Why Blizzard changed Heroes of the Storm's Arena Mode to Heroes Brawl

Our sister site GameSpot got to chat to Blizzard about the upcoming Heroes Brawl mode in Heroes of the Storm.

GameSpot staff
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GameSpot staff
7 min read

Heroes of the Storm's Arena mode was first announced at Blizzcon 2015. The anticipated Arena has since undergone sweeping changes and has been renamed Heroes Brawl, a new title which encompasses what the mode will be focusing on. That is, quick matches that players can jump straight into for fast-paced gameplay that both strips down and changes the game's core mechanics.

To get more of an idea of what we can expect from the upcoming Heroes Brawl mode, GameSpot spoke to lead battleground designer John DeShazer about the new battlegrounds that'll be included, and why the studio decided to change Heroes Arena to Heroes Brawl.

GameSpot: Could you provide an overview of how Arena became Heroes Brawl?

DeShazer: With Heroes Arena, we we're definitely targeting very fast games, a very quick experience, something that players can dive into immediately. All of those goals we wanted to carry over to Heroes Brawl. With Heroes Brawl, we also wanted to make it a little more robust and have it be a larger feature in general.

With Heroes Arena we added some original design constraints. They had to be very small experiences. The experience had to fit into a three-round structure. Players weren't allowed to level. We had a lot of simple rules. And while we think that created a very tight and awesome experience in Heroes Arena, we wanted to allow ourselves to create crazy, very unique fun experiences for Heroes Brawl. And so we brought all the Heroes Arena content that we had created and fell in love with and we're still going to put that into Heroes Brawl, but we're now going to put even more content on top of that.


[It'll be] a weekly rotating system where every week you'll see a new piece of content. It's a new brawl, that's kind of our top-level term...so what people saw at Blizzcon [2015], we'll see as one of the weekly brawls for this mode.

The first week will be a new Arena. We call it The Punisher Arena. It kind of makes a nod to Infernal Shrines where players fight to earn the Punisher reward. But in this battleground, players actually have Punishers on both sides at the beginning of the map and it's all about killing players and Punishers. And as they kill a Punisher, players are rewarded 10 points and as they kill other players they are rewarded 4 points. The first team to hit 100 points wins, and it's a best-of-three.

It's really exciting because it's really changing the mechanic, instead of being objective-based and pushing the core, it's all about slaughter. And with Punishers jumping at both sides and attacking each other, it creates a really fun, weird dynamic where players are trying to figure out what they can do not to die as well as be a good participant in the team.

We wanted to add new crazy modes. A good example of that is Ghost Protocol. This is a mode that is 5v5 Nova and it's on the Towers of Doom [battleground map] It's very different; a lot of cloaked heroes, espionage, and hiding. But we wanted to add some weird fun dynamics to it. One of them is that if I kill another Nova player then my core will shoot the enemy's core. So it ties into the map's mechanic itself. We've made it so that all snipe shots on this battleground are one-shots, they'll automatically kill an enemy player if it hits.


We really want to pull players into this experience so we have a really fun rewards structure. That is, asking for players to play three games a week, which I don't think is asking too much. Upon completing the three games we give you 1,000 gold which is a pretty large reward. On top of that, we give you a unique portrait for each of the brawls. As a new brawl gets released, if you complete that week's reward and get the gold you'll also get the unique portrait.

Does that mean brawls are timed, in that they'll rotate every week and once they've passed players won't be able to go back and play them again?

That's basically true. We'd like to make them feel special and unique and tie them to a week experience. But sometimes we'll bring them back -- especially if we see a lot of players really engaged in an experience and they loved it. We'll bring some back, if players want to unlock that unique portrait. We're not going to say they're gone forever after a week, but maybe we'll add a tweak to it, or maybe we'll bring it back as it is.

What map options will be available to players when creating an Arena mode game? Will players be able to customize some aspects, or is everything preset and they just jump right in?

We've designed this experience to be very easy for both new and experienced users, so a lot of this is preset. But also, we really wanted to allow some player decisions to be made. A lot of the battlegrounds will have some sort of unique, fun hero selection method. In arenas you've seen shuffle pick, which is a three hero selection method. The heroes are not part of your hero pool. Even if you don't own any of these heroes you get to play them.

What sort of match length are you aiming for?


For a standard Heroes battleground our target is 20 minutes. Obviously that fluctuates. For Heroes Brawl we're trying to make them faster. This isn't necessarily something we're going to lock ourselves into, but it is what I call a soft design decision. If we can find ways to make this battleground shorter we will. Ghost Protocol plays roughly around 10 minutes. We actually have a couple of other Brawls, one of which plays for four minutes. It's a very quick experience, very fun. Some of them are going to be a little more of the standard 20 minutes.

We're almost coming into a year after the initial announcement. Did the team run into unforeseen circumstances that delayed its release? What happened there?

So for Heroes Arena we were actually very happy with the gameplay at Blizzcon but we also didn't have the full package together. The UI work that goes into getting a new mode selected, we also didn't all have the back-end for getting players into a new matchmaking method. A lot of that stuff takes effort and time. That kind of delayed us for a few months at least and during that time we came up with ideas to push it even further and allow us to make a lot of fun, crazy stuff. So with that we gave ourselves some time to explore new ideas and come up with some new really fun battlegrounds. We ended up almost tripling the amount of content we had ready at Blizzcon and now have a ton of really fun brawls ready to go.

How will the matchmaking system work? Does it pull data from their standard HOTS games, or will it have its own system?

It's basically a hybrid. We're going to start with pulling some of our data from you as a player. But we're going to really have different priorities for this mode. We really want to get players into the game fast. Not waiting a long period of time. Most of these players haven't played these kind of roles. They're really unique, stand-out experiences. So just throwing you into the game as fast as possible is one of our highest priorities.


While trying to get players as close in skill as possible is important to us, I think speed also comes to the forefront of this mode. That will impact our matchmaking a little bit. We're also a little looser on the rules. With quickmatch we really want to be able to match up and have a lot of mirrored experiences. So if the [enemy team] has a tank, you have a tank... we really understand the matching of that experience. But we're loosening the other rules, so it could be like a support and four assassins on both sides. We're not restricting that. The hero selection is in-game and that allows us to throw you into a match quicker and faster.

What are you looking forward to seeing from players when this mode gets released?

I'm really excited about a lot of the content that the team has made for Heroes Brawl... I can't wait to hear and interact with people in different Battlegrounds. But I'd also love to hear crazy ideas from players on Reddit and on the forums. And as players give us more crazy ideas we'll use that to direct us on how we want to make new and fun things for players to interact with. I love this mode and I think it's really relaxing and fun to play.

Heroes Brawl will launch on the week of October 17. The mode will be available early on the Heroes of the Storm Public Test Realm from October 10.