BlizzCon 2017 Heroes of the Storm: What’s Next Panel Transcript

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Travis: Thank you Alan, and good to see everyone. Thank you for coming out. I’m Travis Lead Game Designer for Heroes of the Storm. As Alan mentioned, I’m going to run you through some of the new features coming your way over the next few months. Before getting into that though, I have got some interesting statistics I wanted to show coming out of the Heroes 2.0 launch, and I thought people might find it entertaining. Kind of informative.

 

So, with Heroes 2.0, we added the ability for players to craft items, not only is that a cool feature to have, it’s giving us some great insight in the type of items players really enjoy. So I brought some of that here for you. There is two different ways to look at that data. In the first one I have got here is the top 5 items in terms of just the sheer raw number of items created.

So the number one most created item since Heroes 2.0 was the D.va Announcer. Yeah everyone love that D.va Announcer. Number two, the Neon Dragon Genji skin; number three was the Crimson Lion Heart Varian Skin; number four is that Midnight Arcanist Jaina skin, and the fifth one is the Steel Dragon Genji skin.

 

Now this doesn’t account for the value of the items, so it tends to skew a little bit towards the lower cost items. If you look at the same stats, but you are factoring in the shard cost, and look at it by the sheer number of shards spent on items, things change up a little bit. Number one item is still at D.va announcer. Everybody loves that D.va. Number two, though, the Prime Evil Diablo skin. That thing was fantastic. Number three is the Happy Cloud Mount (personal favorite of mine); and then speaking to how popular announcers have been, the fourth is the Abathur Announcer, and then Brightwing Announcer for number five.

 

TARGET INFO PANEL

So again, just some fun stats I wanted to share I thought the stuff was great. I hope you like it too. Let’s get into some of the new things coming your way. First up, we are bringing a target info panel of the game. So the lightest-like Battlefield entities such as minions, mercenaries, structures, and other heroes and just get more information about them. That is: more statistics.

If you see things like their Health and Mana, their Regen Rates, their Attack Damage, their Attack Speed, their Attack Range their Armor, including breakdowns for Physical and Spell Armour, as well as your Spell Power and Movement Speed. It’s all really cool information, but be careful about studying it too much in a team fight, or your own stats are probably going to suffer.

 

HEROES IN HIDING

Next up: Heroes in Hiding. We are adding UI indicators for which heroes are inside of other things: vehicles, objects, abilities… that kind of thing. Nice low-quality of life improvement. I have got some examples for you here. So here we have got, you can see a hero above the dragon Knights head, Anub’arak inside of the Dragon Knight.

 

Another example: Rehgar in a cocoon.

 

Here we have Azmodan being Gorged by Stitches — which shouldn’t really be physically possible, but there it is.

 

And then a couple hero stuck in a Maw.

 

Again these are just some nice quality life improvements. Both of these are currently in development. We are expecting them to come to live servers over the next few months.

 

VOICE CHAT

Now let’s go to something a little bit bigger: Voice Chat. We are going to be (yeah, I’m excited about this one too) we will be integrating Blizzard Voice directly into the game client. So I’m sure as many of you recognize, effective communication can often be the difference between winning or losing a game of Heroes, and many players already use their own voice chat solutions to help with that — including Blizzard Voice.

 

We want to make it as easy as possible for everybody to do this. So we are going to add two different voice chat channels to the game: one for your Party. and one for your Team. When you join a Party, you’ll be automatically added to that Party’s voice chat channel. The Team, though, is “opt-in” rather than “opt-out”. So, when you join a game, you will be given the option of joining that channel, but you are not put into it by default. And then, these defaults, you can change them from the Options menu if you want to switch things up a little bit.

Now in-game, we are adding indicators at the upper-right corner of who’s speaking. So when somebody is using voice chat, you can tell who’s trying to communicate with you. You can see that up there. And then, all the controls are available from the TAB screen. Here is where you can adjust somebody’s volume, mute them, and switch between Party and Team chat — if you have them both at the same time.

 

Now we have been playing with this internally for a little while now, and it’s been fantastic just to have that ease of use. And this is actually available on the showfloor right now. So you can check it out. And again, this will be coming to live servers over the next few months as we wrap up development on it. Oh yeah, you can see the pilot here.

 

PERFORMANCE BASED MATCHMAKING RATING

Okay, getting on to the big one. This is the item I’m most excited to talk about: Performance Based Matchmaking. So yeah, I love this. I love this so much. So we are improving the matchmaker system. We are improving its accuracy in placing individual players by allowing it to take into account an individual player’s performance in a match, when doing MMR adjustments. Now to kind of explain how this works I need to first take a step back, and kind of explain how the existing system does its thing.

 

So at its core, the matchmaker is just trying to put players of a similar skill together in games that everybody has the best gameplay experience. To do that, every player is given a matchmaking rating, sometimes just referred to as MMR, which is just an indication of what the system thinks the player’s skill is.

The matchmaker then uses that when putting people together in matches. So the more accurate that MMR is a reflection of our skill, the better the end result will be. Now the team-based nature of Heroes of the Storm can make it challenging to figure out what a player’s contribution is in an individual game.

So there is only one part of the 5-man team that was in the match. Heroes uses a fairly standard approach to this just based on wins and losses. When you win a game, your MMR goes up. When you lose it goes down. As much as other factors that come into play, including things like the skill of the opposing team, that’s the basic gist of it.

 

Now the system works since (all other things being equal), if a player is performing beyond the expectations of their current MMR, they are going to win more games than they lose over the long run. The MMR is going to go up to the point where it’s an actual indication of a skill. But unless that difference is pretty substantial, it can take a large number of games before that happens. So we have been working on ways to improve that.

Now over the last year or so, we have had a lot of data hooks to the game that can get at an individual’s performance in the game. You have seen pieces of it being used for things like the MVP system, the personalized stats that show up in a match, and the update to the “On fire” system. Now behind-the-scenes, the new matchmaker is using these type of stats, and many more to look at how the individual is performing, and that can help calculate MMR adjustments.

Now it’s slicing all these stats up by the heroes being played, the battleground you are on, and even the region you are playing in, so as to make fair comparisons with other players. And then, by looking at this across the entire breadth of the entire playerbase, the system can get a good understanding of what differentiates a highly skilled player from an average player.

 

And it’s not always what you think. I have got a couple examples here I want to show you. The first one of these is just the baseline. It has got an Illidan. So Illidan works like you would expect in the system. A good Illidan player does a lot of damage. So it’s a lot of experience; it doesn’t die very often; it takes a lot of mercenary camps.

 

Now Illidan has a relatively high-skill cap, so in these statistics the difference between a highly-skilled Illidan, and an average one is substantial. A different example though is Kerrigan.

Those same stats, damage, spirit soaking, in deaths. A highly-skilled Kerrigan really isn’t that different from a more average Kerrigan. Instead, when it comes to Kerrigan, what really sets her apart is the effectiveness of her crowd control.

Now Kerrigan is still being measured on all the same stats as Illidan, but is weighted differently, to reflect how important they are for Kerrigan.

 

Now again these are just a couple of simple examples for the system. But the point is that the matchmaker can use all this information — all this knowledge it has — and then it can look at how an individual performed, and it can measure that and use that to adjust their MMR at the end of a match.

So you are still going to get MMR on a win and lose it on a loss. But if you are performing as an individual, beyond the expectations of your current skill level, you are going to gain more MMR win, lose less on a loss, and you are much more quickly arriving at an MMR that is an actual indication of your skill. The opposite is true if you are underperforming.

One of the other cool things about the system is that it is fully dynamic. So it’s continually updating a system as hero balance changes, as the meta shifts, as players find creative new ways to use heroes, the system is updating to take that into account. Now we have actually been running this on the live servers for a little while now, in parallel with the existing Matchmaker.

The Matchmaker hasn’t been using these ratings, but it’s running there and measuring things so we can see how it works. The data that comes out of this is really technical, and it would be hard to show off in a venue like this. But we did find an example that kind of differentiates, and shows the differences in the system. That’s what I have here.

We don’t condone this behavior. But when a highly-skilled player takes control of another player’s account — it was a great example for the system. It was a good way for it to kind of look and do things.

Now that is what this graph is showing. This was a bronze 5 account that a master tier player took control of, and ran it all the way back up to master. This graph is showing the MMR on the old system which is the dashed lines, and then the MMR on the new system, the solid lines, if we have been applying performance-based metrics to that.

 

Now, in the case we are measuring here, the player took control of this account around game 40. Again, they played this all the way back to the master tier and the graph stops at that point. Again at 251. Now if we have been applying the performance metrics to this, and adjusting the MMR based on how well they are doing in those games, the player actually would have crossed over to the master tier game at 131 or twice as fast as they did before.

This is a significant improvement. This is without the system being fully implemented. The matchmaker was still doing matches based on the old MMR system. Once this thing is totally turned on, we have expected this to be even more accelerated. So, some of you all are probably recognizing that the system can do a lot to help with the problems with smurfing.

With its own players creating an account specifically to stomp on lower skill players, they are going to much more rapidly be facing players of their same skill. We have also found that this can be really good for detecting griefing, since the system can pick up when players are playing abnormally poorly for their rating.

We actually already used it to confirm reports of players intentionally feeding, for example, to help take action on those accounts. And, I want to automate this in the future, so that we can much more quickly take those actions. Yeah. There is a lot of potential here. Which leads me to the big question everybody is asking, which is when can we actually get this thing? Because it’s pretty cool, and I got good news on that front.

We are looking to roll it out at the start of the next rank season in mid December. So yeah, it’s coming soon. Now I have been talking about this for a while, so we kind of just tie a bow around this and recap all this here.

Performance-based matchmaking is allowing the matchmaker to take into account individual performance of the player when doing MMR adjustments.

It allows you to get your matchmaking rating to what is actually accurate for you at a much faster pace, which would allow us to make better games overall; and the whole thing is coming your way at the start of the next rank season. So I’d like to thank you for your time with that, and turn the stage over to Mr. Matthew Cooper.

 

NEXT: 2018 UPDATE

BlizzCon 2017 Heroes of the Storm: What's Next panel transcript
1. Year in Review2. Upcoming Content3. 2018 Gameplay Update4. Community Q&A

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Tomas Hernandez is owner of Blizzplanet.com 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.

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