During yesterday’s Heroes of the Storm overview, Blizzard revealed information about their plans for the game in the near future. Aside from revealing that closed beta would begin on January 13th 2015, they also revealed that the beta would add 15 times the number of players currently in the tech alpha. They would go on to discuss their plans for implementing a draft mode and ranked play.
For draft mode teams will take turns picking heroes with no duplicate heroes being allowed, meaning if you select a hero for your team, your opponents will not be able to select that same hero. This is pretty standard for draft modes in these types of game, however what is not standard is Blizzard’s decision to allow no bans initially for their draft mode, essentially hoping they will be able to balance heroes well enough that nothing is seen as too overpowered and eventually overplayed for dominating the solo ladder.
Not only is this risky thinking, it also removes a layer of strategy from a game that already lacks depth by not allowing you the option to limit your opponents hero options by banning things they may want to play. Instead you have to pick it away if you do not wish for them to play it. Their argument is the lobby would make the games last longer than they desire them to be, in reality it’s just lazy game design to allow bad players the option to abuse overpowered heroes as opposed to learning how to adapt and be versatile. Also it allows them to continue the sale of heroes since there are still no signs suggesting they will allow all heroes to be playable for free. If there were bans, players would have to have a minimum number of heroes to access in order to play draft so they could not be banned out entirely.
In any case, this draft system is intended to be used in every ranked play mode. No word on whether there would be a non ranked version of draft but in my opinion there definitely should be for the more casual player who also wants to have some degree of control over their team compositions.
For ranked play there will be two leagues or effectively two ranked modes. The solo mode called “Hero League” will allow for any number of players to queue together and have matchmaking fill out the rest of the team with equally skilled players. The system will match you against parties of similar size to prevent organized groups from dominating solo players though there is still room for potential exploits here. In order to participate in this league, a player will have to have reached account level 30 and this league will have a personal rank and skill rating associated with it.
The team mode is called “Team League”. A player will be required to have reached account level 40 in order to participate in this league. Players create a team with a unique name. These teams can consist of up to 9 players and a player can be a member of up to 3 different ranked teams. This mode will have a team ranking and skill rating associated with it that is separate from your personal rank and skill rating. This league will likely be seen as the most competitive way to play the game and as the main source of teams for tournament play.
The ranking system will bear similarities to the ranking system in Hearthstone. You will start at rank 50 and work your way to rank 1 by gaining points from winning games. Similarly you will lose points if you lose games and should you lose a game to a team with a lower overall skill rating, you will lose more points. Likewise if you win a game against a team with a higher overall skill rating you will win more points, though winning games against teams of lower skill will not earn you as many points. Points determine your rank.
Ranked play will have seasons and each season your rank will reset, however your skill rating will persist through seasons and you will retain some points based on your rank, again similar to Hearthstone. This should make it less frustrating for players of lesser ability as they will not have to deal with high skilled players stomping their games in their attempts to re-climb the ladder.
Overall the ranking system appears to be fairly solid. I do however have some concerns over the lack of bans as I do not believe Blizzard will be able to balance each hero in a way that will prevent the abuse of particularly overpowered heroes for stomping the ladder. I suppose though that at this point we have no choice but to trust in their ability and hope for the best.