Heroes of the Storm ANZ Launch Event Recap
This week Blizzard’s new game Heroes of the Storm was finally released onto the world. Along with the release came the Australia & New Zealand launch event held by Blizzard in Sydney, Australia. Blizzard had hired out a cinema and invited along Streamers, Press, YouTubers, eSports teams, Community influence members and a whole lot of Heroes fans.
They had also hired professional cosplayers and had Chris Sigaty, Executive Producer and Alan Dabiri, Technical Director for Heroes of the Storm fly down for the event, they were able to provide some new information on the creation of Heroes of the Storm along with answer some fans questions, here is my recap of the night along with most of the Q&A from the Devs.
The night started with everyone entering through a hallway which had the ingame cinematics playing on several TVs, once everyone had then taken their seats (which all came with a free popcap + Heroes code/skin) the lights were dimmed and the official Heroes of the Storm cinematic was shown in full Dolby Atmos sound. I later found out that the cinematic team in the US had rerendered the cinematic for this event for the sound which truly is amazing to see and hear.
Chris from Blizzard ANZ then opened the event he explained how the #HeroesIsComing twitter event was held and showed off some of the top entries (including my Parrot Zuul making his first big screen appearance), there was Heroes cakes, songs and dances, public ‘chalking’, craft creations, drawings of Kangaroo mounts (come on Blizz!) and more but the winner of the event was a fan from Queensland who had done a stencil on his computer of the Heroes of the Storm logo along with the hashtag and then painted it on the bonnet of his car, this won him flights and accommodation to the event.
The winning entry.
Alan Dabiri, Technical Director then came on stage to discuss Hero creation, using Johanna the newest hero added to the Nexus with launch he showed us her skills and how some had changed during the development process.
One of the challenges of adding a hero to the Nexus is choosing what abilities they can use, in Diablo 3 the Crusader has a wide array of skills they can use but in Heroes is it very limited, as such Johanna actually had some different skills when she was first created to what she has now. The biggest of these changes was that originally they planned for her to have two ‘modes’ which she would switch between. One for tanking and one for normal play, when she switched into this tanking ‘mode’ she would raise her shield and use a different skillset completely however this lead to difficulties with staying with the crusader style of gameplay so it was scrapped. Alan said that this idea is not completely scrapped and may be used for another hero later down the line however not for Johanna.
After this Chris Sigaty, executive Producer took the stage to talk about battleground design. He gave us some background information on Tomb of the Spider Queen firstly it had a different layout and it didn’t actually start off as having anything to do with spiders, instead it was ghosts and ghouls but this was changed due to it being too much like the Haunted Mines map.
Other details about the map were revealed as well, including that originally everything on the map dropped gems and they were all the same colour, this lead to either avoiding fighting the other team and just farming gems or teams being able to steamroll massively because if you died the other team could pick up and use the gems you dropped. Another changed feature was there was no turn ins, instead as soon as your team reached 60 gems the Spider Queen would be summoned instantly and even the Spider Queen was different as she had many more minions with her, this lead to AoE heavy heroes not having issues with her but single target heroes being completely overwhelmed.
It was amazing to learn about the sheer amount of internal changes that were made to this map, while the focus was always on a smaller map so more fighting a lot of things have changed in the live version today.
Alan Dabiri, then came back on stage to talk about something near and dear to all ANZ players, Regional Servers and Matchmaking. Alan explained that the login servers are still part of the US for ANZ but there are actual game servers all over the world and it’s the matchmaker which decides which server you are placed on. The matchmaker takes into account your groups along with the enemy teams groups locations, pings all the servers and decides which is best ‘overall’ for all players in the match. There is also a ms number decided by Blizzard as to what is a good ping, a playable ping and a not ideal ping, Blizzard have recently (last week) tweaked this number to help the ANZ region in maintaining most games on the ANZ server.
As of Tuesday 02/06/15 just before Alan and Chris flew to Australia they gathered data for the event, for the ANZ region 87% of players are playing on the ANZ server with an average ping of 70ms, 9% of players are playing on Singapore at an average of 120ms and 4% are playing on other servers with 200+ms.
Blizzard also made it very clear that this is a constant battle for them, it’s not something you fix and walk away, they are constantly looking over the numbers and trying to help get people playing on the right server and in that respect they have planned improvements coming including the ability to choose your server region for Custom games/eSports via the game creation lobby and are looking into having a UI option for Hero League/Quick match to allow locking your game region. They are weary of doing this though for general matches as it would create even more ladders around the world for every game server.
Learning more about how the servers work, how matchmaking works and what improvements Blizzard has on the way was both interesting and exciting to know that the future looks bright for all Heroes players.
Next our own PJ from Blizzard ANZ came up to talk about eSports and Heroes of the Storm. He announced the $25,000 USD (around $32,000 AUD) prize pool for the ANZ Road to Blizzcon Championship and explained that the first qualifiers will take place on June 20th and July 25th with the top four from each advancing to the finals which take place on August 1st and the first place team not only winning some of the prize money but winning a seed in the America Championship which includes free flights and accommodation to America for the finals.
This is amazing news for the ANZ eSports scene and it’s great to see Blizzard fully backing the ANZ region, so if you want to take a shot at winning some prize money or just want to enter for fun signups are already live at heroes2015.aclpro.com.au so get that team ready and go ham the core now!
Chris and Alan joined PJ back on stage next for a little up close Inside the Development Studio talk, this was a good chance to learn a little more about the devs personally. Chris and Alan spoke about how the band E.T.C came to be when WarCraft 3: The Frozen Throne was being made and how they saw it as their band bought out a cd which had this awesome free game with it (referring to War3 of course).
PJ then asked the tough question of “What is your favourite non-Blizzard game?” While both Chris and Alan love DnD (and were apparently playing it earlier that day) Chris explained how he is an old school Star Wars nerd (making sure to point out he means the originals) and that he loved the Dark Forces game for it’s atmosphere and storytelling, he remembered a moment when you were alone and just heard something over the radio from your NPC team mate which sent him running to find out what had happened only to run into Boba Fett and that it was just such a heart racing moment that he enjoyed how well they had made moments like those.
Alan on the other hand was perhaps a little different than people expected, he liked Ultima 7 and enjoyed it simply for the amount of things you could do in the game, but made sure to point out that something as simple as baking bread ingame was such a different experience back then that it has stayed with him till today.
This then lead to the Q&A session with the audience, members lined up to ask the devs questions, below is a summary of the questions and answers provided (I admit I may have missed one or two, I apologise as it was hard to keep up).
Q: When will we see a female Diablo skin? she is in the cinematic! are we going to get her?
A: Yes! she is on the way, but no date so soon(tm).
Q: Is there any point in reporting people? or any new methods being worked on to stop griefers?
A: People are being actioned based on player reports constantly and bans and warnings have already gone out. As always Blizzard is looking into more options for anti-griefing and are looking into rating systems and such as suggested by the community and within. But for now please always report anyone griefing/AFKing/Abusing others.
Also be the player you want others to be, say GLHF at the start of a game, say GG at the end even if it wasn’t a win and help and teach other perhaps newer players.
Q: Will there be more matchmaking changes?
A: As in a recent forum post about Hero league, matchmaking is a constant process and one that will never be completely finished. Blizzard are constantly looking at matchmaking to try and improve the process.
Q: Will we ever have ingame voice chat?
A: Yes, ingame voice chat is currently being worked on internally and we expect it to be live before the end of this year.
Q: Will there ever be bans ingame?
A: A little known fact is the recent Heroes of the Dorm event did include bans as will the Road to Blizzcon competitions. Blizzard is still looking into adding bans for Team League as a possibility however it would only ever be done in a way where you are in an organised team.
Q: When will we see more StarCraft 2 heroes? There is hardly any!
A: More StarCraft 2 heroes are in the works now and we plan to have them out by the end of the year. Chris also made note that personally he thinks Artanis would make a good addition to the Nexus (but this is not confirmation of him being added).
As the event was running out of time the Q&A had to be ended there and a giveaway was done. On one lucky persons popcap box was a sticker and that person won a Sideshow collectables Raynor statue, this statue is worth around $700 AUD and is fully posable with over 400 moving parts, the lucky winner, Melissa, was over the moon that she won.
To end the night Chris from Blizzard ANZ and the entire team came on stage and thanked everyone for being there and said as a thank you the first drinks on them. Everyone received a ticket for a free drink at the bar and proceeded outside to mingle with each other and chat with the devs one on one and have pictures taken with the cosplayers. Blizzard ANZ had also setup some eSports games on monitors for people to watch which was great to have a drink and discuss a match of heroes on a big TV.
For the event Blizzard had also hired five cosplayers to create and wear costumes for Heroes characters, this included:
@ as Tyrael
@ as Master Sylvanas (red tint)
@ as Jaina
@ as Commander Raynor
@ as Nova
All the cosplayers were both amazingly talented creating these costumes in a limited time and extremely kind and happy to have pictures taken and talk to fans all night.
Overall I think Blizzard ANZ did an amazing job with this launch event. I’ve been to the last several events and had a lot of fun but this one was just above and beyond. Heroes of the Storm is going to be big and Blizzard have shown they care about the ANZ community and are including them in the eSports world.
I cannot wait to see where this game goes in the future and what the Road to Blizzcon games will be like. I hope you enjoyed my recap of the ANZ launch event and I hope to see you in the Nexus!