Dean “Iksar” Ayala is an Interim Game Director on the Hearthstone team, and he’s been doing regular Q&A sessions on Twitter for quite some time now. 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 summary of his most important talking points.
If you want to read the full Q&A – all the questions and answers – here’s the Tweet you should go to:
Hearthstone AMA #42
5:00PM – 5:45PM PST
Ask me a question about Hearthstone!
Or Design! (or anime…or elden ring…or fruit) pic.twitter.com/X9RUSuWUDv
— August Dean Ayala ???? (@IksarHS) April 29, 2022
Below, you will find my summary. It’s still pretty long, but Iksar tends to answer the questions thoroughly and includes a lot of 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. Things in parentheses are my own notes/comments and not Dean’s words. Let’s start:
- The team is discussing some ideas for the new game formats – here are three ideas he likes. Keep in mind that those are just ideas and nothing they’re working on. 1 – Replace Classic with a rotating format that changes slowly, like every 6 months or a year you’re getting different sets. 2 – Replace Casual with a 100% bot format that has ranks – the higher you rank up, the more difficult bots get, good practice for newer/casual players. 3 – Add a new Standard format but instead of 2 years of sets make it 1 year. The upsides is that it’s much easier to get into because it requires less cards, the downside is that the 2nd and 3rd sets of the year would only last for 8 and 4 months respectively.
- Alternatively, if they don’t replace Classic with a rotating format, they will add Naxx to it. He’s not sure if that’s the best approach, though, because there wasn’t a lot of play in Classic after the first few weeks and he doesn’t think that adding a single adventure is going to change that much.
- There’s a new card type coming to the game, they’re just waiting to ship it.
- Refunds for Diamond Drek’thar in case he got nerfed “sounds like a hard problem for their commercial team”.
- Storage size is a serious concern and they lose players every day because the game is too big on mobile. The game has more and more sounds/art/etc. and players have to download everything because streaming it as necessary would be difficult. But Dean can’t talk about potential solutions because he’s not a tech person.
- They don’t design cards specifically for Wild – Standard is always the highest priority. They sometimes think that a card might be more interesting in Wild but it’s not their main focus. “Yet…”
- Team was just brainstorming ideas for the future expansion and a certain Old God was high on the list.
- Dean has been playing a lot of Arena recently and they will be talking about their new approach to balance soon.
- They’re trying to develop tech that lets them implement as many changes and bug fixes through data only or server side patches as possible. This way they can avoid full client patches that are time and people-intensive (it’s hard to do those more often than once per month).
- He thinks we’ll see some major content based on other IPs (like Starcraft/Diablo/Overwatch), just not anytime soon, not even next year.
- Dean doesn’t think that matchup polarization is inherently bad – decks having weakness is a good thing. It’s a matter of balance, because too much polarization makes the game feel like a coin flip.
- We’re getting an update that lets us upgrade our regular cards to their golden versions soon.
- Twinspell cards are unlikely to come back, because they don’t feel like they offer a lot of design space.
- They now have a team of designers that focus on events, so we should expect something new, starting with small events and getting to big stuff later.
- Team 5 already used most of the artwork form WoW TCG they wanted and right now they prefer to make original art that fits their intention and style. But they do plan to use some old WoW TCG art every now and then, a few of them are coming.
- When picking which card to make in Diamond, for old sets they choose the most iconic cards that have a pose they can animate to look cooler. For new ones, it’s not that big of a deal because they can just commission art that fits Diamond version too.
- They thought about “Physical” spell schools but decided against it, because all classes will get some spell schools to play with eventually, if it fits thematically (like they might do a Fire Warrior if there’s a right set for it).