The word "random" in card text.

Game Designer
Posts: 25
Greetings!

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!

Thanks,

Ben Brode
Edited by Aratil on 6/5/2014 2:35 PM PDT
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Okay, Random Ben (that felt necessary).
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TYVM. It's always enlightening and awesome when you post. I know you don't have time to do it a lot, but thank you for weighing in on this and on health back in the day.
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06/05/2014 01:55 PMPosted by Ulyanasaurus
Okay, Random Ben (that felt necessary).


Yup finally, the word random is being added to cards -- that's exactly what i have been hoping for!! xD
Edited by Lostsage on 6/5/2014 2:00 PM PDT
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Thanks for the insight and clarification, Ben! This information will help many players, both new and old.
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Thanks Ben! It's great to see much thought you put into these decisions, and it really shows in the game! And I think you definitely made the right call with this change - your initial thought process made a lot of sense, but the "feel" test is important and it didn't quite pass!
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That's good.

Next up: Immune
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It's nice to know that you listen to players' feedback. Good post!
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Good post!!!

Is the Naxxramas release date randomly going to happen? *nudge nudge, wink wink*
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- Hearthstone
Posts: 791
Thank you for taking the time to post this Ben.:) I always like seeing developer insight and the reasons behind things, honestly I think it'd be pretty cool if you could make time to do this more often.

Maybe a dev watercooler for hearthstone? I realize you have to weigh that vs. people trying to use your words to "trap" you though.

As for your post.... Personally I kind of think random should be implied through context, or otherwise implicitly stated.

So like in the example of thoughtsteal, it's pretty obvious you're getting two random cards from your opponent's deck. You're not gonna sit there and shift through 25 cards or whatever while your turn timer is ticking. On mindvision though, it might be less obvious.

I like the general idea of keeping card text short, but I also like it being fairly clear what happens before you play a card.

EDIT: I guess I should also say, I don't want you guys to feel like you're trapped in a "rule" of you must state a card has a random effect always. If a card needs room to explain what it does I'd rather you just drop the random and leave it implied.

Second EDIT: I also feel like a more important "rule" is that hearthstone is always a fast game. Anything that would slow down gameplay (choosing a card out of X), especially for the opponent, is always going to be random.
Edited by Jagos on 6/5/2014 2:23 PM PDT
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06/05/2014 02:13 PMPosted by Shelzin
That's good.

Next up: Immune


Like Ice Block and Gladiator's Longbow?

Ice Block: When you're about to take fatal damage, block it and become immune. Meaning you cannot take damage from any sources for that turn.

Remember, secrets cannot activate on your turn. So if you try to attack a Hunter who has Explosive Trap with a minion, you have 2 health, and Ice Block up, Ice Block will not save you.

Gladiator's Longbow: While you're attacking a minion with this weapon, you do not take damage. If you punch a 6/7 Boulderfist Ogre, you will deal the 5 damage but not receive the 6 in return. This does not prevent Explosive Trap from hurting you though, like the above example, if I recall correctly.
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Can you make this thread sticky?
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Ben, new Warlock (and Rogue?) Naxx minion works substantially the same as Alarm-o-Bot, should include the same wording for consistency, no?
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Side topic... Ben's forum icon is bad !@#$!!!
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Posts: 5,977
Thanks for stopping by Mr. Brode, and I hope you can clear something up for the community that has been confusing for some in the past.

06/05/2014 01:52 PMPosted by Ben Brode
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 is important because it helps you quickly understand new cards when they use similar templates.


In regards to templating, why do Druid of the Claw and Ancient of War have the same Template (Choose One - Stats A; or Stats B) but behave differently in game? Specifically, Ancient of War's chosen buff is vulnerable to silence but Druid of the Claw's chosen buff is not. Couldn't the word "transform" or something like that be added to the Claw's description to indicate the difference?

06/05/2014 01:52 PMPosted by Ben Brode
Consistency is important, but somewhat less so in a digital game where the computer handles the rules for you.


While it's true the computer handles all the rules, I should point out that it is useful for players to understand what will result from our actions as well. Clarity and precision of card text is still the front line of defense for letting players know what we are about to do. Just because the computer handles the rules does not mean the players don't need to know what they are.
Edited by Polaris on 6/5/2014 2:32 PM PDT
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06/05/2014 02:13 PMPosted by Shelzin
That's good.

Next up: Immune

What's wrong with immune? Have you yet to run into a case where a immune character is damaged by the attack value of the defending character?

Because that is all Immune affects.
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So you guys are too lazy to had the word random to text because its obvious after the first play?

Its random, just add the frigging word random lol. Keep consistency across the text. If an effect is random then you should say so. And you are breaking your own rule as stated a few post up. A card like the warlock and rogue's new cards dont state the minion that get summoned or bounced back to hand is chosen randomly when it choose randomly from the hand or field.

Your new cards contradict what you just said.
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06/05/2014 01:52 PMPosted by Ben Brode
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.


You've got this part backwards. Longer, more detailed text is pretty much necessarily less confusing, not more. Add in a "," between "random" and "damaged" and there's no way anyone who understands the English language could confuse that card text. Remove the word "random" and there's room for confusion.
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Posts: 611
Because the topic is randomness, i would like to ask (and hope you read it and asnwer it) is it possible to draw the card you just returned in mulligan.

The animation in the game and the way the action is performed implies so, you return a card first then draw, but a lot of players have been suggesting otherwise.
Edited by Prodan on 6/5/2014 2:36 PM PDT
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06/05/2014 02:32 PMPosted by Managarn
Your new cards contradict what you just said.


06/05/2014 01:52 PMPosted by Ben Brode
Voidcaller, Avenge, and Anub’ar Ambusher all have the word random in their card text now
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