John McIntyre, the Lead Designer on Hearthstone Battlegrounds, shared some information about the game mode. In particular, he talked about balance during the time Buddies were present in the game (since they will be gone with the upcoming Patch 23.2).
He focused on showcasing that the mode is quite hard to balance, because top 10 heroes are significantly different for all players and for the top 1% players. You can read the entire post below:
The following is being posted on behalf of John McIntyre, Hearthstone Battlegrounds Lead Designer:
Hello tavern-goers, as we wrap up the current Battlegrounds Buddies patch and prepare for the upcoming Rise of the Naga Battlegrounds Season, I want to share some data from this past patch and explain some of our design philosophies when it comes to designing and balancing heroes.
First, let’s look at the overall active* player mmr distribution right now:
- The top 50% of players have reached 5700 mmr
- The top 25% of players have reached 6500 mmr
- The top 10% of players have reached 7000 mmr
- Congratulations to the top 1% of players who have reached 8300 mmr
I also want to share the top* 10 performing heroes for all players since the last balance patch (in alphabetical order):
- Cariel Roame
- Fungalmancer Flurgl
- George the Fallen
- Ini Stormcoil
- Lord Jaraxxus
- Millificent Manastorm
- Patches the Pirate
- Tavish Stormpike
Now, let’s compare that list to the top 10 heroes for our top 1% of players during the same period (again, in alphabetical order):
- Aranna Starseeker
- Fungalmancer Flurgl
- George the Fallen
- King Mukla
- Maiev Shadowsong
- Sir Finley Mrrgglton
- Mutanus the Devourer
- Trade Prince Gallywix
- Zephrys, the Great
One of the reasons I am sharing this information is to show that there isn’t a universal hero ranking that applies to all players. Heroes perform differently depending on player skill and engagement with the mode. A lot of players find success with minion-type focused heroes because they provide a clear direction, but those same heroes don’t perform as well for our most competitive players. Even two players of the same skill level will find success with different heroes because they push different playstyles. The takeaway here is that players shouldn’t feel obligated to pick only the heroes that work best for the top 1% of players but should instead experiment with different heroes to see what performs best for their skill bracket, level of engagement with the game, and play style.
One of the goals with hero balance is to keep hero diversity high by making sure that heroes are kept in an appropriate band of power. We look at all skill levels when trying to identify which heroes need a nerf or a buff. That’s why we sometimes adjust a hero that is over- or underperforming for newer players, even if those same issues aren’t seen by our most competitive players.
With this in mind, what happens if a hero is too weak for one group of players but can’t be buffed because then it’d be too strong for other players? This was a design challenge we faced with Shudderwock after the launch of Buddies. Shudderwock repeats all the Battlecries you’ve triggered this game. Most players’ strategy with this hero is to buy lots of Battlecry minions and then use their hero power as late as possible to copy a bunch of Battlecry effects. However, top players use a different strategy. They mostly buy Battlecry minions that summon other minions, then they repeat those effects with the hero power for triple rewards. That strategy is harder to execute, but more powerful. Shudderwock needed a buff for the majority of players, but we didn’t want our changes to have a large impact on top players. Our design change was for the Buddy to give +2/+2 to the Battlecry minions it adds to the shop. This helped keep players alive when they were buying many different types of Battlecry minions, but didn’t have as large of an impact for the players looking to buy the one or two specific Battlecry minions.
I hope that example helps show how, even though not all individual balance changes are for every player, we do balance for every player. As a final note, nerfs are a higher priority than buffs because a hero being too strong warps games more than a hero being too weak.
With Rise of the Naga we expect a big meta shake-up and we’re excited to see what you all make of it! As this new meta develops, we’ll be applying the same balance philosophy when it comes to assessing player feedback and looking at data.
I hope this was informative and I’ll see you in the Tavern,
Hearthstone Battlegrounds Lead Designer
Active*: Played at least 5 games in the last 20 days. It is late into the season so mmr is at its highest right now. Since we’re only looking at the last 20 days, this excludes players that play the new content and stop playing after a few weeks, which means this population is more engaged in BGs.
Top*: Simply put, the highest average placements since the most recent balance update.