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Mapp vs Gaming Waffle: Heroes of the Storm

It seems like most of my gaming time has been spent on MOBAs recently, with the semi-popular third-person god-'em-up Smite seeing my stare, dumbfounded at my screen every other evening. Then there's Dota 2, which has been tugging on my shirt recently with big, tear-filled puppy eyes, plaintively asking when I'm coming back to it. I think World of Tanks probably counts too, although it's a bit of a stretch with no skills, no level mechanics, no towers and no lanes. In fact, I mostly count it as a MOBA because there are fifteen players per side, so for all the things it lacks in the MOBA department, it can make up for with three times as much abusive language and trolling per game.

Now it's time for Blizzard to throw their hat casually into the MOBA ring, with Heroes of the Storm, confident in the knowledge that there are enough Blizzard fans to support the kind of community required to make a MOBA feel like a MOBA (in other words: angry people). I was all set not to like it; phrases like "casual" and "baby's first MOBA" started getting thrown around. No item purchasing? Different maps? Shared team experience for levels? "This," I confidently thought to myself, "is going to be terrible."

The troubling thing is that it's not. There's already been a lot of ground covered in the genre, lots of experimentation, lots of things done right, lots of things done wrong. Anyone planning to make a wizard-'em-up have a lot of other games to look at, so some of the more painful lessons about what does work and what doesn't work can be learned the easy way. Blizzard have successfully stripped back a lot of the things that I came to see as defining features of the genre, mashed up what was left a little and then held aloft the remains to the cheering cries of "It's a MOBA! It's a MOBA! from armchair commentators such as myself. Heck, they've even managed to address my second biggest problem with Dota 2; it was too easy for players to play a static game. Now there's a reason to leave lanes, contest camps, fight evil plants, crush spooky skeletons and reminisce about how amazing the Obelisk of Light was from the original Command and Conquer. I feel like the mechanics of the game work, that they feel right, and that this is generally one of the things that Blizzard have a good track record for getting right. That and Murlocs.

So what's the problem? Well, I want to hug the people responsible for the game design and mechanics, who evidently have a deep understanding of the genre and a good eye for working out what you can do to make the genre more accessible, but I want to start slapping whoever was responsible for the monetisation (my spelling correction whatchamacallit suggests that it's not correct, and suggests "molestation" instead, which isn't far off) decisions. It costs a lot of in-game currency to unlock characters, and a rather silly amount of real world money if you want to avoid that grind. Smite comes off as positively generous, with five free characters and another five rotating around. Heroes of the Storm comes off as, well, a bit greedy. I suppose it makes sense, because there are plenty of people defending the pricing scheme, so perhaps the community can support it. Yet it strikes me as a strange move - you make a game that does such a wonderful job of making the genre accessible and approachable, then you scare them off with high prices.

At least the game itself is fun, which helps to alleviate that horrible feeling that you've got to grind away game after game in order to unlock a character. And I'll play the game, because it's bright, it's colourful and it tweaks the genre in ways I like, but Blizzard won't be getting any money from me.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Nov. 15th, 2016 02:01 pm (UTC)
At least the game itself is fun which helps to alleviate that horrible feeling that you've got to gr
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )