At Blizzcon 2017, the Heroes of the Storm team announced the debut of Overwatch’s Hanzo and World of Warcraft’s Alexstrasza with a cinematic featuring the two dragon-themed characters facing off. In it, Alexstrasza transforms into her massive red dragon form, towering over her measly human opponent. But Heroes of the Storm game director Alan Dabiri couldn’t make her that big and powerful in the game.
“We want her to be this bad-ass dragon that transforms on the battlefield,” Dabiri told Kotaku in an interview at Blizzcon. “She should be huge and completely cover half the battlefield. Well, that kind of just broke the game. So, how can we make her as big as we can make her, while still being manageable and still being readable?”
In the context of World of Warcraft’s story, Alexstrasza’s super-powered dragon form is a bit like the Great Eagles in Lord of the Rings. She’s a non-playable entity who serves as a godlike saviour, swooping in to save heroes from tough spots. In WoW, she has one of the biggest health bars in the game, but in Heroes of the Storm, you don’t need to enlist Deathwing to take her down. More importantly, her dragon form is much smaller in size.
Alexstrasza’s dragon head should be the size of Hanzo’s entire body, but in Heroes of the Storm, her dragon form is about a third of this size.
It still feels great to transform from Alexstrasza’s humanoid healer form into a fire-breathing dragon and go on the offensive, but it’s a big difference in scale from how WoW depicted Alexstrasza’s powers. Plus, in WoW, Alexstrasza’s compassionate nature and devotion to healing meant that she would avoid killing at all costs. In Heroes? She’s ready to rumble.
This encapsulates a common problem for the Heroes of the Storm design team. The game features characters of varying power levels and sizes, all hailing from various Blizzard games, mashed up into one sprawling MOBA. How do you make Kerrigan feel as bad-ass and all-powerful as she does in StarCraft, while still making her weak enough that Jim Raynor could take her down?
“We have heroes that are everything from Murky the Murloc, to Kerrigan or even Alexstrasza, who’s literally this godlike creature,” Dabiri said. “We’ll joke around about it, if there’s a cinematic, even just the cinematic we’ve had—Alexstrasza’s this dragon! She should be able to destroy Hanzo!”
According to Dabiri, no fans have complained about the suspension of disbelief required to play Heroes of the Storm—yet, anyway. “I think people get that it’s in the nature of the game itself, our universe,” he said. “It’s in our own space. We can actually describe things differently, where these heroes have different power levels.”
Heroes’ meta universe is about to start expanding. After Alexstrasza and Hanzo finish their fight in the cinematic, both characters turn to face a series of mysterious portals appearing on the horizon. Dabiri highlighted that ending as an important clue for Heroes fans.
“One thing we’d like to start doing more—and you saw this a little bit in the Alexstraza/Hanzo cinematic we had—is actually looking a little more about what the Nexus is,” Dabiri said. “What is our world, what are the events that will unfold within our world, how these different characters play a part in those events, and introducing new characters that are purely born from within the Nexus ... The Alexstrasza of cinematic just kind of hinted at that with the ending there, but you’ll see more of that in the future.”