We all know the history of Heroes of the Storm or rather Defence of the Ancients and the MOBA genre. A group of modders used Blizzard's Warcraft III to create Dota - a mod that grew tremendously popular and spawned what could be considered the most successful online multiplayer game of today - League of Legends. Unlike Valve who typically embrace and integrate mods and mod teams into their family, Blizzard allowed Dota to live on its own. Surely something that irks the head honchos at Activision. In an ironic twist it was Valve who picked up Dota and created Dota 2 under the guidance of Dota All-Stars creator IceFrog.
Enter BlizzCon 2011 where Blizzard unveiled a mod for Starcraft II called Blizzard Dota. Blizzard decided to enter into more formal development of the title that became known as Blizzard All-Stars. Fast forward until November of this year and Heroes of the Storm was made public, Blizzard's attempt to enter a genre of their own making (sort of) and a game that should excite fans of Blizzard's big trio of franchises.
One of the major selling points of Heroes of the Storm is the fact that it's a mash up between Blizzard's big three. Pulled away from Azeroth, Sanctuary and the Koprulu section, a vast number of heroes and villains have already been confirmed. These are divided into four categories - assassins, warriors, supports and specialists. Perhaps the most interesting class is specialists, as these heroes come in many shapes and forms. There's Abathur who can move quickly and infests other heroes (basically hitching a ride), while other specialists can be focused on siege abilities. But it's a very flexible class and one that could potentially be key to the success of any team.
Assassins are damage dealers and this class includes iconic Starcraft characters like Kerrigan and Raynor as well as Nova, whose shining moment never came to be (Starcraft: Ghost). As you'd expect supports primarilly administer buffs and healing and this class includes Warcraft staples Thrall, Malfurion and Tyrande. The warrior class sports several notables from the Diablo franchise such as Tyrael, Diablo and Sonya. The characters and their classes is an area that Blizzard are still working hard on and by the sounds of it the classes won't be all that rigid.
As you'd expect when Blizzard are entering a particular genre they've looked long and hard at what experience they want players to have. Rather than sticking with convention they've tried to boil the concept down to the essentials while adding a few ingredients of their own to the mix.
"The biggest stuff we're trying to do is really emphasise teamplay and combining it with shorter gameplay we're trying to hit this target of 20 minute games," production director Chris Sigaty told us at BlizzCon. "It's forced us to really think about the mechanics that are right for the game we're trying to make and a lot of the things that would be considered traditional to this style of game, this genre of game, we are trying to challenge because it feels right to hit that 20 minute game."
The big question is whether there is sufficient space for a more streamlined and less complicated MOBA game in the marketplace. Several attempts have been made, none of which with the kind of weight Blizzard carries, but it's still a question whether or not there is a way to lure away players from the established time sinks that are League of Legends or Dota 2. Perhaps Blizzard's best shot is appealing to their own fanbase and players who haven't invested time and effort into developing their Dota 2 and League of Legends skills.
Regardless we're excited to see what the magical touch of Blizzard could result in. It's a game that looks and plays great already, and streamlines and tweaks a popular genre to offer the chance for Blizzard's many characters to go head to head.
Interview with Production Director Chris Sigaty
For more impressions of Heroes of the Storm read out preview from BlizzCon.