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Heroes of the Storm News - BlizzCon 2015 State of the Game Panel Liveblog!

Posted by Michael Bitton on Nov 07, 2015  | Comments

The Heroes of the Storm team is now on stage at this year's BlizzCon to discuss the state of the game. Join us right now for our liveblog of all the highlights.

Keep an eye on this space for updates throughout the hour long panel!

Who are the most overpowered in Heroes of the Storm? Surprise! It's Lili and Murky! These characters have high win rates overall, but don't have a huge impact in more competitive play.

2015 Recap:

Started the year in tech alpha. Launch gamed on June 2nd. First real year for eSports. Heroes of the Storm collegiate tournament in April, broadcast nationally on television. 

11 new heroes this year for 43 total. Three new heroes to be shown today.

Four new battlegrounds, for nine total. Towers of Doom and Arena mode shown at BlizzCon.

On Balance:

Brett Crawford (balance designer) is up to discuss balance. Goal is to keep heroes at a 45-55% win rate.  Lost Vikings at the top right now (57%). Balance is more complicated than looking at these stats, as win rates can change by 4-5% depending on a number of variables.

Goal for talent pick rates is to have multiple choices at every tier for every hero. Gazlowe has a tier 1 talent at 43% pick rate, with the rest at 10-15%. Even though the 43% talent is the most popular, it doesn't have the highest win rate.

Tournaments and eSports play an important role in figuring out where the meta is and where it might be going.

Kerrigan is brought up a balance example. She's an all in melee assassin. Kerrigan fell off a couple of months ago, her win rate was at 47%, and her talents lacked diversity. Blizzard decided to give Kerrigan multiple build paths and focus on her initiation. After all was said and done, Kerrigan was much improved overall.

Uther is up next. No matter what Blizzard seems to do, his win rate remains stable at roughly 50%. Yet he is still banned or first picked in competitive play. Blizzard asked themselves what makes him such a strong pick despite his balanced win rate. Blizzard came to the conclusion that Uther's main strength is his ability to be disruptive. Blizzard made changes to Uther's Divine Shield and Eternal Devotion to improve counterplay. The changes were intended to be minor, as Blizzard doesn't want to hit him too hard. These changes are slated for the next patch.

Game designer Alex Neyman is up now to discuss Cho'gall and his balance and development. Cho'gall is played by two players. Cho'gall has a huge health pool since he takes up two players in the game. Early playtests exhibited snowball issues both for and against him. Cho'gall's main issues were his health gains over other heroes when he had a few levels over them. On the flip side, if Cho'gall fell behind, he could be trivialized fairly easily.

Cho'galls issues actually helped Blizzard to realize that the issues weren't necessarily Cho'gall related, but actually an issue across all of Heroes of the Storm. Basically, players were gaining too much of their power through levels, particularly with early game levels. Blizzard cut the power of levels by half and moved that power into the base of the character to improve the overall balance of power. This helped teams have a better chance at overcoming level differentials and improved the feel of each character. Still, the changes ended up making the early game matter less. Blizzard decided to then increase early game death timers to give teams an opportunity at making power plays.

Future Updates

Matthew Cooper returns to discuss future updates. Blizzard's identified a couple of characters for improvements in the near future.

Gazlowe is up first. He doesn't get enough play. Blizzard wants to improve his zone control capabilities, so he's more useful on maps like Sky Temple.  Blizzard is experimenting with giving him a talent to give nearby turrets a special attack while he charges up his death laser.

Nova is up next. She currently has poor talent diversity and her balance is often on a razor's edge between underpowered or being overpowered. Blizzard wants to improve Nova by putting damage talent options up against other damage options as well as adding higher skill cap talents.

Tychus is now being discussed.  To improve Tychus, Blizzard wants to further define his role as an assassin. The idea is for Tychus to be a tank buster by perhaps bringing talents like Giant Killer earlier into Tychus' trait progression.

Matchmaking

Dustin Browder is up to discuss matchmaking. 80% of current games are even in matchmaking right now. 65% of games end close on levels.  80% sounds good, but this also means 20% of games are poorly matchmade and these games can go really bad.

Blizzard made some changes to improve matchmaking so far. New players' MMR was inflated as they earned experience, making the assumption that players were learning as they went along.  But Blizzard wasn't taking into account number of games played, which didn't work out so well. Things improved from 38% win rate to 48% once changes were made here.

Hero League was changed to increase the number of placement matches so that once you were done you'd be placed roughly where you should be to the best of Blizzard's ability.

Blizzard will be revamping the matchmaker in the coming weeks by making the new system build games to be good in the first place. Relies less on the swapping used in the current matchmaker.  The system will create a queue, which might end up holding some players into the matchmaker, but will better match players together for better quality games. Blizzard's intent is to the launch the new matchmaker in the next few weeks, but it could slip. Even if the date slips, Browder assures us the new matchmaker will make it by the end of the year for sure.

2016 Fixes

  • Improve MMR accuracy
  • Mirror team composition in Quick Match. Blizzard doesn't want to force a meta, but it wants to match meta teams with meta teams and weird teams with weird teams.
  • Blizzard wants to use performance to adjust MMR. Right now the system uses win/loss.
  • MMR adjustments on a per hero basis.

Ranked play improvements. Current system is designed on StarCraft and Hearthstone, but Blizzard has found that this is too harsh. The current system also isn't transparent enough. Blizzard wants to give players better information on why they are going up or going down. No current information yet. Pre-season will continue for a while longer. Once ranked is improved to Blizzard's satisfaction, Blizzard will begin rolling seasons.

New Death Recap Screen

See the last 10 things that happened to you. Early mockup shown. Can also see heals on this screen.

Bans

Blizzard is fully on board with bans now and it wants to add bans as soon as possible.  Two ban system. Initial ban and then a second ban mid way through picks. This system is disruptive and Blizzard has received positive feedback from pro players so far.

Grandmaster

Like Hearthstone's Legend tier, Blizzard wants to implement Grandmaster into Heroes of the Storm to better illuminate the differences in top players. Currently the disparity between the top rank 1 player and the lowest rank 1 player is too huge.

Q&A begins:

In-game clock?

Blizzard thinks it can get to this.

Unranked draft? Threes and fours back in Hero League?

Decision to remove threes and fours was a defensive decision due to feedback. Intention is to have a hard conversation about this again once the matchmaker has improved. If the answer is no, then Blizzard will look at doing unranked draft.

eSports 2016 announcements?

Not sure when those announcements will be coming. Blizzard wants to make some improvements in 2016. Keep an eye on the Heroes of the Storm finals for more information.

Restriction on a certain amount of games played or hero level for playing a hero in Hero League?

Blizzard wants to be careful about this as it doesn't want to put too many barriers into ranked.

Melee vs. ranged assassins in the meta?

Butcher and Thrall actually have some of the highest win rates, but require more coordination.

The panel has now wrapped up! Thanks for joining us!

Michael Bitton / Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB