Blizzard's online brawler, Heroes of the Storm enters their closed Beta test on January 13th. Along with the addition of new battlegrounds, heroes, skins, and mounts. The switch from their Alpha test to Beta marks an important transition for the game. Heroes of the Storm will be making changes throughout the games' functionality and creating a more balanced matchmaking experience along with their ranked system. Blizzard has announced how the ranked system will work through the Hero League and Draft modes, which have been unavailable until the Beta test begins. It's important to mention these ranked systems are in their initial state and will go through more polishing during the Beta test.

Sky Temple

Sky Temple is one of the three maps being added announced by Blizzard a few weeks ago. This map was available to play during the BlizzCon demo and looks like a beautiful Egyptian paradise in the clouds. I cannot wait for more battlegrounds to be added, there are only so many times I can play the Pirate-themed map before Blackbeards' voice drives me insane. Sky Temple will keep all the elements, including the mercenaries and minions, in Egyptian style.

Tomb of the Spider Queen

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The Tomb of the Spider Queen was the second map announced, Blizzard says this map is still under development, but that doesn't mean this won't make it into the Beta at some point. Dark, creepy and full of cobwebs, this battleground looks like it will be spooky. Not many details have been released but I can imagine this also keeping with its arachnid theme. Golem spiders anyone? It creeps me out just thinking about it.

Diablo-Themed battleground

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Set in the style of Sanctuary, this battleground pits the style of Heaven against Hell in the Diablo universe. This battleground is also still in development, but there is still the possibility of seeing it in the Beta at some point. There are some speculations as to the objective of this map, including it involving the darkness or light creeping across more of the battleground, disabling towers and forts in the process. We will see what happens when Blizzard releases this battleground.

Hero League

The new Hero League will add a ranked gameplay option to Heroes of the Storm. It is important to note that new players will not immediately be able to take part in the Hero League. I have had the game since the early Alpha test and I probably won't be able to take advantage of the new option right away either. There are two very important prerequisites to meet before you will be able to take part of ranked play. To ensure everyone participating has enough experience, Hero League will require each player:

  1. Reach Player level 30 or higher
  2. Own 10 unlocked heroes or more, not including the free rotation characters

Matchmaking will be updated to base your placement with a team of similar composition and size. If you are in a team with two friends and two solo players, the other team will attempt to match you with a team similarly with two solo players. Initially every players MMR will be a blank slate, which will be cause for some adjustment until the matchmaker learns each player's skill level. Once matches have been found, you will enter Draft mode. In Draft mode, your team will be able to take turns choosing the hero they'd like to play. There will be a coin-toss, the winning team begins their first choice, then the enemy team has their chance for their first choice and so on after that until each team has completed all 5 members. Once a player locks in a hero, it will be unusable by anyone else. This is the reasoning behind the requirement of owning 10 heroes, because with any fewer is it possible for all your available options to be taken.

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The ranked system will start each player at level 50, then you being competing to raise yourself to a rank of level 1. Blizzard has stated that the start of the Beta test is just the intial kick-off of the ranked system and will not be official for seasonal play until it has gone through more refinements. This gives more players an opportunity to get the prerequisites to play ranked as well. Blizzard has also announced new penalties to those players who help suck the fun out of the game and rage quit. If a player leaves a Hero League or Quick Match game and does not rejoin before it is finished, they will be prevented from playing any ranked games until they complete a new Quick Match. Though the player will still earn or lose points based on the outcome of the match they left.

I don't know how I feel about these penalties myself. It is good that Blizzard is looking at ways to prevent poor sportsmanship, though I feel there is something to be said about rewarding positive behavior in lieu of penalties. I would like to see Blizzard also adopt a policy like Riot Games has with League of Legends. Check out the report on Riot's reward policy here.

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Let me know what you guys think about the upcoming updates in the Beta test. What other things you would like to see brought to the game? What kind of rewards or penalties would you like to see?

Are you currently playing the Alpha? Find me on Battle.net ArdillaNegra#1665