So dumbed down its just dumb

There is a good post and fun comments thread over at K&G about Blizzard’s upcoming League of Legend’s clone (get it), Heroes of the Storm.

Here is Keen’s basic statement of the game:

Heroes of the Storm is, essentially, a dumbed down version of other mobas at least where mechanics are concerned. There isn’t last hitting or denying. There are no items. Experience is shared across your entire team. Everything is super basic, but remarkably it works.

My initial reaction to reading this is “so what exactly do you do?”. Obviously you fight the other team, but the above sounds like an extremely simplified version of LoL’s ARAM game, which itself is already a really, really dumbed down version of LoL you fire up to kill some time, but if it was the main game, I’d have quit LoL years ago. Go even further and remove items from that equation and yikes, wtf are we even doing here?

But that’s not the real point here; the real question/speculation is how well will HotS ultimately do. LoL is, by a wide margin, the most popular game out right now (outside of Asia, because :Asia:), and DoTA2, while only being a 1/3rd of what LoL is, still ranks in the top 5. Blizzard being Blizzard clearly wants a piece of that pie and has fired up the cloning factory, but what slice are they aiming at is the current debate.

Blizzard cloned EQ1 to make WoW, they were taking a successful niche product and smoothing out the rough edges to make something that would appeal to more people, but the key here is they were starting with something that was complex and difficult to get into, with design flaws begging to be fixed. LoL is the WoW to DoTA1’s EQ1. A dumbed down WoW is Farmville, and once Zynga was forced to stop their shady/illegal practices, they went poof. HotS sounds like the Farmville of MOBAs, and that’s not a good thing IMO.

As I said over at K&G, Blizzard could get 10m+ free accounts out of people if they produced a grass growing simulator. But 10m active players is a blip on the LoL radar, especially if that 10m doesn’t stick around for years and years. A lot of LoL’s success is not only that Riot made DoTA1 easier to get into and fixed a lot of the core issues (no hyper-carry, very limited snowballing), but that they retained the depth and growth potential that kept people playing DoTA1 for so long. Combined with the best implementation of F2P going, along with top-tier talent that continues to improve, and the result is an industry juggernaut.

2014 Blizzard isn’t the Blizzard that made Diablo 2 or even vanilla WoW. 2014 Blizzard is the studio that released Cata/MoP and Diablo 3. To say they have lost some talent is a rather large understatement, and now they are going to compete not with SOE and EQ2 (lulz), but Riot/Valve and LoL/DOTA2. It will be interesting to see what ultimately becomes of HotS, but I’m betting the under.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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42 Responses to So dumbed down its just dumb

  1. While I look at LoL and DOTA2 and wonder how Blizzard could compete, they do have that whole Blizzard name behind them. They dumbed down CCGs with Hearthstone and now that creates more revenue for Blizzard than EVE Online does for CCP or LOTRO does for Turbine (and more than 3x what Rift does for Trion). I wouldn’t bet against them at least becoming a contender based on track record alone.

    • SynCaine says:

      But even Hearthstone is a clone of MtG, which is closer to EQ1 in terms of complexity, and is EQ2 in terms of online ability/execution with MtG:O. I think everyone saw an opportunity there (though we will see how well they executed on that long-term. MtG has lasted, will Hearthstone?), while again in the MOBA space there is already a king and prince, and that king caters to basically everyone and their mother as-is, while the prince grabs those on the edges.

      Who, in the tens of millions, is HotS going to grab and hold year-over-year?

      • carson63000 says:

        Yeah my first reaction was “hang on, everything you just wrote about HotS could have been written about Hearthstone, and that’s a massive success”.

        But then my second reaction was to realize that there is no complex online card game which has anywhere remotely close to the polish and sheer quality of Hearthstone. Magic Online is an infamously shite piece of software, for instance. Whilst in the MOBA space, HotS is running up against entrenched market leaders which _are_ regarded as polished, high-quality games, isn’t it?

      • Trego says:

        The argument that HS is a dumbed down copy of MTG ignores the fact that MTG two years after release was a dumbed down copy of original MTG, and that original MTG was overcomplex and poorly balanced. (Overly complex in the sense that it seemed like they dumbed it down to make balancing more humanly feasible). Mana control, hand control, all the alternate control strategies no longer existed in the t2, more official format, as time went by. Excess complexity doesn’t lead to more depth, as the resultant poor balance means that much of the complexity is just nonviable. This is much of what Blizzard does (did?) well, find areas to prune excess complexity.

        HotS doesn’t sound like a blizzard game of yore, but there’s an awful lot of territory between Farmville and WoW, so I’m not sure that analogy you made was a useful one. If they go for the midpoint there I’d stop playing their games, for one; but have you considered the point that if we accept as a given your contention that they’ve lost a lot of talent, that perhaps aiming for that midpoint is just them being realistic about their capabilities? (If we throw out the alternative strategy of trying to aim higher which would necessarily include using their truckload of money to upgrade their talent level) It doesn’t really seem very fair of you to criticize both their talent level and their aspirations. “you have no talent but you should aim for the stars anyway so I can watch you inevitably fail and go broke muahaha” isn’t reasonable.

        “To say they have lost some talent is a rather large understatement, and now they are going to compete not with SOE and EQ2 (lulz), but Riot/Valve and LoL/DOTA2.”

        I don’t understand, isn’t them dumbing down LoL so excessively exactly what they are doing to enter this market while NOT competing with Riot? They are aiming for an empty market: “LoL for people too bad for LoL, but too good for Farmville”. That might be a huge market, what evidence do we have that it is not? I believe, personally, that it is a large market.

        • SynCaine says:

          “They are aiming for an empty market: “LoL for people too bad for LoL, but too good for Farmville”. That might be a huge market, what evidence do we have that it is not? I believe, personally, that it is a large market.”

          We’ll see, my point is that the market for a dumber game than LoL, but somehow not Farmville, doesn’t really exist, because there is little to no space between the two, and what space might have existed prior to Riot adding ARAMs and Dominion, is now basically gone (not to mention those two game modes pale in comparison to SR for a reason).

        • kalex716 says:

          I eventually got edged out of LoL, Dota, and any other Moba after a couple of years because I just failed to get any better at them. Now, they’re just no fun to play…. It gets me all fired up to play, and I barely have any fun even when I do win. The juice just stopped being worth the squeeze.

          If Blizzard somehow figures out a way to make a Moba that has a different culture and compulsion under the hood that makes the experience enjoyable, and fun, and doesn’t bring out all kinds of bull crap aggressive tendancies they have a chance.

          I’m just not so sure that their any room for that sort of thing, at the competitive core of what Moba’s are trying to do….

  2. Anonymous says:

    I was very skeptical of the game after hearing about how different it is compared to most of the other mobas but I play it over dota 2 lately. There are no items but the talent choices you make give you a ton of options for customizing your playstyle. The classes are great and the most important thing is that it is fun.

  3. Alexandre ''Zeviking'' Boisvert says:

    I have been playing HotS since early Alpha and here is my 2cents about the whole game.

    The game itself is more of an Arena game you would find on Wc3 than an actual Moba. The main goals are objectives, pushing and teamfighting. The first 5 minutes will be about laning for early experience and having bruisers gank or clear the easy objectives.

    Once the ”laning” phase is done, the game is pretty much about winning the most fights for objectives and pushing the most while still keeping an edge. The game redefines how Mobas have always been played. Farming is not necessary and being static is gonna make you lose. There is no such thing as babysitting or ”jungling”. You have to play the objectives and always play as a team.

    The problems with the game itself is that it is not deep enough to be LoL or Dota in term of mechanics. You can add to that the huge lack of balance between heroes thanks to Blizzard’s inability to ever balance anything. Even if there are a huge number of talent options, most of them are just plain bad and you most likely won’t even try them because you can understand why they are bad by reading them. For example, Tassadar, a support with a shit-ton of mana and passive mana regeneration has talent options giving him better mana regeneration, they are essentially dead talents.

    The only thing I like with the game is that even if it’s dumbed down, the fights are great. The difference between each heroes, talents and abilities make it so the fights are fun, big plays are rewarded and stuff can sometime be unpredictable. I doubt this will carry the game by itself because this is the kind of plays I would see in Dota and not in LoL while this game will probably attract LoL players over Dota’s.

  4. Asmiroth says:

    Correct me here. GC was the lead design for Cata/MoP. He’s now the lead design for LoL (well, a co lead-designer).

    Would be an interesting topic to see where the talent applies their skills.

    Agree with the post mind you, as it’s a saturated market (as compared to Hearthstone).

  5. What you all don’t understand is this.

    Blizzard does not give a fuck about lol players or EQ players or magic players. They don’t care what they think. My wife never played any card games (hardcore wow paladin) – she plays hearthstone everyday now.

    They compete against non consumption. They will bring NEW players to the genre, they will focus on them. They will streamline everything for the even bigger market

    I would bet that they will make 100x of LOL opening dota to the general public.

  6. Azuriel says:

    It’s a mistake thinking that the pie is X big and that HotS grows only when taking market share from LoL/DotA2. There will be some inevitable overlap, but Blizzard pretty consistently bakes their own pies.

    I will agree with the premise that HotS does not ultimately become bigger than LoL; it’s likely impossible to overcome a 5-year lead and 27 million monthly players. But as far as getting to a point where HotS is self-sustaining and profitable? There is no question Blizzard will rope in a few million people who would never have touched a MOBA before, not counting the inevitable WoW mount/pet tie-ins.

    • SynCaine says:

      LoL is WoW in that image. You saying there are other fish in the sea remind me of a SW:TOR suit right before launch. Good luck with that.

      • Trego says:

        That SW:TOR suit was right; however, none of those fish were looking for the fourth pillar. Since HotS isn’t focusing on the fourth pillar, this comparison doesn’t hold water.

        • SynCaine says:

          The suit was right huh? Do tell.

        • Trego says:

          There are indeed other fish in the sea; I swam in the sea once and I saw the fish, which were other. Fascinating, eh?

        • SynCaine says:

          Strange, because since that suit assumed so, the overall size of the player pool hasn’t really gone up, certainly not by another WoW-like increase. But hey, just because it didn’t happen for MMOs, doesn’t mean it might not happen for HotS. Let’s check back on that in a year or so eh?

        • Anti-Stupidity League says:

          According to always 100% accurate and truthful Xfire statistics that never lie, SW:ToR is the second-most popular mmorpg at the moment so it’s kinda crappy example of a “failed” mmo title. If the game which has the most mmo players who are not playing World of Warcraft is a failure then surely all games that have even less players than it has are even bigger failures?

          Wouldn’t more accurate example of a massive failure be something like Darkfail, Elder Scrolls Online (is it still online?), ArcheAge, or some other game that Syncaine has first hyped a lot and then stopped playing after a couple of months because it was crap?

        • Trego says:

          “Strange, because since that suit assumed so, the overall size of the player pool hasn’t really gone up,”

          That would only be strange if there were MMOs released between then and now for which you hadn’t written an article explaining why it wasn’t worth playing. :)

        • Trego says:

          Yea, after I wrote that reply I remembered you’re still playing FFXIV. One exception that most people didn’t even bother to try is not that relevant, though. Are you indeed conceding the basic point here, that the stagnation in the size of the MMO market is easily explained by your opinion that the vast majority of recent MMOs are very flawed?

        • Trego says:

          p.s. It’s too bad you quit AA when you did, I would have enjoyed your blog post on the hilarious Auroria debacle that just happened.

        • SynCaine says:

          2m subs is pretty relevant IMO, considering the SW:TOR suit we already talked about, especially when the game does what originally made WoW so great better than WoW. The fact that it ONLY has 2m kinda backs up my point.

          As for AA, I just feel bad for anyone trying to stick with it, especially if they are still giving Trion money.

        • Trego says:

          Fair enough–and we’ll take that 2 million figure and use it to measure HotS as well?

          There’s something about AA that has me still sticking to it, although I’m no longer giving Trion money and am APEXing my account from gold–not by choice, Trion’s glyph system literally won’t take my money in any form.

  7. Rynnik says:

    Yah, don’t see that one flying very far for Blizzard. And that is from someone currently spending a good bit of time on the other OTHER white meat of the current MOBA world: SMITE. At least it has the whole 3D thing going for it as a niche offering.

  8. hanster007 says:

    From my point of view Blizzard can offer a MOBA that has some of the similarities of LoL and Dota but without the terrible ultra-hostile community of players. The great thing about HS is that I don’t have to deal with ass hat players trolling me the whole time I am playing – even when I don’t have any idea how to play. As a long term casual Dota player I feel beyond inept in games with decent players – and any small mistake gets trolled into infamy.

    I think blizzard has seen how a “non-interactive” community has made HS a safe place for casuals and a place where adults with expendable cash like to play 1-3 games every now and then.

    • everblue650 says:

      Exactly. Dota is hugely unforgiving, particularly when playing badly, and Blizzard understand the community issues much better than Riot and Valve I think.

      I think HotS will do well, but I’ll probably stick with Dota.

      • SynCaine says:

        “Blizzard understand the community issues much better than Riot and Valve I think.”

        Barrens chat.

        • everblue650 says:

          That was nearly 10 years ago! You can see from the design of Hearthstone and HotS that they’ve learned a lot since then.

        • SynCaine says:

          Good luck.

          Edit: The only chance HotS has of having a ‘nice’ community is if it’s so uncompetitive that winning or losing doesn’t matter (participation trophies) and game-to-game people just don’t care, sorta like most ARAMs in LoL. Because otherwise you can’t have a pool of tens of millions, put them into forced 5v5 teams, and expect all 10 involved to always be nice and calm in a game where forcing someone into a bad situation is the point. Especially when those accounts are free.

  9. tithian says:

    You’re saying that HotS is essentially ARAM and you’re bashing it for it. On the other hand, everyone I know that still plays LoL only queues for ARAM and actively avoids ranked play.

    Blizz is (once again) catering to the majority, which is a winning formula, at least on a commercial level. The fact that you want games to be hardcore doesn’t make them any less successful. You may be saying that Hearthstone is a cheap ripoff of MtG and that it’s super simplified, yet the recent tournament had a peak of 140,000 viewers on Twich just the other day.

    • SynCaine says:

      ARAM isn’t as popular as SR in LoL, not even close.

      Scroll down to Zielmann’s numbers.

      • tithian says:

        It still is amazingly popular though and is the mode of choice for people wanting a quick game. Blizzzard is known for marketing their games towards that demographic (everything except SC2 can be played in 30 minute chunks, or less) so does it really surprise you that they chose to move in that direction? If the monetization is done in a non-retarded way, I expect some really good numbers coming from HotS.

        And besides, from an e-sports point of view the simplicity is something that can work in their favor, as non moba players will have an easier time understanding what the hell is going on.

        • SynCaine says:

          You are digging a pretty deep hole here.

          First it was “Blizz is (once again) catering to the majority” by trying to clone ARAM, except woops, ARAM isn’t the majority, not by a long shot. And um, it already exists as part of something that is the majority, SR ranked play.

          Then you mention e-sports.

          So Bliz is catering to some fictional majority by creating Farmville the MOBA, and that’s going to be a huge e-sport success.

          I’d step away now.

  10. Matt says:

    Do people play MOBAs the way they play MMOs, with only enough time to really dedicate to one? I can see how someone who has played LoL for a long time and unlocked a lot of champions (that is how it works?) would be reluctant to switch, but how many people are in that category? Probably the more important effect would be which game your friends are playing; the Facebook advantage.

    As for simplification, you can count me among those who won’t mourn the demise of last hitting and denying. Why would WC3 engine limitations define future design? And the first time I looked at the DOTA2 item shop, my thought was literally “You’ve gotta be shitting me” and immediately went to do something else. Items might be a good idea, but there really must be a way to make it not a bunch of baffling clutter with enigmatic stat allotments.

  11. Izlain says:

    I’ve played LoL for 3+ years and have invested time and money to the point where I don’t see myself seriously playing another MOBA. I have dabbled in Dota 2 and didn’t care for it. I have tried countless others but none had the depth or polish or character that I have come to enjoy in League. The only other MOBA I play regularly is Awesomenauts, only because it is different enough to keep me interested (with the 2-d platforming, etc).

    If I had to compare HotS to another MOBA, it would be Strife, which is a dumbed down version of LoL/Dota2. They still have items and last hits, and a map similar to SR, but it’s just easier and the game basically builds your character for you (and you can customize it to actually auto pick skills set up item lists).

    I will try HotS, because Blizzard does have a reputation for making games that are enjoyable. However, I don’t see where anyone can think that they will dethrone League of the #1 spot. They might surpass Dota2’s numbers, but I don’t see surpassing League as something anyone will do. League is the WoW of MOBAs, the perfect storm already occurred. Blizzard is WoW-cloning another genre and will get a taste of the pie, but not the biggest piece.

    I think the game will be fun to try out, but again, I doubt I’ll drop LoL in the long term for it. It may be part of a regular rotation though. Time will tell.

  12. cristian says:

    So far, WoW was the first MMO I played to top level and more.
    Starcraft, was one of the first RTSs.
    Hearthstone, the first TCG.

    I’m no fanboy but I see a trend here, and I haven’t touched a MOBA. Dota just didn’t entice me at first and made me steer clear of the genre after.

    I hope you’re wrong, whether you like them or not, they make catchy and addictive games for people who are generally not into a particular genre. The gamer base is a lot bigger than 3 titles.

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