Chromie and reworks: name a more iconic duo.
For the third time in the past 18 months, the long-ranged Assassin in Heroes of the Storm has been reworked to provide an overall better playing experience for those piloting and playing against her.
The newest iteration of her kit, which can be found here, is one that the design team hopes might stand the test of time.
Most Heroes in the game have not experienced drastic reworks, yet Chromie continues to receive attention from the development team. I spoke with Alex Neyman, Senior Live Designer, to shed some light on why it’s, once again, Chromie's time in the re-design spotlight.
Neyman explained how the popularity of Chromie affects the need for her redesign:
“Chromie is a hero that has seen a few reworks over the years. We know that she is a beloved character and we know that we have a lot of people who really like playing her and you want to make sure that, since she is in so many games, that every single person playing with her and against her is having a good time.
Over the years we have done different levels of changes to her to try to kind of shift things in a really healthy direction to try and make her fun and have Chromie players have fun with her. But we decided that, with this most recent change, we kind of needed to make bigger more fundamental changes to a lot of the way she works to get her in the 'long-term healthy and successful viewpoint.' Hopefully, with these changes, we don't have a plan to rework Chromie again in six months or something like that. That is not something we are really planning on and focus more on small fine-tuning stuff."
Déjà vu all over again
In this most recent rework, all of Chromie’s three basic abilities were changed on a fundamental level. Her (Q) ability, Sand Blast, featured numerous number tweaks and can now be blocked by oncoming minions and structures. Her (W) ability, Dragon’s Breath, is now spread out over three blasts, as opposed to one. Time Trap (E) can now be remotely detonated to freeze foes for offensive and defensive purposes.
With such extreme changes, how can the development team be sure that Chromie isfinally in the spot they want her to be?
I asked Neyman if he felt confident in this rework:
“Yes I do. Although, I will say as a cautionary tale that I've felt this way before-- just being fully transparent. I think this time we were much more willing to change stuff on a fundamental level and when we were making changes to Chromie we were really keyed in on a few things:
One was that we wanted to make sure that Chromie was not 'all-or-nothing.' A lot of the times, even when we were iterating on Chromie before her release there was a high variance to the character. The higher the variance you had it means the average output is not always that great so it means you have to have an upside and the upside has to be a lot higher than someone like Raynor who is very consistent. She should now hit the middle of her variance more often because she is firing multiple shots, she has her basic attacks, her (W) is not hit-or-miss. Basically, we raised the baseline for what Chromie could do and that gave us a lot more freedom knowing that we don't have to have her have insane, insane burst not all the time.
We also wanted to add a lot of counterplay to what she was doing. Chromie was fairly balanced win-rate wise but there were a lot of psychological downsides that opponents felt facing against her. One of the major ones was that 'I can't get a release from her blasting me with Sand Blast' so that's why we made the change to have it hit all enemies. Minions and structures are now going to be protection for you so that is a really big psychological break for enemies. And, as a side effect --and we did not intend this initially-- but it allows Chromie to have other aspects on the game like the PVE side.”
The 'feel' good factor
On one level, players want to select heroes who are powerful and frustrate the opposition. But, riding that fine line between healthy and toxic has proven to be a challenge for Chromie.
"In a player-versus-player game to, some degree, you are about doing things that your opponents don't want to do to each other. That is what the game is about at a fundamental level, right? I think it comes down to: that each character can only do so many mean things to other people. So we tried to cut down on the free annoying things she was doing." said Neyman."
Lead Game Designer, Brett Crawford, echoed these sentiments while acknowledging the issues that her natural long-ranged playstyle causes in-game:
"We have always kind of had a problem making artillery Mages feel good in our game. There were times and, it was something that we thought players would enjoy, is that we spent a lot of time thinking about what Chromie would be if we just made her a Time Mage instead of an artillery Mage. So we went through the thought process of, 'Can she slow down the entire Battlefield?' At the end of the day, there were so many people that love playing the long-range poke hero so we felt it would be a disservice to not go that route."
Time will tell how the player base reacts to the new, new, Chromie. From the looks of it, the development team is fairly confident that they have finally tamed the beast that is balancing Chromie.