Blizzard fans rejoice! Heroes of the Storm’s Technical Alpha is coming back, and with it comes some brand-new features for the competitive scene, including replays, spectator mode and more! But are these features meaty enough to satisfy the hardcore HotS fan? Let's find out, shall we?
Want to start your own community HotS tournament? With the new Custom Game system, setting up a friendly local match or online tournament is now possible. Several tools have been provided to help streamline the pre-game process, including team swapping, spectator assignment, an “A.I. Fill” button for empty slots, and in-lobby invitations. As someone who’s often slogged through 20-minute lobby periods in custom LoL games, these features are a welcome addition, and will hopefully encourage organized play among more “casual” gamers and those wanting to start their own events.
Observer mode is another recent addition, and for the time being it seems to be limited to custom game lobbies, though I wouldn’t rule out DotA 2-style live spectating in the future. As is it's a good start, and will hopefully be fleshed out in future updates.
As anyone in the competitive gaming scene will tell you, replays are a crucial part of any popular eSport. The ability to dissect your mistakes or gloat over victories is a key part of both the MOBA and RTS experiences, and those who enjoyed Starcraft II’s replay system will get probably a fair bit of use out of this iteration of Blizz's classic spectating tools.
Recent games are automatically saved as replays, and can be accessed by pressing the “Watch” button at the bottom of the home menu. Both Custom and Versus matches will be available as replays, and use the Observer Mode controls plus standard rewind and fast forward tools. No word yet on whether or not replays are shareable or will be in the near future.
Looking Towards the Future
It’s obvious that Blizzard’s fairly confident that HotS will be a huge game in the eSports scene, while still focusing on courting a more casual F2P player base. Considering how well that worked out for Hearthstone and its 10+ million players, I’d say Blizzard’s hybrid focus on casual and hardcore gamers will most likely pay off in spades, as the millions of people clamoring for Alpha access certainly seem to indicate. And while the lobby and replay tools are simpler and more streamlined than other competitive titles, they're still very much geared towards the hardcore player, while still easy enough for newbies to mess with, which certainly fits the game's overall ethos.
What do you guys think of the new Tech Alpha features? Leave a comment below and let us know!