Circe the Deceiver: Designer Insight

Hey everyone, Buro here!  Earlier this week you were able to read about how [S2] Malloc helped conceptualize Circe the Deceiver,  I'd like to go into a bit more depth and detail about some of the design iterations that she went through prior to becoming the hero she is today.

Before Circe was put into SBT for testing, she went through quite a bit of iteration.  With a concept as interesting as deceiving the enemy, we had to make many adjustments in achieving something that was fun to play without adding a large amount of frustration to play against.  This proved to be quite the challenge.  As an example, one iteration of her ultimate was to change the appearance of all the allied heroes to that of the deceiver for a certain duration so the enemy team would have no clue who was who.  This, despite being a neat ability in concept, turned out to be terribly frustrating for the opposing team -- removing interesting decisions for the enemy team while not providing any tangible satisfaction for the user.

Once Circe made it to SBT for testing, it was apparent her first and third abilities did not mesh well with the rest of the hero and needed to be looked at again.  The original first ability was a single target stun that reduced the primary stat of the target hero.  The stat reduction, while effective, didn't feel impactful at all in use and limited the options of whom you could effectively target. Since we wanted something that needed to feel good to the player we decided against this initial design in search of something better.

After thoroughly reworking the first ability, we turned our attention to the other outlier, Circe's E.  The third ability became something that we really enjoyed and will likely put on a future hero, but just didn't work with Circe's skill-set and overall feel.  Here was the initial concept:

Shrouding Mist
         Target area to spawn a cloud of mist for a duration.  Within the mist, allies are granted stealth with a fade time and all terrain walking.

After a few iterations of this concept, it turned out to not have enough synergy or effectiveness with Deceiver's other abilities and was changed out for the ability - Deceive.  This ability was suggested many times throughout the design of Circe and really fits well into the theme of the hero.

Circe's second and ultimate abilities have been essential in solidifying her unique role in HoN.  Her (W), Doppelganger, allows her to deceive the enemy with illusions of other heroes and her (R), Twisted Visage creates those exciting and memorable moments that make Circe a truly fun hero.

Immediately when Circe hit SBT, there was a lot of great feedback about her ultimate and concerns regarding its balance, but above all, it was fun.  We've since added the channel time requirement to the ability, a break range, as well as the damage reduction.  Much feedback focused on Circe copying items, but in the end, we wanted to keep the fun aspects of the hero and went the route of reducing overall damage instead of removing that functionality.  Even after doing all of that we will be keeping a close eye on the balance of this ability when it goes live.

I hope you've enjoyed this little insight into the development process of Circe, the Deceiver.  Look for her to deceive Newerth on September 25th!

09/24/2013 2:20 AM

Topic: Development

The Birth of Circe the Deceiver

Hey guys,

I'm Paul "Malloc" Dziadzio, and I thought I'd take the time to give you guys a behind-the-scenes look at how Circe the Deceiver came to be. Here at S2 Games, we recognize that good ideas can come from anywhere. In the case of Deceiver, "anywhere" happened to be me. I'm a programmer; I created HoN's bots and manage the Community Bot Team in addition to regular gameplay programming. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to create Berzerker long ago, contributing to his skill design and avatars. I absolutely love that we have such a collaborative culture here, and it's because of this that Circe came to be.

I originally started working on Circe the Deceiver (then just called "Deceiver") well over a year ago in my spare time. I loved watching all the amazing plays on the top fives and tens, and wanted to make a hero that let players pull off even more incredible plays. I also drew inspiration from Tim Buckley's original concept for Cthulhuphant's ult, althought that didn't end up being used by either. So with trick, skillful play in mind, I presented my ideas to the Design team. After five iterations, Buro gave her the okay to be scripted and tested in SBT. Since then, we've taken my original hero and transformed her into the hero she is today. She's certainly changed, I'm incredibly happy that the core game remains intact.

Circe is a hero about misleading your opponents, and using guile to defeat them. The goal of the hero has always been to provide interesting tools for a skillful player to trick and ambush their opponents. It's a tough challenge to provide tricky abilities without making the hero incredibly frustrating to play against! We liked the play style of the hero so much that, throughout the course of her development, we ended up creating several other deceptive skills that might show up on future heroes. As is, Circe is a blast to play, and we think her addition will really have an impact on Newerth.

Look for Circe the Deceiver as she makes her debut to Newerth on September 25!

09/17/2013 2:12 AM

Topic: Development

Patch 3.2.3: The Staff (of the Master) is back!

Patch 3.2.3 is here and brings some new Staff of the Master effects as well as item and hero balance changes!

For this patch, we took a look at some of the late game and underused items in HoN. With the recent shift toward faster paced gameplay, these items needed to be re-adjusted to become more viable. We also added some new Ultimates to the list of abilities boosted by Staff of the Master. We will be continuing to look at these types of changes for future patches.

You will also notice a few significant hero changes that are in line with our direction previously stated in the blog post for the last patch: to tone down burst damage in the game in order to increase the skill, interaction, and viability of other strategies within HoN without reducing the fast paced, action-packed gameplay that we enjoy so much.

See the patch notes for details on all of the changes, as well as be on the lookout for Circe the Deceiver in our next patch on 9/25/2013!

09/11/2013 10:34 AM

Topic: Development

3.2.2 Patch Insight

Hey everyone, Buro here! Patch 3.2.2 brings a couple things that I would like to explain a little, one being the courier rework, and another being a new focus on high burst damage heroes and how these changes affect other heroes.

You will all notice a difference in the UI while in-game; this is the new courier UI.  It features two things: a courier status indicator as well as a new courier button.  The status indicator will display what the courier is doing at all times, from delivering to player X, returning to base, idle, out (or scouting), dead, or private. You will also be able to see who is controlling the courier at all times.

The other change is the courier button. This button will be bindable and when activated will take everything from your stash and place it on the courier, deliver the item(s) to you, gaining speed boost when activated, and then return after the delivery. If the courier is already delivering to someone, the button will queue the action, having the courier do what was just stated directly after it returns from its most recent delivery. Among other benefits, this change will allow players to use the courier without ever de-selecting their hero!  And for those of you who would rather use the courier how it has always been, the functionality of the courier has not changed at all.

The second thing this patch introduces is our focus on a certain type of heroes. This philosophy is shown in the nerfs to Monkey King. Patch 3.1 brought a large emphasis on ganking with the changes to hero kills. This effect has caused burst damage heroes to shine more than they already were. While we enjoy the action-packed game of HoN, and we don't wish to deviate from that, we do realize that it's time to tone down the burst damage in the game. Part of this goal is to increase the skill, interaction, and viability of other strategies within HoN. To emphasize this even more, we will be taking a look at the hero pool for heroes with low play numbers that create really good interactions and add a lot of enjoyability to the game, and seek to increase their playtime.

We hope you enjoy patch 3.2.2! Expect to see some exciting new Staff of the Master changes in the next patch on 9/11/2013 and a new hero soon to follow!

08/28/2013 12:28 AM

Topic: Development

Patch 3.2.1 -- Matchmaking Improvements

Hey everyone, Buro here. In this patch, 3.2.1, we have implemented quite a few changes directed at improving the matchmaking system and reducing queue times.

Persistent Groups
Two very noticeable changes we have made are the addition of persistent groups as well as queue confirmation. Now when you are matched, you will get a confirmation requiring everyone to accept the match before getting into the game; this will stop games where one player remains afk through the whole pick phase.

Ranked vs. Unranked
We have also removed basic and verified. These have been replaced with ranked and unranked matchmaking. Similar to the transfer from basic to verified, new accounts will only be able to play in unranked games until level 3, when they will then have the option to play in ranked games where MMR and stats will be tracked.

The implementation of unranked matchmaking creates a less stressful environment for new players and experienced players alike, while not mixing them with the people who are looking for serious competitive matches. This system also changes the base MMR at which accounts are introduced into ranked play. An account playing ranked matchmaking for the first time will no longer be 1500 MMR, but their MMR will be set to a value based on their performance in their first three levels of unranked play.

Reducing Queue Times
The next change that is very noticeable is the removal of a few modes previously offered in matchmaking. The modes that will be removed are: Lockpick, Core Pool, and Grimm's Crossing. These modes were causing very long wait times due to low play numbers. For those of you who enjoyed these modes, they will still be playable in public games. Also, expect Grimm's Crossing to reappear in a new form in the future.

We are also taking a look at the matchmaking algorithm itself to see if any tweaks can be made to allow faster and better matches. You can expect to see the results of this over the course of the next couple of weeks as it is being tweaked.

Balanced Random
We're trying out a replacement for All Random in the Forests of Caldavar. In matchmaking, you will now see a mode called Balanced Random. This mode, while still retaining the enjoyability of the randomness, will generate more balanced teams to play against one another. See the patch notes for more information on how Balanced Random works.

This patch is another part of our continued effort to better Heroes of Newerth. We hope that 3.2.1 will bring you a more streamlined, superior matchmaking experience! Keep looking forward to more improvements, as we have many more in store!

Added new mode to replace all random in matchmaking: Balanced Random

On each team, five different random settings will be used for picking. The slots will work as followed:
  1. Random from the pool of Carries
  2. Random from the pool of Initiators
  3. Random from the pool of Gankers
  4. Random from the pool of Supports
  5. Random from all heroes (this will random from either melee, ranged, or all heroes depending on the makeup of the previous four randoms)

Where these slots lie on the team will also be random. (ex. Pink could random a Carry one game, but random a Support the next). If anyone repicks, it will re-random a hero from the whole pool.

08/12/2013 9:24 PM

Topic: Development