What is Heroes of the Storm?

So you’ve seen someone you know playing Heroes of the Storm, or talking about it. You’re curious – you might even be interested in giving it a go yourself – but you want to know a bit more about it first. Try as you both might to sync your curiosity with their enthusiasm, it still seems like your player is answering your questions in another language – after an exasperated sign and / or rolling of eyes at your continued bafflement.

You’ve tried going online and found documents and videos that are meant to help, but even if the well-meaning video makers keep the jargon to a minimum, you still feel as thought they’re talking to people with an existing body of knowledge that you don’t have.

Well, I’d like to help you with that. My name’s Rob. I’m an occasional player of computer games and I have a thing about how gamers communicate the acquiring of their game-skills to others. I’ve struggled with mining the Internet for answers to the questions I didn’t quite know I had, and I’d like to help you answer your questions about this game.

#1: Heroes of the Storm is an online-only computer game.

By which I mean, it’s developed for personal computers running Microsoft Windows or Apple Macs. As of this writing, you can’t play it on a game console (i.e. Playstation, Xbox or Wii-U) or a PC running Linux (before anyone mentions WINE or other emulators, those are way above and beyond the scope of this document).

Also, you have to be connected to the Internet in order to play it.

#2: Heroes of the Storm is free to play.

This means your friend or relative didn’t pay a cent to “purchase” the game; the only costs involved just to play might be any download costs (the game is a handful of gigabytes to download) or ensuring one possesses a PC capable of running the game. While there are opportunities to pay for things in Heroes of the Storm, you can certainly play and enjoy it for as long as it’s available without paying the developer a cent / penny / etc.

#3: Heroes of the Storm is a hero brawler / MOBA

“MOBA” is short for “multiplayer online battle arena,” a genre of computer game in which Heroes of the Storm fits. Its developers touch on the differences between it and other games in the genre by calling it a “hero brawler.” It’s  an electronic team sport which –

Okay, okay, I can see hackles raising, collars getting hot under and goats being got at the thought of comparing a computer game to something that requires more physical activity than the activating of keyboards and mice. Trust me, though; the community that builds around this kind of game has a lot in common with weekend leagues and even pro sporting organisations.

Basically, the design of Heroes of the Storm is centred around two teams of five players competing to win a match, much like basketball or indoor soccer. Each player controls a single playing piece, called a “hero,” and each team’s goal is to destroy a building at the opposing team’s end of the battlefield. You can play against computer controlled enemies and even with computer controlled allies, but the game really sings when ten flesh and blood people (virtually) take each other on.

On top of that, taking Heroes of the Storm seriously has potential rewards, including prize money and international championships. Play well enough and you might be able to get sponsors for your team!

#4: Heroes of the Storm is almost constantly changing.

If you follow any physical sporting league, you’re probably familiar with the changes in rules and match types that roll though your sport on a semi-regular basis.

Heroes of the Storm is no different. Not only do its designers and developers adjust the game’s rules to take into account un-anticipated ways players discover to interact with each other in the game. Heroes of the Storm is also designed to be added to.

The game’s developers introduce new virtual playing pieces and playing fields, each with their own set of rules, on a regular basis; discovering the way each new addition interacts with everything that’s come before is an involving and entertaining exercise in and of itself.

Note: This is the third posting of what I’ve written so far for the book, tentatively titled The Over-the-Shoulder Guide to Heroes of the Storm, that I’m endeavouring to write and publish by October, 18th, 2015. Eleven days to go…