The battle arena gets more massive
Before Dota 2 was released, MOBA fans interested in a more "hardcore" take on the genre flocked to Heroes of Newerth, a more serious kind of MOBA for a more serious gamer. Over the years the game's population has dropped due to an increasingly competitive market, but S2 isn't ready to give up yet. On the contrary--it has big plans for the future of its MOBA.
Last week, the developer launched a massive update to its game. Heroes of Newerth 3.0, as it's called, brings with it a suite of changes. We recently had a chance to chat with Nate Garcia, Director of Operations for HoN, to find out how 3.0 reshapes the MOBA.
GamesRadar: For those who don't already know, what is Heroes of Newerth?
Nate Garcia: Heroes of Newerth (HoN) is a Massive Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game where you assume the role of a hero in the struggle for control of the land of Newerth. It's an extremely tactical and team-oriented, session based experience with a tremendous amount of replay value.
GR: How is HoN different from other MOBAs on the market?
NG: One of the things that really sets HoN apart from other MOBA's is our very deliberate decision to make a face-paced and responsive MOBA experience designed around the thrill of competition. Even looking back at a lot of our early development, we wanted users to feel the impact of their actions in the game in this gritty and exciting environment that lends itself very well to competitive gaming. With our 3.0 update, we really wanted to go back to our roots and reconsider what it meant to be "new to the genre" and Newerth as a whole by bringing the focus back to the world of Newerth - this land consumed by conflict where Heroes unite on the battlefield and fight to preserve or destroy everything they know. Bringing that world to life through our 3.0 update was our intent all along. We want people to connect with that conflict and inspire them to carry on the fight.
GR: Some have complained about the MOBA learning curve--how does 3.0 address this?
NG: With HoN 3.0 we really wanted to address how users are introduced to the MOBA experience and provide them with the tools to succeed and have fun from their very first game. HoN is an extremely rewarding and exciting experience, but we realize that basic MOBA conventions can be a little difficult for new users to grasp in a competitive setting. Our AI-controlled bots are obviously a big part of how we're crafting that experience. We've also been working on a completely new beginner's walkthrough and a learning center video series that we've dubbed the "learnatorium". New users will be able to use that video series as a platform for learning the beginning and advanced techniques necessary to become an integral part of each game they play.
GR: How difficult was it to add realistic bots to HoN?
NG: Adding realistic bots to the game was a tremendous task, but we knew that a lot of people would find them very useful in bringing their friends into HoN. One of the best ways to learn HoN has always been through playing a game from start to finish, but we wanted users to be able to learn how to play in a highly controlled environment with AI controlled bots. We also wanted users to get as excited about the bot creation process as our AI guys were and that's why we're opening our bot code up to the community and inviting them to create their own custom bots. Mods have always been a popular way for people to customize their HoN experience and share that with the rest of the community. We're very excited to see the growth of our community bot movement and see what the community comes up with.
GR: What enhancements to the UI come with 3.0?
NG: Many of the UI enhancements coming with the 3.0 update allow users to customize how they socialize within the game. Users can take advantage of our new and improved buddy list and chat systems which look better than ever. A lot of the functionality has been improved as well, so people can customize their in-game notifications to their liking and earn in-game rewards for bringing their referred friends along with them into battle. We've also improved our options menu with a streamlined look and performance setting options to customize that experience even further.
GR: 3.0 also adds more lore to HoN--was this something the community was asking for?
NG: We always strive to enrich and improve the user experience in HoN and the backstory of our game world gives us even more flexibility in crafting that experience. Just as we're going back to our roots with the new player experience elements of HoN 3.0, we wanted to make it clear that the story of Newerth continues to develop with each piece of content we make. Newerth is a world rife with personality and our lore is just another way for us to reflect how deliberate our game is designed. From the lore behind each Hero, to that of Alt Avatars and new Items, everything in this world is connected and we know that a large portion of our community is really receptive to that message.
GR: How is S2 addressing the MOBA genre's notoriously rambunctious community?
NG: Our goal with 3.0 has always been to unite people and provide new users with the tools they need to succeed. Over the course of HoN's development, we've realized there are a number of concerns about what it's like to be new to the game and getting your bearings in a competitive environment - that's why we're adding a new and improved Report-A-Player (RAP) system to help the community regulate that environment. The new RAP system is far more streamlined and intuitive in that it allows users to report situations as they develop throughout the course of a match. Our system logs all of that information and notifies one of our GM staff when specific cases become a problem. The system will regulate itself and track people who are causing problems or even abusing the system so that a GM can better address those problems and assist when it's appropriate. The same goes for the ways we deal with those problem cases. We have a new account muting measure that will temporarily eliminate a problem users voice and text chat for a short time in order to prevent unnecessary negativity and make the competitive environment as enjoyable as possible for everyone. This is the first of many steps that we have been working on and are continuing to work on to improve the user experience at all levels of play. Our goal is to encourage everyone to work together towards a common goal when they play HoN while maintaining a positive environment.
GR: More games enter the genre every year--how does S2 see HoN being a part of the future of the genre?
NG: Talking about the industry as a whole, HoN has been around longer than a number of other MOBA's and we continue to see player growth worldwide. For a game that has seen nearly 3 years since launch, we consider ourselves very fortunate in our current position. We are quite literally standing among giants in the video game industry and HoN is one of the best competitive MOBA experiences around. Even from very early on in development, we knew that we were onto something really exciting with HoN and we've taken every chance for improvement and criticism seriously. We encourage our users to be vocal and weigh the community's perspective and opinions very highly when we make design decisions for HoN. We're looking very forward to their response from our 3.0 update.
GR: One problem MOBAs face is in creating too many characters. How is S2 addressing this, while still keeping things fresh?
NG: We realize that there are many different stances on the effect that new heroes have on MOBA balance, but we also know that a lot of members of our community look forward to this kind of content on a regular basis. Just last year we held a public poll in our game client that resulted in us changing our new hero release schedule to once every 4 weeks. After receiving that feedback and seeing how excited the community was to weigh in on that decision, we saw how important that type of collective process was to the future of our game. It's that kind of emergent atmosphere that we want to continue to pursue and foster interest in moving forward. We've also made a commitment to our player base to be very deliberate in how we balance HoN. Our designers test gameplay with testers every day and contently keep game balance at the forefront of their minds. Consideration for new heroes is a never-ending play style discussion between our designers and our community and we're going to continue that discussion with our continued development.
GR: What's next for HoN after 3.0?
NG: From a technical standpoint, we're constantly improving our infrastructure and scalability measures with HoN. Even though we build and maintain HoN at our studio here in Michigan, the global gaming space is where we focus the majority of our growth. Parts of the world with emergent eSports markets, such as South East Asia and Europe are where a significant amount of our growth comes from. Our regional teams work around the clock to expand HoN globally and we'll continue to expand on that once we've launched 3.0. A large part of that growth process will spent launching a closed beta of our Chinese client later this year. In the meantime however, fans of HoN can expect to see a ton of amazing stuff from our marketing and eSports divisions in the next few months full of trade show and live eSports events. We're especially excited to host the live Grand Finals of our competitive circuit HoN Tour at the Hardwood Suite of the Palms in Las Vegas. We build our game to fuel the competitive spirits of people around the world, so it's always amazing to see those passions celebrated and live-streamed by our Honcast staff.
The battle begins
There's always room for more on the MOBA battlefield, so we're excited to hear of the large updates hitting the game. Planning on checking out Heroes of Newerth now that the update is live? Let us know in the comments below!