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

GAMEPLAY UPDATE

Matt: Hey, everyone. So I’m Matthew, I’m the lead content designer in Heroes of the Storm. Super awesome to be here. Who here has had a chance to play Orphea? Awesome! You should check her out. She’s awesome. We have a Deep Dive panel that’s going to go into more detail about her tomorrow. Definitely, check that out. So, I often get questions from players, from you guys, why we rework certain heroes, what are our goals, what are we trying to accomplish when we’re updating a battleground, or a hero. So I did want to shed a little bit of light on that.

 

So, the game is always evolving and we’re learning so much more about the game over time. When we release a new character into the game, we have a chance to play maybe hundreds or maybe even a 1000 games internally of that character, as we’re kind of developing it. But as soon as we release that character live to you guys, start playing alongside you and getting your feedback, that’s when we really learn how this character fits into the meta and what talents are viable. And so these are great. This is a lot of information for us to use to really update these heroes and improve them.

So, if you take a character like Brightwing, for example, she’s been in the game for a while and then over time, we’ve added a bunch of new characters. They’ve changed the meta, they’ve added new playstyles; and really, overtime, Brightwing might kind of fall out of favor. She might not be the best healer or she doesn’t do something unique that other healers don’t do anymore. And so we really want to use this opportunity to rework her, which we did back in September. And when we rework heroes, oftentimes, we’re looking to update talents, we want to make sure that there’s multiple viable talent builds, you feel like you can play the character in multiple ways; and in some cases, we’ll even update the core kit and adjust core mechanics. So, in Brightwing’s case we gave her an active cleanse on her trait.

 

STITCHES REWORK

Now, this being a What’s Next panel, I did want to share our next reworks. So, these are coming in December. There’s still a few weeks off. So we’re just going to take kind of a high level look at them. And first off, we have everyone’s favorite hook character: Stitches.

 

Joe: Hook Character. (laughs)

Matt: So, whenever we’re doing a rework, really, whenever we’re developing new contents into the game, one of the things we ask ourselves is: what is the fantasy of playing as this hero? And it basically comes down to what do players want to do with this, why are players playing as this character? As Joe mentioned, we’re changing our role-based system. Stitches is currently a warrior. So, we have to ask ourselves, okay well, which category is Stitches going to be in the new system? And we definitely see him as a tank. He’s a large, frontline character who can get in between the enemy team and his team. And hook definitely sets up initiations for his team.

Let’s his team choose fights on their terms. And speaking of hooks, we love this ability, we think it’s awesome. And what do we mean by Epic Hooks?

 

This is a good example of it. This is Towers of Doom where poor little Chromie is trying to capture some points for her team at the altar; and Stitches has fishing hook, he has a lot of range on this. But even outside of this scenario, even just pulling someone into your team, and choosing when the team’s fight is going to happen. And the counter-play of dodging hooks feels really good. So, we love this ability. So, going into the rework, we’re going to look to keep Hook awesome, we don’t think this ability needs any significant changes. In fact, we want to level up a lot of the rest of Stitches’ kit to make it as awesome as Hook is.

 

So, Slam as an example, is a pretty vanilla ability, it just does a little bit of damage in a cone in front of Stitches. There’s not a lot of decision making that goes into using this ability. You can’t really do any big plays of this. You just kind of use it on cooldown. So we definitely think this is an opportunity for us to upgrade this ability, give players more active decision-making when they’re using Slam. And of course, with any rework, we’re looking to kind of level up all the talents and look for other areas in the base kit where we can make Stitches more fun to play, and feel more impactful and even more unique.

 

SYLVANAS REWORK

Alright, so beyond Stitches, there’s also another rework that will be coming with him in December. That is Sylvanas. So again, another one of our kind of more original characters we’ve had in the game for a while. And going back to, kind of what are our goals? What are we looking at? It’s the same approach again. We’re looking at the fantasy of who is Sylvanas? What kind of game are players chasing when they’re playing as Sylvanas? And Sylvanas is a little unique in this regard, because she has such a strong fantasy from Warcraft, or even World of Warcraft versus Heroes of the Storm.

 

So, in World of Warcraft, she’s the warchief of the Horde. She burned down a tree; and in Heroes, she’s a character that has a very unique playstyle. She’s a specialist character, and we did say specialist is going away after the role update, so we’ll talk about that in a second. But we say specialists, she’s shutting down towers, pushing minion waves; and we like this mechanic, it’s very unique, there’s no other character that does this. But we think there’s potentially an opportunity to make this more interesting.

 

Alright, so specialist is going away. We’re going to position Sylvanas as an epic range assassin. We think this better fits her Warcraft vibe of being someone who can get in the middle of an enemy team and be very terrifying. She’s super powerful. And we’re going to kind of approach this by looking at her talent tree and looking for options where we can introduce a lot of really powerful talents. For example, she has her Windrunner talents on her Haunted Wave where she can use that to play really aggressively; and then actually, get more damage out of that, and we think that’s a really fun playstyle.

So, we want to look for more opportunities to add talents like that to her. Now, talking about her tree a little bit, Black Arrows where she can push down a lane until the enemy really deals with her, she could potentially go all the way to the core by herself. Again, this is really unique. There’s no other character that has this playstyle. We really like that you can build whole team compositions around this and there’s a lot of strategy associated with this. So, we want to keep aspects of it. But we do want to level up and give players a little bit more decision making. The fact that this trade is always active, the fact that there’s not always a lot of counter playing in some situations, we think we can do better, level this up and give players more choices.

 

CORE GAMEPLAY UPDATE

Alright, so both those reworks will be coming in December, we’ll be talking about them more in the next few weeks. So stay tuned to learn more at the details. So, moving on from Heroes and Battlegrounds, let’s talk a little bit about kind of the core gameplay. So, we look to– again with content evolving over time– us learning new strategies. We look to how the game is playing as a whole, and see if there’s areas where we can level up that game experience, especially at events like this. At BlizzCon, where we have our HGC Finals, our best heroes players in the world, which I hope you guys are checking out today and tomorrow competing.

We’re going to see strategies that we haven’t seen before. We’re probably going to see team compositions and so on that we didn’t anticipate. And so these are all great tools for us to look at, how do we make changes for this game? How are we going to improve this game and make it better? And so I’m talking about gameplay updates. Here are some of the stuff we did last year, we pulled out the camera to give players a wider view of the battlefield, so you can be more strategic; regeneration globes turn neutral after a little while and this allows you to maybe play aggressively and pick up more globes.

 

And then Tower ammunition. We remove this. We think it cleaned up a lot of the lane matchups. Now, overall we’re pretty happy with all of these changes. We have heard player’s feedback regarding tower ammunition, making some of the solo lane matchups a little more static and not as dynamic. We think that’s totally valid feedback. We’re not going to go back on Tower ammunition; but we’re going to look for other ways in the future to make those solo lane matchups more interesting, potentially with like some of our mana changes we’ve done earlier this year, or other things. And so, looking forward for this year, our major focus for gameplay updates was around making games close. We feel like the best game experience is when you have two teams are evenly matched. The game is very back and forth, and it feels like both teams have the opportunity to win. Every little decision matters throughout the course of a match. These are the epic matches that we like. And we want to chase more of these.

And so, when we look at a game like this, and this is probably a Quick Match comp, because the teams are great, but you can tell that the left Team Red is winning, they’ve won the map objective, they’ve got map control; but kind of the main thing we’re focusing on here is the difference in team levels. So in this case, they’re up 3 levels, they’re up that really powerful level 16 talent tier. And even then they’re probably starting to get close to level 20 by the time blue gets to 16. So, we wanted to look at our experience system and see if there are ways where we could keep games closer, instead of them snowballing out of control.

 

XP CHANGES

We found that, in general, we award a lot of experience from destroying structures. So, if you take a front wall, or a fort, or a keep, you actually earn your team a lot of experience. And this is a good reward for playing aggressively and pushing; but it also means that when you win a map objective, if you’re on… say Infernal Shrines and you win the Punisher, you’re probably already winning a little bit because you won the map objective, and now your reward is to go take down an enemy Fort; and now you’re going to get more experience and continue to get further and further ahead. And in some cases, this can start to snowball and lead for the game to kind of get out of hand. So we want to address this and make some changes.

So to go over all the specifics with what we’ve done with experience, we iterated a lot internally for quite a few months. Here is what we’re actually changing. So Forts and Keeps are worth no experience at all with this change. Towers are worth 50% less experience. So you’ll still gain some from pushing that front wall, just not as much. And we did like how fast teams were leveling. We kind of like that cadence. So we’re adding experience back in other ways.

So the passive trickles going up a little bit and mercenaries are actually worth a lot more experience now. So overall, teams are leveling at about the same rate. We feel like the games have been a lot closer internally. We’ve had much more competitive matches that feel epic and they’re back and forth.

 

So as we are iterating on this and playtesting this over a course of several months, we did start to get some feedback internally, that it didn’t always feel great to be aggressive and push down a Fort; and really take that risk and go for that; because you weren’t getting a lot out of it. You are taking away some map presence from your opponents, they didn’t have that safety location on the battleground anymore.

But that wasn’t always enough. And when we started digging into that, we realized we weren’t getting that same feedback about Keeps, even though Keeps also don’t give any experience, players still felt very rewarded from just trying to Keep, because you start spotting catapults and those things. And so that’s the change we’re doing.

 

CATAPULT UPDATE

Now when you destroy a Fort, you’ll actually start to spawn catapults in those lanes, but not all the time. Only every third minion wave. And so really, the goal here is to shift this advantage away from a power advantage where you just have a higher level and more stats than your opponents into a more strategic advantage where there’s back and forth decision-making, and you can potentially try in time pushes around having a catapult in that lane, and the enemy team has to respond. But they’re not just down for the count.

And here’s an example of that catapult where, you know, the team has destroyed that Fort in that top lane, and now they actually have that catapult and they can try and make some plays, and some strategic decisions around having this.

 

ARMOR UPDATE

Alright, so moving on from those changes that make matches a lot closer, we also wanted to focus on our armor system. This is a very significant system in the game. And there were two areas where we wanted to improve on armor. So on the gameplay side, we started to receive a lot of feedback from some of our pro players that armor stacking, and building team comps, and drafting around, having a lot of armor was kind of the best way to play and that was dominating their decision-making.

And so we knew this wasn’t exactly what we wanted. We didn’t want teams to think about how many ways can we stack armor buffs onto a single character. On the UI side, we didn’t do a good job of communicating how much armor players had. In fact, we don’t show how much physical armor you have or any. Or how much spell armor you have unless you actually select the player and dive into their armor stack breakdown. And so we knew we wanted to address that.

So with our updated UI, we’ll now show all armor types at all points right next to your health bar. So if you’ve ever played as Raynor and you attacked Cassia, and you wondered why you’re not doing a whole lot of damage to her– unless you’ve played as Cassia, you might not know that her trait gives her a ton of physical armor while she’s moving. So now that will be a lot clearer to players. On the gameplay side, we’re removing armor stacking.

 

So it’s going to work a lot like our movement system, where we take your biggest buff, and your biggest debuff, we put those together and that will be how much armor you will have. So you still want to think about how you’re drafting your team comps, and you can still bring multiple characters that have armor, but you’re going to want to stagger it now, instead of stacking those all at the same time.

On the gameplay side, that’s allowed us to revisit a lot of heroes, abilities, and talents; and make sure that these armor effects are more meaningful on their own, now that we don’t have to worry about them stacking. Alright, so we hope that you have a chance to play Orphea later. That’s all we have to share for today.

 

We will have a few minutes for questions, so you guys can start queuing up to the mics; and while we’re waiting for that, we’re going to play that same awesome video that we showed during the opening ceremony. Check it out.

NEXT: Q&A (Work in progress. I’ll tweet when it’s ready. ETA: 1-2 hours.)

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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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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