On Friday morning, Game Director Dustin Browder, Senior Producer Kaeo Milker, and Senior Artist Phill Gonzales, gathered on stage at PAX East in the Albatross Theatre to talk all about Heroes of the Storm. Dustin kicked off the panel with an exciting new video, followed by a brief look at the ongoing Technical Alpha.
Heroes of the Storm PAX Feature Trailer
A Note About the Alpha
We do not have a date for the Heroes Beta yet. We're still working hard to test and level up our technology to be sure we can continue to expand the playerbase without encountering major issues. On that note, we’ve been adding players to the Tech Alpha on a weekly basis, and if you’d like to sign up to be invited, make sure you’ve opted in to Heroes testing on your Battle.net account’s Beta Profile Settings.
That said, there are no keys! Be wary of phishing attempts and anyone offering to give you Heroes of the Storm access. The only way to be sure you’ve received a legitimate invitation is to check your Battle.net account for a Heroes of the Storm game license.
What's Cool About Heroes of the Storm?
Dustin went on to give the audience an introduction to Heroes of the Storm by describing a few of the game’s aspects that we think make it very fun to play.
We have many incredible heroes we can draw from that you've come to know and love in our other game universes. There’s rich lore and history behind our characters, and we think it's awesome to see them all interacting and doing battle with each other. Because this game represents a collision of all our universes, we can introduce heroes from any of our other games, past, present, and future.
Original Hero Design
We're trying to be creative with the types of heroes we bring into the game. We want them to be able to interact with the battlegrounds in very unique ways, and play like nothing you’ve seen before in our other titles. Abathur was among the first of these very different heroes. He can’t really get into the fight himself, but instead sits behind the lines of battle and infests his allies to help them out from the sidelines.
Battlegrounds are more than just maps. Each is designed to be different from the others, with unique objectives and focal points that can change your strategies and swing the tide of the game in your favor.
As an example, let's take a look at Blackheart's Bay:
- On Blackheart’s Bay, you and your allies are tasked with collecting Doubloons and turning them in to the evil ghost pirate, Blackheart, in order to buy his favor.
- Players accumulate Doubloons by destroying Treasure Chests or defeating Mercenary Camps, which are scattered around the Battleground.
- If your team manages to turn in enough coins, Blackheart will set Blackheart’s Revenge, his ghostly pirate ship, on enemy forts and bombard them with cannon fire!
- Be careful, though, because if you die while carrying coins, they’ll spill out onto the ground and your enemies can reclaim them. On Blackheart’s Bay, players become Treasure Goblins.
We currently have four Battlegrounds in the Tech Alpha, and have plans to add many more in the future so that you can change up how you play, as well as use different strategies to succeed from one game to the next.
Following Dustin’s overview, Phill picked up the mic for a peek into what the Heroes of the Storm Art Team has been up to lately.
When we started to really ramp up Heroes development we were initially focused on standing up art and models for as many of our heroes as we could. While we managed to get a lot of heroes into the game, we wanted to continue iterating on them until each one really lived up to the fantasy behind their character.
We've put a lot of work into improving the appearances of our heroes and skins since we first revealed Heroes of the Storm at BlizzCon last year, and have put a lot of time into adding more details to their faces and character models over the last few months.
Kaeo Milker then took the stage to show off some of the new skins that we'll be releasing in the future.
Skins are an exciting way for us to really dig into the lore and flavor of each hero, and we always have a lot of fun coming up with our next great idea. Through skins, we can show off looks we’ve come to love. We can also explore a variety of different appearances for each hero, including looks that cross into our other game universes.
Heroes of the Storm has a rather lighthearted nature, which allows us to add in humorous skins as well, such as Stitches in a bikini, or Abathur in pajamas. That's right -- Pajamathur is no longer just an April Fool's joke, and will be added to the game!
In addition to all of the skins we have available in the shop, we’ve also got a ton of skin variations that you can unlock for free, simply by playing with a particular hero frequently. Skin variations not only work for your base hero skin, but once unlocked, they’ll work for all future skins you buy for that hero, as well.
We didn’t want to stop with variations, though, so we decided to create what we’re calling “Ultimate Skins.” Ultimate skins are the complete realization of the fantasy for each hero in the Nexus, and are free to unlock, just like skin variations. We want you have a lot of freedom in how you can show off your favorite heroes in-game, and feel that all the skins we have to offer help accomplish this for players who want to really dig deep into a specific hero.
New Heroes - We've just announced that Brightwing, Zagara, Murky, and LiLi are our newest Heroes!
As we mentioned previously, we’re working hard to create heroes that feel and play very differently than anything we've done in the past, and we have a few examples for you today:
- Lili is a new support hero with an ability set that helps her to very effectively aid her teammates throughout the game.
- She has lots of ways to protect herself and allies, and she doesn’t need to be babysat.
- You’ll see a lot more from her in the showmatch commentary at the end of the panel.
- Brightwing has the ability to passively heal any allies nearby.
- She can also transform enemies into animals.
- Brightwing is a versatile support hero capable of teleporting from ally to ally, healing them and providing them with the help they need to succeed in battle.
- Zagara has map-wide components to her design.
- She can drop Creep Tumors to spread Zerg Creep, which helps speed up her movement speed, as well as the speed of her summons.
- What’s more, Zagara can use her Nydus Worms to hop back and forth around the map, giving her plenty of opportunity to Creep up and siege multiple lanes at once.
- When we talked about putting Murky in the game, we initially struggled with what to do with him. Making him a really powerful hero just didn’t seem to fit quite right (he is a Murloc, you know.) Instead, we chose to make him very, very weak, but incredibly persistent.
- Murky can lay an egg which he can use to respawn near instantly upon being killed. If his egg is destroyed, Murky will face the same respawn timers as other heroes do, so be sure to hide it well!
- Murky is going to die A LOT, but he’s a hero who eventually overwhelms enemies across multiple battles. He doesn’t need to win every fight; he just needs to win once.
Once the presentation wrapped up, Dustin fielded questions from the live audience. Read on to get the full Q&A Session breakdown.
Q: Is there any opportunity to see Heroes on other platforms, such as mobile or console?
A: We haven’t really worked on that and it could be a lot of work considering we’d have to take controls into account. At one point Kaeo did manage to hook up an Xbox controller to his home computer and play using that.
Q: Balance aside, which hero would you like to see in the game?
A: The hardest heroes for us to do are the really huge ones. We’ve talked about Deathwing as a hero we’d really like to put in, but he’d have to be very big. We’ve found heroes like this to be really challenging to make so far.
Q: Do you think you’ll eventually run out of existing Blizzard characters to use as heroes?
A: Our library of Blizzard characters is pretty massive. We’ve got a very long list of potential heroes that we’d like to implement, and we do want to add many more heroes to the game than are present right now. We’re ready to do more. There may be a few heroes who you might not entirely familiar with if you haven’t played the game they’re from (Stitches from World of Warcraft, for example,) but we can dip into all of our universes to continually create new heroes.
Q: Will there be more high-risk, high-reward Talents added to the game?
A: We’re constantly talking about Talents -- what to add, and what to change. For example, Zagara’s talents are kind of insane right now. One idea, which Matt Cooper proposed, was to double the range of her Baneling ability, and I really hope that one will stick around. We’re continuing to evolve the Talent system to add more customization, more options, and more ways for you to play your favorite heroes how you’d like.
Q: Originally Heroes was going to be part of the StarCraft II Arcade. Is Heroes still based off the StarCraft II Editor, or has it changed?
A: Yes, it’s still based on the StarCraft II Editor, but it has changed a bit. We want to get to a place where we can make the map editor available for Heroes, as well.
Q: With regard to new characters, are there any hopes for seeing heroes from older blizzard games?
A: You mean like Rock N’ Roll Racing, or the Lost Vikings? Yes, we’d definitely love to look into creating Heroes from our older titles. I can’t make any promises right now, but we will certainly work on it.
Q: With so many unique characters and ways to play, how do you balance the game?
A: We get this question a lot. It’s going to be a lot of work for us, but we have a team of balance guys working on this night and day, and we’re pretty confident at the moment. We’re not afraid to admit when we’re wrong, see what the community has to say, and make changes. The editor also lets us make changes on a hero by hero basis. For example, the way Sgt. Hammer roots herself basically attracts skillshots from her enemies. If we need to fix something about that, we can adjust her talents to give her more survivability while she’s sieged up.
There's more to come as Blizzard storms Pax East 2014, so stay tuned for updates today, and all weekend long!