Friday, April 18, 2014

Heroes of the Storm 4.15.17 Alpha Build --- Hits and Misses

The environmental detail found in Heroes of the Storm is incredible...but that's for another post.
Heroes of the Storm recently saw what will probably be the first of several account wipes this past week. When servers came back up, players were greeted with some tweaks to the UI and game systems, as well as a slew of hero ability changes. I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty of the heroes changes since I haven't had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with any of them. Instead, I've identified some of the larger changes featured in this build and described what worked for me---and what didn't.


Increased Movement Speed
Patch notes indicated hero speed was increased from 4.0 to 4.4. While this doesn't really mean anything to me at the end of the day, I can report that there is a subtle difference in the speed of play. I can't say for certain if this shortens the average length of the game, but certainly it allows players to enter combat situations in less time than they could before.

While hero speed wasn't something I ever had a problem with, it seemed to be a fairly common complaint posted on the feedback forums. Surely this change is simply Blizzard testing the waters, but I wouldn't be surprised if it makes it live. Hopefully Blizzard will amass some quality feedback from players who felt the original style of play was a bit sluggish.

Improved Minimap Visibility
This was a relatively minor change as well, but a nice quality-of-life improvement. Blizzard seems to have lightened up the minimap shading so that the entire map is visible by all players. Of course, you cannot see where your opponents are unless you have teammates or minions near them. However, other MOBAs tend to add an annoying level of shading/shadows to cloak the sections of the map you and your teammates haven't yet "discovered."

This is a good move on Blizzard's part. Giving the minimap greater visibility doesn't offer an advantage to one team over the other. The map simply becomes easier to read for all players. I'd bet this change is here to stay.


Haunted Mines
This map's objective seems to be the most inconsequential compared to the objectives found on other maps. Essentially, there is a mine that both teams can enter at predetermined times in the game where they kill minions and collect their skulls. There are 100 skulls in all, and however many your team acquires will be used to fuel the health of a large golem that will barrel toward your enemy's base.

In Heroes' previous build, players discovered that oftentimes entering the mine to collect skulls could actually put your team at a disadvantage. Ignoring the mechanic and playing the map as if it held no objectives was the way to go. From the looks of it, Blizzard tried to make the destructive nature of the golem more attractive to teams by increasing its health over the course of the match, but based on several matches played this week in the mines, I'm not sure they've gone far enough. Sick three or four members of your team onto the golem and it can usually be felled before it wreaks too much havoc---maybe that's OK with Blizzard. Either way, it makes me wonder if it still might be better for teams to ignore the mines and continue to push enemy towers unaided.

Lack of Robust Teamwork/Chat Functionality
I was hoping we'd see more communication functionality in this build. It'd be nice to see a League of Legends-style lobby at least in the pre-game, and possibly before the team selects Heroes. Blizzard's matchmaking system may be set up to create balanced groups, yet it'd still be nice if players were given some control over their team makeup.

Quest Rewards Restricted to Vs. Mode
The final "miss," and the most contentious of them all. Prior to Tuesday's build, players were able to complete daily quests for extra experience and gold in any game mode. This meant players could satisfy quest objectives like "Use X ability to do 20,000 damage against enemy heroes" while playing against the AI. Not anymore. As I write this, there's still quite a discussion taking place on the forums over this particular change.

Is the lure of daily quests enough to convince a more casual player to make a foray into Vs. mode? For a lot of people, the answer is clearly no. Another thing we aren't sure of is just why Blizzard has made this change. It could be something as simple as they need a greater pool of testers selecting Vs. mode and this is their attempt at enticement.

I don't care if you're for it or against it, but there needs to be intelligent reward systems for each of the play modes: Practice (you + AI vs. AI), Co-Op (you + players vs. AI) and Vs. (you + players vs. players). They don't have to be equal---in fact I'd argue the rewards should be the most attractive at the Vs. level---but they must be present for each mode. I'll be eagerly watching for Blizzard's reaction to the feedback on this topic. They've been doing a pretty good job about addressing players thus far.

Whether or not you're currently playing Heroes, do you have any thoughts on the recent round of changes?

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