We sat down with Technical Director Alan Dabiri to go over some updates to Heroes of the Storm, some of which are coming as early as November 17th! We first discussed the new Arena mode, where players can pick one of three heroes, their heroic ability, and then just jump right in and brawl. Each arena has much simplified objectives without lanes. Dabiri noted how internal playtests had their fellow devs stating it was the most fun they’d had in awhile.
Turning to the new heroes announced, Cho’gall was a big surprise to players, and Dabiri said it was their attempt to break a few rules. Cho’gall counts as two players on the team roster, with the Cho half being the mobile warrior, and Gall being the ranged assassin along for the ride. Dabiri mentioned the rune bomb ability, which Cho players release and Gall players get to detonate. An aimed weapon, it will take coordination between both halves of the hero to use it to maximum effect.
When asked whether Blizzard Voice will make the transition from Overwatch to HotS to help with things like Cho’gall, Dabiri said it was something they’d like to do, but didn’t give a timeframe. We turned to Nova, a character who will undergo some changes in the future to make her more effective and easier to play for new players.
Greymane is another new hero, and he can change from a ranged assassin to melee assassin due to his transformation from human to worgen. His transformation can be timed so that a player can auto-leap to an enemy, but it has a cooldown on it. Dabiri noted that Greymane does more damage in worgen form, but there are also some effective skills for the human form in close range if need be. We then looked at Lunara, the dryad hero, a new ranged assassin. She has great mobility because she’s always mounted in effect. All of her attacks are poison-based per Dabiri, and he said her talents also affect how she can sustain damage. One particular skill can also cause all poisoned people to be slowed. A downside to her is that she’s very squishy, but Dabiri wasn’t sure if her poisons could be cleansed.
We then looked at talent diversity, asking whether there was enough of it in-game. Dabiri said they were overall happy with the talent spread, but there was still some more work they want to do, particularly on a few of the heroics, such as Sylvanas’. They’re also looking into the notion of horde modes, where two players take on wave after wave of opponents, but Dabiri didn’t give any sort of timeframe whether it would be in-game or not.
Next, we wanted to know about improvements in matchmaking, and Dabiri acknowledged that it’s a hot topic in the community and in-office. He said that they use data from metrics to prove that the majority of matches are equal, but that there are enough cases where mismatches happened that they needed to work on it. They have been adding layers of improvements to matchmaking, but Dabiri added that they were looking into refactoring matchmaking in general. He said that many of the mismatches were happening simply because there is a time limit for matchmaking, but they recently increased it to 10 minutes (up from 6). Dabiri also pointed out that they have a prototype in the office of a new matchmaker and were seeing marked improvements in their simulations. He added that they will keep iterating on it whenever it goes live.
Finally, we turned our attention to Heroes of the Storm as an esport, with the world championship held at BlizzCon. Dabiri said they already had a great experience with esports, particularly the Heroes of the Dorm events and the more recent Road to BlizzCon series. He touched on the fact that Heroes of the Dorm had been featured on ESPN and that there’s a Blizzard ecosystem for esports already ramping up. With Activision-Blizzard’s recent announcement of a new studio, it’s certainly something to consider having Blizzard esports featured in their content as well. Dabiri says that HotS esports year 2 will be bigger and more exciting than this inaugural year.
As a reminder, players at BlizzCon or with the Virtual Ticket are granted Cho’gall free on November 17th, and players who didn’t have at ticket can simply play two games with someone who does have Cho’gall and gain the character as well. Players who play four games as Cho’gall either as an owner or not will gain a pile of gold for their account.