On Thursday afternoon, members of the Heroes of the Storm design team took to the game's official subReddit (/r/heroesofthestorm) to answer questions fans had and talk about the future of the title itself.
For those who want to peruse the full thread, the AMA can be found here.
If you're looking for the most, in my opinion, important bits of information scattered throughout the over 1,200 comments on the AMA, the four most noteworthy topics are laid out below that shed some light on the future of the title in 2019.
No new maps for a bit
The most recent battleground added to the nexus was Alterac Pass, which debuted on June of 2018. And, if the AMA is any indication of what players may expect in the future, the Warcraft map will be the last new one for a good while.
When asked about the odds of getting a new map, Lead Game Designer, Brett Crawford, replied by giving an insight into the team's current mentality of touching up older maps over creating new ones from scratch:
"This is a bit tougher to directly answer because we don't really know right now. We love all of our current maps as they add so much diversity and are one of the wonderful things that makes our game so unique. Moving forward, we are asking our team, as a whole, what they feel would be the most passionate and meaningful changes that they can bring to the Nexus. When that answer becomes "a new map", we will definitely look to bring one in! For the time being, we are focused on finding ways to improve our current maps through both balance and small design changes."
Senior Live Designer, Alex Neyman, echoed those sentiments:
"You can expect to see more adjustments to Battlegrounds like you saw recently to Volskaya Foundry and Infernal Shrines going forward. There likely won't be any new ones, but we think that even smaller adjustments to older maps can make them feel pretty new (Braxis Holdout, Warhead Junction and Blackheart's Bay, I'm looking at you)."
That being said, one map that will not be returning in the near future is Haunted Mines, a battleground that has been tweaked more times than any other in the game's history. The design team is shelving that one for now since it was removed from public matches indefinitely in October 2018, according to Neyman.
"While we enjoyed what Haunted Mines brought to the game, we couldn't find a way to get it to the same level of fun that our other Battlegrounds could provide. As our number of Battleground swelled, we couldn't justify keeping the map in Ranked or Quick Match rotations over others, so we've removed the map indefinitely. That isn't to say that it couldn't ever come back in some new fashion if someone comes up with a fantastic amazing solution, but that's not on the books right now."
Heroes of the Storm at BlizzCon
Ever since news broke that Activision Blizzard was cancelling the professional circuit and laying off employees across the company earlier in 2019, fans wondered how Heroes of the Storm would be impacted in the long-term. Members of the Heroes of the Storm team --from developer to public relations-- lost their jobs or were moved to other departments within the company. Last month, Heroes became classified as a "Classic Game" within the company's portfolio and a shadow was cast on if the title would appear at the company's most iconic event of the year, BlizzCon.
Well, Production Director, Kaeo Milker didn't beat around the bush when it came to confronting that question.
"We're still in the process of planning BlizzCon, but at this point there are no plans for organized Heroes esports. I would love to see some games played - exhibition or otherwise - but no promises there. And I obviously can't go into any details, but the team and game will be there with new stuff to talk about and play!"
Although no further information was shared, the sheer fact that the title will be featured and the company is supporting the title in that way is a big sigh of relief for fans who had given up hope.
Still figuring things out
Prior to Anduin's release into the nexus recently, there had not been a new hero introduced for the longest time in the game's history. With slashes to the development team and resources dedicated to the game itself, not only will players need to adjust to a new release schedule for content but the development team has to as well.
While not easy for either party to adjust to the new normal overnight, Milker shed some light on the team's overall mentality going forward and what they have been experiencing internally.
"Part of our journey right now is figuring out the balance between what the team wants to do, and what the team can do. That said, I don't want to commit to a standard timeline if such a thing ever existed. I will say that we love making new heroes and will continue to dedicate our time and passion to them. At the same time, we are also enjoying a world where significant balance changes and hero reworks are meaningfully helping close the gap between new heroes while letting each new hero have room to breathe and shine. Our next new hero is coming along great and is only a few releases away, so please bear with us and keep letting us know how things are feeling along the way."
"The top thing I want this year is to have the team get settled and comfortable with the scope and frequency of the updates we want to make to the game. As you've seen with our releases thus far this year, we remain focused on making meaningful additions and improvements to the game as often as possible, and we want to maintain our quality and polish. Matchmaking hardening, Storm League improvements, balance changes, hero reworks, seasonal events, new heroes and more are all coming alongside opportunistic things that the team is passionate about. We want to have fun making this game, while having fun playing it!"
A backlog of new content
It's well-known that the Heroes of the Storm team has a backlog of content that they are always working on at any given time. How far that queue goes, only they know. A question that nervously buzzed within the community recently was, "Is the HotS team working on new content or just finishing up old content they already had planned?"
Numerous members of the design team jumped at the opportunity to dismiss the notion of upcoming content strictly being planned prior to December. That month was mentioned specifically as company cuts occurred soon after.
More and more, the Heroes' team is actively communicating with the general public on social forums and dismissing the notion that, although Activision Blizzard may treat the game as an afterthought, the development team sees it as anything but.