E3 2015 – Heroes of the Storm: Eternal Conflict Interview

During E3 2015, Blizzplanet event reporter Danny Perschonok interviewed Alan Dabiri (technical director) and Phil Gonzales (senior 3D artist) to discuss details of the new expansion Heroes of the Storm: Eternal Conflict, and to find out more about the Skeleton King, the Monk and the new battlegrounds.

Help us share the interview with the community and spread the word. A transcript is available below.

Note: This interview took place at E3 2015. I recommend to lower the YouTube audio to 20% to reduce the background noise. The YouTube audio has custom closed captions/subtitles. Enable the CC feature.

 

Transcript

Gonzales: Today we are going to talk about the Eternal Conflict, this is something we kind of alluded to at BlizzCon last year, the Nexus being a place fanatically where we are bringing all these heroes from Blizzard’s universes together.

We are really looking forward to bringing environments from our different game universes together for the first time as well and we are doing this through the Eternal Conflict bringing the world of sanctuary into the Nexus. We have a pretty cool trailer, I don’t know if you got to see it last night but it’s going on now.

dperschonok: This is one of the best trailers since launch, I think.

Gonzales: Thanks a ton. We wore out our butts on it.

dperschonok: I’ll say when I first saw that I was like: “Ok, they are announcing Deckard Cain, right?

(laughter)

Gonzales: One day I’m sure that will be real.

dperschonok: I’m sure.

Gonzales: So the Eternal Conflict is going to be new Diablo-themed battlegrounds. We’ve talked a lot about Battlefield of Eternity. We have a second battleground that’s in development that’s not quite ready to talk about.

Additionally the Diablo heroes will be coming online, the trailers pretty much showcase a lot of what we are talking about in the immediate future, The Butcher we’ve talked about recently, Leoric we are going to talk about in more depth today, the monk we kind of have a little bit of new too, but not like a full disclosure yet; and we have an exciting in-game event that is going to coincide with the Battlefield of Eternity… the Treasure Goblin event.

At the beginning of a match, at the starting area, a treasure goblin will randomly spawn. This works just as it does in D3. You want to dog pummel the goblin before he opens up this exit portal and this coincides with the daily quest.

Every day you get the quest, you kill the goblin and earn a hundred in-game gold to put towards buying skins, mounts, stuff like that and gold payout is once per day if you have the quest.

You can kill multiple goblins per day but there’s only one quest. Those are a really cool thing to usher in the goblin and we have some new heroes as well.

Dabiri: We’ve talked about The Butcher before and that he’s going to be coming as our launch hero; but shortly after him will also be Leoric. So the Skeleton King from Diablo, he’s a warrior kind of the defining aspect of him is his trait which is called Undying and what it is, is that when he falls in battle he doesn’t die like the other heroes; he stays around as the spirit, as a ghost on the battlefield.

He can still maneuver position himself and use his abilities; he doesn’t do any damage while he is in ghost form but any of his abilities that have other effects like slowing or other types of manipulation like that can influence the battle.

In addition, while he’s in ghost form, any healing effects he does to himself, any of his abilities that can do a heal effect on him, [that] reduces his death time. So he’s got this death timer while he’s in the spirit form, and when that runs out he comes back and is restored on the battlefield right where he was; but if you do any of his healing effects it cuts that down even more and you basically cheat death and as a result come back sooner.

There is quick video here where Leoric is up ahead here and he gets sort of powered down by his two enemies, becomes a ghost and is moving around the battlefield uses his abilities here to slow them. They don’t really respect the fact that he’s coming back and when he does they are all so damaged now that he’s able to just finish them off.

You really have to pay attention to Leoric, just because you took him out doesn’t mean he’s out of this fight forever. He’s going to be back. There’s his spirit. He’s still around. His abilities, his Q is called Skeleton Swing. His W is called Drain Hope and his E is called Wraith Walk and I’ll show you some videos that kind of explains a little better.

His Q is Skeleton Swing, his first is for basic attacks and his last one is that Skeletal Swing where it’s an arc in front of him doing a lot of damage and also slowing anything that he hits. So it’s good for like thirty ways. It’s good for like slowing down enemies and trying to get to a back line or even trying to get away from those.

This is Drain Hope. It’s a skill shot. If you hit with this attack, his third hand comes out and basically grasps on to an enemy. As long as that enemy stays with him (you see this blue area of effect circle around here?) as long as he stays within that, he drains some life steal, basically. He’s draining health from his enemy and then giving it to Leoric.

dperschonok: Can they run away from it?

Dabiri: Yes, it’s not that you are like permanently latched on but as you move away it’s still kind of loosely leashed to you and then if you get out of that radius then it will break; and also while he’s in this mode Leoric moves slower. So that gives you the opportunity to actually run away; and then there is some talents that enhances his ability and one of his talents actually makes you move the full speed and so makes it even more difficult to get away from him; and this was one of the abilities that I mentioned when he is in his undying ghost form.

If you hit with this, since it does a life steal, this is really going to burn through your timer and you’ll come back pretty quickly depending on how late it is in the game.

dperschonok: When you are in the wraith form is he looking any different so he’s known to the other team?

Dabiri: The spirit? Yeah you do. That was in the first video that we had there where you look like this grey kind of ghostling figure and also his legs are gone, so basically he’s floating. Also the health bar above, it changes from his life health bar to a grey countdown timer; and that’s basically saying his death timer (when he’s going to come back). So you can also, when he’s about to come back, you would be like ok we need to positon him.

This is Wraith Walk. When he uses this ability, he basically detaches and becomes this wraith and you can completely control this wraith when you are in this form. In this case he moves in a straight line but you can actually move around the battlefield. You will move very quickly when you are in this form as well.

In this case, Malfurion wants to get away but Leoric’s not having any of that and kind of chases him down. It’s also great for getting past like a front line of tanks, you want to get through them and get to the back them; also if you need to escape (if things get a little too hot and you want to get out).

While he’s in this wraith walk his body stays stationary. He is unstoppable in that mode, so he can’t be stunned; but he can still take damage. So as an enemy, you can try to DPS him down as well.

His first heroic ability is called Entomb and this really speaks to kind of the Diablo Waller ability where in this case if a guy tries to run away he just creates these walls around him and controls the battle and makes sure people are exactly where he wants them to be.

dperschonok: Is it always the same Waller?

Dabiri: It is. It is always the same Waller. At least with this skin. I know when we add new skins–

At level 20, you can also pick a talent that enhances this even more with spikes coming out of the ground in the walled out areas so you can really get some damage done.

His second ultimate is March of the Black King and this is basically a targeted ability that’s directed where you pick a direction, he marches forward swinging that weapon doing massive damage and everyone that he hits heals him as well, and he is unstoppable while he’s doing this. So you can see him just wrecking an entire team right there.

In this case they are all a little bit damaged in there. It’s the Vikings as well there, but it still does an incredible amounts of damage.

dperschonok: Do you have a preference with what you prefer?

Dabiri: I was actually using this a lot in our play tests just because, I mean, for one thing I think it looks amazing as well; but you can really like change a fight where if people are coming in and they see this thing coming suddenly everyone just start spreading out.

The Entomb ability is actually a lot of fun too. You just need to be able to use it at the right times. You need to grab that talent. So it’s very powerful but it’s a little more… you got to know when the right time to use it. Also on this one, on level 20, when you pick the 20 talent that enhances this, when his last hit goes off he actually will also cast Draining Hope on everyone around him and that is that life steal.

So all of the heroes that are left then they’ll get life leeched as well. So it’s pretty cool.

Gonzales: In the video you saw the Monk — we’re just going to talk about him really lightly. The community was pretty vocal about when we’d get a Diablo support character. The Monk is going to fill that role, he’s a melee character, and we’ll do a quick view of him.

His trait is something that’s going to be selected as his level 1 talent, and that’s going to be kind of a really strong threat of what makes the monk unique. From the onset you can kinda choose what traits he wants to do best and enhance these abilities; whether it’s more DPS, more healing, whatever role would kind of accentuate the key composition to begin with. The monk caters to that.

dperschonok: Is that kind of the recap of the Eternal Conflict for right now?

Gonzales: We have more heroes and battlegrounds on the way. A public test run will be coming up on June 23rd giving early access to the battleground only. The official Eternal Conflict launches on June 30th, which will also coincide with the release of the Butcher and finally Leoric is going to enter the Nexus sometime in July.

dperschonok: Is this presentation available at all?

PR manager: No, just that.

dperschonok: Ok. But all the assets are in the press site, right?

PR manager: Yes.

dperschonok: OK. Alright. So, some questions that I had the rest of the people in my site kind of help me get together for today. How many battlegrounds are you aiming for with the Eternal Conflict. Is that something you guys can answer?

Dabiri: Just two. For the event itself, it’s just two battlegrounds.

dperschonok: Is there a timeline for that?

Dabiri: It’s over the course of several months but we don’t actually have a specific timeline for the next battleground.

dperschonok: Originally I think you guys said you wanted to try to release heroes every three weeks? Is that something you are still going to try to stick to or…

Dabiri: Yup, and in fact with the current schedule here, it’s turning out that that is going to line up here. So we really want to hit that cadence of heroes every few weeks.

dperschonok: So the Butcher will be the first on the 30th, and then hopefully within three weeks the Monk is looking after that?

Dabiri: Leoric is first. I will say that three weeks is kind of the rule of thumb, but some might be a bit longer than others; but we really want to have that cadence.

dperschonok: Are there more heroes that are looking to be part of this Eternal Conflict?

Dabiri: We haven’t actually announced anything more but there is also more content just in terms of skins as well that you might have even seen during the video. Some Diablo themed skins.

dperschonok: Will we know about when those are coming? Are those coming with the initial launch, or is that throughout later on?

Dabiri: The skins? Not all of them. I think they’ve actually got them spread out over the course of the event. So if you go through the video you can kind of get a glimpse of some of them. There’s an amazon skin for Nova called the Novazon. It redoes all her effects when she does snipes, throws javelins and stuff like that. We have an Angelic Diablo. That’s in the video as well, and then we have some pretty crazy cosmetic changes for Leoric and stuff like that coming up.

dperschonok: Awesome. With more battlegrounds are you retiring current ones from the matchmaking and are there any matchmaking improvements in development?

Dabiri: So, first on the map side, what we are actually doing with this specific release is we are going to cut the pool down to just be a set of about four or five maps including the new one and the reason is that we wanted to (initially when it first comes out) people want to try the new battleground, and because of the fact that it’s a randomly selected map, you might not get it as much. So we wanted to cut down that pool to make it so that Battlefields of Eternity shows up more often.

We would go back to a normal pool about a week later, but then going forward, our plan is actually to have kind of a map rotation similar to how we have with Heroes where potentially every week (potentially every few weeks) we have a set of maps that are in the pool for that time; and then we’d cycle that, and we keep on changing it; and then as we keep adding more; and eventually we may come to a place where we have so many maps that we actually decide that we want to take some out completely. I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet; but it’s something we’ve talked about.

dperschonok: Are there any plans for custom games and being able to choose maps or is that still lying on the table?

Dabiri: We have custom games right now, but we don’t have it as a public facing so you can make a custom game to play on the map you want, but it’s only private. So you have to invite people in. In fact on the day that Battlefield of Eternity launches you can immediately go and play it with your friends on the custom games.

dperschonok: Is Battlefield of Eternity available for everybody, there is no cost associated with it?

Dabiri: No cost and it’s just, it’s another map in the pool.

dperschonok: An Eternal Conflict involving the forces of hell and the high heavens requires transportation. What mounts will be introduced during this event?

Gonzales: We don’t really have anything we can talk to specifically just yet in terms of the mounts and stuff but we definitely have plans to kind of make it an all-encompassing experience with this Eternal Conflict experience. So it’s everything. It’s the goblin, it’s the heroes, it’s the map, it’s the skin and mount content. It’s stuff that’s kind of staggered right now as we draw this out over the course of the Eternal Conflict.

dperschonok: So we can expect something just not anything to talk about yet.

Gonzales: There are some themed mounts in there as well.

dperschonok: I guess I asked this earlier but considering Deckard Cain is featured in that trailer, are there any plans to introduce him as a hero?

Gonzales: There are the design docs, there is a list of things that eventually everything will come to fruition if we have enough time. Deckard gets brought up a lot, but we have no immediate plans to talk to, but we definitely think about that guy a lot.

dperschonok: What kind of a hero will he be? What would you want him to be?

Gonzales: Man. Deckard just keeps talking. So I’d love— I have pictures… I would love it if you are escorting Deckard he would be immune to everything when he was being escorted so if he is next to another hero he would never shut up and his abilities would be things like: “and his perseverance doubled,” and like everyone would just reap off and he would just like say or basically tell a story out loud; and if all the heroes around him die then he’s truly screwed and you can kill him or maybe he gets trapped and he give it, or something, and you can free him; but like that’s like my lingering impression, but the guy talks a lot and he follows you around. You have to escort him. So that’s how I treat him. It’s like as long as he is with the group you can’t hurt him, but once he’s exposed it’s like… get out of here.

(laughter)

dperschonok: That would definitely be unique. I like that. Are there any plans for any kind of story mode or any other game modes in the immediate future?

Dabiri: Nothing that we’ve announced yet but we’ll definitely be looking at all content. Just, in fact, I don’t even think we’ve truly dug deep into the whole battlegrounds concept. Like, I think we’ve only scratched the surface there. We can go crazy with these battlegrounds and I think you are going to start to see us try out some more unique and like really breaking the kind of foundation of what the game is in some of these battlegrounds and then going forward absolutely. We are looking at game modes too. There are all kinds of ideas. Good stuff we’d like to explore and so I’m sure we’ll have news.

dperschonok: On the note of battlegrounds, have you guys looked at possibly saying what battlegrounds are in WOW and how any of those could possibly work in this make you know maybe like Arathi Basin or something?

Dabiri: No it’s been brought up in several occasions.

Gonzales: We had a really rough testing version of Arathi Basin. There is gameplay modes that we definitely borrowed from there like… three iterations. We’ve definitely fooled around and tinkered up all that stuff. It’s just a matter of being able to climb to the community what we can bring to fruition, how we can enhance the experience, and providing stuff like that.

dperschonok: With your tools, is it pretty easy to spin up a new map and maybe just for testing like are you guys able to develop those fairly quickly?

Gonzales: Oh yes, we have a pretty hefty directory of maps that people are just kinda tinkering on and pitching ideas and that’s ultimately the origin of the whole Heroes of the Storm to begin with. We had this whole great map tools from Wings of Liberty and we wanted to show here are some different games you could make and Heroes was like hey you should keep making that one and five years later here we are.

dperschonok: Do you think we’ll ever see like custom maps from the community?

Dabiri: It’s something we’ve talked about. I mean, based on the fact that we are built on this engine that allows for very rich kind of customization, and modding, and StarCraft Arcade; it’s something we’ve discussed. We think we do want to bring it for sure. It’s just a question of when and also how. It’s not clear that it would be exactly the way that it was in StarCraft. It might be a different experience, but it’s something we are interested in and we are going to talk about in the future, I’m sure.

dperschonok: Back to the Skeleton King, I know you touched on some of this already, but how do you see his talents affecting gameplay and the playstyles that will be possible with him”

Dabiri: I think the Undying trait, first off, like really defines what you do with him where you might be a little more aggressive because you are okay if you die, because you are not going to be out of the game for that long; but you do have to be careful because there is a negative here where every time you are dying you are giving them XP. So it’s a real death, and so that’s something that you are going to have to play around with.

I also love the wraith walk ability; I think that there are some great ways for– One of the things that I think is really cool about Heroes is the fact that heroes have collision and they can body block each other; and it’s like a defining part of this game where if you get in front of a guy and you just hold him back and your team comes in and jumps on him your wraith walk kind of breaks that up a little bit where if they’ve set up a front line of defense and you can just go right through it, there are cool scouting abilities too.

dperschonok: That will definitely change things up a bit I think.

Dabiri: He’s also got a lot of talents that are basically life game so I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being a very sustaining character as well.

dperschonok: It seems like he’s got really good survivor abilities there. What kind of siege or melee mercenaries are going to appear in these maps? Anything that we are familiar with from Diablo?

Gonzales: Yes, for Battlefield of Eternity we completely redid everything. So cores, towers, the whole environments from the ground up scratch built and the mercenaries are unique too from the Battlefield of Eternity and the Eternal Conflict itself where in one case we have a fallen shaman and they would summon fallen hounds and those hounds would continually be summoned until you kill the shaman. That makes it much more endurance like mercenary where someone needs to go kill that shaman because those dogs are just going to keep showing up. Do you know the goat men do? I know we have a pack of three goat–

Dabiri: Yes the goat men, they are very similar to the normal siege except they come in threes instead and they throw the spear. I don’t know that they are fundamentally different from rock throwers, but they come in threes instead, so it’s a different game.

dperschonok: Now that we have a good idea who’s coming for the Diablo universe right now, is there anything you can tease about what other heroes that you guys might like to touch on with the Eternal Conflict coming? It’s such a vast universe.

Gonzales: In Diablo, it always has so many opportunities for great bosses, like bosses are such cool characters in that universe, and we’ve kind of brainstormed like how do we realize that we have Diablo and Azmodan and now Leoric and the Butcher who are really kind of just brings this awesome presence and really bring back a lot of memories to it; whenever we talk about who is next, we are like “what about the Prime Evils, or what about this guy or that guy,” like there’s always that roster; whatever the best fit is at that time.

Dabiri: It’s tough because there are so many that we want. The community has got their ideas, and then everyone is like: “Oh I want this, I want that.” But instead, we take a lot of these factors in, whether it is the community who will determine what the roles we need in is, in the case of the monk, or do we really need the support on the Diablo side?

dperschonok: How do you prioritize that list?

Gonzales: It’s really a lot about avoiding redundancies that are possible, not having a character overlap, an ability overlap. Sometimes, it’s like those ground out universe. So the Eternal Conflict, a lot of it is like the Diablo presence is really being amped up in the Eternal Conflict; things like that, there are so many different factors in terms of why we make this game more rich, more robust by adding to the experience and the content.

dperschonok: After experimenting with alternate timeline skins, cross IP skins and joke based skins, what other new themes might you guys look to explore when it comes to skins?

Gonzales: One of Leoric’s skins definitely touches on this and you can keep an eye out for it in the future. We have a lot of fun doing the crossover with Diablo, putting him in angelic armor making him Angelic Diablo, we’ve got some community feedback, we’ve got the appearance of the demonic Tyrael and so we’ve amped up his armor as well. We thought it would be great to have Nova in the Amazon costume. So it’s the Novazon. We like that.

Dabiri:It’s very cool.

Gonzales: I always like to just finding these little opportunities to kinda explore that stuff.

dperschonok: That’s all very cool. Will the Treasure Goblin appear in the mini map?

Gonzales: That’s a good question.

Dabiri: I. don’t. know.

(laughter)

Gonzales: We’ll have to look at that.

Dabiri: I don’t think he does, but honestly he’s right in the starting area. So when you walk out of the gate, he’s right there.

dperschonok: Does it happen for both sides?

Dabiri: If it happens in that game it will happen for both sides and it’s even in a gated off area. You’ll see it right away.

dperschonok: Is it before the gates open?

Dabiri: It is, and you have to actually kill him before the gate is open. If the gate opens, his portal appears and he runs off to treasure goblin land.

dperschonok: Gotcha. The mini map would be nice but if it’s not, and it’s right in that confined area, you kinda see it right away.

Dabiri: You don’t need to go and search for it.

dperschonok: I think that was something and maybe it wasn’t clear so that’s probably why the question was asked so knowing that it’s in your starting area, the mini map isn’t quite as crucial. Have you considered adding rare random events or random spawn mobs in battlegrounds? For example, one day a Quill Boar shaman spawns and it becomes a follower of whoever defeats it; dropping buff totems, auras, entanglements or polymorph; stuff like that.

(laughter)

Gonzales: I wouldn’t be surprised if the design guys have kicked any ideas like this around. Obviously, their philosophies are very much gamebase-centered, and having that bright amount of balance, and kind of itemization. I think the thing that might be difficult there is that having random spawns where if they only affected one side people might say: “I just got unlucky;” but we do have some randomization just on certain map mechanics like the tributes spawning.

dperschonok: Yea, it would be similar to that. Can we expect other Blizzard heroes from novels to enter the Nexus? The list I have here isn’t just explicit to the novels but Varian, Artanis, Blackthorne, Zayl the Necromancer. So things that are obviously key to a game, but maybe also Blizzard novels as well. Is that something that 26:00?

Gonzales: Yes, definitely. Everything is viable. We have some concepts with these guys that are just kinda waiting for the brainstorm, pie in the sky kinda thing, and if we have enough time eventually we are going to get to those characters, it’s just a waiting game.

dperschonok: Diablo III was the first Diablo franchise allowing one to choose your hero’s gender; will you introduce skins that allow people to choose their favorite incarnation of their hero or do you think about turning them into new heroes altogether?

Gonzales: We had this (I think it was at BlizzCon 2013), we showed the gender swap versions of the Barbarian and Witch Doctor which were very very fun to do, but in terms of the games infrastructure and functionality we are not in a place where we can go full skin ahead implementing that. That’s something we definitely want to do.

Doing Diablo III incarnation is a big one in our list, bringing back the gender swaps not only for Diablo’s classes; but also playing with a female Illidan or Arthas whatever it is. There’s a lot of potential there that is simply just not at the top of our priority in terms of what we are working on but we absolutely want to get to that eventually.

dperschonok: Do you think it makes more sense as a skin or more as a new hero altogether.

Gonzales: We, in the past, were looking-in a way to integrate these guys as new heroes but we felt like visually it created a bit of confusion when you see a male barbarian dressed just like Sonya, and you are thinking like: “Ok, well, they are going to behave the same,” and then there is some very real disconnect; it makes a lot more sense as a skin. A high-quality skin, the feel, and all that other stuff.

dperschonok: I can see that definitely in the making, with that I think that’s all the questions that I have so I really appreciate you guys time, and thanks for answering the questions. Thanks guys.

Gonzales: Yes, absolutely. Nice questions.

———

Special thanks to Alan Dabiri, Phil Gonzales and the PR team. Danny for asking the questions, the community for providing a portion of the questions, and rettep for transcribing the audio. Many thanks to the E3 organizers. It was the first time Blizzplanet attends E3 as press, and hopefully we have a presence every time Blizzard attends. Check out all our past event coverage and interviews.

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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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