Lead Designer Ben Brode discusses consistency in Hearthstone and why it’s less of a problem


Hearthstone’s series of developer videos have been fascinating, discussing various important parts of the game directly from developer to player. That’s not something we get very often out of the many-tiered communication network that Blizzard employs to stop leaks, embarrassments or other snafus. I’m glad for them as a fan of the game (and of Ben Brode’s presenting style), and that they’ve managed to make the jump over to Overwatch too. The latest is on consistency between card texts and their effects on the game.

Need a new deck? The best Hearthstone decks for beginners.

It’s the sort of deep-level stuff that won’t interest anyone that isn’t either massively invested in Hearthstone or card game development. As someone with far too much thought about both, it basically gets me high.

The main argument here has the same two sides as almost every single tough design decision in card games – should a card, mechanic or other controllable aspect be friendlier towards brand new players, or those who are already in deep? It’s a balancing act between giving your game depth and making sure that nobody is turned off before they find that out. It’s particularly important in card games because the nature of a PvP focus and booster packs means controlling the first experiences of your players is nearly impossible versus a more standard videogame. Tutorials can only last so long.

However, here I basically disagree with Brode wanting to focus on newer players. Those of us who have served longer can often find it difficult to understand that brand-new point of view, but in this case sacrificing a lack of consistency between the newer Druid cards and the first surely isn’t worth thevery minor benefit to readability of the card on first contact. In fact, I would argue that a player who is entering the game will find different wording far more distracting and confusing than that wording being slightly more complex. ‘Transform’ is also hardly the most difficult word.

As someone who comes from Magic, I also would disagree that because of the nature of a videogame consistency is less important. It is a literally true statement, but I think it’s insignificant. One of the draws of card games are that all the rules are laid out in front of you. While there is a random and prediction element to it, you should always know exactly what a card is going to do once you’ve read its card text. If two wordings are the same, they should do the same thing. If they are different, they should categorically notdo the same thing.

To use his specific examples, I’dargue that Ysera should show in-game what cards she can produce, in the collection manager if not while in a match. The discovery element in competitive multiplayer games, at least for me, is seeing what decks work and against what, how the games will play out, what random effects I will have to deal with – not what the possibilities of my cards are. There’s a specific difference here between not knowing what cards you can get until a few games of testing (Ysera, ETC, Mekkatorque) and knowing that it could be any one of a huge number of random effects, but being able to predict the average, best and worst cases (Unstable Portal, Piloted Shredder, Beast Wrangler).

My endless ramblings aside, what do you folks think? Or have you all fallen asleep? Wake up, Porkins.