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Heroes of the Storm Developer Q&A highlights

Yesterday, Senior Community Development Manager Kevin Johnson sat down with Game Director Dustin Browder and Senior 3D artist Phil Gonzales to answer the community's questions on Blizzard's upcoming Hero Brawler. They covered several key topics, and provided some nuggets of new information. If you'd like to watch the interview in full, you can check out the video on WoW Insider.

But let's go through and summarize the key points they covered. This isn't in the order it happened in the video, because it seemed more logical to categorize it by topic.

Overall Design and Philosophy
  • It is going to be free-to-play!
  • Beta is not ready yet, they're working to get it out as soon as they can. There isn't an exact date yet. Internal testing is ongoing.
  • One of the biggest defining qualities for Heroes is the importance of the different maps. This is something that separates it from other MOBAs, you'll want to take different heroes and different strategies and so on. Also, there's heroes with extensive lore behind them, that's a hugely important element, and they aren't afraid to challenge any aspect of the design to make it fun.
  • Shorter game length -- aiming for 20 minutes -- is a key difference between Heroes and other MOBAs. It'll help with the community, and with player enjoyment of the game.
  • They're excited about introducing lore elements to the game. There's the points of reference in existing franchises, but they are trying to think out possibilities that don't work out in WoW or SCII, but can find a home in the Nexus.
  • The team were concerned about the risks they were taking with new ideas for the MOBA genre, specifically things like the different maps with the importance of objectives within them. They'd done a lot of work on testing the different maps, as well as innovative heroes like Abathur, and were really happy about the reception they received at BlizzCon.
  • The Devs are focused on the rest of the game, looking at social systems, custom lobbies, ways to view replays, what happens when you disconnect and so on.
  • The Art Team's current focus is on polish, they're generating more and more hero skins, exciting ideas like Infernal Stitches, and building on the maps.
Maps
  • Map elements include NPCs, they give the example of the Dragon Knight, a powerful NPC that is unleashed by capturing shrines. Map elements will continue to be key to gameplay.
  • We'll see more variance in the maps that are available, and there'll be a lot more maps and heroes to come!
  • The game is built on Starcraft's base, so there's a ton of potential for everything in Starcraft, including modifications and player-made maps. The devs are excited by the idea of player-made maps, but there's stuff they need to work through first.
Community and eSports
  • The importance of lowering toxicity is high, especially for new users. They are testing extensively, and things like the shorter game time, and focus on team play and XP are hugely important for the feel of the game. You can't steal kills from allies, it's good for everyone if enemy heroes die, if you just want to kill minions and so on. There will be extensive vs AI training and the like, too. They're also focusing heavily on combating toxicity in the environment.
  • The experience is focused on how it's OK to do the obvious thing. Whether you're killing heroes or minions, it's OK.
  • Whether the game will have a competitive esports scene or not will be up to the players. It's an organic process, and they're trying to create something with all the tools for esports, such as observer mode, replays and so on.
  • The focus on Heroes is making it great to play before it's on making it great to watch. The devs are hoping the fun to watch will follow, and they have a lot of room to grow there.

Talents
  • There's more to come with the talent system -- what we saw at BlizzCon was a very narrow slice of what's available. There are ten talents available per tier, and you can pick loadouts giving you a choice of three talents to choose from in battle.
  • Talents are different for every hero, generic ones like +20 attack power will be available for several, but there are more and more hero-specific ones coming out, especially for crazy heroes like Abathur. More divergence is likely to follow, they are not concerned about adding new talents as options, and there's art associated with various different talents such as the Siege Tank talent for Sgt Hammer.
Heroes
  • There are many characters listed for heroes, including ones from BlackThorne and Lost Vikings, with design in process for Lost Vikings, thanks to the popularity of the idea at BlizzCon.
  • There are a huge number of /dance animations coming!
  • The universes crossing over is a ton of fun, and the devs really like doing that with skins. Demon hunters from Diablo wearing hunter outfits from WoW, Infernal Stitches and the like.

Gameplay
  • They want to offer both really dynamic gameplay to experienced players, as well as a welcoming experience for completely new players.
  • The casual overview of Heroes belies the underlying strategy and complexity: it's like Hearthstone, there's way more underneath. There's plenty of competition in internal games!
  • Disconnected players is something under discussion right now. If you disconnect, you'll get nothing for that game, in terms of currency earned for your summoner-style account. If you disconnect frequently, you will be penalized in future matches. However, you will be allowed to reconnect back to the game you're playing, so that legitimate disconnects are less problematic. What's more, an AI will take over from disconnected players. The shorter games will hopefully mean that the incentive to disconnect is low.
  • The advantage of getting to level ten and getting ultimates, and the level 20 storm powers is a discussion point. There's a gameplay element there with those break points, the level gap shouldn't last long, and it promotes exciting gameplay. An example was given of a team taking the Grave Golem minion when they were behind. However, if there's bigger gaps that's a potential issue, and it's something that the devs are discussing and monitoring very carefully. It'll be easier to assess come beta.
  • There's no gold in the game, no shop. There's experience points instead, which are shared team-wide and give you access to levels and talents. Anyone who's near a minion or hero kill will gain XP for the whole team. If there's nobody in the bottom lane, anyhting happening in that lane will not grant XP. Town kills and mercenary kills also add XP to the team. This allows heroes like Abathur, a pure "commander" hero to exist, and allows a lot of map objectives and cross-lane movement. It encourages teamwork and removes the fear of penalties for executing map objectives and increases strategy in those areas.

Overall, the devs are having a ton of fun making the game, and they hope that will be reflected in players' experience. They also really want to thank players for the feedback and information at BlizzCon, it encourages them to keep going and provides great new ideas!

Filed under: Heroes of the Storm

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