Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 19, 2014

Email: HoTS looks “Leagues” better than DotA2

I just watched TotalBiscuits video on HoTS, and I have a huge list of things which I really like about it.

First, I feel I should cover my background with these kinds of games. First off, I’ve never played the original Dota. I’ve never even played Warcraft 3. The only RTS games I really played were Starcraft and Total Annihilation. When I was younger I tried to get WC3, but picked up 2 instead. I returned it realizing it wasn’t the game my friends were playing, and just got the Diablo Battle Chest instead. I have no regrets.

I played Dota2 recently with some friends, and it was… really confusing, and not all that interesting. I have about 15 hours in that game, and I’ve played maybe 4 matches of it so far, some of that time being devoted to the tutorial. There’s so many things which, without playing the original Dota (and thus warcraft3), make very little sense. But I’ll cover this in my list.

1: No Items – Abilities instead

The items in Dota2 were incredibly confusing. You only have 6 slots, which means you constantly have to micromanage buying and selling items, which means micromanaging a courier… or running back to base. And since the courier is controlled by everyone, it means that you have to know who is using it, or you “mess it up”. In addition to that, the items also having abilities means you have to know exactly how everything is going to play out (regarding what seems like hundreds of heroes) to make a decent descision.

In HotS, not only are the confusing items gone, but they are “abilities” which make sense regarding the character! It also means you don’t have to farm as much, but this is covered in the next point.

2: Team level

Leveling up was a tedious affair in DotA2. You had to be a certain distance from battles in order to gain experience and if you didn’t want to manage the courier you missed out. Depending on what role you play it can be pretty boring. Some characters aren’t allowed to get kills, so they have to babysit other characters while they get stronger. And leveling up is only have of your strength, the other half being items.

In HotS, I can never fall behind because I didn’t “Last Hit” enough enemies or whatever when I was supposed to. Last Hitting is such an oblique and dated idea, I can’t even think why someone would want it other than it adds “difficulty” (and keeps out “da casualz!”). Instead of potentially hindering my the team, you can only “benefit them less”. Instead I can focus on doing the objective, which thankfully changes depending on the map.

3: Different Maps

Dota2 has exactly 1 map. Save for tutorial areas and whatever boss battle thing Valve wanted to do. People say this map is “balanced” but it’s asymmetrical. The dragon thing is closer to the Dire side, and there’s other differences too. The objectives are the same, which is always to defeat the opponents base.

HotS has different maps, with different themes and objectives, as can be seen in TotalBiscuits new video. These switch things up alot, which is great. It also means that, because your game can have more than 1 map, your game can also have dynamic roles.

4: The roles are less “strict”

Because your character can gain passive powers that change the way they play, you don’t have to worry about your “team comp”. This means that, more often than not, I can play whatever character I think is cooler. This was a problem for me in DotA2, because there were some very interesting characters in that game.

But with HotS, you can modify the role with the passive abilities. Maybe in Dota2 this was possible, but I doubt it. But now you can play as whoever you want, most of the time (as long as there’s no duplicates, but most people like more than a few characters). Since they have a free character rotation like in LoL, you don’t have to worry about the character being played all the time because they can change themselves based on their team.

5: The game is FASTER

Dota2 took FOREVER. It was 20-40 minutes per game, and you absolutely had to commit to that. There’s no bot that comes in and replaces you temporarily if you lose connection.

But HotS is much faster. Tower have ammo so you can take them out quicker, without making it too easy. There are “mounts” which allow you to travel quicker but with vulnerability. No items means you don’t have to run to the nearest shop. Your character also starts with 3 of their abilities, which means you can test them out to see what they do during a warmup period, where your energy just gets refilled.

6: And most importantly… The hardcore hate it!

Or at least, I imagine they will.

TotalBiscuit is a mouthpiece for hardcores, there’s no doubt about that. But even in this newest video, he acknowledges that with his busy life, sometimes you just want to play a game that isn’t so demanding. Defending difficulty (at least that which has nothing to do with what’s actually happening in the game), is the desire for “exclusiveness”. And that’s the essence of what it means to be hardcore in the first place.

HotS looks “Leagues” ahead of Dota2 because it actually looks playable. Dota2 players call “League of Legends” causal because it lacks a few of the silly things from Dota, from what I’ve heard them say. It seems like HotS further refined the Dota game, making something that will probably be very popular.

Personally I still would rather play a game like this with a controller though. All that clicking makes me feel silly, and keyboards aren’t an intuitive thing to learn, since there’s so many buttons.

I still want to give it a try though, even if I’m not that familiar with the characters of every Blizzard game.

The controller question is interesting because Diablo 3 (on consoles) obviously is designed around the controller. However, I doubt Heroes (which I am learning is the proper nickname for Heroes of the Storm, not HotS [HotS is what we used to call Heart of the Swarm, the Starcraft 2 expansion]) will ever have a controller. Heroes is using the Starcraft 2 engine and a MOBA is a direct cousin to RTS. But then again, from what I’ve seen with the spell targeting (where it gives you a GIANT ARROW and points away from your character) it could be done with a second stick.

I did find myself constantly watching Heroes games last night. I have no idea why. I went to Twitch, typed in Heroes of the Storm, and clicked on what came up. The person I ended up watching was Hafu who I had never heard of before. All of a sudden, TotalBiscuit joins her party, and they play for a few hours (and lose every game hahahaha). These streamers are playing Heroes A TON. Now, I am suspicious that they want to please Blizzard and/or keep streaming since there are more viewers than players due to the game still being in alpha. But it very well could be that the game is very addictive.

You always want to know what the next hit game is. In the very first issue of Nintendo Power, Howard Phillips had a huge preview on Mega Man 2, and you could feel the enthusiasm bubbling forth. He was essentially screaming, “OMG, buy this game!” Looking back on it, we smile because we know he was right. Mega Man 2 was definitely a game the NES player should have bought.

Can you imagine if you could go back in time right before a hit game was going to come out and tell everyone The Good News? Before World of Warcraft came out, no one, absolutely no one, and especially not Blizzard, even imagined how big it would become.

Now imagine if you could go back in time to tell people about the Wii.

(I don’t have to imagine that scenario… heheheh)

One of the fun things about this site is trying to point to a big game incoming. I’m not a FPS type person (though I am a Doom/Quake/Unreal Tournament fan) so I can’t tell you anything about Halo, COD, Titanfall, or whatever. It’s like feeling the tremors of an earthquake. The smoke is hissing from Mount Gaming. You know the volcano is going to blow its top soon.

Heroes of the Storm will be to Dota 2/ League of Legends as World of Warcraft was to Everquest. This game is going to be *big*. (Provided Blizzard doesn’t screw it up, but everything Blizzard is doing lately makes me think *they get it*. They’re turning Diablo 3 disaster boat around. They haven’t even mentioned a word of E-Sports about Heroes (thank goodness).

Why will Heroes be HUGE? I see DOTA 2 and LoL similar to Everquest and earlier MMORPGs in that they do some things really right which are very fun but are drowned in chore-like grinding activities. The MOBA players like these ‘fun nuggets’ and see the chore and grinding as ‘part of the scene’. Blizzard is *fixing* it by removing those chores and grinding so the ‘fun nuggets’ end up being a fully saturated fun game. World of Warcraft did many changes such as rested XP, not allowing people to loot your corpse, replaced experience grinding with quests (I recall very vividly playing Vanilla WoW when it came out how everyone would keep killing raptors all day while I leveled so much faster by doing quests. I played with a Russian so it was two people going through the quests extremely fast. MMORPGers still were locked in the paradigm that one had to ‘grind’ for experience. WoW broke that with quests). WoW was so influential that no one wanted to play earlier MMORPGers anymore (hush you Ultima Online and Asheron Call fans).

Heroes will have a similar effect. It will unleash the fun that’s been bottled away in the MOBAs. It will actually make the MOBA fun.

When this occurs, it will be very interesting to watch the faces of the developers of the MOBA graveyard. All these MOBA games came out and only DOTA 2 and League of Legends survived. Everyone thinks they are so brilliant, so talented, and probably like to think Blizzard just throws money at their games or relies on their fanbase. Warren Spector once said that a video game developer needs extraordinary analytical skills. Blizzard has that. They are also not afraid to crucify their ego (for example, the Diablo 3 Auction House is shutting down today. Who would have thought Blizzard would actually do that when the game released?).

Reaper of the Souls will be good, it will be fun, just as Hearthstone and Starcraft 2: Legacy of the Void will be satisfactory. But Heroes is poised to explode.

You want to know one additional reason why I think so? (Of course you do. That is why you are the reader, and I am the Malstrom.) The Lore. Games that really become phenomenons (escapist games at least) create new lore. Think of Super Mario Brothers and Mushroom Land. Think of Starcraft and its universe or Warcraft 2 and 3 and WoW with their rich world settings. One of the major weaknesses with Blizzard games is their lore. Starcraft 2 is less about creating new lore as it is about a bad soap opera. The ‘story’ is revolving around characters whereas Starcraft 1’s story revolved around empires rising and falling, seeing new planets, new environments. Diablo 3 can be described as ‘anti-lore’ where they really screw up older characters (Cain, Tyrael) and the game feels like I’ve done nothing since Diablo became nothing more than Voltron of different ‘evil’ pieces.

“But Malstrom,” you said, “Heroes is using old lore. They are using the existing Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft universes and characters. There is nothing new.”

Au contraire reader! You are mistaking Blizzard with Nintendo. After the 64-bit generation, Nintendo stopped generating new lore. Smash Brothers and Mario Kart are nothing more than the meeting place of different characters and settings. While Blizzard does have the current universes, it is generating new lore. Take that Pirate Ghost Ship. I don’t remember seeing that in WoW or Warcraft? The mines aren’t found in any of Blizzard’s games.

I think Blizzard’s artists are tired of the cages that Diablo, Warcraft, and Starcraft impose and enjoy the combinations allowing them to do Whatever The Hell They Want. The gameplay of Heroes is largely being generated by the artists at this point. I’m excited because this is how I want gameplay to be generated. Instead of the game designers getting all egghead, they see concept art or something and become passionate rockstars and follow through with something. Did you know that the original Starcraft was inspired by Starship Troopers? Vanilla World of Warcraft obviously was inspired Lord of the Rings movies.

This is the trailer of Starship Troopers. Blizzard employees left the theater howling and shouting! If THAT doesn’t remind you of Starcraft, then look at this cutscene from Brood War which is an exact parody found in Starship Troopers.

Back to Heroes, look at this:

Here, they talk about how Heroes revolves around the maps, not the heroes or items (which I swear I didn’t see this video before my prior posts). The Heroes devs even admit they had a Wii-like moment. They didn’t know how people would respond to Heroes and were just hoping everyone wouldn’t hate it. Even the company had forgotten about Heroes due to Hearthstone going public. The line to play the game just kept growing and growing until people were waiting an hour or so just to play as it wrapped around the convention (which sounds very familiar to me ;) ). In this video, they seem aware that they have a hit on their hands.

When I watching Day[9], he said something that hit me between the eyes. He said, “I love how stress free this game is.” Now I remember why I loved playing Warcraft 2 or Red Alert back in the day. The games weren’t that long, and they weren’t stressful. Bomberman multiplayer, which is the best multiplayer, is never stressful. As games got more complicated, they became more stressful. Starcraft 2 multiplayer is so stressful that it is more fun not to play multiplayer at all. It is also why Nintendo local multiplayer can be so good with Wii Sports and Mario Kart.

I’m looking forward to Heroes because I want stress-less multiplayer. The hardcore thinks ‘stress’ makes a video game more sophisticated. to the contrary, it makes it an inferior entertainment product. Would you date a hardcore woman or a pleasant one not causing you stress? There you go.



%d bloggers like this: