We're back covering Dean Ayala's community Q&A and we're going to get right into it!
- All previous Q&As from Dean can be found under our "Iksar's Community Q&A" topic.
- Anything covered in the previous Q&As will not be covered in the recap but will appear in the transcript below.
- The Core Set is a brand new thing and Iksar is 99% sure it won't escape with no changes.
- They don't want cards that appear in "literally every deck" for a class inside of the core set.
- Paladins were in a good spot - thematic but none of the cards overpowered.
Forged in the Barrens
- We may receive nerf reverts a week or so before the Year of the Dragon's sets' rotation.
- They didn't forget the new expansion is coming. We'll receive all the information needed in due time. Have some faith!
- Social, alongside 2v2, constantly have pitches within the team.
- A big question is whether you go for more ways to play together as social or ways to communicate.
- Iksar would love to work on a Guild feature to connect players.
- Following up guilds with social game modes would be the next iteration.
- Iksar thinks they will spend a lot of time on social features next because they've spent a lot of time away from that.
- Spell schools are going to be fun with Shaman. Fire, Frost, and Nature build around are all open.
- Card draw is coming back to Shamans.
- We can expect to see more "go wide" cards like Bloodlust.
- Murlocs, Battlecry, Overload and Elementals are all confirmed to be places that will be explored again.
- Wrath of Air Totem was the best Totem by far in some decks and totally useless in others.
- Team 5 would like to build Spell Damage support for Shaman and not make it feel like a high roll moment whenever it happens.
Top Legend Rewards
- They've been discussing special rewards for getting to X Top Legend and what cutoffs could exist.
- It could be a cool goal to give players another reason to go for higher ranks.
- Any reward like this should be something you can really show off.
- No details to share on what the reward could be.
- Iksar doesn't buy that people are solving the meta during the events.
- He believes that players are out there just looking for deck ideas for Day 1.
- Streamers aren't necessarily trying to build the best decks anyway, just fun stuff to watch.
- If the events accelerated figuring out the meta as much as some people say it does, he doesn't think they'd do them anymore.
- Some cards are meant to have a low play rate and either catch on later with support or stay there because they may become frustrating.
- Team 5 doesn't have infinite time, so there are always designs they end up shipping that they wish they had more time to work on.
- Any class that was draw restricted will see more card draw.
- Only some cards are supposed to be good at card draw though, so don't expect hard cycle for everyone.
- A big part of Team 5's design philosophy is to make cards and strategies that feel really powerful when they work, even if their win rate isn't that high.
- It would be easy for them to tweak decks and cards power levels every day until all classes were at a 50% win rate, but that just isn't the goal.
- When you face something frustrating, they hope that experience is leveled out by a future game where you get to feel like you are doing the overpowered thing.
- If everyone is talking about one deck being overpowered, chances are that it is. If everyone is talking about *their* deck being overpowered, we are probably doing something right.
- Bluegill Warrior and Stonetusk Boar were abused in combos.
- Mana cost matters. Design space became limited.
- They are listening to feedback, it's possible they might come to a different solution.
- Iksar's list of tough to balance classes:
- Hunter can't heal or clear the board so you can't make use of it.
- Druid ramp is a core mechanic but it can feel helpless to play against.
- Warlock's sheer power of Life Tap can make them 1 medium-power Neutral drop away from domination.
- Iksar thinks Warrior and Druid are the easiest to meme with classes in terms of card design.
- They considered creating mechanics that allowed you to play more than 2 copies per card in the same deck or effects with the same goal.
- Hearthstone is not very likely to get its own in-game deck tracker.
Book of Heroes
- The idea of Book of Heroes will be expanded beyond the 10 core characters.
- Someone on the team designed a VR Hearthstone in their free time, but there's no plan to make an official statement out of it.
- He isn't done yet with achievements, but he'll get back to them in preparation for the Core Set and Forged in the Barrens.
- His favourite "bad guy" is Itachi Uchiha from Naruto.
- He was really excited to play N'Zoth, the Corruptor, while his favorite playtest deck was a N'Zoth/C'Thun Rogue.
Full Q&A Transcript
Unhappy is usually the answer to this. Some cards are meant to have low play-rate initially, but catch on later when they get support. Some are meant to have low-play rate because they are frustrating but have an audience that loves them.
Sometimes we either just miss on power or we make a design that we just don't think would make the game super fun if everyone played it. The reality of our design cycles is we don't have infinite time, so there are always designs we end up shipping that we wish we had more time. (Source)
I like the Shaman Core Set - now that the cat is out of the bag, can you tell us more about the general design philosophy for Shaman and the direction you want to take the class in the future?
Spell school buildarounds will be sort of fun for Shaman because they have a wide thematic background. Doing Fire, Frost, and Nature are all open spaces. We originally pulled back on draw for Shaman but we're putting it back, along with any other classes that were draw restricted.
Draw is something that we'd like all classes to have some options in, while only a few classes excel at having full hands and mass draw cards like Sprint. Shaman will still go wide with cards like Bloodlust even if Bloodlust is going away for now. They also still have some places we've gone in the past we'll go again. Murlocs, Battlecry, Overload, Elementals, etc. (Source)
Could you elaborate on why Wrath of Air Totem was removed from the Shaman Hero Power? Do you foresee it limiting design space in the future?
It was the best totem by far in some decks and totally useless in others. We'd like to build spell power stuff into Shaman with cards we make and not have spell-power feel like a highroll moment whenever it happens. (Source)
Did you complete all experience rewarding achievements yet?
I didn't: I started playing a ton of WoW, League of Legends, some Genshin Impact, Valorant, Valheim….. I'll get back to it. I'm really excited for the next expansion and Core Set. Zeddy also demoralized me with his achievement points: I'll never be as cool as him…. (Source)
I've been very interested in the story of World of Warcraft through Hearthstone, so Book of Heroes got me very excited! Can I expect solo modes that follows the story of not only the default 10 heroes, but also other hero skins or popular cards?
We'll expand the idea of Book of Heroes beyond the 10 core characters, yes. We have a bunch of people on our team excited about the prospect of telling more story and background so we'll continue to find ways to deliver that. (Source)
Who is your favorite bad guy and why?
Any chance we get a VR Hearthstone experience? I'd love to just be able to hold the cards and play them physically.
Little known fact, we had someone on the team build a VR tavern once in his free time: you could pick up Hearthstone cards, throw them around, and the people in the tavern would follow you with their eyes… It was creepy. But no: this isn't in the plans to make official at any point in the future… (Source)
What kind of rewards do you want people to work towards after they get Legend? Can we ever expect higher than 1k hero portraits? I want to be able to show off my achievements.
Been discussing a special reward for people who get top X Legend and where we should make the cutoff for said reward. If we made it top 100, or top 500, it might be a cool goal that players could aspire towards at the higher levels. If we made it top 10, or even top 1, it would be less of an aspiration and more of this cool thing that players would talk about for a long time into the future.
Unsure of direction we'll go, maybe both? Definitely at least one, no details to share on the reward, but I'd like it to be something you can show off. (Source)
Any chance that Hearthstone will have its own deck tracker? Need it on mobile and tablets!
Probably not, there are some people that love it but ultimately I think it's extraneous to most people that would just contribute to an information overload. I like that if you are into that there are options out there for you, I think the addon is great for people that want it. (Source)
Has there been considerations for cards, cosmetics, or temporary content based on foreign IP?
Crossover with other IP is a topic that has really different opinions. It also depends on where it lands: would we do a Naruto expansion? Probably not. If we had a relationship with the Naruto IP holder and did a 4 hero battlegrounds patch with Naruto characters? Maybe?
I think if we did pick something, we'd want it to feel like it could make some sense in the Warcraft world. Doing a crossover with Diablo for example could be a big hit for Diablo lovers but not a huge IP change because demonic stuff exists in Warcraft, too. Whereas putting Keanu Reeves as John Wick into the game is a much larger leap.
My honest opinion is that Hearthstone is a game that's been out for many, many years and doing some weird stuff to see how players receive it is potentially great learning for us. Kind of thing you can't really learn until you take a risk. (Source)
Is it achievable that the game is "balanced", or does unbalance have a functionality (maybe highlighting the balanced moments or an emotion or something)? When designing, is creating a frustrating experience ever useful for accomplishing another emotion/goal?
The important part of balance is the perception of it. It's not really important to us that a player thinks all cards or decks are balanced: what is important is that a player feels like there are enough options that they can play something they think is fun and have a fair shot.
A big part of our design philosophy is to make cards and strategies that feel really powerful when they work, even if their win rate doesn't reflect that. When doing that, you inevitably also create the flip side of that goal, which is a strategy that can feel so powerful to play against that it becomes frustrating. It would honestly be easy for us to tweak deck and card power level every day until all classes were at a 50% win rate, but that just isn't the goal.
The goal is to have a wide range of options that are close enough in power that you feel like you have at least one option that appeals to you. When you face something frustrating, we hope that experience is leveled out by a future game where you get to feel like you are doing the overpowered thing.
That doesn't mean our goal is to create literally overpowered strategies, but rather that it is for them to feel that way. When that is the goal, when you achieve success, the perception of the game will be that it's not in balance.
If everyone is talking about one deck being overpowered, chances are that it is. If everyone is talking about *their* deck being overpowered, we are probably doing something right. (Source)
I know it will more than likely come out the same day as the expansion, but it would be cool to have the un-nerfs a week before it comes out. Unleash the turn 6 Dragoncaster/Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron one last time. : )
Since you want to get rid of Charge from most of the Core Set (save for Legendaries), why did Kor'kron Elite and Wolfrider got one treatment and Bluegill Warrior and Stonetusk Boar another one? Wouldn't it be more consistent if them all got replaced by new cards?
Design space was much more limiting with Bluegill Warrior and Stonetusk Boar, mostly because they are usually abused in combos alongside other cards and the mana-cost really matters in those circumstances.
However, we are still in the process of considering if this was the right call. After receiving the feedback we got and all the players that were enjoying those decks in Wild, we might come to a different solution.
Keep in mind that there is a ton of stuff coming out and we have to be done with a patch far in advance of its release, so any changes we make won't happen overnight. Just wanted to note we are still considering what the right call is here.
This goes for the entire Core Set: it's a brand new thing and I am 99% sure it won't escape with no changes. (Source)
Is there any chance we can get access to the Golden Celebration card back in the US? I have everything else and my inner completionist is dying. DYING!
Wow, dedication. There are people in the west with it but we restricted to players that got top X at major tournaments. There are 3 people on the design team that have it. Maybe doesn't help you but if being a designer doesn't work out maybe you can go pro in Hearthstone… (Source)
Has a card along the lines of Relentless Rats or Shadowborn Apostle [note: cards from MTG] ever been considered for Hearthstone? One where you can have as many copies as you want in a deck, and they all sort of self-synergize?
I think we actually had this in a set once. The rules are a little weird in Hearthstone because of how auto-disenchant works. I suppose we could just let you use infinite copies as long as you owned two. Pogo-Hopper was actually our take on this, but instead of having infinite copies we just made tons of ways to bounce or create copies instead. Creates a similar playstyle without new rules.
The fantasy isn't quite as good, admittedly. Funny to just jam 30 of one card in a deck that just feels satisfying and hilarious to play. Maybe we'll do it one day, interesting topic to bring to the designers tomorrow :) (Source)
Hunter and Warrior are notorious for having Hero Powers that do not affect the board. Stuff like Dwarven Sharpshooter or Shield Slam helps with that. Occasionally, cards like Dinomancy get printed too, and Shadowform comes back! Any chance for more of that going into the future? Perhaps even Sharpshooter/Zul'jin on a permanent Battlecry effect? Of course Hero Powers are scary to mess about with :)
It's always a space we can work with, but I just wouldn't want to use that space to make the class something it isn't: we wouldn't make a Hero Power change to Hunter that turns them into a healing class, or something that gives them mass card advantage (whoops Deathstalker Rexxar).
I like thinking about how we can use mechanics like Overkill or handbuffing for Hunters because they are thematic for the class but haven't been very successful yet. (Source)
When will we see new cards? No new cards have been revealed yet since Feb 19th, even no card release dates.
No spoilers here, sorry! The official channel will share more details in due time. (Source)
How do you feel about the pre-release events? Do you guys hear the negative sentiment on these? Do they serve a higher purpose, like helping people to build Day 1 decks?
Despite some online sentiment, I think most people are out there looking for ideas on Day 1 and it can be helpful for that. I also don't buy that players are solving the meta in these events.
I think if you'd talk to players who participate in them, they aren't even trying to build the absolute best decks in most circumstances: they are just trying to build some fun stuff that might be cool to watch. If we thought it accelerated how fast the meta was 'figured out' in any real way then I don't think we'd do it. I just don't believe it's true, and it serves the purpose of giving people who aren't in the know a decent starting point. (Source)
What's the card you were the most excited to test and play with?
I’m curious on the thought process behind Tickatus: a 6 mana 8/8 that basically always burns 5-10 cards in your opponent's deck seems a little strong. Do you think you pushed him a little to much or thought that it would've been a lot harder to Corrupt? I know the card isn’t strong now, but it feels very bad to play against it as it's overstated and does such a big effect. Would you see yourself nerfing it if Warlock will be powerful or even if it’s not just to reduce the feel bad moments in the game?
The reason cards like Tickatus exist is because that style of card is the reason why some players play the game at all. Some players just LOVE doing mean things to their opponent, and they'll play those cards regardless of how powerful they actually are. Because this player type exists, we like to build some things for them. The catch is that they can be pretty frustrating, so we never want to make them so powerful that the average deck you run into is playing multiple 'mean' cards. Things like Dirty Rat and Mindrender Illucia also fall into this bucket.
If we can make some cards that are huge wins for some players without impacting the whole base too much, I think that's a win for us. If you run into Tickatus once every 5 hours of play, even if you hate it… I think there is still some positive in that. It reminds you there are some crazy decks in Hearthstone that aren't just about minion combat and card advantage. Wacky strategies you might not have thought of or cards that do strange and interesting things.
However, when that is happening every game it gets a lot less novel, so we have to keep in mind population sizes when those cards become popular. If Tickatus decks will become 10% of the meta, we'll be sad; if they'll be 5%, a little sad; 1%? That's probably ok. (Source)
Paladin seems the only class whose Core Set doesn't really hurt. Nothing paladin uses today doesnt go away and I wonder if that was considered when picking the cards that rotate out.
Paladin's original set was pretty weak but very thematic: they didn't have any cards that showed up in literally every deck but they were very thematic, so most of them fit the bill of what we were looking for. (Source)
Is there any feature you’ve tried to add multiple times but never got it to work? Also what class is the hardest to design/balance cards for?
Normally once we are in 'try to add' phase, it gets in. I know we've brainstormed a number of solutions for anked Arena, or some restructure of how that format works and always run into snags.
2v2 and "Social" also get thrown around a lot with pitches to go with them. Social you can view through two main approaches. Do you make the way for people to play together first (Raids, 4v4, etc), or do you make the way for people to connect first (Guilds, Clans, etc)?
2v2 a number of people have pitched visuals and gameflow for and I still think we might do it someday but we don't have a design we're confident in. For social, I personally would love to work on a guild system to connect users then follow it up with social game modes.
We spent a lot of time in the last year working on things like progression and new game modes and I think we'll spend time on social next: we're just not quite there yet.
For designing cards, different designers have different answers to that. I find Hunter to be challenging. It's hard to go really outside the box without great board clear and healing. I like they have a clear identity, clearer than most, but the bounding boxes we have make it harder to do weird memey stuff that works like we can in Warrior or Druid.
For balance, I find Druid to be difficult. Ramp is especially hard to balance because it's a core mechanic to the class, but it can feel pretty helpless to play against. Ramp and Barnes share a lot of similarities: big stuff coming out earlier than you can deal with it.
Warlock can also be hard, but I love designing for Gul'Dan: they are always just one medium power Neutral 1-2 drop from having a dominant deck. Life Tap takes advantage of low mana Neutral cards in ways I sometimes forget. (Source)