Hot For HOTS: Blizzard’s MOBA Now Heroes Of The Storm

By Nathan Grayson on October 18th, 2013 at 9:00 am.

Blizzard might want to consider firing its acronym-wrangling-keeping-washing-and-redeploying department (or AWKWARD, for short), because it seems to have run out of ideas. Once upon a time, there was this little expansion pack called StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, but its friends just called it HOTS. And now Blizzard’s MOBA, once known as Blizzard All-Stars, has been rechristened Heroes of the Storm – aka, er, HOTS. Gee, this sure is awkwar– wait, I get it now! Oh AWKWARD, you clever scoundrels, you. But yes, Blizzard’s officially chasing dreams of MOBA glory again, and a big re-reveal is set for BlizzCon next month.

While that video seems indicative of roughly, er, nothing, I’d say it’s fairly safe to assume that this one’s no longer a glorified spin-off of StarCraft II’s mapmaking functionality. One thing’s certain: the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Blizzard DOTA has changed. We’re just not entirely sure how yet.

“Set aside whatever you think you knew about Blizzard All-Stars, and get ready for what’s brewing at this year’s BlizzCon,” reads Blizzard’s note on the matter.

If I had to guess, though, I’d wager that Blizzard is hoping for this to be its Next Big Thing – the rampaging runaway success katamari that rolls up the money WoW’s recently been failing to make and then some. I mean, Blizzard had to feel comfortable essentially scrapping all work on WoW successor Project Titan for some reason, right? Plus, MOBAs are a) proven and all the rage, but b) known for a lack of accessibility. Last time a genre had that look about it, Blizzard streamlined the MMO formula, made WoW a global hit, and took over the world. Nowadays, it’s a company that specializes in doing things the safe way, but it also knows how to do them damn well – with oozing gobs of polish and style. MOBAs probably look pretty good from where it’s standing.

Granted, LoL and DOTA are – from a pure player count standpoint – bigger than WoW’s ever been, but there are absolutely still barriers to be broken down. Blizzard would have to be insane to ignore that. So then, we’ll see where this all goes.

It is kind of funny, though. This entire genre spawned from Warcraft III, and Blizzard’s only just now nibbling at fruits that blossomed in its own backyard. It’s hard, too, to imagine a reality in which Heroes of the Storm isn’t behind the times in this rapidly evolving genre in some way. But I suppose that’s what happens when players invent a genre of their own, tailored to exactly what they want out of games. Everyone else plays catch up for a long, long time.

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50 Comments »

Top comments

  1. warthog2k says:

    Hearthstone is being renamed Hearth of the Stone next too.

  1. Bull0 says:

    Not to mention their card battler thing is “HEROES of Warcraft”. So we’ve got HEROES of Warcraft and HEROES of the Storm, which actually features many of the HEROES of Warcraft as playable characters.

    I’m not sure if this is how you make products that make money.

    • emorium says:

      So….2 instances of a word and some description of every character in every videogame make it a thing?

      • Bull0 says:

        It’s quite confusing, and speaks of a general lack of forethought.

        • Simes says:

          It’s not that confusing if you include the word “Hearthstone” in Hearthstone’s title, because then you can just refer to Hearthstone as Hearthstone.

          • Bull0 says:

            That’s true. It’s a pretty useless subtitle as subtitles go. Unless they’re going to do Villains of Warcraft as a sort of expansion next.

            …called it

  2. warthog2k says:

    Hearthstone is being renamed Hearth of the Stone next too.

  3. Amun says:

    Blizzard is dead.

  4. Rao Dao Zao says:

    One day, they’ll name a game without that “SOMETHING of (the) SOMETHING” format at all.

  5. The Dark One says:

    On the plus side, it sounds a teensy bit better than Heroes of Blizwerth.

  6. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    Bliz of the Zard

  7. Lavs says:

    The real logo flashes for a second near the end.

    http://i.imgur.com/eYdS60K.png

  8. Lemming says:

    How the mighty have fallen, eh? Trend-setters to trend followers,

    • Rollin says:

      Yeah they’ve done nothing original since the 90s. You can bet this will be a cookie cutter moba too, along with all the baggage like denying and few interesting or new mechanics.

      • WarOnGamesIndustry says:

        I would argue that their original IPs were not original at all. Both warcraft and starcraft steal from the warhammer universe heavily and WOW was just a user friendly combination of EQ and Ultima online.

        • Snakejuice says:

          How is WoW anything like Ultima Online? “Their both MMOs” doesn’t count!

        • airmikee99 says:

          Since Warhammer was largely lifted straight from Dungeons & Dragons, Conan the Barbarian, and Tolkien’s works (which were mostly lifted straight from fairy tales and legends) can we just stop with the unoriginal IP stupidity?

      • Kaiji says:

        According to this article … http://www.joystiq.com/2011/10/25/blizzard-dota-coming-soon-to-a-new-platform-called-blizzard-arc/ … there’ll not only be no denying, but no last-hitting either.

        They’ve probably looked at the success League of Legends achieved by dumbing down DotA and concluded that dumbing it down even more will result in even greater success.

        Personally, I hope it contributes strongly to Blizzard’s steady decline. They’re no longer anything like the company they were and they need to fade away into mediocrity and irrelevance.

        • DrGonzo says:

          Streamlining I like, last hitting and denying really slow the entire thing down. I hope it’s entirely skillshot based, direct player controls with maybe wasd even. Somewhere between an arena shooter and Dota would be lovely.

          • Kaiji says:

            How do they slow it down when that’s the speed it’s meant to be at? What you’re saying is that you want a throwaway, hollow simplified experience with far less challenge and consequently far less reward. I’m glad Blizzard has decided to make a DotA game that panders to the lowest common denominator (lots of tasty profit for them), but I’m also extremely glad Valve didn’t.

          • DatonKallandor says:

            You have no idea what direct control means in that context do you? A Moba with the control scheme and speed of Bloodline Champions would be most skill based Moba in existence.

            Which is the only sensible thing to do when you want to get rid of the idiotic mechanics such as last hitting and denying. Get rid of point and click – replace it with active attacking, active moving, all skill-shots all the time. Want a Heal? Better hit with it. Want damage? Better hit with it. Want to dodge? Better dodge for real. No dice rolls, no randomness, no actively fighting your own team despite it being a team game (last-hit, deny? Moronic to the power of ten in a team game).

            Of course Blizzard won’t do that – that’d require making something that’s never been done before. Not Blizzards MO sadly.

          • Spider Jerusalem says:

            so, smite?

          • DatonKallandor says:

            Kind of like Smite, but without the Last Hitting, but faster and more precise movement mechanics and skill shots. And no randomness.
            The gold distribution mechanics of Smite are a good jumping off point though.

    • PacketOfCrisps says:

      When were Blizzard trend setters?

  9. Paradukes says:

    “This entire genre spawned from Warcraft III”

    I dunno why, but it always bugs me when people say that. Everyone thinks DotA was the first MOBA, but it wasn’t even close.

    Technically the entire genre started from Starcraft and Brood Wars. They were making maps back then called Aeon of Strife maps (Based on a chapter from Protoss history that was basically about massive armies waging war for no reason) and they were pretty damn popular.

    Warcraft III brought back the AoS maps with a passion, because it was so much easier to make them on the WC3 engine. You had dozens, if not hundreds, of different AoS maps; Tides of Blood, eXtreme AoS (2v2v2v2), and Guardians AoS, just to name a few.

    Icefrog basically did what Blizzard does; he started with a genre that had been around for a while and polished it. Most of the other AoS maps were wildly unbalanced and somewhat unimaginative with the heroes you could choose, which was why DotA became so popular.

    But it’s like everyone thinking WoW was the first MMO. It wasn’t; it was just the first MMO to make it big.

    • nullable says:

      But Starcraft was also a Blizzard game, so it doesn’t actually make much difference to the point he was making.

    • airmikee99 says:

      So being the 2nd MOBA game means it’s not even close to being the 1st MOBA game?

  10. Svardskampe says:

    Well, if there is one company that could manage wedging a game in between LOL and Dota 2, and compete on a casual level with f2p games while not doing something interesting mechanically than to make it more easy and accessible while being overly visual to speak to the general 12 to 20 y old crowd, you bet it’s blizzard. Enough blizztards following hearthstone blindly too while missing out the better games like Magic and Scrolls.

    • Awesumo says:

      Magic doesn’t have a proper constructed mode, and ‘Scrolls’ is just full of fail when you really get into it – Lack of variety in the decks and one of the 3 sides is supremely useless in serious constructed.
      Hearthstone just doesn’t have any real competition.

      • Pythonic says:

        There is a game coming out called Hex which I think will be competition for Hearthstone.

      • Snakejuice says:

        How does Magic not have a “proper” constructed mode? Please explain yourself!
        I love Magic and Magic Online but Hearthstone doesn’t seem all that impressive to me from watching on Twitch/YouTube.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Scrolls.. is okay. For some reason I can keep coming back to DotP (for instance) yet the same isn’t true for Scrolls. It lacks something. Variety? Flexibility? I am not entirely certain. It’s fun for a while though and it’s quite possible Mojang will improve the game significantly over time. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

  11. Steven Hutton says:

    I’m actually really excited to see if Blizzard can do for MOBA’s what they did for MMOs. I.e. get rid of most of the bullshit and make something fun and accessible that doesn’t hate its players.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I was kind of hoping Valve would have done that with their attempt, but apparently not.

      • WarOnGamesIndustry says:

        They didn’t change DOTA mechanicswise which is what fans wanted. To popularize the franchise valve would have to make the game more accessible to the masses and there is only so much you can do with the ui and backbone without changing the fundamental gameplay. It wouldn’t be DOTA if they did that.

      • shaydeeadi says:

        I would say Valve have put plenty of effort into helping new players. There is a tutorial mode now which goes over the basics of the game and then puts you in a series of 1v1 matches against bots to learn about differing heroes.

        There is a completely functional offline practice mode now, hero builds written by the community accessible in game that provide highlighted skills and items to guide you through leveling up your hero. You can play online co-op at 5 difficulties to your hearts content and even receive item drops in this mode.

        If you do decide to try again, I recommend trying out some heroes like: Crystal Maiden, Lina and Lion. These characters are fun supports that have lots of big spells to mess around with, or have a go with Drow Ranger, Tusk or Sven if you want to just hit people a lot.

        • DrGonzo says:

          It’s not the complexity of the characters that put people off it’s basics of the game. No amount of ui or tutorials will change that. It’s a good game that’s not for me, but it’s very un-Valve like.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      Things Blizzard would have to address to make the WoW of MOBAs:

      #1 Last hitting: Not tremendously interactive (in a PvP sense) this is a strange execution test that doesn’t create a large number of interesting decisions. It’s also fiddly, annoying and counter-intuitive.

      #2 Faffing about: Too much time in MOBAs is spent doing having staring contests in lane. Walk forward slightly, walk back slightly… boring.

      #3 Snowballing: MOBAs have a massive slippery slope element. Once you start to fall behind it becomes harder and harder to get back into the fight. This is a key cause of the frustration and anger that makes the MOBA community so aggressive. Also it means that close, tightly fought games that go right down to the wire are relatively rare. Which is not what you want.

      #3 Game end condition is different from loss condition: Destroying the base isn’t the thing you do to win the game except in rare cases of close matches. Destroying the base is the thing you do to end the game after you’ve gotten enough gold that your opponent can’t stop you. Games should not continue on for twenty-five minutes after one teams most powerful character has gotten ten kills for zero deaths. They often do continue on for that amount of time. 99% a foregone conclusion these games are effectively lost a long time before they end. Which is super dull.

      • Awesumo says:

        1) If you had gold distributed by proximity rather than last hitting it would really change the feel of the game – early on it is that dual focus of both the enemy and the bots to shoot that reduces the dullness. You would in effect change early and mid game by making them entirely focused around killing/forcing from the lane your opponent.
        2) Stand offs in lane are all about trying to gain the advantage. Both sides want to have a slight advantage when combat initiates, there is no way to remove this whilst keeping it competitive – you see much the same in every martial art and even real warfare. Without stand offs people would be blindly charging in and the better champion at that stage of the game would win.
        3) Snowballing, hmm, Most DOTA games manage snowballing like this: Your character either doesn’t snowball and is moderately good no matter what, OR your character is great if it snowballs, useless otherwise. This is what led to the creation of the ‘Carry’ tactic that is almost always seen – where a team purposefully makes sure one or two teammates get almost all the gold and so snowball. Having this Carry gives a real tactical edge to team fights, as it creates the role of tasks like ‘bruiser’ who’s role is to solely to take the opposing carry out of the fight.. While it also creates the liability of the ‘support’ who has no gold as they gave it all up to the carry.
        As you can see, taking snowballing out will wipe out alot of what makes dota, dota.
        4) Game end conditions. Some games do have a real problem here. When a team has a real advantage the game should reward them for pushing to finish the game quickly, say in around 10 minutes. What I will say though is that LOL and DOTA 2 already have this at the more competitive levels – and if the opponents succeed in surviving those ~10 mins they often make a comeback.

        • hibbe says:

          You are not going to “carry” someone in casual matchmaking, if blizzard is aiming for the click play and play market then I think that fixing snowballing would be the best way to go about it, waiting 20 minutes to loose in LoL isn’t enjoyable.

          • dagudman says:

            Carrying someone in casual matchmaking wins you the game. If you don’t do it you will lose.

      • Reapy says:

        You have nailed everything I dislike about DOTA format games in one punch. I love, love, LOVE the character design aspect of it, totally awesome… the game you play with those characters….sucks. For me anyway. Millions of people disagree obviously.

        Still, would be cool to see some evolution/change of the formula. I hope bliz can do it…but they proved in D3 that they have forgotten how to have fun in games….too much of a WOW attitude with patching.

  12. HisDivineOrder says:

    Blizzard’s officially running dry of ideas.

  13. Moraven says:

    This was fun at BlizzCon a few years back then it was scrapped and redone. No one knows how it is now. Should be fun to demo in 3 weeks. I think they have 3 panels regarding this game at BlizzCon.

    They were already chasing the MOBA dream, just at their own Blizzard pace and redo the game multiple times.

    Everyone thought this game would be built into the SC2 Battle.net Marketplace allowing maps to be sold and items for maps to be sold…They even mention it everytime in their earnings but have given no hint of offering a better map service.

  14. Themadcow says:

    As someone who hasn’t played a MOBA before, I’m still stuggling to understand how something like this is dramatically different to PvP battlegrounds like Alterac Valley in WoW (except from an isometric / overhead viewpoint)?

    The reason I ask the question is because Blizzard really struggled to make Alterac Valley work well in WoW.

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      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Longer rounds, more tightly focused, each player has 4 abilities instead of the dozen plus of typical MMO abilities. Each champion (or hero or whatever they call them) is effectively a completely different class from the others, and some of the abilities interact in interesting ways. Lots of NPCs. Leveling-up occurs in the course of a single round, and everyone starts at level 1.

      So although there are definite similarities, I consider the typical SAUSAGES game to be more like PVP powerleveling with objectives and an end-point.

    • The Random One says:

      The difference is that in this kind of game instead of you doing the Game Winning Thing yourself like in most games, you have to escort a bunch of little shits because only them can do the Game Winning Thing. It’s essentially a PvP arena game built around a giant escort quest.

      No, I’m not a big fan of SAUSAGES. How could you tell?

  15. Leosky says:

    It’s just a fake to cover the panels of another project (to be announced) during the blizzcon.

    • The Random One says:

      I wouldn’t put it past a company that wasn’t associated with Activision.