Heroes of the Storm – Innovations

OK, thought I would switch gears a little bit to stop bitching and start talking about the good stuff. I mean, I do really enjoy what I’ve seen of the game so far and I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression (especially since – can’t stress it enough – we’re still in alpha).

Innovation 1 – Pre-game character selection. At least for solo queue. (I will talk about group queue when I find someone to play with.)

Huh what?

Yeah, crazy.

So you log in and choose which type of game you want to play: Practice, Co-op, or VS.

You select your character.

You join the queue. (And wait a while…)

Presto! In the game with the character of your choice!

I’ll talk about why this is awesome and then I’ll talk about why this merits Concern #12. (Sorry, I can’t stop bitching. And I had to renumber the concerns in the previous post. Numbers are hard.)

  • Awesome reason #1 - I can choose which character I want to play.
  • Awesome reason #2 – I can choose which character I want to play.
  • Awesome reason #3 – I can choose which character I want to play.

Um… those reasons look a little, well, the same.

They are.

  • I can log in and pick my favorite character to play. Every time if I wanted to. Like Tyrael? Play the shit out of some Tyrael. Like Nova? Fifty fucking games in a row with Nova if you like.
  • I can be guaranteed to get credit for the daily quest without relying on the RNG gods to favor me in the team selection. This is important when you’ve got quests like, “Play two games as a support character.” (Assuming that the game is recognizing quest completion… they’re working on it. Alpha, remember?)
  • I can enter a game and be guaranteed that I’m getting a role I’m (hopefully) somewhat familiar with and no one will scream “PICK ORDER” when I politely request if anyone minds if I take support and then I end up as some random role I wasn’t ready for and get all flustered and don’t enjoy myself because I got pushed into something and now I’m letting everyone on the team down. (Breathe.)

Sometimes the wait queues are a little longer, there is still a restriction of heroes being unique on a team. If everyone picks Kerrigan all at the same time, we’re going to have to wait our turns.

And I am totally OK with that, it is completely worth the wait to me. (And quick reminder, this is all for solo queue, I’ll learn about group queuing later.)

But how about the not-so-awesome?

Concern #12 - The AI for group construction eats paste.

This should be pretty simple, right? The dungeon and raid finders in WoW put together groups with appropriate compositions without too much trouble. Hell, we don’t even need a specific balance of the roles in Heroes, just a little diversity.

We don’t need 4 support and an assassin. But that’s what we get – all sorts of bizarre combinations that would never have been put together by people picking their roles after joining the group.

If the matchmaking can put a little more effort into variety in group composition, this concern will be brushed aside easily in favor of its benefits.

Innovation #2 – Try before you buy.

Like LoL, Heroes uses an availability model where different heroes are available on a random basis each week. Any hero you have purchased is always available to you.

But purchasing heroes takes either hard cash or harder gold – the cash prices are a bit steep right now and the gold earnings are painfully slow.

No one likes buyers remorse on what should be a fun toy like a new character.

So in the shop, there is a TRY button for each character.

Pick your character, click the button, get teleported to a single-lane map to take the hero for a drive before committing.

The idea is wonderful – I can’t stress how much ease of mind comes from not having to wait for a particular hero to come up on rotation so I can kick the tires before shelling out.

But…

Concern 13 – The Try mode could be a lot more useful.

I know, I’m crying about free cake and ice cream. But this is an alpha and our best opportunity to get things polished before publication.

When you enter the try map, you have a single lane with a small castle and gate/fort structure on either end. It’s really just a miniature piece of a map, and it is plenty for what this feature needs. No complaints about the map.

You have the option to turn on an enemy hero, a partner hero for you, and some creeps to fill the lanes and make life interesting.

Your enemy hero is ALWAYS Arthas.

I don’t mind Arthas, we had our differences in the Icecrown Citadel, but all that is behind us.

What I do mind is that Arthas has an obnoxious aura effect that damages you. Constantly. Technically, it’s draining his mana (slowly) but the AI is pretty good about using the proper ability rotation to keep his mana up.

So all my melee hero tests feel more like I’m learning how to counter Arthas instead of generically testing the character overall. Either a random assortment of heroes to test against, being able to select a specific hero, or the addition of a training dummy-type opponent would greatly improve the experience.

Enough about the opponent, what about the help?

Your partner in the lane (it’s 2v1 because we’re special) is always Malfurion. When playing a warrior or assassin in the test, this is pretty handy. When trying a support role, especially Malfurion, it’s not as helpful having your twin ride down the lane with you, both casting heals as Arthas’ aura ticks away at everything. If you play a support character in the try mode, your partner should be something a little beefier. You know, so you can support him.

The third issue is that it is just a taste. I know they don’t want people sitting in the try mode all day, time it if you have to, but let us actually level and unlock skills. Currently, you can farm Arthas until your eyes bleed and you will level up (as will he), but you never unlock your skills. A character at level 1 feels much different than a character at level 10, or 15, or 20. Part of determining if a hero is a good fit is getting a feel for how the leveling process feels.

Concern #14 – Related to the random character selection… there is not a character to represent each role available every week in the free rotation.

This is at least the second week there has been no free specialist in the rotation. And this early in the game, not many people have picked them up – there’s only 4 and they’re all rather, well, special.

I’m hoping this is an issue right now for one of two reasons: either Blizzard doesn’t want the representation data from the specialists to get skewed (they are the minority of heroes), or someone overlooked this when designing whatever system they use to pull the rotation. I’m assuming the rotation is currently hand selected to make data collection on specific heroes easier, but ultimately I would think this will be a system-generated sort of thing.

With specialists in particular, this wouldn’t be a big deal, except for the daily quests. There are people sitting on a quest to play two games with a specialist. They’ll be sitting on those quests until a specialist enters the rotation, they crack and buy one, or a way to reroll/pass a quest is introduced.

From the larger gameplay perspective, once the roster is larger, if this were to happen to any other role (assassin, warrior, or support) that would leave the entry bracket of new players pretty well hosed when it comes to getting a balanced experience.

Innovation #3 – Probably the biggest innovation is the inclusion of map objectives. This is a lot of ground to cover, I’ll probably give each map its own post so we can include and discuss pretty screen shots.

Besides, need to save something else to post!

Remember, looking for something specific? Ask away and I’ll do my best to get an answer!

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