Heroes of the Storm 2.0 Summit Q&A
Last week, our staff member Naka attended the Heroes of the Storm 2.0 Summit in Laguna Beach (CA), where Blizzard Entertainment revealed details of its new features and the new hero Cassia.
After the presentation, both Kaeo Milker and Alan Dabiri answered questions from those who attended the event. Note: Usually, publishing recording is forbidden, sometimes there is crosstalk and interruptions, or those asking questions do so in very complex ways, so there may be some editing in this transcript. Here is a transcript of the Q&A:
MODERATOR: How did you come up with the idea of Heroes of the Storm 2.0, and how long has that been in your pipeline?
Alan: Yes, it is interesting because over the last year, we have had a couple of really big releases that the community itself has branded as: “Oh, this is like a Heroes 2.0 moment,” and we were even like: “This is an awesome thing!” We have added a bunch, but we weren’t sure ourselves; and it wasn’t until finally all the changes that we have made over these last couple of years; and then when we saw some of the significant changes we wanted to make to the progression reward system, I think that is when it all kind of clicked for us. This really does feel like this moment that we want to brand as Heroes 2.0, and just like you said, there is been a lot of players who maybe might have had some experience with Heroes back when we launched, and they don’t realize how much has actually changed in these last two years.
We are not like a normal box product game that we have at Blizzard where we save everything up, and we release it as one big expansion. In fact, the release right before this, we made significant changes to our in-game UI; and it is more like we are continually bringing all kinds of cool stuff, and we wanted this name to really reflect everything we have done since we have launched, and not to mention all of the cool stuff that is coming with this release.
MODERATOR: From those players who have been playing on a long time, change over to the new progression system, what are the players all going to get, are they going to get somehow loot boxes, because they have played so much? How is that conversion going to happen going forward?
Kaeo: Yeah, definitely we are not going to forget everyone who has been actively playing the game all along, and we are those people as well, obviously. So there is definitely a thank you moment for people when they are coming to Heroes 2.0 where they are going to be getting Loot Chests that are based on the amount of steps they have made across Heroes before, so their experience, the time they put in will be rewarded with Loot Chests as a thank you moment, and I think we are also looking at it as along the way they were unlocking the skin variations which they own already, skins and mounts that they have, they are going to keep all those things looking forward as well. They also got the gold, the other rewards that are on the way that they get to keep as well.
Alan: Yes, you will have, depending on how far along you were in the old system, you will come back to a bunch of Loot Chests, including ones of different rarities as well. So you will get some rare, and epic Loot Chests as well.
MODERATOR: Will skins still be for sale in the store or are they only going to be out of Loot Chests and craftable at this point?
Alan: Yeah, we will still bring skins for sale. Basically, we will have a set of featured items that are going to be for sale for gems, and items are kind of going to rotate into that. So usually new items that we add to the game initially, you will be able to also get for gems, and then over time, we will kind of bring things back so that they will be available at different times for gems.
MODERATOR: So, not the full suite of skins that we see today then, right.
RESPONDENT: At any given time no, you may not be able to purchase every single skin. In fact, we are only trying to do this a little bit with like some of the seasonal stuff, like Lunar New Year, or the Winter’s Veil stuff. We will put it up for sale for a little, for a limited time, and then we will take it out until another month comes on.
MODERATOR: Will you guys still be doing bundles like that and some of the different bundles that you have with new characters to be able to get skins and everything?
Alan: Yes, definitely.
Kaeo: When it first comes out and a new character comes out, you will be seeing still in the featured area similar things to what you have seen today in the shop. And also, while some things may not all be purchased with gems, pretty much the whole catalogue of things that are available will be purchasable with shards all the time too. So you will be able to forge things that you want.
MODERATOR: Can you only get shards from like destroying, or disenchanting them kind of?
Kaeo: We are calling it fragmenting, but yeah, same idea; but when you get to fragment items, you are going to get shards, and you also will be given shards periodically as one of the items that you get in the Loot Chest as well. So you get a couple kind of different ways to get shards along the way.
MODERATOR: So with the new gems, what is the conversion rate? Before it was with real money. Now it is with gems. Is the price reduced, or is it going to be the same in terms of the conversion because the progression system you guys said that you’d be able to get gems as you play doing certain things. So I am wondering how that sort of weighs into it.
Alan: There is a couple moments that you will get gems during progression. The first one comes at level 5 (I believe is what we said), that you get a nice chunk of gems initially, and then periodically you get a smaller amount, just to kind of keep the idea of gems around in your mind.
The main way though that you will get gems is by purchasing them. By adding gems, it is actually given us a lot of new tools that we can use as part of that side of the game, and so one way is actually if you purchase larger gem bundles, you will actually get better value for your money as well. That is one thing we didn’t really have in the old system is if you would spend a lot of money with us, we couldn’t give you like —(crosstalk)– so now you get that benefit. The other thing is that depending on the region (and every region is different, because we have different pricing in different regions), we have actually taken this opportunity to kind of look across our prices for everything in the game, and you will find that actually a large percentage of things have actually been lowered in price compared to the old system.
So that is another thing that I think people will have to go and look for this: because there are other regions; because we have different business models for each region; but I think that that was one that we really took that feedback to heart as well, and we are super happy to make that change.
MODERATOR: I have a question about the balance between rewarding players for their individual play in a game that is so heavily team-based, one of the things that I really noticed during your presentation was the banners; the player level being about all of your hero pool; and things like that. What step do you guys take in order to satisfy the solo player, but still teach them that Heroes is very much a team-based game. You can’t just do things on your own. What are some of the things that you guys have failed in doing that or maybe succeeded?
Kaeo: So much of the emphasis was on this being this team game or you are leveling as a team, that even really succeeded with that and it was a great mechanic, but I think a lot of players came in and said: what about me? How do people know that I am doing well? There are a lot of things that we started doing to address that. I think one of the first, the quest system was actually a really big one where we really went about, it is not just about who you are, it is about what you do, and how you have a very specific thing that you can do and it is specific actions you are taking in the game, being a higher skilled player means you probably can achieve those things more quickly, or at least show that you are able to get there more quickly; and that actually also translates into this moment where you get a power strike, or where your quest is complete, you are actually getting the benefit of finishing that quest.
So, I think that was the only one that was like: hey, I am awesome at this. How can I show them I’m awesome and get something that everyone else can see that as well. Then, initially some quest came in, actually in later versions too, we are actually doing a better job in the UI of showing when people get their quest complete. We are taking it further more recently too. We just added the player panel at the top of the screen where you can see all ten players at the same time any moment in the game, we have got the on fire system back now, so when you are getting streaks, and it is not just killing people anymore, it used to be about takedowns, that was a bunch of different criteria for different types of heroes when you are really excelling and you’ve been doing that for like a steady amount of time, you actually start getting this UI element, the facts around you that show that you are on fire, kind of say, well that person is like kicking butt right now.
Alan: That’s actually a great example of that kind of, a little bit of a change in philosophy there where we were, I don’t know if it is changed in philosophy, it is more kind of continuing to add that individual achievement as well. We were so focused on the team side that even the on fire system before it was based purely off a takedown, and so as a result since your team basically gets all the takedowns together when you are in team fighting, your entire team would light up, and then be on fire and while that is cool, it doesn’t really say much, it is like, yeah okay we know we are getting beat by the other team, we don’t need the whole team to light up.
The cool change by bringing it back is that we actually can call out individuals, and we can call them out for all kinds of stuff. If that Abathur is like completely pushing up that bottom lane, and it is the reason that your team is actually winning, you are going to see that lit up. They may not be getting all the kills, but they are actually the one who is helping you win this game. Of course, you have also got some of these awesome assassin, and they are doing a ton of kills, they may light up; and even some of you supporting, you are tanking, you know they may light up as well. So that’s kind of the cool example that I think speaks directly to what you are talking about, where the heart of this game is still a team-based game and it is incredibly important that you work together; but all these different things that Kaeo just mentioned, they kind of speak to that individual side as well that let you shine as a player.
Another one Kaeo said was the MVP thing as well, which is at the end you get MVP, we also call out individual stats at the end, it is like hey you tanked better, or did more damage than people in your same skill range.
MODERATOR: All of those were cosmetic in nature, all these things that we talked about, they don’t effect the actual game quests. One of the things that I am struck about are banners, say for example I am Sonya and I take this mercenary camp, if I place my own banner there which I believe is possible, like doesn’t that give my opponent some information that Sonya is the hero responsible for all of these camps, like is that something that you guys have like toyed with maybe, like maybe players won’t want to give this information. Is that a problem with the designer?
RESPONDENT: One thing I will say is that, banners actually don’t have a notion of ownership right now that we are telegraphing the game. So our example shown today, you get to go into the game with whatever banner you have that you want to be DISPLAYING, so it won’t always let you know which hero is there. it will just be like a “I was here” thing.
That may be somehow revisited in the future as well, but right now it is pretty deliberate that it doesn’t have your name above it or something.
MODERATOR: Okay, that makes sense, because I thought it was like the tracer banner–
Kaeo: You can have that moment for sure, but that is your option.
Alan: And while we show the one with tracer, tracer can pick all kinds of other ones. There are Warcraft banners, Diablo banners, you can put all kinds of different ones and add your own flare on it.
As far as the ones taking down forts and keeps, the hope is that you were paying attention to the mini-map as well, and you saw if it was Sonya, or whatever, wishing you kind of knew that, I think the only one that maybe might fall into the wrong you were talking about is with the mercenary camps, because if they took a mercenary camp you might not know who took it. If eventually we actually do put some kind of name or something that will tell you, but right now we are not doing that. It is just pure cosmetic, cool kind of showing off.
MODERATOR: One of my favorite things in Overwatch is at the end of the game when you are playing with all your friends you are like, who is going to get Play of the Game? So any thought about adding like a Play of the Game feature like that? I know you guys have the MVP thing that kind of showcases, but to be able to go back and see that replay of one guy wiping out the whole team.
Alan: You know, it is something we talked about when we first were doing MVP. We love Overwatch. It is awesome. You see clips all over the place, just cool funny ones. We wanted to take an approach where we actually looked at it and said, okay just one particular moment, does that actually indicates who had the most impact for this game? … and so while I am not saying we won’t add something like that in the future, I think it is a really cool way of highlighting someone’s individual epic play that they did, I think we approached the MVP thing to call out someone who had had an effect over the entire game, and really made a meaningful contribution. That’s same thing with this on fire thing in the game, it is supposed to show like continued excellence, someone who is outperforming their team. So that was kind of the approach there. Having said that, I think that everyone would love it, if we someday added Play the Game. I think that, and you see it right now with people already making clips, just on YouTube and whatnot just epic plays, and so I think that it is something we can consider in the future.
MODERATOR: Since 2.0 is basically the bringing in new players as well as build upon the content already there, what have you guys done for a new player experience-wise, like is there a new tutorial that give rewards, or is this sort of stuff that it is there, but maybe isn’t necessarily something you want to hop into because it is a carrot on the stick?
Kaeo: We have actually iterated on our tutorial a lot, coming from when the game first launched, so since most people only go through that starting experience once, I think a lot of our current players don’t even see the change that we have made over time on that, but it is actually a very different experience than it was before. There is also a two streamline experiences now, one that is designed for players who are completely new to like the MOBA genre, and have never played a game like this before; and one for veterans who really want to see what’s different about the game. So both of those we have actually done multiple revisions on each of them as we are going forward, so they are there for new players that are coming right now. Once you complete the tutorial, you used to get 2000 gold at the end of the tutorial and you had the option to buy one of the 2000 gold heroes in the game.
Now you actually get to complete the tutorial with a specific hero and then get that hero for free at the end of it, if you choose and you get a choice between a number of heroes and you just get to pick and just get them for free right away at the end of the tutorial. So we are trying to ease them into it that way.
Some other things we have done for new players, we got a lot of feedback like we have all these battlegrounds in the game, and it is like such an awesome thing for us because we get to explore so much different gameplay, different strategies; but as a brand new player coming in, right now we have 12 battlegrounds. Right now we are about to have 13 battlegrounds for them coming in. We got feedback like, wow I had no idea how to play in this stuff when I first come in, so it was something we have done for new players as well where they get put in a pool of new players, and the maps that are given, the battlegrounds they play are initially restricted just to Cursed Hollow, something like 5 games before you unlock battlegrounds to be on that.
Right now it is not one battleground at a time, but we at least let you kind of get your feet wet with Cursed Hollow before we start exposing you to other battlegrounds, and I think in time we’ll keep iterating on that as well, looking for ways to make sure you are kind of taught a mini-tutorial on every individual battleground as well, so you get to learn that. We’ll keep working on that and keep making it better so, I think everyday new players come in and I think constantly we are making new experiences for them as well. We keep watching what is effective, what people think they still need, and making changes in the game accordingly.
MODERATOR: Awesome! For battlegrounds, has there been any thought on kind of reflecting being competitive how the HGC has a very limited map pool, or diagram pool, just because that will be more efective–
Alan: Yes. We are absolutely thinking about that now, you know originally when we launched we had a smaller set of battlegrounds when we were like, right now we are cool with just everything, but as we are adding more and more it makes total sense that we… we are talking about a few different ideas, probably the one that is the most natural would be to have a couple of battlegrounds that are available per season, and so the play that you would be experiencing in ranked games or quick match, or whatever would be on a fixed set, and that would match what is also in HGC; and then each season as we roll, we’d have another set of battlegrounds as well.
So that gives an opportunity for you to kind of focus on a more concise set of battlegrounds. You don’t need to like wait, what was that one, what do I do, and where do I draft, and all that on that one. It also gives us a moment and we did this with Haunted Mines (as an example) to take some battlegrounds out of rotation, and look at: Do we want to do some tweaks? Do we want to make some improvements there?; and so as soon as those battlegrounds come out, when they come back, you may actually see them in a new way.
MODERATOR: Something I really enjoy about the new map is its visual style is so… like on one side it looks completely different than the other, for some reason, but how it is not completely unparallel in terms of the visual design. Have you ever played around with battlegrounds that are also not unparallel terms of how they are actually structured, where one side that has a very different base layout than the other, is that something that maybe in the future or is it something you are probably not going to touch when it comes to heroes battlegrounds?
Kaeo: Blackheart’s Revenge is a battleground that we showed at Blizzcon that is a brawl, but that was one of the first really asymmetrical ones; and that, I think some of the cool elements really about brawls is that we get to experiment different things, and we get to see what works and what doesn’t. I think we learned a lot from bringing that battleground into brawl and kind of seeing how it played, and we actually have iterated on a bunch of them as well; and we continue to come back into rotation in the brawls, but I think you keep looking for opportunities to make changes that are different for the genre, for our game as long as they work and they feel good and they are fun, solely for us to experiment with that stuff, a lot of times the symmetrical nature is the idea of being balanced right now, I think when you start making asymmetrical, you start getting calls from like this isn’t fair, we got to make sure we keep those things balanced.
Alan: I think we are open to everything, and we are going to explore all kinds of ideas, like he has said with the brawl, but it does come down to we are a competitive game, obviously we have these eSports being played as well, and so we have to make sure like any time you do something like that where one side has an advantage over the other side, you have to make sure you are not giving an advantage, but heroes is… we can do all kinds of stuff, we are trying out different ideas, so you never know.
MODERATOR: On that note, in a custom game, there is an option where you select how many teams there were, there is up to nine and then free for all, is that strictly settings for like brawl or a Dev build type of thing, or is that not something we should have seen?
RESPONDENT: (laughs) I am guessing…. I am surprised that that’s actually visible in there, because I am guessing that is a holdover from the way things were before, but there is a lot of flexibility in the underlying system that allows it to actually set up all kinds of team compositions. One of the things we do wanted to allow in custom games for you to try out different ideas yourself, and so we have recently added this sandbox mode map that allows you to kind of tweak some values and stuff. I don’t believe that any of the map that we set up for you, if you have more than two teams, I don’t know if they would work correctly, so I am actually a little bit surprised [inaudible after laughing outloud, but he seems surprised that feature is accidentally public].
Kaeo: Yeah… I think it is some leftover of custom games that expose one of the modes we have here, so I think there is a bunch of feedback into that.
Alan: The underlying tech is very flexible and that is probably just showing up.
MODERATOR: Yeah it is confusing like how would you have 9 teams? What would that even look like?
Alan: Next game mode! Brawl 2.2(laughs)
MODERATOR: So, about the loot boxes, will you guys have the rarity percentages there, like a lot of other free play games are starting to do? That way… okay what’s sort of my percentage chance to get maybe a legendary and then once you roll again, because you guys are going to roll again for gold, will that also be a thing as well in terms of the percentages?
Kaeo: So, there is nothing in the game right now that exposes the percentages. I think that is something we have feedback on. It is something we could talk about later on as well. There are also some systems in place that Travis talked about today. There are some systems there to kind of fight against like extreme randomness. (crosstalk)
We want this. Loot chests are supposed to be fun. We want them to be a reward that you get and you are excited about. So there are situations you can get into it if it was a 100% percent random there, that yes you might get four legendaries, but you might never get a legendary ever. So we have put some things in place that ensure that after a certain number of blue chests that you open, you are going to get items of certain varieties including epic and legendary in the mix. So I think we will look at that balance of what feels good and still getting those epic moments for you to open something: yes, I’ve got it!
Alan: And then shards, obviously. If there’s something you absolutely want, then you can just go get complete control, there is no questions. You just go and craft what you want.
MODERATOR: 2.0 seems like a pivotal moment in marking the progress you guys have made in the game since launch. In your presentation, though, you said there is even more improvements. Could you kinda lay out a few of that are the most important that you guys know of?
Alan: Unfortunately, I can’t talk about those, but yeah everything that we are showing right now is part of this event. I guess the key thing there is, some people may think, okay well then this is like having reached a point, and it is like the end of something; but it is like: no, this is actually just the next chapter; and this is kind of the beginning of the next phase of this. So it is the new era for Heroes, and so while we are coming out with a whole bunch of stuff with this release, we have got plans. We have got lots of plans for the future.
Follow us on Twitter @blizzplanetcom for updates. Planning to add the second part at another time. The Q&A lasted about an hour, so there is much more.
NOTE: Due to the various fansites invitees, unknown to us, each person who asked a question is referred to as Moderator.