Ben Brode on the Word Random

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Ben Brode on the Word Random

There's been some discussion lately on the word random on card descriptions and there has been confusion that's gone along with it. Ben Brode took to the forums this evening to discuss how the word random is used on cards and some upcoming changes to the card text for some of the Curse of Naxxramas cards that we've previously seen.

      
These cards? They're getting description changes!

Quote from Ben Brode

Greetings!

I wanted to share a little bit of background on how and when we decide to write the word ‘random’ in a card’s description. I’ve seen a lot of discussion on this lately, and figured you might find our process interesting.

Here’s the strategy we (loosely) used when Hearthstone launched:

- Add the word “random” when the game chooses randomly from the battlefield or YOUR hand. (visible zones)
- Do not use the word “random” when the game chooses randomly from the opposing hand or a deck. (basically any hidden zone)

Examples: Thoughtsteal doesn’t use the word random, and it’s fairly obvious how it works. Alarm-o-Bot uses the word random because otherwise you might assume you could choose a target.

These rules can be broken, though. For example, if you add the word “random” to Lightwell, it becomes very hard to parse its text. “At the start of your turn, restore 3 Health to a random damaged friendly character.” There are just too many qualifiers. You’ll learn that it’s random after playing with it, and that’s ok with us. At least, it’s better than long and confusing text. Some cards include the word ‘random’ even when they don’t need it, like “Sense Demons” and “Mind Vision”. These cards are simple, basic-set cards, and for some reason the word “random” just feels better on these cards. 'Feel' is really important to how we write cards. Consistency is important, but somewhat less so in a digital game where the computer handles the rules for you.

The word I use for the rules of how a card is written is “templating”. Ideally, cards use a “template” for their powers. For example, we say “Whenever ____ happens, do this,” instead of “Do this whenever ___ happens.” That’s the ‘template’ for triggered powers. Templating is important because it helps you quickly understand new cards when they use similar templates.

We’re always re-evaluating our templating, and during Naxxramas development, I wondered if the word “random” was really necessary on Deathrattle triggers. I wondered if we could make the fact that you cannot make choices on your opponent’s turn more of a game rule, and then Deathrattle effects could haveimplied randomness, without making randomness explicit. Reducing text length has huge benefits for us (Making cards look less complicated, allowing us to make cards with more strategically deep effects, etc.), so I thought this could be good for the game. Some players did understand that these new cards implied randomness, so I do think it could have been possible, but a lot of players didn’t. A lot of players worried about how this would affect the new-player-experience, something that is critically important for us.

We love to hear this kind of feedback, and after a lot of discussion, we decided to return to our old strategy (as I detailed above). Voidcaller, Avenge, and Anub’ar Ambusher all have the word random in their card text now. If we make cards that pull from hidden zones (like Thoughtsteal), they’ll continue to not have “random” in their text. And we’ll continue to break our own templating rules where we think it makes the card feel better.

As always, the team loves to read your feedback, and while we may not always agree – we did in this case, and you’ve helped make the game better for us all!

Thanks,

Ben Brode

Comments

  • +1
    #37 goodnuffshow (Live Patch 5506)

    I would argue the word "choose" on cards implies randomness when that word is not included. A potentially more confusing wording scenario is "have" versus "give." Warsong Commander "gives" minions charge, meaning they keep it in their text after Warsong has left the field, so you can faceless a warsong-charged minion to give the copy charge as well. Tundra Rhino's beast minions only "have" charge while he is present, meaning it is temporary. Warsong's "give" means card play order matters, whereas Tundra's "have" means it doesn't; the beasts are charged whenever Tundra is played. I understand it just fine but this seems like something that could be misunderstood moreso than "random."

  • +1
    #36 Rabidwhale (Live Patch 5506)

    I am glad they finally clarified the wording a little for random effects, now I won't have to argue with people what is random or not.

  • +1
    #35 twochiefs (Live Patch 5506)

    Meh, I guess it doesn't hurt to add the word... but seriously, it's not that confusing.

  • +2
    #31 derelict360 (Live Patch 5506)

    The reason why you shouldn't let something like Lightwell slide is because it's unfair to the opponent who does not know that the effect is random. The negative impact of this isn't so apparent at this stage in the game because it's so early. But later on down the road when there's a bazillion cards, it could lead to some real and unnecessary frustrations.

    I'm honestly completely startled that the official response from Blizzard on this issue is that, "we're okay with players having no way of knowing the effect of the card until after they play it and have a chance to learn it after the fact."

    I understand that Blizzard likes to keep things easy and accessible to everyone. That's good. But sacrificing fairness on the altar of cosmetics is a huge wrong turn.

    Last edited by derelict360 on 6/7/2014 7:48:49 PM
  • +2
    #28 Smash83 (Live Patch 5506)

    "“At the start of your turn, restore 3 Health to a random damaged friendly character.” There are just too many qualifiers."

    What? I am sorry but lacks of consistency in wording is bad joke.

    Looks like it will not change.

  • 0
    #27 FunkyMonkX (Live Patch 5506)

    That's some sweet news!

  • +1
    #26 ramblingsimon (Live Patch 5506)

    I'm really glad that they are getting the description change. While it could be considered an "implied random", I did not think it was necessarily intuitive to all players. Sure, you would probably get it after the first time of playing the card incorrectly, but I think that it's an easier pill to swallow when you play a card wrong because you misread it rather than just not knowing that certain cards work a certain way and you just gotta know that there's a difference between the text of Anub’ar Ambusher and Youthful Brewmaster.

    Of course, I'm from the Magic: the Gathering camp, so it might just be that I love everything spelled out as much as possible, but I really think that while this adds more text to a card, it does help people understand the cards better and does a better job creating less "feel-bad" moments.

  • 0
    #21 Ilikemoba (Live Patch 5506)

    So Avenge is now random? That makes it kinda bad imo

  • +1
    #22 Molster (Live Patch 5506)

    it always was (random)

  • 0
    #23 PoeticStanziel (Live Patch 5506)
    Quote from Ilikemoba »

    So Avenge is now random? That makes it kinda bad imo

    Avenge was ALWAYS random, since it procced on a minion death. They are simply clarifying the obvious. For people like you. :)

  • 0
    #20 zura_janai (Live Patch 5506)

    Sense Demons is not a basic card

  • 0
    #17 Nickolotta (Live Patch 5506)

    Holy Wrath

    Is it just me or is the damage of Holy Wrath not so random?  Always seems perfectly distributed among targets, never dealing more damage to a minion than their current health.

    6/6/2014 11:20:39 AM

    Avenging Wrath

    Wrong card, sorry.

  • +1
    #18 madcatz1999 (Live Patch 5506)

    It deals damage one point at a time.  After it deals 2 damage to a minion with 2 health, it won't continue to deal damage to that minion.  But it still randomly picks every target among the ones that are still alive.  Just like Mad Bomber can't deal 2 damage to a card with 1 health.

    6/6/2014 1:23:37 PM

    It deals damage one point at a time.  After it deals 2 damage to a minion with 2 health, it won't continue to deal damage to that minion.  But it still randomly picks every target among the ones that are still alive.  Just like Mad Bomber can't deal 2 damage to a card with 1 health.

  • +2
    #15 Sonserf369 (Live Patch 5506)

    Clarity is very important in a game. I'm glad they decided to make the change.

  • +1
    #14 professorryze (Live Patch 5506)

    I don't know if this is a bug or I just have bad luck, but it seems like anytime I play Animal Companion, I always get Leokk.  Sometimes I get double Leokk a game even.  Is there a higher pick rate for him on the randomness setting or something lol?

  • -1
    #19 Urukai_ (Live Patch 5506)
    Quote from professorryze »

    I don't know if this is a bug or I just have bad luck, but it seems like anytime I play Animal Companion, I always get Leokk.  Sometimes I get double Leokk a game even.  Is there a higher pick rate for him on the randomness setting or something lol?

     

    Quote from professorryze »

    I don't know if this is a bug or I just have bad luck, but it seems like anytime I play Animal Companion, I always get Leokk.  Sometimes I get double Leokk a game even.  Is there a higher pick rate for him on the randomness setting or something lol?

    Nope. Either you're just fairly lucky and getting a slightly skewed result, or more likely your brain is using heuristics and playing tricks on you.

  • +1
    #29 professorryze (Live Patch 5506)
    Quote from Urukai_ »
    Quote from professorryze »

    I don't know if this is a bug or I just have bad luck, but it seems like anytime I play Animal Companion, I always get Leokk.  Sometimes I get double Leokk a game even.  Is there a higher pick rate for him on the randomness setting or something lol?

     

    Quote from professorryze »

    I don't know if this is a bug or I just have bad luck, but it seems like anytime I play Animal Companion, I always get Leokk.  Sometimes I get double Leokk a game even.  Is there a higher pick rate for him on the randomness setting or something lol?

    Nope. Either you're just fairly lucky and getting a slightly skewed result, or more likely your brain is using heuristics and playing tricks on you.

    My brain is not doing tricks.  If I would have recorded my stats from it, Leokk would be the vast majority of the time.

  • 0
    #30 PoeticStanziel (Live Patch 5506)

    Since you didn't record stats, you're just guessing.

    It is random. You just don't understand what that means.

  • 0
    #32 professorryze (Live Patch 5506)
    Quote from PoeticStanziel »

    Since you didn't record stats, you're just guessing.

    It is random. You just don't understand what that means.

    I know I can't prove anything to anyone without evidence.  Just like I can't prove to you that blue is blue.  Still that's absolutely no reason to insult me. 

    Last edited by professorryze on 6/7/2014 9:22:30 PM
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