Examining The Nexus Challenge, Battleground Rotations and Hero Changes in Heroes of the Storm 2.0

Since the release of Heroes 2.0 just over a month ago, word has been consistently buzzing across many online circles.

The Nexus Challenge 2.0 has brought in many Overwatch fans, either returning from the first Nexus Challenge or brand new players, while the new Loot Chest and progression system has attracted players from some of Heroes of the Storm’s competitors. Tryhard for Good has been running for the past three weeks, pairing up League of Legends players with Heroes of the Storm veterans to raise money for the Make-A-Wish foundation, resulting in its own rush of new viewers on Twitch and players in the game itself.

 

For the first week of the Nexus Challenge 2.0, the five games with friends could be completed in AI games of any difficulty. This combines well with the new player quests to play AI games, which is ideal for Overwatch fans simply looking to farm for the quest and new players in general. The games are short, stress-free, and almost guaranteed wins – even for beginners who barely know how to control their character and have to read each talent choice fully before picking. The problem is that these games are very dissimilar to even the most chaotic Quickmatch. AI games are often won within ten minutes, through pushing down a single lane, and with a kill:death ratio of something like 20:0. The objective is frequently considered optional if you can keep the enemy from completing it as well.

Obviously this was not good for growing the game in its new format, as many Nexus Challenge players would only grind their five AI games and never bother to really give Heroes of the Storm a chance. As was planned from the beginning, the second through fourth week’s five games with friends need to be completed in Quickmatch, Unranked Draft, or Ranked modes. Perhaps it was coincidental timing, but there was a sudden rash of two or three person groups AFK’ing in Quickmatch or intentionally dying to towers repeatedly. There were also reports of Overwatch Facebook groups posting suggestions to “lose [games] as fast as you can to all the try hard teams.” It bears noticing that during this time, discussion rose between fandoms about being new to, unfamiliar with, or bad at the game and the difference between that and the egregious, intentional throwing that was being reported.  It’s also important to note that players only trying to complete the Nexus Challenge are done after five games a piece, and will be gone after the Challenge ends.

Furthermore, problem players will never be completely removed from the game, no matter how effective the report system may be. The problem here is not the temporary uptick in frequency of bad Quickmatch games, but the revelation that the matchmaking system frequently puts veteran players with over 2,000 games played on the same team as new players with less than 200 games. The new progression system has shown players’ experience with the game in much more detail, and combined with the influx of new players from the release of Heroes 2.0 has exacerbated and opened discussion over flaws in matchmaking.

 

On May 12, Blizzard announced their plan and reasoning for Battleground Rotations in the future. This has naturally sparked complaints from veteran players (four of the top ten posts on Reddit last week were separate discussions on the Battleground Rotations) and even some pro players stating that the rotation being forced onto all players is a bad idea. If Blizzard is afraid of overwhelming new players with new information, then allow veterans to turn off restrictions. If the goal is to remove and re-tool unpopular maps temporarily, then the choices are subjective and will hamper a not-insignificant portion of players’ enjoyment of the game. Any players who want to practice for the HGC or any other tournaments now must practice the competitive maps in custom games and scrims, instead of Team League or Quickmatch. This means increased time to find other willing teams and coordinate schedules instead of playing the game. All of the discussion aside, the big news here is that the six Battleground pools of the last month were a learning experience for the development team. The new rotation will be carefully considered to balance many factors, including map size, type of objective, number of lanes, etc.

When the community griped that the HGC was two weeks and a full patch behind, by the next weekend Blizzard had decided to update to the current patch and simply ban Genji that week for being too new. The rest of the balance and Hero changes were in effect. In the last month, the new player rank displays were lambasted for being confusing; in the May 18 patch the numbers are now fully shown instead of color-coded. Blizzard recently redefined many Heroes’ Quickmatch roles, shifting Tassadar and Zarya into a “sustain” position, and splitting Warriors into “bruisers” and “tanks”, among other changes.

Some aspects of those changes have led to problems and discussions themselves, but the Heroes development team continuously listens to their fans and makes adjustments to more than just Hero balance. They are quick to communicate and to react whether on the forums, on Reddit, or in-game. For many, such response from developers is a huge draw to the game. Every effort made to balance the game and perfect the experience resonates with the player base, and when they misstep, the community holds faith that it will be rectified soon and reflects on the many good changes happening in the game lately.


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