Heroes of the Storm

An open letter to Brett Crawford and the Heroes Design Team on the Whitemane Rework.

HeroesoftheStorm 3 - An open letter to Brett Crawford and the Heroes Design Team on the Whitemane Rework.

I'm AnemoneMeer, otherwise known as AnemoneMeer#1481. At the time of writing this, I am around five games shy of a thousand games on Whitemane, holding down a WLR in the 57% range and alternating between Diamond and Masters. Outside of Heroes of the Storm, I am moderation staff for Chucklefish, as well as one of their testers. I have also ended up as one of the louder voices regarding the Whitemane Rework, and want to go over, in detail, the problems with it.

Whitemane has gone through eight iterations for the rework, the seven alterations that have been stated, combined with the initial release. There was also something of a deadline of the Scarlet Heist event. I understand that. Deadlines can suck. Over those iterations though, myself and many other players feel that the flavor that led to people playing Whitemane even when she was not a meta character has been lost. Personally, I find it hard to even try to play her now, which is a far cry from the days where I had my entire match history covered by her face.

Speaking from experience, once you've internally tested changes for so long, and changed a character so many times, their initial design and balance point fades from memory. It's very easy for legacy design to slip through without the things that made it make sense at the time, or for how new additions work to take center stage over preserving the old. I fear this is what has happened here, as even after heavy nerfs, all of Whitemane's builds sans her auto-attack build are in worse places, due to the loss of talent synergies, base power, and even base stats. It feels bad to use E, and W is mathematically a healing loss, and the talents available do not properly fix these issues, but rather exacerbate them. To make matters worse, between PTR and release, she lost 15.25% healing from the nerf to her attack speed, which leaves the only remaining build, the new build, feeling anemic in design.

When looking at the current state of Whitemane's kit, she cannot help but feel like an inferior version of Tyrande. Tyrande already had a talent that all but replicated Zeal in Elune's Chosen. Tyrande also has 33% faster attack speed and Light of Elune additionally is 175% healing instead of 100% healing, leading to Tyrande's level 1 talent being equivalent to Whitemane's level 4 and 13 talents together in most situations. Tyrande is also afforded better burst healing, better CC, higher damage potential, better mana economy, and overall better team utility.

The current build of Whitemane does very little save for heal, and does it in very few ways save for auto attacking, as all of her non-auto attack builds are worse. Even if the AA build is balanced due to Whitemane's access to effective AoE healing, it is all that she currently is, and in a game filled with healers who bring powerful utility and support tools to the game, this means that she will not be effectively balanced unless her numbers are better than the numbers of other healers or she gains access to similar levels of utility. Moreover, so long as she remains like this, she will be directly compared to Tyrande and largely impossible to draft in situations in which Tyrande is also an option that cannot be drafted effectively.

Old Whitemane sidestepped her utility issue by bringing lethality. It was okay for her to lack stuns, baseline roots, effective waveclear, vision, and other such mechanics because her utility was instead placed in the pressure she could cause to the enemy healer. Nobody would argue that Li Ming brings utility to a team, and she has instead been balanced around the idea that she can instead do high burst damage often.

Skilled Old Whitemane play came down to managing her burst damage potential as well as her healing potential. You lacked apparent CC because your true CC was the ability to force the enemy healer to spend their heals countering your damage. If the enemy team had a powerful Single Target healer with long cooldowns or sustained AoE heals, this made Whitemane very valuable in skilled hands. Single target healers had to pick between responding to you or responding to your allies, and AoE healers struggled with the added pressure she could put on single targets. New Whitemane does not bring this, and does not bring anything that other healers do not bring while also affording more utility elsewhere. Her scope has only narrowed from before.

Basic attack builds are not inherently fun. Players, by their very nature, enjoy flashy lights and impactful effects. It is rare that you see people willingly playing poison oriented builds unless they share a lot of flashy effects and systems. Warlock in Classic World of Warcraft was loaded up on powerful and valuable utility skills and tools to go along with its damage over time effects. Valla was given an entire burst rotation to go along with her powerful auto attacks. Raynor legitimately has a massive self heal as well as a second character to control in his toolkit. Auto attacking is neither flashy nor interesting until taken to the higher levels of play where it demands high APM, and even then, auto attack characters are granted powerful tools designed to compliment them.

Whitemane does not have this. Her initial ability list was that of a spellcaster first, and so the auto attack build runs counter to the rest of her kit instead of working with it. With an inherent three second channel in her kit, as well as the majority of her talents being buffs to her spells, there is no shortage of design friction in her kit. If you spend three seconds channeling Inquisition, that is three seconds where you do not get the superior HP/s of auto attacking, and if you are spending your time auto attacking, you are deliberately not using your abilities. Inquisition was always designed as her big heavy heal tool, which is why she must stand still to cast it, and why its talents were so impactful and its cooldown so long. With the changes made to empower Whitemane's auto attacks and the nerfs to its base functionality, Inquisition simply is not a usable ability because its sheer numbers are outpaced by auto attacks, which afford better mobility and do not have a cooldown.


The loss of Whitemane's mana talents tier is especially problematic to her design, even more so with her mana costs having been increased instead of reduced. There is nothing inherently wrong with a healer having high mana costs. In fact, it is healthy for the game. Most healers with high mana costs do however have tools designed to mitigate this fact. Uther is a great example, having an entire mana tier on his level 1 talents. Each of these talents however, pushes Uther into a different style of play, with one affording more CC, another affording better range, and the third affording more armor. By making mana recovery based not on what gives the most mana back, but on what role Uther is pushed to perform, Uther can have high mana costs that are mitigated by playing his role effectively, thus retaining mana tension without forcing a singular best build.

Whitemane in her current state feels incomplete, and changed from who she was in the game into something largely unrecognizable. Most of her builds are worse than they were before, and the one that isn't, happens to be one that did not exist before the rework, and already existed on another character. While there is nothing wrong with adding new builds to a character, or removing unhealthy ones, it can often feel like New Whitemane is punished for trying to be Old Whitemane, and rewarded for trying to be Tyrande. And if that is the case, why not just simply pick Tyrande? She has the same mechanics, and better tools.

Brett, as you were design lead on this, I want to ask you, speaking as someone who has played entirely too much Whitemane, to take a second look at this, to watch replays and footage of those of us such as myself, hellobg, SotheBee, Haetred, rcw, and the others of us who were proficient in Old Whitemane. To study what we did, and see what the original, pre-rework Whitemane could do. We understand she was often janky, and had weird design quirks, but in seven reiterations, all played to death with a looming deadline I'm sure, she has lost the identity that drew us to her, and the reasons for us to play her.

Personally, I have not felt so attached to a support role character since Mina from the cancelled MOBA Dawngate. I used to play that aggressive little doll almost every single game, laughing and smiling and getting frustrated as I got overly greedy and died. Then the game was shuttered, and I lost the ability to play as her, and my willingness to play support roles entirely, because every time I tried, it just made me miss playing her. Whitemane is the first support character since then who I have fallen in love with, and the one to finally break that. And now everything that personally drew her to me is gone. I still miss playing Mina, and still wish I could, and now I miss playing Old Whitemane too.

To be frank, I cannot help but feel the Whitemane rework failed in its design goals, and has driven away almost everyone who used to play as her. The forums and subreddit have largely been alight with complaints about it, only dying down because people have ceased playing her for the most part. It simply isn't fun or interesting to play, as the kit strains against itself to try and find an identity. There are good ideas in it to be sure, such as Inquisitor's Prayer, Scarlet Wrath, the rebalancing of Whitemane's ultimates, and Subjugation being moved to a lower tier, but on the whole, the rework fights with itself more than it comes together in a cohesive whole. Going into desperation at all feels bad, as there's no way to recoup the losses from it, and in its current iteration would make more sense just giving multiple charges to Whitemane's Q, but then she is even more like Tyrande than she is now, instead of her own character.

I understand all the effort that goes into this. I know the long hours of testing personally, as I have been there and done that, grinding out game after game, match after match just to figure out how to change something. But after so many iterations, you lose sight of what the character was to begin with, and thus what has drawn people to care about that character. This rework, more than anything else, is a failure not because its numbers are wrong, but because those of us who cared, no longer have a reason to care. She has the same face, but she'll never have her fire.

But mistakes and failure are okay. They're how we learn, and they can be fixed. I'm sure, Brett and the rest of the development team, that you can fix this. That this can go through a second, much healthier iteration. That the problems can be smoothed and ironed out and everything can be made better than it was before. The first step to success is often failure. I know you can do it, and I believe in all of you. Heroes of the Storm is a great game, and it's great because its developers made it great. This rework may be a mistake, but the game is not, and the fact that people still care so passionately about the character is proof of that.

So, to all of you, I'd like to make a request. Talk to us. Ask us what we'd like and work with us. Whitemane is a character for whom her mains have played her with a fanatical zeal to match the character herself. And we know she was often a broken, janky mess of oddities. We'd love to help come up with ideas, to improve upon this rework. We've already been posting our own versions hoping against hope just to catch the eye of the development team. To maybe see some of that old spark return. So, please, let us help.

We can make a difference here if you let us.

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