For Hearthstone, Knights of the Frozen Throne Is All About the Future [SDCC 2017]

Get ready for another set of new cards and changes to one of the most popular card games around. Hearthstone fans are prepped to receive another boost in the form of Knights of the Frozen Throne, a new expansion that’s bringing 135 new collectible cards and new adventures.

The expansion is part of a new plan by developers to release a few missions with every new expansion, meaning we’ll be seeing more than a hundred cards with every add-on, rather than just forty five. This increase in card quantity means Hearthstone's meta is going to change far more often.

“We’ve seen that the expansions with just forty cards were enough to push the meta,” said Jason Chayes, Executive Producer at Hearthstone. “With 140 there is a lot more room for strategy, deck types, and class change.”

Like many other popular multiplayer titles, Chayes and his team have a lot of work to do after an expansion is released to make sure everything stays balanced and fair. And for the Hearthstone team, change primarily comes from data and analytics they’ve gathered as well as feedback from the community about what isn’t fun to play.

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Similar to other expansions before it, Knights of the Frozen Throne is expected to change things up quite a bit in the bigger Hearthstone realm with hero cards, which have battle cries, can add armor or heal, and make your hero power much stronger. Once the expansion releases in August, the developers will utilize statistics in order to deliver balance patches. “We see what’s very popular, what has a high win rate, what’s not seeing lot of play,” said Chayes “We have a lot of actual play data that’s informing our team.”

Buffing and nerfing based on collected data isn’t anything special in modern game development, but Hearthstone is going one step further by considering the qualitative experience.

Hearthstone is going one step further by considering the qualitative experience.

“We don’t see and end in the future at all,” Chayes said. They plan to continue to support the card game as long as people are playing it. And in order to serve those players better, they’re focusing on how balance affects the feel of the game, not just the fairness."

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“Sometimes we make changes based off more than how a deck is performing,” Chayes said. “A deck could have a low win rate, but it isn’t fun to play against it. If it doesn’t feel good, we may make a change.” For example, the Freeze Mage deck was changed after the team received feedback on how bad it felt to play the deck since it limited your ability to interact with different minions on the board and use certain types of cards."

A game like Hearthstone won’t have a long lifespan if it doesn’t continue to be fun, even if it remains relatively well balanced. And with all the future plans that are mapped out for it, developers will need to be making tweaks constantly.

“It’s a good thing when new cards come out and shakes up the meta,” Chayes said. “That’s what we’re always trying to do.”