Heroes of the Storm

Dva nerfs are inevitable but I still want to talk about Dva’s pilot design

HeroesoftheStorm 3 - Dva nerfs are inevitable but I still want to talk about Dva's pilot design
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Specifically, how Dva's pilot got nerfed so much and her mech buffed so much that Dva went from having an identity as a dual-mode hero to becoming pretty much a single-mode hero. I think the rework was quite successful overall (though Dva will definitely get some number nerfs tomorrow) so good job David Warner and blizz team, but this is one part I really dislike about the rework because it took away from her core identity as a hero with 2 playable modes.

Dva's core identity

Some people have the opinion that pilot mode is basically punishment for losing the mech. They say it's basically Dva's respawn timer. It's Dva's special "murky egg". It's Dva's equivalent of Leoric's ghost form. It's punishment for losing her mech so the pilot could be weak and garbage and that would be fine since Dva should be punished for losing her mech.

I would disagree and think it would be cooler for Dva to embrace her identity as a hero with 2 unique modes, and balanced accordingly.

BUT, regardless of whose opinion is right, what we know is that there is a lot of evidence that blizzard intended for Dva to be a dual mode hero, viable in both modes, and not supposed to be complete garbage in one mode.

The signs are everywhere. If you look at Dva's spotlight video when she was released, she was described as having "2 separate and distinct playstyles". Dva's pilot and mech shared equal amount of time in the spotlight video. Dva's pilot was described as a "fragile but deadly ranged attacker".

If you look at the AMAs, e.g. here https://www.reddit.com/r/heroesofthestorm/comments/ce65hi/heroes_of_the_storm_ama_july_18_2019/eu1qq03/, blizzard said "In the rework's current state, I would say she can opt into a solo-laner bruiser build, a team-support front-liner build and a pretty ridiculous self-destruct/pilot build".

If you look at Dva's actual design itself, it is clear that Dva's pilot offers many unique advantages over the mech suggesting that Dva pilot is meant to be an actual playable mode, not a glorified respawn timer:

  1. Dva pilot has the highest auto attack damage in the game (higher than raynor or greymane)
  2. Dva pilot can mount and therefore rotate faster than mech
  3. Dva pilot has a slow and poke ability with massive range (big shot)
  4. Dva can voluntarily enter her pilot form through self-destruct (unlike murky who can't voluntarily go back into his egg, or leoric who can't voluntarily enter ghost mode)
  5. Dva has talents for her pilot only

The rework

So has the rework been successful in this respect? Well first of all, before the rework, I would say Dva's pilot was already weaker than her mech even when talented into. But at least they were both reasonably viable and playable, so Dva could make meaningful choices as to when to make use of pilot and when to make use of mech (though mech would usually be the better choice as mech was still stronger, sometimes situationally, the right call was to play as a pilot).

The rework buffed mech SIGNIFICANTLY. And it simultaneously also nerfed pilot. Old pilot used to have a stronger big shot, a stronger torpedo dash AND pewpewpew together with torpedo dash. New pilot has to choose between torpedo dash and pewpewpew, and got big shot nerfed (although it comes earlier).

The result is unsurprisingly that mech is basically the only playable mode right now, and as pilot, there is basically so limited circumstances you ever want to play as pilot that it might as well be Dva's respawn timer.

So when blizzard said one of their rework goals was to give Dva a "pretty ridiculous self-destruct/pilot build", I don't think that aspect has been very successful. In fact, Dva's self-destruct, even when talented into, takes longer to charge than before her rework (I don't know if you guys noticed but I definitely felt it when playing new Dva).

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And, Dva pilot is so useless right now that you basically almost always want to get back into your mech ASAP to do anything. There is almost no situation now where you look at the game and go "hmmm I think I might stay in pilot for a short while and see how this situation progresses, I might be able to use some of pilot's unique advantages". And to me that's quite sad given that Dva had potential as a hero with 2 modes.

I would say Dva's pilot was meant to be a high-risk, high-reward mode (while mech was safer, lower risk but still medium to high reward). Pilot was not meant to be a high-risk, 0 reward mode.

Look at Dva's pilot talents. They're in a sad state. She lost her entire level 16 tier of pilot talents. At level 13, her pilot talents are not pilot talents, they're mech talents. For example, she gets pewpewpew. That's not a pilot talent. Pilot mode is so trash that pewpewpew is a mech talent, it's used to get back into your mech ASAP. It's used to exit pilot mode. Look at good to go. That's just BARELY a pilot talent. You mainly use it to dash away after your mech dies, and survive long enough to… get back into your mech. Torpedo dash range is so short that you basically can't make plays with concussive pulse, so the only usage of concussive pulse and torpedo dash 99% of the time is to escape and survive long enough to re-enter your mech (you can make some plays with concussive pulse to boop them into self-destruct but after that it's basically a pointless ability except to keep you alive to get you back into the mech).

Level 20 headshot! is the only real pilot talent Dva has right now, her level 13 "pilot talents" are all mech talents in reality, because they're basically talents that help the pilot re-enter mech.

Possible solutions?

I don't know the best solution, I'm not a game designer. But if I had to suggest, I think the core of the issue is, pilot is just too vulnerable to do ANYTHING except stay at 999 range to cast big shot so you can re-enter mech. Therefore, to make pilot more versatile, I would do one of the following:

  1. Give short-ranged torpedo dash baseline, level 13 upgrades it to full range torpedo dash; OR
  2. No torpedo dash baseline, but level 13 torpedo dash gives the full range torpedo dash (instead of the nerfed range post-rework) so at least pilot is somewhat viable from 13 onwards

Of course from a balance point of view, these pilot buffs would have to come with some degree of mech nerfs which I think is fine.

Also, from a "unfun/frustrating/salt wall" point of view, a slippery Dva with full ranged torpedo dash or torpedo dash baseline might be too annoying to kill. The solution is simple. Possibly increase the amount of time before Dva can cast torpedo dash after mech dies, from 0.75 seconds to maybe 1.5 or 2 seconds, if necessary (a longer cooldown would also make it clear it is on cooldown. A 0.75 seconds cooldown just feels like unresponsiveness/clunkiness to players who don't know there is supposed to be a cooldown).

Also, Dva really NEEDS the full range torpedo dash to make plays with concussive pulse. She is way too squishy otherwise to position herself properly to do anything with concussive pulse except boop away enemies trying to kill her which is such 1-dimensional usage of such a versatile ability that it's a shame.

David Warner and blizz I dno how useful my feedback has been but I hope you can reconsider and revert the torpedo dash nerfs (and make balance adjustments elsewhere if necessary) so we can play Dva like we did before, with meaningful and strategic choices to consider between 2 playable modes. Thanks.

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