Hearthstone is looking to freshen up its popular Battlegrounds mode with a new way to play. Battlegrounds Duos is not only a friendlier way to enjoy the minion-battling game mode with friends, but it has opened up some exciting gameplay possibilities. The face (faces?) of Duos' potential is Cho'Gall, the fearsome two-headed ogre mage. His clever design was a key point of discussion at BlizzCon on Friday during a group press interview, where the Duos development team went over some early incarnations of the character, why his current iteration works so well, and what else they hope to see come to this newest Hearthstone game mode.
"[Cho'Gall] was [designed] for Duos specifically," Associate Game Designer Jia Dee said during Friday's group press interview. "I'm a recent addition to the team, so I'm not sure about the entire history, but the first I heard of Cho'Gall in Hearthstone Battlegrounds was for Duos mode. And, yeah, I think it really fits. Amongst the Duos hero pool, they're the only ones that kind of share one Hero Power between them and we thought that was very core to the identity of Cho'Gall."
The Cho'Gall Hero Power in Battlegrounds Duos, called Double Trouble, is quite simple. Both Cho and Gall play as normal, but if either one collects a triple minion and creates a Golden minion, both players will receive the associated reward. It offers a greater incentive for teammates to search for triples and also pass along any missing pieces to one another. It's also a perfect illustration of what Duos is capable of delivering in terms of a tandem experience that the standard Battlegrounds mode cannot.
"We very deliberately made the choice to never make a Cho'Gall hero because we wanted to save it for Duos," Senior Game Designer Mitchell Loewen added. "We spent a lot of time iterating on it. I think it's probably one of the heroes we had the most different versions internally while testing, because we really wanted to make sure that it was a fun, unique experience that was taking advantage of that new design space that's opened by a two-player mode."
There were several Cho'Gall ideas that didn't quite make the cut for Duos. Dee talked about a version of the Hero Power where Cho would buff attack while Gall would gain Gold. Loewen expanded on that, explaining that a button would swap Hero Powers between teammates, allowing one to gain extra Gold and the other to buff their board. It's an idea that ultimately fell apart, because while two heads fighting amongst each other is totally on-brand for the Cho'Gall character, it didn't exactly translate to fun. Nor was that true of the next idea that the team tried out.
"I think probably the wildest idea we tried was, you share everything," Loewen explained. "Like, all your gold, everything is shared. It was so chaotic because it would be like, 'Oh, I'm going to tier up,' but then your teammates spent your gold already so you can't tier up. Maybe there's something there for us to explore in the future. Who knows? But, it was a pretty hilarious experience."
Once the team landed on Cho'Gall's current iteration, the character became a shining example of the design possibilities that Duos has to offer. The Hearthstone team hopes to expand on the foundation laid out by Cho'Gall. Dee hopes to see companion characters from across World of Warcraft somehow find their way into Duos. Loewen, meanwhile, is looking back at Hearthstone's early history and sees potential in pairing up Stalagg and Feugen, giving the monstrous duo new life as a tandem hero combination in Duos. While there are no concrete plans for any new Duos heroes, the dev team is rapidly firing off new ideas.
There's still time to finalize what's coming in Hearthstone Battlegrounds Duos, because the game mode is not set to release until the early part of 2024. In the meantime, those interested in learning more about this new way to experience Battlegrounds can read through our hands-on preview from the BlizzCon show floor.