Heroes of the Storm

Constraints on talent design/improvement

HeroesoftheStorm 1 - Constraints on talent design/improvement
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Something I've been thinking about in the age of monthly tweaks/nerfs/buffs is the constraints on talent design. Ordinarily, talents are meant to improve abilities or basic aspects so that people can create different builds and play each hero somewhat differently from game to game or instead in a style that suits their particular desires for basically every game. Two of the major constraints are 1) the power of the ability in question and 2) the role of the hero in question. You don't want a talent to provide a completely alternate way to play the hero that encroaches on other heroes in that role, but you also want the talent to be desirable enough that people will actually see that option as a real choice. Stukov's > is a great example. He's one of the few melee healers, since most want to stay away from the front line, but has one of the most powerful melee attacks in the game. Spine Launcher allows one to play him as a more typical ranged healer, but with a significant reduction to that damage BUT also including some CC (a slow.) That's a talent that has nothing to do with his abilities, but everything to do with his identity. According to HeroesProfile, it's taken less than 1/3 of the time that > is selected (usually because the latter makes him a better healer), but Spine Launcher also has the 2nd-highest win rate. So, it makes it an actual choice, even if it's an infrequent one.

The contrasting scenario is the one that inspired this post. Qhira is one of my favorite heroes (currently mired in futility due to the current Anomaly) and, back in August, she received some talent tweaks which were intended to smooth out her tiers. The most interesting one was on level 7, the "healing" tier. The vast majority of players take > because of its basic utility: it buffs her primary healing ability with a condition (opponent under 50% health) which is usually pretty easy to achieve for her. The next highest selection is > because it provides direct healing from an ability (Carnage) that doesn't have to be connected to Blood Rage stacks or its 33% longer cooldown. It also provides a significant boost to her basic attacks. The least selected is > which received the most significant boost: 20% healing from basic attacks.

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Now, the devs even acknowledged the reason that most don't take Link is because of Revolving Sweep's extremely high CD (16 seconds.) So, in order to make that selection a viable "choice", they attached an aspect to it that has nothing to do with the ability and, indeed, didn't even bother to adjust the relatively paltry healing that Link provides in the first place. According to Profile, Link now has the highest win rate (49%), even though it's still the least-picked talent. However, I'm willing to bet that most select that talent for the same reason I do: the healing from basic attacks. The healing that comes from the main essence of the talent (regeneration over 4 seconds) is usually completely irrelevant, both because of Sweep's long CD and because Qhira, constantly in the front line as a melee assassin, needs burst healing (like Blood Rage), not HoT. This is especially true in Link's case, given that if Qhira is solo laning, she'll be spending a lot of time hitting Minions and not the enemy Hero required to trigger Link's regeneration. So, Link is largely superfluous EXCEPT for the tweak just added. In that respect, they might as well have simply removed Link and changed it to a base talent like Spine Launcher that simply says: Qhira heals for 20% of basic attack damage.

This isn't an attempt to criticize the devs. I've simply started to see some situations like this where it seems clear that the restraint on talent design is impeded by the ability in question or some aspect of it; in Sweep's case, the significant CD, such that buffs are made to those talents that have nothing to do with the ability in question. That speaks to a flaw in the basic ability, moreso than the talent. And you can see this in examples throughout her tree, where the Sweep talent is invariably the least selected and, with the exception of Link, has the lowest win rate until we get to the all-Sweep level, 16, where the dominant pick is > for the potential AoE stun and displacement, despite > addressing the main roadblock in Sweep talents: the CD.

Anyway, just musing on the recent talent approach. I understand the perceived need to Sweep's CD: it's a powerful ability and a flashy one. Skilled Qhira players would be pretty devastating if they could Sweep every 10 or 12 seconds; not least for the extraordinary escape ability it provides, on top of Utility Belt. But it also seems like a real creative restraint on making those talents actually attractive to regular players.

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