Heroes of the Storm
|Heroes of the Storm|
|Release||June 2, 2015|
|Genre(s)||Multiplayer online battle arena|
Heroes of the Storm (HotS) is a multiplayer online battle arena video game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment for Microsoft Windows and macOS. 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".
The game was released on June 2, 2015.
Heroes of the Storm revolves around online 5-versus-5 matches, operated through Blizzard's online gaming service Battle.net. Players can choose from three game modes, which include playing with/against computer-controlled heroes or other players. When players first start the game, they may play 6 heroes provided by the free hero rotation, a methodically selected list that changes weekly, but by using gold coins, the in-game source of wealth, or through microtransactions, they can gain permanent access to a hero. Four additional free hero slots are available to players who have reached level 15, rewarded progressively. As of March 2017, there are currently 64 heroes in the game, divided into 4 separate roles: Assassin (damage dealer and attacker), Warrior (damage absorber and bruiser), Support (healer and combat augmenter) and Specialist (siege, summoner and commander). Varian Wrynn from the Warcraft universe, added in November 2016, is the first "multiclass" hero; he can be either a Warrior or Assassin depending on his talent choices. Of the currently released maps, nine of the 12 have the standard three main lanes where players can fight, while the others have only two main lanes, but a separate objective-based area. Killing computer-controlled enemy/neutral units and the opposing side's heroes grants experience points, which are shared with the entire team. When a certain experience point threshold is reached for a team, every hero on that team levels up, acquiring slightly amplified powers and gaining a talent point upon reaching certain levels. Talent points allow players to customize and empower their hero's abilities and generally result in large increase in use. 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 dealing/receiving damage or using an ability. Minions at neutral camps can be defeated to gain experience points, and become mercenaries that fight for the player's team. Each map has a different side-objective that will help either team and deal significant damage to the other.
In non-draft modes, players choose their heroes in a party before entering the game or knowing what map they are playing. In draft modes, teams cannot play the same heroes as the opposing team. However, they can base their decision around the map that is announced during the draft period. Draft mode allows each team to ban two heroes each (a total of four heroes banned), removing them from the match.
- Tutorials - The tutorials are composed of three scripted 'levels' that are aimed at new players with the intent of teaching them 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 XP mode where a player plays with four AI teammates against five AI opponents set at the Beginner difficulty.
- Versus A.I. - Players face off against five AI opponents. Before beginning, the player can choose to have human-controlled or AI allies. Like in StarCraft II, the AI difficulty can be chosen prior to initiating a match.
- Quick Match - This mode sets two teams of five human-controlled heroes against each other on one of the twelve maps in Player-Versus-Player style combat. These teams are selected based on the player's past performance (a somewhat hidden statistic not available in-game) to create a level 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 Draft - Draft mode. Players will get the same experience of drafting as in Ranked Play, but without the additional stress that coincides with Ranked Play. Unlike in Hero League, there is no limitation of maximum party size in this mode.
- Ranked Play - Draft mode. 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 within their community and begin to place them in more challenging match-ups. Hero League is unlocked at Player Level 30 and the player must own at least 14 heroes at level 5 or higher to participate. Player rank is expressed in the form of League Tiers and Divisions. The tiers are, in ascending order: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, and Grand Master. League Tiers gives an idea of that player's general skill level. Each tier from Bronze through Diamond is further divided into five divisions, with 1000 ranking points each. The lowest division within a tier is 5; Division 1 is the highest. For example, a player in Platinum 1 (Platinum tier, Division 1) has a higher ranking than a player in Platinum 4, and that Platinum 4 player is ranked higher than a Gold 2 player. When the player reaches 1000 ranking points, they will need to play a promotion match, for if won, they move up to the next division or tier. On the other hand, if their ranking points drop to zero, they risk going down a division or tier through a demotion match. The Master Tier has neither divisions nor ranking point cap. The top 200 point earners in the Master Tier enter the Grand Master Tier. Maximum party size in Hero League matches was 2 players, but starting from Season 3 in December 2016, Hero League only allows solo queuing.
- Team League - Players who choose to play competitively as a team can queue in a Team Ranked match to be matched with other five-man teams in their region. The League Rank gained by these teams are assigned separate to the ranks gained within Hero League. Team League is unlocked at Player Level 40 and also requires ownership of a minimum of 14 heroes at level 5 or higher to participate. Player rank is expressed in the form of League Tiers and Divisions with the same Bronze-Grandmaster system like in Hero League. As of Season 3, Team League allows for a party of two or three players, in addition to a full party.
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, Mercenaries, 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, enable or disable 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, and a temporary extension, 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, will receive a Flames of Judgement Charger mount and a 10 day stim pack for Heroes of the Storm. They will also receive a Primal Flamesaber mount for World of Warcraft.
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 is a revamp of the player and hero progression systems. The level caps (40 for players in general, and 20 for individual heroes) will be removed, and the uneven experience curve for levelling heroes will be smoothed out. Another feature is 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 will also be included. The in-game shop will be remodeled and retitled "Collection", and two new currencies will be 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 will be released on April 25.
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GameSpot awarded it 9.0 out of 10, summarizing "A fantastic casual-competitive game that offers untold hours of enjoyment." IGN awarded it 6.5 out of 10, saying "Heroes of the Storm is a flawed, varied MOBA with terrific team fighting and poor objectives."
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