I wanted to share a little bit of background on how and when we decide to write the word ‘random’ in a card’s description. I’ve seen a lot of discussion on this lately, and figured you might find our process interesting.
Here’s the strategy we (loosely) used when Hearthstone launched:
- Add the word “random” when the game chooses randomly from the battlefield or YOUR hand. (visible zones)
- Do not use the word “random” when the game chooses randomly from the opposing hand or a deck. (basically any hidden zone)
Examples: Thoughtsteal doesn’t use the word random, and it’s fairly obvious how it works. Alarm-o-bot uses the word random because otherwise you might assume you could choose a target.
These rules can be broken, though. For example, if you add the word “random” to Lightwell, it becomes very hard to parse its text. “At the start of your turn, restore 3 Health to a random damaged friendly character.” There are just too many qualifiers. You’ll learn that it’s random after playing with it, and that’s ok with us. At least, it’s better than long and confusing text. Some cards include the word ‘random’ even when they don’t need it, like “Sense Demons” and “Mind Vision”. These cards are simple, basic-set cards, and for some reason the word “random” just feels better on these cards. 'Feel' is really important to how we write cards. Consistency is important, but somewhat less so in a digital game where the computer handles the rules for you.
The word I use for the rules of how a card is written is “templating”. Ideally, cards use a “template” for their powers. For example, we say “Whenever ____ happens, do this,” instead of “Do this whenever ___ happens.” That’s the ‘template’ for triggered powers. Templating is important because it helps you quickly understand new cards when they use similar templates.
We’re always re-evaluating our templating, and during Naxxramas development, I wondered if the word “random” was really necessary on Deathrattle triggers. I wondered if we could make the fact that you cannot make choices on your opponent’s turn more of a game rule, and then Deathrattle effects could have implied randomness, without making randomness explicit. Reducing text length has huge benefits for us (Making cards look less complicated, allowing us to make cards with more strategically deep effects, etc.), so I thought this could be good for the game. Some players did understand that these new cards implied randomness, so I do think it could have been possible, but a lot of players didn’t. A lot of players worried about how this would affect the new-player-experience, something that is critically important for us.
We love to hear this kind of feedback, and after a lot of discussion, we decided to return to our old strategy (as I detailed above). Voidcaller, Avenge, and Anub’ar Ambusher all have the word random in their card text now. If we make cards that pull from hidden zones (like Thoughtsteal), they’ll continue to not have “random” in their text. And we’ll continue to break our own templating rules where we think it makes the card feel better.
As always, the team loves to read your feedback, and while we may not always agree – we did in this case, and you’ve helped make the game better for us all!