Dustin Browder, Game Director for Heroes of the Storm, starts the panel, explaining the concept of the game and its various environments and objectives. He passes the mic to Kaeo Milker, Lead Game Producer for Heroes of the Storm. He explains that, after BlizzCon 2013, the take-home alpha began. Members of the development team got to take the game home and playtest it from their own computers. Many directions for the game were confirmed through the process, with decisions such as “make a lot more battlegrounds” being fleshed out as playtesting continued. The technical alpha, which began in March of 2014, was the earliest public test of a Blizzard game. This was to try and get the public to give feedback and participate in the development of the game in its early stages. Every four to six weeks there is new content patched into the game; this is because of the development team’s goal of constant evolution. He then passes the mic back to Dustin Browder to talk about content.

Dustin Browder recalls that the development team always seeks to create more battlegrounds and objectives to create more variety and fun. He goes through all of the new Heroes of the Storm content from this year: Garden of Terror, Murky the Murlock, Brightwing, Zagara, Rehgar, and Azmodan. The mic goes back to Kaeo Milker.

Kaeo Milker explains the acceleration of invites into the game, and that closed beta starts January 13, 2015. The development team is excited to bring more players to the game. The increase in players will help Blizzard make improvements to the game.

Alan Dabiri, Lead Software Engineer for Heroes of the Storm, takes the mic. He speaks about competitive play and the upcoming draft mode for the game. Draft mode will have teams alternate picking heroes, with no duplicate heroes being allowed, battleground selection will be known, and this mode will be used by all ranked modes. A coin flip will decide which team will pick first. The slideshow switches to a screenshot of the draft mode UI. Not exclusive to ranked play, hero selections will be visible during the loading screen for both teams. Hero bans won’t exist for the game, at least initially. Alan Dabiri explains that there are several reasons for this: hero bans will add more to the time it takes to get into the game, the number of bans along with the rule of having no duplicate heroes will severely limit a player’s selection of heroes, and the size of the current hero roster is small enough not to require bans.

Ranked play will have two leagues: Hero League, which will allow you to queue up with any number of players, and Team League, which will only allow a full party of five players to queue into matchmaking. Ranks start at 50 and go up to 1, with 1 being the most skilled. Winning games earns a player points to progress in rank, and losing games causes a loss in points. Each season will reset your rank back to 50, but a portion of the points you earned will be retained so that you don’t have to play as much to return to your original rank. Skill rating will persist from season to season, and skill rating is what will be used to match you against and with players of similar skill.

In Hero League, the matchmaking system will favor matching against parties of similar size. Your own team and the enemy team will be filled with players of similar skill rating. Your own raking and skill rating is your own, and changes in those two values will be separate from the rest of your team.

In Team League, a captain will pre-create a team with a unique name. A total of nine players can be on that team (not including the captain). An individual player can be a member of three different teams. Players cannot be in a team unless they are player level 40. Each team has its own ranking.

The topic of leavers is brought up. If you leave a game, you will be flagged as a leaver and only be put on teams full of players that are also flagged as leavers. If, as a leaver, you determine that you don’t want to play in those kinds of teams, all you have to do is not leave games for several matches. The leaver flag is removed automatically after not leaving any games for a certain number of matches.

The Q&A portion begins, and marks the end of the panel.

To see all of our articles on BlizzCon 2014, click here.

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