Blizzard’s Dustin Browder has dropped some knowledge on the evolution of Heroes of the Storm’s levelling process and Team XP, explaining that the original design had individual hero levelling like other games in the genre, and more restrictive roles.
“When we first started, we had individual hero leveling like many games in the genre,” Browder says. “We liked how it forced players to split up into different locations, and coming together was a cost and a risk. We also liked how individual experience rewarded players for doing well, and really encouraged players to do their best; knowing that they were falling behind if they started to give away too many victories.” But this would eventually lead to problems.
It was the introduction of Abathur that throw a spanner in the works. The Starcraft II hero didn’t wade into battle, he hid away, attacked from afar and depended on his allies protection to use his abilities. “This helped inspire us to consider the possibility of more extreme heroes in the future,” Browder says. “What if we had more heroes who supported the team in strange ways?“
Other cracks started to appear. Players didn’t want to perform objectives or help each other – they were entirely focused on just killing enemy minions and getting more experience. “When we played, we noticed that the players that were actually doing the most to help their team by fighting over Battleground objectives were often several levels behind,“ Browder notes. “This was not the freeform strategic experience we were hoping for.“
That’s where team levelling came in. “In this new system, many elements (like killing towns) give map-wide experience to the whole team, even if there is nobody near the town when it is destroyed,” he says. “Enemy minions give experience so long as someone is nearby to collect the experience. If you have two heroes near an enemy minion when it dies you do not collect double experience. As long as you have a single hero next to a battle you are collecting the maximum experience from that battle for your team.”
Heroes like Abathur became more viable, battlegrounds became more vibrant, with heroes switching between fighting, working on objectives and helping each other out. “At any given time one to three players on each team could be anywhere they wanted to be,” Browder explains. “They were free to roam to help their team, kill enemies, or complete map objectives with full knowledge that their allies were still getting maximum experience from the Battleground.”
It must have been a smart move, as Tim and Nick have become entranced by the game, calling it a “triumph”.