Hearthstone: Boomsday Project - The Dr. Boom, Mad Genius Design Interview

Earlier today, Hearthstone players were introduced to the game's newest Hero Card. Now, join Shacknews, alongside Hearthstone's Peter Whalen and Hadidjah Chamberlin, to walk through the making of Dr. Boom, Mad Genius.


This has been quite the morning for Blizzard, particularly the Hearthstone team. Earlier today, Hearthstone Game Designer Peter Whalen jumped on stream with HCT caster/streaming personality Brian Kibler to reveal a handful of new cards for the upcoming Boomsday Project expansion. The biggest of these card reveals was the expansion's new Hero Card: Dr. Boom, Mad Genius.

Dr. Boom, Mad Genius was originally teased back during the initial Boomsday Project reveal video. On Monday, the new Warrior Hero Card was revealed in full:

(7) Dr. Boom, Mad Genius
Type: Hero
Class: Warrior
Rarity: Legendary
Battlecry: For the rest of the game, your Mechs have Rush.
Source: The Boomsday Project Card Reveal Livestream

(2) Big Red Button
Type: Activate this turn's Mech Suit power!

That's quite a powerful evil genius, but as one would expect, perfection doesn't come overnight. The bad doctor had to spend a lot of time in the lab to reach this point. In fact, Dr. Boom underwent quite a few changes on the road to becoming the big, bad, mech-riding explosives expert he is today.

Prior to Monday's livestream, Shacknews reached out to Whalen (still recovering from his time as a chicken) and Hadidjah Chamberlin to discuss certain elements of the Boomsday Project. But before long, the discussion turns to Dr. Boom himself, as we walk through some of his early iterations and his early art stylings before talking about the fearsome Hero Card he is now.

Shacknews: Tell me about the origins of the Boomsday Project. How did you come up with the theme and what made Dr. Boom the perfect choice to be the face of the expansion?

Hadidjah Chamberlin, Visual Effects Artist: Overall, for the Boomsday Project, we're going into the Netherstorm, where Dr. Boom has been working in his new, bigger, better, secret-er lab since GvG. He's there, he's got nine different labs running there, one for each class and each with its own Legendary scientist heading up the lab. Dr. Boom is, of course, heading up both the Warrior lab, and as you might guess, Boom Labs, with the giant "BOOM" sign on it. He's styled himself the big boss of the whole thing, with a whole bunch of new mechs and a whole lot of irresponsible science rolling around in there.

Shacknews: This is a bit of a fun question for me, because I'd like to know the origins of Dr. Boom himself. Hearthstone has taken so much from the Warcraft universe, but I believe Dr. Boom is a more original creation and I'd like to learn about how he came to be.

Peter Whalen, Hearthstone Game Designer/Ex-Chicken: He's not, actually! He's a Quest Mob in World of Warcraft!

Shacknews: Ooh!

Whalen: There's a Netherstorm quest associated him, he's the bad guy of it, you have to fight him and his Boom Bots. But he showed up in GvG and took on a life of his own. In the Hearthstone community, he really is the great villain. He was a great villain in the community, he was a super powerful card and is really a cool character that in the Hearthstone zeitgeist is this overwhelming figure. So when we were going to make the science deck, it made sense to harken back to Dr. Boom and have him be the one that's running this crazy lab.

Shacknews: Speaking of GvG, there seems to be a renewed emphasis on Mechs, which tells me that the Boomsday Project will not only add to the Wild decks, but it'll also offer extra synergies with a lot of those Wild decks. Was that one of the goals of the expansion, giving that extra appeal to Wild players?

Whalen: It was mostly a top-down design, and by that, I mean, it was a story-driven decision. We want to make the science deck and our most science-y minion type is definitely Mechs. So we wanted to bring Mechs back for this expansion and if we're doing that, we wanted to do that in a cool new way. So what was the thing we could add onto it? How has Dr. Boom modified his Mechs to be extra cool? That brings us to the Magnetic mechanic.

Magnetic means either you can play this Mech on its own or you could play it next to one of the other Mechs, to the left of another Mech, and they'll fuse together, granting all of its Attack, Health, and abilities. An example is Beryllium Nullifier, a Warrior Mech that's a 3/8. It can't be targeted by spells and Hero Powers and it's a giant Mech. You can either play that on its own or you can play it next to one of your Mechs and they'll attach together to grant that Mech +3/+8 and it can't be targeted by spells or Hero Powers.

Shacknews: Next, I want to talk about Stargazer Luna. Her effect is all about card positioning. Is this an idea that the team has wanted to implement for a while and will future cards also take that kind of card positioning into account?

Whalen: We like playing with a lot of different things. This being the science deck, we're experimenting with a ton of different mechanics. Luna is all about looking out into space and hoping that good things happen and trying to figure out the positions of the stars. So when the stars align and your rightmost card is playable and you can keep drawing your rightmost card and keep playing it, she's amazing. She does some really cool things and you can build your deck to play around that.

It's a lot of fun dealing with hand positioning. It's very different from minion positioning, because the way you control it is different, with the rightmost cards being the most recently drawn ones and the leftmost cards being that ones that have been there the longest, the ones that tend to be high cost situational stuff. There's a lot of interesting gameplay that comes from playing left or rightmost cards in your hand, so I definitely think it's design space we can explore in the future, as well.

The final version of Dr. Boom, Mad Genius

Shacknews: Now I want to move on to Dr. Boom, the Hero Card. This is a card that has clearly went through several iterations. How did the team decide on this final version?

Whalen: Because he's awesome! This is Dr. Boom in a giant mech suit! When we were thinking about what the fantasy for Boom is, we saw him in GvG standing on his own… how has he spent his time, what kind of science and research has been doing? Warriors are all about mechanical engineering in this expansion. And how has Dr. Boom done that? He's built himself the coolest suit of all-time.

But he's Dr. Boom and he's a goblin… so he doesn't quite know how it works? So he realizes he has this one Big Red Button and he jams it! And every turn, it's going to do something a little bit different. He fiddles with some dials and knobs over the course of the turn, but then you hit that Big Red Button and you hope it's something really cool.

The way Dr. Boom's Hero Power works is that every turn it changes into something different. And it changes on your opponent's turn, so they can see what it's going to be and they can react to it. And then on your turn, you can opt to use it. Whether you use it or not, next turn it'll be something different. So there's five different ones that it switches between and they're a lot of fun to use, but it's also a really cool story of Dr. Boom in his uber-suit, that he doesn't quite know how all the pieces work.

Shacknews: I want to touch on the Hero Power, because if there's one thing I remember from cartoons and kids shows, it's that there's always a big red button and that means it's something dangerous. Can you go into detail on what those five different abilities are?

Whalen: The abilities are Summon three 1/1 Mechs, Discover a Mech, Deal 3 Damage, Deal 1 Damage to All Enemies, and Gain 7 Armor. The Summon three 1/1 Mechs is especially interesting because of his Battlecry, which gives all your Mechs Rush. So that lets you deal 3 damage however you want among enemy minions, so you get to attack with those Mechs as soon as they come out.

The 'Infamous' Dr. Boom (first design iteration)

Shacknews: I'd like to talk about some of the earlier iterations of the Dr. Boom Hero Card. The first one is a bit of a curiosity. It's 30 Mana, but gets subtracted by any Mana spent on Mechs. But it doesn't have any other effects. Was the idea that the Big Red Button would carry him all the way through?

Whalen: So he had a Hero Power… I think his Hero Power was "Summon two 2/2 Kaboom Bots." And Kaboom Bots meant "Deal 4 damage to a random enemy" or "random enemy minion." I don't remember exactly. So it was like a Boom Bot, but it would always hit for 4.

The 'Infamous' Dr. Boom (second design iteration)

Shacknews: Now I'd like to get into the second iteration of Dr. Boom and that one looked a lot closer to classic Dr. Boom, which basically summoned a pair of Boom Bots. But while he was cheaper, he didn't come with the 7/7 body. So what made the team decide against this version of the card?

Whalen: Boom Bots have a lot of variants in them. This one was pretty cool, there's a lot of fun that's going on in Boom Bots. His Hero Power, again, I believe was "Summon a 1/1 Boom Bot," rather than the Big Red Button. The Big Red Button came later, along with the Battlecry.

This had some good things and some bad things. It wasn't really a buildaround. We like it when, especially our cool Legendary cards, are buildaround cards that can drive new archetypes that allow you to experiment with your collection in different ways. So the current Dr. Boom design that gives all your Mechs Rush is a lot better if you have Mechs in your deck. You could take advantage of that, this card becomes much more powerful, so you're inclined to put different cards in. But make sure that this only goes in some of your decks, rather than… every single deck is playing Dr. Boom. That's something that might have happened in the past at one point, so we wanted to make sure that wasn't going to be the case here.

In this case, the "Summon 1/1 Boom Bots" effect was interesting, but it didn't really drive you to build your deck in a different way. Either we could balance that so it's on the weak side, make it so strong that you're putting it everywhere… it's a little bit trickier and it's just not as interesting. Giving your Mechs Rush was just a lot more fun and the Big Red Button Hero Power is insanely fun. I actually really enjoy this, it's one of my favorite cards in the set. So once we hit on the story of "You have a giant button and you don't understand what it does," it blew the old designs out of the water.

The first three art iterations of Dr. Boom, Mad Genius

Shacknews: We've gotten very excited about Dr. Boom's mech suit and now I'd like to talk about how his art has evolved over the course of the set, especially juxtaposed with Dr. Boom's original look in Goblins vs. Gnomes. Tell me about how Dr. Boom's look has evolved leading up to the card's final reveal.

Whalen: Early on, we're trying to figure out what Dr. Boom is going to look like in this expansion. Finally, we settled on he's going to have a giant mech suit. He's going to be in this really cool powerful thing, he's going to feel like a Warrior, he's got the big, smashy claw, it's going to be really cool. So the question is, what's the best version of that?

In early concepting, we got pretty close to where he ended up. He's got the big, smashy claw, he's got the laser arm. Some of the stuff we wanted to evolve with was we got rid of the glass dome over his head, so that he was more "out there" and a big piece of the art. We fiddled with how many tentacle claws and drill arms and cool things are going on with his back and how many extra arms he has. It's a little over-the-top, maybe a lot over-the-top, because he's Dr. Boom and he's a mad genius.

A few color changes later and here's the final art for Dr. Boom, Mad Genius

Shacknews: Lastly, what makes Dr. Boom work best as a Warrior, as opposed to a different class or even a Neutral card?

Whalen: We talked a lot about what the best place to put Dr. Boom is. We asked around the team and some other Hearthstone players in the company and everyone had sort of a different vision for him. Some said, "Oh, he makes sense as a Hunter, because his Boom Bots are his pets and he really loves those Boom Bots." Other people thought, "Well, he's pretty evil, he was really the nemesis in Goblins vs. Gnomes, that makes him a Warlock." And other people put him in Mage, because Mage was a very Mech-y class in Goblins vs. Gnomes.

To me and to the majority of the people we talked to, Warrior made the most sense. He was this giant imposing figure, he would smash your opponent, he had these Mechs that he would throw around and there were explosions. It really made sense to us and felt like the Warrior fantasy.

We didn't want to do a Neutral Hero Card here. Having Neutral Hero Cards, especially while all the classes still have Death Knight cards in Standard, it's a lot. That's a lot going on with overlapping Hero Cards that are replacing each other. So restricting it to one class made the most sense to us, so it was just a question of figuring out, fantasy-wise, where he made the most sense. Having Dr. Boom in Warrior, who is really focused on giant Mechs in this expansion, made a ton of sense. And it fits in with his giant mech suit, which is a cool concept for him.

Hearthstone: The Boomsday Project is set to release on August 7. Shacknews isn't quite done with Dr. Boom, Mad Genius just yet, as we'll be giving him our full analysis shortly. Also, be on the lookout for our latest round of card breakdowns and analyses over the coming weeks, leading up to The Boomsday Project's release date.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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