The abomination hero, Stitches, has been a frontline pest since the earliest Heroes of the Storm days back in 2014. Hooking the unsuspecting, spreading putrid bile and consuming opponents has been his signature tricks and when the development team felt his kit needed to be reworked, they opted not to remove what made him...him. When the dust settled after being tweaked, the new Stitches will be more than a "hook bot" who, in-between his Hook's cooldown, will have more to do on the battlefield.
Stitches updated talent tree and abilities can be found here.
Prior to his rework going public, InvenGlobal got the opportunity to speak with Brett Crawford, a Lead Live Designer who directly worked on bringing Stitches’ kit into 2018 and beyond.
When the task of reworking Stitches was handed to the development team and Crawford, they had a pretty good idea where to start and the issues he currently experienced. This was not the overhaul that Sylvannas recently experienced as his fundamental kit was made well enough back in the day that he just needed more things to do when waiting for his 16-second cooldown to expire on his Hook ability.
“He didn't have a lot of things to do,” said Crawford. “Slam was on a short cooldown so he would just sit there and Slam minions but there was no real interactive process. We wanted to take a step back and we thought that Hook was an amazing ability, so, ‘How can we flesh out the rest of his kit to give him something to do during his downtime? Or, when he does hit a Hook, give him some sort of follow-up aside from just some tickle-damage with Slam.’ We broke his Slam into two pieces and gave him a little bit more control which is where we wanted to point him towards more of a Tank and less of a Bruiser or just a character that is looking for Hooks.”
How they went about fine-tuning his W-ability was adding a baseline Slow when enemies are close enough to Stitches, immediately adding utility to his kit. Currently, players use the majority of his talent tree to increase the effectiveness of his Slam so the development team felt that improving the baseline strength of the ability would allow for build diversity to develop.
“The Slam build is probably the most popular build on live right now because it just adds so much extra damage overall. It is a lot of spread-out damaged so you cannot really target somebody down. But with this we said, ‘Well, instead of making a player talent all the way through the tree to do decent things with Slam, how can we bring something to the base kit that makes it feel like Slam is impactful without blowing out damage through that?’ Since we wanted him to be tankier we took a little bit of damage out of his kit. Players will notice pretty quickly Stitches will not be towards the top when it comes to hero damage anymore. You can still do some considerable damage in some games, especially against double front line comps, but we took a lot of teeth out of the damage and put it more towards utility.”
Outside of his Slam and Hook abilities, his E-ability, Devour, essentially acted as a point-and-click burst heal for Stitches that didn’t too much outside of that.
"In Stitches’ old kit you could get lucky and get a Hook and win a game. There wasn't a lot of skill involved besides hitting Hooks..."
In the rework, the development team opted to tweak the overall performance of it by adjusting the cast time associated with it.
“If you played him in the live version right now there are a lot of times where he will try to Devour something and it just won't work and that is because it had a little bit of cast time up front. So if it is a little bit out of your range it will feel a little misaligned. The first thing we did was we remove that delay and we put it on the finish so it feels a lot snappier. It's amazing when you start playing it. After that we noticed that is a point-and-click health option for Stitches so, ‘How can we add some utility without it doing a whole bunch of damage?’ So we added some talents for utility and survivability, which is what we were looking for when we are trying to build a tankier kit.”
By creating talents such as Digestive Juices and Second Helping that reduce the damage a hero does for a period of time and adds a second charge to the ability, respectively, Stitches’ Devour can be talented for situational moments.
His final and most impactful ability, Hook, was nerfed in the rework from a range of 12.5 to 11 to provide a less frustrating experience for those who went against the abomination and seemed to get yanked out of nowhere.
The rationale behind it, according to the development team, was that too often players would get hooked from outside of their vision and Stitches’. With the change, Stitches cannot pull an opposing player or teammate from an area which he cannot physically see unless an individual is in a cloaked area such as a bush.
Speaking of the range of Hook being an issue, the development team was on the brink of removing one of Stitches’ most impactful and fun talents in the game, Fishing Hook, if it had not been for the communities’ love of it. The talent granted an additional 50% range on his Hook.
“At [level] 16 we kept Fishing Hook as we knew that was a crowd favorite. It was one of those things where we honestly wanted to cut it. It is not great for the game. When you are playing against it it sometimes feels like it is unfair to get hooked out of nowhere. But it is such a crowd favorite and since we did shrink his regular Hook range a little bit we really wanted to keep something the players loved. We sat down and said, ‘Okay, which other talents can give the same kind of power as Fishing Hook?’ So his level 16 talent tier is still pretty strong and it would be only overshadowed by level 20.”
According to Crawford, the term and talent “Fishing Hook” was actually floated around in the development process to be literal.
“There's a talent that we have always wanted to do and we have been laughing about it in the office for a while, it is actually called Fishing Hook. So, we wanted to just to be able to throw his Hook out, an invisible hook, and at the end of it make a regen globe and if an enemy hero were to touch or pick up that regen globe he would be pulled to Stitches. So he would literally be fishing with a fishing hook. We never actually implemented it but we talked about it a whole bunch as you don't really want your Tank to be sitting there doing nothing while the Hook is sitting there with a regen globe. But thematically it was a lot of fun to talk about and still to this day I wonder if we will ever actually just do it for fun.”
Although games are meant to be enjoyable and appeal to a broad player base, at the end of the day, the Heroes of the Storm development team wanted to make Stitches players/mains feel like they had something to strive for the most they played him.
“I think it's important that we have a skill-ceiling that people can actually climb and master. In Stitches’ old kit you could get lucky and get a Hook and win a game. There wasn't a lot of skill involved besides hitting Hooks so as we do these reworks we want old players who have been playing Stitches forever to come in and say, ‘Oh, okay, I have these new tricks that I can really dominate with as long as I continue practicing him.’ But still be easy to play and be strong. You want the core kit to still make sense and feel good and you can give players who want to get better and improve something to chase.”
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