Heroes Day 3: does mana even matter?

Just before playing my games of Heroes today, I played a game of Dota 2. I figured that I would be done with Dota after quitting AHGL, but we still talk about it at the office, and I had a hankering. We lost, but it was fun. It was surprisingly easy to switch back into it.

After that, I played 2 quick match games of Heroes, both with Tyrande. Just like in Dota, I like to play supports. Unlike Dota, I don’t seem to die very much. In the first game that we lost, I think I died maybe 3 times and started the game with a killing streak. In the second, game, I didn’t die at all. I think the targets in the game must be different. I’m used to (and totally fine with) being bursted down or throwing my body in the way to let one of our carries survive. I guess that happens less in Heroes since all team experience is shared and there are no prime targets. Strange.

It took me a game to figure out Tyrande. In the first game, I forgot to cast my owl out of combat, I forgot to cast my target in combat, and I was reluctant to use my Starfall. Most of those got sorted out in the second game as I was better able to use my owl to finish kills during chases. The learning curve for individual heroes seems shorter than the period for leveling them up, which is nice. I think the next thing for my Tyrande play would be doing a better job with global Starfall and using the Owl to impact the map as a whole and provide better vision even when I’m not physically in the area.

Another odd thing in the game is that mana doesn’t seem to really matter. This is not to say that I don’t get low: I really think I do a good job casting abilities off cooldown. It just seems like there’s way more mana lying around in wells and regeneration globes than I actually need, so I can cast everything on cooldown. It’s more fun to cast abilities than not (see Dota), but it also means that I never take the talents to save mana.

One thing I need to figure out is the different stages of the game. So far, the gameplay has stayed roughly the same early, middle, and late. Push down towers. Push more towers. Take camps and map objectives when you have space. I guess the boss camps aren’t really doable early. Teamfighting seems less important early than just covering lanes, but not really. I think that the emphasis on action from the beginning of the game (removing the laning phase) makes the game go much faster, but it did take away an obvious distinction for me.

Anyways, the game continues to be fun. I like to say that the differences between MOBA games are overstated and that they’re all really the same game, but I can see how Heroes and the 2nd generation of MOBAs is really trying to get away from the original DotA formula from WarCraft 3. I’ll try to put more thought into that in future posts.

Heroes Day 2: Practicing with more heroes

On my first day of Heroes, I only played 2 heroes: Raynor for the tutorials and Li Li for my 3 Quick Match games. Today, I played 4 more practice matches with Uther, E.T.C., Sonya, and Illidan. All of them seemed fine. I don’t know if people have preferences between the roles or heroes, but if they do, I figure I’ll just play the least popular one, because they all seem to require the same general level of engagement, just in different ways (healing, chasing, etc)

My main observation is that the Practice mode is pretty terrible. Maybe I missed the part where I could set the difficulty, but it was pretty easy to wail on the heroes in lane to force them out and then start accruing an experience advantage. It sounds like co-op mode is better adjusted for difficulty, but I think that they are both skippable modes.

I played Sky Temple and Blackheart’s Bay and today, I played Garden of Terror and Haunted Mines for the first time. Again, I’m pretty new to the game, but it seemed like all of the modes were quite similar despite being presented as a differentiating aspect to the game: there are objectives to collect around the map, and they feed into being able to push harder. I do like the focus on map objectives: camps, towers, and map objectives all seem to be big priorities, which cuts out the work of farming.

Of course, playing practice games didn’t seem to enlighten me much on strategy. Naively, it seems like the basic flow of the game is to look for a kill, then try to take camps or other map objectives while the other team can’t team fight. These objectives then allow you to push down towers more quickly. I haven’t tested this theory yet, and I don’t understand the subtleties past that.

I get the 4 different roles on the team at a high level. Past that, I don’t really understand team composition yet, though it seems very important. Given how Quick Match works, however, that aspect seems to be downplayed.

I’m looking forward to playing a bit more against real people to see what else is going on in play against people.

Heroes of the Storm: Day 1

Yes, I know that this is a StarCraft blog. I do feel a little dirty about writing about another game, but this is my best venue to write about Heroes of the Storm, and having just gotten access this morning, I figured I would document my journey.

(Note: I’ll be abbreviating Heroes of the Storm to “Heroes”, not “hots” because of the conflict with Heart of the Swarm. I think it’s less common, but contextually, it’s more confusing)

Before the Beta

Like many things, it started well before yesterday. I have of course played StarCraft 2 from beta and some Brood War before that, though not seriously. Over the past year or so, I have gotten into Dota 2 by playing with my coworkers, which culminated in us joining AHGL for this season. With a trip to watch TI4 and roughly 200 hours of playing, I think I’m decently knowledgeable about the game.

For a year and a half, I have been playing StarCraft 2 weekly on Tuesday nights until we recently switched to other games, such as TF2 and Terraria, for alternating weeks. We had talked a lot about trying out a MOBA, but being a try-hard Dota player myself with many League friends, there wasn’t much common ground. As of 2 days ago, my office team forfeited AHGL, so now that I no longer feel obligated to practice Dota, I figured I would give Heroes a try.

Getting into the beta

It was surprisingly easy to get beta access. The two most obvious pathways were:

  1. Adding Heroes to beta preferences for random picking https://us.battle.net/account/management/beta-profile.html
  2. Paying for the Founders Pack https://us.battle.net/shop/en/product/heroes-of-the-storm-founders-pack

Still being a big StarCraft fan, I actually toggled the first one off because I wanted to maximize my chances of getting into the Legacy of the Void (LotV) beta. That’s probably not how it works, but I didn’t want to risk it.

As for the Founders Pack, I was open to paying for it because Blizzard really does deserve my money at this point, but I figured I would take a gander on getting a free beta key first. Fortunately, that took less than a day. There were 2 ways I pursued that:

  1. Lurking on /r/heroesofthestorm for posts about giveaways, especially on new posts
  2. Watching Heroes streams on Twitch for random giveaways between games

I stumbled across an NVIDIA giveaway this morning, which netted me an EU beta key. I then posted on a few threads and eventually made a trade with someone looking for an EU beta key in exchange for a NA beta key. And with that, I was in!

My first games of Heroes

I played through the tutorials, which were pretty straightforward and easy to get into. The most surprising part about it was all of the stuff that wasn’t discussed: items, gold, last hitting, laning, etc. For someone without a MOBA background, it probably was nothing remarkable, but I was left wondering whether they were just skipping things for simplicity or whether it really wasn’t present. It turns out that it was the latter.

After that, I ended up playing 3 Quick Match games with a friend. In all 3, I played as Li Li, which was comfortable because I generally play supports in Dota as well. We were soundly defeated in the first 2 games, then crushed our opponent in the last game with a kill count of 19-1. I don’t really think my play changed much between the games: I was using all of my abilities on cooldown, and my reaction time to get to fights was about the same. I would say that the difference was just luck, but I also have no understanding of what matters in the game, so I won’t claim there wasn’t some other very relevant factor in there as well.

Reflecting on the game

Heroes was fun and easy to get into. The controls were extremely familiar, and I had no problem figuring out how to cast abilities and even trying to stutter-step and work on little micro tricks. That I have nothing to complain about and experience low switching cost is a great testament to what Blizzard has developed.

I think the best part about the game is that the games are really fast. Whereas Dota games are typically at least 45 minutes, these games were no longer than 15-20 minutes, which makes it way easier to get in and out between matches. I was shocked when I looked at the clock in one game and saw that we were already 6 minutes in: in Dota, we would have just barely started, but I already felt like a lot had happened!

It’s definitely a far more casual game than Dota, which I think is great news for my Tuesday night gaming: I want it to be really accessible for my friends to have a fun time without stressing too much.

I will probably regret this paragraph, but I felt like there just wasn’t that much to the game. I don’t see a really high skill ceiling in mechanics: I think I’m mostly there in being able to use all of my abilities off cooldown already and moving around during team fights. My map awareness and understanding of objectives needs to develop, but I think I can learn those relatively quickly. Knowing the hero pool will take longer, but that’s just one aspect. And the art of engagements seemed lacking, compared to Dota with a lot more preparation and thought and rougher consequences for choices. Teamfights just felt very casual in Heroes.

It sounds bad, but I’ll probably appreciate this: I don’t need another competitive game to get sucked into, and I really do appreciate how accessible it is for my friends to jump into together. I definitely look forward to playing more and will update this blog with my observations as I learn more.