10 Aspects Of Hearthstone's Design That Made It A Success

Mark had a chance earlier this year to talk to Eric Dodds, the lead designer on Hearthstone, Blizzard's rather successfully digital collectible card game (CCG). While Hearthstone is interesting in of itself, it's also intriguing from a development perspective, thanks to the somewhat different way it was designed. Dodds spoke at GDC 2014 about the methods his team employed to get the mix of elements in the game just right.

In his GDC 2014 talk, Dodds explains how fast iteration was one of the more important approaches Blizzard took when cooking up the title. "Certainly on Hearthstone we found that we had tons and tons of bad ideas that we needed to try and not do," he said. Along with the benefits mentioned in Mark's interview with Dodds, it also prevented a situation where the designers would ask programmers or artists to implement something, only to discard that feature later on, after time had been spent beating it into shape.

A great point Dodds makes that's an issue with more traditional collectible card games is their resource models. For example, in Magic: The Gathering, making sure you have enough mana-producing lands is a mandatory part of deck-building, despite being both boring and potentially complicated for newer players (at least when they delve into the maths of it).

With Hearthstone, Blizzard decided to make it so players gained resources automatically each turn, dropping them entirely from the construction process. "Putting resources in your deck is not nearly as exciting as minions and spells, so if I'm putting together an awesome deck and I want to go 'I'm putting fireballs and giants and dragons and ... resources'. It was just not as exciting."

Unfortunately, the clip doesn't support embedding, but you can head over to Gamasutra for the full 50-minute video.

Video: 10 pieces of Hearthstone design wisdom [Gamasutra]


    It's interesting that they actually consider things that many feel are strengths of other card games, weaknesses for their design. A lot of changes are what bring the skill cap on hearthstone down. Obviously I can't argue it makes the game more accessible, and if that's all they wanted sure, mission accomplished. I suppose it's possibly just business talk, the need to turn weaknesses into strengths, but I find I can only play the game while doing something else simultaneously or the game it's too shallow that it can't hold my attention.

    I can't actually think of a game I've felt less satisfaction for upon reaching the equivalent of legendary in hearthstone. Nor can I think of another game that has so strongly felt less and less skill based the longer I play, usually it's the other way, you notice nuances that allow for greater skill based play, at least to a point. I still enjoy the game, I do an arena run or my dailies while watching something on youtube for an hour at a time, but as a casual TCG player and former croupier... well I other than accessibility I fail to see the draw over more interesting, balanced, skillful card games, I certainly don't find watching Trump's insane lucky streaks overly interesting to watch.

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