I approach this with as open a mind as possible. Whilst I'm clamoring for an Anub'Arak or Zagara rework, for various reasons, I really don't think they'll get one soon. This really isn't a matter of preference, rather, trying to understand developers based on their process and priorities.
- Balance: Being overall competitive against other heroes. Simple enough.
- Popularity: Often a balance matter, having a hero's appeal can depend on trickier factors. Perception can be hard to shake. Murky had gotten popular after his rework that made him OP, but due to his design his popularity has fallen from grace after being balanced. There's also a matter of how niche a hero is. Having strengths and weaknesses, but being overall useful, is key.
- Diversity: Making sure players have compelling talent options. Again not a pure balance matter. It's actually common for strong talents to be neglected (see dev comment further down), and vice versa, based on the meta. Ideally there's some creative restriction going on, so players can't pile on an ability or aspect too much. Tychus for instance, getting three range talents on a single tier.
- Design: What heroes, abilities and talents do. Why should they. Uniqueness. Fantasy. Interaction. So much goes here. This is the trickiest of all. You can have a 65% winrate with a hero you've played for 20k matches, but never having examined their design. It takes an experienced game developer to handle these things. I've made about six Gazlowe reworks these years and they just helped me to foresee some things (braggity bragbrag) but ain't no way I could've thought of these changes.
Many players think reworks are dealing with the top 1-2. "If it ain't broke" dictates that if X does its thing decently and is popular enough, it must never be altered. This 'change for the sake of change' attitude fails or even refuses to understand the reasoning behind changes.
So, why aren't pure balance changes enough? Well…
Kinds and Volume of Change
- Pure balance changes are just a numbers matter, meant to fine tune winrates. They are solely occupied with power level and do not deal with the how or why. They can be drastic, but simply can not fix design issues. They usually fix diversity issues, but might fail at that too.
- Minor changes include talent shuffling, removal, replacement and addition. They deal with diversity issues, problematic functionalities and missed opportunities. Anub'Arak got a ton of those recently, with generic talents replaced, and new functionalities like that of Cryptweave.
- Mini-reworks have a A LOT of the above, maybe ability tweaks too, but don't drastically change the hero. Good examples are the latest Tychus and Xul reworks, and Jaina who had two (
n1 n2). Though in a sense, Anub'Arak also got a mini-rework… just across his last three patches.
- Reworks give devs the freedom to thoroughly re-examine a hero, and are very drastic. They are meant to preserve the core aspects of the hero and add new elements. They'll also gladly hack away at rigid playstyles like Azmo only stacking Q vs minions/heroes and ignoring E, or pure burst artillery Chromie. This not just for diversity, but also to combat gameplay undesired for the experience they provide to the user, allies and enemies. This can cause a big ruckus, often rich in sentimentality. I mean, how well did this rant age? Oh no, can't get TWO passive regen talents…
- Major reworks are a step up and reshape the hero's role. And even 'Role'! From Cassia being less specialized against autos, to Gazlowe and Tassadar changing roles for design/fantasy purposes.
Chromie is an interesting case of reworks missing the mark hard, to be fixed by more reworks. Her W lost, then regained its invisibility across a series of reworks, and devs ultimately split it in three waves.
Signs a Hero is Getting Reworked
No, Probius, Muradin and Illidan probably aren't getting reworked soon. A hero getting patches means the devs are mostly happy with them for now, and try stuff out. But what if stuff doesn't work? Minor change and mini-reworks have worked wonders for heroes like Jaina, but for others, well…
Know who was right after Kael'thas, the king of the Sun and bot getting patches? D.Va and Gaz.
If we look at D.Va, the only patches she had for years were +2 Basic Attack damage, and… +3 Basic Attack damage. One of the least popular, weakest heroes in the game. Mere balance tweaks didn't seem to do the trick, thus it took a rework to fix her.
Gazlowe, although not weak balance-wise, was a mess of mechanics with his rather passive playstyle being problematic not only for design, but also making him… unpalatable. His talent tree had a slew of dull, co-reliant talents that practically unlocked different playstyles. His second rework was simply another failure to change that, and between it and his current one lied a time span of THREE YEARS AND SIX MONTHS, with TWO BALANCE PATCHES.
So… Who's Gonna Get One?
A better term may be 'who has priority to get one'. Ain't no way Probius is gonna remain at 1-2% popularity and devs being happy with it. But for now?
Let's filtering by Last Balance and look at the top heroes.
Kael'Thas is one troublesome fella, always having utterly dominant builds. As I said, minor changes work for some heroes, but when they don't, you have this. On a certain minor patch, he got Arcane Dynamo. A talent nobody picked! Two years later, another minor patch, it's replaced with Ignite. A talent everyone picks! What a mess of a talent tree. Five tiers with a talent at 65% to 85% popularity, nice talents ranging from 15% to 2%. Personally I expect Flamestrike leaving a Dot as in WCIII to reduce his burst, and some fort of shielding or other self-sustain baseline.
Nova is… oh, I don't have to explain that one.
Lucio is a case of very few, but dire diversity issues that'll probably get equally few but major changes, certainly not a major rework. Last patched on April of 2019 he has a heroic in High Five has a 3.5% pick rate, and Up To Eleven a LEGENDARY 0.85%! HF is fairly well balanced and offers the normally prioritized Unstoppable, so don't expect a mere buff. Sound Barrier had always been beloved and is much flashier and easier to use, so it's hard to dethrone it.
Valeera is utterly dependent on Q build and has a ton of dull energy-only talents that lack interaction.
Medivh falls victim to his portals and competitive status. He's balanced around a coordinated environment. Master SL, level 40+, still one of the lower winrates in the game. His last rework increased his skill requirement even more, making his shield timing more crucial, and baking in a stacking quest that punishes death. Despite some pretty good diversity and the community's respect, I reckon the devs will have another go at balancing his power for the, erm, masses.
Valla has a couple diversity issues later on, but her ancient 2016 rework actually left her with fairly dynamic and fun talents. I think she's an actual example of a hero who doesn't get big changes because she doesn't need to. But I might be wrong!
Li Li has the lowest Master SL winrate among healers, seeing
a major rise at bottom tiers. Her last rework failed to balance her skill requirement, and fell at a time where healers had their role limited. Wouldn't be surprised if they used her Winds animation to add an aoe for waveclear.
As we move further away, changes seem more unlikely, but who knows. I'm pretty sure that Nazeebo and Abathur will get something big at some point, Probius and Murky are still really unpalatable and have quite the unfair reputation to shake, and Muradin has the blandest heroic in the game with a bunch of generic talents. But for now, that's all!
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