Last week the Heroes of the Storm development team revealed the two newest heroes to receive an overhaul or “rework” to their existing in-game kits. One of them, the Support hero, Lucio, was released into the game back in February of 2017.
Upon his entrance into the nexus, his healing output--thus his power level--was quite high. All a player had to do while manning the character was stay within range of his teammates while his healing and speed auras would do the rest of the work. Occasionally, if the team was in trouble, his Sound Barrier heroic would provide a massive burst heal that would either turn the tide in a fight or save the team long enough for them to scurry away to safety. Over time, through tweaks to his kit, the design team provided a more interactive experience when playing with and against Lucio.
But, it wasn’t enough.
His full rework, which can be found here, aims to freshen up his kit and bring him into 2019.
With a new Heroic ability, Trait and added talents to boot, Lead Game Designer, Brett Crawford, is confident the current iteration of Lucio is the best version of himself.
“With Lucio, we have seen that over the past year or so we have done a lot of reworks on Supports and I have been really trying to work towards that to try to make them more engaging overall. Lucio was kind of an outlier to where he has always been really good but his talents have always kind of lacked power just due to the strength of his base kit. He does so much baseline that when we were building the talent tree and trying to balance him, it was really difficult to put a lot of power into his talents because it just blew out his power-pie. We wanted to take a look at Lucio and see what he does well, tried to scale back some of the things that made him frustrating to play against and give him some talents that really impact how you play him and how he changes throughout the game.”
How they went about this was three-fold: reducing his baseline healing/speed output, provide variance to the selection of his Heroic abilities and give him a talent tree to allow different playstyles.
Prior to the rework, Lucio had essentially one Heroic ability that saw play: Sound Barrier. According to HOTSLogs, a site that analyzes player replay files, Sound Barrier was selected over 90 percent of the time across all game modes over his second heroic Reverse Amp.
That’s big, big problem, according to Crawford:
“If you step back and take a holistic look at a hero before you do a rework one of the first things you're going to look at is their Heroic parity. With Lucio, Sound Barrier was just destroying everything because it gave him the burst-prevention that his base kit did not give. So, people almost had to take it just to make sure that, during those big teams fights and when the game broke out into those big skirmishes, that he had some way to save people through burst damage. Sound barrier had to be taken unless you ran double-Support which we saw for a little bit.
With Reverse Amp, it is really cool and funny. People love using it but it did not give that burst-prevention so the first thought was, ‘I want to keep Reverse Amp.’ We want to make sure that people have that toy to play with. But we need something else that can actually help with the burst and maybe give him a little utility because we did not want to give him something too similar to Sound Barrier so that is kind of where the thought of High-Five came from. He has a medium-sized heal that is hero-dependent on your allies so he can bounce around the battlefield and it really feels like Lucio. It also gave us the opportunity to give him a Cleanse-like effect which Lucio did not have prior to this on that ability as well.”
To keep Reverse Amp apart of Lucio’s kit the ability was moved to level 7 and altered slightly. A follow-up question when hearing Crawford’s statement above is: “Why didn’t you just nerf Sound Barrier and buff Reverse Amp.” Well, they tried that but the power burst-prevention provides is too impactful.
“When we first started to work on him I pulled a lot of power out of Sound Barrier because I did not know how to create another heroic that could compete with it. So I changed the shielding values, we changed all sorts of different things to just make it weaker and it did not feel like the correct way to go anymore as it was not overperforming, so to speak. Changing and nursing it just did not feel like the path to go. We had to make something to compete with it, as opposed to sapping its' power level.”
Challenges along the way
As the design team looked to dissect Lucio’s kit, making his trait an activatable one proved to be more difficult than anticipated. While making traits effective with the push of a button is not uncommon, giving it that Lucio feel was a challenge in-and-of-itself.
“The thing that took the longest to get right was the newly activated trait for pushing off. Originally, the design was that you would use your Q, your Sound Wave, against a piece of terrain and it would push you back because, thematically, that makes sense, right? You are throwing Sound Waves and it would knock you backward but the constant feedback we got internally was that it felt awkward to use because it felt weird using an ability against a wall to get a benefit in a different direction.
So even though it was thematically cool it was really difficult to control so we had to do a lot of different control schemes for the ability: How far you could go? How quick could you travel? What the actual debuff was when he hit somebody? We started with Stuns which felt really difficult to deal with as an enemy and it felt hard to play against so we created that has a talent later in the tiers instead of making it a baseline. Just stuff like that was the most difficult to get the feel right.”
Although the changes to how he plays may sound intimidating, the design team wants to assure players that long-time Lucio players will be able to pick him up without much of a transition period.
“With most of our reworks, we try to not change the original play styles unless we feel that they are toxic or difficult to deal with as an enemy. With Lucio, you should not feel much different. You will feel a little bit slower coming out of the gates as when you're not wall-riding you're not as quick and as agile. But there are talents that can get you back up to those speeds that you were used to. And, on top of that, we added an activated push-off for his Trait that allows you to gain some of his mobility back while giving you some interesting ways to use it: whether you are peeling for your allies or you need that extra boost to get away. I do not think that players are going to feel a lot different playing Lucio but it is opening up a lot of different avenues and playmaking abilities that it did not have before.”
Tim Rizzo is the editor and a reporter for Inven Global. He joined the company back in 2017.