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:
Late start tonight! 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.
7:45PM – 8:45PST pic.twitter.com/Je97AsDH1R
— August Dean Ayala (@IksarHS) March 4, 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:
- Balance patch before the next expansion is “unlikely” (Alec Dawson already talked about it here)
- The biggest focus recently was on the progression system and new game modes, but Iksar would like to work on some social aspects of the game. He would love to work on guilds/clans that connect people and then some group activities (like “raids” or “4v4”).
- Despite a lot of online voices hating the pre-release events where pro players can play with the set ahead of time, Iksar doesn’t think that they’re truly that hated by the majority of players. Many people like to have some sort of direction on Day 1. He also doesn’t think that those events “solve” the meta in any way, as most of the players participating are trying to have fun and not tryhard to build the best meta deck.
- The reason why Wrath of Air (Spell Damage) Totem got removed is that it was the best totem in some decks and useless in other decks. They also want Spell Damage to be built into cards so Shaman players can time it instead of relying on RNG to hit the right Totem.
- Iksar doesn’t think that HS will ever have its official deck tracker, because it would just cause “information overload” for some people and those who are into that can just download the add-on.
- They’d like to add some “special reward” (most likely cosmetic) for people who hit high Legend, but they aren’t sure about the cut-off yet – whether to make it something really special like top 10 or top 1 or something a bit more common such as top 100 or top 500. Maybe even both!
- Wolfrider and Kor'kron Elite still have charge even though Stonetusk Boar and Bluegill Warrior got changed because the latter two limit design space more. Cheap charge is hard to design around. However, after some feedback, they might re-consider it and add them back to Wild, since some players enjoyed those cards in that format. Core Set in general is “brand new thing” and it will definitely get some changes over time.
- On Risky Skipper – they would normally be unhappy by a card seeing so much play, but Skipper is a bit different, because it was played in a variety of different builds and it played a different role in them. It also became an enabler for a lot of cool cards that wouldn’t see play otherwise (e.g. in Enrage Warrior).
- The topic of doing cross-overs with other IPs has very different opinions. It might become a thing, but mostly when they make sense thematically. E.g. they might do it with Diablo, because Demons already exist in HS and fit this world too, but doing something like “John Wick cross-over” wouldn’t make sense. (I mean… now I kind of want it)
- Book of Heroes will be expanded beyond the 10 basic Heroes – they want to tell more stories.
- Shaman will have spell school buildarounds, with Fire, Frost and Nature all being in the class’ kit.
- Hunter is the most difficult class to go out of the box with because it has a very clear identity and it’s hard to add unusual strategies without things like healing or board clears. Druid is hardest to balance – because of the ramp, big stuff can come out earlier than it should for other classes. Dean loves designing Warlock cards, but the class is kind of restricting “design space” because of its Hero Power (they can’t print too powerful, low cost cards because of it).
- Paladin’s original set was pretty weak, but very thematic – that’s why they’ve decided to take most of the Core cards for that class from Basic/Classic.
- Classes that were draw restricted before will get some more card draw, but won’t excel at it.
- The general balance / design idea is that decks should FEEL powerful when pulling their game plan without their win rate being too high. Players also should have access to multiple fun options that are close in power level – not everything has to have exactly 50% win rate.
- Sometimes Legendaries are shipped weaker on purpose because either they will get more support later or some players would find their design frustrating and the team doesn’t want them to become too popular. But designers don’t have infinite development time to tune each card perfectly, so sometimes they just miss the mark and Legendaries end up not seeing play at all.
- They once had a card that you can put as many copies as you want into your deck, such as Relentless Rats from MTG, but they ran into some problems with HS rules. Pogo-Hopper was meant to be a similar design, but instead of infinite copies, they’ve a added multiple ways to bounce it back to hand or add extra copies to the deck. But maybe one day they’ll do an actual “any number of copies” card.
- One person on the team once built a very basic VR version of Hearthstone in his free time, which “was creepy”. There are no official plans to bring HS to VR, though. (We actually covered a similar story from Dave Kosak over a year ago!)
- The team tried to add a ranked arena or restructure how the format works in general, but they always ran into some problems.