Tag Archives: Heroes of the Storm

Heroes of the Storm 2.0 Isn’t that Different

If there’s one thing Blizzard seems to love, it’s revamping games. They never seem to be able to go very long without some sort of major overhaul to one of their titles. The most recent game to get this treatment is Heroes of the Storm, having recently been given a quasi-relaunch as “Heroes of the Storm 2.0.”

Opening a loot box in Heroes of the Storm

I used to be a big-time Heroes player, having been invited to the technical alpha and playing regularly up to the official launch and for some time after. However, I had started to lose interest in recent months.

2.0 seemed like a good opportunity to revisit the game, but would it reignite my love for Heroes of the Storm or drive me farther away?

What’s in the Box?

Most of the 2.0 changes focus on revamping the game’s progression and rewards systems. These changes are too complex to be declared entirely good or bad; it really depends on who you are and what you want.

2.0 is clearly taking a lot of cues from Overwatch, and while the two systems are not necessarily identical, you’ll definitely see a lot that’s familiar in Heroes if you’ve played Blizzard’s shooter.

Firstly, leveling has been redesigned. Account level is no longer its own thing but is simply the sum of your total hero levels across all characters. Whenever a hero levels up, you earn a loot box full of random cosmetic rewards, with certain level milestones offering boxes of a higher quality. And of course you can also buy boxes for real money if you so desire.

I may have argued in the past that the furor over lockbox mechanics has gotten a little out of hand, but I’m still not a particular fan of the idea, and it’s hard to celebrate when a game suddenly embraces them with open arms.

Tracer's Spectre skin in Heroes of the Storm

That said, for at least some people, this system can be seen as an improvement. Before, if you didn’t want to pay cash for cosmetics in Heroes of the Storm, you were simply out of luck. There were very few mounts or skins available for in-game currency, and they required a lot of grind to acquire.

Now, you can earn every cosmetic in the game without spending a dime. At least in theory. If you’re unwilling or unable to pay real world money, this update is bound to be a huge boon to you.

On the other hand, if you can pay, the news is much less positive. Whereas before you could get whatever skin or mount you wanted whenever you wanted (more or less — mounts tended to cycle in and out of the store, but they always came back eventually), now only a very small selection of cosmetics will be available for direct sale each week. If what you want isn’t available right now, your only choice is to gamble.

And while you can potentially get everything from loot boxes, the odds of actually getting what you want are not great. In a rather transparent attempt to keep people chasing the good stuff, Blizzard has clogged the game with reams of new items that I can’t imagine anyone really wants.

There are banners that only deploy under certain “blink and you’ll miss it” circumstances. There are announcers that are barely heard since they don’t cover map-specific call-outs. There are voice lines that are mostly just copies of the dialogue your characters are always saying anyway. There are tiny sprays no one really uses. And there’s a dizzying variety of emojis, for those who want to add a personal touch to the all-caps bile that is the chat in any MOBA.

Through various veteran reward systems, I received over fifty loot boxes when I first logged in after the update, and out of the all that, I got nothing that I actually wanted.

Purchasing a skin with shards in Heroes of the Storm

The new pyrotechnics for making a purchase are a tad… over-zealous.

Now, to be fair, there are some systems in place to limit the negative effects of RNG. As in Overwatch, if a duplicate of something you already own drops, it’s converted to a special currency (called shards in this case) that can then be used to unlock items directly, even if they’re not part of the current sales.

So while I didn’t get any drops I wanted, I did get enough shards to buy several several skins and a mount. It wasn’t everything I’d hoped to get, but it was something.

Progressing Progression

The loot boxes can be a positive or a negative depending on your perspective, but the other changes to progression skew more heavily toward the negative.

The leveling curve has been rebalanced to provide a much steadier curve. This means that higher levels are now earned much more quickly, which is a necessary change given we are now expected to keep leveling heroes indefinitely, but it also means that the lower levels go by much slower.

One of the best ways to earn gold in Heroes of the Storm has traditionally been to level as many characters as possible to level five, due to the 500 gold reward for doing so. The reward is still there, but it’s now much more of a time investment to achieve, so it feels much less worth it. This doesn’t seem like a good move for a game that derives so much of its appeal from constantly trying new characters.

Also, while high levels are earned more quickly, “quickly” is definitely a relative term here. Getting new loot boxes is going to become quite a grind after a while.

The new combined account/hero level in Heroes of the Storm

I’m also a little torn on what’s been done with master skins. Instead of being a mark of progression, they’ve now been thrown into loot boxes alongside all the other skins. Used to be if you saw someone with a master skin it meant something, especially if it was for a difficult or unusual hero like Abathur or Cho’Gall. Now it doesn’t mean anything.

That said, a hypocritical part of me is happy to be able to get master skins for characters I don’t play as much. I always loved Sonya’s master skin, but I don’t play her enough to justify the grind it would have required under the old system. Now I’ve just bought it with shards, which is simultaneously gratifying and demoralizing.

A Trying Challenge

Something else that deserves a mention is the recent Nexus Challenge 2.0 event. Like the previous Nexus Challenge, it sought to woo Overwatch players by offering rewards in both games for those who play a certain number of Heroes matches while grouped with a friend.

This event was a bit more rewarding than its predecessor, with four tiers unlocked over four weeks, each of which offered significant rewards for just five matches. However, the final three tiers all required that you play in PvP modes, whereas the previous Challenge only required versus AI games.

It’s a nice idea, but it didn’t work out so well in practice. The queues swarmed with inexperienced players, but what’s worse is that many of them weren’t interesting in learning how to play Heroes of the Storm and simply sought to throw games as quickly as possible. This was a miserable experience for veterans, and I can’t imagine it was a good introduction to the game for new players who are genuinely trying, either.

I don’t begrudge Blizzard’s desire for cross-promotion, but I have to believe they could have come up with a better system than this.

Status Quo 2.0

The Thunder-Guard Zarya skin in Heroes of the Storm

In the end, though, the bottom line is that Heroes of the Storm 2.0 isn’t as radical a change as Blizzard’s marketing department would like you to believe. When you get past all the pomp and pageantry of the new progression mechanics, the actual game isn’t much changed.

That can be good, and it can be bad. If you liked Heroes before, you’ll like it now. If you didn’t, I doubt lockboxes are going to bring you back.

I’m not really sure where I stand with the game. I’ve had a lot of fun with it in the past, and there’s still much about it I appreciate, but after so much time spent with it, I am a bit burnt out, and there are some things that have been driving me away.

All of my favorite heroes have been nerfed into uselessness or revamped into something unrecognizable. I swear the game was more stable back in alpha; now that it’s launched, I ought to be able to trust that my characters will maintain some kind of singular identity.

I’m also not thrilled with the direction the meta-game has been taking. Right now it seems dominated by increasing power creep, especially around burst damage. Heroes used to be a more laid-back take on the MOBA, but increasingly it seems to be the sort of game where a split second’s mistake will spell total doom.

I may find my passion reignites at some future date, but I don’t think the 2.0 update will be the cause.

Eight Reasons Your PvP Team Lost

PvP is a pillar of online gaming, whether it’s an MMO battleground, a MOBA, a shooter, or spreading gossip in Ever, Jane. The unfortunate reality of PvP, though, is that for every winner, there must be a loser. Sooner or later you find yourself not the pwner, but the pwnee.

Sometimes your best efforts just aren't good enough

As your virtual corpse decays on the battlefield, trampled by enemy mounts and teabagged by the opposing team, you find yourself asking, “Why? Why, o God, must I suffer so?”

I am not God, but perhaps I can offer some answers to that question.

The Lone Wolf

“There’s no ‘I’ in team” is a piece of advice we’re constantly bombarded with from childhood on, and it’s a good one. It deserves to be as ubiquitous as it is.

And yet, despite both its omnipresence and its fundamental logic, the concept of team above the individual is still somehow lost on a shockingly high number of gamers.

Thus, you see people charging eagerly into five-on-one confrontations (presumably whilst screaming “LEEEEEROOOY JENKINS” at their monitor) or simply camping the bottom lane while everyone else is contesting the map objective because SERIOUSLY RAYNOR DID NO ONE EVER TELL YOU THIS IS A *(@!ING TEAM GAME.


The Accidental Death Match

Team death match is a very popular PvP mode in many online games. So popular, in fact, that lots of people like to turn all the other modes into team death match, too!

Carrying the flag in a World of Warcraft battleground

This is why, while you do the boring but necessary work of guarding the flag, your teammates have charged off to some random field in the middle of nowhere to battle back and forth with enemy players for no other reason than the sheer joy of meaningless irrelevant slaughter.

They may cost you the match and your faith in humanity, but at least they’re enjoying themselves. And in the end, isn’t that the real victory?

No, no it isn’t.

The Learning Experience

Everyone has to start somewhere. You just hope it isn’t your team.

Alone of all the failures gracing this list, the newcomers are the only ones deserving any sympathy. They don’t mean to be bad; they just don’t know any better. They’re new to the game, and they’re trying their best, even as they make countless mistakes that seem glaringly obvious to your experienced eyes.

You can’t blame them too harshly, even if they sink your team like the iceberg did the Titanic. Try to take comfort in the fact that the loss will probably be a learning experience for them, and they’ll do better next time.

One would hope.

The Critic

A less than successful battle in DOTA 2

Everyone’s a critic, or so they say, and never is this more true than in online gaming.

If you play any online PvP — or really any kind of online gaming — you’ll find no shortage of people willing and eager to critique any and all aspects of your play, completely unsolicited.

If you’re lucky it’s only a critique, and their advice is actually useful. This can still be a bit annoying if you didn’t ask for it, but it’s preferable to the alternative, which is an endless string of all-caps profanity delivered by someone who boasts half your kills and twice your deaths.

The Saboteur

As we learned from Michael Caine, some men just want to watch the world burn.

As annoying as all the other mistakes mentioned within the hallowed paragraphs of this article can be, they’re mostly honest mistakes. But sometimes there is more at work, a dark malignancy at the heart of your team, a malice lurking in the heart of a teammate that is turned against his or her own.

Maybe something was said that caused offense. Maybe something went wrong early and they’ve decided a quick death is preferable to trying for the epic comeback. Maybe they don’t have any particular reason. Maybe they don’t need one. Maybe they can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with.

Whatever the case may be, they’ve decided to do everything in their power to make you lose. They’ll feed the enemy kills. They’ll sit in your base and refuse to fight. Heaven help you if the game allows friendly fire. One way or another, they’re going down, and they’re going to drag you and the rest of your team with them.

A PvP battle in WildStar

The Full Murphy

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will.”

Sometimes it is not one single factor that brings an end to your dreams of glorious victory, but a confluence of them. A perfect storm or chain reaction of horror and nincompoopery.

Someone charged in too soon and got themselves killed right away, leaving your team at a disadvantage as they contest an objective. The healer goes down and spends the rest of the match throwing out verbal abuse instead of heals. Someone else decides to just start feeding the enemy free kills to “get it over with.” And all the while Raynor is still camping the bottom lane and doing basically nothing because SERIOUSLY WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE RAYNORS.

There’s no coming back from a mess like this. Just pray it’s over quickly and your suffering can come to an end.

The Unthinkable

If you look across your team and cannot find fault with their play, despite your best efforts, and still find yourself losing, it may be time to consider the unthinkable: Perhaps you are the noob.

It is a terrifying thought. The mind rebels from the mere possibility. But think back and analyze your own behavior.

When the enemy team captured the lumber mill, where were you? Were you putting on a valiant if hopeless defense of the mill the likes of which would make King Leonidas himself weep manly tears? Or were you dueling the enemy team’s rogue approximately fifty miles away from anywhere relevant?

A match in the online PvP game For Honor

When your team’s healer was dog-piled and killed, were you doing everything in your power to defend them, or were you furiously typing a thesis on their rank incompetence without contributing anything yourself?

Look in the mirror. See yourself.

The Impossible

If all other possibilities are exhausted, maybe… just maybe… hear me out… you simply lost fair and square to a superior team. I mean, anything’s possible, right?

Nah, that can’t be it.

BlizzCon 2016 Predictions

BlizzCon 2016 is now just a few weeks away. It’s bound to bring some exciting reveals, but the interesting thing about this year’s BlizzCon is that we don’t have any clear idea what those reveals will be.

BlizzCon 2016 celebrates all things Blizzard Entertainment

While the exact details may be a mystery, we can usually make some ballpark guesses on what the big news at a BlizzCon will be. We might, for example, suspect that a World of Warcraft expansion is being announced, even if we don’t know what specific features it offers.

This year it’s a lot harder to predict.

What we can expect:

There are a few things that are probably a given for BlizzCon 2016, or any BlizzCon these days.

For Heroes of the Storm, we’ll probably hear about some new heroes, and maybe a new map or two. The rumor mill has been floating Warcraft’s King Varian as a likely addition in the near future, so be on the lookout for that.

There have also been some teases about a very “crazy” new hero soon. Fan speculation points at either StarCraft’s Arcturus Mengsk or Warcraft’s Gelbin Mekkatorque for this role, both of those being characters that have been mentioned by Blizzard or found in datamining in the past.

I also wouldn’t be shocked if another Overwatch hero made the jump to Heroes. There’s been rumors of datamined dialogue pointing to D.Va as a possibility.

Heroes just got a couple new maps with the Machines of War event, so more coming soon isn’t too likely, but I wouldn’t entirely rule out some early concepts being announced at BlizzCon. I would have expected the new version of arena mode to be announced at BlizzCon, but that’s already been announced as Heroes Brawl.

The Li-Ming character in Heroes of the Storm

Similar to Heroes, I would expect Overwatch to unveil a few new heroes and/or maps. There’s been a lot of teases for a hacker character named Sombra lately; I expect that she’ll be announced before BlizzCon at the current rate, but if not, expect her then. Even if Sombra’s reveal is at BlizzCon 2016, I would expect to see other reveals, be they heroes, maps, or both.

Personally I would like to see an announcement of some PvE content for Overwatch — maybe even a story mode — but for now Blizzard seems content to remain incredibly unambitious with Overwatch, so I wouldn’t bet on it.

I think another expansion for Hearthstone at BlizzCon 2016 is a very strong possibility. It gets new expansions pretty regularly, so that would hardly be a shocker.

We’re still pretty early into World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, so I wouldn’t expect any terribly big news for it. Expect some previews of upcoming patches — maybe a glimpse of what the next raid might be, though given that all of the launch raids haven’t even been enabled yet, even that’s in question.

There’s a slender chance we might hear about a sequel to the Warcraft film, but it’s probably too soon for that.

So that leaves Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, and Overwatch as franchises likely to have announcements, but also unlikely to have any earth-shattering news. BlizzCon is an expensive convention to run, though, so they wouldn’t run it without something big to announce.

So just what are they up to?

The Black Rook Hold dungeon in World of Warcraft: Legion

Where the guesswork begins:

By process of elimination, it seems StarCraft and Diablo are the only franchises for which there could be major announcements. I very much doubt they’ll be announcing another new franchise.

The hardest evidence — and that’s not saying much — is for a StarCraft announcement. StarCraft’s in-game rewards for those who purchase a BlizzCon 2016 virtual ticket are being kept a mystery until the convention, and they only do that when rewards are relating to a new announcement that they don’t want to spoil beforehand.

My initial thought was the announcement would be a new mission pack DLC. The timing makes sense, since the final installment of the Nova DLC should be out pretty soon.

However, there’s now word that Blizzard may not be doing any more story DLC, so that idea is out the window.

I think some announcements for co-op may be a good possibility, but that would hardly justify the cloak and dagger attitude around the virtual ticket rewards. The StarCraft II trilogy has wrapped up, so another full expansion being announced is unlikely, and I think it’s far too soon for StarCraft III to be a possibility.

But there is one other option.

There have been fairly credible rumors for a while that Blizzard is planning to announce a remastered version of the original StarCraft. Without a lot of other strong options, that seems the most likely bet… though it is worth noting the virtual ticket page specifically mentions StarCraft II content.

A screenshot from the Mass Recall mod for StarCraft II

The Mass Recall mod already allow players to experience the original campaigns in StarCraft II’s engine.

If a remastered original StarCraft is what’s coming, it will be welcome news for anyone who misses the original StarCraft’s multiplayer scene, but the original campaign was already playable with modern graphics and mechanics via the fan-made Mass Recall mod, so it’s not quite as exciting as it might otherwise be for single-player fans. Personally, I’d be more interested in remastered versions of the old Warcraft games, or maybe even the first two Diablo titles.

Speaking of Diablo, that’s another franchise around which much speculation has been floating. BlizzCon 2016 will also celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Diablo franchise, so it would be a good time for a major announcement.

The obvious option would be another expansion pack for Diablo III. Even before the base game released rumors swirled that Diablo III was slated to receive two expansion packs, and given the huge financial success of both the base game and the Reaper of Souls expansion, a second expansion would seem to make good sense.

However, recent events have thrown that possibility into doubt. It’s been so long now since Reaper of Souls was released that people have begun to despair of ever seeing another expansion, and the fact is we have no evidence to support an expansion announcement beyond the fact that the timing seems right.

It’s also true that Diablo III is the only game in Blizzard’s portfolio with no monetization beyond box sales, so that might discourage them from further development on it.

Further complicating matters is the fact that a number of high profile Diablo-related job postings have appeared on Blizzard’s career page in recent months. They could be for positions working on Diablo III, but it seems more likely they’re for a new game in the franchise, presumably Diablo IV.

A Nephalim Rift in Diablo III

It seems supremely unlikely that a new Diablo game would be ready to be shown at BlizzCon, so if Blizzard’s decided to abandon D3 for a new game, the odds of a major Diablo announcement this year are virtually zero.

That said, it’s also possible that Blizzard is working on both a new game and a new expansion. The severe content drought Diablo III has experienced over the past few months has been interpreted by many as a sign the game is being put on maintenance mode, but it could also be a sign that the team has decided to put all their efforts toward a new expansion.

This would be consistent with Blizzard’s behavior elsewhere. World of Warcraft frequently suffers lengthy content gaps in the lead-up to a new expansion.

Finally, there are also those speculating that BlizzCon 2016 might see the announcement of remastered versions of one or more earlier Diablo games, but there’s no hard evidence to back this up.

For my part, I hope for an expansion announcement. The ending to Reaper of Souls left the story obviously unfinished, and the core gameplay of Diablo III remains strong. I don’t think we need a new game yet.

If we do see an expansion announcement, I’m expecting druid — or something similar to a druid — as a new class. It’s the only archetype from Diablo II that isn’t represented in any way by the D3 class line-up.

There would also undoubtedly be at least one new act of story content, though its setting is anyone’s guess. My hope would be for the northern isle of Xiansai to bring in a nice Eastern flair, but it could be anything, really.

All hopes aside, there remains a strong chance we may see nothing at all significant for Diablo at BlizzCon 2016. Our only real evidence that there might be something is a single tweet by the official Diablo Twitter account saying that BlizzCon will be “cool” this year.

On the whole, BlizzCon 2016 remains shrouded in mystery.

The Ever-Shrinking Gap Between MMOs and Other Genres

Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of concern in the MMORPG community about MMOs becoming less multiplayer. The worry is that an increased emphasis on solo-friendly content, smaller scale or more optional grouping, and other systems that aren’t as reliant on other players is stripping the genre of its identity.

A legendary skin drop from Overwatch's suspiciously MMO-like loot crates

But have you stopped to consider that this may well be a two-way street? Just as MMOs are becoming more like non-MMOs over time, so are other genres becoming closer to MMOs.

Spreading the MMO love

MMOs are famously addictive. Their penchant for repeatability, scale, and (nearly) endless progression makes for a perfect cycle of reward and satisfaction that keeps players coming back for more.

Developers know this, and so MMO-style progression systems are now found in many more styles of games, from MOBAs to shooters.

Take the recently released and hugely successful Overwatch. It offers an odd hybridization of the traditional MMO progression systems, leveling and loot. In Overwatch, every match grants experience, and when you level up, you get a crate of random cosmetic loot. There are enough cosmetics to keep the average player grinding for a good long time.

Or take Blizzard’s other non-MMO online game, Heroes of the Storm. It offers persistent out of match progression on the levels of both the account and the individual heroes. Earning the most basic rewards from these systems is quite easy, but maxing everything out is a Herculean grind the likes of which would make the most hardcore of old school MMO players shudder.

You can find plenty of other examples of online games adding MMO-like progression systems. Counter Strike: Global Offensive offers boxes of randomized loot, which has even led to a rather bizarre gambling scandal.

A match in the multiplayer game Battleborn

Less cynically, the social aspect of MMOs also offers a lot of benefits for players, and that, too, is beginning to creep into non-MMO titles.

Take Battleborn, for instance. At face value it seems a very traditional game, with multiplayer on the one hand and a story mode on the other.

But Battleborn’s story mode need not be played solo. You can tackle it with friends, or even random players via matchmaking. You basically never have to play Battleborn alone if you don’t want to. When you think about it, is it really so different from heavily instanced MMOs like Vindictus? You may not be running across other players in an open world, but you are constantly connected to a greater playerbase.

Even single-player games aren’t purely solitary affairs these days. Story-driven indie game Oxenfree allows players to send messages forward in time, which will then be received by other players when they play through the game. Oxenfree and the similarly story-heavy Life Is Strange both offer the player statistics comparing their choices with those of other players, allowing people to see where they stand among the greater community.

With platforms like Steam, Origin, and Battle.Net, you never need to be separated from your gaming friends. You can be fully connected, chatting up a storm, even while playing a purely solitary game.

Blurring the lines

All this is leading to a scenario where the lines between what is and isn’t an MMO are becoming ever fuzzier.

Exploring the quasi-MMO The Division

Let’s look at The Division. Is this an MMO?

We covered it on this site, so that would seem to argue that we at least think so, but it’s a bit more complicated than that really. It’s close enough to an MMO to be potentially relevant to our readers’ interests, but whether it really fits the bill of an MMORPG as we’ve traditionally understood the concept is a lot harder to determine.

The Division is always online, and it has a huge and largely seamless game world, but in most of its content, you will never encounter other players unless you specifically make the decision to group with them, via your friends list or matchmaking. It is entirely possible to play The Division solely as a single-player game and get many hours of entertainment out of it without ever having any meaningful interactions with other players. Its Dark Zone, the only part of the game where interacting with other players is compulsory, could be compared to the optional multiplayer of certain single-player titles.

The Division is not quite an MMO but more than a single-player or co-op game. It’s part of a new breed of game that doesn’t quite fit into or traditional conceptions of genre. You can see it as either a corruption of the MMO genre, a slide toward single-player games, or as single-player games beginning to bridge the gap between themselves and MMOs. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

Is this the future?

All this gets one to wondering what the future of multiplayer gaming looks like.

The worst case scenario for fans of traditional MMO gaming would be for the lines to be blurred so much that large scale MMORPGs as we know them vanish entirely, and we are left with nothing but multiplayer but non-massive games, like MOBAs.

Personally I don’t think that will happen, but I do think it’s a valid concern that conventional MMORPGs may become an increasingly niche market.

Previewing skins for the Lunara character in Heroes of the Storm

On the other hand we might see MMO concepts proliferate to the point where we MMO fans can find something familiar no matter where we go in the gaming world. The DNA of MMORPGs may blend into that of gaming as a whole until the two are inseparable.

That also seems like something of an extreme scenario, but we do see multiplayer and MMO-like concepts becoming ever more common, so it may not be too far from the truth.

What is clear is that we are going to continue to see the lines between MMOs and non-MMOs blur. This can be frightening to those of us who value the traditional model, but there’s also a lot of exciting potential here. Online gaming is still breaking new ground, and the possibilities are endless.

Blizzard’s Makes Multiplayer Anti-Social

Like many, I played Overwatch during the free weekend. Tyler Bro already discussed his thoughts regarding Overwatch, and I don’t have that much to add regarding its core gameplay. What I do have to add is an observation that really surprised me about the Overwatch community itself from my several hours of playing. No, they weren’t bullies, miscreants, bossy types, trolls, jokers, or fan bois. They were something much worse. They were silent.

Overwatch Chat

Will you brave the silence and talk in Overwatch?

Overwatch arguably entices players to communicate more than any of its previous titles. The potential for coordinated teamplay is so deep that it should inherently encourage  communication. Blizzard has done their part to open up that communication with in game voice and even allowing all chat (a big deal for Blizzard). But outside of a talkative enemy pre-made group, I can count the number of players that actually talked in game on two hands (orally or in writing). Sure, some of this can be attributed to people simply learning the game, but I think that something far more reaching is largely to blame. Blizzard has actually conditioned its fan base not to talk.

Over the past several years, Blizzard has increasingly make multiplayer experiences less social. I would go so far as to say they even breed anti-social behavior. The proof is in the products so let’s go over each game’s disdain for communication individually.


The communication in this game is limited to six prepared phrases. Six. If all I could do was say hello, good game, and damn you in the real world these blog posts would be a lot shorter and a lot less interesting. I certainly wouldn’t have made a single friend gaming online limiting myself that way.

In Hearthstone, there’s no chatting with opponents nor even a general chat room. To speak with someone directly I’d need to add them as a friend first, which makes absolutely no sense. A friends list by its definition is a list of people you actually know in some capacity with which you have a positive relationship. How can I develop such a relationship in Hearthstone when I’m not even given the chance?

Hearthstone chat

Your Hearthstone chat interface

It’s not even like we can even opt-in to chat. It’s just a feature that literally does not exist in the game. Blizzard focused their efforts so strongly on delivering a casual CCG experience that they even removed the ‘chore’ of having to talk with people! It’s such a shame because players interested in discussing strategy or tactics must resort to out of game methods. Time in between turns presents players with opportunities to talk shop or offer friendly banter. But Hearthstone is a game you play with other people who may as well be intelligent bots.

Heroes of the Storm

Blizzard’s answer to League of Legends and DOTA2 instructed us that we could avoid toxic players and trolls by removing /all chat. Then came the realization that most flaming comes from teammates and not opponents, so they added an option to block team chat entirely. This is a MOBA that’s supposed to be about the team more than the individual but where allies can be ignored before even uttering a word. It’s entirely possible that the ally you’re trying to coordinate with doesn’t even see your messages.

What’s more is Blizzard decided that the game would be best without a post-game lobby. So again, there’s literally no way to communicate with the opposition unless you add them as a friend. Half of the people involved in every competitive match of Heroes of the Storm have no way to opt-in to chat with the other half. Somehow, Blizzard managed to create a game with even less communication between opponents than Hearthstone. The pattern of anti-social design choices by Blizzard continues with their MMORPG behemoth.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft at launch was anything but anti-social. Things have changed over time. World of Warcraft has always been solo friendly but used to also encourage guild participation and fostering friendships. This was in spite of design decisions such as Bind on Pickup and gibberish enemy communication. But the golden age of socialization in WoW seem be waning due to features that encourage casual and solo play.

The addition of cross-realm LFG and LFR (looking for raid) has been a life saver for off-time and guildless players. Whereas before content was unreachable for this population segment, it’s now incredibly accessible. The downside to this is that players don’t form any lasting bonds. There’s no need to worry about one’s reputation or finding a reliable group. Players can drop in and out of groups and even if a toxic player gets kicked it’s easy enough to join the LFG queue once again. LFG has completely supplanted the old method of dungeoneering for all but the most hardcore raiders.

Ten Ton Hammer posted a few months ago about the death and decay of guilds in World of Warcraft. They cite LFG/LFR as one of the reasons for guilds declining among other changes such as smaller raid groups and guild perks that discourage small guilds. Guilds are one of the primary methods of socialization in MMORPGs so to see the largest MMORPG continually weaken their significance is disappointing. That’s not to say that LFG/LFR is bad but to highlight the lack of value Blizzard assigns to socialization.

World of Warcraft garrisons

Modern era World of Warcraft

The addition and importance of garrisons in Warlords of Dreanor only reinforced Blizzard’s anti-social values. Garrisons are basically a Facebook game you play inside World of Warcraft. Players send followers to gather resources and heroes on missions for loot. The player gets rewards by clicking a few buttons and waiting a certain amount of time for their rewards to arrive. There’s no interaction with players and it’s completely a solo feature (unless a friend, which are becoming harder to find, wants to gauge the aesthetic appeal of your garrison for some reason).

Diablo III

Finally, a game without player opponents so everyone should be on the same page here. Unfortunately, the game is so repetitive and easy to play that bots can do the job for top tier players. There’s not really much of a need to talk in Diablo III because there’s nothing really to coordinate. The game can be played as easily solo as it can in a 4-person group. Rewards go up with more players, but the only interactive reason to group up is to trade items. Of course traders can only do this if they were in the same game when the item dropped. Many feel it’s a step back from Diablo II’s vibrant trading community.

Perhaps the most interactive component in Diablo II was in fact trading (bartering technically). Everything in Diablo II could be traded which made for some interesting negotiations at times. Players could also share loot with friends without restrictions and a cap of eight players allowed more to join in on the fun.

Diablo 3 trading

It’s all mine and you can’t have it! Seriously. You can’t.

To their credit, Blizzard has improved interactivity since launch by removing the auction house and adding clans and communities. Ranked multiplayer greater rifts also encourage competitive players to find like minded individuals for success.

Starcraft II



That summarizes the most chatting you’ll see in a StarCraft II match. However, unlike all of the other titles above, StarCraft isn’t a game with time for chatting. Actions per minute rules the ranks of StarCraft II and chatting doesn’t add to that ratio. RTS games typically balance and build around 1v1 and StarCraft is no different. Thus, there’s not really much of a team to coordinate with either. And due it’s popularity you’ll be unlikely to see the same person twice unless you are a very high ranked player. Players might sometimes discuss a game after it ends or chat in the general lobby, but StarCraft II isn’t game you play to make friends.

Blizzard’s Anti-Social Ways

Is Blizzard making a mistake by making their multiplayer an anti-social experience? It’s hard to say no considering Blizzard’s profit levels. All of their games exude quality and top sales charts. And it’s not as if Blizzard is making games with the intention of creating an anti-social community. In the examples above, Blizzard has implemented features in order to either strengthen casual play, limit real money transaction gold sellers, or diminish flaming and general toxicity. These are noble goals, but Blizzard’s foresight in how accomplishing these goals will affect other aspects (such as socialization) is questionable

If features are to be added that are anti-social as a byproduct then intentional social features should be added to compensate. That clearly is not a priority for Blizzard. Blizzard lately has produced entertaining games that could be played just as well with a computer as a human, if only the computers were smart enough. They seem to changing their tune with Overwatch, and it will be interesting to see if the anti-social behavior bred in older titles will bleed over into their latest.



Which MOBA Is Right for You?

All but unheard of a few years ago, MOBAs (massive online battle arenas) are now one of the fastest growing genres in gaming, enticing players from all the over world with their intense action and fierce competition. But if you’re new to the genre, where should you begin? We’ve taken the time to write a breakdown of some of the biggest and best MOBAs to help you choose between them.

Heroes of the Storm:

A team zones into a match in the MOBA Heroes of the Storm

The newest big name entry in the genre, Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard Entertainment’s attempt to to take the core gameplay of MOBAs and strip away the more arcane or frustrating mechanics. For example, it doesn’t matter who gets the last hit on an enemy minion or hero; the entire team shares experience.

Even more dramatic is the fact that Heroes lacks items. Instead, hero customization is achieved through talents chosen at certain points throughout a match. This is intended to put the focus squarely on the action, with less need to return to base.

Blizzard has also taken some steps to lessen the toxicity that plagues MOBA communities; chat with the enemy team is disabled in all games, and players have the option to disable chat with their own team, as well.

But just because Heroes is more casual-friendly doesn’t mean it lacks for challenge or depth. One of its unique features is a wide pool of maps, each with unique mechanics that must be mastered in order to claim victory.

Heroes has a smaller pool of playable characters than some of its competitors, but new ones are being added on a monthly basis, and there are already many characters with very unique mechanics. For example, Abathur, who cannot fight directly but instead manipulates the battlefield by summoning minions, laying landmines, and casting abilities through his allies.

Like all entries on this list, Heroes of the Storm is free to play. Heroes can be unlocked by paying real money or in-game currency, though the latter is a bit of a grind, and it also offers cosmetics for cash.

Heroes of the Storm is best for players who want a MOBA that’s low stress but high excitement and easy to learn while still offering depth at high levels of play.


A skirmish in the MOBA DOTA 2

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Heroes of the Storm is DOTA 2. It stays the most faithful to the Defense of the Ancients mod from which the entire MOBA genre spawned and thus retains a high degree of difficulty and mechanical complexity.

For example, not only does DOTA 2 have last hitting, but it also retains the practice of “denying,” where a player will kill their own team’s minions at low health to prevent an enemy player from earning the gold from killing them.

DOTA 2 has a large stable of playable characters ranging from the relatively simple to some that are incredibly complex and challenging to play, such as Meepo. Meepo is capable of creating permanent clones of himself, with all of his abilities, that can be controlled separately, but this mighty power comes with a major disadvantage: If one Meepo dies, they all do.

On the downside, DOTA 2 releases new heroes very slowly, usually around four per year, and it has only one map for standard play.

DOTA 2 has the most player-friendly business model of any entry on this list. Every hero is immediately available for free. Only cosmetics are charged for, and even those can be acquired in-game with some effort.

DOTA 2 is best for those who want the deepest, purest, and most challenging MOBA experience.

League of Legends:

A screenshot from the MOBA League of Legends

Halfway between Heroes of the Storm’s lighthearted simplicity and DOTA 2’s punishing difficulty is League of Legends, the most popular MOBA on the market and possibly the world’s most played video game.

League of Legends still has traditional elements like items and last-hitting, but it does away with some more arcane mechanics, like denying. While LoL has fewer and less diverse maps than Heroes of the Storm, it offers significant variety compared to DOTA 2’s single map. The standard Summoner’s Rift map remains the most popular, but there are others with somewhat altered play styles, such as the Howling Abyss, which forces both teams into a narrow space to create constant team fights.

LoL’s community is famously toxic, even by MOBA standards, but the developers have put an incredible amount of effort into addressing the problem, implementing player tribunals to judge offenders and contracting teams of psychologists to help manage poor player behavior.

LoL is another game with a huge stable of playable characters. While new champions were once added very frequently, new releases are now much rarer.

The business model is similar to Heroes of the Storm, with characters unlocked through cash or in-game currency, as well as optional cosmetics available for real money purchase. One difference is that the in-game currency is also required to unlock runes, which provide in-game bonuses to champion performance. This can make unlocking characters a bit slower for new players.

League of Legends is the best choice for those looking for the most popular MOBA with the most middle of the road mechanics.


A screenshot from the mythology-themed MOBA Smite

Smite takes its inspiration from real world mythologies, allowing players to step into the shoes of gods from around the world like Thor, Athena, and Kali. However, its most defining feature is the fact it eschews the standard top-down camera and click to move control scheme for an over-the-shoulder third person camera and keyboard-based movement. This makes it feel much more natural for those coming from an MMO background.

Smite has a large number of colorful heroes from mythologies spanning the world, and releases new ones fairly often. However, mythological purists may be somewhat off-put by the often silly, over-sexualized, or pop-culture inspired gods and their skins, especially since some of them are from religions still practiced today, like Hinduism or Shinto.

Like League of Legends, Smite has a relatively small selection of maps/game types, but still offers a decent level of variety.

Smite’s business model is much like that of LoL or Heroes, but they do also sell an Ultimate God Pack that gives you access to all present and future characters for a very low price, giving it a sort of soft buy to play option.

Smite is a good choice for those who dislike the standard MOBA camera and control scheme.