For the first time in a long time, the first major balance patch after an expansion brought no nerfs. Instead of changing cards, Blizzard is adding them. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to change anything between now and the subsequent expansion. Hearthstone’s parent company is keen to look not just at the relatively healthy raw data, but also at experiences. Is the meta fun? Are certain cards frustrating? Are some decks too aggravating? But one key question remains. Is it right for Blizzard to balance around emotional reactions rather than cold hard evidence?
First off, it’s important to realise that empirical evidence can still involve feelings. Traditionally, metrics (especially community sourced metrics) track only things like winrate, game length and other easily measured aspects.
But data can involve how people respond to the game as well. It could be possible to track things like how often players switch decks, how long they play for, whether they concede or alt-f4 out of frustration. We don’t have to divorce the actual experience of playing from measurable metrics. Hearsay and angry Reddit posts are not the only way to gauge a deck’s impact.
“Rock is unfun, buff scissors!”
However, even mass data collection cannot discount the impact of bias. Players who prefer specific playstyles can often have a warped perception of what strategies are “unfair”. Control players may despise combo decks not out of dislike of the gameplay involved but simply because they lose more. Similarly, other archetypes may harbour hostility towards the decks that hard counter them. This would make accurate measurement of a deck’s “fun factor” extremely difficult.
Not necessarily impossible, however; as winrate-adjusted opinions (particularly between relatively even matchups) could still provide a huge amount of insight. A Token Druid main will likely have a great many more interesting things to say about the experience of playing against Deathrattle Hunter than a Control Warrior fanatic.
Time for tips?
One possible way for Blizzard to introduce a method of tracking how players feel about games and decks would be to introduce a “tipping” functionality. If, after a fun Ladder game, you had the opportunity to send the opponent a token amount of gold, it would be an interesting way to see what players appreciate playing against.
Not only would this help gather information, it would also be a great way of introducing more ways to be friendly with our anonymous opponent, and to let them know that you appreciate their more wacky decks (or to apologise for your own outrageous RNG).
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