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Heroes of the StormAug 20, 2019 10:00 am CT

Why are original characters in Heroes of the Storm so polarizing?

It’s been a little while since Qhira exploded into Heroes of the Storm. But how has the Nexus community responded to her?

Peeking at the stats for her last seven days on Hotslogs she’s been in 21,000 Storm League matches that have been submitted to the site — that’s around 80% of them! Of all of those matches, 18,000 were bans. Proving that people really don’t like playing against her. For comparison, Prince Kael’thas and Diablo were in the second and third most banned heroes, with roughly 14,000 bans. All of these are characters that can really annoy and control the other team. They’ve already given Qhira a minor nerf to her level one Fatal Wounds talent, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more tweaks to rein her in a little.

She’s definitely been fun to play — although less fun to play against without the proper team. Watching the rush to find counters and synergies is always interesting. I liked choosing Zarya to help mitigate the damage that Qhira could inflict by providing extra shielding to my team.

Outside of the game I’ve been interested in the furor that sprung up around her release. Comments and reactions ranged from vague confusion to outright anger that she wasn’t an established character from one of the other Blizzard universes.

Why the different reactions between Orphea and Qhira?

The choice to include any original characters at all was always going to be a divisive one. Heroes has always seemed like more of a love letter to the franchises that everyone already was enamored with. Reactions to Orphea and Qhira varied wildly though.

Announced during BlizzCon 2018, Orphea had a lead-up campaign involving a series of comic books. When she was finally debuted at the convention it was alongside a beautifully animated video showing an epic showdown against her father, the Raven Lord. Her story may have been thinly sketched out, but the pieces were there. More importantly, the comics showed Orphea and fan-favorite Deckard Cain interacting, while the Raven Lord assembled his own malevolent dream team of characters. She had her place alongside everyone else in the Nexus. Having the Developer team hyping her up like crazy on the stage didn’t hurt either. Getting an in-depth look at the skills and abilities animations made it easy to see the mind-boggling amount of work that went into her.

Qhira’s launch was relatively subdued in comparison, having only a pair of teasers over the weekend prior to her announcement. No grand series of comic books, or fully animated video showing her in epic combat. She didn’t even have any interactions with any of the other major Nexus Realm Lords. Qhira was fully her own character from a new corner of the Nexus. This is despite evidence that Qhira was in development all the way back in December of last year.

Of course, a lot happened between Orphea and Qhira’s release. Heroes saw a massive restructuring and scaling back of development resources. Whereas before we could expect a new hero every four to six weeks, now we’re seeing them closer to quarterly. While people grumbled about Orphea, they knew that there’d be another hero they’re familiar with coming down the pipe in pretty short order — Imperius released about a month and a half after Orphea to start off the new year.

2018 saw nine new heroes come to the Nexus. We’d be extremely lucky to see a fifth by the end of 2019. So for one of the few new characters to be wholly original with few ties to anyone else, it’s easy to see why people are upset.

The case for new characters

In developing a new hero for Heroes Blizzard would have to look at two things: the character and the abilities they’ll use. I’ve been wracking my brain and I can’t come up with any established Blizzard character that could fit with Qhira’s ability loadout. Her main two defining traits that I can see are her combination whip/sword and the grapple hook. We’ve seen succubi in Warcraft wielding whips, but have you tried using a grappling hook with those heels they’re wearing? Rogues and Survival Hunters have been known to use a grapple or two, but I’ve yet to see anyone swinging a whip in any raids that I’ve been in.

The same holds true throughout Diablo and StarCraft. There’s nobody that embodies everything in the kit that makes Qhira unique. You could maybe make a new Zerg strain that would incorporate the acrobatic nature of her attacks with a whipping appendage. Once you start doing that though, you should maybe just consider making the wholly original character. Forcing a bad fit could just have us looking at another Tassadar situation.

Tassadar has gotten a pretty major rework already and is slated for another one in the near future. Rather than go all-in on the epic spells that Tassadar and other High Templars used in StarCraft, we got a combination Templar and Oracle from StarCraft 2. The Archon was there, but he never really solidified as a solid support character like he was supposed to. Outside of Tassadar and Tracer combinations — that pairing can still be highly effective. His changes coming down the line are supposed to try and get him back in line with the “power overwhelming” side of Templar.

I’d much rather that the abilities are chosen because they’re fun together. If the developers have the option to make a new character if they stumble on a really great idea then we get better heroes in the game.

Will we see more unique heroes in the future?

In a recent AMA, we got some insight into just what we could be expecting down the line. The team is focused on keeping the same cadence of releases and making sure that each event and balance patch meets their standards. We’re done with new original characters for now, but I hope that they’ll return to that well down the line if it makes sense.

Originally Posted by Kaeo (Official Post)
Orphea and Qhira are unique in the way they came about, driven by the Heroes team being excited about fresh gameplay elements and visual concepts that were pitched last year. It was the team’s way of bringing something new and unique to Heroes – both development-wise, and in-game. That kind of exploration is one of my favorite things about this game – whether it’s a new skin, or the reimagining a hero’s kit for our game, or creating an entirely new hero from the ether – we get to explore and try new things while having fun as developers and players. So as much as we love Qhira and Orphea and we had a ton of fun making them, we currently don’t have any other Nexus-born heroes in development. We do have several Blizzard heroes that you know and love in active development, and we can’t wait to share more on them soon!

Orphea and Qhira are as awesomely designed as any of the other characters in Blizzard’s universes. I hope that the reaction that has sprung up around their inclusion doesn’t deter the Heroes team from making any more original characters in the long run. In a perfect world, we would have gotten more tie-in media to go with Qhira’s launch. Hopefully, they’ll take the time now to give her a proper home in the Nexus. Who knows, maybe the Halloween event will have an amazing story to go along with Qhira’s sudden appearance.

There’s still no word on whether or not they’re working on their own version of an auto-brawler like Team Fight Tactics from Riot or Underlords from Dota. Both of these sprung from the Auto-Chess mod that became hugely popular in Dota. Since Heroes is built in the StarCraft engine, they have access to that pretty robust Arcade editor. It might not take them very much work to get a preliminary auto-brawler mode for Heroes started.

Always remember: Anything’s possible in the Nexus.

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