unfun” in general, but incredibly fun to a portion of playerbase (e.g. Tickatus, Mindrender Illucia) as long as they aren’t too powerful. But if they become one of the strongest cards in the game, they’ve clearly messed up.
- Older cards getting redesigned to suit current Hearthstone better is something they might get into – e.g. Lord Jaraxxus becoming a Hero card.
- Hearthstone team grew significantly, when Dean started working on the game there were only 25 devs, right now there are around 100.
- His favorite things to design in Hearthstone are ranking and matchmaking systems.