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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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