BlizzCon 2018 Heroes of the Storm: What’s Next Panel Transcript

What’s Next

Joe: Hello, heroes. I’m Joe Piepiore, I’m the lead systems designer for Heroes of the Storm. I joined the team in October, last year. I’m going to talk really fast. I have a lot of things to get through.

 

Looking back over the last half a year for 2018, we made a number of changes to the way that we’ve been handling live events. Starting with Nexomania, Echoes of Alterac, and Fall of King’s Crest. We asked players to make some decisions to these events, we try to double down on these, we like the stories we get to tell inside the Nexus.

 

The Nexus is a place where anything could happen, the world’s get smashed together, we can tell any story we want. It’s exciting because we’re giant geeks. So we get to really play in this space, because we love these characters. So, let’s go through. We have players pick a number of decisions during the course of these events. I thought it’d be fun to show you what actually happened. In Nexomania, we asked players to back either La Parca Lunara or La Pantera Sonya. Who backed Sonya? Who backed horse lady? Horse lady wins! Big win for Lunara. Very proud of her.

 

Next up, we welcomed the conflict in Azeroth to the Nexus, for the first time ever we have a Blue Team vs Red Team Battle. Wait! We always have a Blue Team vs Red Team Battle. That said, we asked players do you want to back the Alliance or do you want to back the Horde? Well, in the end the Horde wins with 58%. Congratulations to all combatants as Alliance players. I salute us. Go ,Blue Team!

 

Next up, during the Fall of King’s Crest, we asked players to choose either, select a blue purified tombstone mount or a red defiled tombstone mount. Matt who, what do you think they selected?

Matt: The red one. FOR THE HORDE!!!

Joe: Not at all appropriate, but alright. Red. What do you guys think: red or blue? Such a smart crowd, such a beautiful crowd, thank you very much. 64% decided to go with the red one. I think it’s because it had horns; but that’s just my take. We’re very excited about the sorts of things we’ve done with our live events in 2018; and looking forward, our December event is just one step further. I look forward to that. The Nexus is a playground overflowing with limitless opportunities to entertain and surprise us. So we’re going to keep doubling down on that to 2019 as well. But that’s not all we’re here to talk about today.

 

ROLES

There are new features and systems coming down the pipe. Roles! Heroes of the Storm is lit with warriors, supports, assassins, specialists and Multi-class variants for some time.

But as the game is matured, these classifications don’t fully reflect the intent behind these heroes. There’s a big difference between Sonya and Johanna; and new players don’t necessarily know that when we call them both warriors. Now we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the community over the course of the last year (to longer than that potentially) that sometimes we do a bad job of educating our players. This is a step in that direction. Alright, it seems small but it’s really important. We want to make it clear for those players who are starting that might not understand the interplay between these roles. We want to give them a better idea of what they’re supposed to be doing in lane. What their role is.

 

So, I’m just going to dive right in. First up… Tank. It shouldn’t surprise anybody. Of course, we have Tanks. They’re not Bruisers. They’re different. Alright, it’s like Anub’ arak. This is Muradin. This is Stitches, okay? They’re going to dive in, they are formidable juggernauts to protect their team by absorbing attacks from the enemy and blocking their retreat.

Then we have Bruisers like Artanis, Sonya, Chen, you know, they’re tough fighters capable of getting in the thick of it and dealing out some punishment.

Then we got Healers like Lieutenant Morales, Brightwing, Rehgar (my personal favorite). They focus on restoring health and aiding their team.

And we have Supports. Supports like Abathur, Medivh or Zarya focus on boosting their allies and kind of providing unique advantages to their team. Lost Vikings can soak three lanes, that’s really good if you bother to do it properly.

Melee assassins such as Illidan, Kerrigan, Valeera, these are high octane damage doers who like to jump on their enemies to really lay-on the pain. And then, we have ranged assassins like Orphea today, Jaina, Li-ming and Sgt. Hammer. They are high-end damage dealers that attack their enemies from a safer distance.

 

We think this is a big step forward for Heroes. There’s more that we’re doing in this area; but looking forward to 2019, you can look forward seeing these soon.

 

CALL OF THE NEXUS

Joe: Next, this is big. Heroes of the Storm has several game modes, but our most popular one is Quick Match. Quick Match is great when you want to play a specific hero and not have to worry about the drafting phase or picking phase. You love this aspect of Quick Match. It’s a simple drop-in into Play Mode that allows players to find a casually competitive experience. However, sometimes you end up with some pretty bad comps. Who here has had a bad comp in Quick Match? It’s actually really quiet. This tells me that the team sometimes gets to Quick Match… they don’t typically conform to the expectations that we have for compositions, that we’ve actually balanced Heroes around.

This, for example, is a horrible match. Two assassins, and three specialists means that no one is following up on dives. Everybody’s back into the pools constantly, people are going to be just staggered out all over the place, it’s going to be a pretty bad match. Now, you might end up in a comp against that has also got two assassins and a specialist on the other side; but it doesn’t make a great game for anybody. We want to improve all that.

 

Call of the Nexus, we’re changing all of it. Once it goes live, we’re going to ensure that every Quick Match game is a tank, a healer and ranged assassin for each team.

 

To help build the queue with more tanks and healers and other underrepresented roles, we’re already providing a 50% XP bonus if you queue for these roles when they are required. All told, we’re really excited about Call of the Nexus, and eagerly anticipate it coming into the game later this month after Orphea’s launch. So it is coming real soon. Next!

 

BOOSTS

Joe: Let’s talk about Stimpack. Stimpacks are a really popular feature in Heroes of the Storm. It’s been around for a long time, so it’s due for a bit of an update. We call this new feature: Boost.

 

Boost still provides a 100% extra XP and a 150% gold per match while they’re active; but now we added an extra benefit. In any game where boost is active. Every player in that match that has boost active will provide a 5% stacking XP bonus for every other player in that game. Knowing that you’re sharing the benefit of Boost, we think it just makes it feel better, makes it feel more fun; because after all, sharing is caring, right? Yeah! I really hear you guys. You obviously believe that sharing is caring. Yeah! Yeah! It’s happened, alright.

 

RANKED UPDATE

Let’s talk about Ranked Play in Heroes the Storm. Heroes is a team-based competitive experience and we want to bring that aspect of the game to the fore in 2019. This year, we received a ton of feedback from the playerbase on the rank experience. Several big piece of feedback (not the only pieces, mind you but big piece of feedback). First, Team League queues are too long. Okay. We made some changes recently to address that, but we’re still going. Add Duo Queue back to Hero league — another good piece of feedback, right? To add Duo Queue. We used to have that back when Hero League first came out. I think you can understand why that come back.

 

At the same time, never add Duo Queue back to Hero league. Blues would never do this. Don’t listen to point two. Only listen to point three. Everytime this comes up, it’s been the feedback is put down a little. That’s on the Dev team. That’s on the audience. Alright, that’s just the reality. So, okay that’s what makes system design so much fun.

 

You’re going to end up angering someone. We made some changes to Team League recently to kind of get around this. Initial effort to address all these concerns were… we basically removed all of the party size queue requirements for Team League. Now as of our last update, you can queue as solo, as a 4-player party, and any configuration that you like. That’s actually a pretty good application for Team League playing time across the board.

So, from region to region, we saw a pretty big increase from 4X to 12X in some cases in terms of Team League participation after we made this simple change. Now, these were not players who just abandoned Hero League to play Team League. The overall ranked playerbase increased dramatically after we made this change.

 

People were getting the games and find more opportunities to play. Very, very significant for us, really excited to see these changes and the numbers continue to do well. We’re not done. This is a really good change, but there’s a lot that we want to do to the Ranked Play experience. And to that end, as we look forward in 2019, our long term plans involve a reimagining of Ranked Play in Heroes of the Storm. Are you ready to hear about this? Alright, first, we’re going to be combining Hero League and Team League together while providing an option for solo players to only be matched against other solo players if they choose.

This will allow for more flexibility in the matchmaker, to find each player, opponents of appropriate skill. Next, it could be intensely frustrating to have a player on your team disconnect during a Ranked Play game. To how many players has this happened to recently? Now, we continue to make improvements with our AI system, we continue improvements with our reconnection system, which we actually just released some good updates for two months ago. Those things keep getting better. That doesn’t change the fact that when you have an AI player on your team sometimes it just doesn’t feel as fair. We understand.

In any Ranked Play match, when you’re playing, and one player on your team disconnects and doesn’t return for a significant length of time, your defeat in that game will not result in the loss of MMR or Ranked Points. Leavers who abandoned their team at the moment of their greatest need, those people are going to be penalized. You can’t control every time you have to leave the game. Sometimes your kid wakes up if you’re at my age. Sometimes your computer falls apart; and sometimes it just happens; but if it happens regularly over the course of the Season, you will start seeing stacking penalties over time.

 

Right now, at the beginning of every season for the uninitiated, you go through 10 placement games; and something about three and a half hours of you waiting to start seeing your points change, but not seeing them change yet. Seeing your points change is part of what makes Ranked Play fun. We recognize that. It feels like a bit of a chore sometimes to go through this many placement games. So we are reducing that number from 10 to around 3; but at the same time, we are going to be adding a new Seasonal Ranked quest.

 

Now, the idea here is that when they finish their 3 placement games, you’re going to get a questline that asks them to finish a set number of games inside Rank Play in order to earn your end of season rewards. So, you don’t just get your end of Season rewards for finishing your 3 placement games, and then never coming back, right? You’re going to have to finish your season questline to get the rest of that stuff, along with a few extra goodies along the way.

(A fan screams in a high pitch.)

Joe: (laughs) I agree. That’s why I feel the same way. Next, we’re going to remove promotion and demotion games. Honestly, what it comes down to is that the anxiety surrounding promotion/demotion games is not fun. It ends up, well, like looking at the data, a lot of players will hit one of these moments and stop. And they don’t return for the season, because they don’t want to have that feeling of like I’m Diamond 5, I’m a diamond player, I’m a diamond player. On my new demotion game, you had a bad night; and you got that demotion game lingering in front of you; and now you are going to drop out of Ranked Play. You don’t feel like you want to deal with that. It’s the reason why players don’t come back and bother playing. They don’t want to let themselves down. That doesn’t feel good. We don’t need it. We’ll be removing that.

 

PERFORMANCE-BASED MATCHMAKING

Joe: Performance-based Matchmaking. Kaeo mentioned this earlier. Last year, we talked about Performance-based Matchmaking, and the idea was very simple. It was a way for us to evaluate player performance based on the hero and the map that they play. It’s a way for us to kind of give you a guideline, like this is how well you’re doing. But the way we were using it before is to try and use this way to kind of ascribe where your skill level really is. After a long investigation, we’ve decided to pull back from this feature and invest instead in creating a smoother more transparent experience within Ranked Play.

Now that said, Kaeo is right, we had the entire thing implemented last year. It was running in December. We got it running in the background the entire year since the last BlizzCon. Looking at the data, evaluating it, thinking about it, how would we want to use it, what’s the best way to use it for the playerbase.

What we found is that the learnings from that have been really valuable. We feel that there’s great potential in here to use this feature to educate players rather than form ladder position. So, imagine you finish a match, you are playing Tassadar, and you have never played Tassadar before, if you can use this evaluation, performance-based matchmaking data from the system to kind of evaluate, well: Am I shielding and healing enough? Like, the average winning Tassadar player, how well did they do? Being able to judge yourself by that is useful; but doesn’t necessarily need to move your MMR.

Then lastly, we’re going to be displaying the players’ matchmaking rating and removing rank points from ladder calculation. Instead, your matchmaking rating or MMR (which is a very boring term) will map more directly to a granular ranking system. So if your MMR is 1644, your rank would be Diamond 50. Winning or losing matches will raise or lower your MMR which would result in adjustment of your rank. These changes represent a seismic shift at how we approach competitive playing in Heroes of the Storm; and we’re really very excited about delivering these improvements over the course of 2019. That said, I’ll like to welcome the singular, the epic Matt Cooper up to the stage to talk about content.

 

NEXT: GAMEPLAY UPDATE

BlizzCon 2018 Heroes of the Storm: What's Next panel transcript
1. Year Recap2. What's Next3. Gameplay Update4. Q&A

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