From the Bullpen: True to Characters

Greetings, fellow brawlers! My name is John Hodgson, one of the designers on Heroes of the Storm. I’ve been here before during the Chen and Azmodan developer insight blogs. I’m starting a blog series on Hero design and development, or whatever other interesting topics that happen to be on the collective Heroes of the Storm mind. As way of an introduction, I want to talk about where our Heroes come from, and the attitude we have in developing them: in large part, they come from the players themselves, and we take care accordingly.

This year’s BlizzCon was an extremely exciting time for the Heroes of the Storm team… and not just because we all love Overwatch. Finally, we got to reveal the Heroes we've been working on for the past couple of months: Jaina, Thrall, Sylvanas, and the Lost Vikings. The players that I met around the convention seemed excited, and a maybe a little relieved, that we didn't forget some their favorite characters. We're a little relieved ourselves that they all seemed to be well-received, but the true test will come when we finally patch them into the game.

At this BlizzCon, I had the privilege of talking about designing and developing Heroes during the Heroes of the Storm “Deep Dive” panel on Saturday. While my friends and colleagues said I did a great job presenting, an encounter I had later that day made me feel like I goofed up a little. After the panel, I went to go see the Heroes invitational finals between Evil Geniuses and Cloud9, and sat next to a couple of guys who recognized me from the panel. One asked if I'd actually played The Lost Vikings (the game.) I told him I had, and he seemed to be relieved, because I gave the impression on stage that I didn't give much value to playing the old game, and doubted anyone else had played it either.

It's true that I doubted, and that was my great error. I love old games, including The Lost Vikings, but I foolishly believed I was in the minority. This BlizzCon set me straight - so many people I met told me they loved the original Lost Vikings, and some of them even told me that they loved playing the Vikings on the Heroes demo computers. I was honored and humbled. The folks I met at the Heroes invitational reminded me that the Heroes team has taken on a great responsibility in respecting the community's longstanding relationship with Blizzard’s characters.

Designing a new Hero for Heroes of the Storm is an interesting challenge. There’s usually a lot of source material to draw inspiration from, which helps to direct and solidify our ideas on how the Hero should play or “feel.” With that direction comes a lot of pressure for accuracy, both internally and from the community. Each design poses a different challenge of accuracy in order to “fill the shoes” of these larger-than-life characters; how can we boil down Thrall or Nazeebo to five abilities? We’ve been killing Diablo and Azmodan for years, how is it supposed to feel to control them instead? What about translating iconic units and creatures like the Siege Tank, Faerie Dragon, or Murloc into named Heroes?

There is some assurance I can offer that we may be up to the task. There are two kinds of people that work on the Heroes of the Storm team: incredibly passionate fans of Blizzard games who grew up with The Lost Vikings, StarCraft, WarCraft, and Diablo, and incredibly passionate fans who actually made those games themselves. We try to pour so much love and care into each of these Heroes because we share the same passion that those in the community at large do.

That also means that we hear you all the louder about other characters you’re patiently waiting on:

Jaina was introduced to answer the question "where are the all the mages?" Sylvanas and Thrall were big community wishes we were eager to bring in – it was a lot of hard work to make sure the fantasy and feel of these characters were correct. Finally, the Vikings have consistently been a major community request since BlizzCon of last year, and we’re happy to show just how far we’re willing to explore the breadth of Blizzard’s characters (and the nutty gameplay that comes with them.) As we release the Heroes shown at BlizzCon throughout the next few months, we’ll be going into more depth explaining their design, as well as how we encountered and (hopefully) addressed the challenges of accuracy for each.

So keep those Hero ideas coming! We love seeing passion for Heroes – it really does help us make decisions on who we’d like to introduce next. More importantly, it helps to define who these Heroes are, what they should do, and what really makes them special to their biggest fans. And that’s where we begin to build.

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