Ben Brode on Basic Decks New Player Experience
In a reddit thread which asked for a revamp of basic decks, Ben Brode came out to discuss some philosophy behind them.
- Basic decks should include the basic cards classes come with.
- Players should start with a lower power level so that they can progress more. Higher power initially = less progression.
- Allowing players to edit their basic decks helps introduce players to deck building earlier. Deck recipes also helps!
- Casual mode keeps new players together for an amount of time and does a good job at giving players a 50% winrate even with low power decks.
- Allowing new players to access ranked early on may be a fault of the system and not basic decks themselves.
Quote from Ben Brode
Those decks (and I believe you're talking about the ones players unlock when they first unlock a class - we call them 'Basic Decks' internally) have some specific goals.
- The decks should include the basic cards that you unlocked when you unlocked the class. There are 5 of these so 10 cards in each deck are class cards. This is a little light, and with any less a deck could just feel like a deck of all neutral basic minions. There aren't any swaps to make besides neutral minions because players don't own any other class cards yet.
- The power level should start fairly low. We quickly give players new basic cards and classic packs. The feeling of earning new cards and making your deck better makes the early part of Hearthstone a lot more fun. Starting at a higher power level means less opportunity for progression.
- Building a deck is one of the biggest hurdles for new players. A year ago, you had to start from scratch, and we made a change which gave new players editable decks (instead of empty slots) so that their first deck building experience would be taking out Magma Rager and putting in Frost Bolt. (Or something similar). The Innkeeper gets up in your face to recommend you add it to your deck and we glow buttons to guide you to the right place. This flow (we think) is better than starting from scratch in a world where some players may not understand the concept of a mana curve yet. Putting a couple obviously bad cards in the decks makes this first edit hopefully a little easier. To give you some context, new players who used our old auto-deckbuilder (which we've since improved, it was essentially random except for a basic mana curve before) were much more likely to win games than those who built their own decks. The addition of deck recipes (especially the 'classic' ones) was also intended to help with this problem.
- Giving new players powerful decks only helps if they are playing against players who aren't also new (because otherwise they are both using low power decks, which is fine). In Casual, we only pit new players against other brand new players for a period of time, unless a player's collection passes some internal metric that makes them unsuitable to continue playing in that matchmaking pool. Even outside of that, player win percentages in Casual are close enough to 50% that we aren't seeing major detriment from lower power decks. Note that this definitely wasn't always the case. We've been making big improvements to the new player Casual Matchmaker experience since many of you may have started playing, and this is a continuing area of focus for us. Ranked is another story. Because we match on stars (and not MMR, except for Legend), we don't currently differentiate between new players and those that just haven't played in long enough to drop to rank 25. This is either a failing of the ladder system or the fact that we let new players screw themselves by unlocking Ranked too early.
I do think there is a lot of room for improvement in our new player experience. I just wanted to help give some context for where some of our goals are (or have been in the past).