Heroes of the Storm Dev Discusses New Warcraft Hero, Upcoming Map, and Making the Game Unique

We talk with Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm team about the next map, the introduction of a Warcraft III hero, and how the game will stay competitive with similar games.

Heroes of the Storm, the MOBA-like hero brawler from World of Warcraft developer Blizzard, has been in a closed alpha test since March. Every few weeks, the developer launches a new update, adding new content, changing balance, and reworking character progression. With an upcoming patch, the team intends to make Heroes of the Storm stand out even further.

We were able to talk to game director Dustin Browder and learn more about the map, hero, and design changes coming to the game in the next patch. We also took the opportunity to ask about the game's future, its esports potential, and its competition.

Who's the new hero coming in the update?

First and foremost, players will get to battle as a new hero named Rehgar. He's an agile character who is inspired by the shamans of Warcraft. "He's a pretty cool and aggressive support character," Browder explains. "He can change into his mount form whenever he wants very quickly. He turns into a ghost wolf and runs around. He's a very special kind of support character, and a lot of fun to play. Basically, Rehgar is a shaman with a bunch of elemental abilities. He's a classic Warcraft III Shaman build."

And how about that new map?

It's called Garden of Terror, and it's a dynamic map similar to others in the game. "You're trying to collect seeds to be able to create this big plant monster that you can become," Browder says. "[It's] kind of like [how] you can become the dragon knight in one of our other maps. It gives you the chance to be this giant monster that runs around, gums up the map and slimes enemy towers with this evil plant stuff. [It can also] choke off enemy towns, preventing them from fighting and making your pushes [into enemy territory] very effective."

Are there any other changes going into the game?

In addition to the map and character, Blizzard is also implementing a sweeping array of UI, performance, and progression changes. Most significantly, the developer is overhauling how you advance your heroes in and out of battle.

Firstly, the team has reworked cooperative gameplay so that you can now earn experience without entering into competitive arenas. Browder explains, "We want to give players the opportunity to earn experience and complete quests in cooperative play, but at the same time we didn't want to feel like it was wrong to play Player vs. Player modes. So we've changed the whole system, [and now] you do get a win bonus when you play cooperatively."

There will also be more items for you to work toward, including new cosmetic items called Master Skins. To make this work, the developer has made leveling up individual heroes much more important: "We've got this idea for a master hero skin that you'll earn if you play a hero for a really long time, so we've redone the entire leveling system. A lot of it is [now] about leveling up individual heroes. We had six hero levels before; now we're up to 10 different hero levels. So it feels like a much more meaty experience."

Finally, the team has redone the way you earn the gold used for microtransactions, to make it both more rewarding and more useful. This includes the addition of artifacts, which actually allow for an entirely different way of hero customization. Browder says, "We've gone to a gold-per-game model, or a gold-per-win model. It was just too long between rewards, so we've rebalanced the whole economy around [this new] model."

He continues, "We've added a whole new system to the game, an artifact system, and this allows players to customize a lot of the core stats on their heroes. This is one of the things we had a lot of requests for from the players. At the same time, they didn't really want it to be a part of the talent system--they wanted the talent system to be more focused on skill, heroic abilities, all that stuff--so we thought it might be kind of cool to give the players the ability to customize the stats on their characters before the game launches. So now you can go in and you can get these artifacts and you can slot them into your hero.

"This also ties into a request from a lot of our players for something more to do with gold. a lot of players will purchase a couple heroes and be totally content with that, but say 'I'm earning all this gold, what else can I do with it?' We thought this could be a cool thing you can do with your gold--buy better and better artifacts and customize your hero."

Is Garden of Terror designed around a core type of competitive play?

"No, Garden of Terror will go into our regular map pool," Browder states. "We haven't decided yet if we're going to do special maps for special types of play, it's possible when we get to ranked play, we might say, 'Okay, these are the ranked play maps, they're a little different from unranked maps.'"

Is the map modeled after another Blizzard area?

"No, we're still doing the realms of the Nexus [right now]," he explains. "We're still exploring new worlds that allow us to be crazy and creative with the space. You'll see us explore more of Blizzard's environments in the future, and we will also have some of our other more classic worlds going forward."

What are you doing going forward to make Heroes of the Storm stand out in a genre that's becoming increasingly crowded?

Browder argues that Heroes of the Storm is fundamentally shaking up the MOBA formula by encouraging teamwork and a focus on individual hero customization. "We're doing things with team leveling where people are really asked to do things together as a team, and it's not about getting ahead on your own and being the carry," he says. "We really feel like it's making a difference and it's really showing a lot of what the genre can be. There're a lot of different things you can do in the genre.

"We really feel like it's making a difference and it's really showing a lot of what the genre can be. There're a lot of different things you can do in the genre."

"We've got lots of different maps with lots of different map mechanics. We're trying to make each map as unique as possible. We're doing things with our talent system. We're moving away from the traditional shop system and really giving players a custom set of options per hero. We can have items that are range bonuses on heroes. We can give a hero who specializes in melee attack and give him a +3 range bonus, and now he's a short-range hero. If we put that in a shop that's generic for all, that would break the game.

"That's been a huge win for us that's distinguished us from other games in the genre. We've got something legitimate to offer. It's not for everybody, but we feel that we're gathering an audience of players that's very excited that we're taking these types of risks."

Looking at your competitors and their expansions into esports, does that influence how you're approaching development on Heroes of the Storm?

The game is certainly inspired by League of Legends, Dota and Dota 2, but it is becoming increasingly driven by the community, Browder states. In the future, it'll be the players who determine if Heroes becomes an established esport.

"We owe an enormous debt to the modders in Warcraft III who helped develop the genre, and all the other developers who iterated on that even further," he says. "Early on, we were looking at those games a lot and learning from them, but at this point in our alpha, we're learning more about our game from our game. Our game and our players, that has become the focus and that teaches us what to do.

"It's not up to us if this game is an esport, it's up to the players. Do players start forming leagues, do shoutcasters show up? If they do, we'll be there for them. It'll be interesting to see where these people take the game."

Can you say when Heroes of the Storm will move out of alpha and into a beta test?

"Nope. We're still making sure the technology is good and safe," he explains. "You have to understand, when we go into a beta, we'll end up connecting up to Blizzard's other games. So you'll be able to chat with people in WoW, you'll be able to chat with people in Diablo, you'll be able to chat with people in Hearthstone and StarCraft. When we go to that point, if we make a mistake in Heroes of the Storm, it's not impossible that we could crash WoW. That's bad.

"So we're adding a few people every week to the alpha, and we're still testing the infrastructure. Once we're in a position where we feel like we're good to go, we'll roll over into the production hardware and into the beta."

Will there be any other announcements for Heroes of the Storm before November's BlizzCon conference?

"You can always look for more heroes, changes to the HUD, and changes to the progression system," Browder promises. "We're also updating talents as often as possible. But we've also got another milestone before then."

The patch looks to change things up pretty dramatically, and it'll be interesting to see how the new progression systems work out. You can check out Blizzard's Twitch stream tomorrow at 11 A.M. PDT for more information and a first look at the update. Keep an eye on GameSpot for more news about Heroes of the Storm as it becomes available.

What do you think about Heroes of the Storm and how Blizzard is trying to make it unique? Let us know in the comments!

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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25 comments
sigmact
sigmact

now the new players will have a rough time without a fair matchmaking program, even veteran players with new heroes will feel crippled without the whole skills setup (altrough its easy to level them, just some few loses or help)

PinchySkree
PinchySkree

Why didn't they just make this game in the first place instead of crippling the Starcraft 2 custom map system in a hope to leech money from map developers creating DOTA within it?

malvenue
malvenue

I am in the alpha test for Heroes of the Storm. I have been playing a little over a month now and I am enjoying it immensely.  I have never played any of the other MOBAs, though I have played Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo and 10 years of World of Warcraft.  I have never been a big PVPer but my boys were so we played on PVP realms and I learned how to handle myself.

I have found Heroes of the Storm to be an excellent game.  From what I read about other MOBA games it really emphasizes team play and objectives to be successful.  Apparently other MOBAs are more about farming and leveling your own characters and buying items to become powerful enough to finally engage the other team.

Heroes of the Storm cuts to the chase and eliminates all that need for farming.  The teams share xp and that means a player does not have to be tied to pushing "their" lane.  If a buddy needs help you can leave your lane and assist without losing your own xp as a result.  I really enjoy this dynamic.  It also leads to less toxicity with teammates who are newer or not as skilled as others since their character will progress and become powerful as the team does.

Others who compare it to DOTA or LOL just don't seem to get HOTS is NOT DOTA or LOL and is not trying to be.  It's a game where the devs have explicitly stated they want to design a game they'd like to play, not be a clone of some other MOBA.

I think they've succeeded so far!

def1nt
def1nt

Why do you need to progress your hero outside of battle? :| That's not a customization, that is just... boring. We can see it in LoL, but DotA works perfectly fine without it. And at the moment Heroes are fun to just play couple of games after hard work day. I don't want to grind anything.

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

This is probably one of the few MOBA games I'm actually interested in playing, mostly because Blizzard seems to have a unique approach regarding the genre (I'm particularly glad that heroes are customized before the game rather than during, which means you can spend more time battling and less time sorting out gear).

My only concerns regard whether or not the community will be amiable enough for a newer player like me to feel welcome. I know well enough about how toxic MOBA communities are and how unforgiving many of the veteran players are regarding newer, inexperienced players, but hopefully the community for this game will be more open and friendly.

DragonessAthena
DragonessAthena

Don't care, I don't like MOBAs, but I'll play this one because of the Lich King. All I want is the game to enter Beta.

keeper262
keeper262

One of the few games I am looking forward too. I love MOBAs and I want to play them with the blizzard community. ATM DOTA 2 is my go to MOBA but I really don't like the community. Between the rage quits, people screaming, people pretending they know everything, out of country players purposefully ruining games and the sheer amount hate and selfishness present in the game has caused me to lose interest. If blizzard can fix just a few of these I would love this game and I think if anyone can it would be them.

_planet
_planet

Who would pay money to play this crap?

yellowsanchez
yellowsanchez

i am not that experienced in moba but hots have made their game unique and am looking forward to full release

the_dude526
the_dude526

I'm really terrible at MOBA's and still managed to do ok in this. I haven't played it in months, mostly because I'm so bad and getting roflstomped four times in a row isn't fun, but also because it's just not my type of game. Overall, though, I'm impressed with the game and I'm definitely looking forward to exploring it more in the future.

sigmact
sigmact

im having fun with HOTS. but im waiting for new maps and game styles. brawling is really cool

malvenue
malvenue

@TenraiSenshi One of the really great things about HOTS is the shared team XP really make it easier for new players to participate & learn the game.  I'm new to the MOBA genre and the toxicity level is relatively calm compared to other games I've played.

Oh sure, there's always some a-hole screaming in chat but then again there's also a mute function. :D

Teebown24
Teebown24

@keeper262 welcome to battlenet, the origin of the cesspit of rage and anger that is MOBAs. they are fun filled ragefests, and i love every minute of it.

oflow
oflow

@keeper262 um BNet is where all those things started...but okay!

reBOOT2099
reBOOT2099

@_planet Well, nobody, really, since it will be free to play. It's not pay to win either (as of yet at least).


And unless you played the game, please refrain to calling it crap. Not interested in it? Good for you. But the game is not crap. It's actually pretty fun. 


Except for certain toxic players that are coming from LoL and DOTA that yell at people for being newbies. In pick-up-games. In an alpha. 

reBOOT2099
reBOOT2099

@yellowsanchez I never played a MOBA before, unless you count the 2 games I played in the Infinite Crisis beta where I got bad-mouthed and yelled at by my teammates for not understanding the game (there was not any tutorial either in the game proper). So I left and never came back.


I just got invited in the Heroes alpha last week and I must say I am impressed. It is fun and much easier to learn than other mobas. Might be why they shy away from the moba term and call it a brawler instead. Nevertheless, it is a great game and I think I will be playing for a long time. 


Unless toxic players invade the game and make it fun no longer. There are a few right now and they make the game un-fun. Although as of yet, it's not THAT bad, at least compared to my experience in the other beta I already mentioned.

def1nt
def1nt

@feared4power But if other players will, then I feel obliged too, to keep on par with them. I am confused about this update :(

def1nt
def1nt

@feared4power but if other players will, then I feel obliged too, to keep on par with them. I am confused about this update :(

keeper262
keeper262

@oflow @keeper262 Some may be present. But not to the extent I have experienced and seen in DOTA 2. I have played a lot on battle net, especially in WOW, Diablo and StarCraft. While sometimes there are unpleasant people, I have never experienced the amount and regularity of them I have found in DOTA 2 in any other game including battle net games.