Kent-Erik Hagman, Game Designer for Heroes of the Storm began the panel with a summary of the game’s origins. He then introduces John Hodgson, Technical Designer for Heroes of the Storm.
He talks about hero design philosophy; when building a new hero, things that need to be considered are the fantasy, the look, and the design. The fantasy is about what the player wants to do as a character. The look of the hero is about how to shape a player’s expectation of what role the character fills. The design is about crafting a character that fulfills the fantasy and the look as accurately as possible. He passes the mic to Phill Gonzales, Senior 3D Artist for Heroes of the Storm.
Sylvanas, a new hero revealed at BlizzCon, is explained. The design team starts by gathering all the visual origins and reference art in order to gain a grasp of how the character should look. Then the crafting of the 3D models begin. A short video is played of a spin-around of her current 3D model.
John Hodgson receives the mic, to talk about how she has been updated from Warcraft III. Her core dark ranger characteristics have remained, keeping her scrappy and full of guile. An obstacle that appeared during development is that Valla and Tyrande are also ranger-ish, so Sylvanas has to be distinct in some way. Contrary to Valla and Tyrande, Sylvanas was designed to be more of a siege character. She had an ability where when she shoots minions, they turn into dark skeletons. However, back when Sylvanas was first introduced to the game, there was an overload of creating more minions due to the presence of Anub-arak and Azmodan. Now, the skeleton ability has been removed and replaced with an ability that can disable towers temporarily, and a trait that stuns enemy minions, mercs, and structures on basic attacks. These two new aspects are great at laying siege to the enemy without creating more minions on the map. A short video is played, showing off her abilities.
Next up is Thrall. Phill Gonzales takes the mic to talk about him. Thrall’s origins are in Warcraft III. His iconic mount was removed for the sake of keeping his 3D model to scale with the other heroes, but was implemented as a purchasable mount. Thrall’s development was a key component in the creation of the mount system. Kent-Erik Hagman is given the mic to talk about his abilities.
Back when Thrall was initially concepted, he had an interesting kit but it didn’t fit with his look; the kit was instead given to Rehgar. As the development team pondered what Thrall should do, and what he looked like he could do, they decided that he would be a master of the elements, a melee spellweaver that gets into the thick of fights. His abilities are skimmed over: Frostbolt Resilience - when he hits enough enemies with his abilities he heals himself; Chain Lightning - hits multiple enemies in range with lightning; Feral Spirit - when it hits an enemy, it roots them; Windfury - hits the target with a one-two-three punch; Sunder the Earth - cracks the earth and damages enemies in a line.
The next hero that is talked about Jaina, and Phill Gonzales takes the mic to talk about her. Her origins are in Warcraft III, with her visuals changing through the course of World of Warcraft. Her visual for Heroes of the Storm is unique, blending her look from Warcraft III and World of Warcraft together. Phill Gonzales then passes the mic to Kent-Erik Hagman.
He explains how her abilities were fleshed out. The development team decided that Jaina would be a pure frost mage to give her a solid theme for what she did. A trait that was created was, “Every subsequent hit that Jaina deals with her abilities will critically hit.” The team also wanted to transfer over frost mage spells from Warcraft, such as Frostbolt, Blizzard, and Cone of Cold. With all of these abilities in her arsenal, Jaina felt very distinct and very fun to play.
Phill Gonzales gets the mic again to talk about the Lost Vikings. As three characters that are over twenty years old, they were difficult to update them to modern times. More emphasis was given to their weapons, and they differ in colors and size between them. The mic is passed to John Hodgson.
The Lost Vikings has a lot of cool things that they can do. The biggest fantasy they wanted to chase with this (these) heroes is to be able to control all three Vikings as one player. This posed some problems however, since having multiple Vikings selected meant that the game has to choose which Viking’s command card to display. To solve this, they made the Vikings have no abilities whatsoever. This made them more accessible, but there were many playtesters that wanted abilities to use with them. Now the Vikings can unlock abilities through the talent system, allowing more skilled players to use abilities if they so wish without confusing newer players.
Next topic are the battlegrounds. “One way to think about battlegrounds are that they are WoW raids,” John Hodgson says. Each battleground has unique objectives and mechanics that alter how and why teamfights occur. The new battleground, Sky Temple, has the same core elements that all battlegrounds have (towns, minions, etc.) but its unique objective is capture points. When you capture one of these capture points, they fire lasers at enemy structures and help you win the game.
David Harrington, 3D artist for Heroes of the Storm receives the mic to talk more about Sky Temple. It’s a temple in the sky with a desert theme. It has a cool aqueduct system, cool hot air balloons that transport citizens, and other flavors around the environment that bring the battleground to life. A good 3D model can make the battleground more immersive. Models are started as blocky shapes that are hand-carved to intricate, individual details.
Phill Gonzales takes the mic to talk about the creatures in Sky Temple. Lane minions will have a strong Egyptian theme, making them distinct from minions on other battlegrounds. The brawlers and siege giants also get the same treatment, making them consistent with the environment.
Tomb of the Spider Queen is the next work-in-progress battleground. David Harrington explains that it’s a dark, creepy environment with spiders. Different stone and tomb-themed props are displayed on the screen, as well as an exclusive video sneak-peek at the map.
Phill Gonzales shows off another work-in-progress map that collides the High Heavens and the Burning Hells of the Diablo universe. Many concepts for props are shown.
The Q&A begins, marking the end of the panel.
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