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

2018 Update

Matthew: Hey everyone. I am Matthew, I am the lead Live Designer of Heroes of the Storm. So as Alan and Travis talked about, we have added a ton of new content to this game all the time: new heroes, battlegrounds, reworks. So really, the game is just always constantly evolving. Now over the last several months, a bunch of the development team has been working on some core gameplay updates, that we are calling the “2018 Gameplay Update.”

 

These are core changes to how you will play in every single match. Now if you watched the Opening Ceremony, you have seen some hints of this with our camera changes, our updates to stealth, our lane changes. There is a lot to cover, so we are going to dive right in.

 

CAMERA HEIGHT

Let’s talk about the camera first. So overall, we feel that the camera can be a little bit claustrophobic in those larger scale team fights. When you get all 10 players fighting over a single objective, you can’t always see all the players on the screen at a time. And now over time, of course too, we have added characters like Chromie who has really long range, Genji, Medivh who have really high mobility, and so in a lot of ways the camera wasn’t designed with these kinds of characters in mind.

So we wanted to evaluate our camera height, see if we could pull off this out a little bit, and provide our players with a better experience. This is something we have gotten feedback on from our community for quite a while now. So how much we pull the camera is a bit of a balance between performance and visibility.

 

Our goal is to improve visibility, right? We want to make it so you can better read and understand a team fight. But if we pull off the camera too much, we could hurt our game performance. At the same time, if we pull the camera too much, we could also make visibility worse. So we want to make sure that we are getting a nice balance here, and doing it the right amount.

Now, I have a video that we are going to show, that showcases the old camera, and the new one. I’m going to set this video up a little bit though. So you see there is going to be a small scale team fight to start this, and then midway through, we are going to pause the video and we will pull out to the new camera perspective. I want you to focus on Stitches, and kind of the upper left corner when we do that.

 

So this is what the new camera looks like, and now you can see Chromie is actually even visible off to this side. Stitches can use that information to set up that before his team get that kill. So overall this new camera will let you better read team fights, better make better strategies as a result.

 

STEALTH HEROES

Alright, Stealth Heroes. So these are really popular characters. We get a lot of feedback on these from our community. And when we are looking at stealth heroes from a balance and a design perspective, there are some areas we want to improve. These are typically really powerful characters in quick match play.

 

At the same time, they get a little bit weaker as we move up into higher level hero league and competitive play. And then we rarely see some of these characters in eSports. So coming from the Balance Team we want to look at this and see: “Okay, are there balance adjustments? Are there design changes we can make to these characters to kind of maximize where we are seeing these characters across all of our game modes?

Now the more we looked at this, we realize that the stealth visual can be really hard to see.

So here is a video, we have Jaina in the center, and what some of you might be able to see is there are several stealth heroes moving around just below Jaina, right now on that cobblestone path.

 

These are really challenging to see; it’s hard to spot this. And ultimately, this ends up being an eye test.

 

If you can spot these stealth heroes quickly, if you can communicate this information to your team effectively, maybe over voice chat, then you know the power that stealth brings is reduced. But for most players, they have to really focus on this; and that is an eye test; and so we wanted to re-evaluate this; and update our stealth visual, making it easier to see.

So this is the new stealth visual. We have the old one on the left, and the new one on the right. It’s a lot easier to see. You can even clearly see the silhouette of the stealth characters. Now if you are paying close attention, you might see that these stealth characters are actually disappearing when they stop moving.

 

This is something that’s not playable here at BlizzCon. It is something we are testing out at the office.We are playing with a system where if you are not moving while stealth, you actually go completely invisible.

Stands on really cool things for us. It has brought back some of that mystery of not knowing where that stealth hero is, without making it as much about an eye test.

So, on the design side, our goal with this stealth update is that we want stealth to be about a strategic advantage. Again, we are shifting away from that eye test. You are still going to be invisible while you move around the mini map; and even if an enemy hero spots you coming, they are still going to have to land a skill shot on you or do something like that to remove you out of stealth. They still can’t target you with targeted abilities.

 

Stealth Heroes are really fun for a lot of players to play as. We want to make sure that they are fun for all 10 players in a match, including the players playing against them. Now by updating these stealth visuals, we can really look at our stealth heroes, and kind of do some hero updates to each of the characters; give them some new tools and tricks to play with.

So I gotta talk a little bit about Nova. Now we are just going to talk high level details about some of the Nova changes. She has got a lot of tuning-up updates overall. So I’m not going to go into all the nitty gritty details. Nova is got to start with a new active ability that she can use to immediately put herself back in the stealth.

While in stealth, Nova moves 15% faster. So this is either through the active or just passively through her trait; she is going to move faster while stealth. So these two changes are going to let you position a little bit more freely around the battlefield; and if you do get caught, you do have some opportunities now to try and get away.

Another change we are doing with Nova is: we are reducing her base snipe damage, but then giving her the snipe master talent baseline. So if you are consistently landing a lot of Snipes, what this all means is you can actually bring more total damage to a team fight through high-accuracy.

 

Now if you want to learn more about the stealth changes, please come to the Heroes Deep Dive Panel tomorrow. It’s on the same stage at 1 pm. Alex Neyman, one of our live designers; will be going into more details about all these changes, and he will also be talking about Valeera, Zeratul, and Samuro who are also receiving updates.

 

LANE UPDATES

Alright, moving on to Lane updates. So why are we looking at Laning? And the reason we are looking at Laning is this is kind of the beginning part of the game, and this is a great opportunity for players to have some of those smaller scale 1v1 and 2v2 skirmishes. It gives you some opportunities to outplay your opponent, show off your individual skill.

However, right now our Laning phase typically ends really quickly. When that first tribute on Cursed Hollow spawns, maybe a minute into the match, all players kinda pull out of the lane. On top of that, the lane phase doesn’t carry a lot of weight throughout the game. The team fight phase is still king. So even if you do out-play your opponent in a lane, it doesn’t necessarily translate to the rest of the match. So we wanted to kind of revisit our laning experience and see what updates we could do to make this more interesting.

We looked at a lot of different things. First up, let’s talk about ammunition on towers. So how tower ammunition works currently is: essentially, towers have a limited number of shots, and then after that, they regenerate ammunition extremely slowly. How this ends up playing out for the most part is players will quickly defeat the enemy minion wave, and then they can play safe.

They can back off to their own tower, their own gate, and let their minion wave push into that any towers and drain ammunition. We see this commonly on battlegrounds where skilled groups of players will roam around as a group of 4, and they will quickly just bounce between multiple lanes, quickly defeating the minions, and then moving on; and they are actually winning the lanes by doing that, because they are draining the tower ammunition.

So we wanted to revisit this, and see is there a change we could make so that we can encourage players to play a little bit more offensively — actually attack those towers. And we did a number of different tests, but what we are showing you guys here today is towers are going to have infinite ammunition.

 

So, basically you can’t train tower ammunition anymore. What this is going to encourage players to do now is, you are actually going to want to push off that minion wave, because you don’t want to get meaningful tower damage done. We have done some balance updates as a result of this, so minions have a little bit more health, a little bit more damage. So if you push off with your minion wave, they are going to be even more meaningful at dealing damage to that tower.

So, while we are looking at tower ammunition, we also want to look at the different towers and fortifications, and see how they are performing. Are there changes we want to make here? This is a typical fortification layout on Dragonshire, and when we are looking at all these different towers– (we want to focus on this one in particular) — We call these the Standalone Towers.

 

These are at the back, and we found that these are actually not that meaningful for the most part. A lot of the time when they actually do come into play, when they actually start attacking, the other towers have already been destroyed maybe even the fort keep has already been destroyed, and they can actually block a defender’s movement.

So if you are a defender trying to protect this location, enemies can really predict your movement a lot easier, land skill shots on you as you are trying to move through these locations. So we decided to cut these towers.

 

If you have played our newest battleground Volskaya Foundry, that battleground actually doesn’t have these standalone towers on it; and we have been continuing to test this for a few months now. We are pretty happy at the change.

So we wanted to keep a bunch of our balance relationships the same. So we have rolled a bunch of the stats from these standalone towers onto the other structures: healt,h damage, experience. We want to keep relationships like Sky Temple consistent. Now as we continue to test this a little bit further, we found there were a couple characters who actually relied on these standalone towers a little bit more than the others. That is characters like Abathur and Murky.

So, they would use these areas to kind of protect themselves a little bit against maybe a character like Zeratul who is looking to dive them. So we wanted to revisit this. Okay, see if there are some other changes we could make; and instead of adding the standalone towers back, we are actually adding Truesight to our Forts and Keeps.

 

So Truesight is a mechanic that currently exists on the Core, and what it does is it essentially reveals any enemy stealth heroes who get within its attack range. So now your forts and keeps are also going to have Truesight.

So, with the addition of Truesight, and an unlimited Tower Ammunition, you should feel quite a bit safer when trying to defend one of these fortification locations.

Alright, Regeneration Globes. So this is a really kind of interesting part of the laning phase. We like a lot of things that regeneration globes do. They encourage you to think about your positioning, your enemy’s positioning.

 

You want to think about even how you fight the minion wave, and make sure that you are getting these regeneration globes. These things are doing a lot of good awesome stuff for us, and we want to see if we could make some changes to get even more out of them. So currently, regeneration globes last for six seconds in an allied state, and then they time out.

We tried a bunch of different changes, a bunch of different iterations on this, and the one we are showing you guys here is instead allied Globes are going to last for four seconds and then they will change into a neutral state for another four seconds. In this neutral state, either team can pick them up. So if you are winning in your lane, if you are really thinking about your positioning relative to your enemies, you can potentially get twice as many Globes now. So again think about your positioning, think about how you are fighting those minion waves.

 

ENHANCING MAP MECHANICS

So at the same time, we are doing all these to improve our laning phase, we also wanted to look at it from our battleground perspective, and see if there are changes we can make here to also enhance that laning experience.

So we dove into all of our different battlegrounds to see what we can find; and battlegrounds like Dragonshire, Braxis Holdout, or Tomb of the Spider Queen we feel these battlegrounds really enhance that laning experience.

 

Essentially, the battleground mechanic is part of the lane. So if you are on Dragonshire, and you are on the top lane and you are out playing your opponent, you are actually also helping your team to secure that map event in the top, helping your team potentially get that Dragon Knight.

Of course, we have a number of other battlegrounds that quickly pull you out of lane. So we have battlegrounds like Sky Temple, Cursed Hollow, Infernal Shrines; and essentially, when the first tribute on Cursed Hollow spawns, that’s kind of a call to action for all players to kind of leave the lane, and go contest these objectives.

 

We really like this experience. We don’t want to change this too much. We wanted to evaluate how quickly we are pulling players out of lanes through these battlegrounds. And so we are going to push back some of those battleground objectives a little bit to give you more time to fight over lane, showcase your individual skills.

 

Now there are some other changes we are making to the battlegrounds. As Alan mentioned, we are up to 14 battlegrounds now. That’s a lot. And pretty much all of our different battlegrounds have a different set of rules, a different set of timers that we are asking our players to learn. Things like: When does the first map mechanic appears on the battleground? When does the next one appear? What is the delay in between?

 

So we want to simplify that, so players have to learn less rules. So we are going to have it so that there are essentially two rules that you will need to learn. Our early battlegrounds, the first match mechanic will spawn in at a 1:30 seconds, and some of those later battlegrounds that we want to push back a little bit, to give players more time in the lane, those are going to spawn in at 3:00 minutes.

We also want to provide the information a little bit earlier on. So we are going to have consistent 30 second warnings across all these battlegrounds. So you have more time to reposition, and change lanes; and then, in some cases, we actually want to push this a little bit further, and even before those 30 second warning, we might even show you where the next match mechanic will be.

So on a battleground like Infernal Shrines, you might actually see where that next shrine is going to be well before that 30 second warning. This will allow players to think about when they should be taking a mercenary camp, which lane they should be pushing, what their strong lane should be. Just to provide players with more information.

We still want to have variation on the battlegrounds. We don’t want there to always be a set pattern that tribute spawns in on Cursed Hollow, for example. We want there to be some variation, but as long as we can provide that information early to players, they will be able to better make strategies around that information.

 

GAME LENGTH

The goal with all these changes is to not increase game length. So we have a lot of different tuning ups to keep our game length right around 20 minutes, which we think is an awesome experience. Obviously, we could make changes to the strength of minions in pre-SR at the strength of our map mechanics.

Overall, in internal testing, we haven’t really noticed a difference in game length, but once you guys have a chance to play it, we can get a lot of data. We will be able to make adjustments if needed here.

 

MERCENARY CAMPS

So last thing, I want to talk about is our Mercenary Camps. So especially with us making a bunch of changes, making laning more interesting, we wanted to revisit the mercenaries and to see if there are changes we can make here to add more strategy to each individual camp.

Currently, some of our mercenaries may be on– say: night (for example) the kind of act is tower fodder. Their job is to push down a lane, soak up a bunch of Tower Ammunition. Well, with unlimited Tower Ammunition, we definitely wanted to revisit these, make sure they are providing some unique strategies.

 

So for our night camp, the night wizard is going to emit a Spell Armor aura. So if you are pushing off your night camps, all nearby allies, heroes, even other minions and mercenaries are actually going to have a bunch of spell armor. This will make it a lot harder to fight an enemy team who is pushing off their Knights. So you definitely don’t want to capture these camps and push off them.

Our Held back camp is actually going to decrease enemy armor with every single basic attack and these stack a few times. So again, if you are fighting in a lane, and an enemy has some hellbats to help them, you are going to be really careful about how you engage this lane. You maybe are going to want to take out those hellbats early.

Perceived Giants. We actually really like how tower Siege Giants perform for the most part. They require a response from the enemy team. But we still wanted to look at them, and see if there are changes or updates we can do to make Siege Giants better. Now some of you might not know that you can actually dodge the Siege Giant attacks in the lane.

 

We just don’t telegraph this very well. We don’t do a good job of it. So we are going to better communicate this, make it more visually obvious that you can dodge their attacks; but we are going to step further than that. We are going to make it so you can actually dodge their attacks in the jungle as well while you are fighting these camps.

So, if you play really well, if you are moving around while you are taking the camp, you can actually take Siege Giants without taking any damage. We are looking at all of our mercenary camps. We want to make sure that they are all performing well across all stages of the game.

So, we have a few minutes left. I am going to talk quickly about timeline, and then after that we will probably have about five or six minutes for questions. So we have a couple of microphones. We are not going to be able to take a lot of questions today, but if you guys want to start lining up…

 

NEXT: COMMUNITY Q&A

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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