BlizzCon 2017 Heroes of the Storm Deep Dive Panel Transcript

Design: Hanzo

Kent: What’s up, BlizzCon? Hope you guys are having an awesome time. I am really excited to be with you guys today. My name is Kent-Eric. I am the lead hero designer, and I had the wonderful privilege to work on the design of Hanzo. Let’s go ahead and let’s talk about that.


Usually what happens is that every year we’ll come up here and we’ll talk to you guys about how we translated the fantasy of a character who is in one game or one universe and related those mechanics into Heroes of the Storm (much like Matt just did an excellent job with Alexstrasza).


But with Hanzo, this is a little bit different. This is a pretty well-known character. I thought (previously, five minutes ago) that all of you guys were Hanzo mains, and very disappointed — it’s OK. It’s OK. But this is a guy you guys know a lot about, right? There’s some expectations we expect to see him firing arrows at a long distance. We expect to see some scattered arrows bouncing off of walls.

So instead, I wanted to do something a little bit different this year. I want to talk to you guys a little bit about the nuts and bolts, or the mathematics and mechanics behind hero design in creating these heroes. Now in order to do that for Hanzo specifically, I am going to need to walk you real quickly through his core damaging abilities on his base kit.


So let’s go ahead and get started with his basic attack.


Now Hanzo has extra attack range that you’ve seen on heroes like Ana, or Raynor, or Nova, or Sergeant Hammer; but also his attack speed is a little bit slower and his attacks pack a bit heavier punch.


Now his first ability is Storm Bow on the Q button. This is a charged up ability. While Hanzo charges it the distance the arrow can travel grows over time. Hanzo can also move while this is charging allowing him to get that proper position for firing the storm bow. Very useful when fighting heroes like Sonya.


And finally, on the W is Scatter Arrow using some brand new ricochet technologies that our amazing team on the engineering side of things put in there.


You can see we’re showing you where these arrows go, and it is great in narrow corridors like poor Li- Ming is about to discover. Don’t be Li-Ming, bad things will happen.


So when we had the initial design for these abilities in mind, we got them into the game, but we needed to plug in an initial damage value for its basic attack, for instance: should it do 5 damage or 5,000 damage? Probably neither of those numbers, but we need to type literally some kind of number in there, right? So what are we going to do?

So what we do is we look at similar abilities that exist in the game that might have some correlation. So for his basic attack, we looked at Nova with Anti-Armor Shells — also a very slow attack period, and we try to match it to a value that was roughly equivalent.


For his Storm Bow ability, we looked at Chromie’s Sandblast — as they’re both long range, line skillshots, on a relatively low cooldown.


And for Scatter Arrow, we looked at Valla’s Multi-shot, and other area effect abilities to try to match again and find the right numbers.


Once we got those in the game, it was all about adjusting his total power levels. So we had this in, we would do some AI play tests where we would spin up the hero against nine AI. Just play a game and look at his total output. We compared to other range assassins that were in that game, and let’s say Hanzo was about 15% too high.


Well, then let’s lower all those numbers by about 15%. If he was 10% too low, let’s bring them all up by about 10%. Once we had that in a relatively decent spot — where he was pretty close to our other ranger assassins, we brought him into our daily design playtests.

So the design group here we playtest every morning these new heroes with these kits and these adjustments to see how it’s all feeling; and so we brought him in there, and what I am about to show you is one of our output logs for all of Hanzo’s damage.

Now there is going to be a lot of numbers. Don’t worry about them. It’s kind of scary, but there you go. There’s everything Hanzo did to minions, Heroes, along with some stats that we don’t really need for the purposes of this talk. Let’s instead we’re going to focus on this smaller subset of numbers right there — The damage he dealt to heroes.


Let’s go ahead and zoom in on those numbers right there and clean it up a little bit; but we have a technology… we can do one better. We’ve got pie charts (personal favorite of mine). I know you guys are all thinking this morning: “You know what makes my BlizzCon even better? Pie charts.


Well I’ve got you covered fam, don’t worry. So what’s really helpful about this is we can immediately see some things. This game was on April 19th in Tomb of the Spider Queen when our very first design playtest, and immediately with this pie chart you can start to see some things jump out at you.

You might notice for instance that his Q ability Storm Bow and his Ultimately Dragonstrike… Oh my gosh, they’re like consuming the entire pie chart! You know, his basic attack is just a sliver and Scatter Arrow… why would you even waste your mana or your mind share casting that ability; and that’s what’s great about these pie charts. They quickly paint a quick picture for us to get things in line.

So we actually have another word for these in the office. We call these power pies, and what I’m about to show you is a completely fictional idealized power pie for a ranged assassins that does not exist. That’s right here; and you’ll notice in this very fictional example we have a nice evenly distributed power pie, and it’s not perfectly even and you know power pie probably should be; but it’s much more distributed.


To clearly master this totally made up hero, you’re going to need to learn how to use their basic attack, their Q, their W, their E, their R. You need to know it all. That’s where we wanted to head with Hanzo. So in order to get to a more healthy power pie, we’re going to need to do some math. Lots of math. That’s okay.


Hanzo… he’s the master. Simple geometry. We’ve got this. We’re going to bring out some charts here. So starting with that very first playtest — in order to get there, we needed to do some adjustments. Now we want to keep his total damage output roughly the same, and in order to do that, we’re going to nerf Storm Bow by about 10%, and Dragonstrike by about 35%.

While almost tripling Scatter Arrows damage, because we were way off on that initial power. Now you notice that there is no change to his basic attack, and I want to get to that in a little bit.


But after making some adjustments, here we were five days later on Braxis Holdout, April 24th, and we have a much healthier balance between both his Storm Bow and his Scatter Arrow.


This means that to play Hanzo, you are going to master both these abilities. We are in a much better spot, but there’s still another problem lurking, that the power pies are slightly alluding to, and that’s the basic attack and some other issues.

You see… we started playing Hanzo for almost a week now, and we’re starting to feel like maybe we’ve got too many snipers in the game. We love Chromie. Chromie is amazing. Anybody in the Chromie mains out there? Oh you guys are so dedicated. I love it.


But Hanzo… we didn’t want to steal from what Chromie was doing, and at the time Hanzo’s Q ability Storm Bow and W ability Scatter Arrow were much longer range than they were in the videos I just showed you.


His basic attack actually had like a three second cooldown between the attacks which was massive, and so we realized we needed to make some adjustments. So we brought down the ranges on those two abilities and we halved the time between his basic attacks to 1.5 seconds — which is what we’ve got for you guys today; and what was great about this is that that encouraged Hanzo to use that basic attack more often.

What’s really great about that is that when a character is basic-attacking you, that usually means they’re within your range radius. So now you can actually engage in some counterplay — something that was missing because of its very long range. So let’s see what happened after we made these adjustments. So this was on April 27th on Infernal Shrines. One of our live designers Adam Jackson was actually playing Hanzo. So maybe we got a little overboard on that basic attack. Suddenly, Storm Bow not so great.


So let’s go ahead and make some adjustments and see what happens. So here on May 1st, our very own Matt Villers was playing Hanzo on Dragon Shire. Now you see we have got a Matt Viller fan out there that’s for sure.


We got a much more well balanced power pie here; but there’s still one more wrench coming down the pipe, and that’s talents… and specifically for Hanzo, we’ve got some really cool questing talents on his level 1 — each focused on those three primary damaging abilities.


So you can kind of build a build around them, and when we put these in … do you think they might affect the power pie? Well, let’s just take a look and see what happens. So here we were first day with questing talents May 11th, Towers of Doom I was playing Hanzo.


The other designers who are playing against me probably weren’t very happy in that game, and understandably so. Maybe we’ve got an overtuned quest talent for the very first game. Very possible. But at the same time, I also played Hanzo in Hanamura, and I was testing out the Q Quest talent on Storm Bow, and you see the basic attack is still a pretty significant portion of the power pie.


So maybe it’s not just the quest talent, maybe there’s another talent that is starting to warp his power pie — and so we need to take a look; and so that’s part of what’s going on here. We’re doing a lot of testing, and refinement.


Like I said, we play tests every morning constantly going through these new talents, and tweaking, and adjustments to make these heroes shine for you guys our players; and I want to show you one of our final playtests here.

This was on May 25th by Matt Cooper (our lead live designer) was playing Hanzo on Infernal Shrines. yYou see here he went to basic attack quest, but we still have a very well balanced healthy power pie. Maybe Scatter Arrows quite a bit a little more on point, but we’re on a great spot — especially compared to where we started back on April 19th.


We have gone basically from being two wedges to now good four wedges with some room for growth based on player skill. And so with that we are ready to finish off Hanzo’s design, and hand it over to the live team who then executes the final balance; and they’ll get into like the real nitty-gritty like — hey Alex, actually I think you did Hanzo, right?

You know — “Hey, Kent. Storm Bow… Can you lower its damage from 205 to 200? I’m like… OK. You find out what that final little number is and bring it home. Hanzo is here now playable on the showfloor — if you guys haven’t gotten a chance, go check him out. Scatter Arrow… smear enemies to death. It’s great fun, but I want to actually welcome up Alex Neyman to talk to you guys about some of the updates coming to our live heroes.


1. Modeling: Alexstrasza2. Design: Alexstrasza3. Modeling: Hanzo4. Design: Hanzo
5. Live Heroes Revamp6. Community Q&A

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Tomas Hernandez is owner of since 2003. I post news about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard Careers, and the Warcraft film.

Blizzplanet is a leading fansite covering news about upcoming Blizzard Entertainment licensed products. I also post previews and reviews. I have interviewed book writers and Blizzard game developers.

I was previously an employee of the OGaming Network (2003), and IncGamers (2008-2010). I was a guest newsposter for GosuGamers (World of Warcraft) a few years ago and for (formerly

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