Heroes of the Storm Developer Q&A Part 2 (Jan 22, 2014) – Transcript

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Dustin: So we are very used to those styles of games — for us. But for many years the World of Warcraft team has been doing constant patches, constant new zones and constant expansion packs, as well. But this is a little different in the sense that we want to be a little quicker and a lot more with smaller pieces but still try to maintain the same types of quality that we want have for Blizzard games.

So it’s certainly a bit challenging for us especially in Team 1. That’s sort of learn the techniques of the World of Warcraft team and then apply those to our game that we are trying to create.

Obviously, they have maps and we have battlegrounds, where they have zones and we have battlegrounds. They might have changes to their classes and have something like new monsters and new raid bosses; and then we have new Heroes — maybe as a similar thing.

But we want to try to hit this in a very fast rate, so we are constantly providing new content for the community. New stuffs to do, new ways to play the game. As a designer and anybody on the development team is very exciting for us to get the chance to work on a game where we have got something we want to do, we might love to see that live in days, weeks or months. That can come out really quick with a great idea for a new hero. That can happen pretty soon as supposed to the box product model where that’s a great idea but you are going to see that in 2016.

I think we can get really gigged up about the idea that this stuff could really just happen, if it’s good enough. We can polish it up and it can happen immediately. Something that is sort of a challenge for us is getting used to that idea and then really embracing it. So for us it’s being really exciting. Really enjoyable.

Kevin: How do you take a complex machine like a game development team, who sees this challenge ahead of them and they are aware that its different from what they are used to but how do you get to the point where they feel comfortable stepping into that space. What do you do in a practical level to gear up for that?

Kaeo: It’s a gradual process. We have been over many months here trying to transition our team from thinking and working like team that delivers games every couple of years and expansions to a team that is going to be delivering constant content, constantly be updating this game, adding new features and content for people to enjoy. So I really think it’s really like about practicing just that transition, hey this is like a different way of doing it but its actually really fine or really gratifying because instead of having to wait months or years for a content to get into the game . This is kind of instant gratification. “Here enjoy It”.

Dustin: Then the chaos where we are fighting this battle a lot—–and then practicing I think is right on. I remember that there was a moment, a couple of (six months ago I think it was?), where we were about to go out with some kind of internal build I don’t remember exactly what build it was, and I was like: “I need another week. You know, I need another week to get this thing polished up,” and he was like: “No, we are going. The train is leaving the station.”

I was like: “No. I need another a week.” And he was like: “There will be another train along in a minute,” and I was like: “Oh, I see. There will be another train along in a minute.”

When you are making box project there is no other train, yea there is a patch but it’s not the same as: “I want to add another mission to the game” — which is something we don’t traditionally patch in. So, the idea that you have missed the train was so distressing, and I was just ready to go to holy war to delay that train so that I can get onboard. And then he pointed out that “there is another one coming right after that one. Just sit down. Finish doing what you are doing, and in two weeks from now …. That week you need, you will have it, and then you can put this in.”

And so building in that way and have him sort of enforcing those rules and helping us practice this idea. I think it is been hugely valuable to us as a team which has been for me a sort of understanding what we are trying to accomplish and how this was to relate to this game, with this community and in this kind of environment.

Kevin: Awesome. Good Job. I like it. So with a company like Blizzard and a game like Heroes, a game that covers all of this company’s franchises, the top franchises. What is your relationship like with those other development teams? Do you have constant communications going on with them, do you talk about the heroes that you are envisioning or planning within their franchise like. What is that relationship like, are their “do’s and don’t’s”, like “hey, not this hero. This one”.

Dustin: We talk to them some. I think they trust us a lot with the heroes in this game. A lot of these heroes came out of Warcraft III before they moved into World of Warcraft. So there is a great sense of collaboration across the studio when it comes to these characters, these personalities and these locations.

So they trust us quite a bit with these characters. A lot of these characters were invented by a lot of the artists and writers and designers in this team in the first place.

For certainly there is a bunch of stuffs that we are doing together that is new; so if we are working on a Crusader hero — for example. If were to start that up, we will obviously (IF … IF) we will go to the Team 3 guys, and like ask them to show us what you are doing for the Crusader, what do you think the essence of the crusader is, what is the most important part of the crusader to you guys — that you think.

Because we are not going to do all the many powers and runes the crusader has. We are going to do something a little bit smaller than that for the PvP experience. So we have to distill the core elements of what matches the Crusader; and then obviously when they play these things, we get things around pretty quickly. So they play the Barbarian and they will send us notes: “Hey, I think the barbarian is missing the boat here on something you can do.” — And somehow we will change it around.

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So it is pretty collaborative back and forth with these things; but I think a lot of studios does trust us with how it goes. They didn’t know that the game takes place in the Nexus. There is this kind of bizarre fantasy world that is not connected to our core fiction. Not connected to our lore and so they don’t really worry that we are going to do something strange with the story for these characters because this is kind of out-of-universe. It is sort of out of bounds in its own space.

Kevin: Pretty Cool. So what are you guys working on right now? What is the focus and work sort of pointing towards?

Kaeo: Release-wise, we are currently in the midst of what has been an ongoing internal alpha with the developers and employers at Blizzard; and they have been playing the game and giving us lots of great feedback.

We have been refining our core game play experience, our meta game. Trying to stand up all the pieces that we need to make this game work and trying to test them against the mirror that is Blizzard; and that’s kind of a special thing to get reflected back at us. Having them check this game out early in preparation for when we feel like it is going to be ready to have the public start coming in to play it.

Kevin: So when you say Meta game you are meaning all that stuff outside like when you are actually playing the stuff that happens in between.

Kaeo: Right

Kevin: Cool. That’s awesome. I can’t wait to talk a little bit more about that. I don’t know when we are ready to talk about that.

Dustin: Not quite yet. We still have quite a lot of feedback coming in from the studio. A lot of stuff is kind of a mess.

Kevin: How about you Dustin what is your focus now?

Dustin : A bunch of stuffs, the team is working on. The Art guys have been doing just ridiculously cool art. They keep leveling up the art across the whole (### 13:22).

I don’t think is going to be in this build, the pass on the colors. They are just amazing. It affects the whole game look and felt; and the skins they are doing for this game are ridiculous. You guys have seen a bunch of these at BlizzCon. But just it keeps getting just more and more out there and more and more interesting and they keep doing this crossover characters. The stuffs they are doing is absolutely amazing.

On the design side, we are working really harder the new user experience, right now. We have got a couple of guys who are really pounding away at that. We had some news at testing where we bring in people. They work in the company, but they have never played our game or any game in the genre.

We sit them down and we say: “hey, we just watch. Oh, God. We are crying. Weeping. It’s gone so horribly for us”.

If they get through it: “Oh, like we won that part.” And we make changes. Then we bring brand new people next week and we say you guys have never seen this game before. Go, and we will see what happens.

Our first task was last week. It went pretty well, all things considered. We have a bunch of fixes to make; but we are working hard on that.

And the other thing we are working hard on is our hero designs. So, we have got these battlegrounds, and they are very cool, and they have really changed. We are changing the battlegrounds a little bit here and there, making tune-in fixes as we get to play with the company, in the alpha; but one of the things that we really want to get to is more heroes like Abathur.

We had Abathur, which is this monster from Heart of the Swarm from the zerg campaign. And we had this guy he is kind of a commander hero.

He doesn’t really fight, but he is all over the battlefield helping his allies everywhere. Because we have chosen to do team-leveling, because we have made a bunch of core choices about how this game functions, it gave us the creative freedom to create a character that doesn’t really ever fight personally; but he helps everyone else engage in destroying the opposition.

So that was really cool. And we got a lot of props at BlizzCon. Everyone was saying: “Wow! Abathur! This is cool.” We ran our surveys and everyone was like: “Abathur!”

We are like: “OK. OK. That worked. What else can we do?” I don’t think it’s enough to say we have got battlegrounds and Abathur. Like … it’s got to be more than that.

So we are working really hard on trying to create more of these heroes that are kind of out of the box. What you are used to playing this genre.

Here is the sort of playing fundamentally different ways and stretch your understanding of what this kind of game can really be. So Abathur is a big win; but we got to do more. We have got to do better. We have got to work really hard and just pray that we can have the right ideas and the right implementations to come together to create heroes that really give you a new way to experience the genre.

Kevin: That is awesome. I can’t wait to hear about these heroes, sounds very very interesting. Okay guys, well, we have gabbed enough. I think we are going to start turning to your questions on Twitter, if you are out there and you want to ask questions. These guys or myself have got answers for you. Just ask. Ok so we are going to take your questions if you want to ask so many questions — #HeroesQA on Twitter.

Actually before we turn to questions can we show that strap poll real quick? So if you would like to have an impact on what battleground we will play in the live gameplay session after we finish taking your questions you can do that on the strap poll URL that you will probably find in the Twitch chat. Just check out the Twitch chat and vote.

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