The problem is that the game has already earned something of a reputation for being a "dumbed down" version of the MOBA genre among genre snobs, and there is some worry that the game won't reward long term, high-level play.
It’s an accusation that Blizzard is ready to address head on.
This is an old problem for Blizzard
"Honestly, Hearthstone and World of Warcraft went through exactly this same thing. When Hearthstone came out people said it's baby's first card game, it doesn't have the depth of a card game like Magic or whatever," Dustin Browder, the game director on Heroes of the Storm, told Polygon. "But I think we're seeing a different tone. Certainly people who have enjoyed [Hearthstone] are finding a lot of depth."
People also argued that, because you didn’t lose a level when you died in World of Warcraft, the game was too easy and "casual" for serious players.
There's a big difference between casual and accessible
"I remember there was a lot of frustration in the World ofcommunity that everyone could hit level 60… And so there is a lot of conservative belief among some of the gamers out there, when they play games, they get a little conservative and they'll tell you, 'You can't do that. It breaks it. It's not going to work. it won't be fun and it will not find an audience because it's not what I'm expecting.'"
This is the line they’re walking: How do you make something that’s easy to learn, but still offers depth?
"There's a big difference between casual and accessible. A lot of players will look at accessible and they'll confuse it with casual," Browder said. "And they'll say, "Well, because I can get into it easily, it's probably not very deep.'"
Finding complexity in new places
And that’s the problem, Heroes of the Storm is easy to learn, and that simplicity comes from getting rid of things like the gold economy and item store, not to mention last hits and per-character XP. There is still strategy, but you won't find it in the expected places.
"If you come looking for complexity in exactly the same places, you will be disappointed. If you come looking for complexity wherever it may be, I think you're going to be surprised and have a great time," Browder said.
Take the talent system. Heroes gain new talents at levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 20, and which talent you choose at each of these levels determines how well your hero will perform in certain situations. This allows you to make your talent selections as the game progresses, you can counter the other team's strategies by building your characters in specific ways.
"I think a lot of players aren't using the talent system relative to the map, relative to their team, relative to the enemy heroes," Browder explained. "So when I make a talent collection in Heroes, I look very carefully at what the enemy team is playing as, I look very carefully at what my team is playing as."
It’s also about seeing if the enemy team is playing their characters well, which can change the strategy.
"So, I play a lot of Muradin. I have radically different Muradin builds depending on how many ranged DPS are on the enemy team, how many warriors are on the enemy team, how good my healers are and what map I'm on," he continued.
"All of those variables are going into making my selection and I'm trying to tune this Muradin build to be exactly what I need at every level based on what's been going on on the map and all these different variables that are happening," Browder explained.
This is the sort of thing you'll only learn with time, and the more adaptable players, the ones how understand how each character plays and, more importantly, how they can play if different decisions are made relatively to the map, will have a huge advantage.
High level strategy also happens in the maps themselves. Each has a game play hook, whether it’s trying to turn one of your team’s heroes into a dragon knight by controlling obelisks or delivering coins to a pirate in order to have him attack the enemy’s base, how you engage with the levels and split up responsibilities on your team will change the course of each match.
"When you're dealing with a map like Haunted Mines, for example, there's strategies as to how many guys to send to the mines and which guys to send to the mines," Browder said. "And when you're playing with a team of guys who knows each other and is able to communicate efficiently, then you're making these really hard decisions."
Haunted Mines features spawning enemies inside, you guessed it, a haunted mine. The more minions you kill in the mines, the more powerful a spawned NPC who fights for you will become. So you have to maintain control of the map itself and press your attack while also making sure your team is underground killing minions.
You'll need to split your team into players who will head into the mines, players who will stay up top to farm lanes, or just have players attack the enemy’s base while they’re all down in the mines themselves.
"There's a lot of strategy, a lot of thinking going into that moment that goes well beyond the execution of just using your QWER in the right place," Browder explained.
This sort of controversy isn't new
Make no mistake, the goal is to create a game that rewards high level play, and provides long term life to the community. Heroes of the Storm is simply following the rhythm of Blizzard games: You find a genre you enjoy, make your own version, remove what you don't like, listen to the fans complain, and then release something everyone loves.
Heroes of the Storm is at step four of five at the moment.
Browder pointed out that some people thought the ability to queue up barracks would "ruin" Starcraft. It hasn’t, at least not yet.
"I've been playing this game now for many months and I'm constantly discovering new things about it, and I work on it," Browder said. The complaints about what has been removed, or the claim the game won't have a long life, don't phase him.
"I am not nervous that the Starcraft 2 team will not make a game that has a competitive community," he stated. "I think we can do it. I think we can accomplish that."