Heroes of the Storm is a playground for its developers. They take some of the most beloved heroes and villains from the various Blizzard franchises and mash them together in this anything-goes arena called the Nexus. But they are also storytellers and there is more to the Nexus than a collection of nostalgia and our favourite heroes. Heroes of the Storm is evolving all the time to refine the process and get better and some big changes are on the horizon.
Production Director Kaeo Milker gave a rundown of what has happened since the last BlizzCon, as well as adding in some interesting information on what is happening with the development of the game. Milker mentioned that in an attempt to be transparent, the team often speaks about new features they want to implement, but then they are too complex or don’t work the way they want to, so they end up taking longer, or going on the back burner while they focus on more important things. For example, the custom map editor which was spoken about a while back. This has been put on hold because the most important thing is adding new content to stop things from going stale. Similarly, the Party Finder and Social Features aren’t dead, they just need more work before the team is happy.
Looking back it has been a busy year. Eight heroes were added to the game, from Blaze to Mal’Ganis. Alterac Pass was added and Hanamura Temple and Garden of Terror get reworked. Several themed events occurred, from Mechastorm to King’s Crest. The team now uses themed events instead of just throwing new weird one-off skins out for heroes, allowing for a bit of cohesion in some of the out there looks. Later this month the fourth Heroes comic will release, with the focus being on Orphea.
The team mentioned that the game has outgrown the four roles and that it is confusing to new players. Two characters can be warriors, but they play really differently. The new roles for the game are: Tanks, Bruisers, Healers, Supports, Melee Assassins, Ranged Assassins. The team also pointed out that quick match is the most popular game mode, but you often end up with a sub-optimal team composition. They are working on Enforced Quick Match compositions, meaning a team will have to have a tank, healer, ranged assassin and then two fillers. The game will give bonus XP if you queue as a role that is currently in demand.
Ranked play is getting reworked to change a few habits that have been spotted. One big change is adding loss forgiveness in games where someone disconnected and was replaced by an AI for a prolonged period of time. Leavers will get punished though. Hero League and Team League queues are combining to combat team league queues being so long. Hero League players will have the option to only queue versus other solo players.
Players will now need three placement matches rather than three, but can’t just do their placement games and not come back for the rest of the season. There will be more games required during the season, with rewards for doing those other games. There will no longer be promotion and demotion games, because players would just not play ranked when they knew the next game had so much riding on it. Performance-based matchmaking will be used to tell players how and where they can improve and the system has been collecting data since December.
With changes and new heroes releasing, older heroes fall out of favour or get a bit stale. To combat this the team looks at player behaviour and picks and is reworking some heroes. Next will be Stitches and Sylvanas. Stitches will become a tank, and Hook is great and will stay as is, but Slam is pretty boring. Sylvanas will be an “epic ranged assassin” because Specialist is falling away. The team likes Black Arrow, but wants it to be an active decision of the player, not something Sylvanas always has.
So far gameplay changes have included a camera update, a revamp of stealth, regen globes going neutral to help aggressive pushes and tower ammo falling away. The team knows players have issues about ammo going away, especially in 1 on 1 lane matchups. While they won’t reverse that, they are looking at alternatives.
XP Changes are incoming to stop snowballing of games when pushing lanes. Forts and keeps now give no XP, and towers give 50% less XP. Mercenaries give 100% more XP and the passive XP trickle is increasing by 15%. This means games feel the same general speed, but games are closer with less snowballing. The team discovered internally that forts didn’t feel rewarding at all, but keeps did due to spawning catapults. Now killing forts will spawn a catapult in every third minion wave, adding a cadence to attacks and creating a desire to kill forts to push down a lane.
Armour is getting a few changes, one being a visual indication, the other combating teams that stack armour. All armour types are shown near health bars at all times and stacking has been removed. You get the biggest armour buff or the largest debuff. This will make buffs and debuffs feel stronger when they happen.
The deep dive panel looked at Orphea in detail, also revealing a bunch of details on creating characters and the processes of the Heroes of the Storm team. She is the first original character and the process to make her was pretty different from other heroes. She had no established fantasy, no abilities or signatures they needed to emulate, allowing a lot of freedom. The team was drawn to the Raven Lord, who has become a central figure in the Nexus.
With her being a hero built from the ground up, they opted for a Design > Lore > Art process. The cinematic for her took over a year to create and the team went through many iterations for Orphea. One of her early versions had her as a dancer. Some of that grace and mobility lingers in talent names as well as how Shadow Waltz (her Q ability) works.