Blizzard teased a huge announcement a few weeks ago. Everyone thought it was details about the next hero, battleground/map, or open beta but it turned out to be the release date for Heroes Of The Storm. Yes, it’s official:
Heroes Of The Storm goes public Tuesday, June 2nd 2015!
Blizzard reminds us, “You are not ready.” I guess it time to practice. Don’t worry: there won’t be any more account wipes. For those who haven’t snagged a beta key or invite yet, here is a Heroes Of The Storm newbie primer/guide. If you missed the epic teaser video, here it is:
…And now for some things that we need to sort out before the game goes public…
Do Team Compositions Really Matter?
Players coming from other MOBAs are used to a very stale meta or format whereas you have a mage, an ADC, a top-laner/tank, a jungler, and a support. On Heroes Of The Storm this has translated directly into draft modes (Hero League & Team League). Even in Quick Match, there are tons of players complaining about their lack of a “carry”, healer, or tank. While the team composition of 1 Warrior, 2 Assassins, 1 Support, and 1 Specialist is usually a safe pick, it’s not the only viable composition nor is it the best.
While the team composition of 1 Warrior, 2 Assassins, 1 Support, and 1 Specialist is usually a safe pick, it’s not the only viable composition nor is it the best.
Blizzard released some hard numbers earlier this month regarding matchmaking and team comps. The statistics are insightful but many are drawing the wrong conclusions. Here are the main statistics. Let us know what you think in the comments at the bottom of the page…
These stats make a few things clear. Here is what I have deduced:
- A Support is always useful to have.
- A Warrior’s value is very dependent on the level of player skill; namely, knowing how to initiate and when to disengage.
- Duo Support is very strong in the current meta, mainly because Supports can often put out significant DPS alongside buffs, heals, CC, etc.
- Team composition is not as crucial as people are making it out to be.
What I have found is that Warriors take a certain sort of finesse to figure out. Some Warriors are tanks while others lean more towards the bruiser sub-type. As such, it’s important to know how much damage you can tank and what your kit excels at. This skill cap makes the gap between inexperienced Warriors and Warrior “mains” quite vast.
Supports, on the other hand, are always useful.. So long as they are near teammates and know how to use their keyboards. Of course, there are good Supports and amazing ones but you rarely see a Support that does not create value for his team. Perhaps part of the issue is that Warriors are not as fun to play so whomever gets stuck in that role tends to play begrudgingly.
I’d be curious to see how duo Specialist comps are doing right now. Heavy siege team comps work very well if you commit to taking down structures and split-pushing. Specialists often can keep pace with the primary damage dealers too. Just look at Nazeebo and Sylvanas.
Matchmaking Improvements & More Team Comp Insights
A common complaint that has been spammed all over the Blizzard forums is about how matchmaking is broken and the game should be shut down (yes, there are trolls suggesting this course of action). Blizzard implemented the following Heroes Of The Storm matchmaking rules back in August 2014:
It’s no fun when your favorite Hero gets snatched up by someone else in a game lobby before you have a chance to make a selection yourself, which is why we allow you to select your Hero before you even enter unranked matchmaking queues. Once you’ve made your selection and entered the queue, the matchmaker will then create a balanced team for you by finding other players of similar skill who have selected Heroes in complementing roles. In addition to this, we’ve also added a number of rules to the matchmaker in order to help further encourage the creation of well-rounded team compositions.
- No more than 3 Warriors.
- No more than 4 Assassins.
- No more than 2 Support.
- No more than 2 Specialists.
- No more than 3 Melee heroes.
However, there are also a number of ways you can override these restrictions.
- If you’re in a full party, the rules no longer apply to your team and you can use any composition you like.
- If you’re in a partial party, you can still create team compositions that fall outside of the matchmaking rules.
- For example: A three person party that enters the queue as three Support Heroes is allowed. The matchmaker will do its best to round out your team, but your party will not be grouped with any more Supports.
- Getting into a game quickly can often times be more important than waiting a long time for the perfect composition. So, if a party has spent six minutes or more in the matchmaking queue, the rules may be broken in order to find a match. We’ll be keeping an eye on this rule to get a feel for how it impacts matchmaking, and may make adjustments to it in the future.
Note that they’ve also implemented a six-minute rule and other measures to ensure the closest match in terms of effective team comps and skill levels. The six-minute rule kicks in when matchmaking takes too long and has to widen the scope to start a game session. I think this compromise makes sense because long queue times are the most detrimental thing you could have. It’s the reason I barely play Guardians Of Middle-Earth or Happy Wars lately (hey, those are good games DAMMIT).
What I find more interesting from the matchmaking rules is that Blizzard has extensive data on team comps that we have not seen released publicly (yet). Considering Warrior damage output was nerfed across the board, I’m sure the numbers look more like this:
- No more than 2 Warriors.
- No more than 4 Assassins.
- No more than 2 Supports.
- No more than 3 Specialists.
- No more than 3 Melee heroes.
I would even drop Warriors down to 1 in most cases, whether matchmaking pairs you up or you are in a pre-made party/team. The value of most Warriors is limited since they normally can’t siege, push out lanes, or put out the DPS to warrant another spot. This limits Warriors to tanking/initiating and perhaps light CC/displacement, especially after the global nerfs to their DPS.
No Cookie-Cutter Builds Here
Hero diversity is something Blizzard and the HotS community have been talking about lots. Right now, I feel there is very little sense that some heroes or talent builds/paths are more viable than others. Sadly, the cookie-cutter mentality is unavoidable and part of the reason is that certain talent tiers have options too good to pass up. Blizzard calls those the autopick talents, and they’re working to remove those instances.
My experience is that there are only a handful of universal talents that are tempting and almost always useful.. But even those have diminishing returns late game or are arguably more situational. Let’s review a few of them:
- Envenom – In the early to mid game, Envenom hurts A LOT. Even as a DOT (Damage Over Time) talent with a cooldown, it seems it’s always ready when you need it most and the damage can hurt without a Support nearby. It’s a great tool for dealing with heroes with hard escapes, health regen, or damage mitigation of some sort.
- Blood For Blood – This talent is super versatile because it slows the enemy target and heals you. I find that it’s hard to justify BfB unless you find yourself ambushed a lot by stealth or teleporting heroes a lot. From a strategic standpoint, it does make it easier to disengage and turn back into a battle for a trade or enemy wipe.
- Rewind – This is a late-game pick now so it’s certainly not OP. Still, for heroes with powerful abilities and longer cooldowns, Rewind is a great way to put out more damage or turn a bad situation around. Of course, it assumes that you have the mana to spare (hopefully by Level 20 you have the mana regen to cover your spamming efforts).
- Hardened Shell – A 75% reduction of all damage taken is pretty sweet for Warriors that are already tanky, especially if you can heal yourself or it at least buys you time for your abilities to come off cooldown. You’re not quite invulnerable but, if you time it just right, you’ll tank a lot of burst damage and keep your team from getting spammed.
Some of the folks that can’t break out of the traditional MOBA mold are desperately crying out for items/equipment. I can see the Heroes Of The Storm universal talents becoming a bonus pick alongside your normal talent picks per level milestones. For the sake of simplicity, however, that may not ever happen unless maybe you get one free pick early on.
With activateable talents becoming more prevalent, we should see much more diversity in hero picks and builds. We should also see more team-focused and strategic picks such as healing wards, vision drones, and M.U.L.E. Overall, these types of picks are hard to justify when they are rather easy to counter and have to be grabbed in place of something that arguably creates more value.
Is Stealth Overpowered?
While there are only a handful of heroes that have stealth abilities and only two with permanent cloaks, Zeratul and Nova, there is a sentiment going about that stealth is overpowered. I don’t see it. Some heroes get temporary cloaks but it’s usually easy to detect them and break them out of it. A while back, stealth was annoying because you could not see the enemy heroes while cloaked but now you can see them if you’re paying attention.
What’s more interesting is that Nova is now considered a “newbie pick” yet I consistently see her putting in work. The issue here is not that stealth is OP but, rather, people lack map awareness or over-extend. If you know your enemies have stealth heroes, stick by your teammates and don’t stay out in the open with low health. Smart stealth heroes will scout merc camps and other objectives so always expect that you are being tracked.
I would actually argue that stealth heroes are under-powered as they tend to be squishier, lack good escapes/mobility, and have less DPS potential. Currently, all the stealth heroes are bursty but fall off once they are focused or have their abilities on cooldown. As such, they are about where they should be right now, at least in non-competitive gameplay. In organized/ranked play, however, stealth heroes tend to get focused down hard and it can be painful if you rely too much on your stealth as a safety net.
Final Thoughts On Release Build
I really can’t think of anything that is game-breaking right now. Heroes Of The Storm had a tremendous amount of polish even in the technical alpha. Heck, as a beta this game is more complete than most full-priced off-the-shelf retail offerings today. Call me a Blizzard fanboy but you know it’s true, deep down inside.
There are only a few things I want to make sure Blizzard sticks to at this point:
- NEVER implement a surrender option. It only encourages quitters and toxic behavior/attitudes.
- Fix issues with server/game stability and reconnecting to sessions.
- Round out hero talents further so there is no sense of autopicks at any tier.
- Improve the tutorial system and add “Did You Know?” tool tips during load screens so new players can learn more about team dynamics.
- Reinforce the unique mechanics so that it finally clicks – this is a TEAM game, not LoL, DotA 2, etc.
- In the spirit of the above, change “Takedowns” to “Assists” so people start thinking more in terms of teamwork and not KDA.
- Implement a positive feedback system along with public notes so players can get into the habit of encouraging others, not just reporting for AFK/BM/unskilled.
- Further incentivize playing games to completion and tie in the above.
- Expand leaver jail to griefers, trolls, and AFKers.
…I think that covers all the bases. I have a much longer wishlists and tons of feedback on the Blizzard forums. If you’re part of the beta testing team, make sure you get your feedback in ASAP. Remember to keep it constructive: positive, actionable, and detailed. Simply saying something “sucks” doesn’t help anyone.
Let’s get ready to ENTER THE STORM!
I started a special thread with all the things I think would add even more polish, balance, and fun factor to Heroes Of The Storm. Note that nothing here is beaten the dead horses (i.e. matchmaking and lag/stutter issues). Blizzard is on that stuff, folks, so let’s give feedback that gives them fresh insights and next steps!
Looking forward to your comments here and on the Blizzard forums!