Inside the Hearthstone community creating its own cards
Sometimes, a game inspires its player base. It's something a lot of developers dream of. When your fans get so involved in your work they voluntarily create communities around it, their love for the game expressed in a far deeper way than any review or compliment can. Custom Hearthstone is one such community. Founded on reddit back in the game's early days, the Custom Hearthstone subreddit has over 70,000 subscribers. Here, a group of people create their own Hearthstone cards. I've been a spectator for a while now, brought in by popular Hearthstone player Trump (not that one), but had never properly participated. So, I got in touch with some of the experienced folk on the subreddit in a bid to find out exactly makes Custom Hearthstone tick, as well as the variety of challenges and issues coming from running such a dedicated, involved community.
So, what is it about Hearthstone that gives the developers this luxury? I asked subreddit mods Maysick and Coolboypai about this. "It's a card game, so it has a much higher creative ceiling," says Maysick. "Hearthstone is one of the most successful collectable card games. There's a kind of hidden rule in the community that there's a maximum of four lines of text on a card." The simplicity of the game's design, and the fact it's so easy to digest a card's intention, both play a big role in making the custom community flourish. Coolboypai echoes this sentiment, stating: "Hearthstone may lack some of the mechanics and depth found in other card games, but restriction really does breed creativity."
The cards created range from your standard, 'hey, maybe this could be a card,' fare and meme-based cards to entire 130+ card sets. Real time and effort go into a lot of these - it's not just a throwaway affair. Last Christmas, Maysick posted a half-expansion of 71 cards around a Cold War/Christmas theme, even going so far as to add in a brand new complex mechanic. This is a consequence of Blizzard's restrictions inspiring innovation. The scope for new mechanics has not yet been explored by the developers, and just as Hearthstone brings in new card interactions with each expansion, fans are inspired to do the same.