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Interviews: Varian, Ragnaros, and eSports – Oh My!

By William Murphy on November 06, 2016

Varian, Ragnaros, and eSports – Oh My!

Heroes of the Storm is a special brand of insanity from Blizzard. The hero brawler is getting a bunch of new stuff in the coming weeks, and we caught up with Lead Live Designer Matthew Cooper to chat about the new heroes, tweaks to the Haunted Mines, the new Brawl, and more. Read on!

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Matthew shined a light on Varian, first – the first hero in HotS than can multi-class based on what talents you choose during a match. He can’t switch at will during a match, rather his choices at level 4 and 10 determine what role he’ll be. Matthew expects that the pro level and ranked organized groups will know what sort of team comp they’re going for, while everyone playing in brawls and for fun will just do what they want, what they find fun, or what they need.

Matthew also noted that Varian wasn’t planned as a sort of “send off” to the character because of his fate in Legion, but rather that he was originally planned as far back as 2012, and then work started on him again about 9 months ago.

Ragnaros was our next topic, the newest WoW Raid Boss to make its way over to Heroes of the Storm as a playable character. He has a fantastic mechanic where he can take over either a standing tower on your team’s defenses, or a fallen tower on the enemy team’s and become a huge planted building of death for around 18 seconds. I asked how this was not overpowered, and Matt said it was pretty easy to counter really – if you see Rags doing that, RUN. Just avoid him and come back when it wears off.

The Nexus Challenge is a new cross-promotional event going on in HotS from November 15th through January 4th. Play games with friends, 15 gets you the Genji Oni skin in Overwatch, a Portrait in Heroes of the Storm, and Zarya to use in Heroes of the Storm as well. If you play 30 games, you unlock four more heroes – Li-Ming, Auriel, Greymane, and Kerrigan plus a 30-day stim pack, an Orochi Hovercycle Mount, and more. Some real incentives across two of Blizzard’s games to get in and play.

I then asked about the future of HotS eSports, given how popular Heroes of the Dorm has been.  The next big step for HotS isn’t quite as extensive as the Overwatch League, but the Heroes Global Championship (HGC). In that, there are four regions (NA, EU, KR, and China). The top 8 teams in each region will be salaried by Blizzard, paid monthly for the year. More global tournaments, smaller regions in each main region will play and challenge the top 8 to break in on their own as well. If it works out, then they’ll look to expand that even more and consider how the Overwatch League’s setup can be adopted further.

The Haunted Mines is getting a big revamp. Most notably, the Golems will now switch lanes each time they spawn, and instead of popping right where they were when they last fell, they’ll now spawn at the middle of the lane to give players time to get back and protect. Both changes have gone a long way in internal tests towards making people care more about both lanes in the Mines. Additionally, the boss of the mines is now centered in the map, and the Mines have four entrances as opposed to two, making for some good team fights in the mines themselves.

Additionally, progression of your main account level is being uncapped. As Matt put it, “We don’t want people to ever feel like they’re done making progress. So while heroes can be capped, it’ll take a long time to do that. So by removing the level cap with the account, and instead making the account level a collection of all your hero levels, it’s just one more way to measure how much you’ve been playing HotS, and how far you’ve come since day one.”

And while there are some things in store for Wintervale, Matt and Blizzard are not quite ready to divulge their holiday plans for HotS, but very soon for two weeks the Blackheart’s Revenge brawl will be available. See the trailer above for that. Brawls are quickly becoming the favorite mode outside of the competitive ranked and esports side of things, and Blackheart’s Revenge looks all sorts of fun. Big thanks to Matt for the interview, and to Blizzard for inviting us out to BlizzCon this year.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.