Developer Insights: Patch Analysis 10.08.2015
With this episode of Developer Insights, game designer Matthew Cooper is here to provide some nsight into the many changes to balance and functionality coming with today’s Patch Notes. Let’s dive right in.
Ability Power Gains
This change was aimed at removing odd gameplay where an Abathur player may actually want to sacrifice his Monstrosity or a Gargantuan for a more powerful one. This occurred if players kept summons alive for a very long time and gained several levels, as these levels were not reflected in the Summon’s Ability Power. For short term Summons, players will rarely gain a level or more while that Summon is alive, so we made these snapshot instead. With snapshotting, players can use a temporary power boost, such as Overdrive or Arcande Power, to create a more powerful summon.
Bonus Effects from Kills
This change will not have a major impact on today’s gameplay and was mostly done for consistency on how these type of talents worked. In the future, it may allow us to develop Battlegrounds with many small minions (think Haunted Mines) and not have to worry about special casing Seasoned Marksman so it doesn’t get out of control.
Tomb of the Spider Queen
A small number of Tomb games tend to run significantly longer than intended, so we altered the scaling of the Spider mechanic to prevent drawn out stalemates in the late game. Our hope is to see shorter matches overall.
Bolt of the Storm
We love this talent and think it can create a lot of really interesting moments, but the cooldown was just too short. At 70 seconds we think this talent is still a great level 20 pick, but now players will have to be more strategic with how they use it. Forcing someone to use their Bolt to avoid a gank can now be a meaningful moment with this increased cooldown. We hope this also entices players towards choosing their Heroic upgrades instead of Bolt when the situation calls for it.
We didn’t like the gameplay of casting Cleanse preemptively on a target that is about to be CC’ed. For example, you see Butcher charging your Valla, and right before impact you use Cleanse on Valla, allowing her to immediately Vault away. The change also prevents healers from cleansing themselves preemptively, providing a guaranteed target if the opposing team has only secured one Cleanse. As a side note, the original reason the Unstoppable functionality was available in the first place, was to help alleviate some persistent CC effects like Putrid Bile. We didn’t want you to cleanse a Putrid Bile only to have the slow immediately reapply.
This could be viewed as a buff or nerf depending on how players perceive it. You can still reduce the cooldown by attacking Minions, but won’t accidently waste a burst of damage on an unintended target. This talent will no longer be as effective at sieging, but it should be significantly better at harassing in lane. We will continue to monitor the talent, and tune as necessary.
Gathering Power was simply too good and was considered, by many, a mandatory pick on certain characters, which often lead to snowballing. We liked the ‘quest’ aspect of this talent, but it was far too easy to reach the cap and the quest didn’t feel meaningful to complete. Now, choosing this talent should no longer be mandatory, and the quest is much longer. Player’s will keep half of their stacks upon dying, which will help act as a ‘check point’.
Statistically, it was almost never wrong to choose Imposing Presence. With this nerf, it’s still a great counter in the right situation, and as a result, we’re hoping we’ll see more play from our Basic Attack assassins.
We’ve combined the talent Superiority into Mercenary Lord, and removed the damage reduction from structures to prevent degenerative backdoor strategies. The combination of the damage reduction vs. Mercenaries and the ability to empower these Mercenaries felt like a logical pairing. We hope incorporating the two talents into one will make this level 4 choice an enticing one, as the two talents separated had a low pick rate.
Overall, we like the way Seasoned Marksman is playing but wanted to tune up its effectiveness to reward those able to secure a healthy number of takedowns, while simultaneously tuning the talent up due to prior changes. Ideally, this will become a great talent pick when facing The Lost Vikings or Murky players.
We’ve been seeing Kael’thas and Jaina as the dominate damage dealers for teams. We feel like part of this is because the only real counter to their damage is Spell Shield, and currently, Spell Shield is under tuned. Increasing the duration from 2 to 3 seconds is a small and conservative change, but we want to see how the adjustment plays out. Ideally when you are against a couple heavy burst damage characters such as Nova, Jaina, or Kael; Spell Shield becomes a great counter pick. This is similar to our philosophy with Imposing Presence.
Mighty Gust can be a great disengagement tool, but it is often outshined by the pure power of Hinterland Blast. We feel we can bring this Heroic into play more often with some simple tuning changes. Internally, it’s been much more powerful and can even be used as a counter to a hard engagement or aggressive dive teams.
The Jaina changes are a result of her being too powerful right now, and we have a secondary goal of increasing the play of Ring of Frost. By reducing the impact of summoning a Water Elemental, Jaina loses some of her burst potential unless she chooses Ring of Frost. Water Elemental is now more focused on producing sustained damage.
Prior to these changes, Kael’Thas had a high win rate, but his win rate wasn’t alarming. Instead, we’re focusing on Kael’thas’ current gameplay, as it feels very set in stone and we’d like players to have the option to be creative. We’re smoothing out his power curve and making Pyroblast a more enticing choice.
These changes are intended as a slight buff overall, and to provide Kerrigan with more options. Her level 1 range increase talent was almost always picked, so we made that baseline. Several new talents and mana alterations should allow Kerrigan players to try out some Ravage and Trait based builds.
Overall Raynor’s win rate is low and using Inspire can feel clunky as it resets your Basic Attack period. These changes should help Raynor feel more responsive to play, while also making him a bit more powerful. We also did a pass at shuffling around and tuning up some of his least picked talents.
The Thrall changes are minor and are centered on making Thrall feel a bit more responsive to play.
We’ve tuned up some of his weaker talent picks to make them more viable. We really like the level 20 Hivemind talent, but it can feel clunky to use as when allies move out of range, you have to decide whether to cancel and recast it, or stay focused on only a single target. With these changes, Hivemind will be much more fluid to play with and consistent in its effectiveness.
Right now, Azmodan has one competitive build at high levels of play where he stacks Globe of Annihilation (Q) talents. We think this build is a ton of fun, so we didn’t want to negatively impact this build. Instead, we wanted to give Azmodan some other build options. Right now, it’s almost always a mistake to summon one of his Demons and waste your mana. With the new tuning, and the talent changes, the Demons become a legitimate option to use. The Demons start with much more damage than previously, but scale close to what they use to be at higher levels. For players who still plan to go the (Q) build, it’s mostly the same, but we’ve offered a few additional talent choices to make options that best fit your play style. Finally, we are removing some of the Support nature of Healing Ward and Storm Shield from Azmodan. It makes more sense for him to be a greedy character, not someone who can become a hybrid support in the right situation.
We looked at tuning up talents that wouldn’t impact his core Spider build. We’ve reverted some of the Ravenous Spirit nerfs as we saw a large shift from Ravenous to Gargantuan and wanted to see a better mix of the two.
Hammer is one of our lowest win rate characters so we looked at some easy buffs we could make. We feel like she has a great playstyle and wanted to highlight her fantasy more. The increased health will let you be a bit more aggressive and the increased damage will better reinforce her long range, high damage capabilities. Finally, her Siege Mode can be used much more frequently and with less emphasis on securing the perfect location. It’s okay now to Siege up, get a couple shots in, and then get out of danger.
We like a lot of what the rework did for Brightwing, but overall her healing output went down more than intended. This change will give her back a big portion of the lost healing and should increase her total healing output (tab screen wise) by about 15-20%.
Player feedback brought to our attention that this particular level 4 talent on Malfurion was an obvious trap at 20%. While we don’t want to give Malfurion a solid burst healing option, we agreed and have tuned this talent up to 50%. At 50%, and in a vacuum, this talent may still be undertuned, but it eventually adds up to a decent additional amount of healing. Over a sustained period of time, this additional 50% outpaces Protective Shield, for example.
Bloodlust is rarely picked right now, but we feel like both Heroics are extremely powerful. Without changing anything massive, we’re simply reducing the CD of Bloodlust so it can be used more frequently. We believe if Basic Attack based heroes become more prevalent in the Meta, this Heroic could become dominant, so we’ll be taking a cautious approach.
Overall, we’re looking to tune Sonya up slightly. With the health increases, she’ll be a bit more tanky. Previously, Whirlwind could be very frustrating to lane against if you didn’t have a stun. With the shift of less healing from minions and more from heroes, this will make Sonya less of a lane bully and more of an effective skirmisher.
Overall, our goal was to make Sanctification a viable Heroic for players. We increased its effectiveness and fixed a few bugs to make the ability more consistent. With the changes, Sanctification can become extremely powerful at countering Wombos or Hard Engage teams, making it an enticing choice over Judgement in certain situations.
And that about does it for this episode of Developer Insights. Thanks to Matt Cooper and the design team for chatting with us about the changes. Let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments below, and we’ll see you in the Nexus!