A Friday night surprise! Instead of running a Q&A on Wednesday this week, everyone's favourite Hearthstone Dad, Dean "Iksar" Ayala, treated us with one late Friday. Here's our recap of all the important points and as always, a full transcript of the event.
- 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.
You'll be happy to know an issue with our transcripts has been resolved and it isn't jumbled as it has been the past couple of weeks. Sanity restored!
Forged in the Barrens
- One of the biggest worries with a launch is that old decks won't change much and the game feels the same.
- They do still see a bit of the old with Pen Flinger and Tickatus.
- "Not sure if we will address either of those cards but if there is going to be a hot topic [post-expansion] you'd rather it not be the same old cards."
- Mage and Paladin are bit higher power level than expected.
- Deck of Lunacy is not a card they want to be defining the meta. If it ends up being one, it is a "clear target for change".
- They will be talking about potential card balance in a meeting early next week.
- They decided to do the Core Set early last year.
- The next iteration of Core Set will be designed in the next couple of months.
- Eventually, the core set could be a bit crazier.
- Dean could see them "doing a year of highlander focused stuff, weapons in all classes, bringing back dks… maybe even wilder stuff like a full dual-class core set".
- Physical Spell School was a consideration but schools are tied to the fantasy of magic.
- Warrior & Hunter having a lack of spell schools can make it cooler when they do get some cards in schools.
- "They'll be some frosty set at some point and you might see Frost Warrior and it'll feel like a cool and different way that those classes interact with spell schools rather than it just being the norm. "
- Dean has wanted to do an AI Ladder but hasn't been able to get traction.
- Hearthstone's AI is good enough to pilot a large enough number of decks that they could make a ladder for it.
- If you like collecting cards but don't like PVP, there isn't really a place for you in Hearthstone right now.
- Dean remains passionate about this even though he has been "mostly alone" in thinking about it.
- On Using Wild Boards in Arena instead of Standard Ones:
- Not sure if they have the tech to display a random subset of boards based on manual choice.
- Could be a nice QoL thing to do, Dean will check Monday if the tech exists already.
- They'll talk about Mor'shan Watch Post internally early next week.
- Dean doesn't want them to get into a mindset of banning cards in Arena just because they are good every time a new set comes out.
- They've had ideas for weapons, a "sidekick", a second hero power.
- Nothing has been playtested yet. "Likely we'll try something soon."
- Doing Tavern Brawls for Battlegrounds is something Dean wants to do. "It's not as plug and play as you might think it is".
- A Heroic Battlegrounds Tavern Brawl might be a good start.
- Mimiron's Head's original animation was "flew off the board, out of the game, flew you into the sky, into the clouds, then dive bombed back onto the board".
Another random and stupid story in early Hearthstone metrics was a time where we had card power but no deck power stats and we were misled into thinking that murloc shaman was super powerful for like 24 hours. (Source)
Turns out the deck was awful (like we thought) we were just pulling mostly data from Neptulon's murlocs. So effectively we were looking at Neptulon's play/win rate and thinking it was murloc's draw/win rate. (Source)
It was very early in data collection and we corrected it within 24 hours, but it made me feel like an idiot for trying to explain to the team that there was a unicorn murloc paladin no one had built yet. (Source)
After that point, we correctly made draw/win rate only apply to cards that are actually drawn, not added to your hand :).
- His first sets as lead were Kobolds, Witchwood, Boomsday, and Rataskhan's Rumble.
- Dean wants to push boundaries of power and synergy in his early lead sets - "You can pretty clearly see some of that failure."
- Future sets were pulled back too hard the following year.
- Dean regrets not putting more emphasis on making the game easy to come back to.
- Corridor Creeper was a failure.
Full Transcript of Q&A #12
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. 7:00PM - 8:00PST https://t.co/baqTMQdcjg (Source)
@IksarHS Not sure if it’s been asked before- what were some of your biggest failures when it came to game design in hearthstone? (Whether it was an overlooked card or project you spent way too much time on)
@IksarHS Also curious what you are most proud of, like what was the moment when you realized you were a badass designer
@dogdog There is a lot I'm proud of but I don't know if I've found that moment. I spend a lot of my time wondering if the people I'm supposed to be leading think I'm okay or just totally incompetent. (Source)
@dogdog I'm proud of the team environment I helped create. Our people have a safe space to create among peers that respect and are helpful to each other. There is very little ego and we truly just want to make a best in class product as a core goal. (Source)
@dogdog Definitely had pure design failures, but most of my biggest failures have been social ones. Trying to be the creator when I should have been a better teammate. Thinking I needed to be decisive in a moment I should have been a better listener. (Source)
@dogdog As for expansions, my first sets as lead were Kobolds –> Witchwood –> Boomsday –> Rastakhan's. You can pretty clearly see some of that failure. I was new, wanted to push the boundaries of power and synergy, saw the results, pulled back way too hard the following year. (Source)
@dogdog Didn't really understand overall expansion power well enough until Rise of Shadows and I think we've done a lot better job as a team managing power since. (Source)
@dogdog Some regrets with not putting enough emphasis on making the game easy to come back to. It can be such a huge sink of your money and time to want to come back and with such a big focus on feature development I think we lost a lot of the audience who poked their heads back in. (Source)
@dogdog And Corridor Creeper. (Source)
@IksarHS will patch cycles be as aggressive as recent years or do you guys want to lean away from influencing the game too much between launches. (personally was a fan of aggressive changes)
@Benteezy As aggressive of more aggressive. Goal is to adjust power outliers in minor ways rather than clip decks completely out of the meta. We're a live service game that makes adjustments and content on a regular basis. (Source)
@Benteezy We want players to see and know that this is an actively cared for and curated experience. (Source)
@IksarHS Hopefully I'm not too late, but what is a losing battle you regularly have in HS design? I find that I'm often having to defend my perspective on designs regarding hand information and other custom cards.
@coolboypai Defending your perspective and listening to the perspectives of others is the natural state of a designer! Especially on a large team of people with varied opinions…. (Source)
@coolboypai In terms of philosophy, not many losing battles. This is some combination of us all being on the same page and the nature of my position on the team being that I don't really lose in decisions around philosophy. Not always sure that is a good thing… heh (Source)
@coolboypai In terms of individual designs or ideas, I've always been beating the drum of wanting to have vs AI ladder but have never been able to get any traction. Our AI is good enough to pilot a large suite of decks that we could make a ladder for vs computer players (Bronze-Legend). (Source)
@coolboypai Could also do this for arena. If you like collecting cards and playing the game but you don't like PvP, there isn't really a place for you in Hearthstone. I've always thought that was a mistake but have been mostly alone in that thinking when determining what features to work on. (Source)
@coolboypai Usually when you are alone in something over many years in many different groups it means you might be wrong, but this is something that I'm still pretty passionate about today. (Source)
@IksarHS With the change of classic cards to a core set, have there been other considerations to fundamental rule changes to standard as the game has evolved? (Amount of starting mana, starting cards in hand, deck size, etc.)
@IamDub_ Yes and No. We've talked about it because it's interesting but have never taken a core game rules change seriously. I think we'd have to be in a space where there was a problem we were trying to solve. (Source)
@IamDub_ There is so much baked-in knowledge to how the game works that we'd have to feel like something is really out of whack to sacrifice all that time and effort players put in to understanding the complexities of core gameplay. (Source)
@IamDub_ We talk about individual designs or ideas that temporarily break the rules. Also game modes that simplify or complicate, but not core changes to original gameplay. Additions perhaps… graveyards? sidekicks? duel-wielding? But not changes, at least not yet! (Source)
@IamDub_ Also those things aren't a hint, just things we've talked about or explored before and cut. (Source)
@IksarHS I'm here to ask my question about in-client reporting again re: inappropriate names, rage adds, etc as requested! I am also fairly confident that your week was too busy to research this and that your client engineers are very tired and in need of boba
@RidiculousHat Okay I admit launch week was a bad week to try and round up unanswered questions from engineers…. We'll try again this week (Source)
@IksarHS follow up question: do the engineers know how appreciated they are this week? feels like there's a hot fix every day
@RidiculousHat I hope so. Engineering is often a thankless job in game dev, we try to show them the love. (Source)
@IksarHS When it comes for card designs for sets. How much consideration is put toward niche card pools? For example: 10-Mana spell pools 9-Mana spells pools, X-Mana minion/spell/weapon/whatever pools?
@Kat__HS We usually have to force ourselves to make high-mana cards because we always end up balancing things earlier and earlier in the game. High-mana cards these days either are unplayable or have to make such a drastic impact that they swing games wildly. Hard to hit the sweet spot. (Source)
@Kat__HS This isn't an argument to not make them, we totally should and do. It's just more difficult than making a card that has fun gameplay and is 2-3 mana. (Source)
@Kat__HS I also think we fall into the trap of making too many statlines that are Attack/Attack+2/3. Usually that is what 'makes sense' but we should be trying to do weirder statlines and compensate power in cost/design. I want to see more 8/3's and 4/1's. (Source)
@Kat__HS The short answer is yes, we do. Niche mana or statlines make for more individuality between cards which and can make games more unexpected and interesting. (Source)
@IksarHS Arena Rotations were introduced back in 2019 with the Year of the Dragon. However, the game boards/battlefields have ALWAYS been the ones in Standard rather than the Wild subset the Arena Rotation is. Are there plans to change this? Same question regarding Arena card rewards.
@seewhykai At some point I thought it would be cool to offer you a pack of cards that was based on the stuff you drafted in your deck. Ultimately I think players would view it as mostly a downgrade, though. (Source)
@seewhykai For board, it doesn't match the cards available but part of me still thinks it's cool to showcase the newest boards and whatever new interactions they might have rather than resurfacing the old stuff. (Source)
@seewhykai It's also just a tech request, I'm not sure we have the built in tech to display a random subset of boards based on our manual choosing and it doesn't sound like something I'd be excited about asking an engineer to pull off what they are doing to bulid it. (Source)
@seewhykai If it's available in editor it does sound like a nice QoL thing though, will look into it on Monday. (Source)
@IksarHS What has been your favorite Mage card from Forged in the Barrens? Personally mine has been this one. https://t.co/muCdMPpyHe
@ZeddyHS Probably Lunacy. I'm a high-roll gamer at heart. (Source)
@IksarHS What's the Team's opinion of Deck of Lunacy? Was the deck people are playing intended? Was there a worry about cards with random pools being extremely good post rotation? If this wasn't a worrying the team, what were some cards/decks you guys were worried about before release?
@ClarkHELLSCREAM The biggest worries are usually that old decks aren't going to change much and the game will feel the same as it did the previous month. That didn't come true, honestly had less of a chance becoming true than any set ever but was still a worry with some decks. (Source)
@ClarkHELLSCREAM You see artifacts of it with things like Pen Flinger and Tickatus. Not sure if we will address either of those cards but if there is going to be a hot topic post expansion you'd rather it not be the same old cards. (Source)
@ClarkHELLSCREAM Mage and Paladin both a little higher power than expected, the random generation being higher quality on average was a known thing, been talked about for awhile. We are starting to assign more power in balancing to random generation (or discover) as a result. (Source)
@ClarkHELLSCREAM Leftover from previous sets cards like Jandice/Lunacy didn't feel they warranted changing pre-emptively, but are definitely types of cards we've been keeping a close eye on to see how the random pool quality effects their power level. (Source)
@ClarkHELLSCREAM Generally speaking, Lunacy is not the kind of deck defining card we're happy about being tier 1, so if it's defining the meta in any real capacity it's a clear target for change. (Source)
@IksarHS What are the early meta surprises for the team? Has it been going pretty much as expected or has there been a significant unforeseen twist?
@Raktoner We knew Paladin was going to be a player, but it's a little stronger than anticipated. Same with Mage but to a lesser degree. Aggro decks tend to punish combo and control decks that are figuring out a new set, so we'll see what the weekend data looks like. (Source)
@IksarHS Really appreciate the addition of spell schools and the design space they provide. What rules did you guys have for assigning schools to old spells? Did you consider the addition of physical school for execute/slam type abilities?
@RTwoCTwo We had physical as a consideration but ultimately decided against it. The school of a spell is fantasy tied to magic and it felt strange to add schools to Shield Block simply for the sake of having everyone be included. (Source)
@RTwoCTwo I think it'll make it cooler when we do schools in places like Warrior/Hunter. They'll be some frosty set at some point and you might see Frost Warrior and it'll feel like a cool and different way that those classes interact with spell schools rather than it just being the norm. (Source)
@IksarHS Any reason for the caravans that could have a tribe (like Tinyfin) not having? Flavorfully it's weird.
@oEltinho I will leave you with the undefeated flavor king and champion of minions types, @Celestalon. Maybe he shall have an answer where I could not.
@IksarHS @oEltinho The minion being described by those minions is the whole caravan, not just the driver. While the driver/owner may be a murloc, the carts and covered wagons and riders and such are not collectively a murloc. (Source)
@Celestalon @IksarHS @oEltinho Why curator is a mech if he is an arcane golem?
@FrancisBlacKn @IksarHS @oEltinho I'm pretty sure Curator and Arcane Golem are the two most talked about minion type questions in Hearthstone history, amongst the designers. https://t.co/IDXoCIqh6G (Source)
@IksarHS What's a statistic that's often correlated with a card's power level but isn't well known. So a stat like drawn winrate but that is often overlooked.
@StormFeverHS Two. +/- draw win rate so you can compare across classes (still is not entirely accurate). This means that a card that has 59% draw win rate in a deck that has 61% win rate is not the same as a card that has 59% draw/win in a deck that has 52% win rate. (Source)
@StormFeverHS Another is how many cards were drawn in that particular game. Early on in collecting Hearthstone metrics, we found all the best cards in the game were mostly control warrior cards, even though control warrior wasn't even a top 3 deck at the time. (Source)
@StormFeverHS After much investigation, we found that all the cards in the deck had their win rates skewed higher because in games the deck won, the game went late and they drew tons of cards. In games they lost, the games ended early and they drew very few cards. (Source)
@StormFeverHS This meant that in wins, most of their cards got a +win. In losses, very few of their cards got a +loss. (Source)
@StormFeverHS Nowadays, the calculation for card power is pretty intense with a bunch of calculations. One of them is some weight for how much your draw/win is affected based on how many cards were drawn in that game. (Source)
@StormFeverHS Another random and stupid story in early Hearthstone metrics was a time where we had card power but no deck power stats and we were misled into thinking that murloc shaman was super powerful for like 24 hours. (Source)
@StormFeverHS Turns out the deck was awful (like we thought) we were just pulling mostly data from Neptulon's murlocs. So effectively we were looking at Neptulon's play/win rate and thinking it was murloc's draw/win rate. (Source)
@StormFeverHS It was very early in data collection and we corrected it within 24 hours, but it made me feel like an idiot for trying to explain to the team that there was a unicorn murloc paladin no one had built yet. (Source)
@StormFeverHS After that point, we correctly made draw/win rate only apply to cards that are actually drawn, not added to your hand :). (Source)
@IksarHS what is the craziest idea you/the team had for a golden animation that never made it into the game
@solemhs This isn't a golden animation but I remember the original FX animation for Mimiron's Head was the craziest shit I had ever seen. When it combined into V07TR0N it flew off the board, out of the game, flew you into the sky, into the clouds, then dive bombed back onto the board. (Source)
@solemhs Everyone was like what the actual hell is this, it was incredible, amazing, and something we were like no no no we can't do this lol (Source)
@IksarHS Any thoughts on maybe adding weapons for Battlegrounds? I personally feel like there would potentially be some neat open design space there
@Savjz I think our main question is do we want to utilize that space for some form of gameplay. That could mean weapons, could mean you have a second hero power, a sidekick that does cool stuff? We've had some ideas but nothing in playtest yet. Likely we'll try something soon. (Source)
@IksarHS Are you aware of a bug where you can't make friends on one server if you have reached the limit due to recent friend requests across servers? I think this will be a big problem because the tournament is held against friends.
@moritarohs I was not, will check to see if it's reported and if not put in a ticket myself. Thanks! (Source)
@IksarHS The hearthstone dev team works 3 expansions or so ahead of time. When will we start seeing cards made with the new core set in mind. Or has forged in the barons already done this?
@TaggermcBagger Core set is mostly meant to be role player and class fantasy cards while expansions do different takes on synergies. We decided on doing core set sometime early last year and will design next core set sometimes in the next couple months. (Source)
@TaggermcBagger We wanted to start slow, but eventually the core set will be a little crazier. I could see us doing a year of highlander focused stuff, weapons in all classes, bringing back dks… maybe even wilder stuff like a full dual-class core set. Time will tell. (Source)
@IksarHS Do you find yourself thinking of game design when playing other games? After reading a lot of yours, @GW_Alec and @Celestalon's tweets I keep thinking about all you've been saying, the game almost becomes something else (which is enjoyable although in a different way)
@PascoaHS @GW_Alec @Celestalon I think about game design every minute I'm awake. @ItsMeMollyO can confirm (Source)
@IksarHS what did your game design resume look like going into your job, and what experience do you recommend having for finding success with entry level design positions/internships? Im currently in grad school for game design and I’m hoping to find ways to stand apart from the crowd!
@parkachu0 I'm part of a generation that can't really give applicable advice based on my own experience. I joined QA, played a bunch of Hearthstone, was pretty good at the game, met some devs, playtested, they hired me. (Source)
@parkachu0 Nowadays when I go through applicants for my team there is very little chance you could make the cut with that background. The people we hire have portfolios of games they've already created or are literally the best Hearthstone players on the planet + have great design sense. (Source)
@parkachu0 If you are in school for game design that is a great start. Simply doing your school work or group projects will give you a small portfolio of stuff to share. Five years ago game design school was sort of laughed at (undeservingly!). Today, it means a lot. (Source)
@parkachu0 Something that helps candidates stand out is when they display experience in making their own stuff and they also spend time creating content for the game they are applying for. (Source)
@parkachu0 If you want to work on Skyrim, mod skyrim. If you want to work on Hearthstone, make Hearthstone sets. If you want to work on League, design some champions. (Source)
@parkachu0 When you are hired to work on a game as a designer, we're often times giving you the keys to something we've poured our souls into. Showing you have the base expertise but you also care enough about our baby to do the research is helpful. (Source)
@parkachu0 This doesn't mean you have to be a hardcore player. We actually want a bunch of different player-types, so casual game away! What I want to know is that you are hardcore about wanting to be a Hearthstone designer and you've done the research. (Source)
@IksarHS i have 2 :) Any balance changes coming? and, any idea for a "battlefield" type of card? a card that when is in play it push some sort of strategy as an aura effect, like or 5 turns all minions have rush, or the most rigth and left friendly minions have taunt, etc.
@Joshosss Most likely yes. We are meeting early next week to make a decision on that. Also yes for battlefield effects. We've had a few that have been in design and ended up gettng cut, there are a few challenges. (Source)
@Joshosss One is interactivity, if we make a battlefield card that goes into the play space but isn't a minion, how do you interact when playing against it? Do we just make cards in the same set that say 'destroy a battlefield'? I think that probably isn't enough to feel real counterplay (Source)
@Joshosss Another is just the challenge of displaying something on the battlefield that isn't a minion and isn't affected the same way minions are. Is there a new frame? Does it have to stay stationary or can it move around? Do you put things on top of it? Inside of it? Around it? (Source)
@Joshosss There is a huge long-term complexity cost to adding new card types, we've done it very sparingly for that reason. When we do, we'd like to make sure all the boxes are checked on understandability, it's exciting, and the gameplay is great. (Source)
@IksarHS we can just use classic cardback only in duel mode, is it feature or bug? can we change cardback plaese?😀😀
@geyuan6_hs I'll look into it, I think the team already knows of this but I'll make sure it's reported and tracked. (Source)
@IksarHS What are the factors when it comes to determine cards rarity (mainly asking for the non legendaries)
@IrvinGSlz almost entirely complexity When a player opens a pack, it's mostly common cards. We want you to be able to understand the cards you open, so we leave the highest complexity cards to epic/legendary so they show up among simpler cards (Source)
@IksarHS What cosmetic types did you try to implement before coming to the conclusion of Diamond Cards ?? Thank you and thanks to the team!!
@CoolbeansJorge The project started as 'full-art' cards and we tried to showcase more of the art itself but didn't end up wanting to cut into the text box. We tried some darker and lighter tones but found that when we made black frames it fit with dark characters but less-so with paladin/priest (Source)
@CoolbeansJorge Diamond felt like something we could use in all glasses that felt like a natural progression from gold. (Source)
@IksarHS Hello, I'm a youtube content maker from Belarus. Before current expansion I tried to get get permission to restream official stream. But nobody has answered me. Who can be CM for our region?
@HsIceman A better question for @Chris_Attalus, I'm not sure. (Source)
@IksarHS What has been your favourite deck of new expansion so far? New meta feels really great. I got legend first time on 31st day just coz we moved to unknown meta and i got to play hero power mage which has been great fun.
@Banez_86 Probably the celestial alignment deck. Been playing the one that @Kat__HS posted the other day and having a blast. (Source)
@IksarHS Will we be able to view our friends’ profiles and achievements in the future? Hearthstone needs some more social features imo
@MichaelLoda Agreed, social is probably the best large project post-mercenaries. We haven't dug in yet, though. (Source)
@IksarHS Thoughts on Mor'shan Watch Post in arena? Much of the community is ready for it to be banned like Runaway Blackwing, since it can be game-ending in a mode where you very often don't have the tools to deal with it on turn 3/4. Super strong since minion combat is everything there
@andykim808 Meeting next week to talk about it some more. Would comb through some data and see how powerful/populous it is and weigh that against how it might feel. Don't want to get into the mindset that a new set comes out and the best cards get banned simply because they are good. (Source)
@andykim808 This might be a case of there is a thing that shouldn't exist, but we'll evaluate early next week the same as we're evaluating for constructed formats. (Source)
@IksarHS Will we ever see more book of heroes stories after the baseline ten are done, such as the alternate portraits like Magni or Khadgar, or are modes like Book of Mercenaries going to be the new way forward? I noticed that the necklaces of a certain sister trio is on the story board.
@Portergauge Book of Heroes has been a successful place for us to tell stories of major characters. For now, that has meant our 10 core heroes and the stories of our mercenary characters. When that is done we'll likely look for another slate of powerful stories to tell. (Source)
@IksarHS Battlegrounds Tavern Brawl mode will be live when?
@Slysssa I want to do this but it's not as plug and play as you might think it is. Some engineering work for us to do it. It's a good reminder, though. I want to invest in something more expansive but heroic BG tavern brawl is a good start. (Source)
@IksarHS Was there ever any thought to making heroes golden in Battlegrounds somehow and perhaps upgrading their ability similar to getting golden minions?
@FilmCriticKurt Not that I can remember. I wonder how you would even do that… Probably a cool hero design in there somewhere, but maybe not a mechanic for all heroes. I could see us doing Goldgrubber the hero and his mechanic is somehow upgrading himself. Selfish guy that Goldgrubber. (Source)
@IksarHS What's your design philosophy for hunter ? It seems pretty blurry to me.
@FlynnSP_ The terminology we use most when talking about hunter is 'forward-motion'. Most everything they do is driving a game to a conclusion. Even removal spells can be aggressive (EX: Flanking Strike). Very little to no healing, taunt, or mass removal. Lots of tempo, minions, and damage (Source)