The upcoming title Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard taking aim at the immensely popular League of Legends. Heroes is Blizzard’s return to a gaming genre that they inadvertently created many years ago. League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm are both examples of what have come to be called “multiplayer online battle arena” (MOBA) games. These games were born from Blizzard’s popular real time strategy (RTS) titles StarCraft and Warcraft III. For many years the entire concept of the MOBA was associated almost entirely with Defense of the Ancients (DotA,) which was a user created modification for Warcraft III. The modification stripped out most of the resource management and base building mechanics that typify RTS games and focused almost entirely on teams of hero characters battling each other. Since the overwhelming success of DotA, many MOBA games have emerged, with League of Legends (LoL) becoming the leading title in the genre.
Blizzard has experienced some difficulties breaking into this genre they accidentally created. DotA became the property of Valve who went on to release a sequel called DotA 2. Heroes of the Storm itself has undergone several iterations before even reaching the technical alpha stage. It was originally called “Blizzard DotA” and was to be a modification for StarCraft II, much as the original DotA was a modification for Warcraft III. Subsequently, Blizzard decided to make it into a stand-alone title and gave it the name Blizzard All Stars. This name was apparently uninspiring and so Blizzard reinvented the title once more, calling the project Heroes of the Storm and debuting it to the public at BlizzCon in 2013.
Heroes does fit squarely into the MOBA genre and players that are familiar with other titles like League of Legends or DotA 2 will find themselves familiar with the game. However just as Blizzard has done with its other properties like World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, Heroes is focused on providing an accessible experience that will allow more casual players to enjoy the game without feeling forced to commit to learning all the intricacies of the game. Given the success of those aforementioned games, it is hard to argue with the strategy. That is why Heroes of the Storm is a blizzard aimed squarely at League of Legends.
One of the biggest criticisms of LoL is that it is particularly unfriendly to newcomers. This is both because of the actual mechanics of the game as well as the perceived “toxicity” of its community. LoL players are considered to be intolerant of newcomers and those still learning the game, thus it can be difficult for someone who wants to get into the game to actually learn the mechanics and become comfortable with it. Blizzard aims to address this problem in two ways. The first is to eliminate some of the “complex” mechanics. There is no “last hitting” in Heroes, and there is no store to purchase hero items from. Instead a level based talent system will allow players to customize their heroes to their preference. Additionally, Heroes also offers more limited chat and communication options than other games like LoL. This can minimize the abusive chat and comments that can become all too common in LoL, however it remains to be seen if this could become a liability for Heroes. MOBA’s are team based games that require a certain level of communication and this may handicap the game in a sense.
It may seem unlikely on the surface that Heroes of the Storm can overtake or even approach League of Legends in popularity, but Blizzard should not be counted out. Few observers predicted the overwhelming success of World of Warcraft against established competitors like Everquest nearly a decade ago. League of Legends should brace itself for the upcoming blizzard of Heroes of the Storm.
Editorial by Christopher V. Spencer
League of Legends Official Website