BlizzCon 2016 Heroes of the Storm: State of the Game Panel Transcript

This is a full transcript of the BlizzCon 2016 Heroes of the Storm: State of the Game panel. The event was held by the following panelists:

  • Dustin Browder (game director)
  • Alan Dabiri (technical director)
  • Travis McGeathy (lead systems designer)

BlizzCon 2016 Heroes of the Storm: State of the Game Panel Transcript


Last Year Recap

Dustin: BlizzCon, this is the Heroes of the Storm: State of the Game panel. Now with me Alan Dabiri (our technical director) and Travis McGathy (senior designer) on Heroes, and we are going to talk about all the stuff we have been doing for the past year, and stuff to come in the future.

So 2016 was an absolutely incredible year for us. If you remember back when we were last on this stage talking to you guys, we had just released a couple of heroes. We had just released Morales and Artanis.



This seems like it was an eon ago that these heroes were first entering the Nexus, but these were the last two heroes we shipped before BlizzCon 2015. We had just recently shipped a new map. We shipped Infernal Shrines. I thought this map had shipped in the eighties, in fact it was just last year.



Since then, we have done a ton of stuff for Heroes. We did a massive Ranked Play update this year for Heroes. If you remember last year, we were playing with this system where it was 50 to 1, and it was very easy to go up and down in your ranks very rapidly, very stressful way to play.



We redid the entire system this year to go from bronze to grandmaster. We finally got a grandmaster league which is a huge significant improvement over the game in 2016.



We also added bans to Ranked Play this year. Last year, when I was up here (I think Alan and I was up here together) and we said ban Li-Ming. Pretty good idea. No, well probably we will get to it. We finally got it in, huge value, big props to you guys for pushing us on that, it really has helped make the game a whole lot better.



We have also done a whole bunch of heroes this year. We later shipped Cho’Gall right after BlizzCon last year. We then did Lunara (one my favorites). Greymaine followed soon after. Li-Ming easy enough to play, but hard to get the most out of this character; and we kept going as the year went on with Xul, and Dehaka, and Tracer (our first Overwatch hero to come to the Nexus).

Then we started adding heroes a little bit more challenging to play, like Chromie. She can really do some damage, but she has got no real practical escapes. We went a little nutty, and we added heroes like Medivh (where you really need to know what you are doing). You got to work with your team to make this guy functional. He is a very, very high skilled kind of player, and it is really difficult to use him to really show off what you can do with this character.

Gul’dan getting some sort of classic heroes into the game, Auriel (we needed to get some more supports, something more interesting to play) and all in all we have added 14 or 15 heroes to the Nexus this year (depending on how you want to count one or two for Cho’Gall).

Alarak and finally Zarya. Wait, one more. There we go: Samuro. So that is quite a lot of dudes and ladies up there on the screen. Tons and tons of heroes we entered in the game this last year.




We have also done a bunch of systems and battlegrounds. For battlegrounds, we just shipped Towers of Doom after BlizzCon. We did Braxis Holdout with our Machines of War event, adding StarCraft to the Nexus; and one of my favorites: Warhead Junction where you can lob nuclear weapons at your enemies. It is a really fun map to play on.


We also did Lost Caverns last year. This is one of my favorite stories and this is what is so fun about working at Blizzard and working with this community.



One of our designers John DeShazer come to us and say: “Hey, those guys on are doing this weird thing. They are going in to custom games, they are playing on Cursed Hollow, they are all agreeing to play random heroes, they are all agreeing not to go for tributes and they are playing sort of an All-Random-All-Middle gameplay as best they can using Cursed Hollow. I think I can give them a map if I can have a couple of weeks.

I said “Oh my God, that sounds amazing. Let’s do it.” He built the map, he went to the art staff and he said: “Guys, I need a little bit of art. Can you help?

They said: “Oh yeah, we’d love to.” So they snuck in the work. We didn’t get a game mode for you guys, we got this into custom game really within a month of hearing what you guys were doing out there in the communities. So this was 100% inspired by somebody out there who thought up this idea of using Cursed Hollow to make an ARAM mode, and it was just a really wonderful addition to the game. Of course, now it is something we can use in our brawl mode and we can look at adding a mode for it down the road.



In terms of systems, we did a huge match making update this year, we got more to come on that. We have a big update this year. We have more heroes in rotation, we added ranked draft this year, we added unranked draft (another great add). A big suggestion in the community and a huge help for the game.



We also added ranked seasons and rewards. That is something we needed for quite some time, we have been working on this, it was a big update for the game and it was sort of that end-game component that Heroes has always needed. Finally went in.

We added quest and talents which I don’t know — maybe this isn’t a big deal for you guys, but this is one of my favorite things to be added in the last year, because it really allows players to show off their skill in the game.

Now as a player you can try to complete the quests on your talents before the enemy players do on theirs, before your allies do, and you can only get a leg up and be one of the more powerful players in the game for a window of time.

We also added MVP and death recap. Again, ways to show off who the best players are in the game, and who you have to watch out for.




In terms of balance updates, last year we were doing balance updates every 4 to 6 weeks. So at the beginning of this year, we had a bunch of feedback in January: “Guys, this is not enough. You got to go faster.

So I remember I went, we talked to the producers, and we talked to the live operations team, we talked to our designers, and they said: “You know what? I think we have the technology now. I think we can go a little faster.

So for a very short period at the beginning of the year we were doing it almost every week. We were just throwing balance updates at you guys so quickly that a few guys out there in the community said: “Whoa, this is a little too much. Especially for eSports. Can you kind of get it right a little bit on a more consistent basis? Maybe not every week?

So we scaled back to every 2 to 4 weeks, but we had this capability, and we are very open to you guys for this feedback about what the right rate is; and if that rate needs to change for a period, that could be the case as well.

So that’s an option we now have in play and that is something that happened this last year. We did 19 hero and talent reworks this year. Not all these were successful as others, but all of these reworks really showed the value of our talent system; and really showed what our design staff was capable of doing in refreshing a lot of these older heroes that you guys really love and play, and getting them back into the game or if they are not still a really high win rate at least the choices on their talents are a lot better, and they have more options. They are not sort of mono choices across their talents.




In terms of eSports this year: this is our first full year of eSports. We shipped in the middle of last year. So 2016 was the first time we were from the beginning of the year to the end. Heroes of the Dorm this year which was absolutely amazing, with players all across North America competing for a chance to win college tuition for the rest of their four years at university.

We had three global championships with over $4 million in United States dollars prize winnings, we added amazing community tournaments. Some standout tournaments were Chair League and Heroes United, and we had over 1000 tournament matches globally this year.



So huge props to the community, huge props to our eSport team, and all of our players for making an incredible eSports for 2016. That was 2016 sort of in a nutshell. Now we are going to have Alan talk through a little bit more detail about some of the things we learned during 2016 from all of these updates.

Next: Game Modes

Last Year RecapGame ModesComing SoonPanel Q&A

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Tomas Hernandez is owner of 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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