PAX Prime 2014 – Heroes of the Storm Interview

Blizzplanet correspondent Mark Loftus interviewed game director Dustin Browder and senior artist Phil Gonzales to discuss details of the three latest heroes: Chen, Anub’arak and Azmodan.

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We asked about new battlegrounds and heroes. While not much was learned on that front, there are plans to change battleground maps each season.

Note: The interview was held at the game stations floor, and the background noise is loud at ground zero. A transcript and closed captions are available.

Transcript

Mark Loftus: This is Mark Loftus reporting for Blizzplanet to learn more about Heroes of the Storm. I am at PAX Prime 2014 to interview game director Dustin Browder and senior artist Phil Gonzales. Alright, I’m gonna start off with; I have two questions here that are for you Phil Gonzales.

Phil Gonzales: Ok

Mark Loftus: Anub’arak and Azmodan are both huge characters in their respective games.

Phil Gonzales: Yeah

Mark Loftus: What challenge did they pose to your team when creating them for Heroes of the Storm while still at going their scale?

Phil Gonzales: OK. That’s a pretty good question, when we made Azmodan — obviously, he is a boss character — the Design and Art team come together and say “what are the most psychotic abilities?,” and they are on a boss scale in Diablo III. Obviously in Heroes of the Storm we can’t replicate that one to one. We have to take some liberties to deliver the experience and how it feels but also make it something that’s more conducive to a player actually controlling it. So that was a challenge but I think we can moved on pretty good. We have a lot of fun stuff in terms of the black pool of Death, we have a lot of minions summoning and stuff. We really grabbed a lot of those key spells and we breath it into Heroes. He’s still a really big character and he’s certainly up on the high end, he might be our biggest. And then Anub’arak is the same thing. He’s an iconic boss. We looked at a lot of his abilities, and hopefully— I think he has less summons than Azmodan does; but he’s still a pretty intense character who gotta do all those psychotic things like the spikes, like the locusts being summoned, the ultimate is also Locust Swarm. We’re able to translate all that into funny enough as a big character Anub’arak’s very nimble. You see him like jumping under lines and evading very very quickly, it’s a lot of fun actually.

Mark Loftus: Ok. And the next one is: Players have talked about the disadvantages and advantages of body blocking with characters. Is it a worry that it might become a grief in tactic, especially when two giants on the enemy team or something not that common in gameplay yet?

Dustin Browder: We haven’t seen a ton of that yet; but it’s something we’re always watching. We do a lot of things we can do to reduce the risk of that kinda thing. Obviously there is somebody blocking, you wanna delude the enemy; like I wanna be able to gain stitches; use my big fat stitches body to block somebody out. We haven’t seen too much of that yet and we are playing, sort of checking with those sizes, doing everything we can to make it seem like it’s the real characters; making it small enough so that you can slip by each other as well. We keep an eye on them for sure to see if it’s a real issue but it hasn’t been a problem yet.

Phil Gonzales: And that’s the key point of what we’re trying to accomplish in the alpha. We’re still very very mindfully testing a lot of that stuff and looking to iterate. It’s not final.

Mark Loftus: Ok. Awesome, thank you very much. Ok, so let’s talk about Chen’s ultimate hero talent; the one where he splits into three pandas. Can players micro-manage each panda or is each controlled by individual AI?

Dustin Browder: Well they also can come together and fight with you right now. And so it’s really designed to be a way to get them a lot more survivability. We’d have to see it when it comes out and see how it plays for you guys cuz I’m not sure that’s the final way we wanna do it or not. But it’s a pretty big twist, good enough for you to try the alpha for sure; we’ll see how it goes.

Mark Loftus: Ok. What are Anub’arak’s strengths and weaknesses?

Dustin Browder: Well, Anub’arak is a much different strategist. Obviously, a very tough tank, and he’s got a lot of high mobility with his Burrow. It gets him where he wants to be. So you should grab it once; don’t make a mistake. Don’t get it wrong, wherever he wants to be. He has a shield that he can pop and he’s got spikes that he can shoot up to stun his enemies in a line in front of him. So he’s kind of a high mobility kind of tank. Go where he wants to be, stun people, and then start (you know), dealing out some damage. You really wanna use him and try to be as other warriors, try to protect your allies, and so one of the things he’s really great for is to root to a position where you’re really threatening enemy DPS characters. We can burrow quickly underneath the line to where Valla or Nova is fighting; and suddenly she’s gotta deal with Anub’arak who’s right in her face. His skills are all gonna be on target now; this is not what she wants him doing and she’s gotta get away. So now you’ve got this big bug in the middle of your battle line, he’s got this sort of ability to stay in there for just a little bit. So you really want to use him to get that burrow, get him where he wants to be; to start breaking up the softies that are hiding back in the interior area.

Mark Loftus: Ok, awesome. It is crystal-clear how Chen and Azmodan are meant to be played, but Anub’arak is a real question-mark. What makes Anub’arak different than the other warriors, playstyle-wise?

Dustin Browder: Well, there’s a bunch of different things you can do with him, I would say it also depends on how you can spend his talents. So Anub’arak also spawns a beetle every time he uses his ability and you can talent those beetles up quite a bit. I was playing the other day and I was like how much of that beetle in that talent. I was like: “Beetle, beetle, beetle, beetle.” It’s the beetle build, right? And that actually spawn a lot of little beetles, which makes you a very effective siege character. Now you can really be absorbing tower ammo and really push against enemy bases. You could just trash them; but that’s one way to play him. Otherwise, you play with a lot more tankie. Use a lot of cover, using, choosing things with a shield, choosing things that allow him to really– to really absorb a lot of damage. Again, it’s a lot about that tunnel and it’s about his ability to assist you in these battles. So you may wanna spike up, stun a bunch of enemies, tunnel underneath them and get to a really difficult position. You’ve got characters like Muradin, sure, who can jump because they have the same range and the same ability as Anub’arak can have with that– with that move. So it’s more about finding the right position; flanking, getting behind where they wanna be, trap enemies trying to run away. It plays very different from a lot of other warriors because of that ability.

Mark Loftus: Do you have an approximate ETA for the patch release containing these three heroes?

Dustin Browder: I don’t know when they’re coming out. I think we do as Blizzard do; but I don’t know how accurate.

Phil Gonzales: Yeah, it’s soon. They’re pretty high up there. So, I think inevitably the next patch I think is somewhere along the line, one or the other soon.

Dustin Browder: One of the things in the next patch they’re gonna, we’re doing about a patch about every month, as soon as every five weeks and so we’ll see a hero in each one of those which will be coming out over the next three months.

Mark Loftus: So you’re still not gonna tell me?

Dustin Browder: I don’t know. I don’t really know. If you want she could get you that information and pass it on to you. I think it is known, it’s just we, we’re still in the trenches trying to make the game, I just don’t know.

Mark Loftus: Oh no, I was, I was just kidding.

Mark Loftus: Well that’s, that’s fine. Have you guys discussed plans for more game modes such as free-for-all arena?

Dustin Browder: We have not. We’ve talked about — pretty much free-for-all was not one on the table. We talked, those are probably next year at the most. We’ve still gotta get Standard mode up and running, we’ve still gotta get Ranked play up and running. What you’re playing now is the most simple pick up group style of gameplay. We really wanna get to a place where a lot more competitive modes, a lot more competitive play than we are today. And we’ve got more battlegrounds that need go in as well. We have five right now and we think we wanna go to six to eight; and rotation at once, but even then we’ll make more battlegrounds and then rotate some of the old ones out. So it’s always changing. It’s always new maps. It’s always new battlegrounds to play.

Mark Loftus: How many heroes and battlegrounds are in production right now and do you have an ideal number for launch?

Dustin Browder: I don’t know we have an ideal number for launch. We’ve got five in the game now and we’re working on more battlegrounds back at the office. We’ll see which ones are going to make it, which ones are cool, which ones are not. I get about six to eight battlegrounds at the moment; but we will do more. So at the end of the day, there may be –I don’t know– twenty-eight or fifty heroes in the game. Probably up to 60, after the ones in a match game.

(### 7:38 – 7:44 ### indiscernible)

In terms of hero count, we have got 28 today. Plus we’re adding about one a month or every five weeks in between. We’re trying to increase that pace to see how fast we can. We don’t want to sacrifice the quality at all. Quality is the most important thing to us. We will stop making heroes then we get repetitive; we feel like I don’t know, it feels the same like what are we doing here? Like we get to that point then you know what? I think we’re good on heroes a little bit; we slow the pace or stop altogether. But it’s gonna be a feel thing, it’s what makes sense to us, what feels good, it’s gonna be what feels right.

Mark Loftus: Could you mention some of the mercenary variations you might add soon in Technical Alpha?

Dustin Browder: I don’t know if we know yet. We’re still working on these. So we’re gonna be trying to get that in front of players, absolutely, but we’re not sure what all the mechanics we’ll have in a future match.

Mark Loftus: Ok. What about modding tools or WorldEdit Tools for players to create their own maps? Have this begun development yet or has this been discussed recently?

Dustin Browder: It has been discussed. We’re very passionate about Team 1. We’ve been doing this for years; we could go all the way back to Warcraft I and Warcraft II. In many ways the mod making tools built by Team 1 have been the tools for all of our RTS games. Create the genre of games right? Back in War II and Warcraft III, so it’s something we’re very passionate about. We don’t know when we’re gonna do it yet. We have a few challenges with technically the freedom to play games. So StarCraft, if you put up something, you know, offensive in our game we can kill the map; ban your account, right? So players are generally nice, they don’t break a bunch of copyright laws, the don’t put a bunch of pornography in our game because they know we have got rules. You’re free to play a game, might have that control, but it is solvable. We just need to get on to it and solve it. But it’s something that we are looking forward to have in the game for months and years to come, it’s gonna be exciting.

Mark Loftus: Hero rotation happens once a week at the moment. At some point there might be too many battlegrounds and maps. Any plans to rotate the available battlegrounds each week?

Dustin Browder: That wasn’t what we’re thinking. We were thinking more like seasonally. So we’re thinking more like once every three to four months we’d swap them out and then you’ll have a new set. But that’s, that’s an interesting feedback I have never heard that feedback before, I worry that weekly rotation would be even more confusing, right? Cuz you wouldn’t know what battlegrounds you’re on then you change battlegrounds again. So we think three to four months would feel right; but that’s from our Starcraft experience, we’ve done that with seasons in Starcraft, we’ve changed the maps every three or four months, but we’ll see; we’ll see how it goes.

Mark Loftus: Considering the awkwardness of giant heroes like Azmodan and Deathwing, in the future, what is the likelihood that your next heroes might–

Dustin Browder: I don’t think I’m doing Deathwing, I don’t think???

Phil Gonzales: That would be very difficult.

Mark Loftus: No Deathwing?

Dustin Browder: Azmodan is just fine so he’s small enough. Right?

Mark Loftus: Deathwing was hopeful.

Dustin Browder: But Deathwing is not real, That’s too big.

Mark Loftus: Ok.

Dustin Browder: He could be a boss in the map. We can do any number of things. We could do little Dethling.

Mark Loftus: Ok.

Dustin Browder: We could do cute little Dethling, right?

Mark Loftus: Ok.

Dustin Browder: But a giant Deathwing doesn’t seem likely.

Mark Loftus: So wishful thinking.

Dustin Browder: Yeah. Yeah.

Mark Loftus: That’s not gonna happen.

Dustin Browder: No, no.

Mark Loftus: Ok.

Dustin Browder: For the reasons you described. Right?

Mark Loftus: What is the likelihood that your next heroes might be based on Lost Vikings, Blackthorne or Rock’n Roll Racing heroes and villains?

Dustin Browder: Well, we’re working really hard on it. I don’t know when those guys are coming, but we’ve heard that many many times. It’s something that we’re really passionate about and excited to work on.

Mark Loftus: There are three buttons in the game mode lobby: Standard, Custom Games and Ranked. We don’t know much about the last two. Are you able to talk about these, or when we might get a preview?

Dustin Browder: We’re not really ??? custom games ??? map of your choice, you fight players however you want, you play against your ??? Play the rest of the game wherever you want. It’s out of rank but we’re still working on it. We’re doing designs meetings on ??? basis with changes frequently, so I don’t know the details on that yet but we do wanna create something that allows you to show off your skill to progress through rank ladder system ??? a sense of we’re you’re at in the ??? community. We also gonna do a draft so that you can see the map and then you can choose your heroes with your allies versus the enemy. You can see their ??? and choose a lot more strategies ???

Mark Loftus: Some heroes like Reghar, Zagara and Brightwing don’t have a mount option. Any thoughts on adding alternate effects instead of mounts? For example, Rehgar transforming into a cheetah or a boar or Brightwing leaving a ghostly trail with leaf-like sparks.

Dustin Browder: We can totally do that but we do have a value on this, is that not all heroes are the same, they’re not. So if you got a mount for Valla, and you don’t get one for Brightwing, then that’s ok. We’re not trying to give a mount to everyone. I certainly think we can use equal amounts of stuff but it wouldn’t have infinite level amount of ??? like you would give the other heroes and certainly even a character like Sergeant Hammer, yeah like you could do sound effects, or trails as she goes but she’s not really a ??? right? So we’re very comfortable with the fact that not all heroes are crazy doing always. But that’s ok, right? So you know we’re playing on ??? we’re on the ??? for the most part, maybe one day we’ll do a skin ??? but it’s not like ??? right?

Mark Loftus: Alright, one last question for you fine gentlemen. All Heroes share the same talents — like Berserker, Battle Momentum and Stoneskin. Any chance to give heroes more personalized abilities based on their abilities in StarCraft II, Diablo III, Warcraft III or WoW?

Dustin Browder: Thanks putting it that way. At first it was about fifty fifty ??? between some of the heroes and their archtypes. I think we’re more about the seventy five twenty five, eighty twenty ??? and we’re slowly making progress. There are a few abilities like first names, some people want that so we’re comfortable I think, with that being a talent design on a couple of different heroes; it’s ok. But we’re definitely moving to a place where you get lots more talents for your hero. A ???

Mark Loftus: Ok. So I wanna thank you gentlemen very much for taking the time to discuss this with me today and I’ll let you guys get back to what it is that you do.

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PAX Prime 2014 – Submit Your Questions for Heroes of the Storm Interview

Blizzard Entertainment plans to showcase Heroes of the Storm at PAX PRIME in a few days. That build attendees will have the opportunity to play at the demo stations has Azmodan, Chen and Anub’arak as playable heroes.

Blizzplanet’s PAX PRIME correspondent will be there to interview Dustin Browder and Phil Gonzales — developers of Heroes of the Storm. We welcome our visitors and members of the community to submit questions for this interview. Fill the form below.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and/or YouTube for PAX PRIME updates.

Submissions

These are the questions submitted by the community. We’ll have the hard task of picking the best 12 — considering past interviews have lasted between 8-30 minutes. We’ll see how many end up answered. Stay tuned.

What are anub’arak’s strengths and weaknesses?

It is crystal-clear how Chen and Azmodan are meant to be played, but Anub’arak is a real question mark. What makes Anub’arak different than other warriors playstyle-wise?

Do you have an approximate ETA for the patch release with Chen, Azmodan & Anub’arak?

What do they think about competitive teams at the current state?

Any other planned game modes other than the proposed Draft Team Competition?

How many Heroes and Maps are in production right now, and have you figured an ideal number for launch?

Are there plans for Blizzard Themed maps such as Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo, ect, or Thoughts on Map skins. Example: Blackheart’s Bay with a Diablo Touch.

How many Heroes would you like to have ready for Live?

Will there be more variations of Mercenary Camps then the 3 we already have?

Does Chen’s ult let you micromanage the pandas?

Will there be modding tools and if so will there be supporting uneven teams like an team of three powerful heroes versus seven weak ones? And will there be room for more than 16 players per match or is it limited similiar to Starcraft 2?

Is there an schedualed point for if/when you consider adding more talents per tier for heroes? When youve created X amout of heroes or a point in developement when certain features has been added or tested?

Will you be following Starcraft 2 or World of Warcrafts map pool? Adding more maps while keeping the rest or replacing existing ones and keep seven or eight maps active at any given time?

Will there be any crossover promotion between your other games to Heroes of the Storm, like owning World of Warcraft: Mist of Pandaria and gain some iconic characters from that point like Chen Stormstout and Lili Stormstout or default Diablo 3 for Barbarian and Witch Doctor?

What is planned in terms of project lifecycle for HoTs? Is “Tech Alpha” a new name for Closed Beta, or will we see Alpha > Closed Beta > Open Beta > Release? And will you comment on the goals of each stage of the lifecycle? the open beta progression in hearthstone carried over to live, can we expect that as well?

Can we expect to see maps that feature game modes similar to those seen in WoW Battlegrounds? Such as Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, Holding an item to gain power over time (Dropped if slain), etc…

How do you feel the game ought to be balanced between the three main franchises?

At present, the game is skewed in favor of Warcraft Heroes – is this intentional, or merely an effect of Alpha development? (ie Will we see more balance when the game goes live?)

How many hero concepts is the team considering/working on at any given time?

Based on the heroes released so far, what’s the average number of man hours needed to make a hero?

What’s been your logic for Hero pricing, both gold and real money?

When will they release the patch for Chen, Azmodan & Anub’arak?

Will we be able to micro Summons/Chen split up heroic?

Are there any plans for a Starcraft Warrior Hero?

Is Blizzard happy with the current rate of gold gain?

Can we see Dustin Browder on Town Hall Heroes or Clairvoyance?

Does Blizzard feel the talent system is nearly complete or are they still going to be adding to it or changing it, and are they still planning to implement a second customization system (such as artifacts, but please not artifacts) in game?

Will we see heroes like Alexstrasza, Aviana, or Genn greymane?

Is there any chance of a singleplayer mode, perhaps something akin to the Horde campaign in ‘The Frozen Throne’?

-What is the likelihood of Lost Vikings/Blackthorne/Rock n’ Roll Racing heroes?

-What is the likelihood of original heroes being implemented, taken from the Nexus itself?

-How much similarity/difference to Anub’arak and Chen bear to their ‘Warcraft III’ counterparts in terms of gameplay?

 

Blizzplanet – PAX Prime 2014 Ticket Giveaway

Update: Congrats @markloftus9677

PAX Prime 2014 is full of awesome this year at the Blizzard Entertainment booth # 352 where players will be able to test the three new Heroes of the Storm characters: Chen, Azmodan and Anub’arak, World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor and Hearthstone.

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Blizzplanet is giving away a PAX Prime (Saturday-Only) ticket to a lucky fan. The giveaway ends on August 20, 2014 at 8:00pm EST. Make sure to check your email tonight, and be swift replying. The PAX Prime ticket must be shipped on Friday for it to arrive on time to you. PAX Prime takes place on August 30th.

1. To win a PAX Prime ticket, you must be a Blizzplanet follower on either Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

2. Fill out the form below:

(Giveaway Closed)

The ticket is not transferable. It will be shipped to the winner of this giveaway. Only one entry per participant, per household. (Multiple entries will disqualify you)
This is only a PAX Prime (Saturday-Only) ticket. You are responsible for flight, hotel or other expenses.

Bloodlust isn’t as Good as You Think

Or: How to Rehgar to best effect.

Despite his history as a gladiator, Rehgar isn’t a front line fighter in Heroes of the Storm. Sure, he’s beefier than the ranged support, but he can’t stand toe-to-toe with any warrior the way Uther can, and most assassins will eat him. He doesn’t have the strongest basic heal and his disable is good when placed properly but lacks the obvious power of Polymorph or Lunar Flare. It’s like Entangling Roots but just slows, not stops. Lightning Shield is great to drop on your beefy warriors who always find themselves in the thick of it and Ghost Wolf makes you slippery and mobile.

Rehgar’s strengths are in his mobility, mana efficiency, and the diversity of his toolbox. His weaknesses are that none of his abilities, outside of his ultimates, are game changers and his contribution to a team fight, aside from his abilities, is low. He doesn’t hit hard, even in Ghost Wolf, and can often get in the way of Sonya the Slayer, Illidan, or Stitches.

So how do you build and use Rehgar to make him shine? How do you maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses? Well, first let’s talk about his abilities.

GamesCom 2014 – Mr. Jack Delights Attendees with Live Sketching on Big Screen

Blizzard Entertainment Concept Artist Luke Mancini, also known as Mr. Jack, delighted fans by drawing sketches of Heroes of the Storm characters. His drawing was displayed live on a huge screen.

Our GamesCom 2014 correspondent @Handclaw was there and shared photos. Don’t forget to watch our interview with Heroes of the Storm senior producer Kaeo Milker.

**Our Warlords of Draenor interview with Tom Chilton will be up 8/16 noon.

SteelSeries Announces Exclusive Heroes of the Storm Gaming Mouse & QCK Mousepad

SteelSeries announced the new Heroes of the Storm Gaming Mouse and QCK Mousepad. The mouse is ambidextrous, allowing both righties and lefties to dominate their opponents in Blackheart Bay, Cursed Hollow or any other battleground. The surface features a special coating to prevent sweaty hands from keeping a tight grip on your mouse.

There is no release date at the moment, but considering the mouse has been announced — Heroes of the Storm might launch early 2015. In the meantime, subscribe to get direct SteelSeries updates on this product.


STEELSERIES ANNOUNCES EXCLUSIVE HEROES OF THE STORM™ GAMING MOUSE & QCK MOUSEPAD

COLOGNE, GERMANY (GAMESCOM 2014) – Aug. 15, 2014 – SteelSeries, the global leader in premium gaming peripherals, in collaboration with Blizzard Entertainment, today announced the exclusive SteelSeries Heroes of the Storm™ Mouse and QcK Mousepad. While going toe to toe with the most legendary characters of the Blizzard universe, gamers will have the ultimate precision tool to ensure total domination while flaunting exclusive artwork created by the Heroes of the Storm team.

“Heroes of the Storm has been such a highly anticipated ttitle that we were excited to create a product exclusively for the game. We knew that Blizzard and players would want a mouse designed for versatility and that would evoke the aesthetics from within the game,” said Tino Soelberg, SteelSeries CTO. “The SteelSeries Engine is such an important component of this mouse in that players can save an unlimited number of profiles and settings for each that would reflect the type of character you’re playing; assigning illumination settings to each of your profiles to differentiate between characters is another way the mouse can enhance gameplay.”

SHINE IN THE HEAT OF WAR

To complement Blizzard's highly anticipated hero brawler, the Heroes of the Storm Mouse features LED illumination, an officially licensed Heroes of the Storm design, and top notch performance based off of our award winning Sensei [RAW]. The SteelSeries Heroes of the StormMouse is a fully- loaded mouse that comes packed with features that are not available anywhere else.

BRILLIANT ILLUMINATION

Its bright-blue LED illumination is featured in 3 zones and can be configured with multiple levels of pulsation. Powered by the SteelSeries Engine software suite, players are equipped with advanced customization options and the ability to create and store an unlimited number of profiles.

LET THE BATTLE BEGIN

From tournament-grade switches for intense clicking, to a pro-grade laser sensor and a CPI rangefrom 1-5,700, the mouse delivers the best in gaming performance that will allow heroes like Kerrigan to dominate the Nexus. Flip it over to find XL-sized UPE material feet for a smooth and consistent glide. Give it a tug or roll over it with your desk chair; the 6.5ft anti-tangle black and purple cord is braided nylon.

ULTIMATE COMFORT

The SteelSeries Heroes of the Storm Mouse has an ambidextrous, all-grip design, which offers a very distinct feel for the player. For gamers who worry about sweaty palms, the mouse features arubberized black, hand-sweat resistant coating that allows for an exceptional grip and soft-touch comfort even during the most frantic gaming sessions. The SteelSeries Heroes of the Storm Mouse feels like an extension of your arm when you’re playing, to help ensure your hero wins the battle.

 

GamesCom 2014 – Blizzplanet interviews Kaeo Milker – Chen, Anub’arak & Azmodan Details

Blizzplanet members Lugia and Handclaw interviewed Heroes of the Storm senior producer Kaeo Milker to ask questions about the brand-new heroes: Azmodan, Anub’arak and Chen Stormstout. He offered some nice details about them. Transcript coming soon.

Follow Blizzplanet on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for more GamesCom 2014 updates.

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Transcript

Lugia: So, thank you very much for joining us today. So let’s talk about the new heroes that are coming with the oncoming patch.

Kaeo: So, there’s three new heroes we’re showing here at GamesCom. They won’t all be in the next patch but they will be coming soon to the game. We basically just have them here as a first playable for the first time anywhere. We showed Chen at ChinaJoy in the Taipei application show just a week or two ago, but they weren’t actually playable there. Actually, all three of them are playable so Chen, Anub’arak and Azmodan are all here.

Azmodan

Lugia: Let’s talk about Azmodan. What are his aptitudes?

Kaeo: Sure. Azmodan’s a specialist. He’s a very adept kind of siege hero. He’s kind of easier to play compared to some of the other specialists. Like, we have specialists like Abathur, Murky – some really crazy specialists out there that do totally unique things. Azmodan is a little easier for new players to play. He’s got a lot of AoE slowing abilities. His heroic abilities are either a giant black pool that slows things in a very large area. He’s got a lot of summon abilities where he summons demons in. One of them actually is kind of this commander that when he’s summoned in, he’ll actually empower the other minions and other demons that are around him. So he kind of helps Azmodan be a real good pusher or a good siege lane hero. He has a range ability that he can fire a projectile a really far distance and it does AoE damage and sets his targets on fire. Kind of a cool finishing move for heroes that are running away, or a good way to deal with far off heroes.

Lugia: By far off, you mean something that is off the screen or just in visual range?

Kaeo: The range is actually really far in. I’m not sure where it is in the build that’s here because these are things that we change all the time in development. But the last time I played it just a little while ago, it was actually really far, like multiscreen away you could shoot this thing. So it’ll be interesting how it turns out here. So he’s just kind of a really big guy obviously too, you know Azmodan. He’s this big multi-legged beast and he’s a pretty big presence on the battlefield. He also has a channeled ability that he can basically target a single target and do a massive damage over time the longer he stays targeted on them. So he’s just a fun guy to play and a different kind of specialist. So like I said he’s a little easier to play than our other specialists but still a lot of fun and very challenging and an awesome siege hero.

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Anub’arak

Lugia: Okay so about Anub’arak, what do you think is his main aptitude?

Kaeo: So Anub’arak’s a melee warrior and he’s got a lot of fun abilities. He has a burrow-charge ability which is a really awesome way to both kind of close in and initiate attacks but it’s also a really good escape mechanism for him. He actually burrows underground and charges away. Similar to the Ultralisk in Starcraft II.

Lugia: Again, like Anub’arak in the (### 3:12). When you fight him, he’s gone underground…

Kaeo: Absolutely, and when he comes out of that, he actually pushes people away as well. It’s a really good way to initiate an attack but I love using it as an escape too. He’s melee so he gets in there, he’s dealing damage. You gotta get outta town and the burrow-charge is a great way to get out of there. He also has an impaling blades ability which does a line damage where spikes come out of the ground and also stuns everyone in that line. It’s very good at taking out lines of minions and also initiating things in hero battles and team battles that are going on.

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Chen Stormstout

Lugia: Finally – Chen. So, you told me before, he’s a tank?

Kaeo: Yeah, he is a warrior. He has a unique mechanic where he uses brew instead of mana. Most of his kit is cycling around the brew kit for him. So he basically drinks brew and it takes him out of combat and he gets a shield that regens mana really quickly when he’s drinking brew. He basically regens very quickly. He could basically be in the middle of a fight and be pretty damaged, running low on his mana equivalent – his brew, go out of combat, drink real quick, gets buffed up, comes back out and keeps going. So he’s pretty hard to take down. He’s tough already but that kind of ability really makes him have a lot more sustain in the game. He’s got some fun ultimates. He has a storm, earth and fire ultimate where like three versions of himself spawn out. They look amazing. Straight out of Warcraft III. So, that’s really fun. He also has an ability where he rolls into his keg and he just basically rolls around and pushes enemies around and does a lot of damage so that’s another fun ability of his. He also combos his abilities really well where he does a keg smash where he kind of sprays brew all over everybody and then he can ignite that and it does damage to them. So everything is just kind of combo on top of combo with Chen, but a really fun melee warrior.

gamescom-2014-heroes-of-the-storm-chen-stormstout-concept-art

Community Polls

Lugia: So maybe my final question would be about unity. Even though the game is still in alpha, would you have the possibility to let the player choose which new hero can be put in-game? For instance, let’s say there is a vote where in the first part, the players are choosing specific heroes and then there’s the choice in reducing. Finally, let’s say some weeks after, there is a final choice and then Tirion – Tirion is a new hero. Could that be a possibility for future content?

Kaeo: Yeah I would love to see us do that. Right now we’re in technical alpha which is really about – very early stages of the game. It’s really earlier than we’ve ever shown anyone a game in Blizzard development before. But most of our focus right now is on setting up our server infrastructure and kind of testing the scalability of that. We’re also adding as much content as we can as quickly as we can. About every four to six weeks we’ve been patching the game, adding new heroes in, we’ve added a new battleground now: Garden of Terror. So we’re up to five battlegrounds so our focus is really on trying to stand up the core game components right now but we’ve talked about things like that and I can see a time in the future that as we have more content on the horizon that we could open things up to the community and give them options like that. Our biggest goal right now is to get as much cool stuff in and test it as early as we can. So that’s really where our energies are focused now. But we’re really building this game for the community and again in tech house we’re building it with them right there along side us, watching us develop it in real time. So, it’s kind of a cool opportunity for us as a development team to have much more direct communication and see the wants and wishes of the players much more directly than we have. With our traditional games we were off making them for many years and then we release a box. So I’m excited about opportunities like that, so I could see us doing that for things like skins and mounts and heroes as well and basically trying to figure out how the players would like us to prioritize the work that we have ahead of us.

Heroes of the Storm Job Openings

Kaeo: Team One is the team that make Starcraft II and Heroes of the Storm. We are looking for people across all different disciplines so artists, designers, producers, engineers. So we’re looking for everybody basically. This team is growing pretty rapidly and we’re trying to get as many talented, passionate people as we can. Across Blizzard, we hire gamers pretty much for every position in the company and it’s something that I think people who come in who are very passionate about games and have opinions on them, they play a big role in how we design our games and how we build them. I think if we have someone who’s passionate about Blizzard and excited about the kind of games that we’re making, they should go to Blizzard.com/jobs and they should look at – there’s probably 100+ jobs available across the company. And I would imagine on Heroes of the Storm, we probably have at least fifteen or twenty open right now. So I would encourage people to go check that out and apply and we’re always looking for talented, passionate people at Blizzard.

Lugia: Thank you very much.

Kaeo: Sure!

 

Special thanks to Laurencro for the transcript.

GamesCom 2014 – Heroes of the Storm – Chen Stormstout, Azmodan & Anub’arak Gameplay Video

Blizzard Entertainment provided Blizzplanet the Heroes of the Storm gameplay video showing the three new Heroes: Chen Stormstout, Azmodan and Anub’arak. We will upload soon the video interview with developer Kaeo Milker.

Follow Blizzplanet on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for more GamesCom 2014 updates.

Video Frame Analysis

Azmodan casts his signature siege fireball. A large radius glyph can be seen on the ground as Azmodan casts it. (more after the break)

Ding Dong the Artifacts are Gone

That was quick. A raucous community outcry, Blizzard developers listened, and a feature that an overwhelming majority of the player base loathed was removed. They even adjusted talent unlocks a bit, sort of as a bonus prize. (There was some vitriol about the talent gating but the focus of the ire was on the artifacts.)

The reasoning for artifacts was a bit dubious given the implementation.

Artifacts were designed to provide you with a meaningful way to spend gold, while also providing additional options to customize your heroes.

 

Meaningful? Customize heroes? Does a raw statistical boost do that? Does my Nova hitting 10% harder for 10% less life really show a customized hero? Were any of the artifacts meaningful beyond the compulsory obligation to pick the correct one?

Pish posh. Regardless of the motivations, artifacts have been pitched. No more artifacts. Gone gone gone.

Right?

Don’t be so sure. I suspect they’ll appear again, but it in a different form. After all, the reasoning is good – gold will eventually pile up and tweaking how Sonya behaves in a match can reflect a player’s preferred style. That’s a great idea.

So artifacts should come back but not as they were. The artifacts should reflect HotS’s central idea: player options. Instead of looking for a match and then picking your hero, you pick your hero and then find a match where you fit. Rather than leveling a suite of abilities akin to Dota2, you get options for them or entirely different talents to change what you bring to a match. Brightwing can crowd control better or call down a MULE and keep structures alive. Bribe mercs or hit harder. These are good things.

So how do artifacts fit into this idea? Talents already offer a way to change how a hero is played in a game, right? A healing Rehgar, an aggressive Rehgar. However, Rehgar is still Rehgar. If you pick Bloodlust and you don’t lose Chain Heal. And when the talents buff or alter an ability, it’s usually subtle or small. For example, an extra .75 seconds on Nova’s tazer round or 20% more distance on Falstad’s barrel roll. Not the most profound alteration.

That’s what artifacts should give: powerful alterations to your hero. Not just an extra 20% to mounted speed but, rather, trade offs. A way to demonstrate a play style, especially in a premade group. Imagine this, just as a jumping off point:

Gazlowe has an artifact that modifies his Rock-It! Turrent into a Sentry Turret. It lasts twice as long, does 1/3 of the damage but reveals stealthed units in its vision radius. He has another artifact that transforms his the turret into a weaker version of a Moonwell – no damage, same duration, 3 charges and restores 15% or so of a hero’s health and mana overtime. Obviously this means that the talent effects will need to be reworked and adjusted to properly effect the artifacts but, that’s what alpha is for. Testing, trying, playing with ideas.

I’d like to see Blizzard attempt something like this with an artifact system. Each artifact is 1,000 gold, you can only have 3 on a hero.

This idea might be too complex and the artifact system may not return, or not in this form. Regardless, the stat boosts are gone and Heroes of the Storm is once again fun, versatile, and simple.

Rehgar Gameplay and Garden of Terror Video in Heroes of the Storm

Blizzard Entertainment recently introduced Reghar Earthfury as the latest new playable hero in Heroes of the Storm. The shaman character, Rehgar, hails from World of Warcraft. He was originally introduced in the World of Warcraft comics as the leader of the gladiator ring that captured the amnesiac King Varian Wrynn off the coast of Durotar.

Rehgar joined Thrall’s inner circle as advisor and the Earthen Ring group during the Cataclysm. In Heroes of the Storm, Rehgar feels good as a healer with chain healing, and provides players with buffs to increase their damage.

This patch also introduced new UI changes.

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