Massive online battle arena (MOBA) games such as DOTA 2 and League of Legends are becoming the most high-profile entries in gaming - drawing large audiences during Twitch streams and generating million-dollar prize pools for e-sports tournaments. It comes as no surprise then that Blizzard, who dominates the MMO marketplace with World of Warcraft, would want to expand into the MOBA space.
Instead of a MOBA, Blizzard prefers to call Heroes of the Storm, their first entry in the category, a "hero brawler," most likely to distinguish themselves from the high learning curve, sometimes aggressive player base, and complicated interface that some associate with the genre.
Despite the branding adjustment, the game still contains third person combat, with characters moving across lanes and teams competing to destroy the enemy base, just like all other MOBAs. One way Heroes of the Storm distinguishes itself from the competition is by incorporating heroes that players recognize from Blizzard's successful franchises, such as Diablo and Starcraft.
During Pax East today, Blizzard announced a new hero for Heroes of the Storm, Sylvanas Windrunner. Players of World of Warcraft and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft will recognize her as The Dark Lady, who specializes in high DPS attacks as well as controlling enemy minions and mercenaries to fight for her.
Fans will be excited for an opportunity to play as one of capital city's more frustrating and difficult raid bosses from World of Warcraft. Alternatively, in Hearthstone Sylvanas is a popular staple in the control-Priest's deck. Based on the way Blizzard emphasizes her ability to solo a lane, she could become a necessary control unit in Heroes of the Storm as well.
With Blizzard calling attention to the map size in comparison to other Battlegrounds, it could point to an attempt to diversify the player's strategy per location. What would work on a larger battleground might not be appropriate for the tight corridors and race to collect gems during Tomb of the Spider Queen. Could we see the Heroes of the Storm equivalent of a zerg-rush tactic created?
The panel concluded with announcements including an enhanced UI, system improvements, the introduction of Team League (which appears similar to the ranked play in StarCraft 2), additional gold for players and a college-based tournament called Heroes of the Dorm.
Currently, Heroes of the Storm is in closed beta, with no current release date scheduled, which is becoming a popular way for PC developers to collaborate with their most dedicated fan-base. But players interested in participating can sign up through Battle.net or by winning a key from approved third party sites. Alternatively, prospective Heroes of the Storm players can purchase the Founder's Pack for $39.99, which includes in-game content.
What characters from Blizzard lore would you like to see added next? Is there a battleground you think should be included in the nexus? Are you already enjoying the closed beta?