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“It’s about taking over the battleground and engaging with those objectives, and it’s very much about playing with your team. It’s about team leveling. And the game focuses on the team rating rather than personal rating. The goal is to be the best team game." - Dustin Browder, 2015

Since its inception, Heroes of the Storm has been a game focused on teamwork. Shared experience, team objectives, no hard "carries", and a lack of item shop or gold farming are what appealed to so many of us who love the game. Blizzard gave us bonus experience for playing with friends, a "looking for more" prompt on the title screen to encourage players to group and play the game as a team, properly. So why did the support end there? HotS would grow in popularity and be the beautiful game it was designed to be for so many more people, if we were given further tools to play as a team, and the emphasis for Ranked mode was taken entirely off of Hero League and placed on Team League. Here are a couple ideas on how to make it happen.

LFR - Team League

World of WarCraft introduced a controversial "Looking for Raid" system in 2011, with Cataclysm. The system allowed you to designate yourself with a role, and be placed in a group as that role, so more people could experience the end-game raid content. An "LFR" type tool for Team League would be hugely impactful for Heroes of the Storm.

 

A quick look at the "Raid Finder" in WoW, it's easy to see the role selections and how this could be translated to HotS.

Players form a party with their friends, as normal, probably forming a group of 2 or 3. Finding 4 other people to constantly play with, out of the ether, who are on when you're playing, is a lot of trouble, but finding 1 or 2 people is much simpler. They'd then enter the "Team Finder" tool, where individuals or other parties have their ranks and roles designated, and form a group. This "manual" group building would be simpler to implement, but it could go further, and let you designate the roles you're seeking, and automatically group you together. The difference would be that the groups would need to agree to group before beginning their draft, rather than the current system which just puts you in a game with random strangers somewhere around your skill level.

An issue would still rise, however, in that Hero League is just easier to dive into, despite being universally reviled. The answer comes in taking rewards and incentives away from the mode that makes HotS a less good game (Hero League), and applying them to the mode that is the game in it's best, purest form (Team League.)

Incentivize the Best Form of the Game

The thing about Hero League is it's like a demo version of Heroes of the Storm. So many of the awesome game design decicions that go into HotS are missed out on when you're playing by yourself. Everyone feels powerless to influence their games' outcomes, which is by design. The game is meant to reward teamwork, so when you're playing by yourself, desperately trying to coordinate without voice chat, you are playing a watered-down, imperfect version of HotS. Hero League should have a dunce cap put on it, an albatross hung around its neck, a scarlet letter sewn to its breast, and shuffled off to a dusty corner of the UI forever. It's not the game's best foot forward. Yet, it's considered the premiere way to play Ranked mode. This is a fundamental problem with the ranked system.

Scientific rendition of The Dream. 

My answer would be to remove the mounts as seasonal rewards for Hero League. It may seem extreme, but playing with friends should be close to a requirement to play competitive HotS, because that's the way the game was designed. All the good rewards should be for Team League only. This, combined with better in-game support for building teams, would be nothing but a huge boon for the game.

The ideas that are presented here are by no means new or controversial, and although the way Ranked play exists in the game currently may feel like some sort of obdurate myopia on the part of Blizzard, it's probably just that the prioritization of the "team" emphasis of the game got shuffled low on the development list. Ranked play is crucial to the life of HotS, and Team League is crucial to that success. Hopefully we can get these sentiments out there in the community and visible and move towards these changes in the near future. Heroes 2.0 was a big step forward, now let's fix ranked.