“Last Hit” Builds Contention
Yesterday Heroes of the Storm officially launched around the world. As a result there has been some gnashing of teeth lately discussing how HotS is essentially a “dumbed down” version of League of Legends. The complaints I am seeing revolve around the lack of complexity in the individual champion builds, and the team focus rather than the single player focus. All of these things I see instead as positives. I have spent more than my fair share of money and time on League of Legends because I have a significant number of friends who really enjoy it. It is one of those game experiences that I find enjoyable only when I am playing with and against friends. When you put me out into the community as a whole, the toxic environment surrounding the non-ranked community is a massive turn off. I have heard that as you move up through the ranks the community starts to get better and more professional, but I lack the desire to play that game or any game for that matter “competitively”.
The big problem I had with League was the fact that it felt like I was not only competing against the players on the other team, but also competing against my own team mates for resources. The concept of last hitting feels so divisive that I am shocked it exists in any team based game. The fact that a team mate can either purposefully or accidentally snipe the last hit on a minion and gain all of the gold just seems like a horribly selfish tactic to introduce into a supposedly “team focused” game. While I feel like the higher tiers of competitive play more than likely focus on the team effort and winning games, the low tier players tend to focus entirely on making themselves look good. The best way to that end result is to feed heavily in lane and go on a murder spree, which means the other player in that lane is going to be starved out of resources and won’t be able to help the team later in the game. Essentially all I am saying is that I think the concept of the “last hit” breeds contention between team mates more than it ever supports positive play.
Item Build is Too Fiddly
While the first problem I have with the game I consider a fundamental design flaw, the second big problem I have with League of Legends is a “me” thing. I detest the item build system, in part because it asks me to care far more about that game than I actually want to. League is never going to be a game that I play on a serious level, but instead a game I play with my friends when they decide that they want to play it. I want to play just good enough not to shoot my team mates in the foot. The problem is doing the item build system well, requires you to have actually research your champion and what sorts of things they need. What I want is a more universal path to “this item adds more awesomeness” so I struggle to find items to build that make sense for whoever I am playing. Now on champions I have played a lot like Garen, WuKong or Darius I have finally figured out how I want to build each of them for my own play style. The problem being this was something that happened over lots of trial and error. Quite frankly I don’t want to have to devote the processing cycles to figure that out, I just want a sequence of choices that add some flavor but in which there is no real “wrong” choice.
Essentially the system I am describing is the system that Heroes of the Storm uses, and from the moment I saw it I immediately felt at home. I know that I can make small tweaks to the way my Hero performs, but at the end of the day no single choice is going to make or break the game for me. Essentially even if I just blind pick abilities to get back into the action there is nothing that I can do to screw it up. Someone described it as MOBAs with training wheels, and I am completely fine with that. Essentially the MOBA audience is already solidified around either League of Legends or DOTA 2, and there is nothing that will change the fact that those two audiences are extremely devoted to their chosen game. I see Heroes of the Storm being the game for the rest of us, the folks that are mildly interested in MOBAs but simply don’t want to have to memorize the amount of information needed to play either of the other games effectively. I still play League with friends but HotS is the only game I would consider solo-queuing in.
The big area where I have to crown League the king however is in the area of Champion design. They have managed to create this extremely malleable mythos that allows them to quite literally create a champion that can do ANYTHING and make it work thematically. The reason why I keep returning to the game is to keep playing these new and interesting champion designs. HotS I feel does a better job than most of the other competitors with making champions feel like fully fleshed out beings, but the key problem there lies in the fact that they can ONLY draw upon Blizzard characters. League of Legends can create brand new characters on the fly without having to worry too much about them not fitting into the lore of their world, because said world is ridiculously open ended. Right now every single champion in Heroes of the Storm has to fit into the Diablo, Warcraft or Starcraft universes. Given time I can see them also adding in Overwatch, but even then those are very specific genres that they can draw on, whereas League tends to take inspiration for designs from other pop culture iconography.
Lucian for example is a blending of Morpheus from The Matrix and a Grammaton Cleric from Equilibrium. Twisted Fate is absolutely Gambit from X-Men, and Draven is extremely influenced by Kraven the Hunter from Spiderman. Volibear is absolutely Iorek Byrnison from the HIs Dark Materials trilogy. League essentially has free reign for what they can adopt and adapt to fit into their world. Granted in each case they have absolutely made the champion into their own thing, but that initial inspiration still sits there oh so thinly veiled. Heroes of the Storm on the other hand is forced to eat its own, as it can only consume characters that are already in the existing Blizzard Intellectual Property Universe. I feel the end result is going to always mean that League feels far more fresh and interesting, and HotS to some extent will always need to rehash nostalgia to inspire its player base to keep playing. The positive is however that Blizzard players have proven time and time again to be deeply susceptible to fits of nostalgia. I am happy that both games exist, but the only one I actively want to play on my own is Heroes of the Storm.