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[ Welcome to our Blizzcon 2013 coverage, sponsored by Megarom Games. You can see all the coverage in one place by clicking here. ]

We get an overview of Blizzard’s free-to-play MOBA game, Heroes of the Storm (formerly known as Blizzard All-Stars). The panel will examine core game mechanics, hero rosters, reward systems and the challenges players will face on the field.

The panel is hosted by Dustin Browder, Game Director – Alan Dabiri, Lead Software Engineer – Sam Didier, Senior Art Director and Chris Sigaty, Production Director.

Everything began with Warcraft III, according to the various panelists. Players used the robust map editor to create entirely new genres, maps with unique mechanics, and so on. Blizzard was worried in 2010 that the community wouldn’t really take to the StarCraft II editor, so internally they worked on what would become Blizzard All-Stars, but it only had StarCraft characters. Inspired by custom art on an arcade machine in their office, they thought to combine all the Blizzard properties into one game.

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Blizzard agrees that the MOBA genre is a crowded space, but they’re not worried about it. They just want to make the game they want to make, inspired by the success of Hearthstone that is also entering a crowded space but is finding success. They want to challenge the genre somewhat, so it feels fresh and original.

BLIZZARD HEROES

It’s been tough to combine all the Blizzard characters into one art style, one universe, so they seem to fit together. So they ramped all the designed up into comic-book levels to make them all a bit more beefy, and bit more chunky.

So while Heroes of the Storm has all these characters we already know, they’ve all been refined to work together, their iconic elements accented. This carries through into their abilities, so like with Arthas, the Lich King, minions he kills follow him as souls into battle. Characters will have multiple power sets and you choose which set to use in battle. Characters will have multiple skins and accessories you’ll be able to unlock, to create a customized version of the characters you like to play.

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Diablo gets a Murloc skin, Lurkablo.

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One of the new characters revealed here is Elite Tauren Chieftain, a fun cameo from World of Warcraft based on Blizzard staff’s real world band. His Ultimate has him stage-dive and appear anywhere on the map.

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Abathur from StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is another new character, who can possess other characters, infesting friendly heroes, to fight from within them. He’s pretty useless on his own. A clip is shown showing Abathur manipulating the entire flow of battle using his unique abilities.

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FUN WITH FRIENDS

The goal of Heroes of the Storm is 20 minute games. If someone is running late, they don’t have to wait too long for you to finish. No 40 minute games. The shorter games have a much more intense pacing than the genre usually gets, you can get a few games in over lunch. Support Heroes are designed to entirely focus on helping the team, they’re not good at killing enemy heroes. Specialist Heroes use unique mechanics, like Abathur, designed to push against enemy armies.

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BATTLE GROUNDS

What will set Heroes of the Storm apart from games like League of Legends or DOTA 2, is a focus on unique maps with fun mechanics. Not just the same three-lane setup that the MOBA genre tends to use. The maps emphasize teamwork, and bring variety. Maps will be added to and removed from the rotation, so Blizzard can keep things fresh.

One battleground is Blackhearts Bay, that has three goals. You can collect coins out of chests, find the cursed camps, when you have enough coins you deliver them to Blackheart. You can attack other players and take their coins. So if someone is carrying a lot of coins, the team will want to defend them. Once you pay off Blackheart, he’ll start bombarding the enemy base.

Another battleground is the Haunted Mines, which has a sub-level where you collect skulls to power golems that attack the other team. Whoever has the most skulls, has the bigger golem that will help push their lanes.

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Heroes of the Storm is aiming to be fun, something to play with friends, and with ever-changing content to seperate it from other games in the genre.

SCREENSHOTS