[HotS] Five essential tips for new players

TL;DR for you impatient fools:
1) For the love of all that is holy, do not die. Retreat, go to a fountain, hearth. Do not die.
2) Play VS AI until you’re confortable graduating to Quick Match. It can take a while.
3) Don’t unlock the camera if you’re not there yet. Rather, pay attention to positioning.
4) MOBAs aren’t twitchy. Make each click and ability deliberate, including auto attack.
5) Role names are confusing. Warriors are tanks, and specialists handle lane pushing.
That’s it, now go be awesome.


Long version:

Some of you might know I started playing a whole lot of Heroes of the Storm over the holidays (I think I mentioned it in almost every podcast I’ve done since then). I had played it here and there before, but for some reason over the month of December I went back to it and something clicked. Actually, it was a few different things that clicked… By reading and watching various guides and experimenting myself, I have come to understand a number of very non-obvious elements of the game that I very much needed to start really enjoying it, and I suspect other players new to the MOBA genre might appreciate as well.

So without further a do, here are the five (ish) things I think every new player should know when starting their journey in Heroes of the Storm. Enjoy!

1) Remember these five simple all caps words: PATRICK SAYS DO NOT DIE.

Basically, dying is the worst thing you can do in the game, period. Whatever you do, you should try to avoid dying at all cost. Even if there’s a team fight, even if you think you can get that last hit, even if you think it would make you a golden hero of awesomeness… Don’t take the risk, it’s not worth it. If you’re getting low on health or mana, just take the time to retreat, hearth, get to a fountain… It’s a much better plan overall. Do anything, but do NOT die.

Like, seriously, whenever you’re trying to decide whether or not to keep pushing the fight, play this voice in your head: PATRICK SAYS DO NOT DIE.

2) It is very OK to play VS A.I. for as long as you want.

Quick match isn’t necessarily what you “have” to graduate to after a few games. When you first start the game, you feel like you should play through the tutorial, then a training game or two (all bots), then VS AI for a few games, and then the natural progression and the « right » place to play is quick match.

That is absolutely not true. It’s perfectly OK to keep playing VS AI if that is what you’re comfortable with. Many people do it, even at higher player levels. I personally went back to VS AI until I was level 20 or 25. It takes away one of the most stressful elements of the game (worrying about and fighting enemy players) while you’re already trying to understand and learn a million other things. More importantly, it’s plain simple FUN, which is what gaming is all about. For beginners, VS AI is where it’s at. You’ll graduate to Quick Matches and Hero League, in time.

3) It’s ok to keep your camera locked…

Again, people will tell you you should unlock your camera if you want to improve. Don’t listen to them, they’re all idiots. Well, they’re not; ultimately you’ll probably want to unlock your camera if you want to be the best player you can be, but don’t feel pressured to do it if you’re not ready. It is infinitely more important to have a good understanding of your character. Just focus on making sure you can play your hero first, and use the minimap to get the map awareness you need. Here too, you can graduate to more complicated things when you’re ready, but don’t do it when it’s going to confuse the hell out of you.

3-B) …and position yourself well.

More important than unlocking your camera, for exemple, is to learn how to position yourself. Unless you’re a tank, you should probably make damn sure you’re usually behind the tank, and don’t rush into battle YOLO style. Be deliberate, and understand that being where you shouldn’t usually means getting killed very quickly. And you remember what we said about dying in this game? Right. Don’t be a fool, stay safe.

4) MOBAs aren’t super twitchy games.

Initially it might seem like controlling your character means clicking around everywhere, being everywhere, doing a million things at once and being a 300 APM pro gamer. It doesn’t. Abilities have relatively long cooldowns, and your auto attack is essential; just deliberately select your target and time your attacks. It’s more real time strategy (with just one thing to control) than it is twitchy FPS. This might be obvious to some, but it isn’t to all.

5) Tank, DPS, support, lane pusher…

The naming conventions for roles in MOBAs can be confusing to new players. Scratch that: it IS super confusing. Warriors aren’t DPS, and specialist aren’t « weird ones that don’t fit the other categories ». So to clarify: Warriors are basically tanks, positioning themselves on the front lines and disrupting the enemy’s plans. Assassins are DPS; you could have guessed it, but it’s worth mentioning. Support is support, fine. Specialists are lane pushers: they primarily have slow / static abilities that are best at taking out silly AI creep that don’t move, or buildings that also don’t move because they’re silly too.
Of course this is a rule of thumb and you’ll learn that some characters vary from their template as you progress, but it’s a good starting point.

5-B) … and also, sustain DPS.

This applies to Raynor, the first hero you learn in the tutorial, so it’s pretty important to understand.

There are different types of heroes in each role, but the most important element here is sustain DPS (as opposed to burst DPS). Those do the biggest part of their damage with their regular auto attack. Just right click on an enemy and do overall damage to help your team. You’re not going to burst an enemy down and kill them in two seconds; that’s not your role, so don’t bother trying. Position yourself well, just right click the right enemy in the fight, and you’ll already help your team immensely.


Alright, I know I’m already technically over the initial 5 tips, but I have a few more I think are worth knowing, and if you’ve read until here you’re probably hungry for that important knowledge stuff anyway, so here we go. 🙂

Bonus 1) Do the objectives.

This one should be obvious, but in case it isn’t I’ll save everyone in the community some anger and say it here: if you don’t actually know any better, when a map objective activates, you should drop everything and participate in it. And most of the time, it applies even if you think you know better, too.

Bonus 2) Don’t do team fights in the early game

In the early game (before you reach level 5 or so), you’re probably better off pushing lanes to get XP to level your team, and keeping your engagements with enemy players to light skirmishes. Don’t die (hopefully you remember this by now), and if things get hairy just retreat. It’s not worth it at first, making there’s someone alive on each lane to “soak” XP, and reaching the all important level 10 quickly is a much better strategy.

Bonus 3) Talents are very important (and confusing)

There isn’t a specific way of addressing this yet, but the talents are initially really annoying. They interrupt your game, you have to take the time to read and understand them WHILE you’re also trying to understand what the hell is happening in the game… Super confusing. I totally understand why Blizzard initially restricted the choices.

The only solution I’ve found is to go to your Heroes guide website of choice, to look at the recommended talents for the character you’re playing, and just chose those. It’s not ideal, especially when you’re beginning, but it’s better than picking a random one. Although I guess that’s what you’ll be doing initially anyway, and in VS AI it probably doesn’t matter much anyway so it’s fine.

Ideally I’d love to see a « default path » highlighted or auto selected by the game for beginners. You’d turn it off when you have a good understanding of the character you’re playing (or for the entire game when you’re good enough), but it would help beginners immensely. Ah well…


Last words:

My first encounter with Heroes of the Storm was a long long time ago, back in the internal alpha (full disclosure: I used to work for Blizzard). I liked it, somewhat, but I didn’t get it. And it stayed like that for a long time, with me launching the game again every few months. I really feel that these few essential tips (really, the first two or three) are the ones that were missing.

It might be something very personal and it might not apply to many people, but the feedback I’ve gotten seems to indicate that they do matter. Indeed, it feels to me that these are things that are important to know for new players, and that the game and the community fail to adequately communicate them, probably because they are things you lose sight of when you get into the deeper intricacies of the game. Hopefully this article helps a few of y’all get your start in this amazing game.

Hugs to all!

January 13th, 2016