Blizzard Says Heroes of the Storm Is "Much Closer to a World of Warcraft Experience"

Director Dustin Browder discusses how Heroes of the Storm will set itself apart from other games in the genre.

Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm may share traits with real-time strategy game Starcraft II, but director Dustin Browder has described the game's experience as more closely aligned with that of World of Warcraft.

While most multiplayer online battle arena games follow a single similar layout for their maps, Browder, in an interview with GameSpot, explained that Blizzard was taking a different approach in Heroes of the Storm. He described each battleground as "its own unique experience, much closer to a World of Warcraft experience as opposed to a Starcraft experience. We're really trying to do something that is different enough that helps us draw our own audience."

Like other games of the genre, smaller one-on-one encounters can precede larger team-wide clashes.

Browder went on to explain why Blizzard decided to label Heroes of the Storm a brawler game as opposed to a MOBA, saying "one of the things we wanted to emphasise in the game was a lot of action. We felt like it captured the essence of what we're trying to create, a game where you jump in with your friends and battle it out with enemy heroes."

Browder revealed that the action real-time strategy name was also considered, which is how Valve labels its free-to-play game Dota 2. "We were going to modify it and call it a fast action real-time strategy," he said.

Heroes of the Storm is currently in limited technical alpha with no release date confirmed. The game features characters from the Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo universes. Check out the rest of the interview with Dustin Browder below.

Zorine Te: Why did you choose to call Heroes of the Storm a brawler?

DB: One of the things we wanted to emphasise in the game was a lot of action, especially in the experience. We're doing things a little differently, where we're unlocking multiple abilities at once at the beginning of the game.

We're fairly generous with healing, cooldowns, and mana regeneration. We felt like it captured the essence of what we're trying to create, a game where you jump in with your friends and battle it out with enemy heroes.

ZT: Do you feel because of that there are key traits that define this as a brawler rather than a MOBA game?

DB: It was more of a tonal issue for us. We were trying to capture a tone for what we were trying to create. For us it was about action and combat and getting in there and mixing it very quickly. If you play our game, it's a little different from similar games in the genre where you have a long laning phase at the beginning of the game, and you're sort of one-versus-one. A lot of our games start off with a team fight, where you're all rushing for a watchtower at the beginning of the game, and it's just a bloodbath for the first 30 seconds, and then everything settles down.

Then a tribute spawns or some chest spawns out there, and you're suddenly running across the map to gather these dubloons. The game falls very quickly from one-versus-ones to five-versus-fives and back to one-versus-ones again. We were trying to get that feeling of it being a constant battle against the enemy team. You never know what you're going to run into; you're constantly battling against not just one or two opponents.

The terms we chose, I don't know if they're perfect. But we're trying to capture the essence of the Heroes of the Storm experience.

The roster features characters from the Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo universes.

ZT: Why did you decide to make Heroes of the Storm a stand-alone game, as opposed to bringing it out as a custom map for Starcraft II?

DB: This was back in 2010. We did not necessarily have a big vibrant mod community inside Starcraft yet. The more we worked on the game, the more positive feedback we got from multiple BlizzCon trips. The more feedback we got from people inside the studio on what a great game this was, we became convinced that we should try to make it its own title. Sort of buried inside Starcraft wasn't doing it justice. We were talking about it for a long time, making it as a small game and putting it out as a mod. We started this in 2010. We were going to make this little game, and put it out with our tools so that it conveyed to our community how powerful our tools were.

You can choose which abilities to unlock over others.

So we had this suggestion--I remember it was in this meeting with a bunch of the game directors here at Blizzard--and they were like, "Dude you've got to make this its own game. Stop hiding it inside Starcraft. It's amazing. It should stand on its own two legs."

Like a noob, I was like, "Oh OK, that'd be cool. I'll do that," without really thinking through the consequences of what that would mean for us and how much more work we were getting ourselves into.

So we decided that sometime in 2012 we would do that. And then in 2013 we finally shipped Heart of the Swarm, and a lot of us got rolled over to focus exclusively on Heroes of the Storm, and that's when we saw how much work we were getting ourselves into. That's when we got really, really going on it, trying to flesh out all the additional systems this game would need for it to stand on its own two legs.

So we had this suggestion--I remember it was in this meeting with a bunch of the game directors here at Blizzard--and they were like, "Dude you've got to make this its own game, stop hiding it inside Starcraft."

ZT: You briefly mentioned community support for mods. Is that something you will include in Heroes of the Storm?

DB: It's definitely something we're passionate about. It's been a successful part of all of our games here on the strategy team for many years. We still have a lot of the tools to make that possible. There are a few challenges on how to make that work in a free-to-play environment, but it's something we'd like to do and something the team is very passionate about. I can't promise when we'll get to it, but I think you can look forward to it down the road.

ZT: Who are your main competitors in the space?

DB: I don't know. We're trying to make something a bit different that can attract an audience of our own. There are obviously lots of guys that are making really great games that we are all fans of and that we all play. It's a really exciting time to be a gamer.

But we're trying to make something with our little hero brawler that stands out. We're doing different things with the heroes; we're trying to make all our heroes really distinct from one another. We're doing different things with the map mechanics, where each of these battlegrounds is its own unique experience much closer to a World of Warcraft experience as opposed to a Starcraft experience. So we're really trying to do something that is different enough that it helps us draw our own audience. We think the are people who enjoy the games that are already out there, they will still enjoy ours. We're trying to create something that is unique enough that we can bring in our own people.


You can enter practice mode before jumping into versus, which helps to ease newcomers into the game.

ZT: What are some lessons you learnt during the development of Starcraft II which you are implementing in developing Heroes of the Storm?

DB: We have had this value here at Blizzard for a long time, or sort of an idea, that multiplayer games want to be about 15 to 25 minutes long, maybe 18 to 20 minutes being the sweet spot. That feels like the amount of time in which the game feels really real and you feel really engaged with it, and you're not really that mad if you lose because you've got time for another game. We really wanted to do that in Heroes, and we sort of brought that over and have been working on that, and it's been doing really well for us.

Multiple maps are something Starcraft II has done for many years, as well as Warcraft 3 and the original Starcraft. We really liked that idea; we think it adds a lot of variation to the gameplay experience. What we're bringing over from Starcraft and from World of Warcraft are a lot of the core ideas of trying to keep a lot of really intense strategies in the game.

Abathur features in Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm.

Starcraft is a strategy game, but it's also an action game, as anybody with a high APM will tell you. That mix of action and strategy is key to what makes Starcraft a compelling experience. For Heroes, we want that same mix, where there's a lot of strategy--how to fight along the map, how to use the resources. But at the same time, you want action with your heroes. For a lot of similarities in the core values in these games we felt like Starcraft taught us quite a bit about what we could do to make something special and unique.

ZT: There is a lot of Blizzard lore you can draw upon to bring into Heroes of the Storm. What's the process you go through to choose who makes it onto the roster?

DB: There are a number of things that happen. I'd like to say there is a really finely tuned, intelligent process, but it's a little all over the place. When you see a hero in a cinematic, that's a hero who is probably going to get billed in our game.

Then there are heroes that have inspired us from a gameplay perspective. A hero like Abathur, who is a hero who does not have his own cinematic, but gave us an idea for a really unique design that we really wanted to do. Then there are heroes that are inspired by art. A hero like Stitches, which is an abomination from World of Warcraft. This is neither a character that has radically strange gameplay, nor is it a character that is a big name from our lore. But it's a character that the artist wanted to do because he's a big bloated fat guy, and he stands out in the game.

Sometimes it comes from lore, sometimes it comes from game design, sometimes it comes from art. All three of these teams come together to decide what the roster will be.

Zagara was part of a group of new hero additions announced at PAX East.


ZT: Is there a ratio you follow in choosing heroes? Do you make sure there are equal numbers of heroes from the Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo universes?

DB: It's not a set amount. We do our best to service all three areas as much as possible. If we ever do a Lost Vikings hero, there would not be 15 Lost Vikings heroes in the game; there would probably be one, maybe two.

In terms of the rules and ratios, I think you'll see over time, maybe even a little bit now, a few more Warcraft characters than the other games that we do. This is because the lore for World of Warcraft is so insanely developed and Warcraft was our first big game that went through multiple versions, and a massive MMO. We do our best to split it around for sure.

ZT: How much of a role does the community have in shaping the development of the game in the alpha and beta phases?

DB: It's going to be pretty significant. I don't know what shape it will take, but it had a big impact on us in Starcraft. We made a lot of changes to that game based on community feedback. A lot of the mechanics put into the game were based around concerns the community had about skill cap and making sure the game was challenging enough for esports.

Different maps can feature different objectives.

One of the things I was really big on in the original Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty was making sure that map sizes were small enough that the game wasn't about hiding expansions on the map, and the community would disagree with us on that. And in the end they were right. We ended up going with much larger maps by the time we got to Heart of the Swarm. They were entirely correct.

We've made some changes already in the game based on feedback. One of the most important things we can do in Heroes of the Storm was realising these Blizzard characters to the best of our ability. We had some negative feedback on Tyrael; we were making some changes here and in future builds to better match the fantasy players had. And of course tons of balance feedback, tons of feedback for how the metagame works, tons of feedback on how the map mechanics work. So that's all tactical. I think you'll see changes based on community feedback.


Zorine Te is an associate editor at GameSpot, and you can follow her on Twitter @ztharli
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com


Written By

Zorine “harli” Te is a long time Australian competitive gamer and also an Associate Editor at GameSpot.

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Discussion

48 comments
peterpraker
peterpraker

That's a huge disappointment.  Closer to wow - the game has been circling the toilet for some time now - why the hell would I want to play another bad game?

alioli
alioli

it IS a moba - if every fast paced game in this genre was called "Brawler" ,he only Moba we'd have left would be Dota...

straightcur
straightcur

The people that like WoW are playing WoW. The people that don't like it, don't want something like WoW.    Besides, this is very clearly another generic MOBA or whatever.   Small changes don't make that big of a difference and people that don't like that type of game, won't be won over.  Try something new and original, PLEASE!

dontknowmyname
dontknowmyname

Really want to try this out. I like the idea of MOBA games but I just couldn't get into DOTA at all. I was bored out of my mind.

The MOBA fanboys can call this a "dumbed down" version all they want, but this is exactly what some people are looking for.

In Dota, I didn't enjoy having to wait around to get the last hit, spending time in the shop (away from the action) and looking over loads of things to buy and to combine and memorize them, and the game length.. jeez it just never ends. 

This sounds a lot more my alley and can't wait to give it a try.

rawkstar007
rawkstar007

Blizzard needs to do a new IP in a bad way. This is getting pathetic.

DuskStrider
DuskStrider

So it's like LoL, but more casual and beginner friendly? Count me in. I've always liked the idea of LoL, but not the idea of having my ass handed to me by 12-years-olds who play it 10 hours a day, every day since the game's release.

Kooken58
Kooken58

So its very casual, all the complexity is stripped out of it, and there is no freedom of choice when it comes to building your characters? Okay, pass.

randomkidlol
randomkidlol

So its just a casual version of WoW that rides on the MOBA hype thats been happening for the past 2 or 3 years?


Good to know that im not gonna waste my time and bandwidth downloading this shit.

Veenox
Veenox

Is this game dead yet?

gutsallover
gutsallover

I've been playing the alpha and I'm actually enjoying it quite a bit. Yes, it doesn't have the complexity of Dota or LoL, but that's fine. Why try to copy what those games are already doing so well? Differentiating themselves a bit allows them to appeal to a different (albeit slightly more casual) market, plus it gives me something to play when I want a slightly more mindless moba. If it was just another LoL/Dota clone, there'd be no reason for me to touch it in the first place.

Suaron_x
Suaron_x

"its own unique experience, much closer to a World of Warcraft experience as opposed to a Starcraft experience. We're really trying to do something that is different enough that helps us draw our own audience."


If it's like WoW then it's not unique or different.  Ditto, If it's like DOTA.  Why use all this double speak?  Just say it, i.e., "We're" making a game to suck cash out of our customers based on formulas we've successfully demonstrated in previous games."

klugenbeel
klugenbeel

Been playing DIE (Dead Island Epidemic) and it's been a lot of fun in Beta so far, but this is the game I am truly want to get a Beta invite and try it out. Friends say it's a lot of fun already.

javalino
javalino

You have to pay for heroes ?? F**K THAT S**T !!!!!  i'm out!!

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

In other words it's casual, dumbed-down and designed for small children, or elderly people to enjoy.

Vexov
Vexov

The maps are very WoW like, they need some Diablo and SC maps.

TheExxorcist
TheExxorcist

Don't get your hopes up.. it will be like D3.. The release window will be 2-8 years from now

xxxr3av3rxxx
xxxr3av3rxxx

"We were going to modify it and call it a fast action real-time strategy," so they wanted to call it F.A.R.T.S....

thrombosis45
thrombosis45

Dear Blizzard, every game you make doesn't have to be WoW, thanks.

jinzo9988
jinzo9988

*gasp*  They're doing something different?  They're not just offering one map(the same map that's in all of the games), the same skills as every other MOBA, 3 lanes, towers, power ups, etc?  I might actually play this then.  MOBA's gotten so unbelievably stale... I think it's even worse than first person shooters.

gajbutler
gajbutler

What a dumbed down fan service mess?

takakashi111
takakashi111

@peterpraker Oh yeah the #1 MMO in the world for ten years in a row is "circling the toilet for some time now," tell us some more words of wisdom, it's amusingly self-defeating. Maybe you should actually re-read the article for comprehension, and then wait for the actual game to come out before you assume it's a "bad" game. Just a thought? Thinking is nice. :)

takakashi111
takakashi111

@straightcur  Great examples! Oh wait... you gave none. Come back to us when you've played Alpha. Oh wait... you didn't get an Alpha invite. Guess you could always rage some more.

takakashi111
takakashi111

@rawkstar007 What's pathetic is you coming on here calling one of the top gaming companies in the world pathetic, maybe you should be less "pathetic" and wait for the game to come out first. Naw, that would be pathetic. :)

goldensunfan
goldensunfan

@GenTaylor84 Just because Blizzard is now making a MOBA doesn't mean that it can't take an established formula and make fundamental changes to make said game/genre more accessible. I like the removal of last hits, the shift from items to talents that you can pick from on the fly. The game is faster paced and more streamlined because of it. And if you read the article you would learn they had started making this game as early as 2010.

Its also hillarious seeing some heroes riding various mounts. For example a Murloc riding a horse.

takakashi111
takakashi111

@randomkidlol Good to know you make assumptions about things before actually trying it out, I got a good laugh reading your post, you can run along now into the sunset and keep raging without actually waiting for the game to come out and trying it. ;)

goldensunfan
goldensunfan

@randomkidlol Geez, everyone completely misinterprets their statements. What they were referring to was that it has elements of WoW and Starcraft II but its still different as a whole. World of Warcraft is a MMO. Where raids can have anywhere from 20-40 people. This is at its core a much more focused team game and pits various heroes against one another.


"We felt like it captured the essence of what we're trying to create, a game where you jump in with your friends and battle it out with enemy heroes."


And its the above statement that is what the game succeeds at. In a typical MMOBA like LoL or Dota II a match may last as long as 40 minutes to an hour. HotS's matches are much faster clocking in at roughly 20 minutes. having played the alpha the game certainly is a refreshing take on what LoL and Dota II do. 

goldensunfan
goldensunfan

@Veenox No. I have played the alpha and its fun. Its the small nuanced changes to the MOBA formula that make it enjoyable. No more last hits. Your team levels collectively. No worrying about various items but the ability to choose talents on the fly, mounts to traverse the map faster and PVE objectives mixed in.

meatz666
meatz666

@gutsallover You just broke the NDA you signed "I agreed" when you installed the game. If you really played the game, of course.

Kooken58
Kooken58

@gutsallover because complexity is something that is severly lacking in Blizzard games these days. Its what, in my opinion, is really hurting games like D3 and WoW.

takakashi111
takakashi111

@Suaron_x Or you could actually wait to try the game for yourself... oh wait, then you'd be informed, and I wouldn't get to laugh at your ignorance. :)

goldensunfan
goldensunfan

@Suaron_x Its not like Dota II or WoW in a lot of ways. It takes the Pve/PVP elements of wow and mixes them up placing them within a MOBA format. No last hits, Talents to customize your hero on the fly, And PVE objectives mixed in.

goldensunfan
goldensunfan

@javalino They aren't holding a gun to your head forcing you to buy heroes. They also have free character rotations just like LoL. And you can buy new heroes with in game gold that you earn from matches/leveling up. 

robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

@javalino It's essentially the same system that League of Legends is using I believe - you earn coins in game to unlock characters through playing, but can also buy them. I dislike it compared to the DotA/DOTA2 method of just starting with every hero, and feel it has a negative effect on balance in itself due to limiting player choice unnecessarily, but it could be a lot worse. From what I've seen so far it seems you unlock them faster in HotS than in LoL too, but I've not had chance to play it myself so I can't say for certain on that one.


I'll be trying it out when I get the chance to regardless - whether it'll end up something I get bored of quickly or get hooked on will become clear enough without having to spend anything - if the characters take an inordinate amount of time to unlock then I'll probably only play it occasionally at most in the long run though. I'll probably still prefer DOTA2 in the long run (once they actually fully catch up to the wc3 custom map version, that is) either way, if only because I've been playing DotA for years, since long before this genre even existed as a commercial product. Kinda hard for me to break away at this point.

Trev9421
Trev9421

Not sure where you got that idea...

Stebsis
Stebsis

@xxxr3av3rxxx Many people don't seem to like the term "MOBA", so I think FARTS would be way better alternative.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

@jinzo9988 I gave COD4 MW about a year of daily play. I gave DOTA 2 about three hours before getting seriously bored.

takakashi111
takakashi111

@Kooken58 There's complexity, it's called Heroic Raiding, but of course your bad attitude would never make it, so you're raging on an article comments section instead, bravo Kooken58, rage on. ;)

xxxr3av3rxxx
xxxr3av3rxxx

@brxricano @xxxr3av3rxxx Dear Blizzard, please change it back to FARTS, I need something to look forward to. Hot's FARTS, the S can be silent right?

robotopbuddy
robotopbuddy moderator moderator

@Maxwrobinson @Stebsis @xxxr3av3rxxx tbh more than anything that just makes me wonder if Blizzard realised that was the acronym it would be if they had gone with fast action RTS or if they just happened to decide on something else without realising that.