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.
7:00PM – 8:00PST pic.twitter.com/YFCcu4KNcu
— August Dean Ayala (@IksarHS) March 18, 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:
- They want to offer competitive, pre-constructed decks for purchase, but it will be a little while until those are ready.
- Community/custom formats that let players dictate the rules (e.g. picking available expansions) aren’t very likely. They want to make new formats “more approachable, not less”.
- Freeze Shaman was made weak on purpose late into the design process when they’ve realized how unfun it is to play against. What they ended up doing is an overkill, but it would be even worse if it shipped like it was supposed to. E.g. Moorabi costed 4 mana and Cryostasis was 1 mana.
- The biggest issue when it comes to the new game mode is upkeep – dev time is limited, and if they have to work on currently existing things, they get less time to work on new things. Luckily, playerbase is not an issue – Hearthstone has a big enough audience to support new game modes, and since it’s mostly 1v1 matchmaking times aren’t a big problem (BG is an exception, but it’s also very popular).
- They often print more support cards to “okay” archetypes with some potential that are just about to rotate out to give them one last shot. E.g. Secret Mage in Darkmoon Faire.
- (Answered by Chris) They have found that a shorter reveal season leads to more hype overall, that’s why they got away from the 2 weeks reveal seasons.
- If Iksar had to pick the most overpowered cards in the history of Hearthstone that got nerfed, they would be (at the time they were released): 1. Corridor Creeper 2. Undertaker 3. Patches the Pirate 4. Spreading Plague and 5. Leeroy Jenkins. A few honorable mentions: Ancharrr, Genn Greymane & Baku the Mooneater (not nerfed, but rotated out), Starving Buzzard, Giggling Inventor. Skull of Gul'dan doesn’t even make it to Top 10. And out of the cards that didn’t get nerfed, Muster for Battle is one of the strongest ones.
- Blizzard is constantly monitoring for bots and banning them, but bot creators are getting smarter about it and harder to detect.
- Introduction of the new XP system had no significant influence on turn / match times, despite what some anecdotal evidence might suggest (i.e. people roping just to get more XP).
- It took the team so long to reply to the entire Battle Pass debacle early in Darkmoon Faire, because it wasn’t something a single person could answer. Game’s monetization is an important topic that concerns multiple teams (including design and business), so they needed some time to come up with a solution and agree on it. Also, they started working on a solution pretty quickly and asked players to “trust them”, which didn’t work out – players wanted more details and actual action instead of just promises. In retrospect, he’d do things differently, but in the end they landed on a system that players are happy with.
- Personalized shop’s content might make it easier to offer Wild bundles for people who play formats using Wild cards (so Wild, but also e.g. Duels).
- Iksar isn’t worried about Quest Rogue in Wild, but if it turns out too strong they can address it quickly.
- Iksar is “99% sure” that Classic Pack from Tavern Brawl will be replaced with a Year of the Phoenix Pack.
- It’s possible for keywords from past expansion to appear in future sets/mini-sets, as long as they all rotate out in the same year (e.g. Frenzy might appear in 2nd or 3rd expansion of this year, but not next year).
- Devs were a bit worried about Dr. Morrigan and combos around her, but the card turned out to see no play at all (even after getting buffed from 8 to 6 mana). They also thought that Druid’s DK (Malfurion the Pestilent) will surely get nerfed, but it turned out to be just strong, but not over the top.
- We’ll see more secret interactions in the future boards. As for whether there are some undiscovered secret interactions in the old ones – he can’t say, because they wouldn’t be so secret anymore.