Hearthstone: 10 Rules Of Great Design

Today we'll look at some of the design rules used for the production of Hearthstone. 

These techniques were originally shared in a 2014 GDC talk by former Blizzard designer Eric Dodds.

1. Iterate Fast

It's okay to have a lot of bad ideas but quick iterations will help you decide whether your idea works or not. Sometimes it's even better to just leave your designers alone and let them test things on paper without asking your engineers to build a prototype. A good idea is to test a couple of flash prototypes before you go too far - this will help you save time and money. 

2. Share The Vision

Everybody on your team is going to be participating and working on your game, so sharing design documents, discussing ideas and giving new teammates all the available information is the best way to organize your work. When everybody understands the big vision, you can be sure that you don't have to deal with problematic design choices. 

3. Simplify

You have to be constantly questioning your game's basics. Examine if every element works without any complications for players. Another good thing is to eliminate any exhaustion for players as that's not a thing that attracts people. 

Chris Crawford on Game Design focuses on the foundational skills behind the design and architecture of a game. The author tried to explain the foundational and fundamental concepts needed to get the most out of game development today. 

Moving on to a next point...

4. Keep It Deep

Whenever you're simplifying a game, focus on removing complexity rather than removing depth. You have to understand the difference between these two things. The first one means that your players might have a hard time trying to understand how the basics, while the depth part means that starting to play is not too difficult but your game has to give enough reasons to keep playing and mastering mechanics, trying to think of new ways to beat AI or other players. 

5. Immediate Fun

Learning is normally fun and you have to make your players excited about your game's mechanics right from the very beginning. You should keep the text short and use context, for example. DOn't make introductory messages short as you don't want your players to get bored in the first five minutes. 

6. Embrace The Medium

This rule might not work for you, but when they were designing Heartstone, a game that moves a traditional card game to a digital space, they had to keep in mind that not all the traditional rules work in digital games. For example, there's no instant dialogue between players and that might complicate things if you want to keep players entertained. 

7. Don't Change Too Much

Make sure that your game features all the elements players are expecting to see. You don't have to explain those things and that's the best thing for any designer. Anyone who has ever player first-person shooters wants to jump and to crawl, throw grenades - that's obvious, but some teams forget about the essentials. 

Greg Costikyan, an award-winning game designer, explains that games require uncertainty to hold players’ interest and that the ability to master uncertainty is one of the most important keys when designing games. The author states that game designers should “harness the idea of uncertainty to guide their work.”

Three more tips below! 

8. Support Player Stories

Focus on your players' stories and don't build your game exclusively around your narrative. Games are this magical thing that people experience together with their friends, family or just some random internet users. A good thing would be to add some exciting features players could discuss all night long. 

9. Emotional Design Matters

It's very important to pay attention to the emotional state of your players as they're playing the game and as they're encountering things in the game. Sometimes, there's emotion in unexpected places and that can both hurt or enhance the experience. You should be constantly trying to identify those things. 

10. Little Victories

In a player-versus-player game, it's very important to give players moments when they feel like they did something badass and changed the course of the game. Please note that this final rule can only be applied to a player-versus-player game.

Make sure to watch the full talk for more tricks. 

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