Weekly Community AMA From Dean "Iksar" Ayala - Basic/Classic Set Rework, Reward Track, 2v2 Mode & More

 

Weekly Community AMA From Dean "Iksar" Ayala - Basic/Classic Set Rework, Reward Track, 2v2 Mode & More

Yesterday, Dean "Iksar" Ayala made another weekly community AMA on his Twitter account, where anyone could ask him any questions about Hearthstone and he tried to answer back.

Here's a summary of answers from this week's AMA:


Achievements

  • Current expansion achievements rewarding XP don't carry over to the next expansion reward track, because they think players would be forced to complete older achievements in order to level up optimally. [SOURCE]
  • They have a total amount of rewards prepared for each expansion and It's up to them where they want them to be. [SOURCE]

Audio

  • Sound has been one of the most consistently great aspects of their team for ages. [SOURCE]
  • Andy Brock is one of the only people on the team that has been around for 8+ years. [SOURCE]

Basic/Classic set rework


Balance/Design

  • The Coin looks and plays like a spell and historically going 2nd is a lot worse, hence there are no plans on making The Coin a different card type (to avoid Gadgetzan Auctioneer and other interactions). [SOURCE]
  • Juicy Psychmelon and Glide are probably the most recent examples of cards they knew were relatively weak to medium power level pre-release, but players thought they'll be game-breaking. Jade Druid was also a mostly middling deck that saw much more outcry for power level violation than was actually true. [SOURCE]
  • Casual vs Competitive player base [SOURCE]
    • It's difficult but necessary for big games to have a casual as well as a competitive player base.
    • You have to remain focused on building options for players rather than forcing them down a path.
    • If you create a great competitive feature, those players will find it and engage with it.
    • If you place it at the forefront of your game and force everyone through it, those that aren't competitive might have to engage in something that makes them not want to play anymore.
    • Having quests in Hearthstone to go play single-player content or BG is an example of this I think about. If a player doesn't like that content but we say hey here is a reward you better do it.... it toes the line.
  • It's only a matter of time until we'll have a 0 mana 1/1 Pirate in the game. [SOURCE]
  • Disruption stuff is cool, just not when it's the most powerful thing. Disruption usually has to be fringe in order to be generally acceptable. The goal is that players that love it have many options but players that hate it aren't regularly subjected to it. [SOURCE]
  • They're close to the limit of keywords they'd want in standard. When you have too many it starts to defeat the purpose of having them at all. A keyword they keep around for a long time needs to have a lot of design space and low complexity. If they add something in the future it's likely they'll look to axe one at the same time. [SOURCE]
  • Discover adds a lot to the game even though it's relatively high gameplay complexity. Lifesteal doesn't have enough design space for it to feel like a clear add, but the fantasy in places like demon hunter and warlock helps its case. [SOURCE]
  • Wild
    • Team is generally aware of common wild interactions so a lot of times a card that gets talked about never gets taken seriously because of how it would break the game in some way in combination with an old card. [SOURCE]
    • They don't change many cards for the sake of wild, but it does impact the type of cards they design in the first place. [SOURCE]
    • There's an extremely high chance that we will see wild changes within a year... extremely high chance (my thoughts: un-nerfs, nerfs). [SOURCE]
  • The team will email about or concept a ton of mechanics but only 5-6 ever get implemented and playtested seriously for each expansion. [SOURCE]
  • Most commonly they'll latch on to an idea and change it little by little until it's much different than the original version but keeps whatever the spirit of what they were trying to capture. [SOURCE]
  • We'll see more Hero cards in the future, they just don't want to have too many of them in Standard at the same time. [SOURCE] 
  • Generally, they are moving away from having too many resources in one card. When control matchups devolve into one infinite generator and 29 removal cards the game gets less fun. [SOURCE]

Meme

  • We actually received a letter from a young fan at some point about how much they loved dogs and how great it would be to have a dog expansion. [SOURCE] 
  • They ended their letter with something like: "I look forward to seeing more dog and dog-related cards" which then became a meme for many years until it was forgotten. [SOURCE]

Team 5

  • They hire designers, not players. Their background helps them have a unique perspective but the reason all of their former players were hired is because they displayed high potential for game design. [SOURCE]

Reward Track [SOURCE]

  • Iksar was pretty surprised by the initial outpouring of distaste for the system.
  • Even in its launched form, he thinks most players would find that they were earning more, it just wasn't 100% of all theoretical cases and it was a minor amount more.
  • He learned that clarity matters a lot when it comes to rewards, especially if players have felt burned by the system in the past.
  • Unless it's easy for someone with limited understanding to know that your new system is better, they probably won't see it that way.
  • Thinking that they were just going to hold back a bunch of rewards to give away later in events or through other fashions gave them the flexibility to learn about how people engaged, but he thinks that they were blindsided about how much that flexibility was going to cost them.
  • As the person responsible for a lot of that decision making, it's mostly on him. He thinks that players and dev, in this case, were mostly aligned on what felt like a rewarding amount of stuff.
  • So some issues in execution, some in communication.
  • If he could redo from scratch he's not 100% sure that doing XP for playing was the right call -  It makes the system much more complicated with questionable upside.
  • They're in a reasonable place now though.
  • Still going to improve in the next expansion.
  • You can be sure it's going to be extra clear that whatever changes they make are positive with little to no room for misinterpretation.
  • "Sounds a lot like I'm blaming players for not getting it, but it really is on us. Players shouldn't have to break out their excel sheets to understand something. It should just be clear right away."

New Ideas

  • They've been doing some brainstorming around what UI and Engineering cost would be to make craftable hero portraits a thing. This is TBD (to be done) for now but he thinks players would like it and he's all for finding ways for players to spend their currency. [SOURCE]
  • They plan on slowly expanding cosmetics to more sections of the game - for example, cards in general, but they don't want to overdo it because most of the players are playing cards based on visual muscle memory. [SOURCE]
  • They might print some hero portraits as minions in the future, but only if they have a special reason to do it. [SOURCE] 
  • They don't want to introduce louder visuals (similar to Runterra's cutscenes), because they don't want to end up in a situation where they feel like they can't add something important. [SOURCE]

New Timeline/Expansion

  • Work from home has been hard. If they'll be ready in March, the timeline we'll probably release then. If it'll stretching the team to the point where quality is slipping or the impact on the team is negative they'll move out till April or later. [SOURCE]

Modes

  • They're pretty happy with the current ranked system and Iksar likes that players spend most of their time going up. [SOURCE]
  • They've tried to brainstorm 2v2 mode at least 3 times. It's mostly UI and questions around the game flow. They had thought about things like simultaneous turns but never fell in love with the gameplay of something. It's still something he could see happening. [SOURCE]

Iksar

  • He feels a lot more comfortable speaking on behalf of the team than I used to. [SOURCE]
  • He thinks doing these AMA's every week seems to be too much because there's a lot of similar questions, hence people might be less interested in reading those recap posts. [SOURCE]
  • Twitter isn't for everyone but Iksar is content for now. [SOURCE] 
  • He might move to bi-weekly AMA's. [SOURCE] 
  • Most designers hired 10 years ago were in some right place, right time situation, these days people actually go to school for it! [SOURCE]
  • He had applied to game design roles on WoW and happened to be the #1 ranked NA Hearthstone player when Mike Donais needed a playtest partner because he was literally the only person in the final design at the time. [SOURCE]

Quote from Iksar

Which Hearthstone character would you be most likely to hire onto the Design team?

Elise seems like a responsible answer, I would trust her with project management. Dr. Boom sounds like a really creative guy that is into innovation (bombs mostly). Bob also seems really encouraging to work with.

50

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