We sat down with Blizzard's Dean Ayala and Derek Sakamoto to chat all things Hearthstone. We are publishing this now due to issues with audio and video, but know that our readers will appreciate the information within!
MMORPG.com: Many players are frustrated that The Grand Tournament didn't do enough to change the metagame. Aside from some Dragon decks and Secret Paladin, decks haven't changed all that much compared to pre-TGT. Do you agree with this assessment? What's your post-mortem of the expansion been like internally now that things have had time to settle?
Dean Ayala: I don’t necessarily agree with that. Like you were saying there is some Dragon Paladin, there is Secret Paladin, lot of people experimented a lot with the Inspire mechanics in the beginning of the expansion. I think towards the end of adventure cycle or expansion cycle, people are ready for something new. I think towards the end of the cycle, things sort of start to get stale and you really want something new, and that’s what this announcement is about at BlizzCon. We’re announcing 45 new cards and an adventure. I think the people that are starting to get a little bit disappointed with running into the same things over and over again, this is the time, we’re releasing the new adventure next week, so there’s a lot to look forward to.
MMORPG.com: The new Discover mechanic adding even more elements of RNG to Hearthstone when many in the community, including pro players, have been pushing back at the steady increase of RNG elements in Hearthstone, particularly with TGT. What's your take on the role of randomness in Hearthstone? And can you talk about the design goals of the new Discover mechanic more broadly?
Dean Ayala: I love Discover, it’s great. You’re right, there are some random elements there. I think that for the people that don’t necessarily enjoy really high impact randomness, where sometimes you get something really bad, or sometimes you get something really good, this is the type of randomness those people might enjoy. Not only is Discover, it’s good because, introducing some randomness cards, you get to see stuff that you don’t necessarily get to see, like when you cast an Unstable Portal, who knows what’s going to happen? I think a lot of the reason people get upset or disappointed with their ladder experience is running into the same things over and over again. Having certain elements of randomness really help that, but also with Discover, it also introduces a lot of interesting choices to make. As it turns out, even though the cards are random, the type of card you might get, or the power level of the card you might get, is actually fairly consistent, so you can expect to get something you’ll be able to use almost every time you cast a Discover card. I think that that’s really interesting. Lot of interesting choices. Lot of really high strategic value. And also, you get to see a lot of stuff you haven’t seen before.
MMORPG.com: Is the element of surprise something you’d consider as a core part of Hearthstone as a card game then?
Derek Sakamoto: Yeah, I think that’s a definite part of our core [unclear]. The game is surprising, there’s delightful surprises in our game. There is this element of randomness that also provides a lot of player story. That’s something like we’re really interested in, because if it’s a zero-sum game all the time, that’s maybe not necessarily interesting to watch.
MMORPG.com: Yeah. How do you make a card game fun to watch on YouTube? That’s how.
Derek Sakamoto: Right. You wouldn’t have these Trollden Top 10 Plays, these kinds of things that I think that really get the community engaged, and get more casual players engaged, because it’s exciting.
MMORPG.com: How about talking about some of the decks you’ve been using with the League of Explorers cards?
Dean Ayala: Reno Jackson is awesome! The effect Reno Jackson has on your deck, he heals your hero to full. That’s a really crazy, super powerful card text, right? But what is the cost? The cost is basically you’re creating a deck that no one’s ever really seen before. The kind of deck that has only single cards in it, not including doubles of any card. Hasn’t really existed in Hearthstone yet. I don’t necessarily want to spoil exactly how I’m using it or how we’ve been using it. It’s just fun to have people figure it out on their own. And who knows what is the best class for that card? Very rarely are we going to find the very tip top best decks. We know, in general, what people are going to create. But the community, people out there are going to be fine tuning a deck. They are going to find the best version of it. And that’s really exciting for us to see. The kind of decks that Reno is going to create is really exciting. It’s going to be all kinds of different ones. It’s not going to be one specific kind of deck, but all different ones.
Derek Sakamoto: I’m not what you call a competitive player, so the decks I play mainly are super gimmicky. I play Mill Rogue and Iron Juggernaut Warrior. So, cards like Brann Bronzebeard, which makes your battlecries go twice, with something like Iron Juggernaut, that’s two mines in your deck, or Coldlight, that’s both players drawing four cards.
MMORPG.com: Can you talk about what the cards in the League of Explorers adventure mode are supposed to do for the different classes? What goals do you have in mind?
Dean Ayala: Creating cards for any set, for any expansion, it’s not necessarily about filling different holes classes might have. We just want people to play new things that they’ve never done before. Create new decks that you’ve never seen before. Vary the experience on ladder. Decks that include Reno, you’re never gonna have seen those decks before. Finley is a card where he sort of changes the layout of the game after you play him. The game just does not play the same after you play Finley. So, just new things, new decks, exciting stuff, just creating decks that you haven’t seen before. Creating fun stuff. That’s really it.
When someone has an idea, that’s like, “Oh! This is actually going to spawn a really cool new thing. “Let’s put it in this class, like maybe Rogue has played really the same for a long time. Deadly Poison, Tinker’s Oil, Blade Flurry, and then a lot of the same cards. So, when you give them a card like Unearthed Raptor, I would consider that card very high power, but in order to make use of that card you have to include Deathrattle cards. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a Deathrattle Rogue on the ladder? Hasn’t happened before. When we include a card like that, it’s definitely with the intention of, we really hope people will create this deck. I think they will.