GamesCom 2017 Heroes of the Storm Kel’Thuzad Interview

Danny: In that video, you are talking about just general design process. The process is the same for basically every hero. This is just a little bit more extravagant because of the profile of him, but will this give us enough insight to say like “This is what it takes to design any hero” type of thing?

Alan: Yeah. I think you will actually get a lot of insight into general design process that we take for heroes. We have a series of meetings from a kickoff meeting to very-sudden meetings that follow up.

We actually have recorded several of those meetings, and so you will get some taste of what is discussed in those meetings, and then some voice over kind of analysis from people like Kyle.

So yeah, it is a good kinda view into what we talk about. The specifics for Kel’Thuzad might not be the specifics for another hero. Obviously, we go through various iterations. Some heroes we start with one idea, and what we actually ship is dramatically different. Other heroes, what we come up early on, actually ends up being fairly similar to what we ship with.

So not every hero is going to be exactly like Kel’Thuzad.



Danny: Two questions then, about: How do you feel the heroe’s release cycle is? Are you guys happy with the ### you are releasing right now, and also how do you feel the new loot system in 2.0 has worked out overall?

Alan: So I will start with the loot chests first. I think it is going great. I think it was a great addition to the game for us to be able to unlock really any item in the entire catalog as a reward for players, as they level up heroes and play the game.

Previously, we kind of either cap your limit, your levels, or the rewards we gave may not have been as compelling as we wanted them to be. So being able to unlock anything in the game (as you play the game), and have this essentially infinite progression, I think it has been a really good addition to the game.

On the cadence of heroes, we have been actually very happy with our ability to keep up at this rate, and release heroes with such a high frequency. I think that earlier on when we shipped this game, we had far fewer heroes, and we wanted to get to a place where there was a good representation across all the roles, and also just thematically across all our different universes; and there are so many different kinda factors that go into what heroes we bring into the game; and so we wanted to keep this high rate ### of getting these heroes into the game. So that at a ranked level, you had viable options.

I will say that as we come into– I think Kel’Thuzad is our 70th hero or so, I think we are actually approaching a place where you are probably going to see us start to spread out these hero releases a little bit more.

One of the other things that we do is we do a lot of reworks, and a lot of other content as well; and when we drop a hero release with like– in fact with Kel’Thuzad we had 4 other semi-major… all the way from major reworks to more subtle reworks. A lot of these changes can actually be overshadowed by the hero release, and maybe don’t get their time to shine.

In addition, from a game perspective, if we are changing too much of the game too frequently, that can also… it starts to get a little bit fatiguing. There is a part of it where it is cool, because the meta is changing, and it keeps the game fresh; but we can also go too far on that.

So I think what you are going to see us do slowly here as we are approaching our 70th hero is: we are going to start spreading out those releases in the sense that you are going to be getting just as much content (if not more), but they are not all going to be stacked on top of each other.

So maybe we will release a hero here, then focus on a major rework there, then maybe do a battleground rework (we have started doing these a little more), skin drops, things like that. So we have got a lot of content, a lot of changes to the game, but they are a little more spread out so that they don’t all stack up on top of each other; and as a result I think that is going to mean that maybe we are not releasing heroes so frequently right on top of each other. Just to give a little bit of a breather as well.



Danny: A perfect sideway into my next question then. With the rework of Morales, what are your thoughts in the current state of healing, cleanse, and burst in the game; and the direction it is going forward? What are the design reasons behind these changes too?

Kyle: I think overall we are pretty happy with the state of those: the cleanse, burst damage, healing. Morales is a hero that we have been looking out for a while. We wanted to kinda change, and give her a little more interesting gameplay. So we changed her mana into energy, so she has kinda this short term limit on how much healing output she has.

Previously, with mana, she could kinda heal for an extremely long amount of time. We also were able to put on her trait now she heals herself when she is healing; and then in addition to that, you saw just yesterday we released a balance patch that kinda reduced some of the double support meta that is going on, and brought some changes to Uther and Auriel to kinda lower that.

So we are going to see how those changes pan out over the next couple of weeks, and see if we need to make any more changes; but I think at the current moment we are pretty happy with where we are now.

Alan: One more thing, also just on double support in general, it is something that we have made some changes recently, but we are also looking at it. This came up before. Like earlier in the life of Heroes, where double support became a thing, and when we started thinking about it, we started looking at it, and before we actually made any changes, it went away; and so it is one of those things where every time there is always like the current flavor of the month (so to speak) as far as the meta, we want to be cautious about how we approach it.

We definitely want to act if there is a problem with the game, but if something that can naturally resolve itself, obviously players start learning how to better work against that, or whether it is actually effective, we want to allow that to play out as well.

So in this case, we are looking at it, we have already made some changes here, and maybe we will look at some more, but we also want to just be cautious in general about when we make our changes so that we are not like preemptively ruining some strategy that players can naturally figure out or counter too.



Danny: So on that note, you guys chose to rework Leoric, right now, and he sees a lot of play in HGC. So what is the reason for this change, and what is the direction you want to take Leoric at this point?

Kyle: So Leoric does see a lot of play in HGC, and at higher levels, but he is had a very bad problem with talent diversity. So this rework is really targeted at increasing talent diversity, and just adding some new interesting mechanics to the game.

He has this basic attack where he swings his mace one way, and then swings it the other way, and then he does his over-the-head swing; and we kinda decided that this was a really interesting opportunity to add some gameplay elements to that.

So you will see now he has this– first he cleaves, then cleaves, and he has over-head crit; and so it changes up his laning phase a little bit, where he wants to use the cleave so the wave is cleared, and then you try to hit the hero with the crit, or the building, or some mercenary that has higher health.

So he is a little more interesting to play in that regard. He still primarily fills kinda this tank boss thing role with his Drain Hope, as well as trapping players with Entomb, and slowing them with his Skeletal Swing, so the changes are (I think) just mostly to improve talent diversity, and I think he will continue to see a reasonable amount of play in HGC.



Danny: What about multi-class heroes? Have you guys talked more about doing others like Varian, or as opposed to even making new heroes, what about reworking existing heroes as a possible multi-class hero — like one suggestion maybe like: Abathur… as a specialist/support. Would that ever be possible in the future, or is it more “just leave those type of heroes as they are, and it would just be a new introduction like Varian or something”?

Kyle: So I think as far as reworking existing heroes, and changing the multi-class goes, I don’t think you will see us doing that; but going forward, we are looking at what makes the most sense to introduce in the game as a multi-class, and what we want to get out of that hero.

So something we are still looking at, but right now we don’t have anything to say on that.



Danny: So last question, then, since we are almost done. So Kel’Thuzad is hitting the PTR next week. What’s an advice for new players or people that maybe come back to the game that haven’t played in a while what to focus on when playing Kel’Thuzad and kinda slowly learn him, because he is a complicated hero. So I am sure we are going to see a lot of people coming back just to see him? So any advice you guys have for those older players?

Kyle: If you are just trying to learn Kel’Thuzad right out of the gate, one of his easiest builds to use is more focused on the Death and Decay talents.

So going level 1 (The Plaguelands), level 7 (Accelerated Decay), Frost Blast is a great heroic to just kinda force the enemy team to play around you a little bit more, whereas Shadow Fissure is kinda that more-precise high skill heroic.

If you are better at landing combos, you are maybe an Alarak player or a Kerrigan player, going for a more chains-oriented build will be really shine for you. He can reduce armor, he can gain a lot of sustain with it, and he can really set up those high-damage combos with Shadow Fissure.



Danny: Thanks for your time, guys. We are super excited about Kel’Thuzad. I can’t wait for the documentary, and I can’t wait to chain a lot of people together. Thanks guys!

Kyle: Thank you.

Alan: Thank you.



Special thanks to the Blizzard EU PR Team, game designer Kyle Dates, and game director Alan Dabiri. Thanks to the Reddit community as well for providing some of the questions. Interviewer: Danny Perschonok (Naka). Cameraman: Arthur Lorenz (Handclaw). Video editing, transcript, and YouTube subtitles: Tomas Hernandez (Medievaldragon).

GamesCom 2017 Kel'Thuzad Interview

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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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