It's always cool to get some perspective on some of the challenges the Blizzard team faces when dealing with creating new content. The League of Explorers focused around the new Discover mechanic which allows players to add one of three randomly selected cards to their hand. As we've...discovered over time, the selection pool is limited to your specific class and those that are neutral with a much higher chance of class cards being displayed as an option. Recently, IGN posted an interview with Lead Designer Ben Brode and Associate Designer Dean Ayala to discuss the rationale behind the release.

Major Points

  • Discover was originally known as "Treasure."
  • Discover was limited to class cards and neutrals so players could at least somewhat predict what could have been selected.
  • This change came late in the development process.
  • One of the very last changes Blizzard made to the mechanic was to increase the likelihood of drawing a class card.
  • This was mainly to allow each class to feel unique within the Discover keyword.

Major Quotes

We've hand picked some of the more select quotes that are much stronger without being condensed down to a single bullet point.
IGN: And in your initial discussions you were talking about where the card you chose would go. Would it go to the top of your deck, would it be shuffled into your deck, would it go into your hand? How did you decide what was the right fit?

Ben: Mostly just through playtesting. We tried putting it on top of your deck or shuffling it into your deck. Turns out that putting it on top of your deck was a real problem [in combination with] anything that dealt with the ordering of the cards in your deck. So many of the cards shuffled your deck – Forgotten Torch shuffles the Roaring Torch into your deck and that ruined any kind of treasure that went to the top of your deck.“
Whenever we put something on the top of your deck, you just know that you’re not going to get saved next turn. Or maybe you do you know... but it takes all the drama and excitement out of that draw...

Also, it took away the surprise of drawing the card on your turn, which is such a huge moment for Hearthstone. You can’t do anything on your opponent’s turn, but we could actually give you your turn draw at the end of your turn and it might actually speed the game up, because you could be planning your turn out on your opponent’s turn. We tried this out way back during the initial development of Hearthstone as we were trying to do things to speed up gameplay, and it just makes you feel so hopeless, because you knew, next turn you weren’t going to have an answer to the stuff your opponent was doing.

Whereas now you have hope throughout your entire opponent’s turn that you might draw that AoE or that big kill spell or something to save you from this bad position. So whenever we put something on the top of your deck, you just know that you’re not going to get saved next turn. Or maybe you do you know that you’re going to get saved, but it takes all the drama and excitement out of that draw, so putting these on the top of the deck just didn’t work.

Shuffling them in made them feel like... sometimes they mattered, sometimes they didn’t matter, so it was hard to value that type of effect. All that was left, really, was either putting them into your hand or putting them directly into play, or things like that, where you actually got to experience – immediately – the result of the choice that you made.
IGN: You guys are obviously very mindful of keeping the flavour of classes as well, so it makes sense to restrict the mechanic to within the boundaries of “how” a class plays.

Ben: Yeah, when classes start doing things that other classes do, we call that class bleed, because that unique thing that makes a class a certain way is now bleeding over to other classes. And sometimes that’s cool – you get to experiment with different flavours of things, like when a Paladin card pops out of Sneed’s Old Shredder all of sudden, that’s interesting. But it’s the kind of thing that’s good in the right amount, and because Discover was going to be the marquee keyword for League of Explorers, it was going to be on lots of cards, we felt like it was passing that line for us for how frequently that was occurring in games.
IGN: Discover’s also cool because it can be applied to different tribes and used in different ways, so there’s room for it to grow, I think, without it becoming a problem – of having too much Discover in the game. So I can see it evolving from here nicely.

Ben: Yeah, I mean, we have cards that draw you cards, but traditionally those have actually been a little bit dangerous for us - it enables you to set up combinations of cards that are fine when they’re at a certain level of consistency, but if you become too consistent, maybe those are a little bit dangerous. And also the game I think gets less fun when every game feels sort of the same. Card draw means you see more of your deck each game, and so the games start feeling more similar.

Getting a random card, through things like Unstable Portal, those still give you lots of options for what cards you’re playing, but they’re making games more different, which means every game you’re learning about new board states and trying to figure out how to solve new problems, so I think that makes Hearthstone more fun.

And this [Discover] is kind of the blend of both of them, where you are still getting cards that are maybe new to you and you have to figure out how to use the right way, but they’re not making the games less varied. And you still feel like you have a lot of control in how the games are playing out, they don’t feel too random, so it’s a really good spot between too consistent – and you’re seeing the same thing over and over again, and too random – where you feel like you don’t have any control over it. They occupy this middle space, which I think is pretty awesome.
For the entire interview, head on over to IGN.