Ben Brode on power creep in Hearthstone

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Senior Game Designer Ben Brode offered his insight on basic cards and power creep in Hearthstone in a new video.


The original video was first posted on Friday at the HearthstoneRU Youtube Channel, but unfortunately it has gone private ever since. A Reddit user has re-uploaded the video and you can watch it here instead. It lasts a little less than 10 minutes.


Below, you can read a summary of Ben Brode's main points:


Blizzard Icon Ben Brode

  • Upgrading a basic card makes a player feel powerful and it accomplishes a sense of progression. This is why basic cards are intentionally bad.
  • New players don't lose games just because they use basic cards. They lose because of the very fact that they are new players and therefore they lack skill and experience.
  • Ice Rager doesn't have an effect on the power level of the game, because it's not a card played in the meta. It's not actually a power creep.
  • Dr. Boom is better than War Golem, he does represent power creep. However, War Golem was already bad, it was never played and it would still not be played if Dr. Boom didn't exist.


The video is quite far from clarifying or even addressing the issue of power creep, especially with that last comment on Dr. Boom simultaneously representing and not representing a power creep. Perhaps this is the reason this video disappeared as quickly as it appeared.


Even though it was posted 4 months ago, feel free to check out

where he discusses quite thoroughly and accurately this hot topic.

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Ben Brode is actually completely correct here, there's a video by Extra Credits that explains the concept perfectly. Most people misuse the term Power Creep in regards to Hearthstone, things like Evil Heckler and Ice Rager are not Power Creep in the slightest.


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I still think he was (intentionally?) ambiguous, especially with the fourth and last point. The other points he made are indeed correct.


Anyway, the video seemed like it needed some rehearsing, Ben stumbled with words quite often. To be fair, maybe that's why it went private. :)

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Thanks for sharing that video, Sottle! It gives a great explanation of power creep and I believe Ben Brode was making the same point. While some new cards are indeed strictly better than previous versions, they do not represent power creep in any meaningful way if they have no effect on the game. The effect of Ice Rager and Evil Heckler on the game is virtually zero. They may be meaningful to brand-new players who decide to swap out Booty Bay Bodyguard for Evil Heckler, but will have no lasting effect as these players will later swap out the Heckler for an even better 4-drop (such as Piloted Shredder) once their card collection grows.


I think it's fine for the developers to have bad cards in the basic set (as Ben Brode noted the basic set also has some of the best cards in the game like Fireball and Truesilver Champion). And I think it's fine to give newer players better options in expansions by making strictly better versions of unplayable cards. Some people have called for "upgrades" to unplayable cards (meaning a change to the actual card stats, or the opposite of a nerf) rather than making new cards that are strictly better. To me, it doesn't make sense to upgrade basic cards. Cards from expansions need to be better than basic cards so that we feel rewarded for putting time into the game and earning new packs - the feeling of progression Ben Brode was talking about. As long as the strictly better versions don't increase the overall power level of the game, there is no meaningful impact and power creep has not occurred.


As for the Dr. Boom and War Golem comparison, I think most people would agree that Dr. Boom is the overall best 7-drop in the game. The creation of Dr. Boom can be considered power creep because his existence raised the power level of the entire game, and Ben Brode conceded that fact. Ben Brode's point, I believe, is that it's futile to compare two cards and yell "power creep!" Yes, Dr. Boom is strictly better than War Golem, but War Golem would not be played at a high level whether Dr. Boom existed or not (not to mention that one is legendary and the other is basic, so you would expect one to be strictly better than the other for purposes of reward/progression). The comparison of the two cards alone doesn't matter - you need to look at the impact on the overall game to determine power creep.

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The video is (a)live again in Hearhstone's Youtube channel:



I just think the issue of "power creep" (whether it's interpreted correctly or not) is closely connected to 2 other issues: 1) the game being flooded with more and more new cards as it gets older and 2) new players having trouble catching up. Especially for the 2nd part, I remember Ben Brode saying ~2-3 weeks ago that they have no plans yet to add a catch-up mechanic. Hell, I have been around since Beta and I have never bought a single pack with real money, and I even have trouble catching up (I've been particularly unlucky with packs).


The game already has a lot of cards as it is. Imagine in 1 or 2 years from now, with the rate the expansions keep coming. I don't expect anyone to remember or play cards like War Golem or Magma Rager, but what about cards like Sen'jin Shieldmaster or Sunwalker? They used to be the 2 best taunts in the beginning of the game. Sure, it's the nature of the meta to change all the time, but I think Blizzard needs to find a balance between the two sides of the problem. Otherwise, I think they will lose a lot of the players that don't play the game every day, but they play it occasionally and then they take a break for a bit and then they come back. And given the casual-friendly, approachable-to-all nature of the game these players probably represent a large percentage of the overall playerbase.

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