And so, weekly Dean “Iksar” Ayala’s Q&A session on Twitter became a thing. He started them on January 13 and promised to do them every Wednesday (afternoon pacific time). 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 during the previous weeks, 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.
6:00PM – 7:00PST pic.twitter.com/HgosaAX79s
— August Dean Ayala (@IksarHS) March 11, 2021
Just like always, my summary is pretty long for a “summary”, but Dean always answers a lot of questions in details. I try to ignore “fluff” answers and not repeat points that have been already discussed in his 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. Stuff in parentheses are my own notes/comments and not Dean’s words. Let’s start:
- Main menu redesign is on a “to-do” list, especially as Hearthstone received more game modes.
- Rewards track will reset when expansion releases, not when Patch 20.0 releases.
Classic Format will also drop with the expansion, not Patch 20.0.(Update: It looks like it will drop with Patch 20.0 after all)
- Once they add achievements for old PvE content, Hero portraits from those adventures (e.g. Dungeon Run, Monster Hunt) might become rewards for them.
- The team is also working on Battlegrounds cosmetics. They also might do a visual representation of BG ranks in friends list (like you now can see Standard/Wild rank of your friends), if the cost and work associated with it will be reasonable.
- There are “newer”, “cooler” cosmetics coming soon.
- Whizbang didn’t stay in Standard, because it would be sad if players didn’t care about any new cards outside of what Whizbang offers. Dean likes him for the fact that new players could just jump into the game without owning any other cards, but he thinks that there are other solutions to that problem – including Core Set.
- They’ve tried to remove most of win conditions (including burst damage) from the Core Set, because they don’t want players to be “killed” by the same things over and over again (since those stand out most). New expansions will add different win conditions.
- Some bad cards (e.g. Chillwind Yeti, Ice Rager) still exist in Core Set to fulfill the same role as they did in Basic set – to give new players some low complexity options to learn the game with.
- “Daily deals” was something Team 5 discussed, but a lot of work goes into shop personalization or automatic changes without client patches.
- If Dean had to pick one thing we would improve in Year of the Phoenix, it would be Demon Hunter launch. They did expansion + a new class in the same time they normally do just an expansion. They had a lot of design ideas for Hero Power and different resources, but not enough time to balance everything. Next time they do a new class, they will probably split a couple of people off the team and have them work on it a few months early.
- The design team is split into two groups. Initial design, who work on freshly made cards, tries out new things and doesn’t focus on balance. And then final design, who focus on archetypes, balance and how meta might look like. They don’t playtest every single card (some of them are very simple and don’t need lots of testing), but they play a lot of games with other cards and try to make “educated guesses”. However, it’s never possible to balance things perfectly, because their sample size is never enough – they would need feedback from a huge audience (which happens after expansion’s release).
- Mini-sets spawned from events like Doom in the Tomb – from the idea that they wanted to do a mid-expansion shake-up. Dean admits that Doom in the Tomb was too long, right now they would do it only for a couple of weeks by the end of an expansion.
- Battlegrounds Heroes that are listed in the achievements, but aren’t in the game (so you can’t complete those achievements) will be added back at one point.
- When looking at changing “disruptive cards”, they take play rate into account. 10-15% is “too much” for cards like Tickatus or Mindrender Illucia.
- Similarly, “problem decks” are usually those which have very polarizing gameplay (e.g. some matchups are auto-win and others are nearly unwinnable) and 5-10%+ play rate or those which get too popular (20-25% and more play rate).
- They thought about reverting Leeching Poison nerf, but decided that Wild would probably become less fun if that happened (because of Kingsbane Rogue).
- Dual Class Secret might be a thing, but they would need to pair Hunter with Rogue since their Secrets cost 2 mana. Dean even thought about what it would be like to have a full Dual Class year, not just a single expansion – very difficult, but fun.
- Pet Battles in WoW were inspired by Pokemon, and they might do a similar narrative in Hearthstone eventually – going around Azeroth and collecting pets.
- One of the crazy ideas they had was having Hearthstone characters in 3D space, which you can explore, decorate or meet up with friends.