Hearthstone Battlegrounds designers discuss the mode finally leaving beta, improving customization options, and upcoming heroes

Alec Dawson and John McIntyre shared their design insight into Battlegrounds' newest inclusions and discussed the future of the mode.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Hearthstone’s Battlegrounds mode marked Blizzard Entertainment’s entry into the autobattler genre and has become a popular alternative to the constructed format. The game’s latest major update aimed to shake up the Battlegrounds meta in a big way.

Patch 20.0.2 went live on May 4, adding three heroes and introducing a new minion type, Quilboars, which gathers strength through the use of Blood Gems. But this is hardly the first time Blizzard has thrown a curveball at Battlegrounds fans since the mode was released over a year ago back in November 2019.

Despite being out for over a year now, the mode is still considered to be in a beta state even with how full-fledged Battlegrounds has felt with rotating minion types and even experimental phases where spells entered the mix.

Hearthstone game designers Alec Dawson and John McIntyre spoke with Dot Esports about the present state of the game with the recently added Quilboars, as well as what the future of Battlegrounds looks like, from when to expect new features to teasing the next set of heroes.

In regard to Hearthstone Battlegrounds still being considered in beta, is there a decided timeframe of when it will enter its “1.0/out of beta” state? Additionally, what does a non-beta Hearthstone Battlegrounds look like in terms of features and other goals for the completed mode?

Alec Dawson/John McIntyre: Nothing to announce yet, but we’re approaching 1.0 status. For us, it’s always meant making sure Battlegrounds feels like a full-fledged mode with the support of something like our expansions, in terms of both features and content.

Battlegrounds Parties was an example of a step in that direction and we have some things in the works for later this year that will get us even closer.

The eighth minion type has been added to the game mode. Is there any fear that adding any more minion types may overwhelm users with information overload on how many different pieces they’ll need to learn (even factoring in the shifting minion pool) or is the number of minion types reaching a potential limit soon?

When we add new minions or minion types to Battlegrounds, we make sure that you’re able to understand how they function fairly quickly. Battlegrounds is more about finding the synergies between minions rather than needing an encyclopedia to understand how all the pieces work on their own.

Quilboars are a great example of that goal. On their own, they have a fairly straightforward function, but when you start putting the engine together you get this nice element of resource management that feels fresh.

When it comes to any sort of minion type limit, when we add a ninth type, we’ll strongly consider rotating one out for a season. When we start excluding nearly 50 percent of the minion types, you’re more likely to be disappointed if your favorite isn’t there. So if you are that person that only wants to play Murlocs, you should be able to try that in most of your games.

Some third-party apps bring some interesting information/features to the mode like “Warband seen last time from the enemy, percentage of winning/losing and average damage dealt/taken, and available minion lists.” Has there been any consideration put into bringing some of those modules into the client itself?

We played around with the idea of more information such as last warband seen but think it takes away from what we find the most fun: your interaction with the shop. You’d sit there agonizing through your turn since you had so much info. Yeah, there’s some room to allow players to feel smart in making the best warband arrangements, but there’s also a lot of room to freeze up because you’re not sure what to do.

When it comes to anything else like win percentage predictions, there’s a limit to how many stats you throw at players before it feels like you’re playing a spreadsheet simulator. That’s not really what we’re going for.

One criticism the community has for the mode is the current monetization structure for Battlegrounds. Those without Battlegrounds Perks feel bad that they miss out on a notable piece of the fun gameplay of picking out four heroes when they can only pick out from two, and those with the perks feel that the “Extra Stats” tab doesn’t provide enough meaningful information for trying to improve at the mode (even if it gives fun statistics). Is updating the monetization for Battlegrounds on the radar currently for the team? 

We’re actively working on this and we’ll be revealing some of the first steps in the next expansion cycle; there’s some great stuff that the art team as well as Chadd Nervig and Matt London have been working on.

When we talk about Battlegrounds being a full-fledged mode, customization options are on the list of what makes that vision come together. The players have been asking about cosmetics for a long time and we’re going to start delivering.

Battlegrounds has been independent in how its ranked system has been done from Hearthstone’s constructed formats by showing numerical ranks immediately instead of stars. But have there been any potential updates to include end-of-season rewards with major content updates or showing stats that say how you rank up against the rest of the Battlegrounds ladder in client?

When it comes to end-of-season rewards, we want to be able to give you Battlegrounds exclusive rewards. There’s a lot of players who primarily play Battlegrounds, so while packs are great for players who dabble in both modes, we want to give out rewards that showcase the mode.

More coming soon.

Is there any chance for the introduction of a non-ranked mode so players can experiment more in the mode and have fun/go achievement hunting?

If we did a non-ranked mode, it would be a place where we experiment a bit with the rules and different affixes. There’s a lot of potential there to try some wacky things and then see if any of the new rules are popular enough to make it into the main mode.

Do you have any fun tales of development stories getting weird or scrapped minion/hero ideas that are able to be shared?

One thing we tried early on was having Deathrattle/Reborn as themes in Quilboar alongside Blood Gems. It’s fun when minion types have overlapping synergies because it makes the combinations of minion types more interesting and we thought we could do that with Deathrattle/Reborn.

We found that the Blood Gem mechanic actually filled this role by itself because they can buff any minion and are more compelling with Divine Shield and cleaving minions. The overlapping synergies goal was already being served with Blood Gems so we cut their Deathrattle/Reborn synergy minions to focus on what made Quilboar unique, Blood Gems.

We want our new Mercenary characters to have a presence in Battlegrounds. When thinking about Guff designs, we wanted to play up the fact he is a big teddy bear. We talked about a Hero Power that was “Pacifism: Tie your next combat. (Usable twice).” It sounded very funny but the gameplay isn’t that interesting and it slowed the game down too much.


You can try to master the secrets of the Quilboar yourself since Hearthstone Patch 20.2 is live now.