Welcome back to another installment of Fan Community Spotlight. This time around, we’re looking at The Crystalarium, a full-size custom Hearthstone expansion (a first for the series) created by Dezitronix, a name you may be familiar with as he’s also the creator of Azeroth's Most Wanted. Both expansions are part of a custom year, the Year of the Viper.
In this set, we have a new keyword, Crystallize. When a minion is Crystallized, it goes dormant (or rather, it "crystallizes") for a turn, and then it gets destroyed on your next turn. While dormant though, it keeps its card text, allowing you to take advantage of passive effects.
Give us a brief introduction to the set as a whole. What's it all about? What cards introduce us to the set?
"The Crystalarium is this sort of good guys vs. bad guys sort of set. On the good side, you have the The Crystalarium, which is this vault set up by the Earthen Ring to protect the world from dangerous weapons like the M’uru’s Essence. On the other end, you have Twilight’s Hammer Cult, who seek to use those weapons to generally just bring chaos to the world. The set takes place in Deepholm, and so you’re bound to run into a lot Elementals, and a lot of magic, so I’d say Stonecore Guardian showcases both the Elementals and how Geodes and their synergies work, while Resonance Tuner really covers the magical side of the realm."
How much experience do you have making custom Hearthstone cards?
"The oldest thing I could find related to me making Hearthstone cards dates back to May 11th, 2016. I don’t remember any of the work I actually did on that, except that I abandoned it pretty quickly and I finished like 4 cards and they all kinda sucked. So I kinda spent most of these past three years slowly learning the process of what it takes to craft an expansion, because expansions are just really cool on conceptual level, and they offer a big challenge which is great for someone like me.
But in spite of that, I’d say I’m...pretty good at making cards, but not the best. Most of my Hearthstone projects have failed—of the six expansions I’ve personally spearheaded, only two of those were actually completed (I tried making a Pandaria expansion twice and both failed ;-;). However, I think I’m improving quite a lot, as you can see from the jump in quality this expansion enjoyed compared to our previous one, Azeroth’s Most Wanted, and it was completed in only half the time (TC took 3 months, AMW took 6). There’s still a lot for me to learn, though. I wanna try my hand at designing classes, and perhaps dabble a little bit in making my own single-player content, but I like to think of myself as pretty competent when it comes to making expansions."
I love Crystallize and how many different ways it's used. How did you come up with the idea for the keyword and how you used it?
"Crystallize has quite the development story, and really it spawned as the culmination of a lot things. Keywords are always tricky to get right, because they have to thematically fit with the set, they have to be interesting and add a unique element to gameplay, and they have to be easy to understand. Crystallize spawned because I wanted a keyword that made midrange-type minions more durable, but I also wanted a keyword that you could design a lot of different cards with and have them go in all sorts of directions. Crystallize can be both an offensive and defensive keyword. Like for example, you have a card like Shale Spider where the keyword is used defensively, as you’ll basically be guaranteed to get at least two Geodes out of the card before it’s gone for good. But on the other side, you have cards Reorigination or Cryolem, where Crystallize is used to aggressively fight for the board. And obviously, it just fits so well from a thematic perspective, since it’s a keyword that fits really well in the setting of the expansion and really adds to the identity of it. And as a cherry on top, it slows down the game as well, since Crystallized minions still have an impact even if they come out later in the game, since the effects they have will still be felt unless you use something like Hex to get rid of the minion before it Crystallizes."
How much relation does The Crystalarium have to the other sets in Year of the Viper?
"Azeroth’s Most Wanted and The Crystalarium don’t really have much in common with one another, since the idea of building mechanics that spread across multiple expansions didn’t really occur to me until partway through the development of TC. I’m going to do that a little more though, with Rogue secrets and the Destroy Mana Crystals effect for Warlock being two things that I want to expand upon with Expansion 3 when development for that set really starts to get into motion."
One interesting thing of note is how this isn't a solo project, but actually a team project. What changes when you work in a team compared to working solo? How does it all work out?
"Working as a team is like, the best thing ever. Several times, there’d be some sort of lull in the development of the expansion, where you’d just run out of ideas and you aren’t really sure where you want to go next with it, but those pauses are dramatically shortened when you have several people offering their own input into the expansion. Furthermore, it’s so much easier to evaluate how well-designed a card is when you have multiple perspectives for it. I primarily play Wild, so at best I have a casual perspective on how Standard plays, so it’s really nice to have people who play in both formats working on the team. And honestly, it’s just really nice to have people that you can readily bounce ideas off of."
Do you have anything behind the scenes you'd like to share?
"Pebble had several different pieces of art before we settled on the one you see on the page today.
Seriously though, the whole team is great. Cyc is super important when it comes to helping me balance cards because I still struggle with that a bit. Spin designed some of my favorite cards in the whole set, like Down the Rabbit Hole and Toothy Trick. Daffy remedied the mistake that is Coldarra Drake and has been honored with the title of Coldarra Slayer on our private Discord server.
The art for Lunar Weave looks so damn good because Pixel edited the art. Here’s the original art if you wanted to see it."
What's the most essential piece of advice you would give to people new to the fan creation community?
"Starting out, your cards will suck, and that’s okay. Making bad cards and then getting advice on why those cards are bad and if possible, how they could be made better, is the process that pretty much everyone goes through, including yours truly. Even as time goes on, you’ll find that a lot of your ideas might not work to great. Soooo many cards were designed for TC that will probably never see the light of day, and that’s okay, no one is that good at making cards; it’s a real trial-and-error process to figure out what feels right. At the same time, don’t be afraid to think outside the box with cards! The best way to learn about what works is to get your weird janky ideas out there and let them get dissected, because that’s how some of the coolest cards out there were made!"
Do you have anything else you'd like to share?
"If you want to join the team and contribute to Expansion 3, shoot me a message and I’ll try to get back to when I can! We’re always looking to go the extra mile with the expansions, so whatever talents you have that you think might help, including stuff like voice talent, are always welcome!
Also check out Frostivus’s stuff he’s really cool."
And that wraps it up for today. What do you think of The Crystalarium? What cards caught your eye? Let us know in the comments below, and we'll see you next time.