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Free Hero rotation for this week includes Kel’thuzad, Stukov, Rexxar, Lost Vikings, and more.
Free-to-Play Hero Rotation: June 25, 2019
Malfurion Valla Gazlowe Johanna Thrall Dehaka Kharazim Kerrigan Chromie Arthas Kel’thuzad (Slot unlocked at Player Level 5) Stukov (Slot unlocked at Player Level 10) Rexxar (Slot unlocked at Player Level 15) Lost Vikings (Slot unlocked at Player Level 20) (Source)
Season 3 will start the week of August 5 and there are multiple changes coming to Ranked, including the removal of promotion/demotion games, MMR & Rank decay for inactive Storm League players, and the amount of placement games in Storm League will be down to three.
2019 Season 3 is the first season that shows off some updates and changes to ranked play within Heroes of the Storm.
Season Roll Dates
2019 Season 3 will begin as soon as our next patch becomes available for download in each region. Check the season start and end dates below to make sure you’re able to dive into the rankings as soon as the season rolls:
EVENT DATE 2019 Season 3 Start Week of August 5, 2019* 2019 Season 3 End Week of December 2, 2019* *Exact date may vary slightly by region.
Your Rank (League Tier and Division) is now determined by your MMR directly and adjusted by penalties, such as Leaver Penalty. As a result, you will see a bit more volatility in your Rank Points changes after winning or losing a game.
Placement Games Count Reduced to 3
Players will only have to play 3 games to be placed in Storm League.
Promotion and Demotion Games Removed
Promotion and Demotion Games will be removed. You will seamlessly transition between League Tiers and Divisions as you earn or lose Rank Points.
Leaving a Ranked Draft Lobby or abandoning a Ranked Game will result in 500 Rank Points penalty. Penalized players will be able to slowly redeem the points lost due to penalty by playing Ranked Games.
Ranked matches are still affected normal Leaver penalty, preventing penalized players from playing Draft games until they play a certain amount of Quick Match or Brawl games and matching them with other leavers.
We’re introducing MMR and Rank decay for inactive Storm League players.
As with Hero League, the decay will affect players in Grand Master, Master and Diamond leagues. Contrary to Hero League, Storm League’s rank decay will also affect unplaced players if their MMR is equal to Diamond League level or above.
The rules will be the same throughout all affected Leagues. At the beginning of Ranked season, inactivity timer will be at 10 days. By playing Ranked games, players will earn extra inactivity time, up to 30 days. When the inactivity timer expires, player is considered “inactive”. Inactive players will slowly lose their MMR and Rank until it decays below Diamond League, or Diamond League-level MMR for unplaced players, or until they play a Storm League match.
By playing a ranked match, inactive player will reset their inactivity timer to 3 days.
Ranked Seasonal Quests
Special Seasonal questlines will be available to all players. It will consist of 4 quests, each requiring a player to win a certain amount of Storm League games. Each quest yields increasing gold rewards.
New quest lines will be available every season, and a player must complete the entire quest line to be eligible for the End of Season rewards. Placement games count towards the quest line progress.
You will see the Ranked Seasonal Quest line progress on the Ranked Play screen.
We’ll be sharing what ranked play rewards will be in our next blog closer to 2019 Season 3 launch.
See you in the Nexus!
The Heroes devs answered your questions earlier today on reddit and here's a recap of what they had to say about Hero balance, reworks, and art.
They are working on AI improvements, but they were not able to do a full rollback when AI behavior became worse, because there were changes to how AI handles things like fighting in lanes, determining objectives etc. They will be updating scripts to make tactical behavior smarter and more reliable -- this includes things like how to take objectives and how to fight. Right now every placed Storm League player has two separate numbers representing their standing in regional ladder: MMR and Rank. In a future update, Rank will be dropped as a separate value and the plan is to directly convert MMR to Rank after each game. As a result, you will see a bit more volatility in your Rank changes, although the average change will still be somewhere around 200 Rank points. The only source of MMR/Rank discrepancy will be Rank point penalties. After being penalized for deserting a game, one would have to play a certain amount of ranked games legitimately to get those lost points back and bring their Rank in sync with their MMR. This essentially makes the MMR visible as Rank, adjusted down by Rank point penalties (if applicable). The team is overall happy with Mana adjustments from a while ago. They'll continue monitoring outliers. Collision boundaries will be visible to Auriel players soon (Detainment Strike). Deth Lazor without taking Hyperfocus Coils feels cumbersome and if Gazlowe was supposed to receive an update, the ability would definitely get some buffs. Malthael is in a really good spot right now. Both Heroics are viable and he's the third best bruiser in the game right after Ragnaros and Rexxar. Orphea skins are planned for a future patch. Creating the face animations is incredibly taxing for many disciplines within the team, so they decided not to continue continue making dialogue animations for new Heroes. Chen was reworked instead of Tassadar in the latest patch, but the team is still working on adjustments for the High Templar and will release when the time's right. Self-healing will be considered Healing in stats soon. No reworks are planned for Samuro at this time. Statistically, Rexxar is the strongest Hero (57.9% win rate) sitting at about 3% higher than most others. Genji has the lowest win rate right now (43.8%). The devs unveiled more information about the upcoming seasonal questline: Every season, there will be a simple questline, requiring you to win a certain amount of Storm League games. Only players who have completed the questline will be eligible for the end of season rewards. Loss Forgiveness won't be available next season. Storm League won't have forced Solo queue matchmaking. Reckless Strike (Alarak's long-removed level 4 talent) had a bad pick rate and lowered the Hero's skill ceiling so they removed it as part of his rework. They would like to eventually improve the "Looking for Player" in-game tool to display preferred game modes, but have no timeframe for that. The team has been internally playing around with significant changes to Whitemane's talent tree. The thing with Ragnaros and some other Heroes is this concept of cost. It takes about as much time as it would take us to do 2 or 3 skins to do 1 Ragnaros skin. So they have to weigh in a lot of these things when considering who is or isn't getting a skin. You can find all questions answered by the devs below.
Is it safe to expect a hero release schedule of 3/4 per year?
Hi, /u/TurbanatorGD! We're not going to commit to a set number of heroes a year as we need to leave some room for us to pursue the things the team is most excited to bring to the game, but I will say that we have some great new heroes in development and we're looking forward to bringing them to you when they're ready!
It's been half a year since the AI bot heroes script was replaced with a version that can't grab objectives and makes other obvious failures. Why hasn't it been reverted to the prior version?
Some background here -- when the script was changed, we also made code changes to how AI handles things like determining how to fight in lane, determining threat at an objective, and other things like that. This makes it harder than we would like to just roll back the script.
Even so, we have been doing targeted rollbacks of parts of the scripts to help get the AI in a better spot.
We currently measure AI effectiveness in a number of ways, but our stats put them at about a 22% winrate before the changes you are referring to.
After the Ana/Abathur rework patch, they dropped to about 18%
With the targeted rollbacks, we are back to about 20.5-21%, though some of their behavior is still not where we would like it to be.
AI is my favorite thing, so be assured that I am working as hard as I can (between providing support for all the cool heroes and reworks we have coming up!) to get them back to a good place.
- In the immediate future we have some backend changes in test with our designers now that should help address some of the issues we have with how our agents select what to do, our plan is to get these to the community as soon as we can.
- We will also be addressing the scripts to make their tactical behavior smarter and more reliable -- this includes things like how to take objectives and how to fight.
- After that there are a number of other smaller scale problems we should be able to tackle... things like how they handle objectives, some pathfinding problems, individual tactical issues (Chen drinks too much!), etc...
Thanks for the question!
Clarification on what "Visible Direct MMR To Rank-Point Mapping" means? (I realize that this question does not fall under Hero Rework, Balance and Art)
Right now every placed Storm League player have two separate numbers representing their standing in regional ladder: MMR and Rank (League tier, Division and Rank points). Ideally, they should be in sync with each other: this is why we have Personal Rank Adjustment rubber-banding Rank to MMR value, and that’s why everyone is re-seeded every season based on their MMR. Strictly speaking though, they change independently: there’s a baseline 200 points change per win or loss, plus-minus adjustments. MMR change is a bit more flexible, and depends on your team, your opponents, etc. That’s why people might end up with their MMR being significantly different from their expected Rank.
The plan is, we drop Rank as a separate value, and directly convert MMR to Rank after each game. That means, average-skilled player would be, let’s say, around mid-Gold. Each time you win or lose, your MMR goes up or down, and the Rank change is strictly bound to the MMR change. As a result, you will see a bit more volatility in your Rank changes, although the average change will still be somewhere around 200 Rank points. The only source of MMR/Rank discrepancy will be Rank point penalties. After being penalized for deserting a game, one would have to play a certain amount of ranked games legitimately to get those lost points back and bring their Rank in sync with their MMR. This essentially makes the MMR visible as Rank, adjusted down by Rank point penalties (if applicable).
We're close to summer and with Brawls always being ARAMs we're not going to have the fantastic Pull Party. Have you considered offering both ARAM and a quirky Brawl together?
Hey there mirithil!
I love me some Pull Party and am personally starting a petition to create a ranked experience out of it ?
As for bringing it back or simultaneously running them alongside ARAMs, it has been talked about but requires some pretty substantial feature work to get everything stood up.
Overall, we have seen incredible engagement around the ARAM map pool and are currently focusing on ways to make that experience even better!
Exactly 2 months ago ago you adjusted the mana cost of a lot of heroes (mostly nerf). How do you think of the mana adjustment? Do you have any metrics to track the effect, whether they're underdone or overdone?
Also, there are several high-mana-cost heroes that were untouched then, such as Tyrael and Valla, do you have any plans for them?
The mana adjustment went over very well, as it accomplished the simple task that we wanted, which was to make mana costs have more parity between heroes. This was more of a mathematical endeavor, so there aren't really any super secret complex metrics that we are looking for to track how well it went over outside of drastically changing any hero's win rate or pick rate, which it doesn't seem to have done. Going forward we'll be monitoring any outliers that we find when doing balance patches or that the community brings up and will check to see how they stack up to the rest of the pack and make changes as needed.
To answer your question about Tyrael and Valla, while they are towards the upper end of the spectrum in regards to Mana tension, they definitely aren't out of bounds. We don't have any immediate plans to lower their costs, but I wouldn't be surprised if they changed at some point down the road (though if/when they do change it would likely be fairly minor).
Given that Detainment Strike has an important direct interaction with terrain, would you please consider making collision boundaries visible to Auriel players?
Yes, I'll do that right now! It's been on the list.
Overwatch heroes are a unique case in HotS in that they each bring their own predefined abilities to the game. Unlike Diablo protagonists, whose abilities are chosen from a large pool of possible builds, or Warcraft/Starcraft heroes who may have a few of the moves they use in their respective game and a few thematic but non-canon ones, OW heroes basically just import their kits directly into HotS (minus talents and second ultimates, of course). But with Overwatch reworking some of it’s own heroes, abilities like D.Va’s and Hanzo’s are no longer fully reflective of their playstyle in their game of origin. Are there plans in the long-term to rework these heroes and put their abilities in line with their OW counterparts?
...also, can D.Va get the ability to ping her Self-Destruct charge? please I’m begging you
It's important to us to have Heroes in HotS reflect their inspiration for their character, but they don't need to be 1 to 1 copies of their most current iteration. This is true when we first make them, and also if they've changed in their original game after we've added them to our roster.
We also recognize that what may work in one game genre may not work in another. While a fantasy and a kit reminiscent of their inspiration are very important, fun gameplay is always first on the list. Sometimes that means we need to diverge slightly from the existing source material. This is true at a Hero's creation, and also with their continued existence in the Nexus.
That being said, we do follow everything that's happening to our Heroes in their original games, and if we see something that's really cool we use it as inspiration for new Talents, changes to Abilities, or sometimes complete reworks if the Hero needs it.
Reworked Chen brought a renewed Storm, Earth, Fire where his earth spirit can slow enemy, which can be empowered to rooting enemy heroes. However, root is not always an upgrade to slow, considering there are some buffs that are specific to slows, such as [[Combat Advantage]].
The fact that root or stun are not considered a strict super set of slow seems unintuitive, and also goes against the fact that most effects that affects slow are describe as "Slowed, Rooted, or Stunned". Can you explain the reasoning behind this design, and whether you'll continue pushing this further?
We intentionally have specific interactions between CC effects and talents that interact with them for balance and design reasons. While I understand the reasoning that a Root could just be a 100% Slow, it does have different properties and the effects have different key words due to how they specifically interact with other parts of the game (for example, Rooted Heroes cannot use Mobility abilities, whereas a Hero who is Slowed by 100% can). We often have specific benefits so that heroes have intended synergies in their own talent trees and so that they pair well with other heroes that we have in mind at the time of design. While it would feel fantastic to say that everything works with everything, it would also greatly limit our design space and make interactions harder to balance, which would over time make those abilities feel more bland.
As an example, if Kel’thuzad’s Hungering Cold talent at 16 benefitted from hitting all CC’d targets instead of only Rooted targets, then its damage would have to be much less, and it would lose its unique synergies with Blighted Frost, Frost Blast, and we would lose the thought process that players would normally go through when evaluating the talent of which other Heroes have common or long-duration Roots to combo the talent with. While the talent could easily be stronger overall, the goal isn’t always to make things stronger and more commonly useful. That’s easy to do, as we can just make everything easy to hit and trigger with no qualifications. However, the larger design goal is to make compelling choices, which is largely defined by what a hero can’t do, even though that may not be as exciting as looking at it from the perspective of what they can do.
To answer your question about Chen’s Storm, Earth, Fire, you’re right that a Root isn’t always an upgrade to a Slow, however the vast majority of the time it is, and in the cases where it’s not the player has the choice of whether or not they want the ability to be a Root or a Slow, so we’re happy with that interaction!
When you release a new hero, they have many unique voice lines specific to HOTS that we hadn't heard before. With many of these iconic characters, do you always end up getting the original voice actor for them? What do you do if you can't? Do you just not make the hero based on that alone?
Hey BigFatDumbBaby! We do our best to get the original voice actor when it’s possible/reasonable to do so, but we do have to take into the account the actors’ availability, actor requirements, etc. When we do have to find someone new, our wonderful Blizzard sound department helps us to find the best actor to fit the role. Their team does a ton of work across multiple titles and handles a lot of the recording process for VO, so they have a ton of expertise in finding the right fit for each character and making sure they match as closely as possible to the previous versions. I hope that answers your question, BigFatDumbBaby!
Gazlowe suffers from the same problem as Azmodan did before the rework. If you do not talent into Hyperfocus Coils at lvl 7, Deth Lazor does not feel good to use. Anytime in the future you are going to make it baseline?
Thanks for the question. I agree, I also find Deth Lazor without Hyperfocus cumbersome to use. If we were to take another look at Gazlowe, improving Deth Lazor usability would be a high priority. Are there other aspects of his kit that you feel could use some improvements? Also, how would you feel if we made him into a Bruiser?
How do you think of the support role? It has the fewest members and one of them is soon to leave (if tass is really getting reworked into a mage)? It also has the nichest position in the current meta.
Hello again DKWings,
This is an interesting question and something that the design team has talked about quite a bit. We have a few special Heroes that really don't fit into the normal Tank/Damage/Healer meta. While we could technically try to force them into it (Vikings become a Melee Assassin), it doesn't quite feel right and honestly may confuse or mislead newer players.
While we don't currently have an elegant solve, I can tell you that we are thinking about it and may make some changes to the role in the future.
One of my mains is Tyrael. In many fights my teammates don‘t see (or see it too late) Sanctification. If we look at Anduins Holy Word: Salvation, the visual effects are massive! Could you think about Tyraels ult to make it seen better?
We are always trying to ride the razor's edge of how 'loud' abilities are. While we try our best to make sure Heroics are recognizable by both teams, we have to be careful about creating an arms-race that ends up making team fights so chaotic that players can't understand what is happening.
It is a constant battle ?
What is biggest overall gameplay problem bothering your right now? What is something fundamental you want to fix?
We are always trying to improve the game in the most meaningful ways possible. As for right this moment - the design team is focusing on finding ways to better educate the player base, make the solo-lane matchup more fun, and create more meaningful back-and-forth counter-play moments for Heroes that feel frustrating to play against.
Are there any forseeable Malthael changes coming?
The changes to Tormented Souls gave him some mobility but damage was his problem because outside of the solo lane he is barely scary, especially with Tormented Souls.
Malthael, despite popular opinion, is an incredibly powerful hero that is doing well in pretty much every regard. As of this last patch and in recent history of patches before, he has consistently been one of the most powerful heroes in the game who also has good talent diversity. As of Anduin’s patch, he has a 53.1% win rate and is the 3rd best Bruiser in the game, behind Ragnaros and Rexxar. He also has great Hero damage in his games compared to other heroes, despite popular opinion that he only exists to clear lanes. Simply put, he wins games and has for a very long time.
In regards to his talent pick rates, they are also far and away better than most heroes in the game. Many of his tiers have relatively great pick and win rates and he has fewer outliers than most other heroes. I’ll be the first to admit that we wish his Heroic parity was better, which we’ve taken steps to address, but even then there at the highest level of play where people are the most strict about their choices, Last Rites is picked 78.7% of the time compared to Tormented Souls at 21.3%, which, while not ideal, isn’t that bad compared to many other heroes in the game. Also, Tormented Souls has a .4% higher win rate, so they are basically equal in regards to effectiveness.
That Malthael is weak and Tormented Souls doesn’t compete is largely a perception issue at this point, and while it would be great to go in and re-design them again, there are other heroes who need the help more, so I wouldn’t expect any sweeping design changes in the near future.
That being said, he still has some talent issues and like any other hero in the game we will make tweaks as necessary.
We've had a single contest that ended up bringing Janitor Leoric into game a couple of years later. How was that experience? Would you like to repeat it or do something similar? HotS have a very passionate community, in a level I've never seen in any game!
The experience was awesome! It's always nice to see people react to something that they feel they had a part in. We enjoy engaging with you guys especially at a creative level. We have been open to doing another "Janitor Leoric" in the past and that hasn't changed. There are a lot of awesome concepts that I see our community put out. Please rally behind the ones you like. If there's a large backing behind a specific skin it will make it easier for us to make the decision to make that community driven skin.
Art-wise - Orphea's animations are above and beyond the animations on most heroes if not all heroes currently in the game (in my opinion at least, thanks Lana. I still love everyone else's work as well), but is there anything you are allowed to talk about that you are particularly hyped for in the future? Or anything like the Mecha storm video from last year even.
[I understand it is hard to say anything with spoilers]
Wow, /u/DeadWishTV -- THANK YOU! This truly means so much to me to read.
My excitement lately, has actually be waiting for all this Mecha stuff to drop! I got to do an awesome new ready-up for sweet Yrel, a massive behind-the-scenes tune up to Valla, and some awesome mecha combat stuff for both of them. PLUS -- Brittney Gleiter did the siiiiiiiiiickest ready-up animation on Valla that gets me amped every time I see it in queue.
When it comes to the future, I am certainly not able to talk about it... but know this: I am hyped.
Art-wise - What got you into the video game industry, the defining moment of "Oh that's awesome, I want to do that," or did it kind of just happen? Was it hard/scary to get into the industry before it grew so rapidly or did you get into it knowing it would be a steady job?
I have always had an interest in video games. When I was growing up there was little information on how to get into making them. So mostly I worked on my 2D skills. I got into making 3D art and animation in college. After I graduated my connections at the college got me introduced to a local game company making military simulations. Luckily they gave me a shot.
I didn't experience fear getting into the industry. Most people are super friendly. They're all nerds who probably like the same things you like. Generally it's very welcoming. The hard part is leveling up your skills so that you can be among these fantastic people. There is a percentage of available jobs for the amount of people Art Colleges are pumping out. So the biggest take away there is to be critical of yourself and don't live in the "Mom says I'm really good at art" bubble. Of course she says you're awesome she's your mom. Use forums like Polycount or Artstation to get feedback and level up and of course talking to industry professionals is always a good way to move up. Be objective. As Samwise Didier always says. "Remember your ABCs. Always be Creating."
For me, I definitely had a moment. Well.. a few, probably... BUCKLE UP, BABYYYY..
I've always loved video games, but we weren't allowed to own consoles growing up ... which only made me more enamored with them. They weren't forbidden, but they were so special when I had the opportunity to play them that it really resonated with me. (My parents like to joke, now, that they 'knew' the reverse psychology of not having them around would eventually drive me into my successful career.)
Jak and Daxter was the first game that stuck in my head as far as the effort that actually went on behind the scenes - it was the first time that I remember thinking 'wow, that was a cool animation!' (and I maintain, to this day, that the Jak trilogy has the world's most perfect double-jump.) That said, the real 'moment' that I can think of happened to me in highschool.
I made my first animation when I was 15 years old. It was a flipbook, and it was real trite, but I loved everything about making it. Something about animation just clicked with me! From there I signed up for a full animation class, and then another, and then another.
By my senior year I was coming into school two hours early to animate in the lab, I was working in the lab through lunch, and I was babysitting my teacher's kids so I could stick around for a few more hours after school was out - but even then, I thought animation was just a weird hobby I had. It wasn't until my teacher brought me aside, talked to me about my favorite movies and video games, and said "Lana. People get paid to make those."
When it comes to it being hard or scary... I guess I never really felt that way. I was challenged, certainly, but when I was being challenged I knew I was growing. Because it was something I wanted so bad for so long I just knew, to the core of me, that it would work out one way or another, so I never felt afraid. Plus, as Brew mentioned, the industry is an amazing place. We are all professionals working hard to be better at our craft, but at the end of the day, we're making games! This community is about developing fun, so it is filled with joy and silliness and it radiates with with energy that reflects that.
What are you doing to make the solo lane engaging and reward pushing again?
This is a great question and has been a vibrant concern of high-level play for awhile now. We agree that the current meta of the solo-lane can end up feeling a bit stale and are actively testing some design changes in order to help spice it up.
We have not solidified anything yet as we want to make sure that whatever change(s) we make, create a better game for everyone. We are definitely listening to the community though and are even testing one of your ideas - replacing the Wizard minions with a lone Sapper so that pushing a wave into a town will deal substantial damage.
We want to keep evolving the game in meaningful ways and the solo-lane matchup is definitely on our minds ?
What's up with Abathur's new Galactic Xenotech skin? When I bought it last week, it was an awesome looking gold skin.Now it's been auto-converted to a bronze-black-orange thing. Why the change? It seemed like it was already done and functional, and we saw a year and a half ago that the skin variant was already done. Is there a way to get it back or something? A (partial?) refund? Seems kind of messed up to do a switcheroo, especially for those of us who spent a bunch of currency to buy it.
We dug into this and it turns out this was a series of unintended events. First, that unreleased gold Abathur skin snuck into the build last year. Then, before the patch when live this week, the behind-the-scenes product update for the patch created a brief window where the gold skin was purchasable, and a handful of players bought it. When the patch went live, the Galactic Xenotech skin that was supposed to release with that patch overwrote the old temp gold product.
We're looking into refunding the currency spent for anyone who purchased the gold skin during that time window where it was available, and we're discussing releasing the final version of the gold skin to an upcoming patch so those of you who have been looking forward to it can get your hands on it.
Sorry about the switcherooing - definitely not what we were going for. Thanks to everyone who called this out!
Could you fix Anduin's facial animations in draft? He is the only human hero who uses protoss psionics to talk. His mouth doesn't move.
Hey! Really great question and happy you brought it up. TL;DR - the dev team has decided not to continue making dialogue animations for new heroes.
Creating the face animations is incredibly taxing for many disciplines within the team -- most notably, it takes up precious tech art resources, and an incredible amount of animation time without actually giving us a result worthy of the time spent.
Speaking strictly from an animation standpoint, it takes weeks to get through even just a portion of the dialogue a player routinely sees (in portraits, store, and hero select). Even within that animation, only a portion of it is polished, while the rest remains procedurally generated. And even THEN, that's just for English! Heroes is localized into 12 languages for game dialogue, so there is a massive subset of the Heroes playerbase that doesn't get that level of attention at all! (And that's just one piece of the pie!)
It's pretty easy to get tunnel vision, but we really do take our core values seriously. Thinking globally, it would take many, many more animators many, many weeks to go through the hundreds and HUNDREDS of lines to do it properly... so instead I get to focus my skills on making more badass art for you guys to enjoy. Personally, I think it's worthwhile trade.
PS: HUGE shout-out to our incredible localization team for all the amazing work they do. Too long have they been unsung, but they are a huge part about why we are able to share the game as widely as we do, and how we're able to have such a wonderful community!
I thought Tassadar was coming this patch. Don't worry, I can wait. But is there a timeline and/or any teases for Tassadar's rework? I can't wait to burst enemies down with a mage Tassadar. ?
Hey there DKWings,
Chen bullied out Tassadar for this release, but fear not the High Templar will have his time. The release date for him has changed a few times, as we keep designing cool things for the rework and art is scrambling to help support all of it. While we are calling this a rework, it really is much more than that.
While I can't give an exact timeframe - I can say that it will be well worth the wait!
A question for Oscar: can you please tell us a little bit about the artitstic challenges and the different ideas during the design process for the realm lords?
HI! YEAH i can! So these were actually first created by Samwise Didier, some of the realm lords were even concepted before the game's launch (like Blackheart) and some others later on. I'd actually say the only design I changed radically, was the Raven Lord. Sam's original concept had him be a lot older, which looked great! But felt a bit off for Orphea's age, so I did a pass to make him younger. But the rest are pretty much just Sam's concepts that I've either drawn in my style or very lightly tweaked!
Can self shields be considered as "healing" in stats? same as self-healing? (Zarya , Artanis come to mind). And in general, many heroes don't have that stat counted for their healing.
Hi, fycalichking. Thanks for the great suggestion! I will certainly look into this.
Does Blizzard plan to ever address Samuro's core design problems and toxic playstyle?
These are the problems for those who may not know:
He's entirely dependent on a level 10 heroic to be able to function as a hero (Illusion Master), this both makes him extemely unfun and restrictive before level 10 while killing his viability in that tier and any subsequent tiers that buff said ability (level 20), on par with the other choice being extremely subpar at both level 10 and 20. Said level 10 heroic is broken beyond belief, it takes what is arguably the most useless base hero in the game and turns him into a broken PvE machine that needs to be kept extemely underpowered at PvP, otherwise he breaks the game, as a result Samuro is extremely unrewarding and unfun to play optimally His talent design is honestly horrible and filled with overlapping talents and generic upgrades, i would say he's one of the very few heroes that actually needs a complete talent revamp. Hey Blackstar_9!
Thanks for taking the time to write Samuro feedback. While we do not always respond, I wanted you to know that I have read your feedback and have read a lot of the Samuro community’s feedback on the hero.
I am also a very avid Samuro player and have been playing him both internally and at a GM level on Ranked for quite some time. You can even ask the other designers, I basically have a ban on not being allowed to play Samuro because of how much they hate fighting against mine ?
I totally get where you’re coming from about Illusion Master being a frustrating playstyle that currently defines the hero. To give a little history about how we got to where we are, when Samuro first came out Bladestorm was the way to play and Illusion Master was a niche pick. With his last rework we wanted to keep and improve on the Illusion Master playstyle because Samuro’s fantasy was about switching places and being tricky with his clones, so we made part of it baseline and made his kit more about that aspect of the Hero.
Today, however, you are correct that Illusion Master defines a lot of what Samuro wants to do, and that it’s not particularly fun to play against. While I disagree about the severity of the commonly held belief that he only wants to split push and that his team-fighting is non-existant, I do agree that his balance of power is too much in that direction.
Sadly I don’t see a rework for him coming anytime soon. We simply have other priorities right now, and Samuro received a rework relatively recently whereas other Heroes who deserve one haven’t had one for a much longer time (ex. Tassadar).
That being said, I am totally open to simple suggestions to solve his core issues, and am willing to review them as potential balance patch changes. Please feel free to post suggestions for him below, and I’ll look them over and see what we can do.
Edit: One limitation that I'd like for you to consider when giving feedback is that I don't think we can get away with the common suggestion of making Illusion Master baseline. The first reason is that it would hugely increase the skill floor of the hero and make him almost impossibly difficult to approach for players who want to try him out since mastering Illusion Master would be required to play Samuro. The second reason is that we would need to create a new Heroic for him, and creating Heroics requires a whole lot of time and effort that would take away from other important places like new heroes or other important reworks.
Balance side - Who do you feel is/are the strongest heroes according to your stats, weakest heroes, as well as the most underrated (hidden OP) heroes. Stats wise and/or personal opinion wise.
Purely statistically, Rexxar is the strongest Hero in the last month. He's about 3% higher than most others, putting him in a tier of his own at 57.9%. He's played less often, but it's still a significant amount of games. We've always seen him high on the list, which is partially due to him being a niche Hero that's often picked on favorable Battlegrounds. However, when looking at overall Hero win rate information we typically filter out anyone that's below roster level 10 in a Hero to remove learning curve from the equation (so the "only experts play Rexxar" has less impact here, though still somewhat applies).
The pack is pretty close after that to be honest, there's a very gradual curve of winrates after Rexxar right now.
On the bottom end, Genji is the lowest winrate Hero at 43.8%. He's still a strong pick in the right situation, but we've found that when he's too strong he pushes out too many other Heroes and limits the metagame. And to be fair, I don't think many people are upset when a Genji is on their team due to his power level. My personal opinion is that a large part of his lower winrate is because doesn't fulfill a lot of the checkboxes that make poorly drafted team comps work in unorganzied play: wave clear, sustained damage, global presence, CC, or self-sustain.
I don't know that I have a personal sleeper OP Hero, but I do know that some of our less standard Heroes get a bad rap. Murky and Probius for example are actually doing fine in terms of their winrates, but teams often tilt when allies select them due to not understanding how (or sometimes wanting) to play alongside them. Sometimes they're wacky and do weird things, but that doesn't mean it isn't effective or viable. We're still happy to have them as niche picks since playing every game with a wacky Hero gets old pretty quick though.
Fun fact: Diablo and Garrosh are in the bottom 7 in terms of winrate, even though they're some of the highest banned Heroes. At Platinum and above, Diablo is the second most banned (41% of the time), and Garrosh is the 5th most banned (22% of the time).
Bonus fun fact: Kael'thas has one of the wildest divergences of ban rates depending on league. He's at an astronomical 55% ban rate in Gold and below, drops to 31% in Platinum and Diamond, and is only banned 3% of the time in Master. The fear of not spreading out from living bomb is real at lower levels of play, even though his winrate is only slightly different (53% in Gold and below, 51% in Platinum and above).
Unconventional Heroes like Abathur, Murky and the Vikings are what initially drew me into the game, but I remember reading somewhere that another Abathur-like Hero would not be made. Is it because these oddball Heroes are hard to balance? Can we expect to see more of them?
I wouldn't say that we will never make another unconventional Hero (we love them!). However, these kinds of Heroes do take a lot of extra massaging in order to feel both fun/fair to play with and against.
Balancing them will always be a bit tricky, but that honestly takes a backseat to the problem I just listed. We have to be very careful with Heroes that tend to warp the game around them, as nine other people in the game will be affected.
Question for animation team: do you rely on motion capture tools to have a beginning or do you start from scratch?
We do not rely on motion capture tools! Everything is keyed by hand.
They are powerful and awesome and doing great things for many games, but they are particularly good for getting realistic character sets with like....THOUSANDS of animations on a single character.
Our characters have a lot of animations, certainly, but we cap-out around 120, I think -- and with the nature of our pulled-out-top-down camera, we get more out of hand-keyed, really exaggerated motion than we would out of robust, nuanced mocap.
You said that next ranked season will have something called seasonal questline. What is it?
Every season, there will be a simple questline, requiring you to win a certain amount of Storm League games. Only players who have completed the questline will be eligible for the end of season rewards.
Will loss forgiveness be implemented with changes stated in the blog when the season starts as well?
The Loss Forgiveness is something we’ve been planning for a while, and made some progress with. It won’t, unfortunately, be available next season, but that’s definitely something we want to have up and running as soon as possible, along with some other safety nets against AFKers and leavers in Ranked play.
As for the MechaStorm II skins, can we show the head of the pilot instead of the mecha on the lower left corner? Just like Fenix and D.Va.
Those mecha pilots are teeeeeeny tiny -- that means their textures are also teeny tiny. If we were to blow them up to fill out the size of the portrait window, they unfortunately wouldn't be able to support with the right amount of fidelity. It's a cute idea, but in the end, cost of the work required to create two additional models just for the portrait window would have taken a lot of time away from devs doing more impactful things.
Plus, for me, I'd rather see my badass mech!
When you introduced Storm league, you said it will include an option to have a forced solo queue matchmaking, where you are put versus other people that solo queued, and the points you earn will count towards the same total as if you queued with other players. I think it's important to have this type of "Hero League'' play, as matches feel not balanced when you face a premade group and you are a random solo team. We should have an option to queue solo, why did the team give up on that?
Adding strict “Solo queue” option would essentially take us back to the pre-Storm League days, matchmaking-wise. That means separating the single ranked player pool into two, and we already know that this ends up in unleasonably longer wait times for the less populated pool of solo-queuers. One compromise solution could be making the queue population separation dynamic, so that people could be automatically moved from solo-preferred pool to more populated party-queuers pool, should they spend too much time in queue. That will increase the matchmaker complexity significantly, and might not be as beneficial as one could expect. Still, we’d love to give players more flexibility around their queuing and matching preferences, so we’re trying new things and running simulations on how to make it happen without sacrificing too much of matchmaking quality and wait times expectation.
As an exclusive vs AI player, I'm always amazed to see how fast the queues are and how rarely I see the same players, as well as how generally chill they've been. Is there a significant portion of the playerbase that actively plays this mode, and does it ever get any consideration when working on the AI's behavior? Thank you for all of your work!
Thanks for the question! Aren't insta queues great? VS AI is near and dear to me because I also find it relaxing! Who's your go to hero for VS AI?
On the subject of the AI system, it is and has been one of our top priorities. In fact, I am currently working closely with our engineering team to make sure that the VS AI experience is improved. Although we don't have anything specific to share, we're actively testing improvements that we hope to get out to the public as soon as possible. Stay tuned!
Are there heroes that, after visually designing them, you've thought: "We shouldn't have done it like that." because your ultimate design choices made the character more difficult to manage in terms of fine tuning their animations, creating new skins, themed abilities, mount interactions, et cetera?
Thanks for the question. Game development is a very iterative process. When we begin working on something new, we start with an idea. That idea evolves and changes over time as people playtest and give feedback. Sometimes this goes smoothly, sometimes we hit hiccups and have to change our initial design or ideas. Because game development is a team sport, it means that any change made will have a cascading effect on any people or departments that need to do work after them. If design changes an ability from a missile to an aoe, the animation needs to change, then the FX have to be update, the sound might have to be altered, the ability will need to be retested etc. etc.
At the end of the day, we only have so much time to work on assets. Sometimes in order to complete assets on time we have to commit to doing something that might make future updates more difficult. A great example of this is Ragnaros. He is a very FX heavy character that we all want to see with new skins (No really, we do!). But the time involved in doing it properly means we have to adjust our schedules accordingly.
TLDR: Yeah, we are always learning how to create content and assets better and faster.
Dehaka, actually! Not from how he turned out, he is my sweet baby boy, but how we approached creating him.
When we modeled him, we have him standing very, very upright -- to match the version of Dehaka you'd see in Heart of the Swarm. However, as soon as we started playing around with his model in game, there was fear that he was pushing into Diablo's visual territory. Trev asked me to do some exploration on the posing to really differentiate the silhouette. It worked out really well because the hunched-over dino look made him feel more like the feral zerg that he is, and we all fell in love with the move set.
Unfortunately, the team didn't have the time or structure in place to go back and reassess the model with the new posing. As such, you can see on screens like the Store or QM Hero Select, the textures on the underside of Dehaka's neck are, to this day, suuuuuper stretched out...because I, ahem, kind of broke him. There isn't enough geometry there to truly support that pose on the base and master skins, but the silhouette differences were important enough that we shipped him like this anyway!
Now it's something we are aware of, so we compensate for the new posing going forward, but it was an oversight that kind of bit us a bit, in the end.
Now I am coming up with a probably extremely niche question about Alarak, but I feel like it should be a relevant one nevertheless and I will try to explain why. Alarak is and even more so back then was my most played hero and I play him quite successfully, and there is one issue that keeps nagging on me since a long time.
In 2017 you significantly reworked Alarak. One change that never got much attention was the removal of his old level 4 talent "Reckless Strike". What the talent did was reducing the delay of his Q ability to 0.25 seconds, making it nearly instant, at the drawback of becoming vulnerable for a short duration after hitting your Q, gaining -25 armor (the other drawback being the opportunity cost of missing out on the Double Cross talent that you decided to make baseline with the rework instead).
Now Reckless Strike was not a popular talent at all, and most people didn't consider it a useful talent, but I myself really liked that talent, had success with it and I think it also always had the higher winrate on hotslogs than Double Cross. Not only did Reckless Strike enable Alarak to counter very mobile heroes with escape abilities like Tracer, Genji, Tassadar much easier, it also generally enabled a very fluid playstyle that was very cool and made Alarak more flexible, because it also made your Q much easier to hit without pushing people with Telekinesis towards you for the standard combo, allowing you to use your Telekinesis a bit more freely instead, for example to just push yourself towards opponents and still be reliably able to hit your Q afterwards or use Telekinesis to peel or enable allied combos more often (an idea you seem to like, because you recently gave Alarak a new level 1 talent that reduces the Telekinesis cooldown so we can use Telekinesis more freely).
On the other hand the drawback made it so you had to be smart with your Q timing so that it does not bite you in the back, but could be also again mitigated by Alaraks Counter-Strike ultimate ability, both negating the risk and maybe even punishing the opponent by baiting out a counter-attack on Alarak just to again counter it with your own Counter-Strike ?
So maybe I could make a convincing argument for this talent and end it with the question: Could you imagine bringing back this talent or functionality in some kind of fashion to Alarak again at some point? ?
There were two reasons why we got rid of Reckless Strike on Alarak. The first was, as you pointed out, it was very hard to get people to want to pick the talent. It had a pretty abysmal pick and win rate compared to other talents on the tier. I believe we could have buffed the talent with tuning to get people to pick it, but I don’t believe we could have done it in a healthy way for Alarak or the game.
The second reason why we got rid of the talent was that it was a skill-lowering talent that made Alarak significantly easier to play (which is why it had the Armor reduction drawback). As a general philosophy, we try to steer away from talents that lower the skill of a hero too much (Li-Ming’s Ess of Johan also fell into this category). The primary reason why is that tuning these kinds of talents usually becomes incredibly difficult over time, as they flip between being too strong and too weak very quickly, and tuning them properly usually results in creating weird gameplay that eventually becomes unhealthy for the hero.
To give you an example with Reckless Strike, let’s do an exercise where we want to “solve” the talent with just tuning.
Let’s say the talent is currently too strong and we need to nerf it. The negative Armor cap is -25 Armor so we can’t make it even lower without creating a special exception which we’re not going to do (if we did it would open up a huge can of worms that we’d rather stay away from), so we’re stuck with nerfing the delay bonus that Alarak gets on his Q, or increasing the window of his vulnerability. The bonus is already very small, so changing it from .25 seconds to .2 or .15 seconds has a very low chance of changing people’s perception on the talent, and it makes the talent feel worse to pick since that’s the cool bonus that it’s giving. Let’s say that we try that and unsurprisingly it doesn’t work. Now we have a less fun talent that’s still too strong. After that we’re stuck with increasing the Armor reduction window, which we could do and it might work, but now you have this weird talent that tells you to use Discord Strike more often because it’s more accurate, but players will constantly be scared to use the ability because the window where it can backfire and kill themselves is so high. There’s also a duration threshold where the talent likely hugely backfires if the Armor reduction duration is longer than Discord Strike’s Silence duration, since the target can turn around and blow up Alarak after being Silenced.
If the talent is too weak, which was the case, then we can reduce the delay of Discord Strike even further, but that takes away even more from the heart of the ability at a base level and makes the talent even more transformative. Discord Strike has always been intended to be a hard-hitting ability that is very punishing when Alarak hits an enemy Hero with it. This could result in us needing to balance/nerf base Discord Strike due to its interactions with this talent, which could hurt the hero overall and further pidgeon-hole players into having to pick Reckless Strike to be effective. We could also reduce the Armor debuff and window of time that Alarak is hit with which would likely get some traction, but there would absolutely be a cutoff point where the curse of taking the talent is no longer meaningful, and people immediately flock to the talent and tout that it’s the only way to play Alarak because he can’t reliably land his Discord Strike without it, which would likely result in the playerbase clamoring for us to just make the reduced delay baseline since Alarak “can’t be played” without it.
A lot of these are hypothetical scenarios and don’t even cover all the potential cases, but they have absolutely played out on other heroes, and rather than try to manage the headache on a talent that wasn’t popular and had a low chance of being successful, we decided to cut it in favor of talents like Chaos Reigns, which we felt were much more reliably fun and powerful.
There were absolutely some cool things about the talent, but I believe it was the right call to remove it in favor of what Alarak currently has.
I wanted to thank you guys for the current Mecha event. I really like the idea of involving a little bit of story to it and I hope we will see a bit more of that for the upcoming events. I don't expect you guys to put a ton of story in them but having a little bit to read certainly feels good to me.
Why does the new Valla Skin cost 2,4k shards and the Yrel one 1,8k? Is it because the Valla model was a bit more difficult to make or did you add "better" VFX effects to it? I don't mind the price difference but I am curious to why.
And I do have a wish for the next events; could we please see all the quest rewards while selecting the quest/quest chain? Currently if you pick for example the body armor quest line, we don't get to see the portait we are able to earn.
When it comes to skin pricing there's a lot of factors that go into it. Hopefully it's not a case of "better VFX" as we try to put the best quality into everything we make. But certainly some skins are chosen to receive more visual updates than others. In this case the Mecha Valla skin has significantly more asset changes compared to the Mecha Yrel Skin. Including an updated model, animations, FX and sounds. Those new wings on Yrel are pretty sweet though!
Any plans on improving the "looking for other player" feature? Right now it's only possbile to look for other players, but it would be nice if i could look for other players and let them now what mode i want to play (ranked, vs AI, QM, brawl).
Sounds like a very good idea. Heroes is a very cooperative-focused game; having more tools to build better parties is something we’d love to focus on. No promises right now though.
Do you have any plans for Whitemane? I personally feel she is in a pretty good spot, maybe on the weaker side, but she tends to rely on her W talent at 4 a lot. Just curious if she is being looked at. I think she is easily the most fun support to play in the game right now and I love managing her mana.
Maybe if she got some healing baseline from her abilities without zeal she would spend less mana and benefit her aggressive playstyle.
Whitemane's core design was built around having players manage her Mana consumption. When you look at her talent tree (specifically her level 4 talents), they each offer ways for people to 'cheat' this design. This makes it fairly difficult to balance, as whichever talent allows her to cheat the most ends up dictating her build path.
We have been playing around with some significant changes to her talent tree internally and I would expect that you guys will get your hands on them sooner or later ?
Art-wise - I have heard Blizzard primarily uses 3Ds Max/Zbrush for their games, is this true for HotS? and what would you suggest the best way of getting into the HotS art team would be?
(Yes I know you can use any program and it is more about the concepts of proper mesh flow/polygon managment/workflow/ ECT, but knowing what programs you all use for animation/concept design/3d modeling/rigging you all use?)
(Also yes I know you shouldn't focus on getting into any one specific company/specific game because you will learn great things everywhere, but still best sugestions would be apreciated)
We use 3Ds Max as well as Maya. For High poly models we use mostly Zbrush. I prefer using Modo for low poly polygon and hard surface modeling and UVs. Getting comfortable with the big two (3DsMax and Maya) is a good place to be. Mainly you're looking for a program that makes the most sense to you. Focus on creating a good result.
Once you do that the concepts that you use modeling will transfer between software later. Every studio is going to have proprietary tools as well which you won't be able to prepare for but that's expected. These programs are just tools. Learn keyboard shortcuts to speed up workflow. A lot of tools have similar shortcuts in multiple programs. If they don't you can change them to something that makes sense to you. I like to keep my most used hotkeys closer to my left hand as my right hand is usually on my Cintiq.
What we look for in a candidate is someone who can produce a good result as well as someone who meshes well with the team. Interfacing with people is important and if you're hard to work with you're probably not going to get the job. Hope this helps!
How many people usually work on hero reworks? I want to be a game designer one day, and I'm curious on how the process of creating a new hero (or altering an existing one) works, could you give me some input on that?
The rework process actually happens pretty organically. A single designer will normally take 'point' on a rework. They start by creating a list of goals for the rework, and then paper-designing changes to help achieve them.
Once they are happy with the changes, they will send this 'pitch' out to the rest of the design team, at which point they all jump in to share individual feedback, suggestions, and concerns. The design owner will then address all of it and send out a second version. This process will repeat indefinitely until the team, as a whole, is happy with moving forward.
At this point, the owner will begin implementing the changes. Once in, we begin playtesting (normally unearthing a bunch of fun bugs) the changes. After a session of testing, we will always find a few things that looked great/fun/exciting on paper but did not pan out to be as good in action. We will address these issues and begin work on 'iteration 2' of the rework. Again this process gets repeated as many times as necessary - and often differs from designer to designer (for instance, I am known to start pretty extreme and go through a lot of iterations before finding the right magic, while some of the other designers favor a more subtle approach and can find it much quicker).
Once we are happy with the design, we will list out any art/fx/ui/sound needs and hand it off to the rest of the team. When all of this is costed out, we align to a good release date and use the remaining time to really hammer-down on balance testing in our playtests.
I am sure I have missed a few things, but I hope this gives a bit of insight into our rework scheduling! I will leave you with one last fun piece of information: at this exact moment we are currently working on eight different reworks, all of them differing in size and scope ?
How much is the average time for each team (concept, mechanic, programming, design, movement, sound...) to finish a hero? How do you manage to sync while working on multiple heroes at the same time?
Time for each team varies pretty drastically based on which hero we’re working on. Some heroes might be super heavy on FX (Ragnaros) or animation, while others are simple on the art side but require some complex engineering or design work (Deckard) to make them happen. When we start a new hero we get together with all the teams involved and estimate the difficulty for each one, and sort out our timelines from there. We have frequent meetings and daily status syncs to make sure everyone’s on the right track with everything. Producers like myself make sure everyone’s on schedule with things so the other developers can focus on getting their tasks done!
Is there any intention of giving Ragnaros a new skin?
There is a lot of intention! There's so much intention. The thing with Ragnaros and some other heroes is this concept of cost. It takes about as much time as it would take us to do 2 or 3 skins to do 1 Ragnaros skin. So we have to weigh in a lot of these things when considering who is or isn't getting a skin. In a perfect world, everyone would get skins all the time!
Regarding the upcoming changes to Storm League and finally implementing things that the community had asked for a long time, Why now? Why not during 2.0? Why not when PBMMR failed? Why are these changes ok now but not before? What has changed?
Nothing has honestly changed - we have always been listening to the community and worked towards bringing the most meaningful changes possible to the ranked play experience. As for everything coming with the inaugural Storm League season, we honestly just felt like this was the right time.
A huge thanks to our features-team that have been working extremely hard to make all this happen!
I think right now some heroes are not really smooth in their gameplay. Let me explain, i think a hero like Mephisto is really clunky. I think i know why, you feared he will destroy everything. But now, i think he should has improvements like Artanis had previously about his combo. The fact you can't control the return on the shadow like a wormhole is really frustrating and low the skill of the hero.
I have this feeling for Mephisto, DVA, Xul, Butcher, Hammer (the rework has made her monobuild and mono gameplay). Do you have plans about reworks ou just changes for them ?
We do have some changes planned for a couple of the Heroes you mentioned but I wanted to mention that sometimes that 'clunky' feeling you have when playing a Hero was intentionally created by the designer. While the design team often wants to make a Hero feel as good as possible, sometimes the 'design pillars' of the Hero are in direct conflict with doing so. For example, we have actually playtested a version of Mephisto where he had control of his shade return and we ended up not shipping it. A lot of the time, predictability in Hero abilities is extremely important and makes playing against them feel more fair.
Industrial District has been chosen as this week's brawl. The single-lane Overwatch-themed battleground comes with standard play and shuffle pick. The main goal is to destroy the enemy Core and playing three games rewards a Mecha Chest, with a guaranteed chance to contain the new MechaStorm II event items.
This week’s Heroes Brawl is Industrial District! Slide around and slug it out in the heart of Volskaya in this Overwatch-themed, single-lane Battleground featuring lots of conveyor belts and tons of action.
Shuffle pick - Choose from one of three Heroes before entering the battle. Standard play - no talent or level restrictions. The first team to destroy the enemy Core wins! Rewards:
Complete three matches of the Industrial District Brawl to earn a Loot Chest! Find out more about the Heroes Brawl game mode on our Heroes Brawl site; and as always, you can find more information on this week’s Brawl by clicking the Brawl Info button at the bottom of the play screen when preparing to queue for the Brawl game mode.
This week, Cassia, Garrosh, and Chen are on sale along with new skins and mounts!
Click here to check out this week's Free-to-Play Hero rotation!
Heroes Old Price New Price Cassia 750 Gems 375 Gems Chen 500 Gems 250 Gems Garrosh 750 Gems 375 Gems Skins
Galactic Xenotech Abathur -- 1,125 Gems // 2,400 Shards Hunter Mecha Dehaka -- 900 Gems // 1,800 Shards
Fel Razorgrin and Great Razorgrin mounts can be purchased for 10K Gold. The Seraph Wing Bundle can be purchased for 1,260 Gems.