Dual-Class Development: Scholomance Academy Interview with Blizzard Team 5’s Alec Dawson
Esports Inquirer caught up with Hearthstone Senior Game Designer Alec Dawson to talk about Scholomance Academy’s unique atmosphere, dual-class card development, and the creation of the Spellburst keyword.
Alec is a member of Blizzard Entertainment’s Team 5, the Hearthstone development team in charge of all ongoing game design.
Esports Inquirer: Hearthstone is known for taking World of Warcraft elements and infusing its own unique spin to them. The Scholomance was a dark academy for prospective necromancers of Scourge in WoW, but it’s depicted as a bright and bubbly campus open to everyone in Hearthstone. What inspired you to come up with such a twist?
Alec: Coming off of Ashes of Outland, we wanted to change the mood a bit. We entered Scholomance knowing that it was going to be brighter and more light-hearted than the version players know from WoW, as this reimagining of it takes place way earlier .
It wasn’t just the mood we were going for but it also made a lot of sense for us mechanically – when you imagine all 10 classes present at Scholomance, there needs to be a place for Warriors to train or an area for Druids to enjoy nature.
So on the surface, Scholomance Academy is a happy place, but don’t be too fooled, there’s plenty of darkness happening in the basement. I mean, just look at RATTLEGORE!
Esports Inquirer: The introduction of Dual-Class cards this expansion has led to a flurry of interesting card and class interactions, adding a new dimension of play to the game. How did you go about designing these cards? What kind of challenges did you encounter?
Alec: So we’ve toyed around with dual-class in previous expansions, but never got it quite right. I think it was back in Rise of Shadows that we had a very early iteration of what dual-class heroes could be and it turned out to be a lot of face damage in some combinations (looking at you, mage/rogue).
When we came into Scholomance Academy, we had the right setting to iterate further and actually landed on Priest/Warlock as the first combination early on. There was a great shared mechanical identity there with health changing so we had that one set then started building out a circle from there all the way back to Paladin/Priest.
The biggest challenges with dual-class cards are highlighting the mechanics and flavors from both classes on one card, it’s really hard! So early on we had two goals in mind with the dual-class cards themselves, two of the cards in each dual-class would really need to feel like a dual-class card. I’d put a card like Coerce in that bucket or something like Lightning Bloom, you wouldn’t see these cards outside of dual-class.
The other two cards in the dual-class then would be intended to drive a shared archetype and each class would interact with the card slightly different. So you may see Cutting Class in both Rogue/Warrior but how their weapon deck is structured will vary because of the tools available to the individual classes.
Esports Inquirer: The new keyword, Spellburst, fits into the Scholomance Academy’s narrative perfectly, but was there an instance in the expansion’s development period where you had a different keyword in the works?
Alec: We landed on Spellburst fairly early on as we had played around with another one-trigger in Ashes of Outland called Bloodthirst. A minion’s Bloodthirst effect would go off the first time it dealt damage to the enemy hero. We didn’t like how narrow the trigger for the effect was but we wanted to try out one-time triggers in the future and Spellburst came from that.
One mechanic that did slightly change though were the Studies. Originally Study was also a keyword and it would reduce the cost of your next spell by (1). Thematically there was something great with having a ton of minions studying up so you can pull off a big spell, but we wanted to pull back on the cost reduction and shifted over to the Studies cycle in Initial Design.
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