Hey boys and girls! As you may know, our Heroes of the Storm Boost team was at Blizzcon 2015, and they just reported us what they learned from the “State of the Game” panel. We already told you about the 2016 gameplay changes and the next HotS heroes and maps, and today we will talk about the general state of the game, the balance and future plans.
New Scoreboard with K/D/A.
Designers started talking about their balance guideline: their goal is to increase diversity in the builds while keeping the win rate balance at about the 50%, making every hero viable but not overpowered.
Keeping the win ratio of all heroes balanced is incredibly hard, because sometimes win rates aren’t really a clear indicator of the strengths of the champions. Heroes that are hard to play often have a lower win rate just because of their skill cap, and as a matter of fact are popular in competitive play; on the other hand easier hero have a good win rate despite not being much stronger. For this reason we always keep in mind the difficulty of a champion when writing our HotS tier list. I think that a good example here is Uther: his win rate is stable in solo queue, but he is really abused in competitive play and will be nerfed in the next patch.
Our Heroes of the Storm boost team saw also that a few heroes are going to be changed in the near future: Gazlowe will see some small buffs to his zone control, to make him more viable in competitive games; Nova will see some changes to increase her complexity and flexibility in talents. Tychus will be changed into a tank killer, giving him a core identity different from the stereotypical ranged heroes. Our HotS boost team wonders how all these changes will affect the performance of these heroes and their placements in the HotS tier lists.
Balancing Cho’gall was a real challenge since he is basically worth two heroes. During tests he was always focused by both team: his allies want him to be strong as he deals incredible damage and can be very threatening if played by two coordinate players using the HotS Duo Queue feature. On the other hand if he gets killed the takedown counts as a double kill and the enemies get more experience and map pressure from getting him down. According to our team, he will likely be placed very highly on our HotS tier list because of his immense power, but he can be punished pretty hard.
Lunara and Greymane, the other two HotS next heroes, were easier to balance because they had the other assassins as a comparison
According to Blizzard’s statistics, only 80% of the game are equal on MMR. 65% are really close and often there are comebacks given the many comeback mechanics in the different maps. However Blizzard is not satisfied and wants to improve its system even more decreasing the early level scaling.
“What?” Well, with an example this concept will be easy to understand. The early game in HotS is really snowbally, because even a small experience leads can lead to a huge power gap for a short window of time, especially if a team fight occurs. Being only two levels ahead, lv9 versus a lv7 team, means that the first team has 40% more health and damage over the other.
Reducing the early growth of health and damage while increasing the basic stats means that a small advantage in the early game will provide a small difference in power, decreasing the snowball potential and creating more close and balanced games. To keep things equal, Blizzard increased the death timers in the early game: this means that it’s easier to get an objective from an early game lead, without making late game comps too strong.
Note that this means that lv1 heroes will be stronger and will feel more their identity as assassin, tank or support thanks to the higher stats.
Blizzard is improving the good ol’ “360YOLO” matchmaking system to avoid longer queue times. This funny name comes from the fact that after 360 seconds of search the system sacrificed the balance to start the game as soon as possible. The new system will be based on queue time to create always the more balanced matches in the shorter time possible. The results from the tests are very promising, and we surely won’t miss the 360YOLO from our Starcraft days.
We can expect more tweaks to the Matchmaking system, that will try to balance team compositions in order to provide a better experience for both teams. We may also see changes to the MMR depending on the heroes you are playing.
Blizzard announced a new rank as well: Grandmaster, similarly to Legend in Hearthstone, to motivate players to climb the ladder for the swag and the honor.
Finally we will see more free heroes each week (ten, not seven!), a death recap system to know what killed your hero and a change to unlockable heroics. Players won’t be penalized for trying a new hero for the first times but will have access to all his heroics always.