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Gamescom Interview with Kaéo Milker and Travis McGeathy

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We had the chance to sit down with Kaéo Milker, Production Director, and Travis McGeathy, Senior Game Designer, from the Heroes of the Storm team at Gamescom. Check out their answers to questions ranging from map editors to the cost of the game for newer players.

While we had a few extra questions planned, neither Travis nor Kaéo work with hero balance, so we weren't able to get answers for our hero specific questions. Instead, the interview focused on general game design, future design plans and the game's strategy in the MOBA scene. You can read a full transcript below:

Quote

 

Q: There were once legends of a map editor being introduced for Heroes of the Storm. Is that still a possibility?

A: It's still a possibility and we're definitely interested in doing that. What's essentially holding us back is that we would need to create a modified version of the editor rather than just using the Starcraft one. We would also need to implement certain rules about how custom, user-made maps would work in Heroes of the Storm. It's definitely still interesting to us, since this whole genre came about from people playing with our editors. 

We have to establish priorities and for us, currently, those priorities are doing everything we can to revisit things that aren't working properly, like our recent ranked play revamp, and the new systems we are introducing, such as the new MVP system coming with the latest patch. The editor is definitely interesting, but not a priority currently.

Q: Which maps are going to be rotating out for the introduction of the new maps and why?

A: We actually aren't going to be rotating any out, for now. There are 11 maps, 13 if you include the new ones, and we think it's a healthy selection. We might be starting to hit a number that's too large, but for now we're not planning to do anything about it. For some new players, it might be a bit overwhelming to learn them all at once, considering that we all learnt them gradually, but there are no plans to change it right now. Maybe in the future.

Q: Are there any plans to introduce an option to ban maps from queues, like you can in WoW with battlegrounds?

A: We've talked about it for ranked, but if we were to do anything, it would be a map rotation rather than a banning system. For quick match, it would most likely cause too many problems with queue times and matchmaking.

Q: Are there plans to introduce hero swaps when picking in ranked?

A: Yes, this could be the next "big thing" for us to introduce and we're looking into implementing this for sure.

Q: The ranked seasons are pretty short when compared to other games of the genre, where they can last a year. What was the thinking behind this?

A: When you come out of placements, we are trying to be as accurate with the ranks compared to your skill level. We don't want you to finish your placements and then have your rank fluctuate for a few months before you settle in. We want to be able to reward you frequently and then give you the chance to start over and show off your improvements.

Q: One of the best features in Warcraft III was the automated tournament system. Would you ever consider something like that for Heroes?

A: We've been actively looking into this, since we've just added the system to Starcraft. There are two different teams working on the games, but we do share some technology. There is some underlying work of theirs that we can borrow, but we definitely need to work on it more. We're interested, we just need to work on how to fit it in.

Q: The low player base for Team League is causing severe matchmkaing issues, especially for high-end players. Are there any plans to further promote this game mode?

A: We're looking into it. We saw an initial increase in the number of people queuing into Team League when the rewards were introduced, but we're also going to try add in higher experience gain. We want to help people find team mates more easily so that they can queue into Team League, since we really feel like it's the best way to experience Heroes of the Storm. 

Q: We have been waiting for competitive drafting within the client for quite a while now, is that on the horizon anytime soon?

A: It's something we're looking into, but there isn't really a timeframe that we can give for it.

Q: Are there any plans to increase the number of bans in competitive drafting?

A: We've only just started looking into this, so there's nothing planned as of yet.

Q: Players have to rely on 3rd party sites to get information about their statistics, such as win rate. Is this something that you are OK with and is there any chance we'll see Blizzard make these stats available?

A: Yes, in both cases. Getting better stats in-game is very important and it's something we definitely want to do. 

Q: Are there any plans to reduce the cost of the game? 

A: We're always trying to find new ways to give people rewards; it's especially important for free-to-play players. In the next patch, you'll be getting a free hero, whether you're a new or current player. You'll essentially be able to choose between 3 heroes and if you have those 3, you'll be able to choose from another 3. If you own every hero, you'll get gold instead. We also have our weekly sales to try and make sure players can afford what they want, but we'll keep looking into other options.

Q: Do you think it is a barrier to entry for players, having to buy things?

A: No. We feel that there are enough options for players to be able to play the game as they want, but we'll still be looking into ways to reduce the cost.

Q: Are there any plans to introduce gifting in-game, as you can in League of Legends?

A: We are definitely interested in this and we personally would love to have it, but it's below a lot of things on the priority-scale. It's a great idea, but it's technically much harder than it looks to implement.

Q: Are there plans to further promote Heroes of the Storm in other Blizzard titles?

A: We're looking into more of those. There are two options: rewarding people for playing every game, rewarding people that earn some form of achievement. We're looking to do both and you'll be seeing more cross-promotion in the future.

Q: Is it your desire for the game to rival League of Legends and Dota 2, both in terms of scale and popularity?

A: The MOBA scene is one of the most crowded genres of gaming. There isn't just one big dominating game, there are two hugely popular games. We didn't create Heroes of the Storm with the goal of reaching a certain number of players, we just had a cool idea and wanted to make a fun game. That was our approach and we think we're off to a really good start. We have a big, passionate audience and we're trying to make the game better every day, both by adding new things and reworking the old stuff.

 

That's it for the interview! Hopefully you enjoyed reading and we'd like to thank Kaéo and Travis for taking the time to sit down with us at Gamescom. 

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      Stealth players will now become “Invisible” after remaining still for 1.5 seconds. Invisible Heroes will not display the Stealth visual effect and can still be removed from Stealth by taking damage. This includes Heroes under the effects of temporary Stealth effects such as Samuro’s Windwalk or Tyrande’s Shadowstalk. Additionally, Heroes cannot become Invisible while occupying a capture point, such as Braxis Holdout or Mercenary Camp Beacons. Instead, they will retain normal Stealth visual effects. User Interface
      In-Game UI
      General Hero portraits will now be displayed when heroes are inside the following Vehicles, Battleground objectives, or Hero Abilities: Dragon Knight Garden Terror Triglav Protector Anub'arak - Cocoon Lt. Morales – Medivac Dropship Stitches - Gorge Zagara - Devouring Maw Manual Talent Tier and Hero Status Callouts Players can now press ALT + left-click Hero portraits and the Team Level UI at the top of the screen to generate notifications for the following situations: Press ALT + left-click an ally’s Hero portrait to inform teammates when that ally needs assistance. ALT + left-clicking a dead Hero’s portrait will generate a chat message indicating that Hero’s remaining respawn time. ALT + left-clicking an enemy Hero portrait will ping that Hero’s location on the Minimap if they are within allied vision. If that enemy is outside of allied vision, a chat message will inform allies that the Hero is missing. Press ALT + right-click the Team Level UI to indicate when both teams are on even Talent tiers, or when one team has a Talent tier advantage over the other.  
      Heroes
      Assassin

      Nova

      Abilities
      Snipe (Q) Damage reduced from 310 to 255. Baseline quest added: Hitting an enemy Hero increases the damage of Snipe by 5% stacking 5 times. When at max stacks (5) it gains an additional 25% damage. If Snipe fails to hit a target, all stacks are lost. Pinning Shot (W) Damage from 110 to 105 Holo Decoy (E) Added functionality: Decoys now deal 10% of Nova’s damage Permanent Cloak (Trait) Added functionality: Gain 15% movement speed while Stealthed Triple Tap (R) Damage per shot from 338 to 372 (New) Ghost Protocol (1) Activate to instantly cloak, leave a Holo Decoy at your feet, and become unrevealable for .5 seconds. Talents
      Level 1 Advanced Cloaking (Trait) New functionality: Increase your Stealth movement speed by 5%. While Stealthed, gain 2 additional mana regeneration per second. Level 7 Snipe Master (Q) Removed Perfect Shot (Q) Moved from Level 16 Cooldown reduction on Hero hit reduced from 3 to 2 seconds Level 13 Psionic Efficiency (Q) Bonus range increased from 10 to 15% (New Talent) Ionic Force Field (Trait) Gain 25 Armor for 2 seconds after losing stealth Level 16 Lethal Decoy (E) Damage bonus from clones increased from 40 to 50% Level 20 (New Talent) Apollo Suit (Trait) Reduce the cooldown of Permanent Cloak from 3 to 1 second
      Samuro

      Stats
      Basic Attack damage increased from 88 to 110 Abilities
      Mirror Image (Q) Samuro will now appear in the direction of the player’s Mouse Cursor when Mirror Image is cast. Mirror Image damage is no longer a fraction of Samuro’s Attack Damage. Mirror Image base damage has been greatly reduced to 9. Mirror Images are no longer instantly destroyed by Structures Critical Strike (W) Cooldown increased from 8 to 10 seconds Illusion Master (R) New functionality: Reduce the cooldown of Advancing Strikes to 8 seconds Now increases the attack damage of Mirror Images by 100% Now also increases Samuro’s Basic Attack damage by 10% Image Transmission (Trait) Additional functionality: Activate to switch places with the target Mirror Image, removing most negative effects from Samuro and the target Mirror Image. 25-second cooldown. Talents
      Tooltips for various talents have been updated to reflect whether Samuro or his Mirror Images benefit from their effects Level 1 Way of the Wind (E) New Functionality: Gain 40% Movement Speed for 3 seconds upon entering or exiting Stealth by using Wind Walk Way of the Blade (W) No longer grants bonus Critical Strike damage Way of Illusion (Q) Mirror Images no longer benefit from this talent Level 4 One with the Wind (E) Armor gain now also lasts for 3 seconds after being revealed Mirror Images now also gain Armor Armor amount reduced from 60 to 30 Level 7 Phantom Pain (W) Mirror Images no longer benefit from this talent Crushing Blows (W) Mirror Images no longer benefit from this talent Bonus Critical Strike damage has been removed Additional functionality: Samuro’s Basic Attacks against enemy Heroes reduce the cooldown of Critical Strike by 1.5 seconds Level 13 Kawarimi (E) Reduced the time between Samuro issuing a new order after using Wind Walk and the image following it. It should now be harder for the new Image to follow Samuro’s new movements after using Wind Walk. Level 16 Press the Attack (Trait) Attack Speed bonus reduced from 15% to 10% per stack. Maximum bonus decreased from 60% to 40% Harsh Winds (E) Mirror Images no longer benefit from this talent Merciless Strikes (W) Mirror Images no longer benefit from this talent
      Valeera

      Abilities
      Vanish (D) Movement Speed increased from 10% to 20% Ambush (Q) If Valeera is Vanished for 3 seconds, this ability has 5 range and teleports Valeera behind her target. Damage reduced from 180 to 130 Now also reduces enemy Armor by 10 for 4 seconds Cheap Shot (W) Stun duration reduced from 1.25 to .75 seconds Now Blinds the target for 2 seconds after the stun effect ends If Valeera is Vanished for 3 seconds, this ability has 5 range and teleports Valeera behind her target Garrote (E) Silence duration increased from 2.25 to 2.75 seconds If Valeera is Vanished for 3 seconds, this ability has 5 range and teleports Valeera behind her target Talents
      Level 1 Subtlety (D) Adjusted functionality: Now triggers when Valeera teleports to her target with Ambush, Cheap Shot, and Garrote. Energy return reduced from 10 to 8 per second. Crippling Poison (Active) Slow duration reduced from 5 to 4 seconds. Valeera’s poison is no longer removed after the first damaging Ability, but instead is applied by all Valeera's Abilities for 4 seconds. This duration does not start until Valeera damages her first enemy. Level 4 Wound Poison (Active) Healing reduction duration decreased from 5 to 4 seconds Valeera’s poison is no longer removed after the first damaging Ability, but instead is applied by all Valeera's Abilities for 4 seconds. This duration does not start until Valeera damages her first enemy Level 7 Slice and Dice (E) Valeera's Basic Attacks now restore 2 Energy. Level 13 Death from Above (Q) New functionality: Ambush reduces the cooldown of Vanish by 4 seconds. Blind (W) Now increases the duration of Cheap Shot’s Blind from 2 to 4 seconds. Strangle (E) Spell Power reduction increased from 25% to 40% Duration reduced from 7 to 6 seconds Level 16 Assassinate (Q) Bonus damage reduced from 100% to 50% Now also increases the Armor reduction of Ambush by 10 when the target is isolated. Moved from level 7 Expose Armor (E) Removed. Level 20 Nightslayer (D) Removed. Rupture (D) Damage bonus now stacks immediately to 100%, instead of stacking up to 30%. Moved from level 16 Elusiveness (D) Moved from Level 13 Movement Speed bonus increased from 10% to 20% LEVEL (TIER) VALEERA TALENTS 1 (1) (!) Vigor (Passive) Subtlety (D) Combat Readiness (Passive) Crippling Poison (Active) 4 (2) Relentless Strikes (Q) Hemorrhage (E) Initiative (D) Wound Poison (Active) 7 (3) Mutilate (Q) (!) Fatal Finesse (W) Slice and Dice (E)   10 (4) Smoke Bomb (R) Cloak of Shadows (R) — — 13 (5) Death from Above (Q) Blind (W) Strangle (E)   16 (6) Seal Fate (Q) Assassinate (Q) Thistle Tea (Active)   20 (7) Adrenaline Rush (R) Enveloping Shadows (R) Rupture (E) Elusiveness (D) (!) indicates a Questing Talent. Italic text indicates a NEW Talent. Underlined text indicates a MOVED Talent.
      Valla

      Abilities
      Level 1 Monster Hunter (Q) Now tracks stacks instead of damage on the quest tracker
      Zeratul

      Abilities
      Shadow Assault (R) Removed (New Talent) Might of the Nerazim (R) Passive: After using an Ability, Zeratul’s next Basic Attack within 6 seconds deals 40% more damage Activate to duplicate the last ability cast. Damaging abilities deal 50% less damage. This ability does not benefit from talents. 20-Second Cooldown  Talents
      Level 1 Vorpal Blade (1) Added as a baseline ability. Default Hotkey: 1 (New Talent) Move Unseen (Passive) Gain 25% bonus Movement Speed while Stealthed Shadow Hunter (E) Regen Globe required for quest completion reduced from 20 to 15 Mana cost reduction of Blink increased from 2 to 3 Level 4 Combo Slash (Passive) Removed Grim Task (Passive) Removed (New Talent) Psionic Strength (Passive) Damaging an enemy Hero with Basic Attacks or Abilities increases Zeratul's damage by 6% for 3 seconds, stacking up to 5 times. (New Talent) Darkness Descends (Active) Passive: Increase Zeratul’s attack speed by 10%. Activated ability – Zeratul gains 40% bonus attack speed for 5 seconds. 30-second cooldown Level 7 Wormhole (E) Duration increased from 2 to 3 seconds Slip into Shadow (E) Removed (New Talent) Warp Skirmisher (1) Vorpal Blade now has 2 charges. Casting Vorpal Blade also causes Zeratul's next Basic Attack within 6 seconds to deal 30% bonus damage Level 16 Sentenced to Death (W) Bonus damage reduced from 40 to 30% Level 20 Rewind (Active) Removed Nerazim Fury (R) Removed (New Talent) Twilight Falls (R) Activating Might of the Nerazim resets the cooldown of all of Zeratul’s Basic Abilities (New Talent) Shadow Mending (Passive) Zeratul heals himself for 75% of Ability Damage Dealt to enemy Heroes LEVEL (TIER) ZERATUL TALENTS 1 (1) PH PH PH PH 4 (2) PH PH PH PH 7 (3) PH PH PH PH 10 (4) PH PH — — 13 (5) PH PH PH PH 16 (6) PH PH PH PH 20 (7) PH PH PH PH (!) indicates a Questing Talent. Italic text indicates a NEW Talent. Underlined text indicates a MOVED Talent. Specialist

      Abathur

      Abilities
      Spawn Locust (Trait) Health increased from 288 to 316  Talents
      Level 1 Survival Instincts (Trait) Bonus Health decreased from 50% to 40% Level 7 Calldown: MULE (Active) No longer refills Structure ammo
      The Lost Vikings

      Talents
      Level 4 It’s a Sabotage! (Passive) No longer removes Structure ammo Damage increased from 27 to 35 Warrior

      Muradin

      Talents
      Level 4 Sledgehammer (Q) No longer removes Ammo from structures Collection
      Hero Price Reduction
      Artanis’ prices have been reduced to 7,000 Gold and 625 Gems. New Bundles – The following new Bundles and Skin Packs are available for a limited time!
      Hanzo Heroic Bundle Winter Veil 2017 Bundle Winter Veil Classic Bundle New Announcers
      Hanzo New Skins
      Hanzo Kinoko Honzo Sora Hanzo Dragon Hanzo Demon Hanzo Farstrider Hanzo Icebound Farstrider Hanzo Iron Farstrider Hanzo Holy Farstrider Hanzo Scarlet Farstrider Hanzo Genji Storm Oni Genji Golden Genji Nihon Genji Leoric Immortal Space Lord Leoric Lúcio Azure Soundblast Lúcio Lunara Harvest Champion Lunara Zarya Citrine Thunderguard Zarya Industrial Zarya New Mounts
      The following Mounts have been awarded to players who reached Platinum in Hero League or Bronze in Team League during 2017 Ranked Season 3: Titanium Cybersteed Carbon Cybersteed Master Cybersteed The following Mounts have been awarded to players who reached Master or higher in Hero League or Team League during 2017 Ranked Season 3: Epic Titanium Cybersteed Epic Carbon Cybersteed Epic Master Cybersteed Bug Fixes
      General
      Fixed a number of typo and tooltip errors across several aspects of the game. Art
      Kharazim: Kharazim's arms and upper body now animated correctly during his dizzy animation. Leoric: The Shroud of the Dead King Talent will now correctly play an animation and a sound when activated. Samuro: Monkey King Samuro’s model will no longer exhibit flickering during Hero Select while running Medium or High graphic settings. The Lost Vikings: Fixed an issue causing Baelog to cast superfluous shadows on the terrain. Battlegrounds
      Sky Temple: Fixed an issue that could prevent Temple lasers from appearing correctly on the Minimap. Structures: Auriel's Blinding Flash and Artanis' Suppression Pulse can no longer Blind Structures. Towers of Doom: The Headless Horseman Boss is no longer incorrectly categorized as a Monster. Volskaya Foundry: Fixed an issue in which Heroes on the outer edge of the Hall of Storms would not receive Healing or protection. Heroes, Abilities, and Talents
      Alexstrasza: Life-Binder is no longer interrupted when entering or exiting Dragonqueen. Diablo: Fixed an issue that could cause Shadow Charge to deal its collision damage multiple times under certain circumstances. Garrosh: Casting Wrecking Ball on Mercenaries will no longer cause them to leash while in combat. Gul'dan: Movement caused by a conveyor belt will no longer cancel Rain of Destruction channeling. Kel'thuzad: The Power of Icecrown Talent will now correctly grant bonus Spell Power for enemy Heroes Slowed by Chains of Kel’Thuzad with the Chains of Ice Talent. Li-Ming: Zei's Vengeance and Arcane Orb tooltips have been updated to clarify bonus damage functionality. Damage amounts have not been changed. Lt. Morales: The Second Opinion Talent will now correctly grant cooldown reduction when one of the Heroes struck by Displacement Grenade is piloting a Vehicle, like the Garden Terror. Lunara: Fixed an inconsistency that allowed Lunara to cast Leaping Strike over some, but not all, allied units after learning Boundless Stride. Medivh: Creating a Portal entrance after learning Portal Mastery and then entering the Triglav Protector will no longer prevent him from using the Protector’s abilities. Muradin: Learning Reverberation no longer incorrectly updates the Attack Speed Slow amount in Thunder Clap’s tooltip. Murky: Spawn Egg with the Egg Hunt Talent can now be cast correctly on Volskaya Foundry’s conveyor belts. User Interface
      Death Recap: Fortification Camp Turret attacks now display a Turret icon in the Death Recap screen.