A custom StarCraft II map known as “Blizzard DOTA” arrived on the scene at Blizzcon 2010, showcasing brilliantly modded multiplayer online battle arena (or MOBA for short) gameplay within the StarCraft II infrastructure. Fans were left scooping their jaws off of the floor in excitement and went on to beg for more enhancements to the map, so Blizzard brought it back again at Blizzcon 2011, to an even greater sea of buzz and acclaim. This eventually led to Blizzard hunkering down and making a full fledged game out of the mod, which we’ve all come to know as Heroes Of The Storm.
The terms “LoL-clone” and “DOTA ripoff” went spiraling about through social networks when the first Heroes Of The Storm trailer was released. Contrary to popular belief, Heroes Of The Storm is not just some retort to League Of Legends and the DOTA series. Yes, Blizzard will have to compete against the forerunners of the MOBA genre for market share and relevance, but that’s just the business. Sure, the game is a MOBA and dons the same over-the-top view seen in other games of the same genre, but that’s simply a genre standard and not a carbon copy of a game’s art-style.
After sitting down with Heroes of The Storm Game Director Dustin Browder and Senior 3D Artist Phill Gonzales to discuss what’s to come, I can assure you that Blizzard is dead set on entering realm of MOBA games on their own terms.
With MOBA game tournaments selling out stadiums, you’d think that Blizzard would directly aim to hop into this market, given that StarCraft II is one of the biggest games in esports today. However, their primary focus for the game is on what it should be: the game’s overall fun factor. While I appreciate what other MOBA titles have done for the genre– expanding esports into a globally recognized form of sports entertainment – I can’t tell you how unwelcoming these types of games have been for newcomers or folks who have less time to devote to playing them.
Lucky of us, Blizzard seems intent on creating a more accessible MOBA experience, while still maintaining the strategy and complexity that makes MOBAs enjoyably competitive. Blizzard is by no means catering the experience to professional players planning to hop on the game; There are tutorials to teach new players the ropes of both Heroes of The Storm and the MOBA genre as a whole. You won’t get introduced to the different strategies that are specific to Heroes Of The Storm, but you’ll also learn about controlling lanes altogether, a necessary bit of knowledge in any MOBA title.
One of the main selling points for Heroes of The Storm is the fact that it features characters from Blizzard’s many renowned video game franchises. It is an homage to everything that’s Blizzard, and the first game to mash-up the company’s realm of characters, including familiar faces like StarCraft‘s Kerrigan, World Of Warcraft‘s Thrall, Diablo of his self-titled game, and many more. While Gonzalez couldn’t quite offer us a ballpark number on how many characters to expect when the game hits, he did assure us that the game’s roster will be robust, and that each new character will be introduced in fun and innovative ways that will leave all Blizzard fans amply satisfied.
There are several strong reasons for folks to at least try Heroes of The Storm as of now. Be you a fan of Blizzard properties, a fan of the MOBA genre or someone whose been sitting on the outskirts of MOBA gaming for a while and feels too far behind on the League Of Legends and DOTA front to just jump in, Heroes Of The Storm is looking well worth a play session, or many, once it launches publicly. The game is currently holding a limited alpha testing, and I imagine the public beta will go live sometime this summer, with the full game being rolled out around Blizzcon time in November.
To see my thoughts on Diablo III for the PlayStation 4, click here. And for any question regarding Heroes Of The Storm or to chat about anything video game related, I’m only one tweet away @Malik4play.