Heroes of the Storm is a bit of an underdog in the MOBA world, but Blizzard is keeping the dream alive, thanks in no small part to its passionate community and developers. We recently spoke to Adam Jackson, Heroes' Live Designer, and Lead Game Designer Brett Crawford. We discussed the team's plans for Blizzcon, the new hero Qhira, developmental priorities, and the future of the game in general.
Jez Corden, Windows Central Senior Editor: Why did you guys decide the time was now to introduce an all-new hero rather than reintroduce a classic Blizzard character?
Adam Jackson, Live Designer: One of our designers, Jade Martin, proposed that we add a hero with a Chainblade to the Nexus who could swing around their enemies. Once he had the idea, we got some initial concept art done for her, and the team immediately fell in love with the idea from a design and artistic standpoint. Her unique weapon also allowed us to create a ton of new interesting gameplay moments.
As an example, once she attaches to enemy Heroes, she has a few seconds to choose when she wants to pull herself into Stun them, but since she's attached to the opponent, they can choose where both Heroes go when she pulls herself in. This interaction has created a lot of cool moments for us on the team, and we're excited to see what happens when our players get their hands on her.
What were the main inspirations for Qhira?
Jackson: Her status as a bounty hunter who uses a Chainblade was definitely the main inspiration behind the character. The weapon was a focal point for both her artistic design and her gameplay, and largely dictated many of the directions that we decided to go during her development.
After we designed her Chainblade, the rest of her kit fell into place fairly quickly. In addition to her Chainblade which she can use to attach to and swing around enemy Heroes, she also has a Grappling Hook that can be used to pull her to enemy Heroes or terrain. The combination of these two abilities allows for Qhira to do a lot of things that are unique to the Nexus, and can result in a ton of cool plays.
Unleashes Qhira's chainsword in a targeted direction, continuously dealing damage to enemies caught in its path.
As a passive, basic attacks and abilities cause enemies to bleed, dealing damage that stacks up to five times. When activated, deals additional damage and heals Qhira per enemy Hero affected. Damage and healing are increased by additional stacks on each Hero.
Attaches Qhira's sword to the first enemy Hero hit, Stunning them. Once attached, Qhira rotates rapidly around the target, dealing damage to any enemies in between. Reactivate to send Qhira to the target's location, knocking them back, dealing damage, and Stunning them.
Unrelenting Strikes (Heroic 1)
Unleashes Qhira's sword in a series of swooping arcs, damaging all nearby enemies throughout the duration. Upon expiring, damages all nearby enemy Heroes and Stuns them.
Final Strike (Heroic 2)
After a brief delay, Qhira strikes the ground with her sword, dealing significant damage to all enemies in the sword's path. Deals extra damage to enemies with low health.
Trait: Grappling Hook
Qhira fires a Grappling Hook that pulls her to any terrain it contacts. If an enemy Hero is hit, they take damage, and Qhira launches toward them, dealing additional damage on impact. Can be used while Revolving Sweep is active.
With Blizzard tweaking MMR (Match Making Ratio) rankings for players, how does that impact the separate modes?
Jackson: Players in Quick Match have their own MMR that is separate from Unranked and Storm League. Each game mode has a separate MMR for each player.
Crawford: Quick Match (QM) has its own MMR system which the match-maker uses to find and create even games. As the normal progression of a player is to compete in Quick Match for awhile before transferring into Unranked or Ranked play, they will have a baseline MMR for themselves in QM, which we then use to seed them into a comfortable skill-position in the other modes.
Jez: Can you comment on the thought processes behind some of the new changes to Ranked play?
Jackson: We recognize that Placement matches have felt a bit too tedious to complete for many of our players, and we would like to get them into the action of ranking up and moving towards their goals more quickly. We have also had a long-standing request from many players to have their MMR be mapped to their rank, which we are moving forward with in the upcoming patch.
We are currently planning on having a Heroes panel at Blizzcon this year
Another area that we felt could use improvement was the removal of Promotion and Demotion games that were previously required to move between divisions. While we liked the tension that they provided with moving between ranks, they placed an uneven importance on some games for some players during matches, and caused a lot of players to get significant ladder anxiety, particularly when on demotion matches.
Crawford: Most of the changes coming in for Storm League were direct responses to player feedback. I think the most requested and exciting change is the direct mapping of Ranked Points to a players MMR. This effectively removes the obfuscation between the point system and the underlying MMR one. It also allowed us to begin matchmaking solely on one system, instead of two, which internal simulations show a drastic speed and quality increase in match creation.
The MOBA game genre seems incredibly competitive but also incredibly lucrative, League of Legends recently found some success branching out with its auto chess Teamfight Tactics mode, is that something that might work in Heroes of the Storm?
Jackson: There are many of us who are fans of the new auto-chess craze around the office! However, at this time we have no plans to create our own version for Heroes of the Storm.
Will there be a Storm panel at Blizzcon this year?
Jackson: While we have not decided all of the content for it, we are currently planning on having a Heroes panel at Blizzcon this year.
Are you able to give us a tease about future heroes at all? Deathwing seems to be s a staple request among fans...
Jackson: I can say that we are working on multiple heroes currently, though at this time we can't preview who they are just yet!
I think you've talked about Samuro and D.Va getting attention in the future, are there any others on your radar? It would be nice to see some of the lesser-used heroes emerge in high-level play.
Jackson: We're also still plugging away on Tassadar! We also have two other reworks that are coming soon ™!
Considering how many heroes there are on the slate now, how does Blizzard prioritize which heroes to buff and rework?
Jackson: We have multiple criteria that we look at to determine which heroes we want to change in a balance patch or a rework. Some things we consider are: Has the hero had changes recently? If not, we are more likely to be motivated to change them.
Is the hero's talent tree in a healthy spot, either from a numbers or design perspective? If it is healthy design-wise, you'll often see us give them number buffs/nerfs in a balance patch, whereas if they have design issues we are more motivated to rework their tree depending on how extensive they are.
Is there a lot of room for meaningful improvements in the hero's playstyle? If we have something that we've always been wanting to improve about a Hero, or something that has nagged at us that we want to change, we will often take a deeper look to see how we can improve them.
Finally, I just wanted to thank you all for sticking with Heroes. As a Blizzard fan, nothing for me celebrates the joy Blizzard has brought to the world across its franchises like HOTS. The team you guys have over there seems incredibly talented and passionate.
Jackson: Thank you so much! We are also incredibly passionate about Heroes and love bringing more content for you to experience. We really appreciate the kind words and support!
Heroes of the Storm lives on
Heroes of the Storm might be a bit of an underdog in the MOBA world and seemed particularly hard hit by Blizzard's restructuring efforts last year, losing a portion of the team as well as the esports league. Despite the chaos, the Heroes team is moving forward with its plans to address fan feedback, add new heroes, and, hopefully, grind its way up the ladder.
Even playing the game casually, I've found the community on reddit to be helpful, and the players in-game to be patient with newbs, at least compared to some of the bigger games out there. If you've ever been interested in the MOBA craze, Heroes of the Storm is an accessible entry point, with plenty of depth at higher-level play.
You can grab Heroes of the Storm for free over at the game's website, available for Windows PC.
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