On Thursday afternoon, members of the Heroes of the Storm development team sat down to conversate with members of the community on the game's official subReddit (r/HeroesoftheStorm). They answered fan questions, provided insight as to what's the come and continued their mission to remain as available to the public as possible.
With hundreds upon hundreds of questions asked, it can be difficult to keep track of everything that was said. Luckily, InvenGlobal has highlighted a few of the most noteworthy responses below to save readers from having to scroll through hundreds of replies for the juicy ones.
Storm League details
It's common knowledge that the Heroes of the Storm team is not fully satisfied with the current competitive state of the game. In recent patches, Hero League and Team League were combined into the Storm League to provide an overall better playing experience for those who want to put their skills to the test.
Last week, the team made a blog post that stated the upcoming Storm League season would be delayed while they worked on adding a few, highly requested features: reduced placement matches, adjusted decay system and the removal or promotion/demotion games, to name a few.
Developer Sergey Morozov spoke directly to a user who asked if "loss forgiveness" would be added as part of the new season. For those unaware of the term, loss forgiveness is a handicap that users would receive when they lose a game due to one or more teammates going AFK during the match for an extended period of time, providing a serious advantage for the opposing team.
"The Loss Forgiveness is something we’ve been planning for a while, and made some progress with. It won’t, unfortunately, be available next season, but that’s definitely something we want to have up and running as soon as possible, along with some other safety nets against AFKers and leavers in Ranked play."
Later in the AMA, Morozov provided a bit of insight into how the team will work to ensure users have the most well-balanced Storm League experience by calculating matches based off user's visible matchmaking rating (MMR).
"Right now every placed Storm League player have two separate numbers representing their standing in regional ladder: MMR and Rank (League tier, Division and Rank points). Ideally, they should be in sync with each other: this is why we have Personal Rank Adjustment rubber-banding Rank to MMR value, and that’s why everyone is re-seeded every season based on their MMR. Strictly speaking though, they change independently: there’s a baseline 200 points change per win or loss, plus-minus adjustments. MMR change is a bit more flexible, and depends on your team, your opponents, etc. That’s why people might end up with their MMR being significantly different from their expected Rank.
The plan is, we drop Rank as a separate value, and directly convert MMR to Rank after each game. That means, average-skilled player would be, let’s say, around mid-Gold. Each time you win or lose, your MMR goes up or down, and the Rank change is strictly bound to the MMR change. As a result, you will see a bit more volatility in your Rank changes, although the average change will still be somewhere around 200 Rank points. The only source of MMR/Rank discrepancy will be Rank point penalties. After being penalized for deserting a game, one would have to play a certain amount of ranked games legitimately to get those lost points back and bring their Rank in sync with their MMR. This essentially makes the MMR visible as Rank, adjusted down by Rank point penalties (if applicable)."
The little details matter
Live Game Designer Adam Jackson has an incredibly difficult job as he attempts to balance dozens of heroes at any given time while reworking old ones to bring their kits into 2019.
During Chen's recent rework, Jackson discussed all of the minute details that went into making him more dynamic to play as, providing counter-play for opponents and reworking his Storm, Earth, Fire heroic. Part of the "new" heroic ability allows players to Slow an opponent and can it be upgraded to Root them. A user in the AMA asked how a Root is considered an upgrade to Slow when different methods of crowd-control (CC) may synergize better with teammates than others.
Jackson was happy to answer very thoroughly:
"We intentionally have specific interactions between CC effects and talents that interact with them for balance and design reasons. While I understand the reasoning that a Root could just be a 100% Slow, it does have different properties and the effects have different key words due to how they specifically interact with other parts of the game (for example, Rooted Heroes cannot use Mobility abilities, whereas a Hero who is Slowed by 100% can). We often have specific benefits so that heroes have intended synergies in their own talent trees and so that they pair well with other heroes that we have in mind at the time of design. While it would feel fantastic to say that everything works with everything, it would also greatly limit our design space and make interactions harder to balance, which would over time make those abilities feel more bland.
As an example, if Kel’thuzad’s Hungering Cold talent at 16 benefitted from hitting all CC’d targets instead of only Rooted targets, then its damage would have to be much less, and it would lose its unique synergies with Blighted Frost, Frost Blast, and we would lose the thought process that players would normally go through when evaluating the talent of which other Heroes have common or long-duration Roots to combo the talent with. While the talent could easily be stronger overall, the goal isn’t always to make things stronger and more commonly useful. That’s easy to do, as we can just make everything easy to hit and trigger with no qualifications. However, the larger design goal is to make compelling choices, which is largely defined by what a hero can’t do, even though that may not be as exciting as looking at it from the perspective of what they can do.
To answer your question about Chen’s Storm, Earth, Fire, you’re right that a Root isn’t always an upgrade to a Slow, however the vast majority of the time it is, and in the cases where it’s not the player has the choice of whether or not they want the ability to be a Root or a Slow, so we’re happy with that interaction!"
A user's experience with a hero is not always a reflection of how other's view playing with or against them.
For example, in Quick Match, having The Lost Vikings on your team could be a headache if a player does not know how to pilot them well, thus giving players the illusion that TLV is a bad hero. If you see a TLV on a large map in Grand Master, however, they can single-handedly win a match if not countered properly.
A user asked Jackson if Mathael was expected to be changed as he perceived his damage output to be quite low. But, internally, numbers show that to not be the case.
"Malthael, despite popular opinion, is an incredibly powerful hero that is doing well in pretty much every regard. As of this last patch and in recent history of patches before, he has consistently been one of the most powerful heroes in the game who also has good talent diversity. As of Anduin’s patch, he has a 53.1% win rate and is the 3rd best Bruiser in the game, behind Ragnaros and Rexxar. He also has great Hero damage in his games compared to other heroes, despite popular opinion that he only exists to clear lanes. Simply put, he wins games and has for a very long time.
In regards to his talent pick rates, they are also far and away better than most heroes in the game. Many of his tiers have relatively great pick and win rates and he has fewer outliers than most other heroes. I’ll be the first to admit that we wish his Heroic parity was better, which we’ve taken steps to address, but even then there at the highest level of play where people are the most strict about their choices, Last Rites is picked 78.7% of the time compared to Tormented Souls at 21.3%, which, while not ideal, isn’t that bad compared to many other heroes in the game. Also, Tormented Souls has a .4% higher win rate, so they are basically equal in regards to effectiveness.
That Malthael is weak and Tormented Souls doesn’t compete is largely a perception issue at this point, and while it would be great to go in and re-design them again, there are other heroes who need the help more, so I wouldn’t expect any sweeping design changes in the near future.
That being said, he still has some talent issues and like any other hero in the game we will make tweaks as necessary."
Lana B lore
Long-time Heroes of the Storm fans know who Lana Bachynski is. In fact, it's hard not to.
Bachynski, a Senior Animator for the game, is beloved within the community and puts in as much effort to connect and interact with players as anyone on the team through social media platforms or in-person at events.
Lately, a player noticed that Anduin's mouth did not move when saying his voice line during a draft. Was this a bug for the newest hero added to the game or an intended design decision as it's not particularly common? Bachynski shed some light into the difficulties of animating character's mouths.
"Hey! Really great question and happy you brought it up. TL;DR - the dev team has decided not to continue making dialogue animations for new heroes.
Creating the face animations is incredibly taxing for many disciplines within the team -- most notably, it takes up precious tech art resources, and an incredible amount of animation time without actually giving us a result worthy of the time spent.
Speaking strictly from an animation standpoint, it takes weeks to get through even just a portion of the dialogue a player routinely sees (in portraits, store, and hero select). Even within that animation, only a portion of it is polished, while the rest remains procedurally generated. And even THEN, that's just for English! Heroes is localized into 12 languages for game dialogue, so there is a massive subset of the Heroes playerbase that doesn't get that level of attention at all! (And that's just one piece of the pie!)
It's pretty easy to get tunnel vision, but we really do take our core values seriously. Thinking globally, it would take many, many more animators many, many weeks to go through the hundreds and HUNDREDS of lines to do it properly... so instead I get to focus my skills on making more badass art for you guys to enjoy. Personally, I think it's worthwhile trade.
PS: HUGE shout-out to our incredible localization team for all the amazing work they do. Too long have they been unsung, but they are a huge part about why we are able to share the game as widely as we do, and how we're able to have such a wonderful community!"
Additionally, when asked about how/why she entered the video game industry, Lana B gave the community some lore about her upbringing and what led her down the path she took in life.
"For me, I definitely had a moment. Well.. a few, probably... BUCKLE UP, BABYYYY..
I've always loved video games, but we weren't allowed to own consoles growing up ... which only made me more enamored with them. They weren't forbidden, but they were so special when I had the opportunity to play them that it really resonated with me. (My parents like to joke, now, that they 'knew' the reverse psychology of not having them around would eventually drive me into my successful career.)
Jak and Daxter was the first game that stuck in my head as far as the effort that actually went on behind the scenes - it was the first time that I remember thinking 'wow, that was a cool animation!' (and I maintain, to this day, that the Jak trilogy has the world's most perfect double-jump.) That said, the real 'moment' that I can think of happened to me in highschool.
I made my first animation when I was 15 years old. It was a flipbook, and it was real trite, but I loved everything about making it. Something about animation just clicked with me! From there I signed up for a full animation class, and then another, and then another.
By my senior year I was coming into school two hours early to animate in the lab, I was working in the lab through lunch, and I was babysitting my teacher's kids so I could stick around for a few more hours after school was out - but even then, I thought animation was just a weird hobby I had. It wasn't until my teacher brought me aside, talked to me about my favorite movies and video games, and said "Lana. People get paid to make those."
When it comes to it being hard or scary... I guess I never really felt that way. I was challenged, certainly, but when I was being challenged I knew I was growing. Because it was something I wanted so bad for so long I just knew, to the core of me, that it would work out one way or another, so I never felt afraid. Plus, as Brew mentioned, the industry is an amazing place. We are all professionals working hard to be better at our craft, but at the end of the day, we're making games! This community is about developing fun, so it is filled with joy and silliness and it radiates with with energy that reflects that.
The Heroes of the Storm team is full-steam ahead on continuing to improve the title many still play on a daily basis. Continuing to keep their fans in the loop with AMAs on a consistent basis helps provide transparency while welcoming user feedback in the process.
Tim Rizzo is the editor and a reporter for Inven Global. He joined the company back in 2017.