During the annual BlizzCon event held at the Anaheim Convention Center, the Heroes of the Storm development team made themselves available to speak with the media regarding a myriad of topics.
Battleground Designer Steve Holmes and Live Game Designer Adam Jackson discussed two battlegrounds in particular that have been points of contention for some within the community.
When speaking on BlackHeart's Bay, which has been in the game since its early days and is now a bit out-dated both in its design and playstyle, Holmes noted that he is aware of the community feedback.
"I would describe Blackhearts Bay as polarizing. We shipped the Hanamura Temple update which played really, really nice and a Garden Terror update which is generally liked. As for Blackheart's, if we do a rework on this, it will be much more difficult because this is not a map that everybody just hates or that should go away forever. There's a surprising number of players out there that love the unique challenges and gameplay requirements of the map so we keep it in mind, we need to preserve that. We don't want to just throw those players under the bus. We have to keep things in the game that they like to play. We do understand also that the way you play Blackheart's Bay trains you to play the game in a very specific way does not translate well to most other maps in the game and that is probably the central issue with the map. We have a lot of ideas but if we do publish any kind of change to any of our maps they will have gone through a lot of iterations and very deliberate changes."
Blizzard did not feel comfortable commenting further on the map when asked for specific changes they had in mind.
The conversation shifted over to a battleground that was recently removed for the second time, Haunted Mines. Previously, the map became unavailable to players as the development team took some time to rework the feel and playstyle the map encouraged. Once it was reinstated into the pool of playable battlegrounds, it became apparent that the tweaks were not enough. Within the past month, it was removed from the game after existing in its altered state for less than two years.
As far as what the Holmes and the development team gathered from player feedback on Haunted Mines, they expressed how difficult a map with an above-ground and underground element to it was to make viable.
"If you were a newer player there are all kinds of crazy things in the game and interesting strategies. But the higher up you get there is a more rigid meta that gets formed. Also with maps, as the game evolves, the general player gets better and better and more experienced and understands what works and what doesn't. Haunted Mines is one of our original four maps in the game. This was the Wild West. This is where we had Abathur and all kinds of crazy things and not to say that we are done being the Wild West but we and the community understand our game better now. Haunted Mines is a complicated problem to solve. After the years of iterations and all the love and attention we gave the map in the game, it became very difficult to play this game on this map optimally and have a great time. We did what we had to do."
Jackson echoed that sentiment, saying it wasn't an easy decision to remove the battleground, especially when you spend so many man-hours and so much passion on a project that isn't received well.
"As a developer, it is painful to take away your baby and either completely rework it or take it out of the game. But if it is best for the game and better for the player base will we will do it. Even with criticism and other things aside, we want to do what is best for the game and what is best for the players, so that's why you are seeing massive updates."
As far as there being a future for Haunted Mines, neither commented on what the future may look like, but Holmes did provide a little insight into the development team's mindset.
"We have not said we are re-working Haunted Mines as we simply said we were taking it out of the map pool for now. I think it is a complicated problem. One that I actually cannot give you too much insight into right now but no matter how much it hurts as a Battleground Designer, especially considering we have never taken a hero out of the game, the battleground team certainly feels the sting of that but we are going to push forward to do what we think is best for the game. This is not an issue of pride, this is doing whatever we need to do to make an awesome game."
Tim Rizzo is the editor and a reporter for Inven Global. He joined the company back in 2017.