Heroes of the Storm
|Heroes of the Storm|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, macOS|
|Release||June 2, 2015|
|Genre(s)||Multiplayer online battle arena|
Heroes of the Storm is a multiplayer online battle arena video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment for Microsoft Windows and macOS, which released on June 2, 2015. The game features heroes from Blizzard's franchises including Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft, The Lost Vikings, and Overwatch. The game uses both free-to-play and freemium models and is supported by micropayments, which can be used to purchase heroes, visual alterations for the heroes in the game, and mounts. Blizzard does not call the game a "multiplayer online battle arena" or an "action real-time strategy" because they feel it is something different with a broader playstyle; they refer to it as an online "hero brawler". At the end of 2018, Blizzard announced that game was being transitioned to a long-term maintenance plan, with staff moved to other projects and esports tournaments cancelled.
Heroes of the Storm revolves around online 5-versus-5 matches, operated through Blizzard's online gaming service Battle.net. Players can choose from different game modes, which include playing against computer-controlled heroes or other players. Initially, no heroes are permanently available for use; however, players may choose from a list of heroes that are free to use from a weekly rotation. By using gold coins, the in-game currency, or through microtransactions, they can gain permanent access to a hero. As of November 2018, there are 80 heroes in the game, divided into four separate roles: Assassin, Warrior, Support, and Specialist. These heroes include one multiclass hero. In addition, there are currently 15 maps available to play, each of which has different objectives to secure, with some having different victory conditions.
Experience points, which can be gained by being nearby enemy units when they're killed, are shared across the entire team. When a team reaches a certain experience point threshold, every hero on that team levels up, acquiring slightly amplified powers. Every few levels, players may select a talent which offers a new ability, or augments an existing one. This leveling system emphasizes the importance of teamwork and planning, since a player's action can affect the whole team.
Players can also mount different animals, such as horses, lizards, or unicorns, to increase their movement speed, automatically dismounting when attacking, receiving damage or using any ability.
- Tutorials - The tutorials are composed of three scripted 'levels' that are aimed at new players with the intent of teaching movement, use of abilities and other basic controls. The player controls Jim Raynor, who is teleported from the StarCraft universe into the Nexus, receiving instructions from Uther Lightbringer from the Warcraft series.
- Training - A reduced experience mode where a player teams up with four AI teammates against five AI opponents set at the Beginner difficulty.
- Versus A.I. - Players face off against five AI opponents. Before starting the match, the player can choose to have human-controlled or AI allies. The AI difficulty can be chosen prior to initiating a match.
- Quick Match - Players choose their heroes before entering the match without knowing what map they are playing, or what heroes they will be matched with and against. This mode sets two teams of five human-controlled heroes against each other on a random map in Player-Versus-Player style combat. These teams are selected based on the player's past performance to create an even playing field, as well as the roles of heroes chosen. For example, if a player queues without other party members as a Support, they are extremely unlikely to be matched with four other Support teammates.
- Unranked - This is a draft mode where each team takes turn choosing heroes, generally based on each hero's strength on that particular map and how well the hero works with the team composition. Each team can also ban two heroes so neither team can draft them for that match. Players will get the same practice of drafting as in Ranked Play, but without the additional stress that may come with Ranked Play. Unlike in Ranked, there is no limitation of maximum party size in this mode.
- Ranked - A draft mode similar to Unranked Draft; however, players are placed in divisions from Bronze to Grand Master based on their in-game performance. There are two Ranked Play modes:
- Hero League - As players compete in these matches, they will be awarded ranked points which will progress their League Rank and begin to place them in more challenging match-ups. Player rank is expressed in the form of League Tiers and Divisions. Hero League is only available to solo queues, and does not allow party queues.
- Team League - Players who choose to play competitively as a team can play in a Team League match to be matched with other teams in their region. The League ranks gained by these teams are assigned separately from the ranks gained within Hero League. Player rank is expressed in the form of League Tiers and Divisions, and this rank is assigned separately for each individual player. Team League allows for a parties of any size to play after a patch released on September 25, 2018 removed previous party size requirements.
The first official Ranked Play season began on June 14, 2016 and ended at August 23. Each Ranked Play season is set to last for approximately 10–14 weeks.
- Heroes Brawl - Added on October 18, 2016, this game mode has three different subcategories with varying rules:
- Arenas - Players pick one of three randomly selected Heroes and try to complete the objective. The first team to complete the objective will claim victory. The first to win two rounds wins the match. There are multiple arena maps exclusively designed for this mode.
- Mutators - Unique mechanics change the way you play on the already familiar Battlegrounds.
- Single-Lanes - One-lane Battlegrounds with no objectives, or Hearthstone.
The rules of Heroes Brawl change every week.
- Custom Games - Often used for tournament play, players can create a lobby and make a predetermined match-up of up to five players versus five players, with the ability to choose the map, whether to enable draft mode, and whether to add AI-controlled heroes and/or allow up to six observers.
As a part of the arcade feature for StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, a custom map called "Blizzard DOTA" was announced alongside several other mods of Blizzard Entertainment at BlizzCon 2010. At that time, the map was developed to showcase the modding abilities that were to be added to StarCraft II. In 2011, however, development of Blizzard DOTA was rebooted and demoed at BlizzCon 2011. In comparison to the previous iteration previewed at BlizzCon 2010, the gameplay was described as "fast" and "streamlined."
Following the announcement of Dota 2 by Valve Corporation, Rob Pardo, the executive vice president of Blizzard Entertainment, expressed concern at Valve using and trademarking a name that originated from within the Warcraft III community. Following a failed trademark injunction on the part of Riot Games, Blizzard acquired Riot's subsidiary, DotA-Allstars, LLC., the original company that represented the servicing of Defense of the Ancients. Subsequently, Blizzard filed an opposition against Valve for claiming the DotA trademark. On May 11, 2012, Blizzard and Valve announced that the dispute had been settled, with Valve retaining the commercial franchising rights to the term "Dota", while Blizzard would change the name of Blizzard DOTA to Blizzard All-Stars. Blizzard, however, will retain the right to use DOTA name non-commercially. This includes promoting DOTA-style maps made for Blizzard games by the community.
In June 2012, Dustin Browder, the director of StarCraft II, stated that Blizzard All-Stars did not have a release date, but that it would definitely be after the release of StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. In an interview in January 2013, he noted that parts of the game were "starting to feel really good", with "a really tight multiplayer experience", but that there was no way to project a timeline on it, since it was not complete enough to run a company-wide internal alpha test. In February 2013, the Activision Blizzard fourth quarter 2012 earnings report listed Blizzard All-Stars as one of the areas of continued investment for Blizzard throughout 2013. Dustin Browder commented in March 2013 that a few artists had transitioned from the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm team, to work on Blizzard All-Stars for the time being along with the few designers on the team.
In August 2013, Blizzard president Mike Morhaime said that the game had reached a significant internal testing milestone, and was going into wider internal testing. Describing it as an "action real-time strategy" game, he said that Blizzard was looking to put their own spin on the genre and challenge some of the existing design paradigms. The Blizzard All-Stars team was expanded in May 2013, from some of the resources who were reallocated when Blizzard's Titan project was rebooted and the team downsized. On October 17, 2013, the name of the game was changed to Heroes of the Storm.
Heroes of the Storm entered a technical alpha testing phase on March 13, 2014, which went offline on September 22, 2014. The technical alpha went back online on October 7, 2014 for North America, Latin America, South East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. The servers for Europe, Korea, China and Taiwan went online in the following weeks. The technical alpha continued until the beginning of the closed beta. Closed beta testing started on January 13, 2015. As of February 2015, over 9 million players had signed up for eligibility to receive an invite to beta testing. The open beta of the game began on May 19, 2015, and the full version of the game was released on June 2, 2015.
While the game was in Alpha testing, Blizzard ran a promotion as part of the pre-order for Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, which unlocked Valla as a free hero. To mark the release of Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard had crossovers implemented between Blizzard games. Players who reached account level 12 in Heroes of the Storm received the Heroes of the Storm themed card back in Hearthstone and after winning 100 play mode matches in Hearthstone received the Hearthstone Card mount in Heroes of the Storm. Players who reached account level 20 in Heroes of the Storm received a Grave Golem battle pet in World of Warcraft and after reaching level 100 in World of Warcraft received an Ironside Dire Wolf mount in Heroes of the Storm. After the Diablo hero patch, any player who purchased Diablo III was given the Diablo hero free for a limited time; players who reach level 12 in Heroes of the Storm will receive a unique pennant and portrait frame in Diablo III and reaching level 70 Season 4 and beyond receive Malthael's Phantom mount in Heroes of the Storm. Players who purchase the StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void deluxe or collector's editions receive a Void Seeker mount in Heroes of the Storm and purchasing any edition of Legacy of the Void unlocks the Artanis hero. Players who purchase the Origins Edition of Overwatch unlock Tracer as a free hero.
During the Nexus Challenge event (November 15, 2016 – January 4, 2017), each player who completed 15 games of Heroes of the Storm together with a friend received the Oni Genji skin, Oni Genji Portrait and Oni Genji Spray in Overwatch, and Zarya as a free hero in Heroes of the Storm. After completing 30 games with a friend, players unlocked four additional heroes (Auriel, Greymane, Kerrigan, Li-Ming), the Orochi Hovercycle mount, and a 30-Day Stimpack in Heroes of the Storm.
During the For Azeroth! event (February 14, 2017 – March 14, 2017, then extended for March 17, 2017 – March 26, 2017), each player who completed 15 games of Heroes of the Storm together with a friend while playing as a Warcraft character, received a Flames of Judgement Charger mount and a 10-day stim pack to use in-game. They also received a Primal Flamesaber mount for World of Warcraft.
During the Nexus Challenge 2.0 event (April 24, 2017 – May 22, 2017), all players could choose to permanently unlock 1 of 4 Mega Bundles; Assassin, Flex, Support & Specialist, and Tanks & Bruisers. For each of the 4 weeks of the event, players who completed 5 matches with a friend could unlock various Overwatch-themed rewards for the players' Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch accounts.
Heroes of the Storm 2.0
On March 29, 2017, game director Alan Dabiri announced Heroes of the Storm 2.0, described as "a culmination of all the ways Blizzard transformed the Nexus since launch, plus plenty of radical additions on their way". A major feature of the patch was a revamp of the player and hero progression systems. The level caps (40 for players in general, and 20 for individual heroes) were removed, and the uneven experience curve for levelling heroes was smoothed out. Another feature was the introduction of Loot Chests which contain cosmetic rewards, similar to the system used in Overwatch. In addition to heroes, skins, and mounts, the chests can also include new portraits, banners, custom announcer voices (similar to StarCraft II), hero voice lines, and graffiti sprays (both similar to Overwatch). A loadout system for cosmetic additions was also included. The in-game shop was remodeled and retitled "Collection", and two new currencies were added in addition to the existing Gold: Gems (which can be earned in-game or purchased with real money), used to buy heroes, Loot Chests, and featured items, and Shards, awarded from Loot Chests and from duplicate items from Loot Chests. As part of the announcement, a new Diablo hero, the Amazon Cassia, was highlighted.
Heroes 2.0 went into beta testing on March 29, and was released on April 25.
Long-term maintenance period
On December 13, 2018, Blizzard announced that some developers from Heroes of the Storm would be moving to other projects, and that the game would be transitioning to a long-term maintenance phase. Blizzard also announced the cancellation of their esports tournaments, Heroes Global Championship and Heroes of the Dorm. Members of the esports community around Heroes stated they were caught off guard by the announcement and had been told as recently as BlizzCon 2018 that HGC would continue.
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GameSpot awarded it 9 out of 10, summarizing "A fantastic casual-competitive game that offers untold hours of enjoyment." IGN awarded it 8 out of 10 on a re-review in March 2018, saying "Heroes of the Storm packs a ton of variety and excellent characters. Some of this MOBA's modes work better than others, but it's a safe bet that it'll deliver a fun match."
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