Kevin “Cloaken” Johnson sat down to chat with Dustin Browder (game director), and Phil Gonzalez (senior artist) to answer questions about Heroes of the Storm.
Welcome to the Heroes of the Storm Overview panel. Your panelists are: Dustin Browder (game director), Alan Dabiri (lead software engineer), Sam Didier (art director), and Chris Sigaty (production director).
Browder: Hello BlizzCon. This is kind of a dream panel for me here. These are all the guys that I hang out in the office with all the time. We play board games together, we play “Dungeons and Dragons” together, so I get a chance to come up on the stage and talk about the game we have been working on for the last couple of the years is an absolute blast. We got Alan Dabiri, lead software engineer, we have got, Samwise Didier here art director, and we got Chris Sigaty, production director.
Alright, we are gonna talk to a little bit about what we are working on for “Heroes of the Storm”. So Heroes of the Storm is a lot of different things. It is a big game, we have been working on for a long time, but I am gonna try to boil it down to some sort of key points for you guys.
It’s about getting these Blizzard heroes into the game. It’s about trying to create an environment, where we can bring all of the heroes from all of our worlds, into one single amazing game.
It’s about fun with friends, and this seems kind of obvious, I guess; but it’s about playing with your buddies. This is a team game. We want to focus it on team work, and working together as a group and it’s about these battlegrounds, these new ways to play games of this genre. New challenges, new strategies and new tactics. And of course, for us it’s about paying homage to the amazing Blizzard community.
They really helped to create and to invent this entire genre of games. So I don’t know what you guys think, like for me it really seemed like everything really exploded when Warcraft III, came on the scene.
We had some really great stuff of course in Brood Wars, and even before, but Warcraft III is, it seemed like everything just really took off.
Dota 2 is complicated. It doesn’t have a learning curve so much as a learning wall. The volume of information to memorize and master is immense and intimidating: the multitude of hero builds, items, crafting, ward locations, creep respawn timers, rune types and timers, the hundreds of hero powers and status effects that can change them. Factor in team fight tactics, lane strategies, and meta game organization and the game has moved from complex to daunting, even unwieldy. That’s just the knowledge required to play, not the mechanical skill required from the player like last hitting, hero ability timing, and map awareness. I’ve put more 500 hours into Dota 2, and about as many in the original, and I’m passable with a few heroes.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with Heroes of the Storm so in my first game at BlizzCon I dropped my expectations. Whatever I played was whatever I was going to judge the game on. I’ve read the briefs from Blizzard, watched the videos, but I wanted to go in as open as possible. I did, I think. Over the course of the two day Blizzard celebration I spent about 4 hours with Heroes of the Storm and played 6 games with different heroes each time. My time certainly wasn’t wasted. Heroes is fun, but that’s almost unnecessary to say as a fan of MOBAs. It’s got the standard trappings – lanes, heroes, pushing, and frantic team fighting – but Heroes does a few things differently.
First, there are no items (and no gold!). None. At all. No health potions, no tangos, no town portal scrolls. Your hero has a town portal ability that recharges. I don’t miss the items. They serve a purpose in other MOBAs but items usually come with the baggage of being boring most of the time. They improve stats or damage, rarely adding powers or altering the ones a hero has. It’s easy to be crippled by missing an item or two because you’re not attacking as fast as you should be. The lack of items means the hero powers improve significantly on their own or via talents. It’s a simple system that leaves more cognitive power for fighting and less for GPM and shopping.
No last hitting. This isn’t unique to Heroes, *cough*League of Legends*cough*, but it’s not common either. Last hitting is usually the sign of a precise, skilled player in Dota. It’s how you earn most of your gold. With no gold to gather, last hitting has gone out the window. I don’t mind it in Dota but I didn’t miss it here.
Shared XP. Not reduced XP when another hero is close by, but even, shared XP for all heroes. Everyone levels at the same time. Your carries won’t be 22 while your support are struggling at 10. The even power curve makes everyone solid in a team fight – no Crystal Maiden syndrome.
Mounts! What’s a Blizzard game without animals you can sit on? Mounts do exactly what you’d expect – they help the heroes move faster. Easier grouping, more team fights. Everyone wins, except those that die.
The differences Heroes has from the other MOBAs reflect the game’s thesis: it’s about the hero punching, plain and simple. There are creep waves and towers and forts but Heroes wants you and your friends to square off against 5 opponents and beat each other silly. It succeeds on that goal – no one I spoke with didn’t enjoy their time with Heroes and want more.
So who were the heroes I played?
Falstad and Nova from the Assassins, Sonya from the Warriors, Malfurion and Uther from Support, and Abathur from the Specialists type. The highlights:
- I enjoyed Malfurion the most but that’s because I’m biased – I love playing support and looking like a weirdo. He heals well, roots, and silences.
- Uther heals well, gives his buddies invulnerability through Divine Shield, and can stun. Like any paladin, he’s sort of a frustration to counter but rewarding to play.
- Nova is a sniper. Chances are that if she shot you, you’re not going to live very long. She hits hard, summons an annoying clone, and can call a nuclear strike. It’s as great as it sounds.
- Abathur is…different. He’s interesting. He’s a mix of Lifestealer and Wisp which makes him absolutely terrible to fight against. He’s rated “Very Hard” to play and it shows.
- It’s not that Falstad isn’t fun, it’s that the others were much more fun. I really liked flying over the jungle and descending on enemies as a hammer throwing alcoholic.
- Sonya didn’t feel particularly special. Her abilities are simple and straight forward, as one would expect a barbarian would be. Maybe for the carries out there that like fighting and fighting and fighting (any Alchemist fans?) but she was the lull in my hero selection.
Heroes is a fun game so far. I want to play more. Boy do I want to play more. Hint hint, community reps. It’s got some room to grow and I look forward to watching (and hopefully playing) as it does so.
Dustin Browder (game director), Sam Didier (senior art director), and Kaeo Milker (senior game producer) discuss the development of Heroes of the Storm over the years and several iterations through past BlizzCons and fan feedback.
Many heroes can be seen in action including: Jim Raynor, Kerrigan, Nova, Thrall, Witch Doctor, Demon Hunter, Diablo, Uther Lightbringer (healer), Zerg Queen, Abathur, Illidan, Arthas, Lili Stormstout, Chen Stormstout, Elite Tauren Chieftain, Anub’arak, Tyrael, Stitches, Tyrande Whisperwind (healer), and more for a total of 18 heroes. Watch the videos after the break.
Heroes of the Storm has some wicked cool character customizations and these model screenshots are testament to that. For the most part, the game is Free-to-Play, but some of these customizations give us a glimpse into one of the possible venues for Blizzard Entertainment to add a virtual store to Heroes of the Storm. More after the break …
What is Heroes of the Storm?
Heroes of the Storm is a free-to-play online team brawler, starring your favorite Blizzard characters. Build and customize heroes from across every Blizzard universe to suit your play style. Team up with your friends and engage in fast-paced mayhem across varied battlegrounds that impact strategy and change the way you play the game.
In each match you can select from an array of Blizzard heroes and join a team to battle against enemy players, with the ultimate goal of destroying the enemy base. You’ll have the opportunity to stage classic showdowns such as Raynor vs. Kerrigan, or mix and match heroes from different games to fight together and against each other.
Each hero starts the game with a set of powerful abilities and traits, and over the course of the battle you’ll have the ability to customize your hero with unique talents and heroic abilities. While each hero has certain core strengths, the talents you select can greatly change the way your hero fights. Support heroes like Uther for example, can be played as almost a pure healer, or can take on more of a damage dealing role.
More after the break …
Heroes of the Storm is a free-to-play online team brawler starring your favorite Blizzard characters. In Heroes, the epic battles between the champions and villains of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo aren’t settled with last hits and kill-stealing—players are distinguished through the accomplishments of their team.
Whether you’re a hardcore WoW raider, a demon-slaying Barbarian, or a Bronze league Terran, you’ll find a customizable hero from across the Blizzard multiverse to suit your play style. Grab your buddies and engage in fast-paced mayhem across varied battlegrounds that impact strategy and change the way you play every match. When the mightiest characters in gaming history clash, only you can decide who’ll come out on top!
More after the break…
The Activision Blizzard Third Quarter Financial conference call took place on November 6th, 2013 at 1:30pm PDT.
Bobby Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard, said: “Our third-quarter results exceeded our expectations, and we are able to raise our outlook for 2013 net revenues and earnings per share.
Robust continued engagement with our core franchises drove digi tal revenue, which constituted a majority of all revenue. This quarter demonstrates that games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft engage and entertain our fans year round.”
Kotick added, “We recently released new titles in two of the most popular franchises in entertainment, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Skylanders SWAP Force. We are thrilled by the quality of those games and we are excited to show what we can do with them on next-generation consoles in the coming weeks. We are also in the process of a beta launch for our first major free-to-play game, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
However, we continue to believe that the fourth quarter this year presents a unique and challenging landscape due to increased competition and uncertainties surrounding the console transition.
We are confident in our ability to navigate these challenges successfully, particularly in light of the recent completion of our transaction with Vivendi and the focus and flexibility provided by our return to independence.”
- As of September 30, 2013, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft remains the #1 subscription-based MMORPG, with approximately 7.6 million subscribers.
- In North America, Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft® II: Heart of the Swarm® was the #1 PC game for the first nine months of 2013.
Morhaime: Q3 was an eventful quarter for Blizzard. We launched our first console game in many years with Diablo III. We also announced an expansion pack for Diablo III — Reaper of Souls.
Additionally, beta testing for Hearthstone kicked off and we released significant content update for World of Warcraft.
All of this activity has netted out to a strong quarter where we ended higher in net revenue and operating income versus Q2 mostly due to the Diablo III console launch on September.
Revenues and income were down year over year — as expected — due to the successful launch of Mists of Pandaria and the ongoing sales of Diablo III during the same quarter last year.
Going into more specific details with World of Warcraft, we’re very pleased with the response to Siege of Orgrimmar — the massive content update we released in September. This update included a huge new raid dungeon with major story elements, as well as a new area to explore and features that improved the game’s accessibility.
Flexible rates now allow groups of variable size to participate in the end-game raiding dungeons. Meanwhile, the Proving Grounds feature trains players to improve their play in specific roles, preparing them to participate in end-game content. Player response to the content has been good, and we saw increased engagement that has contributed to maintaining relatively stable subscribership quarter-over-quarter. We’ll continue to invest heavily in World of Warcraft to deliver frequent, high-quality content to our players.
Moving on to Diablo III, we are pleased with the response to the games launched on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Lifetime sell-through of the game across all platforms has reached over 14 million copies, and reviews have been very positive about how the game plays on console. Much of the praise has been centered on changes we made to the loot system and our decision to keep the auction house off of the console platform. Players and critics alike have noted that these changes have resulted in a more fun and satisfying game experience. That reaction factored in our decision to remove the auction house from the PC version of Diablo III effective next March, which players have also responded very positively to.
We’re building upon those design philosophies for loot and incorporating them into Reaper of Souls, the Diablo III expansion pack — which is coming for PC and PS4 in 2014.
In addition to the new loot system, Reaper of Souls will include an additional player class, the Crusader, and more gameplay modes for the endgame to keep players engaged. The reaction to Reaper of Souls at Gamescom was very positive, and we are looking forward to revealing more about the game at BlizzCon.
It was also a busy quarter for Hearthstone, our free-to-play digital card game for PC and iPad based on the Warcraft universe. In Hearthstone, players build decks of cards that feature familiar spells and creatures from World of Warcraft, and battle against each other using the cards. Players can collect cards simply by playing or by purchasing digital packs. They can also purchase entries into a special competitive mode of play called The Arena in exchange for either in-game currency or a small fee.
We’ve seen a great response from the community with the closed beta test, which kicked off in August. Hearthstone quickly became one of the most popular streaming games on Twitch, and we have been expanding the beta test to encompass more regions and a wider group of players. We’re continuing to work on polishing the game as we drive towards open beta testing.
Rounding out our big announcements since the last call is the name change of Blizzard All-Stars to Heroes of the Storm, which is our take on free-to-play hero brawlers. We’ve done an extensive internal test on Heroes over the past several months, and as the game has evolved, we felt it was appropriate to change the name to something more fitting of the gameplay experience.
We’re looking forward to sharing more details about Heroes at BlizzCon, which is taking place this weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center. This is another sold-out show, with more than 20,000 attendees coming to Anaheim from more than 40 different countries.
Our global community will also follow along through DIRECTV, online pay-per-view on blizzcon.com and partner broadcast in other regions. We will be showcasing our biggest pipeline of games ever and showing our appreciation for our community through contests, meet-and-greets and of course, major eSports spectacles.
The World of Warcraft Arena invitational and the global grand finals of the StarCraft II World Championship Series will be taking place, along with an invitational tournament for Hearthstone, featuring popular community personalities.
All of us at Blizzard can’t wait to get back to BlizzCon and connect with our players. We hope you’ll join us there or follow along online with a virtual ticket available online at blizzcon.com.
We are looking forward to celebrating a shared passion of gaming with our players, hearing their feedback on our newest game content and taking that energy and knowledge back to work as we drive towards an exciting 2014 for Blizzard.
Blizzard Entertainment sent a press release to all Battle.net subscribers giving a round up of events to happen at BlizzCon, and the goodies obtained by purchasing the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket to watch the livestream.
IRVINE, Calif. –(BUSINESS WIRE)– BlizzCon® 2013, Blizzard Entertainment’s two-day gaming festival, makes a long-awaited return on Friday, November 8 , at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA. The sold-out show celebrates all things geek, featuring sneak peeks at what’s going on behind the scenes at Blizzard Entertainment .
This year’s BlizzCon includes discussion panels with Blizzard developers; community cosplayers; and Duncan Jones , director of the upcoming Warcraft® film. Also taking place are the StarCraft® II World Championship Series Global Final and World of Warcraft® Arena Invitational, in which top pro gamers from around the world will be competing for cash prizes and ultimate glory. Jay Mohr is back this year to host the ever-popular community contests, and SoCal punk legends Blink-182 will be performing an epic rock concert to wrap up the show on Saturday night.
BlizzCon tickets once again sold out in seconds, but anyone can still attend the event from the comfort of their home with the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket. Viewers will receive over 60 hours of live HD coverage of the event (including Blink’s sure-to-be-wild performance) across five channels over the Internet. Virtual Ticket holders will also receive all the BlizzCon-exclusive in-game goodies:
- World of Warcraft in-game pet—the valiant Murkalot
- To-be-revealed Hearthstone™: Heroes of Warcraft™ card
- BlizzCon-themed “Mark of Death” Diablo® III banner
- “Tearin’ Stitches” StarCraft II portrait and Stitches’ Hook decal
DIRECTV® customers in the United States can also order BlizzCon 2013 as a Pay Per View event and receive a free Virtual Ticket. In addition, the BlizzCon opening ceremony and eSports tournaments will be streamed free online at www.blizzcon.com. More info on the Virtual Ticket can be found at www.blizzcon.com/virtual-ticket/.
“We can’t wait to get back to BlizzCon and share details about our latest games with our most passionate players,” said Mike Morhaime , CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment . “It’s going to be a truly unforgettable weekend.”
BlizzCons of years past have featured an array of exciting panels, unveilings, and entertainment, including the world debuts of the latest World of Warcraft content, the first-ever public hands-on with StarCraft II and Diablo III, and epic rock performances by Foo Fighters and Tenacious D.
BlizzCon would not be possible without the enthusiasm of Blizzard Entertainment gamers around the world and the generous support of the event’s partners, who provide demo-station hardware, peripherals, and more. This year’s sponsors are Intel, NVIDIA, Sony Computer Entertainment , DIRECTV, SteelSeries, GIGABYTE, Rosewill, and EVGA.
Anyone attending BlizzCon who’s looking to join the ranks at Blizzard should bring their resumes, portfolios, or business cards. The Blizzard recruiting team will be on hand to review materials and discuss any job-related questions. More information on available Blizzard career opportunities can be found at http://jobs.blizzard.com, LinkedIn Blizzard Careers, and http://twitter.com/@blizzardcareers.
Danny Perschonok (Naka) informed me Blizzard Entertainment has launched the new Heroes of the Storm website with a video by CarBot Animations. Blizzard Entertainment has renamed Blizzard All-Stars to “Heroes of the Storm”.
Yep, we’ve changed it again.
Set aside whatever you think you knew about Blizzard All-Stars, and get ready for what’s brewing at this year’s BlizzCon (Nov. 8-9, 2013).
Many thanks to Jon Burton of Carbot Animations for his work. You can find much more of Jon’s talented craft over at his YouTube channel here
A few days ago, when the trademark “Heroes of the Storm” appeared in the United States Patents & Trademarks website, I posted an article listing all the possible uses for this trademark. One of them was a possible rename of Blizzard All-Stars as pointed out by a fan.