Oxygen

BlizzCon 2017 - Hanzo Hands-on Impression

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Oxygen had the chance to play Hanzo at BlizzCon 2017 and has listed his thoughts on the gameplay, design and viability of the hero. Hanzo is slated to be released December 4.

Abilities and Talents

Before going over our impressions of the hero, it's worth including a list of their abilities and talents. You can find all the information required in the spoiler tag below.

Spoiler

Abilities

  • [D] (Trait) Natural Agility (30-second cooldown): Target unpathable terrain or a Structure to jump to the other side of it.
  • [Q] Storm Bow (4-second cooldown): Activate to charge an arrow that deals 270 damage to the first enemy hit. Storm Bow's range increases the longer it is Channeled. Reactivate to fire.
  • [W] Scatter Arrow (8-second cooldown): Fire an arrow that deals 85 to the first enemy Hero hit. Scatter Arrow can collide with terrain and Structures, splitting into 5 arrows that travel extra distance, ricochet up to 4 additional times, and deal 85 damage each to the first enemy hit.
  • [E] Sonic Arrow (20-second cooldown): Fire an arrow that grants vision in a large area for 8 seconds. Enemies inside are revealed for 1 second. If Sonic Arrow lands directly on an enemy, it deals 150 damage to them and follows them as they move.
  • [R1] Dragonstrike (100-second cooldown): After 1.5 seconds, summon a pair of Spirit Dragons which travel forward, dealing 52 damage every 0.25 seconds to enemy Heroes in its area. Enemies in the center take 150 damage.
  • [R2] Dragon's Arrow (100-second cooldown): Fire a missile that travels across the battleground. Explodes upon hitting an enemy Hero, dealing 100 damage to all nearby enemies and Stunning them for 0.5 seconds. After traveling a medium distance, the damage is increased to 200 and the Stun duration to 1.25 seconds. After traveling a long distance, the damage is increased to 350 and the Stun duration to 2 seconds.

Talents

Level 1

  • Target Practice (Quest): Hit every enemy hero with Hero with Storm Bow. Reward: After hitting every enemy hero once with Storm Bow, its range is increased by 30%. Reward: After hitting every enemy hero 3 times with Storm Bow, its damage is increased by 100.
  • Simple Geometry: Hit a hero with multiple arrows from the same Scatter Arrow cast 20 times. Each arrow hit after the second grants additional progress. Reward: Upon hitting terrain for the first time, Scatter Arrow creates 2 additional arrows.
  • Redemption: Every 2 basic attack within 10 seconds grants 1 Redemption, stacking up to 15. Dying decreases Redemption by 3, and Redemption can be lost even at maximum stacks. At 15 Redemption, gain 50% increased attack speed.

Level 4

  • Explosive Arrow: Upon hitting a Minion or Monster, Storm Bow deals 100% of its damage to enemies around its target.
  • Serrated Arrows: Scatter Arrow deals 250% damage to Minions, Monsters, and Mercenaries.
  • Ignore All Distractions: Basic attacks instantly kills Minions and increase Hanzo's basic attack range by 2 for 3 seconds.

Level 7

  • Shieldbreaker Arrows: Basic attacks and Storm Bow deals 300% bonus damage to shields on heroic targets.
  • Never Outmatched: Reduce Scatter Arrow's mana cost by 40, down to 20. Basic Attacks lower the cooldown of Scatter Arrows by 4.
  • The Dragon Hungers: Hitting heroes with Storm Bow increases spell power by 5% for 10 seconds, stacking up to 20%.

Level 10

  • [R1] Dragonstrike (100-second cooldown): After 1.5 seconds, summon a pair of Spirit Dragons which travel forward, dealing 52 damage every 0.25 seconds to enemy Heroes in its area. Enemies in the center take 150 damage.

  • [R2] Dragon's Arrow (100-second cooldown): Fire a missile that travels across the battleground. Explodes upon hitting an enemy Hero, dealing 100 damage to all nearby enemies and Stunning them for 0.5 seconds. After traveling a medium distance, the damage is increased to 200 and the Stun duration to 1.25 seconds. After traveling a long distance, the damage is increased to 350 and the Stun duration to 2 seconds.

Level 13

  • Fleet of Foot: Hitting heroes with Storm Bow grants 10% movement speed for 6 seconds up to 30%.
  • Ninja Assassin: Hitting heroes with Storm Bow reduces Natural Agility's cooldown by 10 seconds. Additionally, hero takedowns reduce Natural Agility's cooldown.
  • Mounted Archery: Upon mounting, gain 30% additional movement speed for 5 seconds. Using Natural Agility instantly mounts.

Level 16

  • Flawless Technique: Hitting heroes with Storm Bow increases the damage of Hanzo's next basic attack within 5 seconds by 25%. Basic Attacks against heroes increase Storm Bow's damage within 5 seconds by 25%.
  • Piercing Arrows: Storm Bow and Scatter Arrow pierce, hitting an additional enemy. Additionally, Scatter Arrow can pierce through one additional enemy each time it ricochets.
  • Giantslayer: Enemy heroes hit by Scatter Arrow and basic attacks take 1.25% of their maximum health as damage.

Level 20

  • The Dragon Awakens: Hitting a hero with Storm Bow, Scatter Arrow or basic attack reduces the cooldown of Dragonstrike by 5 seconds.
  • Play of the Game: While in flight of up to 2 seconds after impacting a target, Dragon Arrow can be reactivated to teleport to its location and jump backwards. If used after impact, Hanzo shoots an arrow that deals X damage to each target.
  • Sharpened Arrowheads: Scatter Arrow limits the amount of armor heroes hit to 0 for 5 seconds.
  • Bullseye: Increase Sonic Arrow's speed and center radius by 100%. Additionally, heroes hit by Sonic Arrow's center are stunned for 1 second.

 

Hero Design

Hanzo is one of the two Heroes announced at BlizzCon 2017. He is an ability-focused, long-ranged Assassin that relies on pinpoint accuracy and environmental awareness to deal damage. His kit is an instantly recognizable and rather direct MOBA translation of his Overwatch skillset, as is the case for most Overwatch Heroes. It is worth noting that he cannot, however, deliver basic attacks while moving, something we have come to accept from Overwatch characters. His basic attacks are pretty strong but unusually slow for a ranged hero, starting at 0.67 speed, like Stukov. His sustained damage output is overall average. His health pool is also appropriately very limited.

Storm Bow (Q) is a two-part ability that first causes Hanzo to channel, causing him to be unable to attack but still able to move, and to ''aim'' towards your cursor's position. While in this state, which can be maintained indefinitely, the apparent range of the ability increases over the next 2 seconds to nearly double. Clicking or hitting the ability's hotkey once again releases a relatively fast projectile in the cursor's direction, dealing damage to the first target hit. If you've played Varus from League of Legends, you know exactly what to expect from this ability, except that the range isn't nearly as long as you'd hope it to be. The ability's damage is also (unintuitively, perhaps) completely independent from the channeling time, and the fact that it doesn't pierce by default (a level 16 talent allows it to do so) means that melee heroes end up being your main target for this one.

Scatter Shot (W) launches a tiny, long-ranged projectile that deals a trivial amount of damage to the first target hit. If this projectile hits unpathable terrain or a structure, it instead explodes to project fan of 5 new projectiles at an angle which damage the first unit they hit and will keep on bouncing off terrain and structures up to a maximum of 4 times. This ability would be quite unique if Junkrat's grenades didn't already use terrain to do something similar. The fact that Scatter Shot's doesn't pierce makes it difficult to use; you may find the right angle on a target that would be hit by multiple projectiles, but having something in the way can ruin an otherwise great shot.

Sonic Arrow (E) lobs an extremely slow arcing projectile which reveals a large area for 8 seconds upon landing. This effect also reveals stealthed heroes. If the projectile hits a unit, they take a bit of damage and the reveal circle instead "follows" that target for the duration. Reliably hitting an intended target was highly impractical, however, due to the projectile's really slow speed.

Dragonstrike (R1) causes Hanzo to channel towards the targeted area for 1.5 seconds. This area is not directly in front of him, but instead at a bit of an offset, meaning you could never hit heroes in melee range with this if you were to try (but probably shouldn't anyway). After 1.5 seconds, the iconic spirit dragons spawn and slowly creep forward to deal damage at a fast interval to anything near them, and about three times as much damage to enemies near the center of the area. This area is relatively thin, making this effect rather easy to sidestep even in smaller spaces. The expected Ryuugawa... ga teki... whatever-whatever Hanzo scream also warns you of the spirit dragon's impending apparition as a convenient reminder to all that they should probably move, not unlike Ragnaros' Lava Wave.

Dragon's Arrow (R2) fires a large arrow that moves quickly across the battleground, not unlike Sgt. Hammer's Blunt Force Gun. Upon hitting a hero, it deals a large amount of damage in an area around that hero and stuns all nearby enemies as well. The damage and stun duration scale at a set interval; hitting a hero close by does very little damage and stuns only for 0.5 seconds, whereas hitting a hero over a screen and two screens away respectively increase the damage and stun to more or less quadruple. It's impossible for me to not draw parallels with League of Legends' Ashe's own iconic ultimate ability here.

Natural Agility (Trait - D) causes Hanzo to jump above an unpathable piece of terrain or structure to land directy away from where the ability was cast. This one can't be used on terrain that was much larger than, say, two Diablos in size. I think I might just start using Diablo as a measure of game space from now on.

 

Impressions and Gameplay

If I could describe Hanzo's gameplay in a word, I'd probably have to go with disjointed.

I might just say something very unpopular here, but I've never been a fan of "imported" ability kits; to me, skills that were born in ARPGs and FPSs should probably remain there, unless tweaked beyond recognition to feel like they actually belong in a MOBA. I think something like Valla illustrates exactly what I mean: If I've always disliked Hungering Arrow and Multishot - two abilities initially created to be spammed in an ARPG environment at some outrageous rate against hundreds of monsters - for their gross simplicity, she, at, least, has the very MOBA-friendly Hatred to keep me interested, making her work for me. Hanzo, on the other hand, has no such thing; we are simply treated to a faithful yet dysfunctional port of the character that ends up feeling weird. Do I feel like an actual sniper when Storm Bow's range isn't much longer than that of most other abilities? Does Scatter Shot feel powerful when I can't target the floor to shotgun a nearby target due to the targeting limitations of a top-down game? Does jumping over a small wall every 30 seconds make me feel like an assassin seeking the perfect spot for a quick one-hit kill? No. None of this feels like Hanzo to me, which is really terrifying because Heroes of the Storm, we should never forget, is all about bringing these iconic characters to life in a MOBA. But what we got is Varus-Ashe-Legolas-McGeneric-Archer-Man, not Hanzo. This is a missed opportunity to have gotten way crazier with design.

To add to this, his abilities have no synergy with each other, making them feel thrown together without any real overarching design goal. Again, I want to blame the fact that the kit comes right out of an FPS, where skill synergy isn't nearly as important as in MOBAs to create appealing character gameplay.

Now that I've shared my general impression, I'm going to go over some of the things that stood out gameplay-wise.

Storm Bow was pretty difficult to use well, making hits satifying, but nothing too exhilerating like landing a headshot in Overwatch. I generally felt like Storm Bow dealt way too little damage for how long it had to be channeled, for how easy it was to avoid, and for the fact that it makes you unable to deliver basic attacks. The Flawless Technique level 16 talent (25% Storm Bow damage after using a basic attack) made it more reasonable. But right now, if you imagine a slower, shorter ranged, weaker hitting Chromie Sand Blast, you pretty much get Storm Bow. The short 4 seconds cooldown is worth noting, but the channeling time realistically made it more like a 6 seconds cooldown. I have the feeling that our devs didn't want Hanzo to fall in Chromie territories of arguably problematic design, but Storm Bow's range definitely feels off.

Scatter Shot was both fun and frustrating, if that's a thing. Fun, because I really liked the minigame involved in trying to land perfect 5-hit scatters against heroes. Frustrating, because that pretty much never happened. Let's put it this way: to get a good hit, your target needs to be close to a wall, but not too close nor in front of you, else they'll block the projectile, at the right angle, with nothing else between you and said wall. Much easier said than done. Moving your cursor just one pixel can completely change the angling of the shrapnels because of how "sensitive" the targeting is. But when it does work, it feels amazing... right? The damage is absolutely on the low side of things, making perfect hits cool, but nothing worth raving about. After a couple of games, I more or less ended up giving up on trying to get good hits and I'd just throw the thing in a semi-random fashion whenever I thought it might poke a few things. This is definitely not what I'd call a succesful implementation, which is a shame because the concept has potential.

Sonic Arrow was about as exciting to use as Lunara's Wisp.

Dragonstrike felt rather bland, though it did look amazing. I think the feeling of blandness is related to what I was talking about earlier. In an FPS, this ability makes sense as a novelty item and as a powerful ultimate: it passes through walls, travels through the entire battlefield, can surprise opponents from weird angles, and pretty much instantly kills anything it touches. It feels awesome because, to reiterate, in an FPS, it's not something you see often. In Heroes of the Storm, a MOBA, that's a completely different story; too much of the ability's depth has been lost in translation. It needs something because right now, it's a glorified Hyperion with a cast time that can't kill minions or hit structures. I'll say that it would be excellent for contesting boss captures, but so are most area of effect heroic abilities.

Dragon's Arrow also looked awesome and was frankly pretty fun to use. That's probably why every single MOBA out there has its own little version of the ability. The targeting reticle looked great and did a good job showing how the ability works with regards to its "growing" effect.

Natural Agility was probably the weirdest part of the entire kit. Besides the fact that it's a more situational (needs a wall or structure) version of Genji's Cybernetic Agility on twice the cooldown, using the thing just felt unresponsive. I think that part of the problem was that I couldn't easily gauge which environmental walls I was allowed to jump over. You also have to target near Hanzo and not where you're trying to land to actually trigger the jump, which is quite unintuitive. I wish Natural Agility could be used while channeling Storm Bow.

 

Balance and Viability

I'll keep this short: Hanzo brings very little to the table we haven't seen already, is difficult to play, and generally feels undertuned. Although Sonic Arrow is definitely on the strong side of scouting tools, other heroes don't have to give up an entire ability slot for a similar effect unless they're a Dryad that hits hard. I suspect Dragon's Arrow to be the heroic ability of choice because it actually felt rather powerful, and competes with something that wasn't all that good. His waveclear is poor, his siege/pve damage potential are both quite bad for an assassin, and he has no self-sustain (forget solo laning here), meaning he can't round off a team composition like a lot of other assassins can if you need some of the aforementioned niches filled.

 

Conclusion

Hanzo's skillset translates poorly into the MOBA genre. He feels undertuned numbers wise, and the fear of creating another Chromie has greatly limited the range of Storm Bow. His overspecialized kit makes him difficult to fit into a lot of team compositions.

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Almost none of this surprised me after reading the abilities and talents descriptions. Scatter arrow looks ridiculously hard to pull off. I am surprised about storm bow's review though. Well, they have an entire month... we'll see if that means anything.

I also noticed he has no talents for sonic arrow except 20. Probably need to adjust an ability if you can't even add talents for it.

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28 minutes ago, Warper said:

I also noticed he has no talents for sonic arrow except 20. Probably need to adjust an ability if you can't even add talents for it.

It's the WispWisp effect.

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11 hours ago, Oxygen said:

Let's put it this way: to get a good hit, your target needs to be close to a wall, but not too close nor in front of you, else they'll block the projectile, at the right angle, with nothing else between you and said wall. Much easier said than done. Moving your cursor just one pixel can completely change the angling of the shrapnels because of how "sensitive" the targeting is. But when it does work, it feels amazing... right?

I guess that is what we could call "Simple Geometry" (funny because he has a talent with this name). Maybe this Scatter Arrow has more value in very enclosed spaces, where you're more likely to hit when the arrow splits? Or maybe as just a waveclear tool because of "Serrated Arrows" at level 4.

But still, Hanzo has some pretty "in paper" broken talents, like "Ignore All Distractions" (insta-kill minions, wat) and "Shieldbreaker Arrows" (Storm Bow and Basic Attacks deal 250% shield damage, double WAT). Sure, he has very slow attack speed, but still. A talent that instantly kills minions on level 4? And one deals 250% shield damage on level 7? DAMN.

Anyway, I can't WAIT for your impressions on Alexstrasza, Mr. Not-Duck-Anymore-But-Now-Ethereal-Man. (Also, please check if she has a /dance command while in her dragon form)

Quote

I think I might just start using Diablo as a measure of game space from now on.

Well, the developers use Uther for scale, so you could do it your way and use Diablo, haha.

Edited by Valhalen

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1 hour ago, Valhalen said:

Maybe this Scatter Arrow has more value in very enclosed spaces

You'd think it would, but the initial projectile has to reach a wall, which can be awkward. Summons are annoying.

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1 hour ago, Oxygen said:

You'd think it would, but the initial projectile has to reach a wall, which can be awkward. Summons are annoying.

The projectile doesn't scatter unless it hits a wall?

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55 minutes ago, Valhalen said:

The projectile doesn't scatter unless it hits a wall?

Wall or structure, correct.

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Well, if you think Hanzo's purpose is to be useful/enjoyable to play, you are wrong.

He excels at a) being cancer (in whatever sense it is used), and b) make his team butthurt the moment he is picked. 

I see his true purpose translates to hots perfectly.ggwp

Edited by Jonar
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2 hours ago, Jonar said:

Well, if you think Hanzo's purpose is to be useful/enjoyable to play, you are wrong.

He excels at a) being cancer (in whatever sense it is used), and b) make his team butthurt the moment he is picked. 

I see his true purpose translates to hots perfectly.ggwp

Damn, that's meta. Well done.

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Your review mirrors a lot of what I had already been afraid of when reading his introduction/watching his spotlight... another lack luster champion it seems. Sad!

Edited by nie7e

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On 11/17/2017 at 3:17 PM, nie7e said:

Your review mirrors a lot of what I had already been afraid of when reading his introduction/watching his spotlight... another lack luster champion it seems. Sad!

Aye. They simply buffed his numbers a bit; no changes. I expect sub-40% win rates.

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On 12/5/2017 at 4:44 PM, Oxygen said:

Aye. They simply buffed his numbers a bit; no changes. I expect sub-40% win rates.

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      In most balance patches, we've seen focus on heroes that are currently in the meta - heroes like Hanzo, Fenix, Tracer, Genji, etc. are often changed and I think those changes are usually good. We also see reworks and half-reworks (like the recent Kael'thas and Gul'dan changes), which I also really appreciate.
      However, we are almost 6 months into 2018, and 36 heroes have still not received any balance changes this year. Only 11 of them are in the top half of popularity in both HL and HGC, and 18 are in the bottom half in both HL and HGC (data). Also, many of the heroes missing from that list received changes that were only small talent tree rebalances, not making them effectively more powerful.
      My question is: what's your philosophy regarding giving small buffs to weak heroes more frequently, and why is it not happening too often? Just a bit more health or damage or something else to heroes like Raynor, DVa, Illidan, Rexxar, and many more, could make them more powerful and increase hero diversity. Sure, Raynor's kit might be outdated and he might need a rework, but that doesn't mean that he has to be useless until he gets one - like for example Lunara, whose last significant changes were in July 2016 (sure, she wasn't as bad as Raynor, but still much less popular than other assassins most of the time).
      Good morning lerhond, and thank you for your question!
      This has been a very hot topic lately, and I want everyone to know that we are actively discussing and taking it to heart. You saw a bit of our reaction with the last balance patch, as we touched ~18 Heroes (a couple of them bringing very significant talent changes). There are a multitude of reasons that the amount of changes fluctuates each patch. A couple of these are:
      Stability
      With the exception of a couple outliers, the current state of the game is actually pretty evenly balanced. All but a handful of Heroes are sitting between 45%-55% win rate (70% of the roster is actually between 48%-52%). If we inject too many changes at once, we’ll have a hard time narrowing down the cause/effect of any particular change. This can become problematic as every change has a ripple effect and we don't want to upset the equilibrium too much at any given time. Perception vs Reality
      This one is what keeps us live/balance designers up at night. Let’s say that I come read reddit and see 10 threads on the front page about the frustrations surrounding Hanzo and how over-powered he is. I immediately run to our data dashboard and see that his win-rate is sitting at 46% (this is what it was before the last round of nerfs). What is the correct course of action - technically he needs buffs right? This is where balancing on win-rate alone becomes impossible. The frustration of playing against Hanzo has surpassed the reality that he is winning a lot less than he should. To 'fix' the issue we would need to make design changes alongside number tweaks, which take a lot more consideration and testing. In this example we opted to send out more nerfs in order to relieve frustrations and are internally looking at design changes to fix the core problem. Once we are happy with that, we can release it alongside some buffs in order to stabilize the Hero. In a perfect world we want each Hero in the Nexus to feel powerful and rewarding to play, but just as importantly to feel fair to play against. Razor Edges
      We have a handful of Heroes that walk on a razor's edge of balance. Each member of the live/balance team has been working on the game since before it was launched. We have seen a lot of situations where a very small number buff can turn a borderline Hero into a nightmare. As the perfect example, let’s look at the crowd favorite—Chen. There was a time where Chen was completely un-bear-able (tee-hee) to play against. In certain compositions, he still is! His design is very binary in that you can either deal with him and his trait, or you can't. This is something we can't really fix through tuning and need to go into much deeper design changes to fix. We have a handful of these types of Heroes and they are very much on our radar. All this said, we are definitely listening and we will be trying our best to keep bringing balance changes and design updates as frequently as possible. We love bringing patches like our last one and will do our best to keep that bar going forward!
      Is there no consideration of releasing detailed stats if only for reasons of perception? There's no way to see win rates aside from HotSLogs and there's no way to see real, concrete win rates at all. So of course any hero can be blamed as a problem because there's no real data other than anecdotal stories, particularly without HotSLogs. Why are things like win rate, pick and ban rate, MMR and so on hidden from players, then the design team has to basically try to appease everyone instead of saying "that's not happening and here's proof?" It seems like such a huge burden on the balance team and such a frustration to the player base that could both be killed with one stone.
      This is an ongoing discussion that involves people well above my pay-grade, sorry :(
      How do you feel about the lane mechanics patch of December 12, that was supposed to make "early game more meaningful"? Did you collect statistics on what it did to game outcomes?
      For example, in 2017 Western Clash, 34% of winning teams had lost a keep (indicating the game was pretty close). But in 2018 Western Clash, only 11% of winners were missing a keep.
      I ask because it appears to me like games got more-one sided, especially in terms of structure damage, and the opportunity for the trailing team to stablize after winning one teamfight has been reduced. That's particularly questionable in a game without a surrender button.
      Previously, after ~12 minutes of gameplay it was common for both teams to have lost 1-2 forts. But after the change, usually one team will have all forts alive. So even if the leading team screws up and is beaten in a fight, that's usually not enough for the opponent to comeback and achieve an equal position to win.
      Hey Senshado, thanks for the question!
      We had a few design goals with the gameplay updates that were released in December. One of those goals was to make the laning phase more meaningful. Laning is a great opportunity to showcase a player’s individual skill, especially on 3 lane maps. With the increased time before the first map objective, we also extended this part of the match and kept players laning for a little bit longer.
      Snowballs are always a potential concern for us. We tend to look at snowballs from an overall health of the game but also on a map-by-map basis. Braxis Holdout, for example, tends to be one of our more snowbally maps. As a result, we’re looking to explore some changes to the Zerg Wave mechanic on Braxis to address this individual map.
      The other side of things is that we want the early game to matter, but there is a balancing act in how much. A team’s decisions and execution at the start of a match should have some impact on the rest of the game, but not to the level where comebacks don’t exist or feel unlikely. This is a tight line we try and walk. I think in the past we’ve treaded on the side of “Early game doesn’t matter at all, both teams will hit 20 and the next team fight decides things.” It’s possible we’re too far the other direction now though.
      Thanks for the data on the 2017/2018 Western Clash stuff, we will take a closer look at that. Obviously HGC is very important to us, but it’s also important to remember that this is a very small sample size and a couple of very strong teams could easily sway this data significantly. We want to make sure that our changes are pushing the game in a positive direction for the highest level of play, but also for as many players as possible.
      Hi I'm very interested in the role rework.
      Can you supply us with any details about the new roles and specifically the tags that will be used in the new system and how they complement each other?
      Thank you very much for doing this. You guys are great!
      Good morning EasyTarget101,
      We are hard at work on both systems. I've been tanking a lot of the design work, and here's a sneak peek at what you can expect (keep in mind that this is still a work in progress and nothing is set in stone):
      Roles
      We are currently looking at six different roles: Tanks, Bruisers, Melee Assassins, Ranged Assassins, Supports, and Healers. This gives us enough bandwidth to classify the vast majority of our Heroes. That said, in Heroes we have several characters who bring something unique to the genre and as a result they don't easily fit within these conventions. Lost Vikings are a good example. We'll need to make some concessions in those cases. Tags
      I have personally been working on the tag system and although it is still very much a work in progress, we can share a few things. We want the system to be easy to understand, but also robust enough to give quality details about how each Hero plays. We currently have about 15 major tags (things like Wave Clear, Burst Damage, Crowd Control, etc.) that can be attached to a Hero. These should help players understand the focus of each Hero while also allowing them to find similar Heroes in their comfort zone or specific qualities they might need in a given draft/match. Are there any plans to redistribute the power in Azmodan's kit? It feels like he has too much gated behind Black Pool, and his base kit is useless because so much power is invested in his talents.
      We agree, Azmodan's Globe of Annihilation vastly overshadows the rest of his kit. We actually have him slated for a Talent Rework in the coming months to address this, as well as give him more Talents that can actually change the way that he plays. We don't like that the proper way to play the Lord of Sin is to rarely use All Shall Burn or Summon Demon Warrior, and we feel that the base power of the character isn't all that strong (Azmodan is one of the weakest characters in the game without Talents).
      A few tidbits from the upcoming update:
      Taste for Blood is becoming Azmodan's baseline quest. All Azmodan's level 1 Talents are going to alter the baseline quest, allowing you to add an additional bonus or way to get stacks. Summon Demon Warriors are getting a baseline damage aura, similar to Burning Rage. All Shall Burn won't last indefinitely, but instead does more DPS over a shorter period. Obviously, lots of new Talents to go alongside these changes, and hopefully spice up the way Azmodans play from game to game.
      Can you add a feature to allow us to save our settings in Try Mode so that when we exit it and go back in, it remembers our previous settings? (for instance, minions off, ally and enemy None, level 20, etc.)
      Good suggestion. Let me pass it on to the team and see what they think. Thanks!
      Are there any plans to redesign Kerrigan's Ultralisk heroic?
      Thanks for the question, players of Taiwan!
      We’d like to make the Ultralisk more of a moment and have more interesting gameplay for sure. Having the Ultralisk spawn/appear on the battlefield in a more interesting way is probably part of this. Maybe when you summon the Ultralisk, it charges towards the targeted direction, for example. We may also explore an active ability on the Ultralisk to enhance its unique gameplay moment. Kerrigan is on our list of characters we would like to update.
      Valeera was reworked in December then received two balance updates in January before being left alone. Is the development team happy with where Valeera is now? It seems like there were conflicting design goals between "Create builds people can follow based around openers" and "Valeera should be choosing which opener to use based on the situation".
      We think that Valeera is in a better state now than when she was released, but there's definite room for improvement. You've correctly identified one of our issues: players like to focus fully on a few openers and therefore as the game progresses and you pick Talents, you have fewer gameplay choices. That runs contrary to one of the design goals for Talents in our game, we want them to increase the options and abilities available to your character over the course of the game.
      Anecdotally: When we designed Valeera, we decided to make her different from Heroes like Zeratul by really capturing one of the World of Warcraft Rogue fantasies of locking down an enemy Hero. When Valeera was in development, the Valla/Greymane hyper carry meta was in full force, so we thought that this would also be a welcome addition to the game that would shake up the meta. If Valeera is good at locking down only one enemy, and a team's composition relied on having one major damage dealer, she'd be great at it.
      That's why the balance changes we've made to Valeera over time have tried to reduce her damage, and kept her focus on disabling one enemy. We're still trying to adjust the Talent tree to fit into that philosophy, and trying to balance making her good at reducing a carry without also making her too strong in setting up kills.
      Any plans to buff Rexxar?
      We don't have any current plans to buff Rexxar, however:
      1. He has a very high win rate, but we understand that he has a low play rate and that that matters. Part of this is obviously that he is a multi-unit control hero, so he already has a large barrier to entry.
      2. I believe that he also isn't played as much because he doesn't FEEL powerful enough to play for the work it takes to master him.
      I think we can do better here, but to be transparent we don't have any plans for changes right now.
      I'll add him to my list of things to do.
      I'm a dedicated rexxar player (lvl 89) and I think he's is a lot better than most people think.
      I think you're right when you say he isn't flashy and that lowers his appeal. A lot of what he brings is related to safety through vision and area denial. He's also fairly unique in that he can initiate and stun for mobile assassins while remaining in very safe positioning. But these things aren't immediately apparent unless you've gained enough experience with playing him.
      That said, I believe he doesn't see much play in competitive because you can't talent into protecting misha from burst damage until level 20, and you see coordinated teams pop Misha in an instant in the late game. I see this as his biggest issue. He once had a talent called Barkskin that gave misha spell armor after a charge - reinstating this talent at level 4 might be enough to really help him out in the short term.
      And there's also that bug that causes charge to go on cooldown with no effect... It's been bringing him down for years now.
      Thanks for all your hard work!
      I haven't heard of this bug. If you could get steps to replicate it and post on our forums, our QA team would gladly check it out.
      I've put some thought into what I wanted to ask, and I think at the end of the day, one question stood out despite its less statistical nature.  So, here goes:
      The community has increasingly called for more balance patches that give small "tweaks" to heroes that are falling out of favor, and in that light, larger balance patches like last week's have been mostly well-received.  Has the team given any serious thought to making these larger balance patches more of a regularly scheduled thing, so as to help provide continual smaller "tweaks" to heroes that don't need reworks, but are still dipping somewhat in popularity or success?
      I know that that the dev team said in the previous AMA that you don't want to shake up the meta too much with each new patch.  That's an understandable and respectable goal.  But I think that providing small numerical tweaks to heroes that are slightly under-performing could be rather beneficial for the many heroes who are not really in need of full reworks, but still need a little extra help getting back into the public eye.  I think Thrall is an excellent example of how a couple of occasional small "tweaks" can really help catapult a hero back into practice over time.
      They can also serve as reasonable "band-aid" fixes for heroes who might be getting a rework in the more distant future, just to keep them from being untouched for an extended period of many months while they await that rework.  Sure, it means having to reverse those changes later on, which is a bit more work, but I think it's worth considering for heroes that have been waiting a very long time for a proper rework, like The Lost Vikings for example.  If you know that it's going to take awhile to get to a particular hero, it seems relatively harmless to give them a nudge in one direction or the other to try and keep them viable in the meantime.
      I'm not saying that all balance patches have to be large, of course.  I understand that even minor tweaks can be extra work that your team might not be able to afford spending, especially with all the extra work your team is now putting into reworks.  Maybe once every 2 months or so, you tweak some numbers for around 10-15 heroes?  Or at least lay out some sort of schedule for patches like this last one, to make it into a more regular thing?  I just think that doing more patches like the recent one and making it consistent will really help ease people's minds on the balance side of things.  Everybody's always got their own things that they want nerfed or buffed, naturally, but if the game is getting a semi-regular infusion of changes, it will help keep things fresh and might help stave off the number of heroes that drop off the list of popular contenders.
      Thank you in advance for your time! :)
      Hey CriticKitten!
      First off, thanks for the work that you do. Your insightful posts on our balance patches are a great help to our community, and we all read your posts when you put them out.
      Secondly, great question! This is something that I'm personally very passionate about.
      The short answer is "yes," we like putting out smaller balance tweaks, and want to do it more often. However, there are many levels of balance changes, and each come with their own risks and rewards.
      Some examples of these, and their associated risks and rewards are:
      Small, numeric balance changes.
      These are changes like those made to Maiev in our last balance update, where we lowered her Health and increased the cooldown on Vault of the Wardens.
      These are usually used to influence pick and/or win rates. Simply put, in making these changes we want to move a hero or talent in a direction of being picked more or less often, so we buff or nerf them.
      PROS
      These are simple changes. The risk of unintentionally changing other parts of the game is relatively low. • As you mentioned, we can push out many of these changes in a short period of time, which can make the meta feel fresh and new. There is little Development and QA validation. We can make these changes in a relatively short amount of time, and the risk of bugs is much lower than other changes. This is a bigger deal than I think most people give credit for. More complicated changes just take longer to do to make sure that they come out in a polished state, and even then, the more complicated the changes, the more inherent risk that things will be missed. CONS
      They can't fix design-related problems. 1. To give an example, for Kael'thas's recent changes, I had a strong desire to help his Level 16 Talent tier, which has been dominated by Fury of the Sunwell for a long time. From a pure win-rate perspective, his other talents on the tier were close. I could buff them, but I was pretty confident that the numeric buffs would have to be so high to offset the "cool" factor of Fury of the Sunwell, that they would have to be absurd to get people to pick them. This is partly why we eventually settled on Ignite as a competing talent on the tier.
      Pick rate and Win rate are two very different things, and it's hard to make small, numeric balance changes without directly changing the win-rate of a hero. 1. A common problem we run into is that community perception simply doesn't match what's actually winning in the game right now, and if we tune up heroes who are "not performing well," they would start to have unreasonably high win rates pretty quickly.
      2. As an example, over the last year Probius, The Lost Vikings, Rexxar, Sgt. Hammer, and Samuro have pretty much been dominating in regards to win rate at high rank Hero League. I think it's pretty fair to say that these heroes haven't been considered overpowered over the last year. If we wanted to give them the Thrall small number buff treatment, as in your example, then these heroes would be pushing 60% and beyond pretty quickly.
      Reworks
      These are the large, dramatic changes to heroes, where we change a large part of their talent tree, and sometimes their base abilities as well. Our upcoming changes to Diablo and Lunara are examples of this.
      PROS
      We can fix complicated design-related problems. We can take lessons that we've learned from playing with/against these heroes over time and apply current design philosophies to them. We can remove or mitigate frustrating aspects of these heroes and give them more healthy gameplay. CONS
      We can alienate existing lovers of the hero. If we change them too much, inevitably some people are going to be upset that they play differently. These are a lot of work, and take a lot of time to validate and for QA to test. We can't just push them out quickly to solve immediate cries for change. There's a higher chance that reworks will result in unintended consequences for the meta due to the hero changing drastically—or because the hero is not being picked anymore due to the changes pushing them out of the current meta during their release, which results in a negative reception. Smaller Talent Updates
      These are changes where we change, remove, or add a small number of new talents to a hero. We do these less often, but we want to do more of them in the future. A recent example of this are changes to Kael'thas, where we changed a few talents but didn't fundamentally change how he plays. I'm a huge fan of these, as we can have the flexibility of fixing smaller design problems without having to wait to do a full rework of a hero (say 1-2 talent tiers on a hero that we really want to fix).
      PROS
      We have more flexibility. We can fix design-related problems that have plagued a hero for a long time without having to do a full rework. We can make a hero feel fresh and new without the risk of drastically changing them. We get a lot of the benefits of reworks with less of the downsides. CONS
      They're in that sweet spot where we can push these changes out much quicker than a normal rework, but that also means there are design changes that have less time for QA to validate. As an example, I'll totally take the blame for Kael'thas's Level 20 Pyroblast talent coming online at Level 10 when he came out. I made a simple mistake when implementing the new talent that we didn't have enough time to properly test. It's easy to go down the rabbit hole and turn a small talent update into a full rework. I also worry a bit that if we go in and fix some talents but not others, that there could be a negative reception around "well why didn't you fix everything?" When all is said and done, I think that we can do more small balance number tweaks and smaller talent updates. The key is using the right tool for the right job, which can be hard to properly discern when looking at the entire game. As a small nugget, we're currently working on a similar update for Stukov, which should be similar in scope to Kael'thas! =)
      I would like Matt Villers to answer this one, if possible. I absolutely love his insight. I am absolutely in love with Fenix! I Have been advocating for his release into the Nexus for a very long time. Do we have to wait for another SC anniversary in order to get an awesome character like Fenix from the BW universe?
      We'd actually been wanting to do Fenix for a while, and timing it with the SC2 anniversary worked out well. That said, we consider a huge number of factors when deciding which new Heroes to bring to the game and when, including balance across different roles and universes, and of course whether there are specific Heroes the development team or community are excited about (like Fenix!).
      While I can't go into specifics about future Hero releases, I can say both Blaze and Fenix were awesome BW additions to the Nexus and we're excited to explore more of those Heroes in the future. Do you have any specific ones in mind that you think would be good candidates? =)
      PvE Brawls : I loved the PvE style brawls you did in the past. Are there plans to do more of those, perhaps even a game mode that offers some approximation of 'a dungeon run' with boss stages and a chance for loot to drop?
      We loved working on those Brawls, so we're glad you guys enjoyed playing them. :)
      We don't have anything new to announce in this area, but we always love trying new things with the game.
      How concerned are you about mobility creep? Heroes like Genji, Hanzo, Tracer and Chromie either have a lot of mobility or a lot of range. They overshadow other heroes.
      We talk about mobility creep (and power creep in general) a lot as a design team. Here's our take on it:
      We always want to push the envelope of what our new characters can do. We think we can do that and still make these characters feel balanced and fair. Some Heroes probably pushed this envelope too far. We recently made balance changes to Genji, Hanzo and Tracer to reduce their mobility and force them to be a little more exposed when they try to do their thing. We're still tuning them, but overall we think they're in a much healthier state now than immediately after their respective releases. You can look forward to more Chromie changes in the future. I can't give a date, but we've started to experiment with various ideas, like pulling in her range further but reducing her cast time, and making her W visible to enemies. All of this is still early in development, but the idea is to make her feel more interactive with enemies, and not create such a binary experience for Chromie herself (if enemies reach her, she dies and can't do damage, otherwise she's untouched). We've discussed coming up with creative abilities that can combat mobility, but haven't really found one we liked that met all of our criteria so far. It would have to punish mobile characters without also hurting non-mobile ones, have clear implications of what it would stop and wouldn't stop, and make sense from a fantasy and clarity standpoint. Do you have any plans to take a pass at ults with extremely low pick rates? I know some like Gul'dans have been mentioned as getting looked at and possibly replaced just because they aren't that good in most all situations, but there are others too like KT's Frost Blast that are good, but just can't compete with the massive cooldown difference of Shadow Fissure (as people like to press buttons more often). This thread had a decent list of relatively low picked ults https://www.reddit.com/r/heroesofthestorm/comments/7xy52g/ultimates_with_less_than_20_pickrate/
      Good morning Tbkzord,
      Yes! We normally do a pass on these every few months. Unfortunately, sometimes our hands our bound as some of these disparities cannot be fixed with tuning due to:
      Perception: We feel some Heroics that are overlooked are actually extremely powerful (but maybe not meta at the moment). Past examples of this are Mighty Gust and Twilight Dream. Design: Some Heroes have one Heroic that enable a playstyle that is core to the Hero. We have been getting better at this on the Hero Design side, but we still have some outliers that we would like to eventually fix through design changes. The Varian and Diablo changes both gave them self-sustain. Have you changed your approach on what is required of a hero to be a solo tank?
      Diablo was played as a solo tank even without sustain in his base talents (although Devil's Due was effectively mandatory)
      Late response, but I do what I want!
      We don't think that all tank Heroes need self-sustain, but it doesn't hurt. We specifically added it to Diablo because we wanted Fire Stomp to feel more meaningful, but we didn't want to add a ton of damage to Diablo. It also fit well with any Talents that increased the damage of Fire Stomp, since that could mean more healing for Diablo too (which as a tank should be one of his primary focuses).
      We added it to Varian because it gave him more solo lane presence that he would need as an occasional bruiser, and it was a method of survival that wasn't tied to Parry (since too much of it was tied into Parry already, causing Talent issues).
      Are you considering adding maps that have weather effects which influence the gameplay? E.g. a fog that would reduce vision for everybody or a blizzard that slows everybody’s movement?
      Hey Valeera, I didn’t see you there!
      We have talked about this a little bit. Early on in development for Garden of Terror, the night cycle actually reduced player vision range significantly – this is a mechanic that we felt was interesting in Warcraft 3 and wanted to explore it. Ultimately, we didn’t end up doing this for a couple of reasons. First off, it tended to result in more passive play, players were scared to move around the map without their team. It also set a more dreary and dark tone for the match. As a development team we felt that this could psychologically take a toll on the player.
      That being said, there is more room for us to explore here, whether that’s a Day/Night cycle, weather effects, or other layered events on top of our Battleground mechanics. One thing we always consider is making sure that our Battlegrounds provide a unique area for our epic heroes to do battle in. We like player driven events that require team action. Events that happen automatically that put the hero or the player in a backseat are things that we would explore cautiously. Ultimately, the Battlegrounds should enhance the heroes and make the players feel more awesome, not overshadow them.
      What is the future of multiclass heroes?
      I find it odd that Kharazim can select his trait at the start of the game, going between damage, healing, or inbetween - but he's a support. However Varian selects his ult (and honestly, his traits) at level 4, and is a multiclass hero even though it's just a pick between damage and tankiness.
      Thanks for the question crimsonBZD!
      Multiclass was really an exploration for us in talent design. How far can we let a player alter the direction of their hero through the talent system?
      When we update our new role system, we’re planning to remove multiclass as a category. Varian would likely fit into a couple of the new roles, most likely Tank and Bruiser. There would be a handful of other characters who fit into multiple categories, Kharazim or Zarya are other strong candidates for this.
      Does the dev team see Brightwing as underpowered, out of the meta, or something else?
      Hey again ChaosOS,
      I am not sure she is underpowered, per-say, but definitely out of the meta. I would love to see some small tweaks to her in order to fix that. Hopefully soon!
      What is your plan for newer players in this game? As in, how will you relieve the pressure of nearly half the roster being 10k gold. I can understand having to pay to unlock heroes, but I do believe that their cost should make it possible for a person to unlock the entire roster within a reasonable timeframe. In the past this was mitigated with regular events that give out free heroes or bundles that just straight up give you 20 of them for free. There has been no such thing since the bundles disappeared last year and the price reductions are disproportionate to the hero releases.
      It's definitely a goal of ours to continue to reduce the gold and gem prices of older heroes. Right after Heroes 2.0 launched, we slowed this down because of all the other changes that happened during that time. We've since picked this back up and plan to continue to be vigilant in reducing gold and gem prices for existing heroes.
      I should also call out that we don't do this simply based on time in the game. There are other factors that go into the decisions about which heroes to lower gold prices on, like we might be more aggressive on gold price drops for newbie friendly heroes, while being a bit slower on complex or high skill floor heroes.
      We'll definitely keep looking for compelling ways to offer extremely low cost hero bundles, or in some cases just outright giving away a hero or two.
      How do you prioritise what heroes to balance first? It gives the impression that heroes are not balanced/reworked based on their real power and role but mostly on their popularity.
      Hey Kilma!
      Great question! Here is the rough order we tend to follow when prioritizing who to balance:
      1) Newly Released Heroes: This is normally done in the two-week balance patch following the release (occasionally this comes quicker if we need to react sooner).
      2) Hot Heroes: We are scanning the forums and reviewing feedback constantly. If we see balance conversations and threads with supporting data backing them up, we will very likely make changes quickly.
      3) Heroes Outside of Our Bands: Unless we have a very good reason, Heroes that are sitting outside of our 45%-55% win-rate band will most likely see number changes to bring them back within bounds.
      4) Dusty Heroes: Sometimes a Hero hasn't seen any meaningful changes in a very long time. We try to go in and see if there are any number changes that can help freshen them up.
      5) Passion: Lastly, all of us have Heroes that we are currently spamming in Hero League and are very passionate about. If we feel that there are some fun and easy changes to help these Heroes, being intimate with that Hero's kit helps expedite these changes.
      Medivh: If Circle Of Protection makes Arcane Explosion 3-5 times as strong, is it possible to balance Medivh builds that have both those talents with builds with just one?
      If Zarya's talent for +1 shield makes it untalented, why does Medivh's talent for +4 shields leave them talented?
      If Tassadar doesn't get more damage by hitting two Psionic Storms on an enemy, why does Medivh get more damage by hitting two Arcane Explosions on an enemy?
      This sort of question is interesting for us because there are two competing objectives at play.
      Where possible, we really like to let talents "stack" with one another because it makes them a lot more fun to think about and discover for yourself when playing. When we let cool interactions happen, you get to feel smart for finding and utilizing those combinations. And while minor, it's also nice to keep things simple and not include extra rules or limitations where they aren't needed.
      On the other hand, we absolutely do have to be careful about multiplicative synergy or what we often call "stacks on stacks." At best, having too much hard synergy can make talent choices feel limited, and at worst, it could limit space for the Live Design team to make needed adjustments if there are multiple talents that depend on one another to be effective.
      Usually our approach during development is to start by letting talents stack, and then playtest extensively to discover cases where it feels necessary to add extra rules. We also talk a lot about past Hero releases where we felt like synergies may have been too strong, and use that to inform talent design for future Heroes and reworks.
      PS: Nice username. I also enjoy a good tank battle =)
      Have you considered using the PBM algorithm to determine the MVP or other recognitions for the victory screen? If not, do you have any other plans for the PBM algorithm, for example to tell players where they compare to better/similar players?
      Because that would be kinda cool. Also if we could get a complete overview of our stats after a game, and not just random "you did great no matter what buddy, here's a random stat" toast notifications. I want to know how bad I am to hit with skillshots. I want to know how much mana I spent on clearing minions.
      I want to improve, I don't want a guaranteed pat on the back no matter what. It feels so dumb, almost patronising.
      So I talk a little bit about the information tooltip we are adding in this response: https://www.reddit.com/r/heroesofthestorm/comments/8jvnmu/balance_and_design_ama_with_heroes_developers_may/dz30qlu/
      Regarding using the PBMM algorithm/data in other places like MVP: Yes, this is something we've talked about doing! After we get the system out live, we're going to look at a lot of other places where we can use this algorithm/data to improve the game. MVP is definitely one of those. Catching AFK/feeders/griefers is another area.
      Will we see more attempts at reworking/balancing less competitive maps like BHB, GoT or Mines?
      Personally I would rather old maps be brought up to current standards than see new maps in the future.
      Thanks for the question Mostdakka.
      Yes, we want to level up our existing battlegrounds in the same way that we revisit heroes with our hero reworks. Depending on the scope of the changes, these typically have a longer development timeline compared to hero updates though. A few examples:
      • Braxis Holdout: We’re looking to make some tuning changes to the composition of the Zerg wave at various completion levels. This is to address some issues where this battleground can be very snowbally. These changes are something we can implement very quickly and easily, and most of the focus is on design. As such, the biggest constraint here is testing the map and validating it across many playtests.
      • Garden of Terror: This is larger in scope compared to Braxis, but it is something we’re actively working on. Our current exploration has us making changes to the collection mechanic (fighting Shamblers and larger bosses to collect 100 seeds), the reward mechanic (currently a vehicle) and some small layout changes. All of this requires lots of playtesting amongst design and other groups, but also requires changes to Art, VO, UI, etc. As such, this is larger in scope and has a longer development timeline.
      • BHB & Mines: I absolutely think it’s important that we make changes to both of these Battlegrounds. We previously did an update to Haunted Mines which ultimately didn’t address some of the issues this map has. Due to that, I think we need to go even larger in scope and not have leave anything off the table for either of these Battlegrounds. To give a rough timeline: These are both a long ways off. We’re starting early exploration into these but the team is working hard towards wrapping up Hanamura & GOT first.
      PBMM : In the past I believe you said that before you implement it in game you might consider showing it to us in the UI before actually making the effect of PBMM go live, perhaps as a sanity check to catch any crazy outliers where the system was not working as intended. Is this, or something like this still the plan?
      Yes, this is still the plan!
      In a future update (not for a few more patches), we're going to add a tooltip to the end-of-game screen which will let you see how the system thinks you did in the various criteria that it is using to judge your performance. This will help you understand what areas you are doing well in, and what areas you may want to consider focusing on to improve your performance.
      We will have the PBMM rank point adjustments turned off for this initial release. We're just going to provide the information that the system would have used. During this "beta" period we'll gather feedback from you guys and monitor how the stats are looking internally. Then we'll turn on the point adjustments in a subsequent season.
      How does the balance team feel about Varian's level 4 diversity? Both Colossus Smash and Twin Blades still seem to struggle post-rework, even if the rework as a whole made the hero better designed and more viable.
      Varian's a tricky one! First, some stats for context.
      In Hero League, Hero Level 10+, Diamond League+, Deckard Release:
      Taunt - 75% pickrate, 50.3% winrate Colossus Smash - 17% pick rate, 48% winrate Twin Blades - 8% pick rate, 47.8% winrate Ideally, we'd probably want to get Taunt to about 50% pickrate, and maybe 30/20 amongst the two DPS specs. The damage Heroics could use a small buff, though the winrate isn't quite as bad as the memes would lead you believe.
      We have some plans to give both Colossus Smash and Twin Blades some more Health in a coming patch (just went into internal playtesting yesterday, so I can't give a date yet).
      When can we expect a Vikings update? Would it be possible to give back their basic abilities and rework their trait?
      Having globe collection be a focus of their play style is key because it forces them to micro out of bushes and from behind gates to get value. Something like increasing damage or health pool from globes would be much more interesting than health regen which is meaningless on low hp heroes
      We love The Lost Vikings, and think they're important to the game as a whole as they exemplify how Heroes of the Storm is unique among MOBAs. I can't give you any specifics on a date or scope of a rework since we haven't decided on anything yet, but here's what I can share:
      We don't like that the Vikings' primary function is to be in all lanes to soak experience. We love when the Vikings work together, and think that the coolest part of the Hero is having 3 units that combined are stronger than their individual pieces. We would like to see the Vikings be more accessible. There's a small section of the player base that loves the Vikings, but by and large they are not a very popular Hero due to their power feeling hidden and their high micro demands. We would love to see more interactivity and plays made with their kit. We have to balance that out with making them approachable. Again, keep in mind that these are just our thoughts, and it might be that we may drastically change their kit... or just make small tweaks over time. We honestly don't have any concrete plans yet, but I wanted to be very transparent and share what we think about the Hero at the moment. We would love to get them into a more prominent role in the Nexus at some point, though.
      Very excited to get third ban in the game for HL.
      However, the current schedule puts the release somewhere in the 4th to 6th week of HGC and the 1st to 2nd week of HGCopen.
      Would it be possible to push the 3rd ban to the tournament draft mode sooner rather than later so it is in effect for the first week of HGCO and HGC.
      The sooner teams can begin scrimming with it the better.
      Thanks!
      So our dev work has 3rd Ban dropping with the release that comes out with the next season roll. We outlined the timing in this recent blog post: https://news.blizzard.com/en-us/heroes-of-the-storm/21771817/ranked-play-enhancements-coming-with-2018-season-3
      However, we'll be discussing the exact ban process with HGC teams leading up to that so that they can develop their strategies. We'll also have that patch up on the PTR before it goes live for some testing in the client.
      Is there any chance, even slim, of a hero being reworked into a whole different role?
      So in general when doing a rework, we try to keep the vibe (and role) of the hero the same while making improvements to their feel, power, and utility.
      Having said that, we've talked internally for a while now that we don't think this is a hard rule. We would be open to making significant (and drastically different) changes to a hero if it made sense to do so. Maybe to the point of even changing their role. Obviously, this would probably only ever be considered on a hero which has very low pick rates, or simply doesn't fit in the current game anymore (and lesser changes wouldn't be effective).
      Do you guys have any thoughts on what current Heroes in the game you think we should consider taking this approach?
      Abathur has already been played as a solo support hero in HGC multiple times and as other supports receive nerfs, he continues to become more competitive in this role. Does the potential viability of support Abathur concern the balance team? Will Abathur be balanced around this role in the future?
      Thanks for the question LuckyLightning!
      Personally I think it's really cool that solo-support Abathur has emerged as a fringe strategy. One of the exciting things about playing and watching games in this genre is when these very unique types of strategies have some success, so we're hesitant to immediately remove it until it becomes a larger problem.
      As far as longer term, Abathur isn't considered a primary Healer for his team, so if this became "the" way to play him, then that would be a concern, additionally because his healing is tied to his Level 1 talent.
      I won't say never, but there's a very low chance that Abathur would be balanced around being a primary healer in the future, and we have no plans for it.
      Will there be any mechanics specially designed to counter mobile skills?
      In Hots there have been many mechanics designated to counter one particular behavior of enemy heroes. There are blind for basic attacks, silence for spell casting, healing reduction for regeneration, shield breaker, for shield of course. Physic armor for physical damage, and magic armor or magical dmg. Region control skills like probius' w, warp gate, and Tassadar's force barriers for heroes with low mobility. But why isn't there a mechanic aimed only at countering high mobility?
      Currently we are using versatile controls as stun and root to fight against heroes with movement skills. Stun, root, taught, silence, stasis, all these mechanics, however, work on every hero. Being versatile means not being a "counter". And in fact they hurt heroes with low mobility more, for its harder for them to dodge or recover from the these controls. What about some mechanic which punishes only teleporters while "pedestrians" are not affected, instead of bringing in more stun/ root chains to further hurt those who aren't evasive enough?
      I happen to initiated a thread several days ago here on this topic. Suggestions I got there could be categorized as following types: 1. a debuff that triggers after blinking. Like an ignition that intensifies after the use of mobile skills ; 2. a recall to reverse the movement. For instance, a skill's passive ability allow the hero to see an after image at the start location of enemy movement skills for a certain duration. Casting the skill on the after image to deny the blink and bring target hero to where he/she was. 3. Some kind of barrier, could be linear or circular, which only blocks mobile skills but not regular movement. 4. Some bleeding effect that deal damage over distance the target hero travels.
      Hi Claimertoad,
      While we have no concrete information to share at the moment (Sorry, wish there was), I can say that we have had meetings about this exact thing and are exploring ideas on how to make this type of 'grounding' mechanic a reality. :)
      Melee assassins are rarely viable at the moment. Either ranged heroes just out poke them and are too mobile to be caught, or you’re getting CC’d and you can’t engage. Are there any plans to help melee assassins out, maybe even by giving more Supports Cleanse again, to enable these heroes?
      Thanks for the question Zeratul!
      I think this is more of an issue with the current meta and the range of some ranged heroes and less a problem about melee assassins. We've recently nerfed the auto-attack range of Hanzo and Fenix, which should help with this feeling of being poked out all the time.
      As a counter-point, there are quite a few melee assassins that are performing very well at high level play, including Kerrigan (56%), Samuro (55.4%), Thrall (54.3%), Maiev (53.8%), Valeera (52.1%), and Malthael (52%). Not all of these heroes are seen a ton in the current meta, but they are performing very well, so I'm personally concerned that this is largely a perception issue about it feeling bad to be poked to death by ranged assassins, and less an issue of melee assassins actually being weak.
      Also to answer the second part of your question, we don't currently have plans to give other supports Cleanse.
      It's tricky to simply buff these melee assassins to get them to see more play, as they can easily become overpowering in their games, especially if the meta shifts more in their favor and they become more popular.
      Any news regarding Hanamura?
      There has been a lot of work and testing on this Battleground internally. We've made a lot of good progress, and have plans to talk about the specific changes some more in the future!
      Stitches tree is one of the older ones left in the game with lots of boring talents like "+50% slam damage". Are there any plans to freshen him (Stitches) up?
      Hey ChaosOS - thank you for all of your amazing posts and support!
      Yes - I am currently slated to take point on looking at him in the near future. This may change, but I hope it doesn't as I am hooked on some fun new ideas!
      Hi friends! How do you guys feel about Brightwing: are you happy with how she compares to modern supports like Alexstraza and Deckard?
      Simply, I think Brightwing fine right now. If it ain't broke Don't fix it. Her healing numbers could be a bit higher to compete with the likes of Lucio or Auriel but it's not a massive concern. Her talents are very well balanced but slightly outdated. No quests for example. Again I'm not screaming for a rework. I'm currently 56% WR in ~260ish games with her but I can't help but feel she can be a bit underwhelming as a solo healer. I'd love to hear something official on this
      P.s. Any chance of an updated model? Brightwing physical redesign has been rumoured for ages.
      Hi 27th_wonder,
      We love Brightwing - she is personally one of my favorite supports! She has gone through a couple major updates in the past but I would not be surprised to see another head her way in the future.
      If I were going to start working on her right this second I would probably start by looking at the following:
      Is there a way we can make her healing more interactive? How can we embrace her global nature? Are there some more interesting build-paths we can explore? Some players wanted other supports to be brought up to the level of Stukov and Malfurion, but you guys went the other route to restore support diversity. Why did the balance team determine that nerfing the top two healers was the correct way to restore diversity rather than buffing the healing output of less popular options?
      This is a very popular question on the forums.
      Each of us on the balance team has slightly differing views on the subject, and we all work together to come to the best consensus we can. The reasoning behind the last round of changes came down to two major reasons:
      They were both over-performing and out-classing the other Healers in the game. Stukov and Malfurion were dominating drafts and winning more than their counterparts by 3%-4%.
      We are being very careful not to power-creep the Healers as we do not want to step back into a mandatory double-support meta. When it comes down to it, ending a game in a timely manner relies on players actually dying.
      Here is some (hopefully) fun win-rate data since our last patch:
      Auriel: 54.8% Deckard: 52.7% Alexstrasza: 52.7% LiLi: 52.2% Ana: 52.1% Brightwing: 51.8% Morales: 51.1% Lucio: 50.7% Malfurion: 50.4% Rehgar: 50.2% Kharazim: 49.9% Uther: 49.7% Stukov: 47.8% As you can see, the Healers are all pretty close in terms of viability (this is data from Hero League @ Diamond+, Hero Level 10+). It would seem that we may have hit Stukov a bit too hard and under-estimated the 5% PvE buff we gave Auriel.
      Any plans for Tyrande?
      She is neither a good support nor a good assasin actually. Do you have plans to pushing her in one role or make her a bit like varian, that she can choose her role?
      We have a meeting later today to discuss her. We have ideas.
      How did you get into design and balancing for heroes of the storm?
      I know for one I like to speculate on how to fix certain problems for heroes and I bet there are a ton of others that do the same. I bet there are a few people that would like to get into the industry and have some insight into the career path that got you into the spot.
      side not: Shot out to "GoodKnight for the glory of mobile" of hearthstone.
      Many years ago I was a Customer Service Rep in our Billing department (you may have talked to me at some point!), but got my start in Design by working on projects for the SC2 Arcade in my spare time. I had so much fun making maps that I decided to pursue a career in Level Design, and after a temporary assignment on Diablo 3, I had the honor of joining the SC2 Campaign team to work on Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void missions.
      While working on SC2, we started the project that you know today as Heroes of the Storm, and as a MOBA fan I was fascinated with it. I spent a lot of time talking with the team and regularly sent them lengthy feedback emails about which new Heroes I'd like to see and how I'd design them, or which Talents I'd always or never pick on existing Heroes and why, much the same as many of our players do here. The Heroes team saw my passion for the game and, after work wrapped up on Legacy of the Void, they offered me a chance to come over and work with them—which I happily accepted =)
      Based on my experience both from applying for Design jobs, and later being involved in hiring others for those jobs, the single biggest piece of advice I can give is to pick up a tool and start making things. I often see people complain that "even entry level jobs require experience," which is true to some extent, but the thing that some people don’t realize is: modding and making your own small game projects is a totally valid way to gain that experience.
      If you can apply for a design job with playable samples of your work, it will show you're capable of both creating and executing on a design. If you can walk into an interview prepared to discuss what decisions you made on your projects and why, it will give you a huge leg up over the competition. Remember that every game studio is different and they're much less interested in whether your answers are "correct" than they are in seeing how you think about the design choices you've made and your ability to clearly communicate why you made those decisions.
      Good luck and I hope this helps!
      Talents: There are many talents that clearly underperform compared to others in their tier, e.g. Maiev’s Tier 4 talent Pin Down is clearly worse than any of her other talents. Can we expect to see buffs to these underperforming talents with bad win rates?
      Yes, we're always looking at making these tiers healthier. Sometimes that means we can make tuning changes, sometimes it means we need to make design changes so that two Talents aren't competing with each other to accomplish the same goal. We periodically do sweeps of Talent trees and try to make a series of small incremental adjustments. Typically you'll see a lot of these changes in our balance patches two weeks after the release of a Hero or Rework.
      A long, long time ago it was mentioned that the team would like to get the Heroes branch of the SC2 editor out to the public.
      Is a publicly available editor something we still might see down the line? I personally wouldn't care how rough around the edges it is - I'd just love to actually fiddle around with all of, and would be more than willing to pay an entry fee if that's necessary, as I'm sure the fact it'd give players full access to any hero of their choice is a concern.
      It's something that we've definitely discussed in the past. Of course we've seen a lot of awesome content created by the communities in War3 and SC2 (I personally worked on parts of the custom map support for both games), but it's not something we are actively working on for Heroes right now. Maybe we can revisit in the future. :)
      Is it true you're moving away from specialized heroes and releasing more rounded ones for the foreseeable future?
      I understand that you think draft has too much weight in the winning of a game, but generic, "good at everything" heroes are going to be samey and boring. Schtick doesn't carry them forever. They also tend to overshadow older heroes.
      Whenever we work on a new Hero (or rework), one of the questions we stop to ask ourselves is "What is this Hero's role on a team and who are they competing for a spot with? Why would I pick them over other Heroes?".
      Different Heroes having different capabilities is important if we want to provide a meaningful answer to that question. However when we put too much emphasis on counter-picking, it can create a situation where match outcomes depend too much on how you played the draft lobby, and not enough on how well you played the actual game.
      To offer a concrete example, Deckard and Stukov are Heroes who reflect the shift in philosophy we've been talking about. Both of them bring reasonable levels of burst and sustained healing to the table, as well as powerful CC and utility, but beyond those similarities they also bring very different things to a team. This is the goal we're aiming for when we talk about making Heroes less sharply specialized.
      We're not going to stop giving Heroes unique playstyles with distinct strengths and weaknesses. We still think it's important that you can make meaningful choices in draft based on your composition and the Battleground you're playing on. The important thing is not to put so much emphasis on that aspect of the game that it feels like Rock-Paper-Scissors.
      Is completely reworking a hero’s kit on the table? And if not, why?
      Balancing hero design and character fantasy is an important task while designing a hero I imagine. A hero can be bad at one of those, but if they are good at the other we manage to live with that.
      What I don’t get is when heroes like Tassadar and Nova who neither fulfill the characters fantasy (ever played Nova on SC2?) nor do they have interesting kits (plasma shield? Phase shift? Can you even balance a kit like that?) get to still exist as if we even wanted them there.
      I wanna know why is it still not a consideration completely overhauling a hero’s kit when the community in general would agree certain heroes are misrepresented and deserve better kits.
      Thanks for the question Ultrajante!
      The short answer is yes, but it's going to be extremely rare. There's a large cost to completely dismantling a hero's kit in regards to players being unhappy with the changes purely because we removed a hero that they know and love to play. There's also a risk that the changes also don't pan out, and we just wasted a bunch of time for a side-grade in regards to design and popularity of the hero.
      However, if a hero needs it enough, we aren't above drastically changing abilities. We've begun to do this with Garrosh's Q and Genji's Dragonblade, and I can see us doing it more often down the line.
      "Is there a reason you got rid of Diablo's Health percentage damage without any compensation?"
      We feel like we've actually properly compensated the rest of his kit, though Devastating Charge does have more counterplay now. We removed the percentage Health on Devastating Charge because we thought his unrestricted ability to kill enemies regardless of their high Health pools or defensive buffs wasn't healthy for a tank character. There weren’t many ways to counter it besides positioning or immunities. We tried to keep the spirit of what Devastating Charge is, and actually if used on a lower Health Hero will do basically the same damage it did previously (more if you can get external Spell Power or reduce enemies Armor).
      One of the challenges facing reworks—especially ones affecting characters who are already powerful—is that we have to take away from somewhere in order to add additional power in order to keep them balanced. Sometimes this means we trim out some of the less important or noticeable effects (like the armor on Shadow Charge), and sometimes we have to add additional counterplay to already powerful existing effects (like Devastating Charge).
      "Any changes planned for Cho's level 16 talent Surging Dash?"
      Yes. It's a bit too transforming when Cho gets the Talent, and shuts down too much of the counterplay for opponents after level 16. We'll likely keep the overall balance of Cho in mind (he's still really powerful in Team League and Quick Match, so it might be okay to just flat nerf).
      "Why did you feel Hanzo needed the longest AA range in the game when he was released?"
      First, a bit of history on Hanzo development (this was partially explained in Kent-Erik's BlizzCon talk last year on Hanzo). When we were working on Hanzo, we started to become hyper-aware of the frustration that long range Heroes can pose at times. We were pursuing a sniper fantasy for Hanzo: his Storm Bow (Q) had a much longer longer and did much more damage than it does now. What we decided to do was pull in his Q range, increase his Basic Range, and shift some of the power of his Q over to his Basic Attacks. I think the version of Hanzo that shipped is a more fun Hero to play against than the one we were iterating on at the time (which was essentially Chromie with mobility).
      Then his release happened, the winrate wasn't especially high, so we made a bunch of buffs to the Hero. That pushed his Basic Attack damage into an area that started to make the range feel frustrating again. In hindsight, we should have reduced the Basic Attack range when we increased his damage to a point where being "poked" by it was really becoming meaningful.
      Hopefully that makes sense!