During all of the holiday festivities, the latest Designer Insights video with Ben Brode was posted to the official Hearthstone channel and completely passed us by. It's an interesting video that takes in the importance of consistency and clarity of behaviour when designing card text and effects though, and so is well worth highlighting. If you're new to the game, you'll certainly find some of the tips about identifying Silence-able effects extremely helpful.
We've embedded the video below. If you'd rather read up on the insights though, you can find a quick summary of the key points throughout this article.
- Druid of the Claw and Ancient of War are highlighted as cards that appear - from the card text - to offer a similar choice, yet the former transforms permanently once on the board, while the latter can be silenced and have the effect removed. "They read like they do the same thing, but they don't do the same thing. They have consistent wording, but inconsistent effects."
- Digital card games can get away with this a little better than physical counterparts as the game can effectively be a "judge" and adjudicate and manage all this stuff for you. Ysera's a great example of this with her Dream cards - it requires exploration and the game will simply take care of the actual mechanics for you.
- Going back to Druid of the Claw and Ancient of War, the person playing them knows exactly what will happen - they'll get their bonus stats or effects. However, the opponent doesn't get any indication of how - say - Silence will work based on that same card text. The team approaches this problem by having the extra, impermanent buff effect highlighted in green. There are mouse-over hints too. Nevertheless, this affects new cards being introduced to the game - how should they behave when it comes to transformations vs buffs?
- The team had experimented with some interesting cards but abandoned them. One example given was a spell that either reduced a minion's Attack value to zero for a single turn, or instead dealt damage to any minions that had inflicted damage in the previous turn. "There was so much to it, that by the time you'd got to the second option, you'd forgotten the first." Instead they decided to keep the choices simpler, such as doing a lot of damage to one minion, or a little to a lot of minions.
- "If we were making a physical Hearthstone, we would have to say consistency was the most important thing...in a digital space, it is at least arguable to say you can sort other things ahead of consistency."
- With the release of future cards, consistency becomes even more important so that you understand what you're putting in your deck. If the team was designing Druid of the Claw today, for example, they would possibly have approached things differently. Druid of the Flame represents much clearer design, explaining the change as a transformation effect, rather than a stat buff. One day they may go back and retroactively tweak the text of these Classic cards that lack some of the current clarity.