Heroes of the Storm Failure of Design – An Issue of Risk

Competitive games are all about the balance between risk and reward. Heroes of the Storm is no different, as each hero is built around having to take certain risks to accomplish their goals. The ‘easier’ heroes like Raynor or Zeratul have very little risk, as they have built in survival mechanics that give them an advantage without much effort, while the more difficult heroes run higher risks with higher rewards. The problem arises from Blizzard’s courage to think outside of the box in terms of hero design. Character’s like Abathur show how interesting hero design can get, but also bring up new problems as well. Nova, on the other hand, suffers from the same problems as plenty of other heroes in a similar vein.

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Nova’s role is to roam the map, looking for ganks and unsuspecting victims to pick off quickly before they can react. With only a small amount of effort, Nova players can easily pick their battles and run very little risk to successfully rack up their kills and help their team by eliminating enemies before fights even start. While this role is a relatively ancient archetype of the ARTS genre, it goes against the fundamental design philosophies in Heroes of the Storm. Nova provides a player success at very little risk, while also causing new enemy players frustration if the Nova players knows how to play even to the smallest degree. At the same time, a bad Nova player can ruin the experience for a team, as anyone who knows how to find her underneath her cloak can easily kill a bad Nova player in a pinch. There is a very small slice of the Heroes of the Storm experience in which Nova plays a positive role. Most of the time she’s an obnoxious pain in the ass for both teams, as Nova players avoid joining team fights to instead focus on hunting down already wounded enemies for their own personal gain. Nova’s issues mostly revolve around the fact that she is a low risk, high reward kind of character, at least on the individual player level. She is a risk to a team, as a bad Nova player can ruin games, but the balance of risk versus reward should be maintained by the individual, not the team, especially in a game that’s primary form of gameplay is through a mode like Quick Match, where players don’t choose their teammates.

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While Nova’s issues have been a large part of the ARTS genre for years, Abathur’s issues, while similar, are because of Blizzard’s attempts at designing outside the box. If Nova is a low risk, high reward character, then Abathur is a no risk, high reward hero. Abathur’s role is to sit in his base and assist his allies from across the battlefield, allowing for his team to reap his benefits no matter where they are on the map. Most other support heroes need to actually accompany their allies in a lane to benefit their team, but Abathur players simply sit behind the reinforced walls of their team’s base without having to worry about dying. If an Abathur dies, it’s either because of the player’s individual stupidity or because an enemy Nova or Zeratul is sneaking into the base and murdering Abathur while his eyes are focused elsewhere. The issue here is all about balance. A bad Abathur player can ruin a team’s chances of victory, but, once played competently, can win a game without ever putting itself at risk. Blizzard might try to justify this by pointing out that an Abathur can’t properly capture points, without use of his clone ultimate, and doesn’t usually help his team gather experience, but a good Abathur can accomplish both of these goals without putting himself in much danger. When a team fight starts, an Abathur player can start throwing his spells hither and thither without fear of repercussions, unlike any other character in the game. While this is certainly unique, it is also detrimental to the game overall, as Abathur players push the risk that they run onto their team rather than suffering the consequences of their own actions. This isn’t to say that Abathur players can play without thinking, but it is to say that a character with zero risk that also offers similar power isn’t very good design.

If Blizzard wishes to focus on fun and an active competitive community, they’re going to have to find a balance between frustrating mechanics and interesting forms of gameplay and counter play. Currently, fighting against characters like Nova and Abathur is neither interesting nor enjoyable, creating a game that isn’t just boring, but also actively off putting.

TL;DR – QQ Get Gud Kid

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