Dean "Iksar" Ayala popped in this evening for a Hearthstone Q&A session on Twitter. As usual, here's our recap of all the important points and 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.

Expansions

Not likely that Dean would leak an upcoming expansion theme in a Q&A, but there's certainly been weird stuff at times.

Quote From Dean Ayala

Will there ever be a Nazjatar expansion?

Interesting… very interesting.

There's also an interesting tweet where Dean talks about Tide with J_Alexander:

Quote From Dean Ayala

Have you tried any new detergents lately? I hope you’ve been able to find one that made your quests stop stinking

I was thinking about detergents lately. Tide has such a good brand. I just associate their brand with detergent. I think Gain is actually better but when I'm mindlessly going through the grocery store for things I need I just automatically pick up Tide. 


Hearthstone Puzzles

  • Dean doesn't know if we're getting a new one because Celestalon normally just adds them to the game and he finds out about it later.

Core Set

  • Dean says there are big changes coming to the Core Set but he doesn't expect it to drastically alter the way the game is played.
  • The goal of the Core Set is to have interesting cards to choose from and be a baseline for new players to be introduced into Standard.
  • Dean expects there to be powerful cards that players include in decks and many simple, sometimes lower power cards to teach with.
  • Core Set cards that leave the set in a new Hearthstone year will leave your collection - unless you own them already in their collectible form.
    • Core Set cards are always "on loan" to players.

Cards

  • There are no equations that help balance cards. Everything is decided based on playtesting and historical knowledge.
  • The high power level of cards usually comes from synergies rather than any single card itself.
  • Dean thinks the last "useful" thing he did in card design was creating the first parrot card that inspired the Deadmines birds.
  • Designing disruption cards is easy, so easy they could design more individual cards than would be good to put into the game.

Arena

  • They are currently trying to figure out how to approach Arena balance after Tian Ding Left.
  • Tian was the "father" of micro-adjustments and since he left to join Second Dinner, they haven't made any adjustments since it requires manual intervention that only he did.
  • There are two ways forward with Arena balance the team is considering:
    • Keep micro-adjustments but move responsibility to dev.
    • Come up with a simpler and less manual solution for balancing cards.

Mercenary Characters

  • Dean's first name he wrote down on paper for Cariel was Siobhan. He thinks people have a hard time pronouncing it though by reading the name.
  • Originally, the idea for the entire year was "the World of Warcraft player leveling experience". This is how the "party of heroes" idea came about.
  • The first pitch for the Alliance party was on January 12, 2020.

Hearthstone Team Reorganization

Dean first talked about the internal reorganization in Q&A #35.

  • In theory, the changes to the team will allow there to be less approvals, less meetings, and more of the team working on deciding what to do and just putting it in the game. Less red tape!
  • Dean hopes the changes will show them doing more smaller-size improvements. Before, too many people had to touch small features.

Developer Podcast Idea

  • Dean thinks about RidiculousHat in the shower.
  • Dean was thinking about a limited podcast called "Making Hearthstone" which would have Hat interview different Hearthstone developers.
  • Dean might pitch the podcast idea. He would need the right people on the team be willing to take part.
    • Dean mentions that some people might be hard to convince to take part.
  • DeckTech says that someone else pushed this idea before but there were some obstacles.
  • DeckTech would like to help overcome those obstacles to make this a reality because he still supports the idea.
  • Alec was the original person who pitched it and had recorded an episode with Liv Breeden. It was about behind the scenes development of a set. (Source)
  • Dean thinks Peter Whalen and Mike Donais could be convinced to be on, but it might be harder to get Hamilton Chu, Jason Chayes, Ben Thompson, Ben Brode, Eric Dodds, and Rob Pardo.

Dean

  • Dean would love for there to be a way for players to mess with the base rules. Player creation in Hearthstone is untapped but is expensive to make.
  • Articuno is his favourite Pokemon and other answers are wrong. [Editor note: This is the correct answer]
  • Dean thinks that one of the more difficult decisions was whether or not Demon Hunter was only going to stick around for a year.
    • The original plan was for DH to rotate.
    • Dean says the smartest designers he knows wanted it to be a temporary class.
  • His goals for this year are to improve existing features rather than add more layers on top of what they have.

Full Transcript of Iksar's Q&A #37

Quote From Dean Ayala

Hearthstone AMA #37 7:30PM - 8:30PM PST Ask me a question about Hearthstone! Or Design! (or anime…) https://t.co/6a4NBemG2s (Source)

also: https://t.co/UJNz7YYFad (Source)

@IksarHS Hello Lord Iksar, hope you are doing well.. how you decide how much mana worth a Deathrattle has. For example: Savannah Highmane: 6 mana 6/5 that summons two 2/2s when dies (summon two 2/2s = 3 mana in druid) total 9 mana worth. How does the deathrattle math work?

@IksarHS On the other hand, Sludge Belcher is a 5 mana 3/5 taunt that summons a 1/2 taunt (1 mana summon) a total of 6 mana approximately? Idk… I am intrigued to understand how Desthrattle math works :)

@HolyKnight077 We don't have equations to help balance cards. Our balance decisions come almost entirely from playtesting or historical knowledge. High power level almost always comes from synergies with other cards rather than raw individual power, anyway. (Source)

@HolyKnight077 That said, there have been times where we've looked back and asked ourselves if we attributed enough cost to X thing. The most recent conversation I remember about this was Discover. (Source)

@HolyKnight077 And if we didn't account for enough cost (or Att/Health penalty) for a card having Discover on it. The result of our decisions led to more Discover cards than we wanted seeing play. (Source)


@IksarHS any chance at a multiverse expansion with overwatch, diablo, and starcraft cards being made?? ūüė≥ūüė≥ūüė≥

@navyverdant yes? team has mixed feelings on heading outside warcraft universe but it's certainly an opportunity to appeal to different people My guess is we'd start with internal IP (Diablo, OW, SC, etc) before potentially branching out to external IP (Marvel, Naruto, Fresh Prince) (Source)

@IksarHS @navyverdant Next year’s FYM I’m making that Fresh Prince set. (Source)


@IksarHS Is looking up their hidden MMR one of the first things new Team 5 employees do?

@kilmarnok1285 Internal MMR is pretty meaningless without a ton of context on the system. If you started on the team and looked up your internal MMR you'd find it was like …. 2.56 or something. Hard to know what that even means. (Source)


@IksarHS Did you watch Attack on Titan yesterday??? Thoughts??? (also demon slayer new season is litty)

@Luker_HS I did. I honestly got 2 minutes in before I decided to watch a recap video of S4 Part 1. Definitely needed it. I'm….. intrigued. I love AoT but I'm pretty bored with the 'is Eren a good guy or a bad guy?!?!' theme. (Source)


@IksarHS If YOU could choose a new duel class hero for Duels what classes would they be?

@yycjustin I like Saurok because they are similar to Iksar from Everquest. Probably an edgy Saurok boy. (Source)


@IksarHS Do Standard packs have pity timers?

@jcandance We haven't changed the 'pity timer' (progressive percentages) on packs to my knowledge. You should still be more likely to open a legendary card the longer you go without opening a legendary card. (Source)


@IksarHS Do you think there will ever be a space in the game where we can mess with the base rules?

@Blumpo4 I hope so. Player creation is an untapped space for our game but it's also incredibly expensive to make. The amount of times I crash my internal client trying to create things is very high. Not exactly an acceptable player-facing experience :). (Source)

@IksarHS @Blumpo4 Interesting. I heard Overwatch's "Workshop" mode was a passion project between 2 developers. I guess it puts into perspective just how much work went into it. maybe get those guys working on the HS version :)

@Corpssavy66 @Blumpo4 I know that story and it honestly sort of blows my mind. Those are some talented engineers. That said, there was likely a great deal of production and UI help beyond just those two engineers. (Source)


@IksarHS Arena adjustments coming anytime soon?

@bwebster The true and unfortunate story about microadjustments is that the father of microadjustments @sky_tding has moved off the team (good luck and we love you @sky_tding) and we're trying to figure out what the best path forward is now. (Source)

@bwebster @sky_tding Because Tian was awesome, he came up with a cool math/programming based solution that required some manual effort but he was capable of doing it (microadjusts). (Source)

@bwebster @sky_tding However, there are some downsides and abnormalities with that process. One, it's pretty rare for a feature to be maintained by someone off the dev team. His team might have other priorities and planning can be more difficult. (Source)

@bwebster @sky_tding Two, there was some pretty complex manual effort involved that meant multiple people from different teams had to be free at a moment's notice when we wanted microadjustments to happen. (Source)

@bwebster @sky_tding So, now, we're considering a couple options. One is to keep microadjustments as is but move the responsibility back to dev (and adjusting our schedule as a result). Another is to come up with a simpler and less manual solution that allows us to be more timely with class balance. (Source)

@bwebster @sky_tding TL:DR we're rethinking how we do arena balance. The goal is to have a solution that is easier to maintain and has more predictable timelines. We may fall back on current microadjustments until that happens. (Source)


@IksarHS @bwebster I love y’all as well! :D (Source)

@IksarHS @bwebster @sky_tding Man Arena is really popping off @DreadsGaming … Popping right off the development team.

@TeamAmericaHS @IksarHS @bwebster @sky_tding I appreciate the transparency, but it's big sad for sure :(

@DreadsGaming @TeamAmericaHS @bwebster @sky_tding Big happy is that in our team reorg, there is some better clarity around who owns arena Before that had been a little murky, mostly because the card design team scaled our work to include miniset and core set without increasing team size much. We're in a better place now. (Source)


@IksarHS how are you, molly, and kiddo doing? are you back to work full-time yet or just dipping a toe in?

@RidiculousHat We're great! Happy, healthy, and tired! Second question is complicated. I'm mostly back, but we're trying to delay putting baby in daycare for as long as humanly possible. That means being available at weird times. I show up to all my meetings now, just not much more than that. (Source)

@RidiculousHat I've been spending some time make a couple presentations to help guide our new team structure. Probably won't dive back into making stuff til February. (Source)

@RidiculousHat Here are some example slides for you https://t.co/uqiCvF090e (Source)

@IksarHS these seem like good presentations did replies to @Celestalon's feature tweet make it into the second one??

@RidiculousHat @Celestalon Presentation is more a guide on goals, opportunities, and decision making. Deciding on what we make is best left to the people making the things. (Source)


@IksarHS who's your favorite pokemon

@DabsHS articuno other answers are wrong https://t.co/CXbcpb6CVd (Source)

@DabsHS @SeltzerPlease has my back on this (Source)


@IksarHS Have you tried any new detergents lately? I hope you’ve been able to find one that made your quests stop stinking

@J_Alexander_HS I was thinking about detergents lately. Tide has such a good brand. I just associate their brand with detergent. I think Gain is actually better but when I'm mindlessly going through the grocery store for things I need I just automatically pick up Tide. (Source)

@J_Alexander_HS But thank you for your insight J. Always helpful, useful. I feel fulfilled after our discussions. More seriously, I hope you are doing well and Hearthstone brings you at least some joy. I've been working out lately and sometimes I think, I hope to someday be as fit as JALEX. (Source)

@IksarHS @J_Alexander_HS i'm working on a show about household brands. do you want to come on my tide pod-cast

@RidiculousHat @J_Alexander_HS sure, i'm a gain man myself…. (Source)

@RidiculousHat @J_Alexander_HS I had a shower thought that you should do a limited podcast called 'Making Hearthstone' that interviews individual devs about their contributions and memories. Maybe I'll pitch it, would have to pay you and get the right folks on board to join, though… was just a thought ok (Source)

@IksarHS @RidiculousHat @J_Alexander_HS Someone else pushed this—and I supported and still support it!—but before anyone (Hat) gets too excited, there were some obstacles at the last pitch. I want to help you overcome those obstacles, though. (Source)

@hsdecktech @IksarHS @RidiculousHat @J_Alexander_HS We recorded an episode actually, Liv and I. Was a behind the scenes look at the development of a set. Hope y’all do it. (Source)

@GW_Alec @IksarHS @RidiculousHat @J_Alexander_HS Okay—surprise!—the mysterious person who pitched it before was Alec (probably not too surprising if you know his background). (Source)

@hsdecktech @GW_Alec @RidiculousHat @J_Alexander_HS Oh snap if you still have it send it over I'd love to listen :) I can probably convince Peter/Mike but will have a harder time with people like Hamilton/Chayes/Thompson/Brode/Dodds/Pardo. (Source)


@IksarHS @J_Alexander_HS can this be real

@RidiculousHat @IksarHS @J_Alexander_HS Please

@Hockeyboyz3_hs @RidiculousHat @J_Alexander_HS I think it could be cool. There are some very important players in making Hearthstone happen in the first place that might be hard to convince. I'll see what I can do no promises. (Source)


@IksarHS Thoughts on an eleventh class one day, or is ten the final cap?

@SquiddyHS Forever is too long of a time to not do an 11th class. We've discussed it at length, just a matter of which is the next one to do. (Source)


@IksarHS What was the last hearthstone card that you designed? Or that was a original design of yours

@hbcosta Probably something in Deadmines. The last useful thing I did in card design was probably designing the first parrot card that inspired the small cycle of Deadmines birds. (Source)


@IksarHS do you think that designing disruption cards is hard? I'm no designer but I can't think of many disruption card concepts that also go with themes of some decks and aren't going to feel unhealthy

@ketchumash003 I think designing disruption cards is rather easy. We can design more good individual disruption cards than would be a good idea to actually put in the game. (Source)


@IksarHS can we expect the 2022 year of HS to have new great surprises, excepting the new sets? :)

@allansoty https://t.co/TeFyMjBvk2 (Source)


@IksarHS I've contemplated the idea of cards that can trigger from hand, on my opponent's turn, if I leave unspent mana. Do you see that as a possibility? Or does the basic design of HS preclude such effects?

@RTwoCTwo It's not a total dealbreaker, but the biggest downside is that it creates a new layer of interaction that players have to think about. After the first time it happens, players will now have to wonder if they play something, will a thing happen from their opponent's hand. (Source)

@RTwoCTwo On your turn in Hearthstone, you have total control and any variables like triggering a trap or discovering a card are opt-in. I think we'd have to find that this new layer of interaction is so fun it should be on many cards in every set, not a one-off thing. (Source)


@IksarHS It’s been nearly a year since The Core Set was rolled out. Will we be seeing big changes to The Core as we start the new HS year this year? Or maybe just small tweaks?

@blisterguy Big changes but I wouldn't expect it to drastically alter the way the game is played. The goal of the core set is partly to have interesting cards to choose from, but it's also to be the baseline set of cards to help introduce new players to the Standard experience. (Source)

@blisterguy So I'd expect there to be some powerful cards that players include in decks, but I'd also expect there to be many very simple and sometimes low power cards that are meant to teach and then eventually replaced. (Source)

@IksarHS @blisterguy A year ago I asked if the current Core cards would stay in our collection the following year or what would happen to those cards in our collection. I was told the team hadnt decided yet. Do you now know whether we will be able to keep cards that are not staying Core next year?

@BobHughes13 @blisterguy They will not. Think of all your core set cards as a blank card template that changes year to year. You'll keep all your core set cards, they'll just be new ones now. (Source)


@IksarHS Oh of course! I’m all on board with Core being that big flat Lego plate we build our fantastic creations on.

@blisterguy @IksarHS That's a really good analogy. I might use that in the future. (Source)


@IksarHS I know you said "a" question, but I have a couple. 1. Any ETA on Random Coins or Heroes? 2. Any plans to increase Tavern Pass XP for Mercenaries PvE, given it is the main way to train Mercs? 3. Any plans to make the shop more tailored towards individual players?

@IksarHS By more tailored towards individual players, I mean somebody who buys portraits quite often will see more of the portraits they don't own available in the shop. Or somebody who plays more of a certain game mode will see more packs/deals for that game mode.

@PixelPastimes 1 - No ETA but it's something I want and will put very high on the list to do. 2 - I don't know what the modifer is now, our intention was to have it be slightly lower than ranked, like BG or Arena. Is it that? If it is, no plans to increase. 3 - We do this already. (Source)


@IksarHS Hey dean, I know that the team recently went under some restructuring recently, do you have any thoughts on how that might change/improve things compared to how they operated before?

@ZombiesGoNomNom In the ideal case…. Less approvals, less meetings about who is available for what thing, more of the team doing the work deciding what to do and just putting it in the game. (Source)

@ZombiesGoNomNom So from a player-facing view, my hope is that we'll see more small improvements. Before, there were some many layers of people to request help from that it was hard to justify going through that ordeal for a small feature, we'd just move from one big thing to the next. (Source)


@IksarHS Naxx out?

@ZeddyHS hi zeddy hope you had a good holiday (Source)


@IksarHS If you haven't watched it already I really recommend giving castlevania a watch

@Lyiem2 I did, loved it. (Source)


@IksarHS How are things? Keeping it together now that you're a father?

@Busy_Peon Things are great. Happy, healthy family. Excited to get back to thinking about Hearthstone things, too. (Source)


@IksarHS @Celestalon Will there ever be a nazjatar expansion?

@AlexEcollings @Celestalon Interesting… very interesting. (Source)


@IksarHS Who is your favorite mercenary, and why is it me? https://t.co/hhrk2Dwhkj

@cariel_roame You were actually the first mercenary I got excited about. The first name I had for you on paper was Siobhan, but I think people have a hard time knowing the pronunciation of that name by reading it. (Source)

@cariel_roame Way back in the day, the idea on paper for the year was just 'the world of warcraft player leveling experience' one of the ideas that spawned from that was following a party of heroes (Source)

@cariel_roame The very first email pitch for the Alliance party from 1/12/2020. Changed a little, but not you, Cariel :) https://t.co/SlHOYwUWzx (Source)


@IksarHS @cariel_roame ūüėí I would say we are evenly matched

@VardenDawngrasp @cariel_roame Varden might be my favorite now. The way they do the Black Widow landing in the Alterac Valley cinematic is one of my favorite moments :) Thanks Varden you are OP (Source)


@IksarHS dont know if you can answer this but will we get a @Celestalon puzzle this expansion ?

@EliteLeafHater @Celestalon I wouldn't know, @Celestalon usually just puts stuff in the game and I find out about it later ūüėā (Source)

@IksarHS @EliteLeafHater https://t.co/LlSREfQqGB (Source)


@IksarHS During your career at Blizzard and @PlayHearthstone, what has been the most challenging/difficult design decision you had to make during the development of any XP/feature/etc. What is your #1 design priority for HS in 2022? Welcome back! Much love from Venezuela ūü§ć

@Gambito_HS @PlayHearthstone Most difficult might have been whether to make Demon Hunter temporary or permanent. I don't think people realize how close we were to DH being a class for a year then rotating out. Not sure if we made the right decision. The smartest designers I've ever known wanted temporary… (Source)

@Gambito_HS @PlayHearthstone Next year goals: Improve existing features more than add more layers on top of what we have. (Source)