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2018 Gameplay Update: A More Meaningful Early Game

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The 2018 gameplay update brings a lot of improvements to the game. This article focuses on updates that make early game and the laning phase more impactful.

It does not contain any information about performance-based matchmaking. For more information about the gameplay update, don't forget to check out the most recent developer Q/A here.

TL;DR

  • Structures
    • Will have infinite ammo.
    • Standalone towers will be removed.
    • True sight will be added to Structures.
      • True sight means that towers will detect stealthed Heroes.
  • Regeneration Globes
    • Will switch from allied to neutral after 3 seconds and remain available for either team to pick up for an additional 3 seconds.
  • Battleground Mechanics
    • Many objective timers have been simplified.
    • Players will receive objective information earlier.
  • Mercenary Camps
    • Knights will have more pushing power.
    • Enemies hit by Hellbats will have their armor slightly reduced for a few seconds.
    • Siege Giants can be captured without taking any damage.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard (Source)

As mentioned in the BlizzCon 2017 opening ceremony and during our “What’s Next” panel, we will soon be introducing an array of significant changes for Heroes of the Storm’s early game as part of our 2018 Gameplay Update. Read on for an in-depth look at some of the adjustments coming to the Nexus later this month, as well as our reasoning behind them.

What’s Changing and Why

The early game in Heroes of the Storm typically breaks down into two parts: the laning phase and initial battleground objectives. The laning phase offers opportunities for players to have small skirmishes in each lane, show off individual skill by outplaying opponents, and get in some early structure damage. During most games, the laning phase currently ends more quickly than we’d like, and outplaying an opponent in a lane doesn’t have much tangible impact on a match as a result.

With this in mind, we wanted to revisit these experiences to explore ways we could make improvements. We’ve re-evaluated our approach to many aspects of the early game, and made a variety of changes to structures, regeneration globes, mercenary camps, and even our objective spawns, to make laning more meaningful throughout a match. 

Structures

Ammunition Removed

Currently, towers, forts, and keeps have a limited number of shots and regenerate ammo slowly. Often, players will quickly defeat a minion wave, and then play safe while their own minions push enemy towers and drain ammunition. We wanted to revisit this relationship to see if we could find a way to encourage more offensive play in-lane.

After testing a variety of changes internally, we decided to remove structure ammunition, effectively giving towers, forts, and keeps an infinite number of shots. Since ammo can no longer be depleted, we’ve also reduced structure damage to minions, and increased minion damage to help them hit a little harder. These changes should give players a bit more incentive to attack with their minion waves in order to deal more meaningful damage to opposing towers. 

Standalone Towers Removed

We also began re-evaluating individual structures, and found the standalone towers near forts and keeps aren’t coming into play as often as we’d hoped. Once they do, it’s usually too late, and the other structures have already been destroyed. Standalone towers can also block defenders during critical moments, making it easier for enemies to predict their movements and pick them off.

As a result, we’ve decided to remove standalone towers, and have been happy with how this has played out in testing so far. In fact, we’ve already tried out this change in the live game with our newest battleground, Volskaya Foundry, which was released earlier this year without standalone towers. To compensate for the removal of standalone towers, we've rolled some of their stats into surrounding gate towers, forts, and keeps, to beef them up and help maintain the relationships between fortifications and battleground objectives.

True Sight

Characters like Abathur and Murky commonly rely on standalone towers as protection against stealth Heroes like Zeratul, who are looking to hunt them down. Removing those towers makes these Heroes more vulnerable, but we still want players to be able to defend their fortifications effectively. We’ve given True Sight to Forts and Keeps, which already exists on the Core and reveals any enemy stealth Heroes who enter the structure’s attack range. Despite the removal of standalone towers, players should feel a little safer while trying to hold off attacks.

Regeneration Globes

We like what regeneration globes currently do for the game, but also wanted to see if there were any changes we could implement to make them even more impactful. Currently, they encourage players to consider how they approach fights over minion waves in order to maximize sustain and keep up the pressure in a lane. They also disappear if no allies pick them up after a few seconds.

We’ve tweaked regeneration globes so they instead switch from allied to neutral after 3 seconds and remain available for either team to pick up for an additional 3 seconds. This will give players more opportunities to think critically about how to win their lanes, and skilled players will be able to grab up to twice as many globes as before.

Battleground Mechanics

In addition to making the laning phase in Heroes more meaningful, we want to give players more time to make an impact and show off their skill in the early game before they are pulled away to contest an objective. As a result, we’re going to push back our initial objective timers a bit in order to provide that space. We’re also planning to simplify timers across all battlegrounds, and give earlier objective notifications so that players can make the most of the laning phase in each match.

Objective Timers, Simplified

While having a large number of unique battlegrounds to compete on offers a wide variety of strategies and dynamic gameplay, it also means players have a lot to keep in mind from one game to the next. Thus far, many of our battlegrounds have had differing rulesets and timers that players need to memorize, and we want to simplify this so they are easier to remember across the board.

  • The first objective will now spawn 1 minute and 30 seconds into a match on the following battlegrounds:
    • Blackheart’s Bay
    • Braxis Holdout
    • Dragon Shire
  • The first objective will now spawn 3 minutes into a match on the following battlegrounds:
    • Battlefield of Eternity
    • Cursed Hollow
    • Garden of Terror
    • Haunted Mines
    • Infernal Shrines
    • Sky Temple
    • Towers of Doom
    • Warhead Junction
  • We’ve been happy with Tomb of the Spider Queen and Volskaya Foundry, so we will not be changing the initial timers on these battlegrounds.

Earlier Objective Information

Since we were already making objective timers more uniform, we felt that players would benefit from consistent and earlier warnings about upcoming objective spawns. Going forward, players will receive 30 second objective spawn warnings across all battlegrounds so that teams are able to coordinate, reposition, and change lanes in time.

Additionally, to give players even more information to work with, the minimap will now indicate where the next objective will appear on battlegrounds with a variety of objective spawn locations. These objective icons will appear on the minimap shortly after game start, as well as a few moments after the previous objective or event has come to an end. This will allow players ample time to plan ahead before the next objective, and give them opportunities to think about when they should take a mercenary camp, which lane they should push, and what their strong lane should be well before each objective activates.

Match Length

We believe the sweet spot for match length in Heroes is around 20 minutes, and maintaining that has been a crucial part of our approach to these objective changes. We haven’t seen game times increasing during internal testing or the PTR, and we'll continue to keep a close eye on this once these changes are live.

Mercenary Camps

We revisited many of our mercenary camps to ensure they’re offering diverse strategic options, and having a noticeable impact when they are utilized to their full potential. Below, we’ve highlighted significant changes for Knights, Hellbats, and Siege Giants, but we’re also going to monitor our other mercenary camps to make sure they remain powerful across all stages of a match. 

Knight Camps

We felt the removal of tower ammunition weakened the role of Knight Camps a bit, and we wanted to ensure they maintain a unique identity and purpose. To achieve this, we’re giving Knight Camps more pushing power through the Knight Wizard, who will now emit a spell armor aura to buff all nearby allied units, including Heroes. This should make Knights a more formidable force when they’re barreling down a lane, especially when accompanied by Heroes. 

Hellbat Camps

We’d like Hellbats to offer a more engaging experience during lane combat than they currently do. In addition to a few balance tweaks, enemies hit by their basic attacks will now have their armor slightly reduced for a few seconds. This armor reduction effect can stack, so players will want to be more careful about how they approach enemy Hellbats in a lane—it can be quite punishing to take on the opposing team when Hellbats are near. 

Siege Giant Camps

While we’re happy with Siege Giants for the most part, we found that we could improve on their role further by adjusting their basic attacks. Going forward, players will now be able to dodge defending Siege Giant attacks while fighting them in their camps. By paying close attention and dodging consistently, players will be able to capture Siege Giants without taking damage. Players can already dodge Siege Giant attacks in lanes, but this isn't as clear as it could be, so we’re going to tweak those visual effects so players know exactly when to dive out of the way.

All of these changes amount to significant adjustments to the game as a whole, but we’re still very happy with Heroes of the Storm’s core gameplay. With the 2018 Gameplay Update, we’re primarily looking to improve on areas of the game we think are already fun in order to make them even better, and we appreciate your continued feedback as you playtest in the Public Test Realm.

Until next time, we’ll see you in the Nexus!

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Ok, but what about other types of Mercenaries out there? Will the Diablo themed ones be changed, same for the Overwatch ones.

Not to mention bosses

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The Impaler camp seems weak but that is about it. The ammo removal is a fundamental change of the game or "core" as they say it. MAKE AMMO REPLENISH FASTER INSTEAD OF REMOVING IT.

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1 hour ago, XeaKon said:

The Impaler camp seems weak but that is about it. The ammo removal is a fundamental change of the game or "core" as they say it. MAKE AMMO REPLENISH FASTER INSTEAD OF REMOVING IT.

I believe they gave it infinite ammo to make up for the loss of the stand-alone tower... reducing the ammo recharge rate will make them weaker, which Blizzard really doesn't want...

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1 hour ago, XeaKon said:

The Impaler camp seems weak but that is about it. The ammo removal is a fundamental change of the game or "core" as they say it. MAKE AMMO REPLENISH FASTER INSTEAD OF REMOVING IT.

Ammo is redundant mechanic. There is no upside to keeping it in the game, it only adds confusion.

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The devs mentioned during BlizzCon that they we're going to zoom out the in-game camera. I wonder, when is this change coming to the live servers?

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True sight will possibly be the nail in the coffin for the stealthies, though I suppose Zeratul will survive with void prison.

The main feature I'm still waiting on though is in game voice chat.   

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32 minutes ago, Fliits said:

The devs mentioned during BlizzCon that they we're going to zoom out the in-game camera. I wonder, when is this change coming to the live servers?

The patch is available for testing until December 11 and as far as I know, they're aiming for a mid-December release.

4 minutes ago, Migol said:

True sight will possibly be the nail in the coffin for the stealthies, though I suppose Zeratul will survive with void prison.

The main feature I'm still waiting on though is in game voice chat.   

Voice chat will be added at a later point I guess, because it's not available on PTR right now, or mentioned in the patch notes.

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36 minutes ago, Migol said:

True sight will possibly be the nail in the coffin for the stealthies, though I suppose Zeratul will survive with void prison.

They're compensating that by making stealthies more combat oriented. Valeera will have a sick combo that can deal over 2k damage.

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7 hours ago, Migol said:

True sight will possibly be the nail in the coffin for the stealthies, though I suppose Zeratul will survive with void prison

almost certainly not true, as this update is paired with a complete rework of the stealth mechanic and all the heroes that use it;. namely, that a large portion of their power budget is being shifted from stealth to other areas of their kit. (depending on who you ask, nova might be an exception to the rule, as her main buff is ghost protocol baked-in. given that she is the only ranged stealthie, though, true sight is unlikly to do much to her besides make her a bit careful about positioning.)

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11 hours ago, Fliits said:

Ammo is redundant mechanic. There is no upside to keeping it in the game, it only adds confusion.

It looks redundant because it was poorly implemented. This is why I ask for an improvement.

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Am I the only one who thinks the regen globe thing will have lots of implications? Like any good solo laner matched against someone just trying to safely soak is going to get twice the sustain. Diablo's devils due? Mings 1st tier dmg buff? All the globe quests? I think it will make more balance changes necessary 

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56 minutes ago, RoadtoRindokan said:

Am I the only one who thinks the regen globe thing will have lots of implications? Like any good solo laner matched against someone just trying to safely soak is going to get twice the sustain. Diablo's devils due? Mings 1st tier dmg buff? All the globe quests? I think it will make more balance changes necessary 

I agree.  If you are winning your matchup and don't get rotation help, it will snowball.  Especially for heroes with quests.  Like if Jaina bullies her lane she will complete her level 1 quest fast. Though with the quests spawning earlier that will negate somr of the snowballing, unless you have sylv rushing a wall during first obj.  I can see some early sylv team pushes being very significant with the stand alone tower gone.  Take down the wall and the fort will take extra damage during objectives.

 

This could also be a buff for junkrat.  Deny them globes with displacement and you can steal them for your team.

Edited by ArtVandelay

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On 12/6/2017 at 12:58 AM, Valhalen said:

Valeera will have a sick combo that can deal over 2k damage.

Thats most certainly not true, shes same old just more utility like teleports baseline, blind on cheap shot and a ridiculous 2.75 seconds silence on Garrote which will be nerfed back after one week. 

Her dmg is basically nerfed and because Garrote is basically the strongest right now shes basically a stealthed basic attacker. She will probably be bottom tier in Platinum and up.

The funny thing is they wanted to balance the stealthies to make them better at high levels of play but easier to deal with in QM/Unranked but Valeera, well shes gonna be a pain for newbs.

Edited by xevex

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10 hours ago, RoadtoRindokan said:

Am I the only one who thinks the regen globe thing will have lots of implications? Like any good solo laner matched against someone just trying to safely soak is going to get twice the sustain. Diablo's devils due? Mings 1st tier dmg buff? All the globe quests? I think it will make more balance changes necessary 

In theory, strong duelists will be able to more easily bully their lane.

My concern is certain heroes like Aba are basically useless now.  Much of hit kit was based around pushing passively and eating turret shots.  I can't see any circumstance where Aba is even remotely good now. 

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On 12/6/2017 at 12:51 AM, Fliits said:

Ammo is redundant mechanic. There is no upside to keeping it in the game, it only adds confusion.

spoken like a true lol player.Ammo prevented turtling.It gave value to specialists. Just like all the changes since alpha,their only true reason is that people cant handle a game that isnt simple like league.They even added earlier warnings for obj because people still dont undestand what this even is.

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22 minutes ago, Kurosu said:

spoken like a true lol player.Ammo prevented turtling.It gave value to specialists. Just like all the changes since alpha,their only true reason is that people cant handle a game that isnt simple like league.They even added earlier warnings for obj because people still dont undestand what this even is.

That may be true, but Blizzard's argument is very solid about this. Ammo diminishes the value of laning because you just wait for the minions to soak all the ammo instead of pushing with them, like Blizzard originally intended.

I understand the concern regarding Abathur becoming completely irrelevant because one of his main functions was to split push and soaking ammo, but maybe Blizzard could do some minor tweaks to his abilities. Maybe make his Locusts take reduced damage from structures, or maybe even make the Locusts naturally apply a debuff similar to Imposing PresenceImposing Presence which would only affects structures; that way they would have some weight to sieging to compensate the ammo removal.

Edited by Valhalen
  • Like 2

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9 hours ago, Valhalen said:

That may be true, but Blizzard's argument is very solid about this. Ammo diminishes the value of laning because you just wait for the minions to soak all the ammo instead of pushing with them, like Blizzard originally intended.

I understand the concern regarding Abathur becoming completely irrelevant because one of his main functions was to split push and soaking ammo, but maybe Blizzard could do some minor tweaks to his abilities. Maybe make his Locusts take reduced damage from structures, or maybe even make the Locusts naturally apply a debuff similar to Imposing PresenceImposing Presence which would only affects structures; that way they would have some weight to sieging to compensate the ammo removal.

Yes please tell me more about how constantly turtling and hiding under  2 turrets  is NOT diminishing laning.

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On 08/12/2017 at 10:55 PM, Kurosu said:

Yes please tell me more about how constantly turtling and hiding under  2 turrets  is NOT diminishing laning.

It doesn't. If that happens then the hero turtling is clearly losing the power struggle in the lane, never getting any purchase on the enemy towers while theirs' take damage or they take damage and eventually have to hearth back leaving the lane open; all the while the objective happens and whatever else is going on. I don't see any diminishing here; please explain your point

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On 12/10/2017 at 6:02 PM, MurkyFelix said:

It doesn't. If that happens then the hero turtling is clearly losing the power struggle in the lane, never getting any purchase on the enemy towers while theirs' take damage or they take damage and eventually have to hearth back leaving the lane open; all the while the objective happens and whatever else is going on. I don't see any diminishing here; please explain your point

If you are not smart enough to realise the problem with this change and the benefits of turret ammo,there is no point tryint to explain it or  argue with you. Hopefully you will see it when the change goes live though.

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10 hours ago, Kurosu said:

If you are not smart enough to realise the problem with this change and the benefits of turret ammo,there is no point tryint to explain it or  argue with you. Hopefully you will see it when the change goes live though.

Simply sounds like a cop-out from someone who doesn't have a point to explain. How can I understand your point if all you're gonna do is insult people? Anyway; there is no way to know about any so called diminishing until the game is played so all discussions are poo until it analysed properly.

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11 hours ago, MurkyFelix said:

Simply sounds like a cop-out from someone who doesn't have a point to explain. How can I understand your point if all you're gonna do is insult people? Anyway; there is no way to know about any so called diminishing until the game is played so all discussions are poo until it analysed properly.

Oh  my sweet summer child :)

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