This morning there was a Heroes of the Storm press conference with Dustin Browder that we attended to take notes on the design philosophy and information about the upcoming game. A lot of this is more detailed information and if you want a basic overview of how the game plays you can find it here.
Throughout the questions, Browder stressed that all the details are still under development and they were currently making sure the big picture was correct as far as ideals and development vision were concerned. He also made a big point to mention that all the designers play lots of League as well as Dota and they like what those games do, and want this to be a different experience.
Below is a separate, video interview we did with Robert Khoo, a developer on HotS who is in charge of hero design.
When will we get it?
Signups opened for the beta this weekend because they feel they are on the cusp of being able to offer it to the public. No hard quarter estimates as usual, though they want people to know it will be around the corner.
How will HotS deal with issues of community toxicity?
They aim to develop the game around mechanics that support a positive environment. In game this means focusing more on objectives rather than straight mechanics such as last hitting, and designing around fun and clear team work. Out of game they will be doing it through incentives such as bonuses for playing with people you know, and building systems that encourage interaction within the community.and makes it easy to find and make friends through the chat channels. Specifically he referred to vanilla WoW and said they want to go back to the feel of your reputation being so important that it means people are always nice to each other to keep up their cred on the servers.
What is the design philosophy behind shared experience?
It came from the idea of wanting supports to be able to easily gain experience. There is a hero in the game, Abathur, who is extremely weak to the point of being unable to even fight directly and having essentially no attack damage, and they found there was no way for him to gain experience because of it. When they gave supports like him attack damage and hit points, however, they found it made spellcasters much too strong. Shared experience is how they intend to build up hero diversity and allow for hard spellcasters to exist and be useful as commander units, rather than people who are always physically in the battle.
He referred to it as "the socialist approach" to team game building, and left it by saying if you want a game where you can be 10 levels higher than your teammates as the carry, then this isn't the game for you.
One thing they will consider adding is a chart that shows you how much experience you contributed to the team total (right now it just displays a single number for each team).
What is max level, and game time?
Max level is 25, and the game aims for 20 minutes. The 20 minute quote is all over their press materials, and they arrived at that number because "it just feels right", citing Brood War, Warcraft 3, and Starcraft 2 as examples of how that works.
How will skill choices work?
At certain levels you are given the choice between 2 or 3 talents, which is how you build your heroes in this game (as opposed to leveling up individual skills). They are things like more attack damage, more attack speed, or more range on one of your active abilities. They want to add functionality for choosing between different sets of these before the game, so you would pick which set of choices you want at levels 1, 4, 7, etc that you have some instances of "building" your hero before the game even starts, as you do with a CCG deck. These would not function as any kind of skill tree, but rather be discreet choices you would choose between several sets of talents for each applicable level.
This way it gives more choice in between games, though your options will still be more limited within the game.
What about esports?
Not at all worried about it currently. They would like to add features so that the community is able to take it competitive if they feel like it, but it is not a goal. Their goal is to design a fun, objective based game people play with their friends and not something that is only good for the very hard core audiences. When asked about the audience they're targeting, Browder was unable to give an answer and said the goal is to make a fun game that works and see who picks it up.
The platform itself is based on the SC2 engine so many features will be shared between games, and all of the features like shared replay watching and spectator clients will be similar for both.
How will map creation work?
It will be outsourced to the community. After the various issues early in SC2's career with maps not changing often enough for the community, the plan is to have a powerful map editor available to the public at large who can contribute in the same way that people make maps for previous Blizzard RTS games. Browder stressed that the custom games is one of the things that makes Brood War, Warcraft 3, and Starcraft 2 great and the team is planning on letting the fans do as much as they want as far as making new game modes.
The game currently has 3 different game types, and they plan on keeping the ladder pool somewhere between 3 and 5 with active rotations, the specifics of which are far off from being set.
How big will the full hero roster be?
The plan is to keep going until ideas start to repeat. Currently at Blizzcon there are 18, and internally the number is closer to 30 with heroes they're testing and balancing. There is no goal or set design for it yet, Browder said he would like to keep going until he runs out of gas on ideas but has yet to hit that point.
There will also be little concern given for lore concerns on hero designs, so the possibility for weird stuff is out there and won't limit what each hero is capable of.
Hero developer at Blizzard
Hero developer at Blizzard