clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm is a game for losers (like me)

My name is Ben Kuchera, and I'm godawful at Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard's free-to-play MOBA

I own my personal failings in the game. My win-loss record is pretty clear: I'm a loser. Luckily for me, it's a game designed for losers, or at least it takes a bit of the sting out of losing.

Blizzard has worked hard at making games that don't force you to go to bed angry. The lack of person-to-person communication outside of a few interactions in Hearthstone is one example of this, but Heroes of the Storm is one of the best games when it comes to tolerable losing.

How does a company make a game you don't mind losing?

Rounds are short

Heroes of the Storm is competing against League of Legends and Dota 2, games that can take up at least 40 minutes per round, and often run much longer. You're going to be spending a whole lot of time losing if I'm on your team.

That doesn't feel great, and it's one of the reasons those communities can be rough to players who are just starting out. If someone doesn't know how to play the game well there's not much you can do; you're going to be spending an awful lot of time together.

Heroes of the Storm matches are much shorter, lasting under 20 minutes per round and sometimes allowing you to finish in 10 minutes or so. You don't have a big time commitment in each match, and if your team is drastically out-classed by your opponents things can be over very quickly.

The tricks Blizzard uses to keep the rounds short are interesting in their own right — everything from turrets with limited ammunition to secondary objectives that often force large team fights — but the fact remains that you can have a full match in a short amount of time.

If you lose you can simply pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back into the thick of things.

Experience is shared

This is one of those things that may lead to hardcore MOBA players sniffing at Heroes of the Storm, but the decision to make the experience shared between the entire team makes the game much easier to play as you start out.

You can do your part in the early game by simply holding the other team's players at bay while farming creeps, and you'll never fall so far behind your team you become worthless. A bad player will lead to a deficit in XP eventually, but on the other hand a rising tide lifts all boats, and your team will always be at the same level. If you learn to play conservatively it is much harder to harm your team due to inexpert leveling.

This removes the need to last-hit enemies for XP, but makes winning larger battles between multiple players much more important. It leads to shorter matches and a sense that you're all in this together. It's a much more welcoming, binding way to play than having everyone be responsible for their own experience, and it lends itself well to the shorter matches.

You'll also know at a glance where every enemy player is in terms of that round's progression, and can plan against the abilities they've likely selected or to which they have access.

Your daily quests aren't focused on wins

Interested in getting the most gold in the shortest time? You should read our guide. One of the quickest ways to gain gold is to finish your daily quests, and very few of them rely on you to win your game.

You don't have to win games with a hero from Diablo to finish your daily quest and gain more gold, you merely need to play the games. You don't need to win two matches with a specialist character, you just need to play them.

Out of the nine possible daily quests, only one of them requires you to win games, and those wins can be achieved in co-operative games against the rather weak AI opponents.

If you lose you simply pick yourself up dust yourself off

By removing the win requirement from the daily quests there is at least one fewer reason for the other players to be angry if you lose a game for them due to your own mistakes. Losing is over quickly, as we said, and everyone involved will still move forward in their daily quests and hopefully gain some gold.

The game doesn't force you to win to get ahead, it just wants you to play with different heroes and, in doing so, you can't help but get better.

The best way to learn how to play any MOBA and to improve your game is to play at least one or two matches every day, and slowly but surely you'll improve.

Blizzard has gone out of its way to reward you for the act of playing, not winning, and as a result it's made the game much more enjoyable for beginning characters or anyone stuck on a team that's not up to snuff. You won't cost someone a big chunk of gold for losing and costing them a daily quest completion, or at least you'll do so much less often.

Still, winning is much, much better

All this being said, losing still sucks in Heroes of the Storm, it's just less painful. Of course it's more enjoyable to win your battles and destroy the other team. To see them driven before you, and hear the lamenta ... you know the rest. The game isn't set up to take away the importance of winning, it's designed to allow the players to still have fun when they're losing.

"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 in a previous interview. "But I think we're seeing a different tone. Certainly people who have enjoyed [Hearthstone] are finding a lot of 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 continued. "And they'll say, 'Well, because I can get into it easily, it's probably not very deep.'"

Heroes of the Storm isn't easy, it's just welcoming. It goes out of its way to make sure both teams are having fun, even when you're being beaten up in-game. It's the MOBA that allows you to play, practice and get better while losing ... and luckily you'll have fun through the whole process.

You may even win one or two, who knows?

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon