Recently, Dean "Iksar" Ayala and Chadd "Celestalon" Nervig were interviewed by ShackNews and we got some great new insights. 2021 has been a very positive year so far for the developers' communication with the players: it really seems like they're putting much more effort than in the past, and it also helps us to understand their work philosophies and balance criteria we wouldn't be aware of otherwise. Great job Team 5.
- They scrap more card designs than the cards they ship.
- Single cards are more likely to get discarded than whole mechanics.
- Ysera, Unleashed's previous designs involved turning your deck into a Dream Portal that summoned Dragons each turn, but that brought up so many game-play questions that they decided to move on from that idea.
- There are a lot of factors that go into determining when the right time for a new class is.
- They have to make sure that the new mechanics are fun and that they feel different than what already exists.
- They wouldn't want to add Monk if it's the same thing as Druid, for example. Monk hinted!
- It's a lot of work to create a new class and not something they could do every year.
- Another class being added to the game is a matter of "when" not "if".
- Both Constructed and Battlegrounds see a ton of play: they don't eclipse each other.
- A lot of the people that are playing Battlegrounds are either coming into Hearthstone fresh or are coming back to the game without playing constructed at all anymore.
- There are still many questions opened: how frequently should they update the mode? Seems like a good opportunity to show some feedback.
- Battlegrounds will be out of beta when it will be out of beta. Yep, you read that right.
Here's a concise review of the whole interview for anyone who's interested - have a good read!
At any point in the design phase, have you ever happened to think about a really cool mechanic, but then abandon it because you feared it would've completely broken everything or just wouldn't have worked from a software game perspective?
Iksar - There are always individual card designs that we think are interesting or we might just talk about, but then we figure "there's no way we can make this work”. It happens pretty frequently from just brainstorming cards, a little less where we put them in our Excel sheet and then we go to implement them. Moreover, it happens more on the individual card level than on mechanics - we cut things from mechanics all the time: we scrap far more things than we actually ship.
Celestalon - I think that when we have those weird things that we don't have tech for already is also a good indicator that there's probably a lot of weird edge cases as far as the gameplay goes.
I'll give you an example: Descent of Dragon’s Ysera, Unleashed - One of the ideas we had for that card was “Battlecry: transform your deck into a Dream Portal.” that just spits out a random Dragon every turn: so instead of a deck you had a portal. We thought it was an interesting design, but there were a lot of edge cases like “how exactly does a Dream Portal interact with effects like destroying the top card of the deck?” or what if you draw a spell? The gameplay was really creative in terms of design but not super worth all those different questions we’d have to come up with answers for, so we went with the design that we shipped instead.
Would you guys determine what is a good time to add a new class to the game? You have most of the classes in Warcraft: the only one you're missing is Monk [edit: and Death Knight].
Iksar - There are a lot of factors that go into determining when the right time for new class is. The first question is “is that even compelling at all?”. When we look at Demon Hunter, based on all the metrics and data we had and all the reception we tried to quantify from articles online, it seems like it was a pretty positive experience. There's a bunch of excitement that comes with adding a new class that makes people want to come back and makes people want to try it, whether you're new or you're coming back to the game.
In terms of timing, I think we just want to space those things out: I think the next class is probably a matter of when rather than if - Demon Hunter went over pretty. We just have to find the right expansion and the right theme for it, as well as the right mechanics.
In the end, we'd rather find something that's really fun and then decide to ship it versus deciding to add a new class and then figure out later if it's really fun or not. We have to do the exploration first and find some mechanics that are really fun and that are also different than what already exists: we wouldn't want to add Monk if it's the same thing as Druid, but we’d want to find some hook for them to feel significantly different than everything else, so it just doesn't feel like we're rehashing a lot of the same stuff. First, the idea has to come and then the right timing is usually a little spaced out from when the previous class was introduced.
Celestalon - It's also just a lot of work: it's not something we couldn't do every expansion or every year.
Battlegrounds has been a huge success: how has that affected the meta? Do you see more people playing Battlegrounds than constructed?
Celestalon - I can tell you that both Constructed and Battlegrounds are super healthy: both see a ton of play and it's not like one is completely dominating the other. We like that they work well together: if you're tired of playing Constructed you can play Battlegrounds; Duels is also another mode and we're adding Mercenaries as well.
Iksar - Battlegrounds does not cannibalize than much on other game modes’ population: it wasn't as likely you were a Constructed player then stopped playing it to come and play Battlegrounds - a lot of the people that are playing Battlegrounds either are coming into Hearthstone fresh or are coming back to the game without playing Constructed at all anymore.
From that perspective, the population of both modes is super healthy: it seems like if you’re really excited about Constructed as your main game mode, maybe you moved a little to Battlegrounds, but for the most part you're still a Constructed player, and what Battlegrounds did was just grabbing a whole bunch of people that either left or coming in from the first time.
Battlegrounds is still a very fresh mode and there are a lot of questions opened: how frequently should we update it? We don't want to fall into the trap of being like “this works for Constructed Hearthstone so we should do the same thing for Battlegrounds”, while they are really different games.
Celestalon - And in the theme of Forged in the Barents we do have more updates to battlegrounds coming, like the addition of Quillboar and we're going to keep supporting and developing battlegrounds.
Battlegrounds is still technically in beta is it not? is there a timetable for when it will exit beta?
Will be done when it's done.